Red, white, and nouveau: What we’re keeping, what we’ve tossed

If you’re even a tepid follower of this blog, you’ll recall that we have approached parenting with a French twist (har har) and I was going to detail our experiences along the way. My point in doing so was to see if those who have experienced French parenting firsthand–expats, spouses of French people, families who have lived in France but aren’t French–and lived to write about it could create second-generation French parenting disciples: People who are only going on what others have written and done to guide them toward a similar outcome. People like us.

And then you’ll notice that after a few posts about eating and bedtimes, I haven’t written anything else about the Red, white, and nouveau experiment. Here’s why: Very quickly we realized that “French parenting” is just a label that sums up “how we would do things anyway” so our Red, white and nouveau experiment has turned out not to be so much an experiment as daily life. And who blogs about that? 😉

Allow me then to answer the “is it possible to create French parenting disciples?” question: Yes.

Allow me next to outline a few of the high points of French parenting that we have found to be particularly resonant in our lives and a few aspects of the French frame of mind (le frame du mind?) that we have willingly tossed:

1. KEEP: Variety in food exposure.
The little oyster eats just about anything you put in front of her (or the dog…) She’s always happy to try new foods and that’s the point of food exposure, giving things a fair shake. She’ll try anything, most things please her, and I get misty with pride every time. If she never meets a kids’ menu, I’ll consider my work here done.

2. TOSS: Expecting small people to behave like large people.
The French emphasis on training children to fit into an adult world is a worthy one. But let’s get real: The impulse control on little kids is nil and we can either pretend they are mini-adults and treat them as such to universal frustration, or we can realize that they are small people who are still developing and cut them some slack. This is her home, too, and it’s not fair to make her feel like a guest or a criminal when she’s living life the way she knows how. No sense in making everyone sad and miserable when an heirloom shatters in the name of unfair expectations.

3. KEEP: Sleep expectations.
The oyster is a great sleeper. Sleep is a skill. Skills must be taught. We taught her this skill. The oyster is a great sleeper.

4. TOSS: Conformity.
I’d love it if my daughter was the cool kid who was also the nice kid who was also the talented kid who was also the smart kid. Who can sing folk. The French system is focused on building–or, if we’re being cynical, wrestling into submission–good citizens. Fine for them. But that’s not the American way and this is one of those times I’ll beat the drum of the American way. I don’t know yet what my daughter is good at or what her interests are but I’m not about to cut her off at the knees before she can find out. No state-based preschools for us, thanks, and if my child prefers to do her art project with finger paint and some dental floss instead of a neat-and-tidy glue stick and paint brush, so be it.

5. KEEP: Our marriage as our priority.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard about a couple having a kid and the mom turning into a she-beast to the point that her husband sleeps in another room because Junior is now her main, only, and all-consuming priority, I would have bought the domain for this blog by now. The husband and I made vows to one another, not to our children, and we have decided that our marriage comes first. When our marriage is the priority, everyone in the house benefits.

6. TOSS: Curtailed praise.
This is kind of a gray area for us. While I totally agree and practice the French bent toward not throwing a party when your kid uses a fork (for the fortieth time), I do find that cheering her on while she’s learning something new and while she’s  getting used to using a new skill doesn’t cost me anything, helps her out, and no, I don’t think it will make her a “praise addict” in the future. Plus, if you’ve seen the length of my daughter’s legs, you’d know that stepping up stairs is no mean feat and worthy of some cheering.

7. KEEP: The cold shoulder.
Actually I don’t think this is what the French call it, but it’s the same principle. Now and then the little oyster will shriek obnoxiously about something for no good reason and I ignore her, especially if we’re at home. Why? Because she doesn’t need anything from me and learning early that attention can and should be gained in other ways is priceless.

Kids are kids and as such shouldn’t rule the world or our lives but as such, can’t be reasonably expected to act like grown ups with any amount of success. One job of a parent is to prepare another person for the adult world, and we are finding that the best way to do that is by helping her develop skills she’s ready for now and can use always.

And so we end our Red, white and nouveau parenting experiment. Like I said, this is pretty much how we’re doing it anyway, but calling it French parenting every now and then lets me recommend with gusto one of my favorite books, Bringing Up Bebe. Read it, enjoy it, and then raise your kids in a way that jives with your personalities and household. But seriously, try eschewing the kids’ menu next time you’re out, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

 

One year in, or, our new strapless high chair

This month makes it one year since I left work and started staying home full-time with the little oyster. You may have noticed the serious decline in regular posting, which should lead you simultaneously to

1) awe of my most excellent and complete dedication to my current life situation and

2) suspicion about how I spent some of my working hours on the Hill

But that’s not for here.

May 2014 finds us surrounded by pregnant friends and neighbors, and I do mean surrounded. I didn’t know it was possible for so many women to all have babies in the same calendar year. I didn’t realize I knew so many women. But again, that’s not for here.

So what is for here, eh? What’s for here is a check-in on the staying-at-home thing, brought to you (obviously) by me. That and an exhortation to other parents to just consider their options. Let’s proceed. I’ll begin with a tale. Actually, it’s a parable, but not a biblical one, obvs. I was going to use fable as my term of choice but since this story is sans anthropomorphic animals and plants, yet still contains a moral, we’re going to use parable.

Once upon a time the oyster was born and started to eat real food. When these days came, her mom bought for the oyster a white plastic high chair with a white plastic removable tray. The chair was $20 and the tray was $5 and both items fit the bill and the budget (three cheers for Ikea).

The little oyster has always been a good eater and to her a high chair is a valued vehicle for partaking of comestibles, not a trap to escape from. For this reason the little girl’s parents never buckled her in.

Until one day her mom did. That day the little oyster choked on some food–the silent, gagging, turning-colors choking and guess what happened? Her mom couldn’t get her out of the damn high chair with the stupid buckle and ended up pounding on the little girl’s back while she sat there, until she gagged up the food. Chewed and regurgitated food went everywhere but the oyster recovered just fine. As her mom cleaned the high chair, the only thing that really made her gag was scrubbing the buckles and straps with their fibers and nooks and crannies. Ew. From that day on, the straps were pulled tight beneath the chair and tied to one another, out of the way.

The little oyster, good eater though she was, would still occasionally miss a piece and her mom or dad would later find some brown banana smashed into a useless buckle, or the remnants of tikka masala* soaking into a cloth strap, requiring much scrubbing.

And then, one rainy Wednesday before lunch, a year into their relationship with the Ikea high chair, the little oyster’s mom had an epiphany:

I don’t have to deal with this. There’s something I can do about this. I would never have to clean around these blasted things again, they would never poke my daughter in her meaty thighs and leave marks on her during lunch, and the high chair would be more comfortable for her, easier to wipe for us, and more sightly, come to think of it, with no straps and buckles dangling underneath like assembly-required dingleberries. Just because these straps have always been here doesn’t mean they need to stay. Eureka!

So I cut them off.

problem solving

The moral of the story is this: Just because something is a certain way right now doesn’t mean it needs to stay that way. If you don’t like the way things are, change them. Buying a high chair with straps, never using the straps, and keeping the straps attached for a full year before realizing you can just cut them off and make everything the way you want it is called problem solving. Slow on the uptake, sure, but also problem solving.

In an email to one of my book clubs recently I made a comment about day drinking. One of the ladies, who is expecting, wrote back with an LOL and her hope that I was enjoying a nice, crisp glass of something white. I was. And the windows were open, the grass had just been cut and the scent was wafting in, the oyster was napping, and I was catching up on emails. It’s not a bad life, I told her. She said to be careful, I might tempt her into being a stay at home mom yet.

But my intention isn’t/wasn’t/never will be to tempt any mom into staying home full-time. My intention is to encourage moms and expectant moms to consider their options and also consider that the decision you make this month can be changed. You can cut off the straps if you find they’re worthless, even a year later.

I didn’t leave work right away when the oyster was born. I didn’t plan to leave work at all, actually. I had 9 weeks at home, the last 5 of them working from home. Know what’s hard? Working from home with a newborn. Then I went back to work in the office and it was a delightful break but then it got harder to leave home and then I wanted to be at home with the oyster and then it got a lot harder and I knew I had to be at home with her or everything else in our family was going straight into the crapper, and fast. My heart wasn’t in it, and a paycheck and resume bragging rights weren’t enough to keep me there.

For us, having more dollars didn’t add value to our family. The husband and I had discussed our priorities, set goals in keeping with those priorities, and take steps to meet those goals. So a year ago, we cut off the straps and I haven’t regretted it for a single hour since.

I think a lot of parents are afraid of what people will say or think of their strapless high chairs, so it’s just easier–in theory–to keep the straps on and work around them and clean around them and let them dig into the baby’s legs and gag when they smell like old food and pretend you don’t see the ugliness of the useless things tangled under the high chair seat, as out of the way as they can be while still being there.

I also think a lot of people don’t consider that no matter how long you’ve had the high chair, you can always cut off the straps. It’s okay to change your mind. If you honestly want your high chair to be strapless, you’ll do it and you’ll make it work. Now, next month, a year later, it doesn’t matter. Maybe you’ve planned your whole life to put your child in this high chair and you’ve never considered what life may be like if you didn’t have to deal with the straps and all they require. Well, consider it. And if you find that the straps are useless and you’re only keeping them because you care about what people think of strapless high chairs, do yourself a favor and stop caring. If the straps are in the way, just cut them off.

After laying the oyster down for her afternoon nap I grabbed my book off the kitchen table and did a double take–there was something in her high chair! Wait, no there wasn’t…it was just the empty little slots where the straps used to live. It looks weird. It will take a day or so to get used to. But the straps are gone and I’m not looking back.

 

*Heck yeah my kid eats Indian food. Yours can, too!

Don’t think for me

I just can’t take it anymore. Too many things are trying to think for me. I’m looking at you, Facebook. And you, fancy cars. Pandora, you’re excused because I think you’re a little, well, special when it comes to thinking for people so you’re off the hook. (Hint: A piano-only instrumental version of Madonna’s Material Girl does not belong on my REM station, kthx.)

people i def dont know
But back to you, Facebook and fancy cars. You know that column on the side of your Facebook feed that suggests “People You May Know”? In fact I don’t know them, Facebook. I barely know the one mutual friend you’re saying we have so no, I don’t know this person and certainly don’t want to be one more of her 872 “friends” and I don’t want these weird people in their weird zombie costumes leering at me from my news feed.

cars
And now I can buy (well, I can’t, since my money tree didn’t sprout) a car that can apply the brakes and stop the car before I even know there’s a small neighbor child behind my vehicle as I’m backing up. Will I be glad my neighbors have said vehicle if it’s my child behind them as they’re backing up? Yes. Do I think that taking this type of responsibility out of our hands allows our paying-attention muscles to atrophy? Also yes.

48 hours of lies
Don’t get me started on deodorant. Some of us sweat a lot. Have you ever seen me wear a white t-shirt? Not more than once you haven’t, I promise. And yet almost all the deodorants out there advertise “48 hours guaranteed!” on their ergonomic little caps. 48 hours…in my car and it won’t melt? 48 hours….after I forget to apply it I’ll still be wondering if the people next to me at church could tell that stink aura was me? 48 hours is twice the protection even the Secret Service can offer. Surely you don’t mean to imply that your product protects me from perspiring and odorizing for 48 hours. First, you’re wrong, I’ve never met a deodorant that could do that and second, I like to think a shower could be involved in that time span. And third, again, you’re wrong. Don’t get my hopes up. Stop lying to my pits.

 frozen falsehoods

Now, what’s this I see? An easy scoop package? Why, that must mean scoopage from this particular container, by dint of its design or the product therein, is easier than scoopage of competitors’ products from competitors’ cartons. FALSE. This brand, and this carton in particular, are a special kind of crappy. I’ll know this is an easy scoop package when I try scooping from it and exclaim with elation, “Egad! This is easy scooping!” Or not. Liars.

I really hate it when people and products try to think for me. I can do my own thinking and my own determining of what’s an easy scoop package and what’s the ice cream equivalent of Sochi. Besides, I feel a little cheated. If Facebook can tell me who I may like to be pretend friends with and my deodorant lasts longer than some wildlife, where is the queen size fitted sheet that folds itself, hmmm??

disaster
Disaster. Di.saster.

Ever heard the one about…

“I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”
“So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

Ever heard the one about the girl who got a brain tumor that accounts for less than 1% of all brain tumors and then she had a miscarriage and that turned out to be semi-molar, a complication that affects less than 1% of all pregnancies, so she decided to buy a lottery ticket because heck maybe that’s another 1% that wants her in its numbers??

All kidding aside (actually, if you take away my kidding I’ll shrivel up like the poor unfortunate souls in The Little Mermaid so forget that, kidding is back on) my follow-up ob appointment today didn’t go as we had hoped. In fact, it was the exact opposite of what we had hoped.

poor unfortunate soulsSeriously, take away kidding and sarcasm and this is me. And to add insult to injury, I’m probably the one in the back with the poufy hair.

The pathology report came back from my D&C and it showed that this pregnancy was semi-molar, like my ob had feared. That means, in summary, that Norbert never had a chance. On top of that, an interesting and also dagger-in-the-heart bit of information is that semi-molar pregnancies often happen when two sperms get to the egg. On a normal day that means twins. (Twins! Heehee!) On a shitty day that means a fetus with 69 chromosomes and a non-viable pregnancy. That was us. And less than 1% of all the other bumps out there. (1 in 1,500 in the U. States of A.)

So instead of hearing that this was just a shame and the husband and I can try again whenever we feel ready, I need to go in every week for a blood test to monitor my hormone levels. A semi-molar or molar pregnancy can act like cancer and tracking the hormone levels to make sure they come down is the only way to make sure my body doesn’t think it’s still pregnant and thus grow things, like placentas, unchecked. (Is anyone enjoying this science lesson or are you all just thinking TMI? Yeah? Too bad.) Once the hormone levels are back down to zero, I go monthly for blood work. If they stay at zero for six months, we can try again.

This hurts. This sucks. This is not what we pictured for our family.

In the car after my appointment I cried and with a Kleenex-worth of self-pity in my hand I couldn’t help but wonder “Why me?”

Why me?

Why…

Ann Voskamp says in her book One Thousand Gifts, “…that which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To…God.”

So why me? Why not me? Others will feel this kind of soul-wilting hurt, too, and maybe through this I can learn to love them better. Come out of the furnace and say yes, there was a fourth man in there, did you see?? And if that’s the case, then with or without my wet Kleenex, I am learning how to be brought low {and)…how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I {am learning} the secret of facing…abundance and need (Philippians 4:12). Even in this, I can learn and maybe that’s why me.

Asking why me? doesn’t help because the answer isn’t important anyway. What’s important is taking the chance I’ve been given to see this tear not as a hole in the way things should be but a peek through what is to God because he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). That’s what I need to see. God and his faithfulness.

When darkness seems to hide his face,
I rest in his unchanging grace

Through every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil

I can’t accept that a pregnancy is a gift from God and then imply that when it goes awry God is nowhere to be found. I can’t pick and choose when I’ll see God in something because he doesn’t pick and choose when to show up. The variable is my perspective, the control is his unchanging grace.

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us….

Rest in his unchanging grace.

Full

It is Monday afternoon after my string of ob appointments and I nap. The husband takes the little oyster to the store and comes home with milk, eggs, and a bud vase of luscious orange-red roses. Six large blooms, snuggled together in a bold eruption of color and scent. I set them on my bedside table so I stare at beauty before going to sleep and as I wake up. I am fully aware of each time I wake up. I don’t sleep well in the week after finding out we lost Norbert. But each time I turn over in the night, curling and uncurling my body, shoving my pillow back or up or away, I smell the bright roses in the darkness. The scent brings me peace. Not an overwhelming, flooding, everything-is-fine-now peace, but a whispering, trickling, everything-will-be-ok-again-someday peace.

Me: Thank you for my roses. They help me smile a little bit.
The husband: That’s not why I got them.
Me: What?
The husband: I got them because I love you.

blessing 2

When the husband and I got married we used the traditional wedding vows in our exchange, except for one small adjustment from the generations before us. Instead of concluding with “until death do us part” we instead promised to honor our vows “until God parts us with death.” God dictates life, death does not. We trust fully in this.

My body has stopped bleeding for this tiny life that was lost. My heart, too, is healing but in a new shape, and softer. The invisible mark Norbert left won’t be like a regular scar, a stretch of flesh that reacts by healing harder than it was before the hurt. Instead this scar will be a softer spot. For lost babies, for mamas who love and then lose them, for tears that are cried alone and for feelings that are swallowed because…the words aren’t there? Because no one listens? Those are not my burdens and I ache for those who carry them.

Both of our moms came, back to back. I needed their company more than I needed someone to unload our dishwasher. I needed someone to chat with the husband over coffee and to chase the oyster while I took my time getting around the house. They were, and they did. The little sister brought hugs and Chanel eye cream. Flowers, cupcakes, cards, meals. No one intended to fix this with their gestures and no one did. The gestures alone were a gift. Faint comfort felt fully.

It snowed. A heavy, lasting, whimsical, Hogwartsy snow that I watched from our comfy chair in the corner. A frozen balm just for my soul maybe.

Three weeks on I don’t wake up in tears each day. I don’t cry myself to sleep each night. I am viscerally aware that healing is underway. I am fully trusting that this baby, who was not named and was never met but whose days were numbered and known from the start, lived exactly as long as God planned. We were never meant to hold this child and for what reason I don’t know, but for some reason.

I don’t wake up in tears and I don’t go to sleep in tears but I wipe tears when the little girl at the playground talks about her baby sister coming this spring. I sniff tears when I tuck away the booties crocheted for Norbert. I swallow a lump when a friend says this baby has already heard, “Well done, good and faithful servant” but that one, that one is a good lump, a humbling lump, a this-story-doesn’t-end-with-me-and-my-sadness lump.

I grieve the loss of a new life I loved. Our baby. We both mourn the loss of possibilities. The husband and I look forward to the children we’ll have in the future but there will never be this child. The shift of the road ahead is permanent and maybe if I picture it not as the road ahead but as the way forward, I can see it with eyes that take in the scenery while it’s there to be seen and not with eyes that are tempted to look back and dwell. I expect to always feel this loss; fully in some moments, faintly in others after more time.

Besides. All good things are from above, the book of James says. I believe it’s true. My heart is cut and it is dented, but it is still full of good things from above.

little boots

blessing 4

blessing 3

Feelings

The pre-op nurse called me from the waiting room and walked me into the same-day surgery wing. “It’s a requirement of anesthesia that we do a urine pregnancy test,” she said, stopping outside the bathroom. I felt sucker punched. All my air whooshed out and a dozen questions, questions I wanted to snap in my meanest voice possible, filled my head. Don’t you know why I’m here? Didn’t you look at your chart? Are you kidding? Is this a joke? Don’t you know my baby is already dead? I stared at her.

“I’m here for a D&C,” I croaked at last.

The hint of an embarrassed smile crept onto her face, as if, of all the reasons I could possibly be there, surely this wasn’t the one. Surely she hadn’t just told the lady with the miscarriage to take a pregnancy test. I went into the bathroom and when I got to pre-op bed #9, she apologized.

I am sad.

The word devastated, which I have also used to describe how the husband and I feel right now, conjures up in my mind images of far away earthquakes and floods and the messy aftermath of lives changed forever, sometimes destroyed, with clean up and recovery and time needed for all of it. And then I realize that yes, devastated works here. Devastated a lot closer to home.

Miscarriages are not uncommon but it never ever crossed my mind that one might happen to us. Suddenly the blogs, the books, the supportive posts people write to those who have lost babies apply and we’re part of a club we never knew we’d qualify for and never asked to join. No one asks to join and no one ever leaves. Miscarriage is Hotel California for really, really sad people.

Sad, heartbroken, devastated, crushed. All words people use to describe how they feel after a miscarriage, all words other people use to assume how you’re feeling. They’re all accurate of course. They’re all exactly how I’ve felt since Monday morning and will continue to feel for who knows how long?

But I wasn’t ready for the other feelings that have surprised me this week. I haven’t read about them in other blog posts. I didn’t expect the shreds of optimism on my way out of the ob’s office after the first visit, praying silently to God, the Author of Life, to breathe life back into my small baby. He has raised from the dead before, why not now? Why couldn’t there be a heartbeat at our next sonogram?

I didn’t expect to remember my new pink planner in my purse and feel stupid. Stupid that I brought it along to plan my next visit. Stupid that I didn’t know my baby had died and I wouldn’t need another appointment. Stupid that I had other things written in there this week–coffee, book club, brunch–that only a stupid person would have planned.

I didn’t expect the relief that was almost physical when my ob and the sonogram nurse referred to our lost child only as “your baby” on Monday. Nothing scientific or medical, just “your baby.”

I didn’t expect fresh tears at every. single. post. on my Facebook wall. And I didn’t expect 60 comments, plus private messages, emails, and texts.

I didn’t expect that my feelings–of all things, my feelings!–would be hurt when I read about the actual surgery. The other times I’ve had surgery, I’ve gotten something out of it. With Martha, peace of mind and ultimately a good diagnosis. With my emergency c-section which was a disaster for all intents and purposes, we got the oyster. This time, a less physically invasive but more psychologically violating surgery would take something from me and give me nothing back. It would take something I had already lost, meaning twice in one week I was losing our baby, whom we had loved so fiercely and wanted so badly.

When I woke up from anesthesia after Martha surgery I was panicked and I cried because I couldn’t form words in my head and I was scared that I had lost speech. When I woke up from surgery yesterday I cried, too. But I cried because I wanted my baby back. I cried because I was sad. And then I cried because my post-op nurse was pregnant and my baby was gone from my body.

When we left the hospital I felt negligent. I felt wrong leaving behind the child we love and will never know on this earth. The child that on Monday was “your baby” but now, to the hospital and the lab doing the biopsies and tests, is “the specimen.”

I know my body will heal the fastest. Physically I feel scraped, emptied out. I didn’t know my body could make the colors that I saw on the hospital bed sheets when I stood yesterday to put on my own clothes. I was fascinated and disgusted all at once. I felt bad for the young woman I saw changing sheets in the other recovery bays.

I felt sad surprise when today I put on my jeans and already they button again.

I feel peace from the prayers offered up for us, for the Bible verses and truths friends have reminded me of. I feel like, while I’m not starting to heal yet, I will. We are devastated but we are not destroyed.

I don’t feel angry. Anger isn’t helpful to me. For a few minutes this week I have felt bad for myself. In a lighter moment, I felt like Neville Longbottom. Why is it always me?

neville

This week a trifecta of my biggest fears–losing a baby, missing the miscarriage, and needing a D&C–came true. I don’t deal well with loss and healing will take me a long time. I will not compare my grief to the grief of others. I don’t feel like we should be less sad because our baby was so young and small. I don’t feel like we should recover quickly because our child never got born.

When I feared losing a pregnancy, I thought the idea of death being so close to us would unhinge me but it didn’t. Death came to our family, to our home, and to my body, but death does not have the final say. The only home our child will ever know is a perfect home in Heaven. In fact, by the time we even knew our baby was gone, Heaven had been home for almost three weeks. Sometimes this gives me the kind of comfort a mom needs; sometimes I feel stupid again. How could I not have realized?

I ordered a book about healing from miscarriage and I feel bad about it. The book will help me, I’m sure. Words help me, whether they are my own or others’. What I feel bad about is the title, Empty Arms. My arms aren’t empty. I do have a child. I just don’t have the one we were expecting right up until Monday morning.

And I feel like I couldn’t survive this if we didn’t have the oyster. Her chubby legs and soft cheeks, the way her eyes get squinty when she smiles, her loud voice and sweet, tentative steps, these are the things that distract me from grief. Not because grief is bad and I need to turn my face away from it but because grief is not the whole story and I need to acknowledge that there is joy living alongside it.

Fog

On December 1 the husband and I were thrilled with a positive pregnancy test. Baby #2! An August baby! We couldn’t wait. Our insurance had changed since the oyster was born so I had to find a new ob. I did, and within days had scheduled an appointment. We all went to it a few weeks later.

December 23 I had a sonogram. I went by myself and on the screen, there it was. Our little baby. A tiny bean, wiggling back and forth already. A healthy heartbeat of 146 bpm. Placenta in a good spot. The sonogram lady printed me two pictures to take home. I put them on the fridge. Norbert, we called our baby.

Our Christmas tree was up. We placed a “Baby’s 1st Christmas” onesie under it and texted the picture to family, saying “look what’s under our tree this year!” We told my parents it was on back order and wouldn’t arrive until August. It was a fun Christmas, although all-day-morning sickness was kicking my butt.

January 13 was my next regular monthly ob appointment. The husband stayed home with the oyster and would just go to work when I got home. I packed my blue Norbert folder for all the papers I would get at this appointment. I packed my new 2014 pink planner, to schedule my next appointment. I asked all my questions. We talked about screening tests. She got the doppler to listen to Norbert’s heartbeat.

I felt like she was taking a long time with the doppler. Poking, pressing, moving. She had me shift. Poking, pressing. The oyster never took this long. But I still have belly fat from carrying the oyster, that couldn’t be helping. She took my pulse to see if that’s what she was hearing. I stared at the ceiling. She shut off the doppler.

I’m going to get the sonogram machine, I’m just not getting what I need to get.

But I have a lot of belly fat. That’s probably why, I thought.

The sonogram machine warmed up and again she was poking, pressing. I stared at the screen. I watched, like she was.

I need to do an internal sonogram, is that ok? Baby just doesn’t seem to be cooperating.

Well maybe it’s an anterior placenta, I thought. The placenta is just blocking the baby from the sonogram machine.

I stared at the screen with my heart beating faster. Poking, poking. My heart slowed down.

Please, please just be an anterior placenta.

I looked at her. She was frowning but I wasn’t worried until she called me sweetie.

How many weeks are you again, sweetie?

Eleven. Please be an anterior placenta. Please.

This is an 8 week baby. I’m not hearing a heartbeat. I’m so sorry.

She helped me sit up and she rubbed my back while I cried. She held the Kleenex. She told me she wanted me to go to one of the other locations for a better sonogram. Even though she said it was to confirm what she saw, I thought maybe the equipment was faulty. The better sonogram would show a wiggly little baby, 11 weeks along. I picked up the husband and the oyster.

Do you see these flashes of color?

Yes.

Those are reading blood flow. The big flashes, like here and here, are your blood. There should be a flash where the baby’s heart is beating.

But…it’s just dark there.

I’m so sorry. Your baby doesn’t have a heartbeat anymore. I’m measuring 8 weeks, 4 days. I’m sorry. We don’t know why these things happen.

They sent me back to my ob to talk about what we would do. I could wait. I could take meds to make the waiting shorter. I could have a D&C. Those were the options.

Which one is the least traumatic?

Well, there’s physical trauma and there’s emotional trauma.

The husband asked, Which will hurt the least?

D&C. But there’s something else.

What?

The second sonogram showed that the placenta is cystic. We don’t know if that’s why this happened, or if it’s just the placenta deteriorating because the baby didn’t need it anymore. But if it was the first, it’s possible the pregnancy was semi-molar, in which case we’d advise you not get pregnant again for six months. We’d monitor your hormone levels and if they were normal after six months, that would be fine to try again. If not, you would need to wait another six months. But the only way to diagnose this is with a D&C.

Ok.

We scheduled it for Wednesday, today.

There is a thick fog this morning. Heavy, gray, settled soundly on all the things I can see from my window. The ground is wet, the grass is wet, everything is soaked with the grayness of it.

But it is not raining.

RWN and the senior citizens brigade

Today on our morning walk I realized that we were out and about in our little condo community with the senior citizen brigade. They probably don’t call themselves that and they weren’t an organized force with matching T-shirts or anything but there were enough of them power walking through the streets and not enough of any other demographic for me to realize that the only people home during the day are me and the AARP mailing list.

I had always suspected this.

Christmas by candlelight

Last night was the Christmas candlelight service at our church. I hadn’t been feeling so great all day but really wanted to go, so the husband, the oyster and I laid around all day (accompanied by Harry Potter and a few mugs of tea) to save up our energies.

The husband and I don’t put the little oyster into the church nursery on Sundays for a few reasons but we had decided that we would put her into the nursery for the Christmas service. Since she doesn’t walk on her own yet, the husband dropped her off in the 0-1 year old room, where she was easily the biggest guest but also the most interactive. 🙂 When we picked her up immediately after the service ended, she was the last tyke in the room, sitting in the middle of the nursery and singing at the top of her lungs to the nursery volunteers. It seemed like a good time had been had by all.

And the husband and I had certainly enjoyed the service upstairs. Our church did the service by (mostly) candlelight, and in the Lessons and Carols format that was made popular in 19th century England. Just the right mix of choir and congregational singing, although it seemed that the congregational singing might last just a little too long for the husband’s candle, which burned down at an astonishing rate until he was left with just a flickering nub on the last verse of Silent Night, shielding this wee flame from the wayward draft that threatened it on the final strains.

And here below you’ll see the little oyster dressed up for the evening. I would have put her in a dress but her red shirt was so festive and she’s growing out of it, so I wanted it to make one last appearance. Alas, the ribbon barrette didn’t stay in her hair long and by the time it slipped down to around her ear and her shirt came untucked, she looked like she’d been into the eggnog. Remember how I said she doesn’t walk on her own? She doesn’t, but that doesn’t stop her from moving at a shocking speed, as you’ll see in our last photo.

First, a lovely pose.

First, a lovely pose.

 

Then, she's intrigued by Harry Potter.

Then, she’s intrigued by Harry Potter.

 

Finally, chaos.

Finally, chaos.

Dogblog: I’m the sole beneficiary!

Hi! My mom was really embarrassed when she looked at someone else’s (really funny) blog today and realized she hadn’t posted anything since Election Day. And while she is clutching her hair over her face in great shame and considering making the transition to full-time momblog here on redwhiteandnew, I volunteered to bound in and put up a post. Me to the rescue! See? What goes around comes around.*

So here’s what we’ve been up to lately, but I’m not going to include pictures because Mom’s phone is charging in the corner and the naked puppy already used it to call the doctor’s office this morning (oops) so both of us are paws-off for now:

1. November flew by! First, Mom and Dad celebrated their 5th anniversary and had a really fun night out while not one but TWO of my aunts stayed here to play with me and watch the naked puppy. And Gilmore Girls. We also watched them.

2. Another weekend we had friends in town and Mom was really happy about that because they were her friends and she got to go out and about all weekend and take in the monuments and Old Town and that kind of fun stuff that she only really does when guests are in town.

3. Then it was Thanksgiving and Mom and Dad and the naked puppy went to the old home state but I got the best end of that deal–the little sister–aka my very own live-in girlfriend–came to stay with me here and on Thanksgiving I got bacon and an egg in my breakfast! I was very thankful indeed! And later, when my girlfriend went to a friend’s house for her own people-Thanksgiving, she put peanut butter and some Doritos into my Kong and I had a delightful dog-Thanksgiving lunch.

4. When Mom and Dad and the naked puppy came home from their Thanksgiving, it took them a really long time and my girlfriend and I had prepared a nice Thanksgiving dinner for everyone and we ate it at 10:00 at night. It was fun. The naked puppy was a little bit sick, which has never happened before, so probably she wasn’t having much fun but she bounced back after a few days.

5. And now it’s December and Christmas is in less than two weeks! My grandparents from the old home state are coming here to stay with me while my parents and the nakie go to see Dad’s family. I am so, so excited about hosting my own Christmas guests.

6. In sad news though, our friends who live next door had to put down their very old and very sweet dog last weekend. They are very sad. I don’t blame them. My parents will miss me like the chickens (Mom says that’s not the phrase but hey, I would miss chickens if they went away for good) when I go to The Big Farm one day. But what’s kind of neat for me is that our friends gave me all of their dog’s treats and flea meds and now I have a huge box of the biggest Milkbones I have ever seen. Wow. These things are like, my size! Dad said it’s like their doggy left a will and I’m the sole beneficiary. That sounds pretty serious but then again so are these Milkbones so I nodded along very solemnly and then ate one of my beneficiary-treats in the corner where no one could see me taking individual bites of it like a girl.

Ok, Mom says she should be back on the blog in a few days and told me I can have a treat for posting today. I hope she gives me one of my mini Milkbones because those I can practically swallow whole and then I feel like a boss.

*My mom and dad rescued me. Or adopted me, however you want to say it. That’s what that reference was to. Adopted pups are the way to go! I endorse you doing so. I got jokes.