Category Archives: children

2011 recap

On the second day of 2012, I found myself frustrated with the char limit on FB – don’t even get me started on twitter – and thought I’d send a little note on what has happened in the last year which I made no time to tell you.

  1.  After seeing myself in a picture in February and then stepping on a scale, I got serious about getting healthy. I began exercising (10k/day on an elliptical, 5x/week), stopped eating off the Vikilings plates and dropped bread. What a difference I was able to make in my health, and quickly. Confirming that keeping new habits is harder than starting them.
  2. I am 45, but keep forgetting. (Goes hand in hand, yes?)
  3. Perimenopause, in full unpredictable and irritable force. Highly unrecommended, though likely inevitable.
  4. Ben is now 7; Nora is 3. Ben is gentle, perceptive, and a natural athlete. Nora is not gentle but equally perceptive. Her athletic abilities remain to be seen.
  5. Nora had eartubes put in back in April. The full procedure and recovery was less than 90 minutes. Sadly, they are already out. She has also had hand, foot and mouth, Fifth’s disease, two ruptured eardrums (pre-tubes), and assorted boo-boos that far exceed those her brother had.
  6. Ben is more me than the Viking, I’m afraid. I am hoping he can shake some of it off and find a great place in himself, in all of his quiet power. But of the parts of me he has that I hope he keeps are his sense of humor, of accountability, of ethics, and his love of singing. The boy wakes up singing.
  7. This year, I volunteered to be a room parent in Ben’s class. It has been great to be in the classroom with the children every week.
  8. I ran for office in our town on a platform of “The more you know, in context, the better you can make decisions.” I lost 2:1 to a candidate whose slate was, more or less, “Hang the mayor.” All of the candidates who campaigned on that slogan won by huge margins. And yet, I wasn’t sad. It was a great experience.
  9. I don’t think I was able to finish reading a single book all year, thought there are at least 15 of them around the house with bookmarks at different points, none of which are 1/3 of the way. Not good.
  10. I did manage to spend some quality time in the kitchen cooking for neighbors, which was enormously satisfying.
  11. In an effort to broaden Ben’s exposure to different cultural traditions in ways that are appealing to him, I signed him up for a children’s chorus at the local, rather progressive Episcopal church. He enjoys it, and was selected to play Joseph in the Christmas pageant. I’m glad, too, that he is learning and asking questions about God. But the questions that come for me, time after time, aren’t answered in a way that makes my heart feel at home.
  12. I decided to cut my hair but good just before Thanksgiving. Transformative, yes… but who would have thought a haircut could encourage new balances and shifts in personality?

So I came to the end of the year, and I am better in some ways but still restless.  Still a stay-at-home-parent, still looking in consignment shops for clothing that would survive the carry-on bag and go to a meeting. Still missing Boston/Cambridge/Somerville/Cape Cod, and its attendant pleasures. Cooking more, eating less. Next up, what’s in store for 2012 – I hope more reading and writing.

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Filed under children, families, hair, hairdo, health, midlife, Politics, women's health

Welcome to the World, Nora

On 19 November, we drove to Evergreen Hospital to evict my beloved tenant. She made no sign of leaving on her own, having blocked the exit with her bottom and legs.

I walked unassisted but not unaccompanied to the delivery room, took my spinal like a woman (nearly soundlessly and according to my labor nurse, like “a very tough woman”) and within a few minutes became mother to a daughter. A daughter, in the words of the surprised OB, assisting and nurses, who was “a very big girl”. Baby was 8lbs, 8oz, 20.5 inches. Strong. Pink. And with the most beautiful thatch of blond hair, which after her first bath made a silvery blond cap on her little head, prompting lovely spontaneous expressions from her nurses.

Looking at her, all the names we preselected seemed wrong. And in fact, I thought she looked more like a Walter in those first hours. But with time, hospital discharges, and the 100,000 Baby Name book, we figured out her name by the 26th: Nora. Her full name is Eleanor, but when I looked into her dark eyes, I saw a determined, decidedly unfrivolous person, looking back at me. Nora. She cried only for food and cold – no sense in making a fuss otherwise – and was as content as could be once full and warm. Nora. And yet, such a delicate little face, a halo of silky filaments, a little beauty completely unaware of a world falling in love with her, and acting accordingly. My Nora. Welcome to the world, little one.


Filed under children, daughter, Love, mother, Motherhood, women

39w2d: naming and identity

My name is a product of my mother’s world – the time at which she got married, her religion, her class, her husband and where she lived. A throng of foo-Maries came out of the lower-to -middle-middle class Irish Catholic Northeast in the 50’s and 60’s, and in spite of my birth year, I got a fifties “foo”. Drop the Marie from my full name, and you end up with something that sounds less like a person and more like a media construct – so common, there are, according to a former reporter at CNET, at least three women with that name  and spelling in high-tech pr and media relations.

My birthname, also a foo-Marie, had a more distinct path. Sans surname, it’s shared with Elvis’ little lady. With the birth father’s name in place, it is the name of HRC’s pr counsel back in her First Lady days – which gave both my birthmother and me a little chuckle. As dowdy as Janet is, I never saw myself as a Lisa, much less a Lisa Marie, so I left it alone.

Ben came into the world early, and with a list of 19 possible names. Five days later, he was Benjamin, even though his father had vetoed it months before. I wish I could say we’re doing a better job this time around, but no.

The working list we had for some time had only 5 names:

  • Lucia
  • Maria
  • Natalia
  • Lily (H’s choice)
  • Julia, then Rosalind (my choice)

It’s heavy on the latin names, because they can be pronounced in Danish and English. Of course, the usual rules apply – ex-lovers and annoying classmates and colleagues have wiped out a slew of perfectly reasonable names. H is beginning to think Maria sounds too religious. I have to explain to him that Lily Frystyk N. sounds to me like the star of the morning shift at a 24-7 German strip club… even if it is the name of his paternal grandmother.

His new test, no doubt inspired by the political season, is what name looks best on a lawn sign. But as someone with one of those names, I’d like to give her a little more than that. And so the list is very long, even though it is populated with names that he has pre-vetoed. (Like Benjamin.)


Filed under "getting ready for baby", adoption, babies, baby, children, identity, naming

39w1d, and the last of private time

If I’m lucky, I get about 2 hours a day now of private time – between 2 and 4 am, in the room that H and I share as an office. I sleep on the new raised air mattress I bought for H on election day, an investment in his circadian pattern and sanity, or so I thought.  (Family visitors will claim the spare bed for the next two months, depriving him of comfortable respite from my tossing, turning, and snoring.)

Two days in, the prince found a multitude of peas in his new sleeping quarters, and in an effort to preserve my own sanity, I gladly switched places with him. (In general, as long as I can lie down on something firm, I can sleep. I don’t know how it will go when little one arrives and we retake the bedroom/co-sleeper.)

So now I wake around 2, for a late-night constitutional, and then I find myself with my thoughts. The small footpath lights in the backyard caught every last, late gilded leaf from the japanese maple, whose branches arch from the back eastern fence to the glass doors that are now my “bedroom” wall. My first night, I could still see some green in the thatch of leaf cover – now, there are only the last of the hangers-on, clinging in daylight as squirrels ravage the slender branches for food and Ben’s entertainment. At this late hour, the branches are quiet.

The clock in the office with a face that reminds me of my elementary school, and a red second hand that moves in a way that I can only describe as simultaneously staccato and vibrato – that wonderful sound as it advances second by second, but a wavering hand that signals a constant need to be reined in.

The tock-tockle of the clock is not the only sound in the house. Ben, who has shared my internal clock since birth and co-sleeping, usually stirs with a string of undecipherables, telling urgent stories in his sleep, peppered with “MommyDaddy” – an all-purpose call to parent arousal from across the rambler.

But unlike the truly stolen moments I have now – rushing off alone in the car to a coffee shop or market, seeking the reassuring solitude of a public snack among kindly strangers – these are the only ones I’ll have for some time, or at least until the MD says I can get back behind the wheel.

Tonight, my thoughts are all over the place, from practicing positions in case of cord prolapse; figuring out if I can take Ben to the hospital for a tour before B-day; why it is that chocolate brown seems the worst possible color for a renovated bathroom, no matter what my smart neighbor the realtor is telling me; the 35% loss in our savings since January; the uneasiness I feel when considering prospects for employment; and ransacking my brain for techniques for being respectful and not angry/heartbroken when my mother’s age and inability as well as her innate timidity and fear of so much of the world is here, in my home. When I can get her an appointment at Seymours for a wash and set. Wondering when the contractor will finish the bathroom, and will little one be toilet-trained by then.

Then 2 becomes 3 and 4 slides into 5, and I know I need to do two things – take another slow-release iron pill, and find a way to slow my mind, squeezing in another 2 hours before Ben is at the head of the mattress, reminding me it’s a home day, and that means pancakes.

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Filed under "getting ready for baby", anxiety, children, families, family, Motherhood, women, worry

38w6d: long, closed, contemplative

Yesterday, at the OB’s office, there was a moment where I felt less like an expectant mother and more like my purse – the ob rummaging through me to find a cellphone, or in this case, a cervix. What she found was long, quiet and closed – not unlike my cellphone by the time I find it. No sign of labor, or of the tenant’s plans for moving day.

After some earlier emotional arguments at home, this news was a little less than welcome. I had whispered to her that this would be a great day to come out, that Mommy had already driven to the hospital, she had the keys and her baby bag in the back seat, and we could get this squared away in no time. Just mommy and baby.  But in a disturbingly familiar display of stubbornness (wow, does that spelling look wrong), she has decided to prove all qualified and certified medical professionals completely wrong. “I won’t make it to term? Well, induce THIS.”

Admittedly, the stress of my mother’s visit is a contributor to her reticence to exit. My mother came to “help”, but she is a rather frail 79 who has nearly lost her hearing completely and refuses to wear a hearing aid. Parenting issues and flashbacks abound. I had thought I was big enough to follow through on letting her come – she is doing this as much for herself as for me – but I’m faced with the ugly reality of my rather unforgivable smallness. (Don’t tell me I’m not. This is not false modesty.)

So self-directed trips alone to the hospital give me time to be with little one, and with my son, focused on things that matter to me. I can reassure myself that I won’t be in housewifery exile forever, though the economic conditions of this region may conspire to make that feel like the reality. I’m quietly excited both for her arrival, her growth, and a new real job. I’m better prepared for what will mostly be a solitary parenting experience, regardless of marriage license and/or marital status. I line up documents and questionnaires, prepare for sleeping places and nursing stations throughout the house, pry out of H whatever it was I last did to piss him off so he’ll drop the silent treatment, and get familiar with 42, mother of two.

The catch is how to get everything else done smoothly, incurring the fewest number of complaints, while allowing myself the space and brain function to imagine and execute the next steps so important to take. If I get 6 hours a night, I think I can pull it off.


Filed under children, mother, Motherhood, parenting, women


Zen lessons continue unabated in the Little One Prenatal Challenge. This week, it began at my OB’s office. Her assistant said, “We’ve scheduled your delivery – Wednesday 19 November at 1pm.”

My eyes popped. “Are you serious? You’re aware there’s no way I’ll get that far.” (A known uterine abnormality prevented me from even getting to term with Ben; plus, my current profile scared a fellow patron at the coffee shop who thought for sure I would be giving birth at the pick-up counter.)

The assistant agreed. “I know, I agree with you. But this is hospital procedure.”

“So, since the delivery is scheduled on a date that is medically impossible for me to reach, what do I do when my water breaks? How will this be any different than what happened the first time, when I ended up with an emergency C-section at 36w3d?”

The short answer is – it won’t be any different. Except that now I’ve been given conflicting instructions by two staff at the practice, one of which included instructing the physician on-call of my medical conditions, because, I guess, THEY CAN’T BE EXPECTED TO READ A CHART.

So my zen lesson is – of course I could have gone to a midwifery practice. I would have had informed partner-based care throughout the pregnancy, I still would have been sent to the specialist practice for diagnostics, and had a chance for the wonder MD to deliver. I’m preparing an information sheet now to give to H in case I faint or something gets in the way of me explaining my medical condition once we’re at the hospital. But instead of getting really angry, I just shook my head.

Meanwhile, she is rolling and wedging herself into unusual positions. This is a mix of good and bad – good, because she is active: bad because she is pushing the air out of my lungs with different parts of her body I have yet to identify at unexpected times. H does his best to greet me each morning with a spoon, his fingers resting on my belly hoping to pat his daughter to be. He marvels out loud at her strength, and speed of movements. Later if we share a car trip somewhere, he uses both hands to pull me out of his car (the ’99 Honda Accord starts to feel like a low-rider when you’re this size). My waddle gets slower and slower, as the body gives way to the bump.

Food tolerances are almost normal. I can eat many of the things I usually love, if not in the same quantities. Finally, chocolate! Small amounts of fresh grapefruit! These are little pleasures, which are nearly as delightful as the memory of the first glass of water I was allowed to drink after B was born.

The baby bag is nearly packed, and we have a full wardrobe waiting for her entrance. Now as long as the gender predictions hold, we’ll be ready to be fully unprepared all over again.


Filed under children, Motherhood, pregnancy, pregnant after 40

yes we can (hold babies)

After seeing too many videos of the unbridled hatred encouraged to fester at McCain-Palin rallies, I sought refuge in the blog of a college student called “Yes We Can (Hold Babies)“. Too cute for words, yet not treacly. And definitely deserving of your support.

Late update, for ralph: My favorite, right here:

the happiest boy in the world

the happiest boy in the world


Filed under babies, children, cute, Obama, Politics

what is great about being pregnant, 30w+

This pregnancy has been full of uncertainty and worry; only recently have I been able to enjoy it more fully.

Even though I am having more trouble getting around (hah), it’s a pleasure to be out and about. Generally speaking, I think people treat pregnant women pretty well. Strangers smile, offer congratulations and well wishes. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if that were standard operating procedure. My own social experiences are usually pretty positive, but it would be even better to have that sense of good will more often than the days I’m visibly pregnant.

But if I recall my own behavior, expectant moms get top of the list treatment. They’re brave, whether they know it yet or not. They are making a visible, good faith commitment to a world that has no explicit interest in their well-being, and offering the most precious and vulnerable effort they will likely ever make in their lives to that apathetic (at best) place. So who among us, especially parents, wouldn’t smile, with their hearts in their eyes, hoping that future mother wouldn’t find a better place than we may know to date. That maybe this time, with this mother, it will be different, better, the changing point.

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Filed under "getting ready for baby", children, mother, Motherhood, pregnancy, women

the incredible shrinking (baby) woman

Just when you think you’ve managed to swim in a new sea and its cycles, a wave comes from behind at lowtide, leaving you gasping.

As an official “high-risk” obstetrics patient, I’ve been put on a regimen of checkups with special features – ultrasound exams every 4 weeks, to check on both baby (presumed by mommy to be fine) and cervix for signs of early labor. From 16 to 28 weeks, Little one’s growth rate has been dropping. I’ve been asking why, and have been advised to increase protein intake, reminded not to smoke (not an issue) and to keep healthy. Measured in percentiles, she’s gone from 78th to 32nd in 12 weeks – a full quartile in the past 4 weeks alone. This was a tear-inducing shock. Not to mention a complete reversal of experience I had with my first, who maintained a 95th percentile size and still is near the top of his development curve four years later.

At the OB’s instructions, I have been protein loading until the cows come home, and even then, I hit them up for a pail of milk. I’ve been feeling bigger, and thought for sure we’d at least maintain her growth rate (90g or protein a day, minimum; dropping the OB-sanctioned coffee and white-knuckling my way through the days of migraine). But the sonographer said 32nd %ile for weight, and I gasped.

“She was 58th at my last exam.”

I had brought a chart I made from the last three ultrasound reports, showing the downward trends. I had noted that the placenta was evaluated at Grade 2 at 20 weeks – about 10 weeks too soon for such a grading. I had a list of questions, and now I had tears to blink back. H held my hand while I looked at the twinkling lights in the ceiling (all ob/gyn practices should consider such features for their examining rooms…)

The MD I had this time, my third in 5 visits, was the one who delivered my son in an emergency c-section, and he must have remembered what we were like – as he showed up with a set of charts for us. He explained that we were still in a safe spot, and went through each of the measurements, explaining to us what he looked for in terms of trendlines and when they saw a red flag. He explained the ratios and relationships they watch closely, and the range of error with ultrasound readings – up to 10% on weight, and even more on percentiles for abdominal circumference.

He told me that maybe the baby was figuring out where she wanted to be – petite and powerful, perhaps, based on her activity level. He told us what would happen if she took a big drop at the next exam, and what the next steps would be, including increased exams to determine if there was a particular issue getting in the way of baby’s growth, and the issue of discussing how early to deliver.

He told us that if there was a problem with the placenta, there would be little we could do to override that, save to keep the same high-protein, high-nutrition diet to get as much to the baby as possible.

He also told me I could come back at any time, regardless of appointment. “Just show up if you’re worried. We’ll take you.” It was kind and reassuring.

But on the way home, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if what she wanted to be was a brief visitor? What if she decided this wasn’t the time or place for her to arrive?” I’m still wondering.


Filed under "getting ready for baby", children, mother, Motherhood, pregnancy, pregnant after 40, prenatal care

“It’s a woman! It’s a baby woman!”

Many moons ago, the birth of Joanie Caucus’ newest child was greeted in this way in a Doonesbury strip. Our baby woman has yet to arrive, but the tech and the Ob explained the meaning of the three parallel dots/dashes – a kind of visual morse code communicating her emerging femaleness.

And unlike the feelings I had for my first born who happened to be a son, overwhelming love permeated with the sense of his vulnerability, I imagine my daughter coming out fully formed and upright, a smiling Athena without the gladiator sandals who would know how to request the things she couldn’t yet make. I reflect on this grueling first trimester, which resulted in my regular OB prescribing a migraine-preventative cup of coffee each morning, to be her request for the true mother’s milk for this would-be daughter of mine. I see her arranging her wisps of hair together with a pencil from my desk the way her mother did, a coiffure homage to Catharine Mackinnon and expediency, except she will be more accomplished and patient, less judgmental and furious.

All the things I can see for her, all that I wish for her, can’t begin to compare with what she will do once she is on her own. Still, I can’t help but think she’ll already have it done. After all, she’s a baby woman. She’ll decide what she wants, and then she’ll go get it. I wish I was like her already.


Filed under children, daughter, Love, mother, Motherhood, women