Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An actual text message I had to send today...

Cadence and Hazel just turned off the Chinese pop dance music from the last decade, turned on Dies Irae, and started singing "ring around the Rosie"...How did my fun dance party get hijacked by mozart's requiem and a song about the black plague??!!?

(and after the requiem concluded, Hazel requested Nat King Cole by name...)

We have strange children. Wonderful, amazing, precocious children who are thoroughly themselves. I love them so much, quirky little beings. Their minds and souls are Great.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Call to Art...


Sitting here, tears in my eyes, I can feel my heart quivering as the news of this terrible tragedy unfolds.

Children.  27 dead, and 18 of them were children. I'm still hoping that those numbers that are being so widely reported are gross exaggeration, 

***

That is as far as I got with the initial post I wast going to write.  Because before I was able to finish, before the news was updated to show that in fact 20 of those killed were children, my life happened...my own children - living, breathing, bickering still - interrupted and took my attention away, and I couldn't be more grateful for the fact that they are able to do so.  Or the fact of their mere existence, for that matter. When I remember to be grateful, I don't mind the interruptions in the least.  In this moment, I am ecstatically happy that I am unable to get anything done.

I know many people are beginning to feel over saturated and sick, despite the import of the conversations, and I am no exception:  My brain can't handle any more input from this just now.  Maybe it's because I'm so recently post-partum that I'm taking this so hard, or maybe it's because James and I had briefly considered taking our children back to his childhood home - in fairfield county, CT...or maybe it's just being a parent.  I cannot imagine...every time I think of these events, my empathy tries on the shoes of those parents, those kids, and my whole being shrinks back like a wounded animal and my brain shuts down...it's like PTSD, but it didn't happen to me at all.  If this is how horribly debilitatingly painful it is to me - a complete outsider, with no meaningful connections to the victims - then how, HOW, could any parent survive this? I cannot fathom.

My friend Sam responded to a post on my Facebook wall referring to this as an "extremely dark, relatively new kind of American violence" and asking "what is wrong with us? where does this come from?"

I think those are the questions just about everyone is grappling with right now.  Mostly, people are getting political about it, calling for immediate policy change, arguing about gun control, mental health, family values, the media, cultural glorifications, economic disparity...people from every side of all these arguments calling those on the other idiots, failing to effectively communicate and letting their passionate anger justify relatively shallow thinking...and part of my burnout on the topic comes, I think, from the realization of this, its futility, and the understanding that the truth - the real, underlying web of causes that led to these horrific events - is probably so vast and so complex that no single action or call to attention is going to make a dent in the issue anytime soon.

People often ask me if its weird to be in a relationship where each individual is on opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of careers - the artist vs tax lawyer paradigms - and answering that question has helped me to refine my understanding of the important symbiosis that exists between art and policy when it comes to making a tangible difference.  

So far the only place of true, clear understanding I've found in all this can be summed up in the answer I gave to my friend from our time as budding hippie art-makers off in the woods:

"I have no idea Sam, but I think its part of our job as artists to figure it out, and confront it, put it out there to make people think, so the problem can eventually be addressed and fixed."


On the last day of my 28th year, I am reminded of why I do what I do.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cadence & Hazel's Christmas wish list: a trialogue.

Cadence:  I want blue whales to be saved.
Hazel:  I want penguins to be saved.
Cadence:  I also want some new christmas socks.  Um, that's all, I can't think of anything else for now.
Me: Hazel, is there anything else you want to add to your christmas list?
Hazel:  No!

Well, I guess we must be doing SOMETHING right!




Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday Spirit

James is nestled into the corner of the couch reading on his nook, Cadence snuggled in, sound asleep, on one side, Hazel, also sound asleep, snuggled in on the other side, curled around a purring Carmen cat. I've got my tiny little Calliope cuddled in my arms. Lily and Puy are off in some cozy spot or another. The only light is from our humble little tree, and we've got the Christmas music my pare
nts would always play when I was little wafting softly through the room. Out the window, the world is drenched in a heavy white fog and the red line metro looks like a model train all lit up as it rumbles by.

This is what Christmas is to me. Happy holidays to all, whichever ones you may celebrate. I hope they all bring moments of bliss to you and yours the way this one has for me tonight. I am so grateful for all of this.

Comfort & joy, all.

Friday, November 23, 2012

More Waterbirth Wonders



Hazel gently holding her new baby sister's tiny foot
Birth is such a wonderful and transformative experience.  At least, it can (and, dare I say it -should) be.  Calliope is my third child, and my second child born peacefully at home, in the water.  Once again, I loved it, though it was actually quite different than the last time!

I went into a lot of detail about why I chose to do a home waterbirth when I wrote about Hazel's birth, so I won't go into all of that here, but if you're curious about it - or want to know more about my first two birth stories - you can read that little novella HERE.

Calliope is such a little wonderbabe.  She has just been such a huge joy, to ALL of us, since her happy arrival a few days ago...I can hardly wrap my brain around how amazing this whole process has been.

So here's how it all went down:

The first awesome moments of life
The day hurricane Sandy rolled through, I'm pretty sure I could have triggered labor if I hadn't been so extremely overly cautious. (What?  I was a little nervous about the prospect of ending up in labor in the middle of a historically destructive storm with no power or water (NO BIRTH TUB!) and no way for my midwives to reach me...) As it was, I started getting contractions that day, with no rhythm or rhyme to them whatsoever, and while they didn't build or get any more consistent or regular, they also didn't stop completely from the day of the full moon until the day before the birth actually took place-10 days later.

(Well, almost, anyway. The day before she arrived we went to Bed Bath & Beyond to get some stuff to make mom's post-op recovery at home a bit easier, and as we ambled through the store at about 3pm, I noticed that the contractions weren't changing as I changed activities anymore.  I decided baby would be coming that night one way or the other, dag gummit, and decided to do all of the 'natural triggers' I could think of that were known to kickstart labor if the kid was actually ready.  As soon as I finished cooking my chinese eggplant in garlic sauce dish, they disappeared entirely. Go figure.)

Anyway, I woke up at about 2:35am on November 8, and was mostly just annoyed that I was awake.  I was having really intense contractions, but that was nothing new after the last couple weeks of waking up contracting only to have them dissipate after I emptied my bladder.  Plus, I think I'd been aware of my contractions in my dreams, which I was having trouble shaking, so nothing seemed odd to me at the time.  I used the bathroom and crawled back into bed, aware at this point that these were different, since my trip to the bathroom hadn't changed anything.  Aware on some level that it was labor, so I should get some rest, I tried to go back to sleep.  I figured Baby would come sometime in the morning.  Mairi and Erin (the two lovely women at M.A.M.A.s Midwifery who had graciously taken me into their practice when I suddenly moved into their area in my third trimester) had instructed me to call them if I was awake for an hour with contractions, so I tried to rest and figured I'd call them around 3:30 if I really couldn't sleep.

But I quickly discovered laying down was not so comfortable. And every time I had a contraction, Hazel would grab onto me and fuss in her sleep...

I got up and walked around, breathed through them, and noticed that I didn't get much of a break between them.  I somehow managed, in all my baby-prep over the course of the 40 weeks + that I had been pregnant, not to download a contraction timing app as I had planned, so I figured what better time than now?

Except that I couldn't.  The contractions were coming so fast and strong I couldn't focus on finding a decent app.  So I did the natural thing and woke James up to do it for me.  He did, though I'm guessing it was mostly superfluous, since I ended up only timing contractions for oh, 20 minutes, tops?  We also looked up who was on call at that hour, and I broke down and called Erin at 3:15. I hadn't even begun to time them yet so I was afraid that I wouldn't have enough info to give her, but I think my voice on the phone as we talked probably gave her all the info she needed.  She said she'd start gathering her things and we'd see how it went.

The first thing James asked when I woke him was if he should start filling up the birth pool.  I had said no, but now began to rethink that answer.  Once I got off the phone, I asked him to set it up, and all of a sudden, up pops Hazel as if it was 3:20 in the afternoon, not 3:20 in the morning, and she declares "I want to help!" and so James had little miss sunshine by his side as he staggered out of bed to set it up.  She gave me a big, awesome, excited hug before tending her duties, and I felt so connected with that little amazel, and so glad she was there and so involved and eager.

Hazel Amazel, on the job!
While they worked, I set about trying to reach Liz, my dear friend and a midwifery student herself, who was going to be present for the birth.  My many attempts at reaching her were unsuccessful...

Mom woke up to the noise of James and Hazel inflating the tub in the living room, and came in to find me.  I wanted my bouncy ball, so eventually we all ended up in the living room except for Cadence, who was still fast asleep.  The ball helped, a lot, but these contractions were still coming super fast and super strong, and I was still kinda groggy and was having trouble relaxing into them as easily as I had been able to during Hazel's birth.  I tried writing an "it's happening" blog post as I had done before, but I got about as far as opening the blogger app on my phone before I abandoned the phone entirely, timing app, inability to reach Liz and all...

The ball wasn't helping as much as it had been before and it crossed my mind that my body wanted me to push.  "Not yet" I thought, "there's no way, it's too soon.  Maybe I just need to go to the bathroom."  So I did.  While I was in there, Mom passed by the door carrying Carmen, and she was muttering to her about 'not doing that'...turns out Carmen was intrigued by something in the tub, and attacked it...no visible punctures, buuuut....

I went in to wake Cadence up at probably 3:45.  That kid is such a heavy sleeper, it took me three contractions to get her up!  I tried sitting on the inflatable Rody horse that she'd left by the side of the bed in lieu of the ball (which was still in the other room) which only kind of worked, but amused me nonetheless.  Cadence was sooo happy when she finally woke up enough to understand what I was saying to her, and gave me the biggest, most encouraging hug before dashing off to help fill the pool.

Best. Helpers. Ever.
I returned to my ball, then back to the bathroom, all the while reminding myself to let it out on sound.  I wasn't truly letting the sound travel through me this time though, (probably because I was holding back to avoid pushing), so while it helped it wasn't the wundertool it had been last time.  The tub was still filling, and I was tempted to tell James to hurry it up...but that really wouldn't have done any good, 'cause he can't make the water flow any faster...

Using the bathroom helped...maybe...just a tad...but I found myself returning to it very soon after I left, and it was during this second visit that I hit the "get the cloth OFF ME!" stage where I couldn't stand clothes anymore, so I abandoned the oversized T-shirt I was wearing on the bathroom floor.  At some point in there I told James that I needed him to call Erin and tell her I was wrong, this birth was gonna happen a lot sooner than I had previously thought...Luckily she'd listened to my voice, not my words, when I told her I didn't think she needed to rush over here, because she reported that she was already getting off the beltway and would be arriving momentarily.  It was becoming harder and harder not to give in to the urge to push, which meant I was resisting my body's natural impulses instead of relaxing into them, and that made it all a bit more scary and painful.

I knew the water would help, so I climbed into the tub even though it wasn't quite full and was a bit too hot, and the relief was instantaneous.  It is truly unbelievable how immediate and palpable the relief is as soon as you get in the water.  It was perfectly heavenly.  Until I realized I still had that freakishly intense urge to push...and then, after a couple more contractions wherein I didn't give in, my body began to push naturally.  I was resistant, mostly because I was not mentally prepared - my midwife hadn't arrived yet and this was all going so fast and I hadn't even gotten myself into the trance-state I spent most of my labor with Hazel in...I think I actually said "No" or "oh no" or something to that effect out loud - which I guess raised some sort of red flag for me, because after that I was able to take a moment to assess the situation and realize that, while Erin wasn't there yet (Mairi was attending another birth that evening and wouldn't be able to join us) she was on her way, and I knew that I was safe, that I could do this, that it was ok to follow my body's lead and trust it, and kind of gave myself permission to not wait and follow someone else's schedule...after that things got much easier.

The phone rang during that intense contraction. It was Erin, confirming our door code to give to her birth assistant, Susan.  Erin said afterwards that her phone recorded that call as taking place at 4:04am.  In retrospect, I'm pretty sure it was that prolonged, intense contraction when my water broke - though I was admittedly unaware of it at the time.

I had some (organic trader joe's) pink lemonade mixed with seltzer on a table within my reach, and normally I love that (in fact, since the birth it has become a pretty serious obsession...I can't get enough!) but for whatever reason, that was completely unappealing in that moment.  I was getting super thirsty, but I really, really didn't want to ask for water because James' presence at the side of the tub was feeding me so much support, I did not want him to move, and mom was busy with the girls just then.  I can't explain how much connection I felt there...I have a fairly vivid memory of seeing him sitting beside the pool, but in analyzing that image it can't possibly be an actual visual recall, because he was sitting to the side and slightly behind me, and I had my eyes closed for most of it anyway...I must have just felt his presence so strongly my brain interpreted it as 'seeing' him there.

I did eventually give in and request water, and when he got up to go the room felt noticeably colder, somehow.  I was so glad when he came back, both for the water, and for the emotional hug his presence gave me.  I made my way to one side of the tub and kind of draped myself over the edge, resting my head on the side as I let the contractions roll through me. I was doing a better job of letting my body do what it needed to, and letting it out on sound, but I still had one major hangup:  I was feeling rectal pressure and my monkey-mind was all up in arms about that being the wrong direction, and I was feeling miserable and not giving in to what my body needed to do.

It was about this time that Erin arrived.  Having her steady, experienced presence enter the space was relieving - it was like struggling with a question and finally being able to discuss it with a trusted guru...she wasn't going to give me any answers or do the hard part for me, but her wisdom and experience was there for me to draw upon, and that felt like such a gift.

She hit the ground running, and, after telling me that, if I was still in the position I was in when the baby came, I should just sit back and bring the baby up in front of me, apologetically asked me if I could shift just a bit so she could better reach to check the baby's heart rate.  I told her I could move anywhere, as long as I wasn't in the middle of a contraction!  I really was still totally fine between contractions, and was excited that this was finally happening...though the contractions were coming so close together at this point that I didn't really have much time between them anyhow.  A quick listen and she declared that Baby sounded perfectly happy, but the water was a bit too hot, so we added some cold water to the tub and carried on.  Erin stepped behind me to the other side of the pool, and sort of embedded herself in the side of my consciousness...she was there, present, part of this support system holding me up, but not prominent or a focal point in any way.  It was just what I needed.

I was quietly aware of the buzzy excited energy of the girls, which, though they were being amazingly reverent and pretty calm and quiet, was feeding me plenty of positive, up-beat energy even as I began to consciously turn my focus to an inner calm.  I could feel the extremely primal comfort of my mother's presence in the room - calming, supporting, perhaps worrying just a tad, but only to a healthy, loving degree and nothing troubling...I was so grateful to have them all there, welcoming love and support from my surrounding generations...It really was a gift.  I am very thankful that this lady graced us with her arrival while mom was still here to help us welcome her.  While I'm sure everything would have gone just fine even if she hadn't been here, it wouldn't have been the same.  And the way she came was pretty perfect.

Right about this time, each of our three feline family members made their presence known to me, too...just for a moment, and I don't even know how exactly, but I became aware of each of them, individually, stationed throughout the room - though I couldn't tell you where they were...I just took note that all three were there, which surprised me a bit, since they'd all been a bit skittish since Puy's amputation, and Carmen and Puy had both been quite reclusive, especially when there were lots of people around...but all three of them were there with me in the room, too - even Puy in all her 3 legged post-op bad haircut glory...and it was wonderfully uplifting.

Which made me realize that my only hangups now were totally psychological, and I needed to let go in order to make this happen painlessly.  I told Erin about my irrational fear of my urge to push being in the wrong direction, and while she responded very sweetly about it being a totally normal fear and not needing to worry about it, just voicing it had allowed me to let go, and by the time she was into her speech, my body had moved on.

I admit, though, that I did hit a moment of despair and panic.  It happened approximately 30 seconds before the baby crowned.  As I mentioned, I was not at all in the trance-like 'labor state' that I achieved during my last birth...with this labor, there was no time to ease myself into that hypnotic state, I really just woke up in the thick of it with the really intense contractions, and everything happened so quickly I barely had time to process what was going on, and as such, everything was much more vividly 'real' to me on a conscious level this time...no swirling surges of energy or one-ness with the water, just me, in my living room, surrounded by the physical presence of my loved ones, experiencing what I was experiencing.  And right after I had surrendered that fear to Erin and began to let my body do what it needed to do,  I got hit with the most intense pressure that I could possibly imagine and my mind nosedived even as I surrendered to it; I was suddenly acutely aware that, while this would pass and I'd be fine, it SUCKED right then, and I was present enough to be, well, present in it, and that meant I was stuck with it...I was solidly in the moment, and had to just experience this, and 'this' was extremely uncomfortable.  (Not painful, necessarily - oddly enough it registered as discomfort more than pain.) There was no escape, and I didn't know how long it would go on.

But, before the thought even had time to complete itself in my brain, suddenly all that pressure I'd been resisting proved itself right and I could feel the baby in the birth canal...it wasn't "the wrong direction", it was the baby trying to move past in her descent!  Suddenly I got it, and fully gave in to it...in that same push I could feel her features as she traveled all the way down the canal and I felt the 'ring of fire' for less time than it took me to notice (literally, my brain said "ring o-"before the sensation had moved on)...Suddenly I knew we were just about done, her head was emerging! I reached down and put my hand on her head and tried to relax and not rush...I could feel her hair, I could feel the realness of her, my mind was on overdrive and I found myself saying something along the lines of "that's my baby's head! I'm holding my baby's head..." mostly, I think, as a way to steady myself and keep myself grounded, present, in the moment.  I had a brief moment between contractions, and then I could feel her moving again...I started to move backwards, I could hear James telling me to take my time, and not hurt myself (a reference to Hazel's birth, where I more or less consciously pushed her out knowing that I'd tear if I didn't wait for one more contraction) and I was amused and glad he said that, I tried to just chill and let her ease out...I could feel her spin as she emerged, I could feel her face with my fingers...Erin said something about small gentle pushes, and I tried that too, but she was sliding out of her own accord, so quickly...and then it was done, I sat back and saw the whole baby gently floating up towards me.  I scooped her up, it felt almost non-chalant, and I held her to my chest and marveled at her as she looked up at me like..."ok, what's this?"

Blurry, but I love it nonetheless...the glee of baby's grand arrival!! (photo thanks to my mom!!)

It was amazing.  And it was done.  It was 4:22am.  I hadn't even been in labor for 2 full hours.  Both girls were with James beside me, and together we all marveled at that sweet new life in my arms.  James said something to Cadence and Hazel about now being able to find out if it was a girl or a boy...which reminded me to check, 'cause I was lost in her little face at that moment.  Her serene little eyes taking it all in, and clearly wanting to go back to sleep.  I did check, obviously: "it's another girl!"

Glad to be here
She gave a couple good cries shortly thereafter, but that was it.  Otherwise she was content to cuddle with me and let this craziness unfold.  Susan, the birth assistant, arrived several minutes later, and offered us our first congrats.  Calliope and I stayed in the birth tub until I delivered the placenta, then got out and settled in on the couch.  It was splendid. Amazing.  I felt grand.  I wasn't even tired. I was totally on a natural high (James looked at me at one point quite a while later and just said "your pupils are so dilated right now..."), and loving life.  Calliope nursed (like a champ!) and once the cord stopped pulsing, James cut it. (Mairi and Erin had warned us ahead of time that they do it a little differently than most folks are used to..they left about 4 inches of cord attached to her belly, which, I guess due to increased surface area allowing more moisture to be wicked away, allows the cord to dry out & fall away much more quickly.  They weren't kidding - Calliope's cord fell of on day 3!) They checked me out (blood pressure low, but that's normal for me, everything else looked great.) Erin & Mairi had told us beforehand that, in their experience, mothers who put their hands on their babies' heads as they crowned, and then delivered into their hands were far less likely to tear - and even if they did, the tears tend not to be as bad, so I was cautiously hopeful that I wouldn't need to be stitched this time...but I was still (pleasantly!) surprised when Erin informed me that there was a teensy tear that didn't even warrant fixing, especially if I iced it...so I did that. No stitches!  Fabulous!!

I can't help thinking she looks like a much cuter version of the Face of Bo in this one...wise old (smiley!) soul!
Erin also checked the placenta - it was whole, and it did have some definite calcification, which meant that it was older and was beginning to lose its functionality-but no danger yet, so Calliope came at a good time.  She also had deep lines on the bottoms of her feet, and long fingernails -both of which are additional signs of being well-cooked! Interestingly, though, she also arrived with nice coating of vernix, which you usually only see in babies born at a younger gestational age...so I take these contradicting indicators to mean that she arrived at precisely the right moment for her.  Good job, kid.

It's been unseasonably warm for November...
Hazel decided she wanted to go back to bed, and Cadence stayed up to help Erin check out and measure Calliope (13.5" head circumference, weighing 7lbs 1oz, and 20" long). She checked her all out (the word "perfect" was tossed out at some point) and my wonderful family made sure I had plenty to eat and drink (that eggplant dish was exactly what I wanted...as was that pink lemonade & seltzer!).  Susan departed, and we chatted with Erin while she did her paperwork and such.  Turns out mine was the 4th labor in 2 days, and I'd woken poor Erin up a mere hour after she'd gone to bed after returning home from another birth...and she had to be at a conference by 8am.  (When we saw her again two days later for a follow up, mom jokingly asked if she'd finally gotten to sleep.  She said no.  Evidently all their November moms gave birth in the same week*. [Liz quipped that it was Mercury being in retrograde.]  And Mairi was still with the same poor mom who had been in labor when I was.  Just goes to show, every birth is unpredictable and different.)

An exhausted but intrepid Erin weighs baby Calliope 
As time went on, the pool began to list rather comically...James had begun to empty it, but it was becoming clear that the structural integrity of the pool had been seriously compromised.  As it drained, it kind of collapsed in on itself.  Thank you, birth pool, for lasting exactly as long as I needed you!

Baba with his oldest & youngest daughters
Anyway, Erin had James take off his shirt so he could have some skin-to-skin contact with Calliope (for bonding and warmth!), and helped me to the bathroom.  I took a quick rinse-off shower, and after I was clean and settled, Erin made sure we were set and departed. The sun was rising in the sky, it was a new day, and there we were - a family of five, hangin' out with Nana and the kitties, reveling, enjoying...

family of 5 
3 generations!
After Hazel's birth, because of the timing and the little hemorrhage episode I had, I was sent to bed as soon as I was set - it was the closing of the day, and I just got up the next day as a new chapter.  (And I was totally unaware of all the businessy things and cleanup that James dealt with...)  This time, however, labor had been so quick and easy that I didn't even feel tired.  I honestly tried to sleep, but I couldn't get my eyes to stay closed.  I'd try to relax into it, and my mind would wander and I'd forget I was supposed to be trying to sleep!  It was morning!  Had that all really just happened?? I had my baby! It was unreal...

My beautiful baby & me!
Mom and James finished emptying the pool, and Cadence and Hazel helped them to take EXCELLENT care of both me and Calliope, and we had an awesome first day as a family.  I can't explain how wonderful this experience was...despite being quite different than my last home water birth experience, which I described (even at the time!) as being "blissful."  I don't know that I would use that same word to describe this one, but I would say that it was awesome, and amazing, and wonderful, and empowering, exciting...even fun!  I can't say I preferred one experience to the other, they were each so unique and offered me so many new insights in different ways, and I'm sure the kids they brought forth will be different, and unique in their own wonderful ways, too.  I just love it.  I can't recommend homebirth or waterbirth highly enough.  It's just so comfortable and...humane.

Becoming a family of 5 is exhausting!
Welcome, little Calliope Sage!  I admit that I was scared and reluctant when I first found out I was pregnant for the third time...but here we are, less than two weeks since your wondrous arrival, and I already can't imagine life without you.  Thank you for coming to us, little one, thank you for making our family whole and bringing us the gift of your presence.  I'm so totally in love with you, my little pup.

Calliope Sage
I'll close this story with the lyrics to the song/wish/blessing that Mairi taught us all at our last group prenatal session before all these kids arrived.  I wish this for you, Calliope, that you are able to live a full, meaningful, awesome life, that touches those around you in a profound and positive way.  Make the most of it, kid.  I love you.

When you were born
you cried
and the world rejoiced.
Live your life so that when you die,
the world will cry 
and you'll rejoice.






Quality time with Nana

Carmen & Calliope:  Our oldest charge and our youngest 
Puy checks on the new kitten
Lily & Calliope: each the youngest of three. Lily likes to keep the new kitten warm.

Love this fabulous little soul.
*Throughout my pregnancy, I've felt a sort of spiritual kinship with wolves, and have thought of Calliope as my little wolf pup.  Because of this, I can't help but think of these 6 babies arriving into their respective dens all clustered together like that with the same midwives (seriously, it's SO UNUSUAL for that many babes who were expected over the span of a month to arrive all at once...) as being like her spiritual litter. Welcome to the world, all of you!

Cadence caresses her new baby sister's tiny head


EDIT TO ADD: Liz was understandably devastated that she missed the big event, but later shared with me a voicemail that she discovered on her phone when she got up that morning. I knew what it was instantly. Unbeknownst to me, James had valiantly continued to try to reach her on and off throughout, and the last time he called, he didn't hang up right away...her phone recorded the moment of Calliope's birth.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Overheard yesterday

Hazel: jiejie! Jiejie!!
Cadence (from the other room): what?
Hazel: come here, jiejie.
Cadence: why?
Hazel: because I love you!


That feeling seem to be pretty mutual, honeynut.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Big Kids

There is nothing like having a new baby to make your older kids seem so freakin' grown up.

Quality time with dajie
First of all, they look HUGE.  As tiny as they both are, Cadence and Hazel are both strikingly BIG compared to their new baby sister...I asked Cadence to help me get something the other day before realizing it was IN the pack 'n play, and was shocked (shocked!) when she went over to the crib and was able to just casually glance inside and grab the item in question...WHEN DID SHE GET SO TALL??

And it's not just size, it's development...Hazel was dancing around in her birthday suit the other day and I couldn't get over the way her legs worked...she's so steady!  Look how solid her hip joint are as she hops!  And she's off and running with such strength and no wobbles at all!  That's no baby...WHEN DID SHE BECOME A KID??

But the thing that really wallops you over the head with the fact that these girls are really, truly growing up and becoming such wonderful, independent people is how they've taken Calliope's arrival.  I was worried that it would be a rough transition, that Hazel would have a hard time "sharing" me, and that would mean I'd need to spend a significant amount of time trying to appease her, and the result would be that Cadence wouldn't get any time with me at all and we'd all be frustrated and miserable...

I needn't have worried.  From the moment they each woke up to welcome her into the world, these two have been nothing but loving and understanding towards their new sister, and to me.  It helps, of course, that they were with me at all the prenatal sessions and heard the midwives telling me what tasks I should and should not undertake following the birth, and that we've all been talking about it and trying to prepare as best we can for quite a while...but none of that would matter if they didn't have the mental capacity to absorb and understand all that information, which they totally have.

They will both get after me if I try to do something I'm not supposed to, or remind me of things I should be doing...Hazel will ask me "is Calliope sleeping mama?" and if I say yes, she'll say "Then you should sleep too, mama.  Mommy needs to sleep when the baby sleeps!" and Cadence will stop mid-game to say "Mama, do you have something to drink?  Have you taken your vitamins yet?" And if Calliope needs a diaper change, they'll run off calling for James to change it, because they don't want me to stand at the changing table, and anyway, that's when I'm supposed to use the bathroom, so when we're both all clean, I can give the baby her mommy milk comfortably...

They are both amazing about getting things we may need.  They love on this baby so much...she gets plenty of hugs, kisses, cuddles, playtime, and talks from those two.  They already include her in their play, always making sure she has a toy, too, and giving her shares of whatever they're making.  It doesn't bother them that she doesn't do much yet, or that most things they present to her just sit on the couch beside us, they're just glad to have her look at them with those big, bright eyes of hers, and maybe grab their finger with her tiny hand, or seem satisfied when they hold her.

Hazel has gone above and beyond by not only understanding when I can't do something-most of the time, she doesn't even ask.  She'll start to, then think better of it, give me a smile, and bound of to find James or Cadence to help her, instead.  But that doesn't mean she can't help out - to the contrary, there was a time early on when I forgot to fill my peri bottle until it was too late, and I couldn't reach the sink...that girl noticed, volunteered to fill it for me, and actually managed to do it even though she couldn't reach to turn the water on or off without balancing on the edge of the sink on her stomach, her feet dangling above the step stool...that was no small feat for such a small 2 year old.  She was soooo pleased to have helped, and I was so proud.

This morning, both Cadence and Hazel woke up before Calliope (which meant I wasn't willing to admit that I was awake yet, either...) or James, and after chatting together for a little bit, Hazel announced that she was hungry and wanted breakfast, but she asked Cadence if she could get it, so they wouldn't have to wake us up.  Cadence agreed, and what's more, she actually did it...she got bowls, spoons, cereal and milk for both of them, and even put everything away again (no milk left out!  If she spilled anything, she cleaned it up!  There was no evidence of chaos, only a nice orderly breakfast at the table!). She only resorted to asking James for help a little later on, when she wanted to get them each some pink lemonade and seltzer, but there wasn't enough seltzer and she couldn't get the seltzer bottle to screw in to the seltzer maker...which is a really hard thing to do, even for grownups.

And then, this evening, they both undertook the task of 'teaching' Calliope how to brush teeth, put on jammies, put fresh sheets on the bed...

We are so impressed, and proud, of both of our extremely thoughtful, capable Big Kids...We are so lucky to have such amazing people blossoming in our midst.  I have no doubt that Calliope will bring her own set of wonders as she continues to grow.  I can't wait to see what they will all discover.  I love them all.

Quality time with xiao jie!  (um...not sure if my translation there is correct...)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

New Yu too!!

We are thrilled to announce the arrival of our newest little awesome:

Calliope Sage Yu

She was born at home, surrounded by family at 4:22am on 11/8/12, after less than 2 hours of labor.  (Seriously, I woke up at 2:30 going, huh, contractions...called my midwife about 45 minutes later, after finding that I couldn't go back to sleep...She barely made it to the house before Calliope made her grand entrance!)

She's healthy and strong, weighing in at 7lbs 1oz and measuring 20" at birth.  She's the perfect addition to our family, and we couldn't possibly be more thrilled!
Studying the world already...
Our THREE daughters:  Cadence, Hazel, and Calliope!
Big sisters Cadence and Hazel have been a HUGE help, and couldn't be happier with their new little meimei...There is SO MUCH love in this house right now, guys!  It's so super awesome.

Welcome to the world, little one...it's a much better place with you in it.



Love, Mama

Saturday, November 3, 2012

To the future!

We got some happy news the night before last - no, no baby yet - but James got the official word that he passed the NYS bar exam! Of course most of us had no doubt that this would be the outcome, but we are super proud of him nonetheless, and it is a huge relief to know for sure that he (we all) won't have to go through that whole bar prep/testing stress again...especially not during the first few months of our new baby's life, which is already going to include a major move (our return to NYC in a month or two).

Leave it to the kids to keep things in perspective, though: when James gleefully told them that he passed, Cadence said "so does this mean you have a job?!"

...

Well, no, Cadie B, it doesn't...but it's still a really good thing and a step in the right direction!

We decided to celebrate anyway...Alas, the little bit of celebratory champagne I had did not encourage baby's arrival, as was rumored. C'est la vie.

We remain on baby watch as I continue to be pregnant-now at 39 weeks, 5 days...I can't really complain about that since technically I'm not even full term, but my last two came completely naturally at 39 weeks and 39 weeks 2 days, so it feels strangely long...though I know it really isn't. I actually don't think I would care so much about the timing under normal circumstances, but since mom has to return to the south next week for her surgery, I'm quite anxious for baby to get here so they have a chance to spend some quality time together before she leaves.

Contrary to my feelings during the storm when I was avoiding anything that might trigger labor, I'm now actively avoiding anything that might, well, avoid it. Instead of taking it easy and letting myself be cautious, I've been wearing my (very low) heeled boots and walking around downtown dc carrying my giant backpack and Hazel, enjoying spicy meals, dance parties with the kids, lifting stuff, chasing cats under furniture...and so far, nuthin'.

I'm half convinced this kid wants to be a thanksgiving baby.

Sigh.

But in the meantime, we are trying to make the most of this waiting game, and are thinking a lot about our friends who are still struggling with the effects of Sandy...many are still without power, heat, hot water, and many are still unable to get access to their homes - some are even facing total loss of their homes from damage that amounts to the need for condemnation - so I really do feel amazingly lucky and I don't mean to take what we have for granted or complain about our relatively very cushy situation...

Here's to the future! Jobs! Babies! Homes! Quick & painless recoveries, FOR ALL!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Frankenstorm: we did something right!

Just a teensy note to correct a sentiment I expressed here about the makeshift window sealing job we did-and then ridiculed-yesterday...guess it actually did some good and I shouldn't be so flippant about it.

The building sent the maintence team through early this morning to asses & begin fixing any damage...evidently lots of apartments had similar problems with the windows on that side of the building, and most of them had much worse damage than our own. We had some soggy towels to launder and a bit of damp paint around the window, but that's about it...evidently many of our neighbors weren't so lucky and had extensive damage to their walls & carpets. We've heard the watervavs going all morning, and lots of sounds of furniture being moved.

Counting ourselves lucky (again!) and feeling glad that we took the precautions we did, even if we thought they were silly and inadequate at the time.

Frankenstorm: hurricane, baby!

Well, we made it through the night!

Actually it weren't no thang...mom, James and I stayed up til like midnight watching the storm, then (after several friends helped us figure out that the blue sphere thingies were probably an electrical substation exploding-awful!) put on an episode of Dr Who and by the time it was done, the winds had died down considerably. I still couldn't sleep, but there were no more major weather events that took our attention.

I wish I could say the same for our beloved NYC and all of our friends there. It sounds like a bit of a nightmare scenario out there right now, at least for some folks. One of the scariest things this morning is the relative radio silence...after many hours of constant info pouring out of the area via social media, checking this morning and only seeing updates from 3 NYC folks (and all with dire news) was a bit disheartening. As we get farther into the power outages and people's phones are dying, I hope that everyone is able to reach those they need and that everyone stays safe. Here's to a speedy recovery/cleanup for all!!

As for us, we're cautiously reverting from hurricane watch mode back to baby watch mode. Sunday, as the pressures began to change, I could feel how easy it would be to accidentally set off labor - every little thing I did would set off contractions...being unsure of the severity of the impending storm and not knowing if my midwives would be able to safely make it to me in the midst of it, I took it super easy and went out of my way to avoid any potential triggers. Yesterday, when the storm was at its worst, I had pretty frequent but super irregular contractions all day, and towards the evening they got very consistent for an hour or so, and i started getting the brain-scatteredness that comes with labor...but then the contractions lessened back to irregular and mild, and though they're still occasionally popping up this morning, they don't seem to be part of anything larger.

My still scattered and hormonal brain is worried that I somehow "missed" something I was supposed to take advantage of for an easy labor, but I know that isn't rational...trying to let it go, and we'll have fun today finishing our Halloween crafts before the holiday tomorrow!!!

Today's plan: sock puppet bats!! Footprint ghosts!! Maybe even handprint cats...



Monday, October 29, 2012

Frankenstorm: What the...

So, we're a tad freaked right now...

Cadence opted to sleep in the "playhouse" (a giant walk-in closet in the interior of the apt...really probably the safest place to be right now) so James kept her company in there while I cuddled with Hazel on the couch.  (Hazel was going to sleep in the playhouse but got very angry when bedtime came and ended up wanting to be with me wherever I was, so we settled in on the couch while mom sat next to us...

So, laying there in the semi-dark I start to see lightening...but it's odd, it's remarkably blue.  After several flashes I remarked to mom that it was quite the lightening, and she agreed, but it wasn't until a few minutes later, after James and I decided (based on how much the balcony door -which is pretty well protected by the terrace walls and not even on the side of the building that's taking the brunt of the storm - was shaking and straining) to close off the room with the leaky window (wind and rain coming through the glass...not terrible, but that is the window that's facing the hardest hit side of the house, and if the winds are going to continue to increase as they say, it's not one I want to rely on... ) and had herded the cats out of there and shut the door (SACRILEGE!) and James, mom and I were all back in the living room when we saw it for what it actually was...

"What the hell was that?"

So, I don't *think* it's lightening...it was a giant, bright blue sphere that appeared (as if blooming) on the horizon (at ground level) and flashed so bright it lit up the entire sky just as lightening does, and then retreated into itself and disappeared, as if closing up.  What. The. Crap.

I saw it first, and had just enough time to explain what it was before James was on his feet, seeing it for himself as it happened again behind my back, and then Mom was up too, and we all watched a third burst...it didn't happen again in a brief time and I realized that when I had been laying on the couch and noticed the blue quality of the "lightening" I was seeing, I had noted that it seemed like it was coming in waves...several (maybe three?  I wasn't really paying attention!) 'bolts' in a row, then nothing...

I have my camera at the ready now, so if I see it again I'm gonna grab it and try to record it...but that's probably a guarantee that it won't come back.  Does anyone have any clue as to what that could have been?  It was unlike any lightening I've ever seen (and I have seen ball lightening before), and it was originating from the exact same spot every time...I wouldn't call it a UFO 'cause, as I said, it seemed to be originating from the ground (or at least only slightly above it)...google did me no good, my searches only turned up UFO reports that didn't seem anything like what we saw...anyone else in the DC metro/MD area see this thing?  Anyone know what it is??

WEIRD.

Frankenstorm: Worrying about friends

Things are still relatively consistent/calm in our area...

James remarked a while ago that he was surprised to see people still driving around out there...and just a few minutes later the news started reporting that Maryland had its first storm-related fatality, and it was due to a car crash right here in our county.

Still, I feel pretty lucky, our little fam is doing just fine so far...the lights have flickered every now and again, and there are still scary gusts, but for the most part the winds aren't so bad as to take attention away from what's happening indoors, so that's good...

Checking facebook has been far scarier than anything that I have seen on the news, because soooo many of our friends - most of them back in NYC - have been posting real-time, real-life pictures, videos,  and reportings of things happening to them and around them.  Friends have posted about streets  being underwater, pics of water covering entire stairwells, submerged cars, downed trees, cranes dangling dangerously from high rise construction sites, entire facades of buildings tearing away, collapsing scaffolding, the east river flooding its banks and making an island of the carousel in DUMBO...The girls' school is right across the river from that carousel, actually, and seeing the extent of the flooding on the brooklyn side gives little hope that our stompin' grounds on the other side will be able to muddle through without taking a bit of a bath.

Stay safe, everyone, I hope that whatever damage happens is manageable and only to material things...Much love coming to you from a blustery DC...we're staying safe, listening to the wind rattle the balcony door...Despite our sealing, there is enough wind coming in that bedroom window to make the call to spend tonight on the other end of the house for sure, so its off to prep the kids for a campout-at-home.

Love love love to all!

EDITED TO ADD:
WTF, EXPLOSIONS, now?  seriously?  Hope most of you are bored senseless and not in imminent danger...

Frankenstorm: WAVES!!!


So we have a cute little terrace up here in our skyline abode, and usually speaking it stays remarkably dry in any rain, since there is an identical balcony above us which covers the same area.  The wind has to be blowing pretty hard for rain to get more than a few inches in on the edges...

Now the wind is blowing hard enough that the water is pretty horizontal , and our terrace (which also features drainage holes) is pretty well drenched.  So drenched, in fact, that I don't feel like I am exaggerating when I say "flooded"...especially given the fact that the wind is now causing WAVES to lap at the balcony door!!

OK fine, you can't really tell that its waves based on my poor point-and-shoot still photography...the lighter areas there are MOVING WATER.
The pond is also looking rather swollen  - I think the ducks have finally taken shelter...

Feel free to correct me if you can spot any ducks.
And one of the benches in our little park flipped over...
Reminds me of the sarcastic "never forget" meme of the overturned plastic chair...but this bench is significantly heavier.


Our bedroom window has leaked through our gerry-rigged sealing system and we're now considering just relocating the whole family to the other end of the house for the night...juuuuuust in case.
It's starting to get chilly in here...but the power's still on (for now) and that falafel smells divine!  DINNER!

Frankenstorm: Welcoming Sandy

Well, here we are about a year after our exciting little mini adventure with Hurricane Irene, living in a new city under very different circumstances, and we're right in the path of the "catastrophic" and "devastating" effects of another "historic" storm: hurricane Sandy, AKA Frankenstorm.
I figure-hey, we've already got the hurricane tag for posts here, and why not? Could be fun. Plus, it's kinda neat to see the similarities and differences in the storms and our reactions to them.

An opening recap of what'd gone down so far:

So we're in the dc metro area for this (hurricane + nor'easter + couple o' cold fronts from different angles =  megastorm), living on the 19th floor of a high rise building without much of anything else this tall around us.  There are trees everywhere (granted, all well below us) but nothing to shield our building from the winds this time around.

We've taken the usual precautions, stocking up on non-perishable food, filling every empty juice container we could get our hands on with potable water, filling (both!) bathtubs with water for flushing/cleaning should that become necessary... and, as with last year, we have obsessively checked the weather forecasts at various intervals to see what we're in for...and been pretty consistently told we're totally in for it (even the radar showed the big red spot headed straight for us!  Imminent danger! it'll be here within the hour and the power will be GONE!) ...and then there wasn't really much to speak of other than some cool lookin' clouds and drizzle.  Glad to keep the family safe, but kinda silly nonetheless.

I was supposed to have a community prenatal session this afternoon (wherein all the home-birthing moms due around the same time travel to the midwives' homes instead of the midwives coming to ours - a chance to meet other families within the home-birth community and an opportunity for discussion and education and all that good stuff), but given the weather, it was postponed until next week, and the midwives braved the morning storm to makes sure they checked in on every one of us before the worst of the storm hits.  Good news:  Baby and I are just fine! Yay.  So back to hurricane endurance.

Hazel's creations on the left,  Cadence's on the right.
So far, we've been spending our time hangin' out and having fun...the past few days we've spent doing Halloween crafts, which we continued today.  The kids have been VERY busy carving jack-o-lanterns, crafting ghosts out of cheesecloth (with sharpie-drawn faces!) and decorating foam pumpkin decorations with spooky-themed stickers.  This morning Mom helped them to hang their ghosts, pumpkins, and pumpkin wreaths up, and then they settled in for today's creation:  Jar-o-lanterns.  Basically, you take a mason jar, make a masking tape face on it, and then paint the whole thing orange. When you remove the tape and insert a light source...non - perishable jar-o-lantern.  They did a first coat of paint this am, and once they're dry we're planning to do one more coat before  removing the tape.

Spooooooooky!
As the wind and rain have been picking up, we did have our first "eek!" moment when James discovered that our bedroom window was leaking, but even that was pretty comical as we took our crafting skills towards sopping up the excess and creating a makeshift seal.  The wind is really hitting the building from that direction, so that's the area that is getting the brunt of it.  As such we decided to seal it as best we could, and then cover the sill in towels just in case, and close the blinds juuuust in case the window did happen to blow out.  And then we decided that we should move the bed out from under the window, too.  Which meant moving everything in the room, pretty much, which of course happened to be a mess.  So that was a silly little adventure, but was soon accomplished.

not that you can really see our hack, but the whole window well have been stuffed with paper towels, covered in duct tape, and then covered with cloth towels and the blinds (not pictured.)  The white on the horizon is just clouds, visibility is moderate at best right now.
 James and the kids are now in the kitchen, cookin' up some falafel...the winds are getting a bit more howl-y now, and the rain is holding steady...But, since there are still ducks chillin' in the (VERY swollen) pond outside, I think we're ok for the time being.

If you look closely at the center of the photo, you can see the little specs that are the ducks, I swear!

(iphone photography from 19 stories up through 50mph winds ain't easy.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Unexpected emotional fallout

When I was little, my dad used to sing Cat Steven's song Moonshadow to me as I went to sleep at night.  (Among many others, but that one always stuck with me for some reason.)  I have no idea why, but I always had a really strong connection in my head between that song and our cat, Ashley, a big ole russian blue tomcat.  (Dad and I used to have constant arguments about whether he was a black cat [I firmly believed he was.  He honestly looked black to me!!] or grey...) In that sort of ephemeral way that things connect when you're a child, Ashely was my moonshadow, that's just how it was.

Me and Ashley helping dad in the kitchen sometime in the mid 80's...
Fast forward about 20 years, and now I sing  Moonshadow to my own kids almost every night.  I remember being really struck when Cadence was first born, and I first began singing it, that I got the same comfort and pleasure out of singing it to her as I did when I was little and Dad was singing it to me.  It was more than nostalgia-it was total recall.  Far beyond simply enjoying getting to share the experience, it restored that safe feeling entirely.

Anyway, both Cadence and Hazel now adore that song, and will even sing softly along with me sometimes...and I suppose it naturally follows that I now think of Puy, who is also at least partially russian blue (she has that same coloring!) as being their moonshadow.  We've always referred to her as our shadow cat, even before we had kids and the song came into play... I think it's because she's the color of a shadow - which, I can now see and admit, is NOT black. Though Cadence and I even have that same argument dad and I used to have, and of course I'm on the side dad used to be on...but I don't argue too hard, because I have such visceral memories of KNOWING that Ashley was black, and not understanding why dad didn't agree.  Maybe it's something about developing a discerning eye, but I honestly couldn't tell the difference.  Perhaps she can't see it yet, either.   But I digress:

This journey with Puy is certainly not mine to claim as major emotional turmoil (I'm not the one losing a limb without any warning or ability to understand why...) but there have certainly been moments of deep emotional impact.  Some have had more of a comic backdrop - like the time during the weekend before her surgery, when I walked into the kitchen looking for comfort, telling James that I didn't want to take Puy's leg away, at the precise moment that he was disarticulating a chicken leg at the hip and ripping it apart from the body - and some are more just heart-wrenching, like watching my beloved little kitten trying to navigate this strange and horrible thing that is happening to her.  The instance that inspired this post, though, is one that came totally from left field, which is, I guess, how grief tends to getcha.

Last night was the first night that I have sung that particular song since Puy's surgery, and I have to admit it struck me rather hard.  That second verse just suddenly felt so much more...close to home, or something.  

"And if I ever lose my legs, I won't whine, and I won't beg. For if I ever lose my legs, oh if, I won't have to run no more."  

My poor little moonshadowcat...she lost her leg, more literally than I would ever have expected, but she is absolutely picking up and carrying on. 


Good kitty.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A farewell to limbs

When we first brought her home.
Today is Puy's very last day as a four-legged cat.  Tomorrow we have to bring her in to have her rear-left leg amputated - a seemingly horrible fate, but an action that will save her life, and save her from months of unnecessary suffering at the hands of the cancer that has taken hold in that limb.

 If we opted for removal of the tumor only, and even if we followed up with weeks of chemotherapy, the prognosis would not be as good (or immediate) as it will be with the amputation.  And as one vet put it, it's one surgery, one recovery, and then she's cancer-free and will likely go on to live a long, full, happy life as a three legged kitty, and she won't have to suffer through surgery, recovery, weakened function, possible subsequent surgeries, the horrible experience of chemo, all with a strong possibility of recurrence, and starting all over again.

Just a few weeks ago, pre freakishly-fast growing tumor.

So we opted for what sounds on paper like the more extreme route.  She's our sweet baby cat, and while we feel bad that we have to take her (oft used!) leg, we've embraced this as a largely positive thing.  Cats are remarkably adaptable and I think that, after the inevitably adjustment period, being a three legged cat will suit her personality just fine, and this way, the cancer will be gone and she'll be able to move on to her next adventure, likely learning how to take revenge by pouncing our toes through the sheets with added, three legged vigor.

But I still love and worry about my little Puy Berry Blue, and mourn the loss along with her, and hope this transition will be as smooth and painless as possible.

Love you, Puyta cat!

Last Tuesday, after the biopsy confirming the diagnosis.

Fuck Cancer.

I don't know how to start this post.  I've been wanting to write it for a while now, and have written many irreverent, witty versions of it in my head that come across as meaningful but not whiney.

Unfortunately, I can't ever seem to figure out how to translate those from my mind through my keys and into cyberspace, so I'm just gonna start and go with it, and see what happens.

My life has been touched by this thing, this rising trend, in many ways, and I have to say, I dislike it.  Enormously.  And it is not something that is even remotely within my control, and so I sit and stew and try to figure out how to come to terms with this evil thing that wields such unfair power.  And then I move on, and try to make the most of what I've got, because getting bogged down by the awfulness of it all would just be contributing to its victory.

I'm referring, of course, to Cancer.  Niggling little bitch gets into places it doesn't belong and shoves everything that lives there out of its way to make room for itself - talk about elitist, this disease takes the cake!  Taking gentrification, resource guzzling, and self-importance to the extreme!

This whole thing is just to send a big FUCK YOU out to cancer in general.  There is no deep inner thoughts, no poetic meaning, I just want to rant and wag my middle fingers at this smarmy-ass disease.
I'm tired of feeling haunted by it, and just kinda wanna call the damn thing out.

Why now?  Well, the overwhelming reality of it is hitting me pretty hard this week because it showed up really unexpectedly.  AGAIN.

For me, pregnancy comes with cancer.  It started in 2006 when, two months after a clean mammogram, my mom noticed a lump in her breast.  Since she'd just had the clean screening, she didn't think much of it and took about 3 weeks to get around to calling the doctor.  Then it took the doctor about 3 weeks to bring her in to check it out.  By the time they realized it was bad and the biopsy confirmed the result, it was mid-September and the cancer was one stage shy of fatal.  Then, a few days before her mastectomy, my beloved cat and faithful best friend from kindergarten on, Ragamuffin, was diagnosed with cancer as well.  These were the circumstances under which we began Cadence's pregnancy.

Mom, thankfully, was able to fight her way through a pretty grueling year, and beat it.  Ragamuffin, sadly, was not.

Fast forward a couple of years:  We receive word sometime in the early summer that my Grandpa Ed had a bad cough, which they thought was pneumonia...but it was soon discovered that it was, in fact, a rapidly aggressive form of lung cancer linked to his exposure to Agent Orange during his time as a medic in the Vietnam War.  Thus began my pregnancy with Hazel, who unfortunately did not get to meet him.  I was still in my first trimester when he passed away that September.  (Also around this time, my cousin Aaron's father lost his own battle with cancer.  It was a rough time for that side of the family.)

Fast forward another couple of years, when I suddenly find myself pregnant for a third time, rather unexpectedly.  Evidently the first two experiences had a bit of a traumatic influence on me, because this time I was waiting for it. "Uh oh," I thought, "who's gonna get cancer this time?"

So I can't say I was surprised when my mom called to report that she was going in for a bone scan.  It seemed inevitable!  I felt so guilty...and stupid for feeling guilty, too.  So I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the scan was negative.  "See!" I tried to tell myself, "Just coincidence!  No connection at all."

That only lasted until the doctor (thankfully) decided to send her in for a PET scan, just in case.  Sure enough, there was a big ole inoperable tumor wrapped around her sternum, (which we later found out it had pathologically broken) and the cancer had once more reared its head.

It wasn't too long after that when my cousin Jessie, who had just had her own first child, lost her half-brother to the disease.

We headed down to KY to spend the summer with my mom while she underwent some pretty nasty chemo treatments.  While we were there, my friend Liz - who is my age and not in a high-risk category - reported that she had been diagnosed with skin cancer!  Insane!

So this brings us (in this super-summarized version,) to current events.  I'm sitting here now, 38 weeks pregnant and ready to welcome our new little life into this world, watching somewhat helplessly as various iterations of cancer pull at strings around me.  Jessie, the loss of her brother still fresh, just lost her dad to the same disease a few days ago. (this has been a rough time for that side of the family.)   Mom got word that the chemo has stopped working, and her best bet now is a dangerous surgery that will involve a team of surgeons to remove most of her breastbone and bits of her ribs, and then rebuilding them with artificial replacements and grafting muscles around them to reconstruct the area...its great because it's possible, and will give her the best chance at a full recovery.  It's awful because it's a scary, major surgery that will require a months-long and seriously unpleasant recovery.

And last week, our sweet little kitty Puy cat suddenly (literally overnight) developed a (huge) lump on her back leg, and after a trip to the ER and a biopsy, we've learned that it is an exceptionally tenacious, localized form of cancer.  Evidently it doesn't spread very quickly, but it's almost impossible to excavate from its chosen spot, which is why tomorrow, I have to take her in to have her leg amputated (and pray that I don't go into labor before we can pick her up, and bring her home to adjust to life as a [cancer free, but] three legged kitty).

And all of this is just since I got into the game of bringing new life into this world.  It doesn't mention my friends' parents who struggled with it during our childhoods.  Or my friend Rob, who lost his battle with it back in high school.  Or my friend Jonathan, who was one of the most advanced students at my martial arts school when he suddenly had to seriously scale back his studies to begin treatment. Or Jacob, my friend Kate's remarkable son, who suffered through and beat a particularly nasty form of brain cancer when he was only two!  Or my high school teacher who would often show up with fresh bandages from where he'd had to have yet another tumor removed in his fight against skin cancer.  Or my mom's friend who's stomach cancer took her away from her new husband shortly after their wedding.  Or my own grandfather, who lived to be 91 years old, but was finally doomed by colon cancer.

And it also doesn't include all of the amazing stories - wonderful and horrible - that I have heard from friends and members of our various communities who have come out of the woodwork to offer support, especially since I took the highly visible step of shaving my head to make a wig for mom.  There was one woman in particular who approached me after that and shared her own story, and I feel I've gained a friend from it...but then last week she reported that she had lost a close, young relative to the disease somewhat unexpectedly, and it drives home just how unfamiliar and unpredictable it can be all over again.

So seriously, Screw You, Cancer.  Passive aggressive bastard.  Stop harassing my loved ones at every turn.

Mom wearing my hair.
I wish I had the knowledge and skill to aid in the research to make it all go away.