Cherry tree

Every spring in mid-April, our cherry tree erupts into a pinkish-magenta lattice-work of flowers that covers our front yard with a beautiful, fleeting, serenity and lusciousness.  It is a welcome to spring that brightens our street and blows dust off the cobwebs of winter in my soul.

Each April, I reflect on the first time I viewed that tree.  I biked over to Rick’s house, early in our dating.  As I turned off of 13th onto his street and approached his house I remember seeing this tree and the beautiful, warm terra-cotta look of the house.  Immediately, this guy who I met at a race wearing an old hoodie and smoking a cigarette appeared to be very different from what I’d assumed him to be.  His beautiful old house with the flowering Cherry tree told me something else about Rick – about his care, his conscientiousness, and about who he is deep down – someone who buys a house in his twenties and in his thirties is debt free.  “This guy is no slouch”, I recall thinking.  His home gave me the sense of his eye for design, his diligence and care for the things that are his, and for the things he wanted to have in his life – me, I’d hoped.

Each spring when the cherry tree erupts into bloom I remember falling slowly and steadily in love with Rick, winding the road that took us across continents and oceans and eventually right back to where we started. And I smile now to see our two little boys and sweet dog  playing beneath the tree.

 

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Why Don’t You Have a Daddy? …and other mortifying things your kid said.

I’ve toiled over the idea of writing a mom-blog.  So much of my life is anecdotes about my kids.  It only seems right for me to put paper to pen (so to speak) and document these moments.  Sadly, the thing about the years when you have littles at home to write about, is that you have no time.  Ever.  Full stop.

But, lately there have been some gems spouting from the mouths of babes.  Like the subject line, spoken to a friend at school just as his single mom walked in to hear it.    In these moments, I just cringe because I’m certain it will get worse before it gets better.

But, also spouting from the mouths of babes these days? Well, from Will mostly a “mama” or “dada”  as he tri-pod crawls around the house and stuffs avocados into his mouth.  But, from Cody I get my full compliments for the day – usually by 7 AM.  Lately he’s been brimming with, “Mama, you’re so beautiful” or, “Mama, you smell so nice!” or, “Mama, you’re a great ‘nuggler.”  And in these moments, every other bit of threenager angst that radiates off him falls away and I am sure, without a doubt, that he is an angel sent to Earth for the benefit of my  ego.

I constantly read mom blogs and lamentations about how hard it is to be a working mom, and hell it’s all true.  I’m exhausted.  I’m fatter than ever.  I feel like I’m not committed enough to anything. I’m never without bags under my eyes.   Half the time I’d struggle to recall the last time I shaved my legs and I used to be a daily shaver. But, each night I spend playing with and taking care of these little people who I made with my favorite person.   It’s a freaking miracle and it’s like riding a tsunami crest–constantly wondering when it will all come crashing down in disaster.  But, I love it.  I really do.

 

 

Bliss. Surfng, and bliss.

As it always does, the beach scene as viewed from the surf line up seems serene and remote.  Even here, amidst a cacophony of colorful umbrellas and a brass band stationed inches from the water mark of the rising tide, horns trumpeting a tinny Mexican melody.  With my feet dangling in the blue as I straddled my longboard and the subtle rise of the rollers beneath me I felt at peace.

My relationship with surfing is a bit complicated.  I love it from a distance, and then when faced with imminent  breaking waves I’m occasionally timid — unsure of my place among the throngs of people who call themselves “surfers.”  And, this Mexico trip was no different.  The day we arrived, Rick raced to the beach and rented a board.  I watched him, content to bob in the surf for hours.

But, when I did grab a longboard and head to the breaking waves the following day, I was greeted with the familiar and welcome sensation of paddling on to the breaking face of a gentle wave — the bouncing rush of momentum when the struggle to catch the wave morphs into a gleeful breakneck slide down its leading slope.

Rick and I marveled over it.  What is it that makes it so addictive? I think maybe the fleeting nature is what gets me most.  It is the ultimate flow moment when you stand up on a wave, focused on nothing but riding it to its completion.  The sun and mariachi on the shore, and bobbing heads in the tide all morph into background static as you angle your board to the breaking wave and attempt to trace the line between racing down the face and hanging near the lip.  It is one of the those meditative activities that, through no effort on your part, immediately brings your mind into a profound state of concentration– and bliss.

So, yeah.  That was Mexico.  Bliss. Surfing, and bliss.

 

 

Resolutions and Reflections

The intervening time between my blogs about New Year reflections seems increasingly short.  Time slips away as life with two little people in it gets busier and more wild by the day.

Today, January 3rd, Will is seven months old.  The little sprite truly is a ray of light.  His facial expressions are an everlasting source of enjoyment as he vacillates between focus, confusion, interest, and joy.  When he looks your way and breaks into a smile, his whole face lights up.  Even Cody is at times overcome by his cuteness.  Just  yesterday, Rick told me about how he was driving my car and the boys were in the back and Cody burst out saying “Dad, Will is just SO cute!!”  He is a  loving soul.  We all revel in his cherubic warmth and sweetness.

And on the subject of birthdays, tomorrow Cody turns 3.  Somehow to me, this birthday is truly a milestone bringing Cody into childhood in a more full sense.  He isn’t a toddler or a baby now.  His world is real and changing and the experiences he has each day feel to me like they are making him into the person he will be.  Cody is a bright, inquisitive, and creative person who makes observations on life that astound me.  His grasp of language impresses me each day, and he soaks in the information around him and is able to spit it back out in new and different contexts.  I love hearing how he makes sense of the world.  Just yesterday, he told me that he was taking a car to bed to “nuggle” with it, and that would leave another one with me as long as I “was the scarecrow” and would not let Will put it in his mouth.  Scarecrow, huh?  Sure, bud.  I can be the scarecrow for you.  He is a caring older brother, keeping me posted on whether Will is hungry, fussy, tired or in need of a diaper change.  He loves his little brother and wants to help me care for him – even in a sometimes nagging way.  For his third birthday, Cody has requested a sprinkle party.  I don’t know exactly what that will be, but it’s planned for next Sunday and I have fun fetti cake and sprinkles in bulk at the ready.

For me, trying to write about the year almost has to be a sampling of vignettes.  I don’t have the time or energy to lay them out more fully.  So here are some moments that captured 2016 in all it’s intensity and glory:

  • Rick, Cody, me and my baby belly hosted about 30 people at our house the morning of the Women’s March last January.  Our teeming lot gathered, readied ourselves, and rolled out and on to downtown with donuts, coffee, and protest signs in hand.  It was a moment of empowerment and joy in a year of challenge.
  • I presented to the Denver Transportation Symposium on the Federal Boulevard outreach program we led, focusing on the School Ambassadors program that won a an APA Colorado Award.  It was exciting to present on our work, and hilarious to watch folks try to focus on me despite my giant pregnant belly.
  • I unsuccessfully tried for a VBAC for Will’s birth. I didn’t get the birth experience I wanted, but got 85% of the way there and can say with certainty that I had a real and valid shot at a vaginal delivery.  I learned that barring some miracle, that’s just not in the cards for me – whether due to the previous scar tissue or just an oddity of my pelvic dimensions.  I’m still trying to understand what that means for me and for our future.
  • I took 5 months of leave to be with my family.  Part of that came before the birth, but most of it came after.  It was a huge blessing to have that time and I will never regret the special moments that I was able to share with my kids and the time I was able to spend focusing on them without the distractions of work in the back of my mind.
  • Work presented me with a new path – I shifted away from Strategic Communications and back to environmental planning.  The shift was a long time in the making, but sadly, was precipitated by a lot of weird stuff that felt bad in the moment, feels bad in retrospect, and which I am still trying to understand in full.  I learned some hard lessons about myself, what I want in my coworkers and peers,  and my priorities and values in the workplace and beyond.  I am happy with my new role and excited about the future.  I’m happy I’ve been able to build strong connections in my company that allowed me to smoothly shift out of Strategic Communications when the time came to get out.
  • We finished remodeling our house!  Our new kitchen, laundry room, and upstairs bathroom are awesome.  Many months of dust, drafts, challenging contractor dynamics, and old house challenges finally got us the kitchen of our dreams.
  • I’ve truly had a wonderful year with Rick.  On a regular basis I look over at him and marvel out loud about the fact that I’m amazed I still like him with all the crap this year has brought us.  Still, and more so than ever, he makes me laugh, feel cared for and respected, he listens to me, and he is my partner in this wild ride called parenthood.  I can’t say enough about how lucky I am.  Plus, I think he’s so handsome.  🙂

 

 

 

Just for a moment, let’s be still.

Soft lights under the cabinets illuminated a mother dancing with her infant son in her arms in a nearly dark kitchen. The breeze of a cooling September night, drifted in and cascaded around the two.  The quiet of the evening was broken by the soft, lilting chorus from the nearby speakers, “Just for a moment, just for a moment, let’s be still…”  The baby laid its head on his mother’s shoulder as she swayed.

Perfection.

 

A Story of Will

I was browsing in the granite aisle.  I was feeling the chill of an overly air-conditioned warehouse full of huge slabs of stone, when I stopped and closed my eyes to breathe through a contraction.  I looked at the contraction timer I’d downloaded earlier in the day, and sure enough…they were regular and about 6 minutes apart.  I looked over to Rick to relay that information.  After being induced with my first when I went two weeks late, and knowing my family history of going to 43 weeks or more, I was reluctant to believe this was really it.  We both pursed our lips and tried to play it cool, but it seemed more and more like this was labor.

We finished up our granite shopping and made our way home though late afternoon traffic on I-70.  The regular contractions were slightly uncomfortable, but not enough to  make me squirm in the car, so we talked through our plan if they continued.  My mom, who was ready and waiting at our house, would take over if we had to leave for the hospital in the night.  We had written out the information she needed to watch our older son, so we felt like we just needed to determine when the time was right.  Until I got a more sure sign that labor was imminent, I was operating under the impression that this was just a false alarm – as I’d experienced a few times with my first.

At about 11 pm that night, as my contractions worsened I went to the bathroom and found that I had bloody show.   This seemed like just the sign I’d been waiting for.  I texted my doula, told her my contraction pattern, and she decided to drive up and see us. When she arrived, Rick was pacing and antsy.  As the contractions worsened, he worried that we needed to go to the hospital.  When  Stacey arrived, however, she sat down to watch the contractions herself and after about 20 minutes of watching me as I sat on my birth ball she agreed that we should make our way to the University of Colorado Hospital, about 25 minutes away.  Rick had loaded our bags in his nervousness, so we hopped in the car and made our way there – which was a rough ride for me, as I clutched the door and console trying to ease the back labor I was experiencing in the car.

We arrived and checked in.  They took us to triage to determine whether I was ready to be checked in.  After a brief check of my cervix, my midwife said we’d need to wait a bit longer before they would check me in.  She welcomed us to pace the halls, or head home and come back later.  We were a bit confused as to why we couldn’t stay, but decided that our home, which was undergoing a kitchen renovation and housing our two-year old, would not be a restful place.  We booked a room at a hotel nearby and went there to rest and ride out the labor a bit further.  My husband laid down to sleep.  I, on the other hand, laid down to close my eyes, but every few minutes would leap up to ride out a contraction.  I couldn’t handle them lying down.   This continued for about 4 hours, until my water broke and we headed back to the hospital.

This time we were checked through with no issue.  We got into our labor room and hunkered down.  I was awfully tired because it was now morning and I’d not slept.   My doula wanted me to ride through several contraction while lunging with one leg on a chair.  I did that in an effort to bring the baby down in a non-asynclitic way.   But after a while, my tiredness was getting to me so we moved to the bath.  There, my laboring consisted of me dozing off between contractions.  It sounds insane that one could do that, but my body was in some sort of energy conserve mode.  I’d wake up as the contraction started, ride it though, and then lay my head back and sleep.  Apparently I was even snoring.  I did this for a bit in the tub and it was lovely and gave me some rest.  Then my doula suggested I start dancing.  Some people might think it a strange thing to do, but given the way my first birth went I was game for anything that would get me the VBAC I hoped for.  I had hired te best doula I could find and I wasn’t about to ignore her advice. So, we danced.  I did hula-like moves for what felt like several hours.  The hope, in all this, was to avoid what had happened with my first – a posterior and asynclitic babe, resulting in a cesarean.  My entire pregnancy had been targeted toward this goal. I’d been doing months of chiropractic, religiously sleeping on my side, taking probiotics, reading voraciously, exercising – and it felt like it might just work.

As the contractions began getting stronger, somewhere deep down, I knew that I was experiencing back labor.  With each contraction I’d squirm uncontrollably to take the pressure off.   I decided that something to take the edge off might be nice.  I asked if they had some laughing gas, and before long  had a mask that I could use to “make the contractions not bother me as much.”  The anesthesiologist (who I maintain was a Seth Rogan doppelgänger), was very honest about the fact that nitrous does not mask the pain, but helps you handle it better.  It did.  And, before long I had made my way to a point where I was very tired, wanting to push (well, that had been going on almost since I checked in because the baby was SO low), and wondering if I had the stamina for transition.  I was starting to consider an epidural, but I hadn’t had a cervical check in several hours so Rick suggested that before I go for medications, we should see where I was.  Well, it turns out that I had gone right on through transition without too much drama and was fully dilated!  This was fantastic news!

I started to push.  I was good at pushing!  My midwife was psyched seeing the progress my baby made with each push.  She said she saw the head move nearly two inches each time I gave it my all.  They were readying me to meet my baby any minute and I was thrilled.  There was a part of me that had assumed I’d never get this far, and here I was pushing and being told the baby would be out very soon.  I was elated.  I’d heard people say that pushing felt good.  It does, in the sense that you have some agency in what’s happening, unlike in the earlier contractions, but I can’t say that the sensation was enjoyable.  I was ready to see this baby and have it be done!

After about 45 minutes, the midwife voiced concern that the baby was moving back each time I pushed – more so than normal.  And, worse, the baby was having late heart rate deceleration.  This is language I’d heard before with Cody – not good news.  They called the OB team and a pediatrics team into the room where I was laboring.  Soon, it was just me, Rick, my doula and about 12 doctors, nurses, and other support staff.  About this time I began thinking how grateful I was for having grown up playing sports because without that, I doubt I’d have handled the chorus of 15 people around me yelling and urging me to bear down between contractions nearly as well.  I was also glad for my health and fitness, because it was a lot of work after already laboring for over 24 hours!

The OB introduced herself and told me that they were here to help me get the VBAC I wanted.  First, she felt for the baby’s position.  Posterior – again!  And, asynclitic – again.  She reached in and attempted to manually turn the baby but it was unsuccessful (and very uncomfortable because I was still unmedicated).  They offered two options then – forceps or a vacuum – to help move the baby into a better position.  Vacuum was their recommendation and so we went ahead with it.  A vacuum assisted delivery involves attaching a vacuum pump to the baby’s head to help pull and re-direct it during each push.  So, at the next push they attached the vacuum and I pushed with everything I had.  The OB was literally standing and pushing with one foot on the edge of my hospital bed to help her pull, but the vacuum popped off.  It was a VERY painful experience with no medications and the amount of pressure that she was exerting as she pulled down.  It felt altogether different from just the contractions and pushing alone. Apparently, many women who have a vacuum assisted delivery already have been given pain meds, but I was completely unmedicated and the nurses kept having to remind the OB team of that as they were pulling.  Though I handle pain well, it felt like they were going to rip me apart.  I can’t really even describe the feeling of being on a bed, with 15 people who I barely knew, surrounding me in a state of undress I would never otherwise be in, pushing as hard as possible, with the OB pulling as hard as she can – a sensation that feels like it will rip my insides out, akin to trying really hard to extract a cork from a wine bottle – and everyone yelling at me to push, and bear down, and curl around the baby.  It was insane. Like, definitely not the birth scenario I imagined even when readying myself for the challenge of VBAC.  A second attempt at the vacuum resulted in a pop off.  And finally, my third and last chance.  My midwife and doula both looked at me gravely before the contraction hit and said I needed to give it every ounce I had (as if I hadn’t already been doing this through the two previous attempts).  The contraction started, and I curled hard around the baby as I lay on my left side, giving over every fiber of muscle in my body to the pushing.  The contraction began to wane, and I kept pushing to keep the baby from sliding back, but as the OB pulled, the vacuum popped off for the third and final time.  The OB and my midwife slowly approached my head and said that the time had come to move to a cesarean, they asked my permission as I panted and collapsed onto the bed, exhausted, and I said yes.  In seconds I was being wheeled out of the room, too tired and overwhelmed to even realize that Rick wasn’t with me.  It wasn’t until they were prepping me for the spinal block that I realized he was nowhere to be found.

Back in the OR, I was too exhausted to be upset at the need for a c-section.  I was hanging on, sitting on the edge of the bed through the strong contractions waiting for my spinal to kick in, which took a few minutes.  Soon though, they had me on the table and pulled the curtain up blocking my view, explaining that they would move it down when things calmed as the baby was born – the hospital had a gentle cesarean option!  I was so thrilled.  But, that time never came for me…

Soon Rick was at my head, and I could tell something was happening on the other side of the curtain.  I assumed they’d tell me when they started th surgery, but they didn’t and it was underway.  It was going slowly.  Very slowly.  As I later learned, when they cut me open they found an abdomen cemented together with very bad scar tissue from my previous cesarean.  So much so that they were forced to do the internal incision higher on my uterus as the scar tissue had cemented other organs and tissue in place over my previous scar.  It was a lot of work to get in, and when they did, Will was in bad shape.  He was in the birth canal, so he had to be pushed out from below and pulled by his feet from the incision.  It was obviously not an easy birth, and it took a lot longer than my first surgery.  I was beginning to fade in and out of consciousness on the table by the time Will was finally removed.  He didn’t cry. The room was very quiet. They didn’t show him to me or Rick.  All I saw was a limp baby being rushed to the other side of the room where a table was set up for resuscitation.  It says something about my mental state that I was so sleepy and figured it would all be ok.  My recollection of this period was several people around Will working hard with a CPAP and doing CPR, Rick shaking above me and crying and sternly telling me not to fall asleep – though the drugs were saying the opposite.  I can’t give you a clear story about this piece, and whenever I ask Rick about it he gets so emotional he can’t really express how he felt.  It was very hard on him seeing Will and I in such precarious positions.

Finally, after several minutes they got Will breathing.  He had an APGAR score of 1 at birth, and 5 minutes out he was a 7, but he wasn’t totally out of the woods.  He spent a night in the NICU because breathing wasn’t coming easily for him.  Me, they stitched back up and wheeled into the recovery room.  The OBGYN took a moment to try to share with me that if I choose to have more children, I will need to have a c-section, because at this point between the new incision placement and the scar tissue it is too risky not to.

I certainly didn’t comprehend the gravity of the situation we faced during Will’s birth.  Each time a doctor visited me they asked in a low voice how I was doing because I’d had a traumatic birth.  To me, honestly, the birth had been a mixed bag.  I was incredibly happy and proud to have labored through what I did, unmedicated and without interventions.  When it came to having had the vacuum assist and eventually the c-section, it seemed to me that I had given the VBAC my all including months of chiropractic, herbs, probiotics, exercise, and working in advance with a team of exceptionally talented people.  I felt confident that under those circumstances, if a c-section was needed then it was truly a necessary intervention.  That said, it wasn’t until a follow-up with my doula that the gravity of the situation struck me.  She said “In situations like yours, we have to be glad for the option of c-section or you and Will wouldn’t be here.”

Wow.  I could have left my toddler without a mom, my husband without a wife, and died in childbirth along with my baby. Holy shit.

So, there has been much to process in the follow-up to this birth.  New life, an expanding family, potential mortality, and the higher risks of choosing to have another baby in the future.  Honestly, this has been much of the reason I haven’t written about Will’s birth. I vacillate between feeling scared, triumphant, bewildered, and this unshakable feeling that I am a let down.  That, in the evolutionary scheme of things, I’d be a dead-end if it weren’t for surgical intervention.  It is a feeling I wrestle with daily.  As I workout and try to get back to a place of fitness and health postpartum, I wonder if this is me recovering and healing after my final baby?   Would be best if I never have any more babies?  The risk is bigger than I’d like or than I anticipated, and I sort of feel that I should just let things lie as they are even though I’ve always wanted more kids.  I am really struggling to get my head around this.  And, I think that though I know now the experience of laboring and feel proud I was able to handle it – I also feel that it is more obvious than ever that something is amiss inside me that causes my babies to be poorly positioned and therefore makes vaginal birth a real challenge.  But what is it?  Why can nobody answer that question?  And now, two surgeries in, I’ve foreclosed any previously available options where I might have been able to correct the issues…

But hey, I know that wading into these questions only causes me to go in circles wondering about things I’ll probably never have answers to.  I have two beautiful, healthy kids.  I am healthy and healing. These are the truly real, concrete, and important things.   But, man, birth really brings out a lot of dark, weird stuff – exposing your insecurities and challenging your self-confidence while also bringing these wonderful beings into your life.  What a crazy thing life is.

I wish I could say more.  As I said, I’m still dong a lot of processing internally and wondering what it all means for me and my family.  I will do my best to report of this more regularly here.  I feel it is important to share this information, though I’ve found it incredibly hard to talk about.

 

Gratefully and Confidently

I recently had two experiences that made me aware of the value of re-framing the way I look at opportunities to share my knowledge and skills.

Over the month or so, I have had the opportunity to present new tools to some of the executive leadership of my company, and also to present some of my own work to peers at conferences.  These sorts of things often result in the following pattern:

  1. Work my butt off preparing presentation materials
  2. Freak out. (Silently)
  3. Freak out. (Mention it casually here and there)
  4. Pretend it is fine. (Freak out)
  5. Spend several days before internally mapping out my talking points. (Pretendind it’s fine)
  6. Spend the day or two before writing them down and practicing them ad nauseum. (Late at night so nobody knows what I’m up to)
  7. Spend the entire night before mentally rehearsing my speech.   (And, attemting to sleep)
  8. Day of:  Lots of coffee, getting ready, dressing the part, and spending the hours before getting worked up,
  9. Presenting  (Breath, breath, breath, it’s cool.  Feel the rising sense of red in the neck. Wondering if I have any clue what I’m talking, and, finally forgetting something important.)

Over my time working, I’ve actually done quite a bit of public speaking, but as you can see, the process definitely isn’t super refined yet.  But, recently I discovered something of a gamechanger for me.  Rather than framing the speech as a critical moment to shine, I have begun to approach the chance to speak as a wonderful opportunity that I am grateful to have.  I have begun to look at my presentations as offerings of my experience and opportunities to share, rather than make it or break it moments of stress.

This simple reframing has made a world of difference in my  preparation and execution .  I kid you not, I am starting to get excited about speaking opportunities as an experiential time where I get to talk about what it is I spend the majority of my time doing – and when you look at things that way it starts to feel a lot more comfortable.

I noticed that when I begin to reframe stressful situations in my life as opportunities to experience something new, or chances to grow, I handle them better and more gracefully.

It seemed critical to note this here, in case I forgetsomeday  that this reframing is useful!