Wednesday, November 25, 2015

10 Things I've Learned About the "m" Word


The taboo "m" word. I said it, and I experienced it. 

A short time ago, I miscarried our second baby at 8 weeks. I had something called a "blighted ovum", which actually means that the baby never really developed. But my body didn't recognize that, and continued to grow a gestational sac for a baby that had stopped growing at 5 weeks. I'll share the full story in a future post, but for now I just want to share a few thoughts.

Here are 10 things I've learned from my experience:

  1. Miscarriage is rarely talked about; it's an unspoken agony. I understand why people don't talk about it. It's painful, both physically and emotionally. But it's also painful to feel like you're alone in the experience. Given the statistics, I'm certain I know women who've had a miscarriage, but I don't know them by name.
  2. Speaking of statistics, it's estimated that 1 in 5 pregnancies will end in a miscarriage, and 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage in their lifetime. Miscarriage is so common that it's the reason many couples don't share the news of their pregnancy until after the first trimester, when the risk of miscarriage decreases significantly. We had only told close family and friends, and it was just right for us. Enough people to feel supported, but not too many that I had to share news of the loss before I was ready.
  3. Because it's taboo to talk about it, those who experience a miscarriage may feel forced to go about their days in silent suffering. I miscarried over a time period of about a week. And all the while I continued to go to work, pick Maddie up from daycare, smile and make small talk with complete strangers. I went to the grocery store, a football game, and even had our fall family photos taken. I didn't know how to handle it all... call in sick? cancel plans? cry in front of everyone I faced if I tried to explain what was happening? Nobody even knew we were pregnant in the first place. So I just went about my days.
  4. Physically, it can be really painful, and quite traumatizing. I wasn't prepared for that in the slightest. After having a successful first pregnancy with Maddie, I had the "it'll never happen to me" mentality about miscarriage, and therefore had never really read anything about it.
  5. And the labs, oh the labs. I had 5 blood draws and 2 ultrasounds in a few week period. One of the blood draws was done on a Saturday, when the lab is closed. So I got to sit in a Labor & Delivery room, waiting, alone, for the longest 15 minutes of my life, listening to a brand new sweet little baby cry in the room next door. While I mourned the loss of mine. It was the same L&D where I had delivered my healthy baby girl just a short time ago. The juxtaposition of it all was heartbreaking.
  6. Once it happens, you get to delete all of the new pregnancy apps you downloaded, leave the online groups you joined, and return the maternity clothes you jumped the gun on buying. Inevitably, you'll miss a listserv and an email will come through: "Week 9 of your Pregnancy!"  
  7. You might find yourself using phrases like "lost the pregnancy" because it sounds softer than "lost the baby" or "the baby died". It's sad no matter how you phase it.
  8. People might not know what to say. Be patient; they want to say the right thing to show they care. If you're wondering what you should say to a woman who has miscarried, something as simple as "I'm so sorry for your loss. Please let me know if you need anything" would be perfect. Just don't say "everything happens for a reason". Nobody wants to hear that there is a reason their baby died.
  9. Even as you start to move forward, past the initial stage of mourning, there will be reminders. Photos of babies, run-ins with pregnant ladies, the prenatal vitamins on your counter, the sudden realization that you can eat lunch meat again. I'm fairly certain I heard "Like I'm Gonna Lose You" on the radio 500 times in a few weeks span. Undeniably, I even made a cover song playlist because it became "my song". The reminders will hurt for a while, but eventually you'll be able to see those things again without bursting into tears.
  10. If it happens to you, you might feel like your body failed you. You might feel angry or even guilty. I jumped on a trampoline with Maddie at 5 weeks pregnant. Logically, I know that it is highly unlikely the two events are related. But I still think about it. Know that it's not your fault. It's just science. The most common cause of an early miscarriage is a chromosomal abnormality, and there is absolutely nothing you could have done to change it.
My biggest takeaway from the experience is that it needs to be shared. I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me; I'm not asking for sympathy. This baby will be in my heart forever, but we're moving forward. We'll have another healthy baby someday. But until then, please don't ask me when we're going to have another baby unless you're prepared to hear the whole story.

If you're reading this and you've been in my shoes, or if you remember this post someday in the future, I'd be happy to commiserate, swap stories, or remember together. The sisterhood of motherhood on earth is real, even if your baby couldn't stay.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Life in the Fast Lane

For the past few years, I feel like I've been living life in the fast lane. No, not the rock&roll/sex/drugs/&alcohol fast lane. More like the career/marriage/house/babies fast lane. In the past 5 years, I graduated college, started my job, got engaged, planned a wedding, got married, got promoted, bought a house, moved cities, had a baby, and got promoted again. I'm exhausted just typing that.

Well, it's time to pull this mini-van over and cruise in the slow lane for a while. Life is passing me by and I'm going to take some time to soak it in before it's gone. Exactly one month before my 28th birthday, I quit my job. That's right, I'm joining the ranks of the stay at home moms. Just call me Sammie! As in SAHM-ie. SAHM = stay at home mom. Ok I'm really reaching now.

I never envisioned myself as a stay at home parent. Like ever, until maybe a year ago. Growing up, both of my parents worked... often multiple jobs, night shifts, deployments, while going to school... to make ends meet and provide a happy life for our family. Since I turned 15, I've always been employed too. Movie theater, ice cream shop, daycares, golf courses, on campus, internship, full time, part time. Hard work is in my blood, and something I assumed I'd always do.

Even when I first had Maddie, I didn't see myself staying at home. In fact, when I first returned to work, I was still on some sort of hormonal feminist watch-me-conquer-the-world kick. Imagine... I just had a baby, now I'm growing her with my pure liquid gold, I can balance a job and a baby and a crazy paleo diet and only sleep 5 hours at night in two separate blocks. I am woman, hear me ROAR!!!  As you might guess, that lead to exhaustion quickly. Once, when Maddie was sick with hand-foot-and-mouth and she couldn't go to school for a WEEK, Tom and I were trying to decide how to split up the week between caring for Maddie and getting our work done, and deciding who would need to stay up until 2am to get it all done. That's when the wheels really started turning for me. What if I stayed at home? Would our lives be easier? Happier?

For almost a year, we thought about it, talked about, weighed the pros and cons, looked at our budget, talked about it some more. And we ultimately decided that the best decision for our family is for me to stay home for now. Sure, it means big budget cuts, but the stress level in our house should decrease immensely. Now I'm not na├»ve, I know this isn't going to be a cake walk. Staying at home does NOT mean watching soap operas and painting your nails all day. It's cooking and cleaning, tantrums and messes, grocery shopping and errands; but it's also snuggles and kisses, books and crafts, play dates and outdoor adventures. I'm certain there will be times when I'm frustrated and exhausted, mumbling under my breath something about how I never should have quit my job, stupid stupid stupid. But I'm hopeful that for every moment like that, there will be sweet moments too. Milestones and learning and playing and loving.

I've explained to probably 25+ co-workers, friends, and family members why I'm leaving my job. And every time, it just boils down to the fact that I can't get this time back. Taxes and computers and desk jobs will always be there for me (in fact, I'm enrolling in a program with my employer that helps me keep my license current with the intention of coming back in 5 years). In the big picture of my career, this is really just a little blip on the radar. The 5 years I slipped away to be with my baby. My top boss told me as I was walking out of his office, you won't regret this. And he's so right, I won't.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Maddie Grace at 16 months 10 days

I've been pretty good about keeping up with Maddie's baby book. It has a separate page for each of the first twelve months, and I diligently chronicled her milestones, likes/dislikes, travels, adventures, etc. every single month. But since her first birthday, I've yet to log anything in writing about her. I have a terrible memory, and I really want to remember her exactly the way she is right now; all 31 inches and 22 pounds of independence.

Maddie didn't walk until she was 13 months old, but she picked it up quickly, and now she only has one speed - RUN! She races through the living room and darts around corners. She'll make a mad dash for the laundry room (where we keep Bailey's water bowl) or halfway up the stairs in 2 seconds flat if the gate is left open. Her poor little knees are skinned and shins bruised from tumbles outside. She loves to be chased and she'll squeal with laughter if you catch her. Wagon rides in the neighborhood are a thing of past now, because Maddie will cry alligator tears until she's allowed to get out and walk on her own, er, run, that is. I can't even count the number of times I say, "Slow down, Maddie!" every day.

She's been signing words, mostly food related, since she was 11 months, but now her verbal vocabulary is starting to pick up. She currently says: shoes, ball, throw, hi, hello, more, down, and no. Make that, "no no no" complete with a finger wag. She nods her head yes and no (fervently), and she can point to the following body parts: eyes, ears, nose, teeth, hair, and belly button. Speaking of teeth, she has 9! Her first molar has just poked through this past week and a second one reared its ugly head last night. Popsicles and Advil all around! She still uses a pacifier at night and loves to snuggle her pink birdie blanket.

Maddie usually wakes up around 6:45, and immediately asks to "eat" using sign language. She and I head downstairs to have breakfast while Tom finishes getting ready. While she eats (usually fruit with muffins, waffles, or oatmeal blueberry bars), I pack my lunch and make my oatmeal. Then I get her dressed and she and Tom head out the door for work/daycare. I hurry to finish getting myself ready, and every day Tom calls me after daycare drop-off to give me the scoop - did she cry? who was there? did she run to Ms. Katie?  I usually pick Maddie up around 4:45pm, and her teacher almost always tells me, "Maddie had a pretty good day," with a shoulder shrug and strange emphasis on the word pretty that makes me wonder what exactly that even means. We head home to make dinner (which essentially means Maddie whines at my feet for 20 minutes while I try to whip up something quick but healthy, then finally give in and let her watch her favorite baby songs video). We have dinner by 6:00 and Tom is usually able to join us. Afterward, we play outside or go for a stroll, then it's bath-time, book-time, bed-time. I still rock Maddie to sleep every night, and it is my favorite part of the day. I love to hold her in the quiet stillness of her room, breathing her in and snuggling her close. Say what you will, but I'll rock her for as long as she'll let me. 

Other fun things Maddie does right now: climbs up the ladder to go down her slide, pulls out ALL the books to only read the first page, pushes in the kitchen chairs and closes the pantry door (every time she passes it), says "mmmMmm" when she loves her food, and "ahhh" when she drinks her water. She brings Bailey her dog toys, independently goes to sit down in the living room after a walk where we always read the mail, makes a disastrous mess at every meal, nods her head in approval after every song on her baby songs video ("yep, that was a good song"), and puts things in the trash can (sometimes real trash and sometimes not-trash). She's obsessed with bubbles, water, books, and phones (so she can see pictures of herself, naturally). She waves good-bye to her daddy every evening after story-time as he closes the door and turns out the light, she loves to sit in her little green anywhere chair to put on her "choos" (shoes), and to take things in/out of containers. Buttons, oh how she loves to press buttons, throw her flash cards, and inspect the bottoms of her feet. Her tiny, tiny size 4 feet.

Her budding personality is both sweet and sassy, sometimes timid but often bold. She's inquisitive and sometimes rebellious; she's one to test her limits but also to look for approval when doing the right thing. It seems like every age is my new favorite age with her - it's truly such a joy to watch her learn and grow! How lucky I am to have such a special daughter and to enjoy her at 16 months 10 days :)


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Reality Check

Maddie woke up an hour earlier than usual this morning, and I was so annoyed. Unreasonably  annoyed. I watched her on the monitor, trying to fall back asleep, but unable to find her pacifier. As she lay there whine/crying, I found myself thinking, you're not even trying! Look around, move your blanket, find your pacifier and go back to bed! After a few minutes, I could tell she wasn't going to fall back asleep on her own. Begrudgingly, I stumbled into her room, found her pacifier and passed it to her. But she reached her arms up to me instead of laying back down, so I picked her up and went to the glider.

As I sat there rocking my sleepy baby, I was suddenly overcome with guilt. There I was, complaining about losing a "precious" hour of sleep on a Sunday morning, when families around the world are facing enormous struggles. Hunger, war, disease. How foolish of me. To even waste my brainpower lamenting my loss of sleep while I snuggled my healthy girl in our modest but beautiful, safe, happy home.

My mind wandered to the news articles I've been reading this week about the Syrian refugees who are fleeing their war-riddled country, seeking safety and a better future for their families. Their country has been in turmoil for years, but the recent photo of a toddler washed ashore in Turkey has garnered world-wide attention. My heart just breaks for the father of that boy, and the many families facing decisions like the one he made. I cannot even begin to imagine their pain and suffering. I am so fortunate to live in a safe place, where we can play in our yard, at the park, at the grocery store, without fear of bombs or missiles or bullets whizzing past. We have plentiful food, water, education, plumbing, heat and A/C, freedom, health, wealth, happiness.

You better believe you'll see a change in me after this stark reality check. I've been a bit of grump lately, and for no good reason really. Sure, I did lose my dog last month, work has been stressful, life has it's hiccups, but good gracious I have so much to be grateful for, and I am beyond thankful for all of the wonderful people and blessings in my life.

Happy Labor Day weekend, all. I hope you have a safe, wonderful weekend with your family and loved ones.


If you'd like to find ways to help those in need in Syria, check out the following recourses:

Friday, August 7, 2015

Goodbye, my boy

Our dog Tucker recently lost his battle against cancer. It wasn't much of a battle, really. We found out in April that he had a tumor on his kidney, and it wasn't operable. Based on the fact that it wasn't detected at his last vet appointment 6 months prior, it was likely growing quickly. The vet told us that there wasn't much we could do, other than continue to love him. He could have weeks or years left, it would just depend on how quickly the cancer grew and spread. Over the next few months, he grew weak and tired. Some days were better than others, but looking back, it was clear his time was ending. The cancer did spread quickly, ultimately affecting many of his organs and causing him to become very sick.

It was my first experience with pet loss, and it was harder than I could have imagined. As we were leaving the vet on Tucker's last day, I remarked that I would never want to get another pet, because I wouldn't want to ever go through a painful time like this again. But as I further reflect, I know that this time is tough, because of all the good times we had.

When I was 15, my brother and I finally convinced my parents to get a new dog. Somehow we decided on a beagle, and we got connected with a breeder in Taylor, Texas. On the 4th of July, 2003, we went to pick out our puppy. We picked him from a litter of 8 week old puppies, and chose Tucker because of the freckles on his front legs. He remained nameless for at least a week because we couldn't agree on a name. We threw around Harley, my dad wanted Flash, and I wanted something patriotic since we got on him the 4th. I can't recall exactly how we landed on Tucker, but I think it may have been the result of a comment about him being "tuckered out". We unanimously agreed on it, and it was the perfect fit.

Tucker, cute as could be, was a terrible terrible dog. He listened pretty well and knew several commands; he was certainly smart and had a good memory, but goodness he was mischievous. Shoes, remotes, cords, blinds, nothing was safe. We nicknamed him Houdini for a while because he could escape from any type of containment. Locked gates, 5 ft fences, bricks and rocks and chicken wire - no match for Tucker "Houdini" Radford! He was known tip the trash can over in the night, hardly starving, but scavenging for a scrap of food. He ate many a plate of leftovers, snuck a full plate of cookies, and once scarfed down half a chocolate sheet cake... off the counter! We'll never know how he got up there.

But for all his trouble-making antics, were an equal number of heart-warming moments. Full of personality, Tucker provided plenty of entertainment. He loved to play "monkey-in-the-middle" and "hide my toy". He would race through the house and spring-board off the couch as he made his rounds. He liked to lay in the sunshine and on windowsills. He would perch like a cat on the back of the chair with a clear view of all the doors, patiently awaiting our return every day. He enjoyed going for walks, and certainly knew that word! We resorted to spelling w-a-l-k, but he caught on to that quickly, too. "Do you wanna, do you wanna go for a walk?" *Tilts head repeatedly, always to the left* Despite walking often, he never learned to walk well on a leash, constantly pulling pulling pulling. He was just so full of energy and excitement, ready for adventure.

Tucker was always there for me in high school when I needed a snuggle. They say he was a little sad when I left for college, and would sometimes lay on my bed when I was away. Once, on a trip home, I left the house to run an errand quickly after I arrived. Tucker somehow escaped, no surprise, and chased my car nearly half a mile through our neighborhood! I looped back around to our house and he collapsed into the front yard. Our neighbors knew him well, our little escapee. I missed him very much while I was at school, and always enjoyed visiting him when I was home. I missed having a dog so much, actually, that I got my own dog during my last year at school. Sweet, special, Bailey. She was nearly the polar opposite of Tucker, but would one day be his best buddy.

A short time after I moved to Dallas, Tucker came to live with me and Bailey. He bounced around from place to place with us, terrorizing yard after yard and wrecking deposits. But he kept Bailey company while I worked long hours, and I loved to have his company. He moved with us down to Austin, too, to our first house, his last house. He quickly found his napping spot on the middle landing of stairs, where he could keep an eye on the front door and window. He continued to be a happy-go-lucky pup and a good friend to Bailey.

When the baby came, my world was rocked. Having a baby is time consuming, energy consuming, all consuming. My work days were busy and the evenings were hectic. Sleep deprivation and the general craziness of it all left me exhausted by the end of the day. I tried to make it a point to snuggle the dogs every night before bed, but some days I just don't think I did. Playtime took a backseat. They say that guilt is one stage of grief, and it hits me hard. I am angry with myself for not spending more time with the dogs in the past year. I can only hope that Tucker understood and forgave me, choosing to remember all of the good times we've shared in the past. Suddenly more aware of this dynamic, I am committed to making sure that Bailey knows every day she is loved.

He passed quickly, painlessly, quietly. He was very ill and pained, so I'm certain we made the right decision. But it sure doesn't make me miss him any less. I'll think of him fondly, as I picture him around the house... sun-bathing in the yard, racing through the doggie door, squeezing under the bed, snoring behind the recliner. I know that it will get easier as time passes, but for now I'm allowing myself to grieve. It's okay to be sad, and it's okay to cry. Accepting this loss will take time, and I'll move forward when I'm ready.

But every night as I put Maddie to bed, we'll still say... Goodnight Dad, Goodnight Bailey, Goodnight Tucker. He'll forever be in our hearts, and often on my mind. Sweet boy, I hope you're running wild and free up there. We'll be missing you down here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Mother Pumper

It's the end of an era. Yesterday, I pumped at work for the last time ever. It was exactly one year to the day from the first time I pumped at work - when I returned to the office at 2 months postpartum. Breastfeeding/pumping isn't the right choice for everyone, but I felt it was the right choice for me, and I am so thankful I work for a supportive employer.

For the first 10 months, I pumped 3x a day at work. That's right, every 3 hours I unplugged my computer, packed all my stuff up, and resigned myself to the milk room mother's closet mother's room, where I spent 20+ minutes attached to that noisy contraption. After Maddie turned 1, I slowly started to phase out pumping sessions. Finally, this week, she is moving up to the toddler classroom at daycare where they don't allow bottles. She was down to just one bottle in the afternoon anyway, which she hadn't always been finishing. So after a long holiday weekend with a wacky schedule, it seemed like a good time to just drop the bottle altogether, and therefore... drop the last pump!!! Three cheers for my newfound freedom from the pump!

After a year of pumping at work, I've learned a few helpful tips and tricks which I'd be happy to share!
  1. Getting out of the house in the morning with a newborn will likely take exponentially longer than it did pre-baby. To help with the struggle, do as much as possible the night before - including getting your pump bag ready. There are so many little pieces to remember, so while you're getting used to the process, use a checklist each night to make sure you have everything you will need to pump the next day.
  2. Speaking of those many little pump parts, I would highly recommend ordering a second (and maybe even third) set of parts. That way, you don't have to wash them every single night. If you're super lazy like me, you can just run the dishwasher every couple days!
  3. And speaking of washing the pump parts, you don't have to do it after every pump. During the day, just put the parts in a Ziploc bag and keep them in the fridge. Take them home at night and wash them then.
  4. Inevitably, you will forget a pump part one day. I learned that Target sells Medela brand parts, or if you have Amazon Prime, you could use Prime Now to get some delivered quickly. It's a great idea to store an extra set of parts in your desk to prevent the panic that is realizing you forgot something.
  5. A hands-free bra is an absolute must if you plan to do any sort of multi-tasking (i.e. work, conference call, facebook scrolling...). Forget it one day, and you'll be forever grateful for that magical garment.
  6. You can still wear dresses! For months I thought my wardrobe was limited to pants and skirts because the thought of pulling a dress all the way up and sitting nearly naked in a room at work made me quite uncomfortable. But hello, a slip! Just wear a slip under the dress! Problem solved.
  7. After your last pump, or if you need to leave early, be sure to take your milk with you rather than leaving it in the mother's room. When you're heading home to your sweet baby, the last thing you want to do is mess with packing up bottles and parts. This is especially key if you're sharing the mother's room with another pumping mom. When daycare calls to say little Maddie has a fever and a runny nose, you're going to want to race to the door. But if someone is in the mother's room, you may have to wait.
  8. It's OK to cry over spilled milk. It will happen, and it will make you so, so unexplainably angry. It may be an ounce or an entire bottle. Either way, you will want to throw things. And cry. Just blame the hormones and resolve to take your time and be more careful.
  9. Treat your pumping sessions like you would any other meeting at work. Block off time in your calendar for pumping and keep to it. Regular pumping is the best way to maintain your supply.
  10. And lastly, the pump is mean. Not only does it look like some sort of creepy torture device, it isn't very gentle either. I recommend Earth Mama Angel Baby's nipple butter to care for your sensitive milk-makers.
And there you have it. Pumping at work is totally doable if you so desire. I'm grateful for the many benefits Maddie and I received... but boy oh boy am I also glad it's over! :)

Friday, May 8, 2015

What a ONEderful year!

It's still hard to believe that Maddie is a whole year old. It sure did go by quickly - but what a fun year it was!

In case your Friday night plans are as exciting as mine (aka watching three weeks worth of DVR'd Modern Family episodes and sipping white wine from a bottle that  was opened two weeks ago....), here is a little video I put together to celebrate Maddie's 1st year. A montage of blurry baby photos set the tune of sappy music, what more could you ask for? TGIF!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Piece of cake

I ordered Maddie's first birthday cake yesterday from H-E-B.

I shoulda woulda could have ordered it weeks ago from some fancy bakery - something all-organic grass-fed gluten-free with no food dyes, like any proper Austin crunchy mom would. It's not that I've been putting it off, although I am maybe just a wee bit in denial. It's just that I have been so stinking busy lately that I never found the time.

Wake, dress, traffic. Work. Traffic. Dinner, bathtime, bedtime. Clean, prep, work. Sleep. Repeat. Day in and day out, not a spare second to be found. Of course I had heard that parenting is exhausting. But I more-so thought that just related to the sleeplessness from night-waking babies. Maddie sleeps through the night now, but I'm more exhausted than ever. Our house is messier than ever and my to-do list is longer than ever. One thing I've learned for sure about being a mother, is that is no piece of cake. Not easy as pie. There's no sugarcoating it. It's just the way the cookie crumbles. Ok, I'll stop with the dessert idioms.

I don't know how a year has passed so quickly. It's like I blinked and she was cooing. I blinked again and she was laughing. Closed my eyes for a second longer and she was crawling. Then suddenly it's time to plan a party to celebrate her first year, our first year.

Every day I love her more. With my whole heart, more than I ever knew I could. It's impossible to explain in words that type of love. But every parent knows it! It's bittersweet to think about her first birthday - I'm sad that time is passing so quickly, but at the same time, it is so fun to watch her grow. Every stage is my new favorite stage! She's started doing this thing where she strums her finger on her lips and makes a blub-blub-blub sound... cutest thing ever.

So as I reflect back on this past year, and look forward to the next, I plan to slow down. To stress less, to do less, to enjoy more. Because I know just how quickly the time disappears. It's impossible to have it all - to do it all.

They say you can't have your cake and eat it too. And if that's the case, I'll just plan to eat my cake. I'll serve it up on a paper plate so I don't have to wash dishes, and I won't even mind if the crumbs fall onto our grimy floors. I'll savor every last bite. And the fact that I can share my piece of the pie with Tom and Maddie? Well that's just icing on the cake!

And, of course, I know all too well that the 2nd birthday will be just around the corner and we'll eat cake again!

Happy [almost] birthday, Maddie Grace. I love you so much. How much is so? Way way more than you know. <3