Tuesday, December 18, 2012

on family and friends...

I went out the other night with a small group of ex coworkers from my old job. Many of them have since left as the agency is in  a big ugly downward spiral and is topped with an abusive and conniving CEO. But I digress. Things got really bad in that workplace after I left to have my mini breakdown before Isobel came into the world and  the others in the group got closer because of banding together to cower before a common enemy and in many cases to bolster each other in the face of Really Bad Things Happening.  So they share a special bond that I am not really part of but I think they still value me and appreciate my friendship. This was to be our Christmas get together and love fest complete with Yankee swap ( which I learned is Not a white elephant!)

(This isn't a post about the horrible murders in Connecticut, just in case you thought I was going there, but I am thinking of them and holding those poor parents and their children in my heart.)

Originally there was going to be about 10 of us, but on the day of we got an email from one woman saying that she couldn't come because some random relative of her husbands was coming into town and she had to hang out with them. I don't remember the details, and I can't find the email, but I was like - oh, okay. And then another woman sent a message via the group ringleader that she couldn't come because she had some family event that she had forgotten, or had got rearranged, or something and she had to go to that. And she sent us lots of love - as did the first one. Another one couldn't come because she had had such a soul destroying day at the above workplace and just needed to be home - and had then heard about the Connecticut killings and that had finished her off for the day. So three out of an original 9 plus two others that couldn't come from the beginning.

And I stopped and thought, what is it about family that makes people leave their friends high and dry? I mean, I am rarely one of those people who cancel because I have something better to do with my family. Because I have hardly any family here. I have my sister. My nieces. And some ex in laws that I love dearly but are not part of the fabric of my everyday life. And Susan and Isobel. My brother and his partner and son are  in England and they have sworn off air travel so they have never visited us here. We visit them approximately once every couple of years. This year and next year are going to be off years. My parents are dead. Susan's mom lives in a nursing home in Kansas City and her sister lives in that city too. We don't have lots of people to do stuff with on holidays -whether that's Labor Day or Christmas Day. And people invariably gravitate towards their family, fucked up or not, on the holidays. We are spending Christmas Day with my sister and part of it with her kids and then traveling to see Susan's mom and sister in Kansas City the next day. So yes, we are like everyone else. We have a nice church "family" but they all go off and do their various family things too. One Thanksgiving a friend from church invited us to her non family Thanksgiving and we went, which really upset my sister. She couldn't understand why we didn't want to be with her. We just wanted  a change. Apparently it doesn't work like that. So that was our act of anti family rebellion which didn't go down so well.

But what makes members of a tight knit of group of survivors break off and not come to a party because Uncle Mike or someone is in town? I just don't get it. At all. Because sending your regrets and love is just not like sending yourself in person. Maybe I am bitter that I don't have those kinds of endless family occasions. And I don't ditch my friends. Just to be clear, we  don't all get together very often. It was our Christmas get together. We don't see each other much in our everyday lives if at all. Unlike family who see each other a lot, especially in the holidays. I realize I am really skirting around this issue and I wish I could just get it out.  I just don't understand it. What do people who have no family do or think of this? Our church usually organizes  a Christmas Day meal and service for those left behind with no family ( or friends I suppose).  It is akin to one of those cringily named orphans or waifs and strays affairs ( I know - it's a nice invitation to get!) No one can host it this year. No body wants to. None of the waifs and strays have the space, the time or the energy to do it. What will become of them when everyone is busy celebrating with Drunk Uncle Mike? I know I speak of this from the privileged point of view of one who has a spouse and a child and even some living relatives. I am not going to be left in the cold. Or uninvited. But I do really feel the dearth of Other People in our lives.

Sometimes I  just feel lonesome. It is a part of my personality and has not changed with having Isobel. Susan, Isobel and I are a very tight, close knit threesome. We like that. But we go to the zoo and  I see families with uncles, aunts, family friends, tagging along.  Groups of people. And that is rarely rarely us. We don't really have a gang that we hang with. Our baby mama friends are often busy with friends and relatives popping in to visit or on their way through town. We have friends that we see on occasions that we plan. Like a dinner now and then. We have no do drop in friends.  ( Do people do that any more? It was one of my favorite things about my life as a student in Wales). Our core people are the ones I mentioned earlier and they are busy busy busy.

When we envisioned having a family I had this fantasy that people would come out of the woodwork and would want to be around us more because of Isobel. In some ways that was true - everyone wanted to meet her and visit with us when she was small. And people are still enchanted with her when they see her. She is pretty darn cute. But people in the deep fabric of our lives. We don't have them. We see people at church on Sunday. We have lots of acquaintances. I have a nice group of old work friends from my last two jobs. We make arrangements to see people when we can - which is always based on the level of overwhelm and is often sporadaic. Susan goes to meetings related to church and her chosen career as a would be and almost ready to be ordained minister. That's not exactly fun although is is fulfilling. At work I am glad to have a team which I supervise that I can actually confide in to some degree ( might bite me in the ass at some point, but it's all I have got for now to keep me going as peer relationships are either hindered by too much work and no time, or in the case of my closest peers,  too much time wasting and not much work).

One of our most precious family connections is our friend M who is my mum's friend from high school who has kept in touch all these years. She and my mum were both married on the same day ( to different men) which meant they couldn't attend each others' weddings. To me that is sad because it again  puts "family" of the wedding ring type ahead of "family" of the friend type. She talks about women in those days being a lot more clueless and less worldly wise. I get the feeling that neither of them really had much of a clue about the trajectory of their lives on their young and innocent wedding days and at least one of them was getting married to an idea  more than anything else.My mother practically worshiped M her whole life and saw her as an adventuresome woman whose life took interesting turns and who was not as wrapped up in domesticity as she was. In her turn, M admired my mom's ( reluctant) domesticity, her  nice husband and kids and being caught up in  and dedicated to their exploits (which were less adventurous and closer to home).

M lives in Canada near Toronto and has for the last 40 or so years. Since we have been living in Chicago, she has begun to visit my sister and me over the years and now she is probably as close to or closer to us as she was to my mum. She normally comes to visit at least once  a year - usually in November and came twice in Isobel's early life and was a wonderful helpful calming presence. We went to visit her this summer and had a lovely relaxing time ( apart from the rather nightmarish overnight train trip). And she was supposed to visit this fall but her health has not been good and it's hard for her to travel and also to get travel health insurance - as she is in her mid seventies and has some chronic health conditions. It seems that so many things conspire against us getting together. I forgot to say one of the most important things about M. She is Isobel's grandma. We offered her that title when Isobel was very small - or maybe even before she was born. My mom was alive only for the first month of Isobel's life and it felt right to have M be one of Isobel's grandmas. So we miss M. We talk on the phone and email. She is lovely. We have found each other in a very sweet way and I wish we were closer in real life.

I seem to be doomed to have mother type figures in my life who do not stay. That is a story for another post. But I think it is this missing of a mother figure that really has done me in for a lot of my life - either because my mother was missing metaphorically or because I picked people to fill in that role who were ill equiped or unaware that they had been chosen for this role. And that is really getting to the nitty gritty.

Hmmmm.... I know this is rather wobbly, but I do want to get it out there. What do you all think of this family / friends hierarchy? Are you disappointed too? Do tell!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

more about milk...

All is going well.  After the first few days of the "honeymoon" period of weaning, it seemed that Isobel was having a really hard time in general. She was more in need of reassurance and hugs and had quite a few melt downs. My sister reminded me that when kiddos are working on one developmental step, they will regress in another. This seemed to be the case with Isobel. So we took longer with the transition and were sure to fill her up with love as much as possible.

We are down to twice  a day ( or night, really - bedtime and first thing in the morning). Tonight we dropped the coming-home-from-work-feed / naptime-when-I am-home-feed. I felt so sad coming home knowing that we would not be having our special booby time on the couch as soon as I came in.  I sat outside in the car for a minute and pre-emptively mourned the loss of this special time. Usually I get a big hug and then am told "booby - couch". Which is my cue to divest myself of my bra and lie on our big green seen-better-days couch with Isobel and get snuggly and give milkies.

It went fairly smoothly tonight. Susan had been prepping Isobel before I came home and reminding her there would be no booby til bedtime. She had her snack and was chomping on it as I walked in the door. I told her that I loved her very much but there would be no more booby til bedtime. She said "ok" and went back to her snack and her program on the I Pad. Then we all had a tea party in the kitchen with a cute little tea set that I have been saving for a special occasion. It was a big hit and Isobel poured "tea" and added sugar and cream to her cup and proceeded to eat a pretend cupcake. She presided over the event with great care and authority, reminding us to drink our tea and eat our cupcakes if we lapsed in concentration. It was really very sweet.

I realize that this may all seem so trivial and almost sentimental, especially to readers who are in the throes of TTC and the rawness of infertility and treatment.  I admit, I am sentimental about it.  The reason I am doing it is very clear to me.  Only to get pregnant again.  And to help Isobel avoid further tooth decay ( which may or may not be related to breast feeding at night). Without this need to go off meds for a mandatory mammogram and the meds for pre pregnancy I would be nursing Isobel at night for a long time to come.

So far we have not had to do a no nursing nap time / night time session. That I am not looking forward to. We have til the beginning of January when I will have a scheduled mammogram and then go in for baseline testing again to prepare for the cycle. 

One of my baby mama friends announced that she is pregnant. She is the fourth of our group of baby mamas to get pregnant with a second baby. Two of those babies have been born, two are on the way. I can't help think that all my friend had to do was have sex in order to get pregnant. What does that even look like? How is that even possible? Not in my wildest imagination.  I know it's how most people have babies, but to me, it seems so ridiculously mockingly easy peasy and cruelly so far out of my reach.

So I wean and get ready for a FET. That's my reality.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Milk, it's not what's for dinner...

Isobel and I are in weaning mode. It broke my heart a little bit to do it. Actually a lot.  I probably wouldn't have done it but for the fact of a) she is a horrible eater and I think that her snacking on milk all day was not helping her appetite for food b) I am getting ready for an FET early next year and i need to get a mammogram sometime in December, and be ready to take meds in January and finally c) Isobel has seven cavities in her teeth and we are on a mission to get them taken care of and not exacerbate the problem.

When I had PPD I clung to my nursing relationship with Isobel. When my OB told me that I could consider take stronger and different meds for the depression / anxiety which would mean  stopping nursing and giving a bottle I was horrified. As a very new mother I felt that nursing was one of my only tools. It was something that I could do and do well. I was so determined not to take that away from Isobel or me. I know, I know that many of us have not been able to nurse or have chosen not to. If I had not been able to nurse I know I would have been okay eventually and I am sure Isobel would too. But I could. It was my secret weapon. It was my super bonding technique. It kept me sane and feeling useful and able to nurture. It was a big part of my connection. Between the horrible thoughts and anxieties of PPD,  nursing kept me sane. I did not change meds. I think I upped them a little with the help of my shrink. I organized round the clock attendants for when Susan had to be away from us and I gradually weaned myself off them when I felt stronger and more able to cope.

A couple of things really really irritated upset me about midwives and doctors and advice givers when I was pregnant / very new to motherhood. One was when people said that it didn't matter how the baby was born as long as she was born healthy. In saying that I felt that they were robbing me of my grief about not being able to do a nice sloshy water birth at home, or even an unmedicated birth at the hospital. Even though I really really wanted a c section after I realized how many complications there were, I did not want someone else to glibly take away my reaction to not having that experience. I wanted it acknowledged that it was a loss and something I had to say goodbye to. Now, after having Isobel and thanking my own intuition for avoiding something I don't want to even consider could have happened, I REALLY don't care how any baby is born to me.  What I mean by that is, that I really don't need a VBAC and would not consider one ever. I don't care. I don't want to wait 40 or 42 weeks for the baby to bake ( if we get lucky enough to have another). I would rather she / he comes at 37 or 38 weeks than starts to malinger in there when I will probably have GD or something else like that big fat fibroid that is in the same place it was before. I would never say to a new mom "oh, it doesn't matter how the baby comes, as long as it is healthy, " which is what I now think and believe. But I would never tell a mom she has to push if she doesn't want to. Pushing would not have got Isobel out, I believe that. Science got her in and science got her out. Wouldn't have worked 50 years ago but works now. In another life, I could have had an Ina May birth. Just not in this one. And I am fine with that.

The second issue is when people who don't even know you or your circumstances tell you that it's no big deal to give your baby formula. We agonized about giving Isobel a bottle when she was a day or so old and not pooping. We agreed to it. It was no big deal. I don't feel bad about it anymore at all.  i did for a while.  I would do it again if I had to. I know all about the mommy wars and the breast feeding and formula wars. But no one should make you feel bad for not wanting to give your baby formula if you don't have to. We had nurses pushing it on us night and day. Why? Not because they were worried about our baby's health. I don't think so, anyway. Because they wanted a quick fix to a problem that didn't exist. Shut the baby up, stop it crying. The baby is hungry. Give it a shot of vitamin Enfamil. Mama is tired, you sleep, I'll feed the baby and keep her away from you in the nursery. Don't worry mama, get some sleep. Are you kidding me? I went through all this to have a baby to love and nurture and you are talking about taking that baby away from me when I JUST MET HER?!!!! Which happened to us by the way. They kept Isobel in the nursery and gave a few pathetic excuses and she was up there by herself for about 2 or 3 hours shortly after she was born even when we kept asking for her. If there is a next time I will tell Susan to go into the nursery and demand the baby. This time we just kept asking the bossy nurse ( who wanted to feed her formula) what was going on and she kept fobbing us off. So no, please don't tell me that it's okay to feed my baby formula. I know it's ok. But you don't get to decide so you can feel better about yourself.

So here I am starting to wean Isobel. It was going to be a  very gradual thing until we found out about the cavities on Tuesday. We started with cutting down to nap-time ( or when I get home from work), bed-time and morning-time. Then we freaked out about the bed time nursing ( courtesy of cavity begetting night time milky mouth). So now we are still on that schedule but when I come to bed and Isobel gets in with us, I wake her for a teeth cleaning and do not offer her the boob. Except the other night, Susan woke me to say, "is Isobel nursing?" and I realized the clever girl had got on by stealth and was happily sucking away.

Nursing has been our constant for two years. Eating has not been a big success especially recently. So of course I worry that she is going to starve and / or I won't be able to soothe her. I have to admit she has been pretty game about it so far and not complained too bitterly or for too long when I have reminded her she can't have booby till bedtime or whenever the next scheduled suckling is. Except today when she wouldn't nap, or tonight when she had a melt down at a friends' house and I was caught parenting in public and not strong enough to endure a full tantrum so I gave in.

I want to give her the opportunity to be self directed and to make choices when she can. I also need to be in charge. It's hard for me to say no to her. Not when it's about safety or expedience ( like, getting into her car seat or crossing the road), but when it's about enjoyment or fun or comfort.
I feel ever so slight  relief as I leave for work so I don't have to be there to refuse her. I am on edge when I am home in the evenings, waiting for her to ask me for booby. The edge is getting less. I am focusing on helping her understand if she is hungry  and needs some food or if she wants comfort and can have  a hug. There is a lot of "kissing it better" for owies. And verbalizing. And reminding. And giving her things to look forward to that may or may not be to do with booby. And I will never ever call it booby to any baby number two. What was I thinking? That she would not mimic me and she would not cry booby booby booby in any public place she sees fit to?

So yes,  I am in a bit of a mourning phase. I am trying my best. I know it needs to be done. Maybe I will have to trade in my 2 extra cup sizes and 4  extra inches of width once I stop. Who knows. It is the least of my worries. That and my double chin that is here to stay.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Isobel's 2nd Birthday Picture Post

Isobel's 2nd Birthday Picture Post

Isobel at her family birthday party tonight. She did a great job of blowing out the candles and singing Happy Birthday too!

Add caption

Isobel at her party on Sunday with her auntie Lizzie and cousin Celie. It all went a lot better once the chocolate cake came out. Until then she prefered to play by herself in the foyer of the church where we held it. She almost missed her party!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

24 months later - 10.17.2010 - the birth story

I know, I know. How long does it take? Apparently  a long long time.

It was a beautiful early autumn day - a Sunday. We had been out the previous, much hotter day, shopping at Kohls, and I had remarked that I could not feel the baby moving very much. This was not unusual. I never felt all the exciting kicks and karate chops that I read about on others' blogs. I felt movement, but never anything spectacular. I wrote it off as everything about my pregnancy not being normal and the placement of the placenta. But I had had a wonderful non stress test the previous Thursday and baby had got full marks for moving around. So it was a bit odd. I went to bed the night before, Saturday - in the spare room where my train-like snoring would not disturb anyone but me ( and baby!) and worried about the lack of movement. I think I used the Doppler, so I knew that she was alive and her heart was beating. That was good. But I drank cold juice  and waited for somersaults and there were none, so by Sunday morning I was beginning to be uneasy and considering calling my midwife. I tried the Doppler again, and the heart beat was fine. So again, I knew she was alive. I really didn't think that there could be any reason why she could be in danger if her heart was beating, and I had no idea about the risks of  the later stages of  pregnancy. I was of the belief that the longer she cooked, the better she would be. I don't believe that anymore.

So it was with some embarrassment that I called the midwife and told her I was not feeling so much movement. I followed up that statement with, "but I got top marks on my non-stress test on Thursday." I also told her I had heard the heartbeat that morning. She told me that I should go into labor and delivery. I think this was around 11am. I asked her if I should go now. She said, go soon.

So I had a shower, took the dog for a walk down the block, and soaked up the sunshine. I really remember that walk. Something told me that I wasn't coming home that night, and I really enjoyed being with our surviving dog, Dylan, and just enjoying the easy pull of only one leash and the slow meandering of both of us around the block. He was disabled by something growing in his lung and we would later find out he had some thing going on in his brain that caused seizures.  I was fat and swollen and pretty out of breath. I know I got a shower  because I figured it might be a while til I got another one, and then Susan made us eggs and hash browns  ( yes, I was told later by the nurse that wasn't a very diabetic friendly meal, but I enjoyed it and it was my last one before Isobel was born and I was on forced starvation for a day because of the magnesium.) We knew it was important to go to the hospital but we certainly weren't hurrying.

I don't remember for definite but I have a feeling we stopped off to get a decaf latte on the way. We were really taking our time. I am not sure when we got there. Maybe around 1pm. They were expecting us and it was a familiar scenario as we had been there when I had bleeding around 16 weeks and then just a few weeks earlier on the tour, when I had seen the one room with the bath tub in it  that you had to be lucky to get. I had made a mental note in my mind to try to call ahead to grab it if I ever went into labor. Hah!

Everyone was telling me before this (well the midwives and even the OBGYN were ) that I could very well go into labor myself and have  a "natural"birth,  - or at least I could "try" despite the huge fibroid near the birth canal (which had conveniently moved out of the way at my last ultrasound),  gestational diabetes, history of a myomectomy, advanced maternal age, etc etc. I never believed it for a minute.  I had always thought I would have a vaginal birth - I even wanted a water birth, but after all I went through to get to having Isobel and with all the complications I wanted a  live baby and as fast as possible. I understand that the risks to the mother in a C section are greater than in a vaginal birth but I just couldn't see myself pushing Isobel past my huge fibroid and I was frightened of a late term still birth. I asked for a C-section, but the OB didn't think it was warranted and said that it would be considered "elective". I couldn't afford an elective C section, so I just prayed that it would become clear as time went on that a C section was medically necessary. Later that day, when I met with the midwife, she said that she had been describing my case to the OB on call and listing the plethora of complications that I had, and  it was then that she realized that there was no way I was going to be going into labor or doing a vaginal birth. It took a while but they finally saw things my way.

When we got to the hospital and got checked in, we were in a room very similar to the one we had been in when I was 16 weeks and bleeding. I don't remember all the details, but I was put on the monitors and I could hear the heart beat on the speaker. It sounded fine. A doctor came in and did some kind of ultrasound to find out what was going on with the movement. She told me that baby was not in danger but something was not right and it would be best to get her out today. I said that I was fine with that. They talked about a C section and I was secretly thrilled and very relieved. The OB from my practice who was on call and did the C section almost apologized that she was suggesting a C section. She said, doubtfully, "well you are not dilated or effaced, but we could try to induce you and see how you do". I said er, no, thank you! I really just wanted to get Isobel out as soon as possible and with the least distress to her.

The midwife who was on call wasn't my preferred one, but she turned out to be really great and proved her mettle to me. Even though it was a C section she was there in the operating room with me the whole time, and first she held me while I got the needle in my back to start the epidural.  Susan didn't get to come in until I was lying spread eagled on a like Jesus on the cross, except I was lying flat on my back and tilted to one side - apparently to ease blood flow to the heart. I was introduced to the anesthetist who told me to let him know if I started feeling faint or nauseous. Having the epidural was so strange. I felt like my whole body was heating up and floating away. I did start to feel nauseous while the surgery was going on and he dialed down the meds which stopped me from feeling like I was going to puke. The surgery felt like lots of tugging. And pulling. I pushing. I don't remember much and I couldn't hear a lot. Susan tells the story that they had to pull her out of my pelvis as her head was stuck there. As they pulled her out they said,"Chord wrapped round the neck one, two, three, four times." Then she came flying over the top of my stomach and into the hands of the nurses who were at the ready with the warmer. Susan got to cut the chord for  the second time - the doctor cut the chord as she came out and the midwife snapped lots of pictures for us, they wrapped her up  and then I got to meet her. It felt so surreal. I didn't feel ready. I wanted her to come, but I had no clue what to expect and I felt so unprepared and quite detached from the experience.  I smiled and was glad, but I still felt weird about the whole thing.

As soon as I was stitched up and was wheeled into recovery the midwife helped me to get Isobel to latch on and try to suck some colostrum. I had no clue what I was doing. My sister came in and we realized she didn't know the name. I told her and I think she was pleased. Isobel Emily. Isobel just because we liked it and Emily because it's Susan's beloved  french grandma's name. Susan was there with us until it was time for Isobel to go up to the nursery and she went with her while I stayed down in the recovery room to wait to get transfered to the mom and baby unit.

I am not sure when I realized that Isobel had had a very narrow escape. The reduced movement was probably from the chord being wrapped around her neck. A vaginal birth would have been disastrous. No one really said much about it, except the previously preferred midwife, who said it was a good thing I listened to my intuition "or there might not have been a baby." Hmmm, not something you want to say to someone who was begging for a c-section and has just gone through major surgery and is feeling, well, tender. For the longest time afterwards I was so relieved that I had gone with my gut and reported the reduced movement, but I was also really really upset and wondering what would have happened if I had not sounded the alarm. It seemed so arbitrary and such a fluke that I had listened to my intuition and she was okay.

When I talked to the RE yesterday about plans for a future pregnancy he told me that my fibroids are large, that there could have been reduced blood flow to  the baby because fibroids act like a parasite and suck up the blood and nutrients. He also said that the placenta could have been compromised because of this and the gestational diabetes.  He said it was possible I could have not had much feeling of movement throughout the pregnancy because of the fibroids being in the way in the wall of my uterus. I feel like the OB did not take me seriously throughout the pregnancy and I am just glad that things worked out the way they did. I had no idea that if a baby's heart was beating she could be in trouble. Which is what happened to Isobel. She was tethered by her chord that was wrapped around her neck and she had nowhere to move or room to go. Thank God that she is ok. I am grateful, deeply grateful that she is ok.

Happy Birthday, little one. You are two and we are three. Love Mamas!

Next time: the first twenty four hours of being a mom: hospital room mommy-dom, magnesium and room service.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Day 30: Self portrait

I did it! I can't believe it! 30 posts in 30 days. Maybe next time I can actually do a writing blog challenge,  who knows! So I am so proud of myself. I had fun. Thanks to an Offering of Love and Insert Metaphor! I am working on a birthday post for Isobel which I hope to have done by the big day, Wednesday 17th, October. And I am celebrating by going to the RE to see if there is a way to have a sibling for Isobel. Wish me luck!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Day 29: Black and white

My mum and dad at a University party in the late fifties. They met at the University of Sheffield where they were both  the first generation of graduates  in their families. They were married in 1960. They look so happy and sweet. Missing them.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Day 28: Flowers

Well, more slim pickings on the photo front due to a hectic work day. This flower and arrangement is on our kitchen window sill. Yes, the flower is a fake. It was a present. I kind of like it in the vase although I would not have picked it out myself.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Day 27: From a distance

I have always worked in not for profits. Often there has been no view. Sometimes no window at all. ( We live in a garden apartment so we are already light deprived!)
In my new job I am in the corner of the corner office with windows on two sides. The view is not spectacular but the light is. We have another office in Uptown. This is the view from there facing north. Not bad, eh?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Day 26: Close-up

Our Resident Neighborhood Halloween Cat: Blackie

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day 25: Something orange

Being at work all day means slim pickings for photos. This was taken at a friend's house tonight. Isobel was checking out the cat bed under the table which was draped to make a den. At one point she said the bed was too big! Priceless.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Day 23: Sun

I only caught the tail end of the afternoon sun today. We were in our garden apartment cave most of the day with the third cold in 4 weeks for Isobel. Despite all that, it's almost 11 at night and she is giving us both imaginary baths in the bed and strewing us with "band aids".In other bedtime stories my boobs were declared by Isobel to be fresh, sweet and big. Now there's a compliment!
The picture is our upstairs neighbor's cat, Tabby, enjoying the last of the afternoon sun. This cat was rescued in China by his ex girlfriend and brought back on a very long plane ride to live out quite a nice life in Chicago.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Day 22: Hands

Clockwise from the top: Isobel, Mama and Mommy. Turns out it's hard to take a picture of three hands especially when the toddler takes her hand away every time the flash goes off!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Day 21: After Dark

Porch light. Dark night. Night night!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Day 20: Trees

Another photo from the west side of Lake Michigan, otherwise known as Evanston, Il. Very favorite haunt.
These are courtesy of Susan and Isobel and taken on a jaunt today along the lakeshore path.
Trees (and leaves with a little poetic license taken)...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Day 19: something yellow

Our long yellow black and white family photo wall.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Day 18: Lines

Taken by Susan at a play date with Isobel today: radiator and piano.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Day 17: Upside down

Kind of a last minute cop out. I'll be interested to see everyone else's interpretations.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Day 16: Long Exposure

This may be the shortest long-exposure photo of them all: a full moon over Lake Michigan.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Day 15: silhouette

This is the beach where the sand castle builder goes on weekends to sculpt his mini masterpieces.
He looked so well and Zen and relaxed that it took us three visits to realize he was our old ( previous ) super-anxious, crabby, thin and drawn, workaholic mechanic. If you look closely you can see the spire of the castle in the middle of the picture.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Day 13: today's weather

Cloudy with sunny periods, as they say.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Day 12: sunset

Okay, I admit it, this is cheating. I did not see the sun set tonight.
This is from May 2010 when we went away for the weekend to south west Michigan, after I had a big scary bleeding scare at 16 weeks pregnant.
And here we are, miraculously, we an almost two year old girl illuminating our lives:)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

Day 10: Water

Isobel playing with her water glass and spoon, table awash with water, at our local Ethiopian Restaurant. Water was poured on her head, knee, pants and on the floor, chair and table by the time she was finished! That's my water baby!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Day 9: autumn

You all might notice a theme here: end of summer juxtaposed with beginnings of autumn. This beach- comber is reluctant to say good bye to another summer by the beach.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Day 8: morning

A well earned latte from our machine that is saving us hundreds of Starbuck's dollars. Good Morning, milk mustache!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Day 7: food

Not very imaginative I know, but there wasn't much on the menu that was interesting today.
Isobel's kitchen looked very inviting.
I know. It's toddler - centric on this photo challenge.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Day 6: from a low angle

Beachcombers. Remembering stay at home motherhood on a day when my weariness and lingering cold gave me a rare day off work.
Isobel is filling my sandals with sand while I lay on the beach beside her.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Day five: from a high angle

View from the top of the back porch down to the patio. Isobel, water play table, black cat and sun shade.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Day four: something green!

There were many green opportunities today:  Isobel colored herself green all over with markers and called it blue! The bathwater which  I eventually persuaded her to enter turned a lovely shade of teal green and then Susan went to the gym and saw these pearl-like balance balls. The ivy on our building and fence is a beautiful shade of leaf green but that will have to wait for another green kind of day.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Day 3: clouds

Chicago: 5pm - 6pm. The dull before the storm.
And the baby turns 23 months!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Day 2: something that makes me happy

My two best gals at the beach. Favorite place again. This is Lighthouse Beach in Evanston, Illinois, home to Northwestern University and beautiful beaches and parks. We haven't been here for about two years. We usually go to other beaches that have shallower slopes into the water. Turns out this year this beach has a gentle slope too. This is the kind of beach where its easy to imagine you might be somewhere a little more remote. There are rocks and trees and little inlets at the north of end of the beach. First we met up for an end of summer picnic with some of the baby mamas in our group at a park right by the beach. We had yummy food, wine and snatches of interrupted conversation. Then Susan, Isobel, Aunty Ann ( supplier of books and princess skirts) and I tramped down to the beach and hung out for a couple of hours. The water was a little chilly and so was the air. But I swam anyway. In a borrowed t-shirt and sarong and my undies. I know, I make my life sound idyllic. The family time is the best thing ever. I wish I was off work tomorrow. Alas, no. See you all on day three.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

30 day photo challenge

Hi folks, this is blogging from the I phone on my couch. An offering of love and Insert Metaphor are at it again! Photo blogging challenge. I'm still in on day one. This is me chilling on the couch after a late afternoon at the beach with my best girls. Swimming was done by all. ( or zumming) as Isobel calls it. It was chilly but so relaxing. Now she is watching Telly Tubbies in Croatian on u tube while sitting on mama S's lap. Bedtime soon!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Playing catch up and the changing of the guard

It is an unusually quiet night in our household. We are both on our computers. Isobel is in her toddler bed asleep and not performing her almost usual late night antics. The dishes are done. The bills are paid. I have clean clothes for work tomorrow. They may not be glamorous or fashionable but they are within the dress code ( no t shirts or slogans or hoochie mama short shorts).  We don't know how we are going to make it through til next pay day but we will do our best. These days I consider it a feat  if we are all fed, clothed, I can make it to work on time, Susan and Isobel are content with their plans for the day and we are not drowning in dirty dishes, dirty laundry and toys. One of my co-workers today told me that if only I could lose a bit of weight I would curb my snoring ( I had confided to her that the old night choo choo train was keeping the other occupants of our bed up at night). I told her that was all very well, but I was just pleased to be able to keep on top of the bare essentials and I didn't know when I was going to be losing weight any time soon.

It has been almost 8 weeks since I started back to work, full-time, as the sole wage earner in our household. We had run out of all our borrowed moneys ( 401ks, money from my deceased parents, student loans etc.) The job came just in the nick of time. I almost did not apply for it as I had been trying so hard to get out of not for profit social services and into a hospital or healthcare setting. Now I am back in social services I realize that I am where I was supposed to be all along. I am an administrator / manager / clinical social worker type in a social service agency that serves homeless women and their families and also single men. It was as if my resume was written in preparation for this job. In a very strange circular motion I have come back to where I started 16 years ago when I first started working as a case manager for a homeless services agency and shelter in Chicago. The agency had many flaws and problems but they did hire me and sponsor me for a temporary work visa, which was the first in many steps to get to my green card. It was a baptism of fire and roaches. The fire is metaphorical, the roaches are not. And they are now joined by armies of bed bugs, immune to most pesticides and taking refuge in the mattresses of shelters, in the rooms of hoarders who are incapable and sometimes unwilling to take the complicated steps to rid themselves of these scourges. We all live in fear of bringing bed bugs home. I am one of at least three staff that regularly say that if I bring them home I will be getting a divorce.

But I digress. This agency where I started my social work career went under last year in a big pile of mismanagement, funding cuts and other amorphous shit. The agency where I now work took over the contract and with it 100 hundred clients living in tiny SROs and studios in the area of town that has the highest per capita homeless and social service agencies. And it is my job ( among other things) to whip this "program" - for want of a better word - into shape and to make sure that these clients are getting services and their lives are improving. There is one client left who was there when I was at the agency when I left in 1998. We had to go through the files and pick out  paperwork that can be transfered to new files. It was like going back in time to a place I never thought I would return. Seeing familiar paperwork, having flashback to the often traumatic times at that job. Walking the streets of Uptown and remembering clients that I had forgotten about for years. Finding out that a client who I thought was dead ( and whose death had lived on my conscience for a decade) was actually still alive. I had been the lackey who helped to evict her. And I had heard that she was murdered shortly afterwards. I was so relieved to hear that she is still there, still living in the shelter ( after how many year?!!!!) and her blood was not on my conscience. She should of course be housed. But her mental illness is so severe it puts barriers in the way of this. Because in this country and many others, if you have a mental illness whose most salient  symptom is that you don't think you are sick, you are doomed to never get any benefits because you don't know that you are sick. You don't believe you are. Everyone else tells you that you are ( if they dare) but it doesn't matter. So you are deprived of ever getting the benefits that are due to you. True story.

So here I am after all these years, trying to salvage these 100 neglected clients from the wreckage of a program and a system that has kept them stagnating in place for years, often with  no income, sometimes with nothing pleasant to say or do, often with sad stories and earnest eyes. And to be honest, it does kind of feel like coming home. Except things are worse now than they were then. There is so much brokenness and scarcity and overwhelming misery. There is hope and success stories and there are small victories. We cling to the small victories. And as well as the 100 clients I am also responsible for ( via the work of the case managers I supervise) for another 80 or so. Many of them seriously mentally ill. Some of them drug addicted. Many with children whose lives are just horrible. We watch as the mothers ruin their lives in front of our eyes. We can't do much.We do what we can. It is one thing seeing a single adult living a miserable and hopeless life. It is another seeing a mother inflict that on her children. It's not all about poverty. Much of it is, but much of it is about a sick society, pathology, inequality, families dependent on hand outs for generations, families who are perpetuating cycles of abuse, violence and neglect. We call DCFS quite a bit. But they are so overwhelmed that they can only respond to the worse cases.

So here I am, an infertile woman, surrounded by women who breed without seeming to give it much thought. I am  not exactly bitter, but I am horrified and I do find it hard to be hopeful for these women and their children.

This was supposed to be a post about our new lives. About going back to work and trying to make ends meet. But I got diverted into a ghetto on the north side of Chicago. There is no nice way to end this post. Except to say, I am glad I am there, glad I am  doing something to make a difference, glad to be finally making some money and glad that I can come home at the end of the day and hug and kiss my two girls tight and do my best to keep them safe and warm.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Twenty on the dot - ( warning - toddler stories below)

Well, I am back for a post on Isobel McGorgeous.  Today is her twenty month birthday. It seems as if every time someone asks me her age she has grown another month.The same thing happens when people ask how long I have been in the states. At last count it was 16 years.

The biggest milestone actually  happened around her nineteen month birthday, which we forgot, but we can be forgiven because of all the excitement around this milestone - finally she  walked. It seemed to  happen almost overnight. Susan was with her in the kitchen and she came to tell me to come watch Isobel who had just done four laps around our kitchen island. And she kept on lapping and lapping. We had tried to practice walking with her and have her hold our hands and she could identify the word "walk" and say it when she wanted to practice. That day or the next one, we went to the park by the beach and she  was headed to the sand, so  I suggested we walk, and she held my hand and did a great job of walking on the bumpy sand. Then she let go of my hand and kept going. She would teeter over and then pick herself up again over and over. We walked quite a distance and she did not want to stop. Eventually it was time to go home and I had to pick her up and carry her as she did not want to leave. Since then she just got more and more proficient at it and never really looked back.  All our anxiety over when and if she would walk is gone. It's so remarkable. We tried so hard to believe that patience would win and it did, but it was also hard to keep the faith with so many anxious naysayers around.

Now that it's summer we are out a lot more, and she really loves to go outside - one of her favorite things to do is to go in her little red and yellow car - which we pictured in my last update. She has started to call it her "hum" or  "hummie" and we have no clue why, but as far as we know she does not know what a hummer is and we have never mentioned it. She has had skinned knees from falling over on the sidewalk  and she does cry, but also can deal with it with equanimity especially as she learnt to say the word, "scrape". She really picks up words very quickly and it's so cute to hear her saying them. She says "scrape" and "grape" with a real punch on the p and it's so cute. She loves grapes and raisins, which she also calls grapes.

Isobel has definite opinions about things like shoes ( "shoo-eys") and clothes ("on"). Yesterday she asked over and over to put on her new hand me down bathing suit, complete with frilly skirt and pink flower corsage, and I of course complied. It worked out well because we then went out into the sprinkler to play and also to her "water park" which is her water table in the back yard. She has recently  discovered the joy of pouring and now likes to pour water all over her mamas - especially over our  pants or jeans when we are sitting in the garden watching her play. We are so fortunate that even though we have a grotty basement for an apartment ( complete with A/C thank you very much, so there are some bonuses) we have two enclosed outdoor spaces for Isobel to play in - front and back. And now that she is so mobile and so fast, it's really important to have enclosed spaces when you are near a road - which of course, this is Chicago, so we are. The kinds of things you never even think will happen when you are doing IVF is that one day you will have to teach your daughter about traffic and make sure she holds your hand near the street, crossing the street or the alley. SO many things I never thought of, especially as someone who did not have much experience with babies and toddlers before Isobel came along. And when I say Isobel  "came along", I use it  in the same way that I could never say I "fell pregnant".

One big change that only happened in the past two weeks is that I am now working full time outside the home. It has been a rude awakening but in many ways it is a superbly ideal situation and I count myself very very lucky. I want to write more in detail about it another time, but suffice to say, this has really solidified and nurtured relationship with Susan to the point that they are so much more connected and sometimes when I come home, even though I get squeals of delight and hugs, I sometimes feel a bit like the outsider. She definitely needs to check in with both of us and make sure she knows where we both are now, whereas previously she did not seek Susan out so much when she was with me. It's really gratifying and equalizing.  I often get to experience the joys of the tired, hungry crabby end of the day toddler too. It's not all bad though - waking up with her is full of fun and joy and sunshine. I wish wish wish that I could feel the joy she displays when I wake up. I don't, as I am really not a morning person, but seeing her happiness makes me as joyful as I have ever been in the morning. 

Isobel is so much more aware and conscious and tuned in. She notices details that completely pass me by, and loves to play with tiny things - like gravel and sand and rocks at the park - often  more so than the playground equipment. She is adept at playing kitchen, whisking her soup vigorously and serving it to Susan and me. Her eating away from the make believe is just not that thrilling, in fact, she is a very very picky eater. She prefers to eat "snack" - crackers, pieces of fruit etc, than sitting down for a meal in her high chair. The things she once loved, like raspberries, are eschewed as are her beloved peaches. She still favors broccoli ( al dente and bright green). But she is so not interested in typical baby foods like yoghurt, has yet to like cows milk and we can never predict how much if any she is going to eat. She does like eggs and will ask for them. And she loves "choc" - olate. That you can predict.

One of Isobel's favorite phrases- which she got from her beloved babysitter is "what's that" or "wazzat?"  which she repeats over and over when she is checking out new things. Isobel loves loves loves her babysitter - and whenever she sees a woman who has a similar build and complexion, she calls out her name. She has so many words it's hard to keep up with what is new and what is old, but she can be a total chatterbox -especially when she is going down for a nap or at bedtime - and mostly with Susan and not me. Tonight she was breast-feeding with me in bed and she kept popping up her head and saying "mommy, mommy??" very loudly to check that Susan was there - and Susan would call back from the next room, "baby", and say "night, night Isobel"  She has just learned the name of my sisters partner - "Sam", which is much easier to say than my sister's own name and she has assigned the name Sam to both of them. She says it very sweetly with a real emphasis on the m. It's kind of like how she calls us both mommie now ( just like one of her favorite characters Cailliou calls his mum). So today when we were at the beach with just my sister and she was calling her Sam, I decided to differentiate by calling them Uncle Sam and Aunt Sam. Cute!

So many more things to say but time to close. I leave you with the thought of Isobel learning about dress up and wearing a tulle skirt that her boyfriend Ellis let her wear while doing ballet twirls with him. Oh the make believe! Oh the fun!

And now for pictures!

hanging at the park
a walk in the park
tolerating my  hat!

me and my fan are just blowing in the wind!

uncle mike's fountain is a great water park!

"cray, cray"!

..."but I don't want to sit in my car seat!"

me and my swimsuit and two pairs of sunglasses

in the garden with my fab purple water shoes

"snack" at the beach - today 

wild fun at the park!

even more fun!

in my box!