Stella

Check out ol’ blueberry face.

I can’t imagine more innocence. She smiles when you say her name. She follows us around like a beloved golden retriever. She pulls at our pant legs just to flash that ridiculously sweet crooked smile. She rarely cries. She is our rock. From the moment she was born, she was easy, loving and sweet. 20150305_171256_resized_1

Unless of course you are Eli. Then you better run. She is more agile, stable and devious than you. Never take her for granted. She owns you. For now anyways.

20150301_164756_resized

20150301_164822_resized_1

20150301_164807_resized_2

Never underestimate the power of a super hero in training.

2015-03-08 18.54.06_resized_1

Stella and Eli

Stella and Eli are almost 8 months old.

They were born 2 months early, or at 32 weeks if you like official pregnancy-math. Most commonly referred to as preemies or as the neonatal community likes to call them….NICU Graduates. So, as parents of preemies/NICU Graduates, Erin and I were invited to attend the World’s Prematurity Day held at the Foothills hospital…..where Stella and Eli were born.

Sporting our I LOVE PREEMIES bracelets and gorging ourselves on mini cupcakes, it became obvious scanning the room that we were the lucky ones. A lot of the babies were born under 30 weeks and looked like wrinkly old people. Then there were the babies still on oxygen and a few with feeding tubes. More humbling yet was the vase of white flowers. The flowers represented all the babies lost. We seemed like frauds. Our babies are healthy. They are thriving. They came home.

I have been dragging my feet on telling Stella and Eli’s story. Their arrival into the world remained packaged up in the ol’ memory under “do not disturb.” It was the hardest time of my life, which seems silly to say given what we saw in the hospital on Prematurity Day. A large dose of humility quickly reinforces how blessed you are. Our story is a happy one.

Erin had a routine appointment 31 weeks into her pregnancy. Our doctor, a specialist and a resident came to the same conclusion…….Erin was not well. A nurse arrived with a wheelchair and escorted Erin, Mabel and I through an underground tunnel to the main hospital. This would’ve been super-spy-like-cool under any other circumstance, but not today. Erin would be admitted to triage. I had to scramble with my first of many speed dials to Gramma for help. In an hour, I dropped Mabel off at home, high fived Gramma at the door and was back at the hospital.

Erin was in having an ultrasound when I showed up. The doctors wanted to see if and how the babies were tolerating her condition. It was the first of many blows when the radiologist said that baby “B” (which in our case stood for Boy) wasn’t growing and hadn’t grown for a couple of weeks. That pill would have been large enough, but seeing Erin now……I couldn’t quite get that pill down. Her lips were blue and her body wouldn’t stop shaking.  Symptoms of preeclampsia (pregnancy- induced high blood pressure). The high blood pressure was also causing a secondary condition called Clonus which are spastic reflexes that put you at the risk for convulsions….in the form of a seizure. So…..she was shaking….a lot. And one of our babies wasn’t growing.

That was April 15.

The doctors reconvened when Erin was back in triage. 3 doctors turned into 5. Probably not a good sign when doctors start to multiply. Erin’s shaking got worse. They gave her some magnesium which among other benefits, it would increase her tolerance for a seizure, should she have one. I started to cry. A doctor hugged me apparently. A resident. I don’t remember it. I sat there numb. The doctors deliberated and not once did I hear the words, “it’ll be ok.” Even the huggy resident never said it.  The phrase I remember was “best chance.” It was like metal on my tongue.

The prognosis was to keep Erin calm, keep her blood pressure in a reasonable range, pump her full of magnesium (which made her look a little grey-green)…..and wait. They gave Erin steroids, not for her…..but for the babies. The goal was to keep the babies in for 48 hours. This would allow the steroids to have maximum effect. Apparently, steroids are often given to babies born preterm between 28-34 weeks. It decreases their risk for lung disease and increases their chances for everything else…..like surviving. So, when 5 doctors tell you steroids are your babies “best chance” you say…. hells yes….to steroids.

They moved Erin into a “quiet” room which is a bit of an oxymoron with all the beeping monitors and the revolving door of medical staff. There was a nurse stationed in the room 24-7 and a rolodex of researchers, residents, specialists, neonatal doctors and obstetricians. Apparently Erin’s “case” had hit the hospital newswire. Yet despite all her celebrity notoriety, Erin still didn’t believe she was that sick. This worked out well for me, because I needed a whole lot of consoling. Selfish I know, but Erin is crisis-material…….I am not.

April 16.

Erin looked in good shape. Well….better. Selfishly I was so glad for this. I needed someone who was crisis-oriented when the Neonatal doctor showed up to go over the procedure of a preterm labor. Most of it I didn’t understand….except the part when she said our babies had a “good chance.” And here comes ugly-cry-face…….and where was that huggy resident when you needed her? So, in 24 hours…..we’d pray. We’d pray for all the things she told us “could” happen….don’t happen.

The doctors finally let Erin eat something. It’s amazing what a hospital-grade grilled cheese sandwich does to one’s spirits. Erin looked so good (minus her enormously fat cankles)….but otherwise pretty tip top. We even laughed a little. She would make it to the 48 hours……no problem. We were good. We got this. I went home.

April 17.

5am. Gramma had to wake me up as I slept through my cell phone, our home phone and several texts by Erin. It was time.

The doctors talked about a honeymoon phase for Erin. The sweet spot. The time before the magnesium would start to lose effect and her blood platelets would be high enough for delivery. Apparently, we were in the sweet spot. 40ish hours would have to do.

It would be a C-section. Her body wouldn’t be able to handle delivery. Gramma and I gowned up and were shuffled into the viewing room while the doctors prepped Erin for surgery. We met the delivery doctor. Finally a doctor who said “it’ll be ok.” I loved her so much for saying that, I ignored the fact that she looked like she was 16. I was so happy…….now if I could just stop crying.

Each baby had its own Neonatal team, just like the Neonatal “good chance” doctor had told us there would be.Erin, the hospital celebrity, had her entourage of obstetrics….so I just tried to stay out of the way and and hunkered in beside Erin. I had really good intentions of saying a bunch of motivational crap to get her through this. Instead I just starred at her with my ugly-cry-face and prayed she could do this on her own. She was brilliant. She was in momma bear mode.

The babies came out in short order. Stella was first. She looked so much like Mabel, but was so much Stella…..and was absolutely perfect.

Stella birth

Eli was 4 minutes later. He was so scrawny…and the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

Eli birth

30 days.

It took us 30 days to get these peanuts home.

30 days of the most kindness and generosity we’ve ever experienced in our lives.

30 days until we were a family again.

30 days we’ll never forget.

Stella and Eli came home.

ek1

ek2ek3mjmabes
Your mommies couldn’t love you more if we tried. Welcome home.

StellaEli

StellaEli1

 

 

And then there were 3…..

Mabel is going to be a big sister….twice.

We are an “in vitro” cliche. Twins. Try for one baby by implanting 2. In fertility-speak, I am an old lady with old eggs, so two “might” get you one. Despite Erin’s fluffy young uterus, we were still using my stock which was at its peak circa 2000. So we tried 2. And the theory would have worked flawlessly, if the doctor hadn’t messed with our baby juju. With implantation device in hand, he said  “Now, we only want one of these to stick.” Erin and I exchanged THAT look. The look that people exchange when some idiot tells the goalie “I feel a shutout coming on”…….before the game is over. I’m not sure why people mess with goalie juju and why our doctor decided to mess with our baby juju. But he did. So we knew. We knew there would be two babies. Even before the magic beans were shot through the cannon……we knew.

My denial lasted exactly 6 weeks.

At 7 weeks, they were on the screen. Both of them. Fluttering around like happy little tadpoles, waving to their new mommies and high fiving each other that they had officially “made it.” Erin just smiled at them. I laughed nervously to escape the tears that would come. How on earth were we going to do this? My type-A personality busting at the seams filled with thoughts of rooms, vehicles, cribs, child care……..I couldn’t breathe. All while Erin just sat there and smiled. I felt like I was standing in the eye of the storm, alone and overwhelmed. Then I fell in love.

It was exactly 3 weeks later that these tadpoles wiggled their way into my heart. Mabel and I were doing our nightime bath routine which these days ended with some naked airpline rides (Mabel….not me) followed by “jam time” and some mountain climbing (with me playing the part of the mountain). Honestly, there is something about making a toddler squeal at the top of their lungs that fills your daily cup no matter how low it is. And then it struck me. These tadpoles were more Mabels, more of us, more to love, more, more, more. I never looked back. Even my type-A personality conceded that the rest of it just didn’t matter. And these babies were going to be awesome.

Erin was already there, waiting for me on the other side. In her mind, she had already bought the minivan with the incredibly cheesy family-of-5 sticker on the back window. Plus, these babies were a part of her. I remember the feeling when I knew Mabel was a part of me, burrowed into my body, wedged in “for keeps.” A mother knows. And I guess that’s why I didn’t “know” this time. Our situation is pretty unique in that we’ve both been able to experience carrying a child (or in Erin’s case, a baseball team). It closes a gap for us as co-parents. The ability to feel that instantaneous love, connection and need to protect these baby beans (mixed in with the wild hormones) is oddly exhilarating. I am in awe of Erin’s pregnancy. It’s nostalgic to me. It’s calming. These babies are in safe hands. I can’t wait to meet them.

photo (37)

COMING SOON……..stay tuned!

 

 

 

If I were to write a blog….

So I have “hacked” into Meghan’s blog site (note to oneself: do not leave your password sitting on the computer desk!) to celebrate her…and…marriage…

This week Meghan and I are celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary. I know, I know that’s a pretty miniscule amount of time when compared to those couples who have been together for a decade plus. But if I had thought 5 years ago that our life would look like it does today, you could accuse me of being a disbeliever.

In the 5 years we have been married, careers have changed, houses have been bought, families are splitting up, families are finding each other, dogs are always under our feet, kids have arrived – and are arriving. I’d be lying to you if I said I could have journeyed through all of this on my own without Meghan by my side.

IMG_1254

I truly believe I won the lottery when it comes to my marriage and having Meghan as my soul mate. She is my voice of reason. She is gentle. She is a provider. She is an extraordinary mother. I find her dry sense of humor incredibly funny and I’d be hard pressed to find someone who dislikes her.

Thankfully, we live in a country where Meghan and I are legally permitted to marry. For this I am eternally grateful. And I’m not diminishing those who choose to stay in monogamous relationships without ever marrying, as I am sure those relationships are just as meaningful as mine is, regardless of whether or not it is legally classified by a piece of paper.  The thing is, I LOVE being married.  For me, it does set the bar higher to commit to a promise that we have made to one another.

Yes there are moments where communication breaks down and it seems we are working against each other more than we are working with one another.  Sometimes it takes a while for the dust to settle, but if the investment is there, it eventually does. Ironically, I cherish these moments because they remind me that the both of us are human. It forces us to grow individually and that it takes work to get back on the same page. To dig deep and remind ourselves of why we fell in love in the first place.  It’s choosing to bend instead of break. It is sharing moments of raw vulnerability and moments of undeniable happiness. It is about finding a balance between “giving” and “taking” and realizing that the true balance exists when the “giving” out weighs the “taking”.  And then it is hearing Jason Mraz’s song “I won’t give up” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1-4u9W-bns) and regardless of whom the lyrics were intended for, believing that song was written specifically for you and your wife and no one else because that is exactly how you feel.

Mammas

All in all, it’s taking this platform of dedication and respect that you feel towards one another and then exemplifying those values in front of your children each and every day, understanding that some days you will slip up. It’s knowing whole-heartedly that as much as you love the other person, they love you back equally, similarities and differences included. It’s a shift in your mind when you realize that the “giving up” part isn’t even an option because that’s how much you value the promise that you made to each other 5 years ago.

And that to me is the beauty of marriage…because in the end, we ARE worth it!

Erin

 

The true meaning of “Shitshow”

It’s Sunday.

In my world this means NFL Football. Or it used to….pre-Mabel. Now, I watch fragments of games in between sippy cups, trips to the park and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Life is a little less about football, but that doesn’t mean I love it any less. I just love Mabel more. Well, until Superbowl Sunday that is.

“Someone just pooped.”

“Well, I guess you better change her then?!”

“Um…..No.” Erin smiles with that I know-you’re-being-funny-right-now, but-I’m-not-in-the-mood-type look.

Ok. Ok. It was worth a try. Erin changed a pretty epic diaper earlier in the day…..or so she says? Erin is a little (lot) more poop-sensitive than me. She’s always dry-heaving away like she’s never encountered anything so disgusting in her life. This shocks me every time. A) This is your child. B) Erin is a nurse. A pediatric nurse. Isn’t poop-tolerance a prerequisite to that line of work? Apparently not.

Erin is gloating on the couch as I tootle off to Mabel’s room for a clean diaper and some wipes. I position Mabes on the floor in perfect view of the football game. Booker (our pug), as always is by my side making sure I’m doing things according to good health practices. Olive (our chubby pug) is snoring away, oblivious to the mayhem that is about to take place.

Mabel’s diaper is alarming. There are at least 2 recognizable food items. And as a bonus, some has trailed up her back. This requires the one-handed technique of raising both legs high in the air, all while trying to preserve the carpet and do some clean up on isle 9 with the other. So, as I’m grabbing more and more wipes, Mabel decides to reach for a book…..of course, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. And now she’s trying to shove Eric Carle’s classic between her legs. “No, honey.” In the midst of preventing the book from a one way ticket to “poo-ville” and keeping our carpet clean, I notice something out of the corner of my eye. “Booker…….NOOOOOO!” Booker’s face is completely submersed in Mabel’s diaper like he’s trying to win a pie-eating contest. “NOOOOOOOO!” And gross. And now Mabel is in fact using her book as a baby wipe. I shove Booker’s face out of the “poo pie” and throw Mabel’s book across the room (not even sure at this point if it has poo on it). And as I’m reaching for more wipes……there it is. My wife, dry-heaving her face off. You know that heaving that comes from deep within your chest and makes you sound like a dude, yes…..that was the noise. Repeatedly. Oh, I should mention at this point that Erin is pregnant. Very pregnant. Twin pregnant. But that’s for another blog.

So, this is our house.

Erin alternating hysterical laughter with her dude-like dry-heaving. Mabel worming her way out of mommy’s grasp to go retrieve her poo-book from wherever I threw it. And Booker, suddenly, a poo-pie opportunist? Also, I think the football game is over? Then I realized something. This is where the term “shitshow” came from. Shitshow was in fact invented by parents.

These two appear unphased by the incident. So, that’s a positive.

me and my dog

Is that a Slow Clap?

So, for the past couple of weeks, Mabel has been clapping. It’s the cutest thing EVER! Well, maybe not quite as cute as this…….

cute pic

….but it’s hard to trump a random internet newbie/puppy combination?

So, as a runner-up on the cuteness meter, Mabel is clapping. She gets this big toothy grin (and by this, I mean 2 teeth), brings her arms in super tight  and claps those mini arms so fast, it’s kind of like watching CeeLo Green on the Voice?

Cute right? I mean Mabel, not CeeLo. Definitely NOT CeeLo.

clap

The clapping started out pretty routine. She’d feed herself with a spoon….and clap. She’d put away a toy……..and clap. She’d hand you something……..and clap. Standard stuff. And then her mommies, like circus monkeys, would always imitate the CeeLo clapping with a big “Yaaaaayyyy,” “good job,” or “whoop whoop” to let her know her clapping has now propelled her into the genius-category. Obviously? Well, baby Einstein has kicked it up a notch. I think Mabes has figured out the Slow Clap? If you don’t know what the slow clap is, google any Wiserhood Canadian Whiskey commercial and you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s a mock clap. And our 1 year old is doing it.

So, our morning routine is this…..Mabel cries, and depending on who drew the short straw that morning, one of us gets up to change the baby beast. Then, a diaper-fresh Mabel appears in bed for some morning num nums and ending with Bubble Guppies on Netflix so the mommies can have a few more minutes of sleepy pie. And before you go getting all “judgey,” on pacifying our child with cartoons, I challenge you to watch one full episode of the Bubble Guppies and tell me you didn’t learn something???

So, Erin draws the short straw. She gets up to give Mabel her morning hugs, tummy rubs and a clean diaper. Just as she’s fastening up the sides of the diaper, Mabes gives Erin the Wiserhood slow clap? Kind of like, “good job momma!” Ok, um thanks? “So, Mabes just clapped when I did up her diaper.” Ha. “Well, must mean you did a good job?” Erin passes Mabel off to me like a football. Morning num nums! Mabel comes at me like a blind shark. This makes me laugh EVERY morning. Like, Mabel couldn’t possibly find the food source unless she’s thrashing around with the smell of chum in the water? Now, I know what you’re thinking. I’m not the most well-endowed, so who can blame sharky for the search and rescue mission? I get it.

So, the mini finally finds what she’s looking for and I sleep sitting up. Everyone is content. Once Mabel is finished, she looks up at me, I see those 2 teeth…and I know what’s coming. The slow clap. Seriously? How many Wiserhood commercials has she watched? I did laugh out loud, though…….so of course this encouraged her. Then, all too soon, the moment was over and she was looking past me to my iPhone to watch Bubble Guppies.

I love this kid……..can I get an Amen?!

hands up

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lot can change in a year…..

Isn’t that the truth?

Believe me when I tell you, I will NEVER forget my maternity leave. Babies tend to change your life. I remember late in my pregnancy, my coworkers “tried” to give me tangible examples of this. Most of my coworkers are heading into grandbaby-territory, so of course, I arrogantly concluded that they were out of touch with today’s parent. Babies WILL change your life. Fact.

Mabel changed my life more than she’ll ever know (unless, she’s reading this)…..but by then, she’ll be a teenager and think that I suck and won’t care if she’s had any impact on my life. But she did. And I’m not talking about being sleep deprived or walking around with snot on my clothes, I mean deeper sense of purpose type stuff. Genetic type stuff. Biology.

I met my biological family this year. What???? I know, right? Now if you’re a Gladdie (ringette girls), this story is getting redundant, so feel free to stop reading! Babies give you courage you never thought you had. You are a mother first and someone’s child second. Therefore, if things go sideways on the whole finding-your-birth-parents-thing, you’ve still got the mother gig nailed down. Mabel is one-part me and one-part some dude from the States we’ve never met. He looked VERY nice on paper however? Erin was super gracious about giving me a biological connection to our child. Being adopted, I never had a genetic link. I really wanted to feel that……. and I can never repay Erin for giving me that.

Erin’s awesomeness doesn’t stop there. I credit her for that FINAL push to contact my biological family. I had all the information. I had had this information for years. And now I have a child who is at least “part” me. Maybe Mabel deserves for me to at least try? So, I did.

Here is Mabel’s Grandma D….

GrandmaD

And great Grandpa Jack…….

GGrandpaJ

It was all going so well…….that is, until Grandma dropped Mabel in the lake (she’s going to kill me for this)….

GrandmaD2Ok, AS IF I’m serious!

It was magic. It was easy. It was unexpected.

It was worthy of a mere 9 hour documentary-style video produced by Erin. Ok, maybe not quite 9 hours, but those of you who have seen it, probably just laughed, right? The video was THOROUGH, and good, and amazing, and accurate, and sincere. Again, Erin trumps me on the awesomeness-meter. I have good traits, I’m sure of it……anyways, back to ME!

Growing up adopted is a very subjective thing. I don’t think it’s fair to paint families with the same brush. Especially mine. Without, “mushing up” my blog, I think my family situation is fairly unique? Perhaps even a little sad. And, certainly Mabel upped the ante in the quest for family connectedness. We all want to belong, to have people that depend on us and that we depend on. I desperately want and crave for Mabel to have that in her life. It’s been my inspiration this past year………and sometimes that leap of faith is far more amazing than you ever imagined.

It certainly was for me.

Mabel has a cousin. That is the most amazing thing to say out loud! Mabel does have cousins on Erin’s side. She also has grandparents, aunts, uncles and a lot of extended family that have opened their hearts and homes to us on several occasions. I am eternally grateful for that. She has always had 1/2 of the love circle…….but now (for me anyways), that love circle is complete.

2014……….I dare you to top that!

 

 

 

 

Arms out.

I gingerly push open the door and slip inside my favorite room in the house. HER room. She has been asleep for 3 hours, which means she has flip-flopped herself into roughly 20 different sleep positions. I tiptoe over to the crib, careful to distribute my weight evenly. The floorboards will creak. Despite the humidifier humming on high, and my mission-impossible-like maneuvering, the floorboards will creak. I love the creaking. There is something nostalgic about it. I peer over the end of the crib. There she is, blanket balled up around her midsection, arms high above her head, soother suctioned in deep. Her arms will always be out. I love her for this. It reminds me of her entry into this world.

“They want to do a C-section” I said through chattering teeth, tears streaming down my face. Erin and her mom had just gone for a walk when the team of doctors whirled in with the latest update. After 3 hours of pushing, Mabel had descended 1 cm. Her arm was above her head and pulling her out with forceps would be risky. Too risky. Despite my tears, I didn’t feel defeated or disappointed or any of those things that I imagine are normal after laboring an entire weekend, only to have a C-section? I felt the opposite. I felt elated. I felt excited. I was about to meet the product of 3 years of gut wrenching heartache, tears, medications, money, appointments and stress. I loved her. We both loved her. Erin and I would sit in her room after a hard day, turn on theTwilight Turtle Nightlight and breathe in the quiet. And now, she was on her way. “Can you feel that?” Nope, nothing. We are good to go. Erin held my hand. “Just focus on me.” Roger that. Focus on Erin. While focusing on Erin, I decide to scan the operating room. I notice her mom to my left in a viewing room. She has her hands cupped over her mouth in horror. And then I realize her horror. It’s me. In the reflection of the window, I can see the entire surgery. MY surgery. Oh god! Then again, maybe I want to see this? Do I want to see it? As if on cue, the team of doctors move into red rover formation, obstructing my view. “Don’t look over there!” Ah, right. The “focus” nazi bringing me home. But now I can’t see what they’re laughing at? What the f? Are the doctors laughing? Erin and I exchange a look before she popped up to see what could possibly be funny in this magical moment; the sweetest moment of our lives; the moment of 3 years of gut wrenching heartache, tears, medications, money, appointments and stress? “She just did a fist pump!” Huh? “We made the incision and she did a fist pump right through it!” And she had. Well, of course she had? This was our baby. Before the time of birth was announced, before Mabel was an “official” person, we were in love. And what a cheeky monkey….”In HERE, mommies!!” And, thanks to some in utero gymnastics, she was in quite the bind. The umbilical cord had wrapped itself around her tiny, little frame not once, but twice (I didn’t even know this could happen)??? She had no intentions of coming out au naturel. Clever little peanut, probably threw her arm up to protest my pushing? So, just to be safe, I’ll keep my arms out mommies…..always!

IMG_0619I pull the balled up blanket out from underneath her and redistribute it, the same as I had 3 hours earlier. I tuck in all the corners, even the arms knowing she’ll wiggle free in short order. I linger to watch her sleep. She looks so small. Despite weighing triple her birth weight, she still looks so small. I know Erin will come in. 5….4….3…and….there she is. Neither one of us can resist this moment. The best part of everyday. The teary-eyed-in-love-with-this-tiny-puddle-of-flesh, part of the day. I put my hand on her cheek and rub her temple with my thumb. This is her favorite kind of rub, even as she sleeps. She’ll free her arms and bear hug my hand tight to her face. And then, the “love pinches” start. These pinches began when she was nursing. I’m sure it was a comfort thing? And now, it’s our comfort thing. It’s like the floorboards…….there is something so warm and familiar about it? Erin and I exchange “that” look. That moon-and-back-lay-down-and-die-for-this-kid look. She is our world. And, as if we needed any more reason to love her……there she is, arms out, pinching away, breaking our hearts with every suck of her soother.

Goodnight peanut butter.