Thursday, March 16, 2017

Another Ending

When forty minutes' worth of work yielded next to nothing, I went through the motions as always. Disassembling the parts, washing each by hand, setting them on the rack to dry. I sat back down at my desk, ostensibly to work, and instead spent a long moment staring at nothing.

Saying goodbye.

I've done this before, but I'll never do it again.

Pumping milk isn't something anyone enjoys doing, but it represents my body's ability to take care of my baby. It has been a rather large part of my identity, on and off these past seven years. It was a daily routine that forced me to look away from the computer monitor and focus on the task I wish I were doing with the baby I wish I were with. And saying goodbye to this is saying goodbye to having a baby. Forever.

And therein lies the problem. The finality of never again holding a baby my baby is heartbreaking. I adore all three children and love how they're growing, but as long as I live I will never love anything as much as I have loved my babies. The tiny size, the heavenly smell, holding them while they sleep, those first expressions, the grip of their little hands, the complete dependence.



Here's a peek at what we've been up to lately.

Making Faces

Truman Taking Pictures in the Car

Fletcher's Music Concert


Trying to Walk (she has managed a few steps before falling)

3D Movies

Monday, January 16, 2017

In the year 2017

Today is January 16, 2017.

Someday my children may wonder what life was like when they were little. 

At six years old, Fletcher is on the threshold of discovering just how hard it is to grow up. The emotions are up and down and hard to control, a river with a smooth surface and a deadly undertow. "What do you want to do with me?" can be heard from him at least once per day, and I'm sorry to say our reaction is often a groan because we have two other children and a million things to do and HERE'S A VIDEO GAME. (Sorry.) We play a lot of card games (Uno, King's Corners, War, Go Fish, Old Maid) and board games (Trouble, Candy Land). We make up dumb games that both boys enjoy like bowling to knock over baby toys, balloon battles, and making and throwing paper airplanes. He can read anything now if he takes the time to sound it out, so his level of success in school is more about improving his willpower than his intelligence at this point. He rarely ever wants to play by himself, unless it's video games.

At three years old, Truman loves putting puzzles together and watching movies. He has the highest of highs and lowest of lows, not just because of his age, but because that is how he has always been. He can throw tantrums that would win gold Exploding Eardrums Awards, and yet he can be the sweetest most charming little lovebug you ever snuggled. He often speaks in the third person ("No, Truman do it!") and will repeat the worst things you say ("Damn it!"). I'm sorry to say he's showing keen interest in video games as well, but he's still very active and happiest when he's being chased around the house. Unlike Fletcher, he enjoys playing alone as much as he enjoys playing with you. Recently, he began showing interest in his sister, coming up with little games that make both of them laugh. In the car today, Clare realized that if she turned her head sharply, she could see me in the driver's seat, and every time she did it, Truman would tickle the back of her neck and they'd both dissolve into giggles.

At one year old, Clare is eager to get more mobile and get into more trouble. She smiles and laughs often, including when she knows she's doing something we don't want her to do, like going after nightlights. She loves her family. She's still breastfeeding because she likes it better than the bottle and I'm in no hurry to end that chapter of my life. She crawls, climbs up to standing, and occasionally walks along holding the couch (or her favorite—Truman's toddler bed) for support. I can't lie; babies are my favorite age so far. Everything about her (except for how she fights diaper changes) melts my heart into a puddle. I can't get enough of holding her and nuzzling her and making her smile. She already loves having her picture taken. Her favorite foods include animal crackers, graham crackers, applesauce, corn chex, and goldfish.

Andy and I both work full time and struggle to be enough for our children and ourselves. Days are so short and fast, we have trouble keeping up with the dull, repetitive tasks of our lifestyle (dinner, dishes, homework, baths/showers, brush teeth, bedtime, make lunches, moan about life, REPEAT AD NAUSEAM). We love it. We wouldn't change it. I'm going to miss it someday. It's still hard. No earth-shattering revelations here.

Outside the safety of our home, the year 2017 is shaping up to be strange and tense for anyone paying attention. And I think that's a very important task, paying attention. The country gets a new president this week, and each day things are changing in subtle ways, which history has taught us is how authoritarianism begins. "What is the precise moment, in the life of a country, when tyranny takes hold? It rarely happens in an instant; it arrives like twilight, and, at first, the eyes adjust." Trump says the most effective military alliance in history is obsolete, and he will not say a word against one of the world's most dangerous terrorists, Putin. With his corrupt appointees and methods of psychological manipulation, Trump will corrode the system of checks and balances. He is already destroying the freedom of the press and will continue to use his methods of psychological manipulation to get away with massive ethics violations, conflicts of interest, market manipulation, and worse.

Even if he is not being blackmailed by Russia, his actions are not based on facts but on his opinions, which change at the drop of a hat because they're based on his fragile ego, as well as keeping and compounding his privilege. He is constantly the victim.

That is the ugliest part of all of us, times a thousand. And I think that is what keeps racism going; not so much "I'm a horrible person who wants to enslave you based on your skin color," but "I don't realize I'm a horrible person for wanting to keep the privileges I didn't earn because I have lied to myself inside this bubble to the point of believing that we're all equal now and you just haven't earned it."

This lack of empathy, this habit of talking instead of listening, this unwillingness to self-examine, this unwillingness to humbly admit there's a lot that white people don't know and refuse to see is a problem. I hope that I am strong enough to raise my children to be humble, curious people who will never stop watching, listening, asking, examining the self, and trying to be better people. I hope I will make them proud during both dangerous days for our country and the safe everyday moments of our mundane, privileged life.

So I will shut up now and listen. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
"I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. The Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.' Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will." Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963

Friday, January 6, 2017

Sinclare's Story

One full year. How much can change in one year? It feels like everything.

On January 6, 2016, 19 days ahead of my baby's due date, I awoke at 12:45 a.m. with contractions and dampness. I went downstairs to let Andy sleep, and I paced the living room a bit, drinking water, trying to get it to stop. Instead it got worse.

I woke Andy up, and he dawdled for a while, until it hit him that it was the middle of the night and I was in labor and oh yeah my labors are fast. We called my dad to meet us at the hospital before waking up Fletcher and Truman and forcing them into the old Ford Escape.

The boys were confused and a bit upset. I was gripping the passenger door and doing my best to turn my screams into something that wouldn't frighten them. I probably didn't succeed.

By the time we hit the freeway, I wasn't sure I would make it to the hospital before our baby girl made her appearance. When I spotted a police car on the side of the freeway with its lights flashing, I considered telling Andy to stop and flag him over. But I was too busy panting and screaming, so on we went, racing against time and icy roads and incomprehensible pain.

It should be noted that Andy had his own obstacles to overcome that night. A mere five days had passed since his vasectomy, and here he was hauling a five-year-old around, and a two-year-old, and our bags. Once the boys were passed off to my dad, and Andy finally joined me in the hospital room, his body was ready to give out.

When I got to the hospital room, I was surprised and disappointed that she didn't immediately fall out of me. While Andy was busy with the car and the boys and the bags, I went through hell several times over, the kind of hell that you're helpless to do anything about -- no position or breathing or even drugs would offer even an inch of relief. As always, it was too late for me for drugs.

But I wasn't fully dilated, so on and on it went.

Andy joined me.

Then we got ready, as ready as we could manage. Impossibly, the pain got worse, and it was time to push.

Push and push and push. It was too much pain. I'll never forget my exact words when I looked up at Andy's strained face.

"I don't think I can do this."

Then the nurses told me I have to push again.

One. Big. Mighty. Push.

...and she was here.

That split second was completely startling. Before I even knew what had happened, the nurse dropped this bloody thing on my torso and my fingers tentatively touched my precious baby girl for the first time.

"I guess I can do this," I said to Andy. Then I laughed one pained, wondrous laugh.

At 3:19 a.m., after just 2.5 hours of conscious labor, Sinclare Alyssa Jane Schultz was born.

It was only a second after the highest high that my emotions crashed low. A recurring thought that I struggled with throughout the pregnancy would hit me the hardest now that it was over.

I'm never going to do this again. 

That was the last time I would ever feel that stunning, overwhelming high. The last time I would hold my just-born baby. I wasn't ready to not be pregnant anymore, to not be pregnant ever again.

But I wasn't going to waste the little time I had. Almost immediately after my emotional crash, I brought myself back to the wonder of the present, and I have cherished every second of my precious girl's life since.

I will never not be sad that it's over. Nothing in my life has been as bittersweet as this.

I will never not be grateful for the blessings -- the miracles -- I have in my babies.

She was a tiny thing, at least compared to my boys, at 6 lbs 15 oz, 19 1/4 inches. In the year since, she has made up for lost time and is now in the 97th percentile compared to other babies. Andy calls her his "full-figured baby." To daddy, she's Clara. And no one makes her smile as big and bright as her daddy.

She smiles a lot, even when she's exhausted or sick, which is often. She has fought RSV, bronchiolitis, endless cold viruses, eczema, an adenoidectomy, egg and other unidentified food allergies, and croup. The illnesses keep coming, and we keep fighting, and she keeps smiling.

One of the scariest moments of my life was when she was one week old. I took her to the doctor because she seemed to have a cold and was having difficulty breathing. The doctor told me to take her to children's hospital. Now. Don't even go home. Go straight to the hospital. That was the longest drive of my entire life, as I begged whoever was listening to help me keep my baby girl with me. It turned into a miserable five-day stay at the hospital, but she survived the bronchiolitis from RSV, and I will keep with me a million memories of tiny moments spent in that hospital room with her, from the daytime visits with my dad to the nighttime visits with my boys to all the silent moments in between that I spent staring at her face just watching her breathe.

It's a year later, and I could still spend a day staring at her and be happy. My baby Clare.

(Hospital announcement still online: