Smile: My Miscarriage Story (Repost)

As October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, I am reposting my miscarriage story, which was originally posted on March 26, 2018.

My son was born 4 years ago, before “rainbow baby” was a commonly used term. I certainly hadn’t heard of it until he was 1.

Even though he is a rainbow baby, I have a hard time thinking of him in that way. He isn’t my rainbow. He is something else altogether.

I remember our excitement when we finally determined it was time to start trying for our first baby.  I was lucky; it happened on the first try. But the test line was so faint…but the box said a line was a line. I was pregnant.

Almost immediately I started feeling the effects. Going to the bathroom twice as much, nausea, dizziness. Then, when I was 5.5 weeks along, it happened. I saw some spotting and called my mom right away. She calmed me down and reminded me that some spotting can happen. It never happened to her, but she knew someone who’d had periods for most of her pregnancy.

I went to bed thinking I would be fine in the morning. But Doubt had crept in. For good reason. In the morning, I was bleeding. It was heavy and dark and I had to wake my husband to take me to the ER.

They called it a chemical pregnancy, which was devastating to hear.

For a week after, my husband and I read and researched. Through it all, I didn’t smile. My eyes were hard. My heart felt frozen. I didn’t care about anything.

The doctor said to wait 3 months. I was devastated. I had wanted a summer baby. But my husband is a scientist and found out we didn’t have to wait. As a matter of fact, after miscarrying, my body was primed.

So we tried again. And waited. Thanksgiving came and we celebrated with his mom. I should have known then, just 3 weeks after miscarrying, that something was different. I was constantly starving. I hate green beans, but couldn’t get enough of them. I was afraid to believe what I felt was real.

I had an exact 28 day cycle. My husband kept pressing me to take a test. I was queasy and getting headaches. But Doubt still sat on my shoulder. Finally, about a month after the miscarriage and 2 days past the 28th day counting from it, I gave in.

The test line was stark. Dark and demanding, it came up within 30 seconds. We were thrilled, but I was cautious.

The winter holidays came up. We spent it with my parents in Southern California, enjoying being away from snowy Philadelphia. My blood test confirmed my HcG levels were exactly where they should be.

But Doubt whispered in my ear. Phantom pregnancies were real. I might have all the signs and symptoms, but there might not be a baby.

At 8 weeks we had our first ultrasound. I went in with Doubt snickering in my ear. I studied the tech’s face, heart pounding. Her smile and confirmation of a beating heart shooed Doubt away. Momentarily.

I knew the miscarriage stats by heart, knew it could still happen. Doubt wasn’t done with me. It danced and twirled, taunting me. I was terrified.

20 weeks came. Heartbeat was strong, anatomy was normal, and it was clearly a boy, no doubt about that!

Finally, it was time to tell my classmates (I was in graduate school at the time). It was getting harder to hide my still tiny bump. Doubt still whispered in my ear, but I had to say something. I just kept it low key, fearful that a celebration would be my undoing.

The end of the semester came, and with it began endless rounds of studying for our comprehensive exams. It was exhausting, but it silenced Doubt for at least a little while.

Other than some concerns about his small size, the whole pregnancy was uneventful and easy, even. I continually pushed Doubt aside, ate well, exercised when I could, rested, but put off getting his bed (thanks, Doubt).

At 34 weeks, my mother-in-law finally convinced me it was time to get his bassinet. Good thing we did and I didn’t let Doubt step in again.

Saturday night I had painless contractions every 2 hours, but figured they were Braxton-Hicks. By Sunday night I was crying with pain. Could this be preterm labor? Please, no. We went to the hospital, found out it was indeed early labor, but I was far enough along that they wouldn’t stop labor. I was terrified, in pain, and couldn’t stop worrying about my little boy.

He finally came Tuesday afternoon at 34 weeks and 6 days. I held him for a minute before he was whisked away to spend the next 6 hours in the NICU.

Doubt taunted me again. Was he okay? Had his lungs had enough time to develop? Why were the nurses not telling me other than that he was still being observed?

It was night before he was given back to me, pronounced to be healthy with good lungs. I got to hold him and really look at him, study his tiny face.

That’s when it happened. That’s when I knew.

For the first time since the miscarriage, I truly smiled. This little boy was my smile. A rainbow after the storm? Sure.

But I call him my smile. He brought it back to me. Still brings joy to my heart. Even now, 4 years later, everything he is makes me smile.

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Breastfeeding My 16 Month Old is Like Nursing a Baby Cow

Well, not exactly, but close enough!

Recently, my daughter and I went to the county fair with my son and his class. She had a blast looking at all the animals and calling them all kitty. He…not so much.

My son may be interested in science, but animals and insects and plants have no appeal to him. He’s more of a space and gravity and robotics guy.

But he did manage to be more interested in the milking demonstration. Probably because he didn’t have to get anywhere close to the cow. Guess I’m not looking at a future vet. For now, at least.

I have to admit, as a nursing mom, I was interested, too.

I grew up in the suburbs, a half hour drive from L.A., without traffic. Cows were a half hour drive in the opposite direction and, even though we often visited my aunt and uncle there, we hardly ever actually saw a cow. I grew up looking at pictures of cows and seeing them in the various types of media, but don’t recall ever getting up close and personal with one. Needless to say, I pretty much only know we get milk and beef from cows.

Turns out a milk cow isn’t so different from a pumping mom. As a non-pumping mom, I was tickled, but not really interested.

Then the guy started talking about how the baby cows get mom’s milk to let down.

My interest was piqued. I know all about let down. I know all about nursing babies and small toddlers (my 16 month old is still going strong with the nursing).

I wasn’t so tickled to learn baby cows head butt mom to get the milk to let down.

My son was content to simply suck until the milk came all the way up to when he was weaned at 19 months. My daughter is a completely different story. If it doesn’t come right away, she starts crying. Even at almost 17 months.

Instead, she hits me. Bites me. Twists my nipples. Hits me some more. All while sucking vigorously on one nipple.

Ow.

Seriously, child, do you think that’s going to work? It never does, probably because my body is focused on recovering from the pain and not getting the milk to let down. But that doesn’t stop her. And she doesn’t like to listen to reason.

During the demonstration I was a little horrified to learn my daughter is basically a baby cow. But, unlike mom cow, I do not experience let down when she beats me up. Too bad she hasn’t figured that out.

Breastfeeding, Perfected (a repost)

If you’ve been following along for the past week, you know my family has been hit hard by death. Because of this, I’ve been absent from blogging and the Internet, so have just recently realized it World Breastfeeding Week. As a breastfeeding mom, I decided to repost my breastfeeding journey, with an updated version. The original can be found here.

Long before I had children I promised my mom one thing. I promised her I would breastfeed. So, when my son came, formula wasn’t even something my husband and I discussed. I was actually devastated when he did have to be given formula for the first six days. He was born 5 weeks early, there were concerns about his weight, and it took 3 days for my milk to come in.

These were things no one told me about.

I had assumed the milk would come right away. I assumed it would be enough. I assumed he wouldn’t ever need formula.

I was unprepared for the latching difficulties he had. For three days, he refused. He screamed every time I tried to put him on my breast. One patient nurse helped us over and over, to no avail for three days.

I was unprepared for the massive number of times I needed to pump in order to get the milk going. There wasn’t even any colostrum, that super nutritious early milk. I hadn’t considered pumping. At all. I didn’t have a pump until the day I left the hospital sans baby, who had to stay behind for treatment for jaundice.

I was unprepared for the tears I shed, wondering what was wrong with me. Wondering if I would be able to breastfeed. In my mind, there was no other option. I did not want to give my son formula.

Then it happened. I started pumping milk. My son finally learned to latch. It was magical. I loved holding him, feeding him, watching his eyes flutter closed with pleasure as he ate to his heart’s content.

Then came the swollen, sore, painful armpits three weeks later. The full breasts. The milk leaking. The fact that I might not be eating enough and that’s why he’s cluster feeding and nothing is coming out and he’s wailing and now my husband is bringing formula back up. Tears, more tears, inadequacies.

Then we reached a happy point. I ate. He ate. He grew. He was a champion weight gainer for the first year.

But one day he refused to eat from one side. For weeks. For weeks he would only eat from the left side. The right became heavy and painful. I pumped. I expressed. I held a cup while he feed to the right side and just watched the excess milk drip. Over and over. Week after week. He only ate from the right side at night, when he was too sleepy to realize which side he was eating from. I couldn’t even save the excess milk because he wouldn’t take a bottle.

But the happy point returned. He became happy to eat from both sides again. I was happy to breastfeed him for 19 months. It was sad for both of us when it was time to wean him so I could start going to work. But he refused a bottle and was gulping down cow’s milk like crazy, so it was time.

The last time I breastfed him is something I savor. That sweet expression, the half closed eyes, the little hand resting on my breast, the love I poured out to him as the milk flowed.

Then my daughter came, 22 months after my son stopped breastfeeding. I was looking forward to breastfeeding again. I thought I knew what to expect, thought I was prepared.

She was almost term when she was born. She latched right away and sucked down that first milk. I thought it was wonderful. No latching issues and the milk came in right away. I was going to be enough right away.

Nope.

She was still born a little early. There were concerns about her glucose level. Not only did she have to have her tiny foot pricked for blood throughout her first day, but we also had to give her formula.

I was a little more willing to give her formula than I was with my son. I knew it wouldn’t prevent her from breastfeeding, knew she already liked breast milk. This time around, I gave her a couple of bottles of formula (I didn’t with my son). I wanted more than anything to make sure she was okay. She was also at moderate risk for jaundice and formula was supposed to help. So, I gave her the breast and the bottle.

It felt so much easier the second time around. No waiting for the milk to come in. No endless rounds of pumping. No latching problems. She was happy to lie in my arms and eat and eat and eat.

She ate so much it made my uterus contract painfully. My womb was already shrinking rapidly before we even left the hospital. I hadn’t experienced such painful clenching with my son. Whenever she ate, I moaned in pain. Sometimes I dreaded feeding her because it was so painful.

Then it stopped just before we went home. Relief! We ended up taking some formula home as well to help prevent her from getting to that jaundice level. But she loved the breast, and I was happy.

But then she loved it too much. How is that possible? It wasn’t that she was cluster feeding. It wasn’t that she was even hungry. Most of the time she sucked, the milk came, she pulled off and screamed, and got a face full of milk.

My daughter wanted to suck. She wanted to suck and NOT eat. We were told to not give a pacifier for the first month, but, 3 weeks in, we couldn’t stand it anymore. She wanted to suck without eating. The milk came every time she sucked. We were miserable day and night.

We gave her the pacifier. She was happy. She continued to breastfeed just fine. This time, this little baby took a bottle. For a couple months. See, I had to take her brother to speech therapy once a week, so she stayed home with her grandma for about an hour and a half. She took the bottle of breast milk just fine, but after 3 or so months she just didn’t want it anymore. She was another strictly wanting breast baby. I didn’t complain.

She did the same thing her brother did. Something about the left side was very tempting. A few months had passed. My breasts were no longer achingly full from her continuous rounds of wanting to suck, but not eat. I no longer had to pump the extra milk. We were happy. But she stopped wanting to switch sides.

Oh no. I remembered this. Remembered the painful feeling in my right breast, remembered watching the milk drip into a cup. Was I doomed to have to do this all over again?

No.

It was weird. My body just adjusted right away. She wanted the left, so the left filled with milk faster than the right. Oh, the right filled, but not to a painful level. Sometimes she even wanted that side, but, for some reason, there wasn’t any milk for her. She cried in frustration, but then I gave her the left and there was milk, so she was happy.

Today, she still does that. She still prefers the left. She has preferred the left for much of her life now. My body has adjusted quite well. The right fills, but not by much. By the time she is ready for the right, it is just full enough for one feeding.

My daughter is exactly 15 months today (the crazy thing is she was exactly 9 months when this originally posted!). We still breastfeed, and will continue to do so until it no longer works for us. Call it extended breastfeeding if you want, or whatever term makes you happy, but it’s just breastfeeding to us. It was a long journey, but I finally perfected it.

That perfect breastfeeding moment. It’s something I savor.

The milk isn’t always perfect. Sometimes there’s too much or too little. Sometimes she doesn’t really want to eat, but sucks and fills the breast anyways. Now she also likes to play with the nipple and, when her nails need a trimming, ouch. And sometimes she just likes to suck and roll around as an interesting way of saying, “I want my cup of (cow’s) milk now!”

But when she latches and eats, she has her little hand on my breast. Her eyes are often wide open and staring at me. She’s content to lie in my arms and eat as long as there is milk or until her tummy is full of until she’s comforted and doesn’t need me anymore for the moment.

Even when her brother is jumping around and playing, it’s a moment where it’s just us, so like many moments I had with my son. Not every breastfeeding instance is perfect, but, at the same time, it is. Because I can hold her and feed her and enjoy her. I know I am enough, I can do this, both my babies could do this, and I am giving them the best thing I could.

It’s perfect.

Not Having a Birth Plan Made Me Less Anxious

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When I was pregnant with my first baby, I knew what a birth plan was. I knew what went into one and that many women have them. In theory.

When I was pregnant with my first, I was a busy graduate student attending classes, trying to get through my practicum placement that required me to do psychological testing with college students and write up reports, study for my comprehensive exams, and get through a daily pile of class readings. To say I didn’t have much time to enjoy pregnancy is an understatement. There were times when I almost forgot! Until, you know, ligament pains, nausea, headaches, and the Braxton Hicks hit.

I knew I needed a birth plan. In theory. The truth is, I forgot. It didn’t actually occur to me to write one until I was 30-something weeks along and my doctor asked if I had a plan. I told her I wanted an epidural. Pain and I are not even acquaintances. I would have to think about the rest.

I never did.

A few weeks later, I was in the hospital in pre-term labor. Scared? Yes. Unprepared? Absolutely. In denial? Most definitely.

Birth plan? Whoops. Well, I was supposed to have about 5 more weeks!

In the end, not having a birth plan made me less anxious. I barely had a hospital bag packed, so definitely wouldn’t have had any lovely items that might have been listed on my plan. I had just taken the hospital tour a few weeks before and only really remembered where to go and not what equipment and other birthing paraphernalia they offered. I had no concrete idea of how I wanted to give birth. I had recently learned I had passed my exams and was dreaming about my career in psychology instead of having a baby.

Not having a plan meant I didn’t have to worry about making sure I had everything I wanted with me. I’m the kind of person who normally needs to know every step of what I’m about to do, so not having a plan meant I wasn’t taking up brain space with the details of a plan.

In the end, I was exhausted from spending about 2.5 days in labor and getting almost no sleep before my son finally arrived that, when they asked for my birth plan, all I said was, “Get the baby out.”

I didn’t care how they did it or what they had to do. I was exhausted, already sleep deprived, and in the worst pain of my life before I got the epidural and after it stopped working. I just wanted to be done, to have the baby out. If I had a plan, I probably would have been freaking out and driving everyone up the wall (I can be a little particular).

Not having a birth plan made me less anxious. I literally had nothing but getting the baby out to think about. I figured birth is birth. It’ll be whatever it needs to be to ensure a safe delivery of a healthy child. And when that child is born early, that really takes up more mental space. I spent more time worrying about his lung development than how to get him out.

When it came time to having a second baby, I took the same route: whatever it took to ensure the safe delivery of a healthy child. As I entered the last month, odds were good I was having a second late pre-term baby. My daughter did not disappoint.

This time around, I had less on my plate, but had a toddler who had never been separated from mom and dad to think about. He is my rainbow baby, my absolute joy. I spent more time worrying about him than the baby.

I was glad I took the same route, glad I didn’t put any thought into a birth plan. I was able to enjoy those last months of having an only child, got to relax into my pregnancy and really pay attention to what it feels like, and really enjoy naptime.

For many women, having a birth plan is the way to go. For me, I would have fretted and worried more. I wouldn’t have been as relaxed the second time around. I wouldn’t have trusted the medical professionals who deliver babies all day, every day. Of course, there are horror stories, and I met one. But I got lucky.

In the end, I safely delivered two healthy pre-term babies who make me laugh and constantly chase around my last marble before it gets lost. Not having a birth plan meant the medical professionals could do whatever it took to bring my children into the world and freed up my mental space to worry about what comes next: caring for and raising them.

Perhaps instead of a birth plan, having a raising kids plan should take center stage. After all, 18+ years of raising a child is a whole lot longer than labor, though the intensity of labor sometimes has me questioning that.

Sleep Training is an Option, Not a Requirement

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Earlier this year, I wrote about why I refused to sleep train my babies. Now that my daughter is 1, I still refuse to sleep train her.

My Journey to My Decision

When my son was a baby, I read a lot about sleep and babies. He was waking every 2 hours every single night. On the rare nights that he slept 3 hours, I woke up after 2 and freaked out, rushing to make sure he was still breathing. He was born at 34 weeks and the risk of SIDS was slightly higher for him, so I didn’t complain about how often he was waking. It meant he was still alive.

But he hit 6 months and was still waking every 2 hours. Even though my body was starting to adjust to this new sleep schedule, I was still tired. So, I read. And read. And kept reading. Everything I found was about sleep training and every method under the sun. Not once did I read about moms who chose not to sleep train or even that sleep training wasn’t a requirement.

So, I tried sleep training. It didn’t go well. My son wailing for comfort and mommy broke my heart. I decided it wasn’t worth all the tears. If he needed me, I was going to take care of him, no matter how exhausted it made me. It took 19 months, but he finally slept through the night, and is almost 4 and still sleeping like a champ. Though we did recently take him to a museum exhibit that I wanted to see and thoroughly freaked him out, so sometimes he will wake at night and scream. Our fault, though.

When it came to my daughter, I made the early decision to just not sleep train. She has been a more varied sleeper, with good nights and bad nights. But sometimes she just wants to be held. So, I hold her. I hold her and snuggle with her, fully knowing this is the last time I will ever do this. She is my last baby, so I will take any extra baby snuggles I can, even when I’m 3/4 asleep.

Babies Wake for Many Reasons

Recently, after reading numerous mom bloggers write about sleep training and the tricks that got their babies to sleep, I asked my mom if she ever sleep trained me and my siblings.

“No. It didn’t make sense to me.”

Babies wake for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they want a new diaper. Sometimes they want to eat. Sometimes they’re hot or cold. Sometimes something is scratching them. Sometimes they’re just uncomfortable. Sometimes they just want to snuggle. Sometimes they want their pacifier and can’t find it.

Making babies cry and try to learn to self soothe feels mean in light of these many reasons. They can’t change their diaper. They can’t feed themselves. They can’t snuggle themselves. They might not even be able to figure out what’s making them uncomfortable. They can’t change the temperature in the room.

Besides, every human, child and adult, wakes at night. Sometimes even adults have a hard time getting back to sleep and need something to lull them back into dreamland. Babies are no different!

Perhaps it’s the way I approach parenting. I think of children not as children, but as little people. There isn’t a real difference, other than age, maturity, and number of experiences, between children and adults. Both have problems sleeping. Both have temper tantrums. Both can have a hard time sharing. Both want independence. The manner in which these behaviors are dealt with, of course, is different. I’m not going to place my husband in time out because he’s upset about something. I’m not going to expect my baby to calm herself down. So if I, as an adult, sometimes need to get up in the middle of the night because I can’t sleep and need to read a book, then I’m going to take my baby’s waking seriously and see what I can provide to help her go back to sleep.

Babies will sleep through the night in their own time. Yes, it’s exhausting. But I’d rather be tired and know my kids are happy than cry my eyes out while my baby is crying it out. Or spend 2 hours tenderly teaching her to go back to sleep on her own while I become more awake every minute and then spend the next hour after she falls asleep trying to fall back asleep myself. Before getting up an hour later to start things all over again. Seriously, how does that even make sense?

Sleep Training is an Option

Okay, so sleep training will be tough a few days or a week or so and then everyone will get some sleep. I get it. It’s probably a perfect solution for parents who work. They need sleep! Of course, I get it. Spend a few days suffering and zombieing through the day. Baby will eventually sleep and you’ll get sleep, too.

And then the sleep regressions happen (4 months, 6 months, 8-9 months, 12 months, 18 months, 2 years). And teething occurs off and on until those 2 year molars pop out and all the teeth are finally accounted for. So, sure, baby can be sleep trained, and then go through teething and/or a sleep regression a month later. And then it all has to start over again. But at least there are a few weeks of sleep to be had! Followed by a week or so of teaching baby to sleep all over again.

No thanks! That’s not for me. I’ll stick it out. I’ll comfort my child. I’ll realize this won’t last forever. I’ll adjust. And so will my baby. My baby will sleep and my baby will wake and I will be there for every waking.

Besides, what do I do about my daughter who chooses to go down drowsy, but awake and still sometimes wakes every hour? Before she turned 1, she decided she really wanted to go down in her crib awake so she could move around and settle herself while I sang her to sleep. This is a key part of sleep training and she was choosing to do it on her own? Was she sleep training herself? No. She still woke at night, still wakes at night at 13 months. So I’m suspicious of the idea that a baby who goes down drowsy, but awake will sleep through the night. It’s been at least 3 months and I’m still waiting.

Sleep training is an option. Many parents think it’s the logical step and must be done since everyone is doing it and recommending it. That’s not true! It doesn’t have to be done. It’s a choice. Parent after parent will swear by it. But this mom will swear by not sleep training. My toddler is a champion sleeper. My daughter is only 1 and teething, but will get there. Her sleep stretches on good nights is often about 1.5-2 times longer that her brother’s were, so I’m not complaining.

Besides, babies grow so fast and will start to push mom and dad away. Take those snuggles as often as you can!

Sleep Deprived Dreams

My daughter seems to be teething non-stop these days. While I’m glad she has more than two teeth, it means she sleeps very fitfully. Any noise will wake her. She’ll take an hour to settle down. She’ll just want to be held for an hour. And the teeth come in one…at…a…time. This mommy is tired.

For as long as I can remember, I have always had bouts of vivid dreams. Sometimes they only lasted a week. Sometimes they occurred almost every night for a month. I drew inspiration from them, used them as the foundations of my stories. I looked forward to sleep just so I could escape into an amazing adventure.

There were nightmares, too, terrifying dreams that kept me up and haunted my waking hours, until I was 14. They taught me the dark side of my psyche, showed me the darkness that lurked in my mind that could break free if I wasn’t careful.

When I got pregnant with my first, I had read about vivid dreams being common. I laughed and wondered how I would be able to tell the difference. Truth is, I couldn’t. Vivid dreams were par for the course for me.

After those long sleepless newborn nights, I looked forward to getting back to my usual dreams. But something was different. They were still vivid, but sleep deprivation had done something to them.

Details were clear as day. The adventures were more exciting. The people felt real, like I actually knew them. I was immersed in my dreams, feeling completely untethered from reality. It was like living a second life.

Night after night. They were almost nightly. But, with my son, that level of vividity passed quickly, when he established a nighttime waking routine that only wavered during sleep regressions.

Then my daughter came. And I returned to this amazing dream world. At over a year she still doesn’t sleep with any consistency. I spend more days sleep deprived than not. Sometimes I feel like a functional zombie.

But I don’t complain. Much. Hurry up and come in, teeth! I live for the nights when I do sleep. Because I know this dream world is waiting for me. I am ready to dive back into these incredible dreams, these sleep deprived dreams that provide enough wonder and adventure to help get me through the long days.

I want her to sleep though the night. But I am also not ready yet. Though I am ready for teething to be done.

Dream world, I hope you welcome me back tonight.

What If My Daughter Had Been Born on Star Wars Day?

My daughter was due at the end of May. But I had serious doubts as to whether we would actually make it to May. Her brother was born nowhere near his due date and even though my doctor did what she could to try to keep the baby in until term, I’m mostly sure I started dilating in mid-April.

As April came to a close, I began to fret. May 4th was coming up fast. How long could I stay dilated at 3cm before giving birth? Scouring the Internet didn’t give me any real answer.

Would it be so terrible if she had been born on Star Wars Day? Probably not.

But I’m not a Star Wars fan (not even a Trekkie, though I do admire Captain Picard). For anything Star Wars, you’ll have to find my husband. He wrote about Darth Vader earlier today. I didn’t even know there were comic books until I read his post.

Anyways, I didn’t see the movies until I was 12, didn’t even know about its existence. I saw them when we were visiting family in Canada. My aunt and uncle had the movies and we were bored one day. And then I never saw the movies again until high school when my orchestra teacher decided it was a good idea to show them in class. Backwards. Because apparently the music gets worse as you go backwards? I don’t know. I think that’s what my teacher said.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad these movies brought science fiction and fantasy to prominence. But all I see is a family saga that has a bad habit of ignoring history and repeating itself. And it just happens to take place in space.

I ask my husband questions about Star Wars all the time. Because I honestly don’t get it. I’ve made him rethink a few things.

So, as Star Wars Day approached with no baby in sight, I was nervous. I did not want my child sharing a day with a movie franchise. Especially one I’ve spent almost 20 years rolling my eyes at.

My daughter must have heard my pleas. She does not share a day with Star Wars.

Thank goodness.

Dancing Queen

My dancing queen, soon you will be one.

For 8 months, I knew almost nothing about you. I knew you were going to be daddy’s princess at 16 weeks. I knew you liked to have hiccups at some of the most irritating times (please, let mommy sleep). I knew you were getting ready to come when you dropped at 32 weeks. I knew you were as anxious to meet us as we were to meet you when you came early at 36 weeks.

So sweet, so adorable from that first moment. I got to hold you in those first few hours like I had never gotten to hold your brother. From your very first night with us, you fell asleep to the Celtic songs I had been singing to you since 16 weeks.

Your personality showed up fast after that!

You were intrigued by your brother and his hair, loved granddaughter-grandma time, and loved going naked. At just a few months old, you were ready to sit up, screamed at tummy time, and wanted to crawl by the time you were 5 months.

But what you really loved was music. Any music. Songs on the radio or the intro music to the various shows your brother watched. All it took was a note and you would start bouncing. Soon you threw in a hand wave. And then you started moving your little tushie.

Sometimes I put on Puppy Dog Pals just to see you dance because that one is your favorite, though you could care less about the show.

My little dancing queen, there hasn’t been any music you won’t bounce at least a little to. You enjoy your music, and you enjoy widely.

I’m blessed to be your mom and I look forward to many, many years of getting to know you. Maybe you will always be my dancing queen. But maybe you won’t. Daddy, brother, and I all look forward to watching you grow and learn.

Happy first birthday!

 

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Establishing Baby on Solids: It Might Take Longer Than You Think

As a new parent, you wonder when to start solids on your baby. Most resources say 4-6 months. From all the reading I did (twice) 6 months seems like your best shot.

As a new mom almost 4 years ago, I was ready to talk about this at my son’s 4 month appointment. I thought the pediatrician would say to go for it and provide a few guidelines.

Instead, he said, “Wait until he’s 6 months, at least.”

I wasn’t devastated, but I was sad. We were excited about giving him food. But he was born 5 weeks early. As a late preterm baby, his doctor recommended we wait a little longer just to make sure his digestive system was ready.

So we waited 2 more months. He was right about 6 months when we gave him some rice cereal. It did not go well. For 2 months.

I worked on it every day. Gave him a spoonful, and then 2, and then more. We gave him all the cereals, the fruits, the vegetables. I tried to make it fun, tried different times and different locations. Grandma even tried. Nothing worked.

My son just refused more than a few spoonfuls until he was about 8 months. Even then he still preferred breastmilk. Teething at the same time didn’t help since he always threw up a week before the tooth actually popped out. So, for  2 months, it was start and stop. He wasn’t established on solids until he was 8 months.

I was a little more prepared when my daughter came. She was born a day before 37 weeks, so, being so close to term, I thought it would go a lot smoother.

I think my kids like to laugh at me. Her pediatrician advised a couple weeks before 6 months so we could check in about it at her 6 month appointment.

We anticipated smoother sailing. My daughter wasn’t having it. She accepted spoonfuls here and there, but wouldn’t eat more than that for almost 2 months.

Yes, my daughter wasn’t established on solids until 8 months. I read jealously about other babies gobbling everything at 6-7 months. I tried everything to get her to take more than an ounce. Nothing worked for 2 months.

Then, one day, she just started eating. I guess she discovered the joys of food? Either that or she just wanted to chew on the spoon.

But baby food isn’t meant to last here. Sure, she still eats about 2 ounces a day, but she definitely prefers mom and dad’s food at 10 months.

Well, that’s less baby food that we have to buy (because my kids hated the baby food I did try to make, so that didn’t work, either)!

But, my point is that starting solids has many stories and many sides. It may seem like every baby starts at 6 months, but that isn’t true. Some kids are slower to warm up to it and some kids would rather eat what mom and dad eat. Introducing new foods is important, but it might be later than you expect and might follow a different story than what everyone else gives. Baby will eat, when they’re ready.

Smile: My Miscarriage Story

My son was born almost 4 years ago, before “rainbow baby” was a commonly used term. I certainly hadn’t heard of it until he was 1.

Even though he is a rainbow baby, I have a hard time thinking of him in that way. He isn’t my rainbow. He is something else altogether.

I remember our excitement when we finally determined it was time to start trying for our first baby.  I was lucky; it happened on the first try. But the test line was so faint…but the box said a line was a line. I was pregnant.

Almost immediately I started feeling the effects. Going to the bathroom twice as much, nausea, dizziness. Then, when I was 5.5 weeks along, it happened. I saw some spotting and called my mom right away. She calmed me down and reminded me that some spotting can happen. It never happened to her, but she knew someone who’d had periods for most of her pregnancy.

I went to bed thinking I would be fine in the morning. But Doubt had crept in. For good reason. In the morning, I was bleeding. It was heavy and dark and I had to wake my husband to take me to the ER.

They called it a chemical pregnancy, which was devastating to hear.

For a week after, my husband and I read and researched. Through it all, I didn’t smile. My eyes were hard. My heart felt frozen. I didn’t care about anything.

The doctor said to wait 3 months. I was devastated. I had wanted a summer baby. But my husband is a scientist and found out we didn’t have to wait. As a matter of fact, after miscarrying, my body was primed.

So we tried again. And waited. Thanksgiving came and we celebrated with his mom. I should have known then, just 3 weeks after miscarrying, that something was different. I was constantly starving. I hate green beans, but couldn’t get enough of them. I was afraid to believe what I felt was real.

I had an exact 28 day cycle. My husband kept pressing me to take a test. I was queasy and getting headaches. But Doubt still sat on my shoulder. Finally, about a month after the miscarriage and 2 days past the 28th day counting from it, I gave in.

The test line was stark. Dark and demanding, it came up within 30 seconds. We were thrilled, but I was cautious.

The winter holidays came up. We spent it with my parents in Southern California, enjoying being away from snowy Philadelphia. My blood test confirmed my HcG levels were exactly where they should be.

But Doubt whispered in my ear. Phantom pregnancies were real. I might have all the signs and symptoms, but there might not be a baby.

At 8 weeks we had our first ultrasound. I went in with Doubt snickering in my ear. I studied the tech’s face, heart pounding. Her smile and confirmation of a beating heart shooed Doubt away. Momentarily.

I knew the miscarriage stats by heart, knew it could still happen. Doubt wasn’t done with me. It danced and twirled, taunting me. I was terrified.

20 weeks came. Heartbeat was strong, anatomy was normal, and it was clearly a boy, no doubt about that!

Finally, it was time to tell my classmates (I was in graduate school at the time). It was getting harder to hide my still tiny bump. Doubt still whispered in my ear, but I had to say sonething. I just kept it low key, fearful that a celebration would be my undoing.

The end of the semester came, and with it began endless rounds of studying for our comprehensive exams. It was exhausting, but it silenced Doubt for at least a little while.

Other than some concerns about his small size, the whole pregnancy was uneventful and easy, even. I continually pushed Doubt aside, ate well, exercised when I could, rested, but put off getting his bed (thanks, Doubt).

At 34 weeks, my mother-in-law finally convinced me it was time to get his bassinet. Good thing we did and I didn’t let Doubt step in again.

Saturday night I had painless contractions every 2 hours, but figured they were Braxton-Hicks. By Sunday night I was crying with pain. Could this be preterm labor? Please, no. We went to the hospital, found out it was indeed early labor, but I was far enough along that they wouldn’t stop labor. I was terrified, in pain, and couldn’t stop worrying about my little boy.

He finally came Tuesday afternoon at 34 weeks and 6 days. I held him for a minute before he was whisked away to spend the next 6 hours in the NICU.

Doubt taunted me again. Was he okay? Had his lungs had enough time to develop? Why were the nurses not telling me other than that he was still being observed?

It was night before he was given back to me, pronounced to be healthy with good lungs. I got to hold him and really look at him, study his tiny face.

That’s when it happened. That’s when I knew.

For the first time since the miscarriage, I truly smiled. This little boy was my smile. A rainbow after the storm? Sure.

But I call him my smile. He brought it back to me. Still brings joy to my heart. Even now, 3.5 years later, everything he is makes me smile.