Saturday, April 30, 2011

God Forbid

Back in 2005, author Ayelet Waldman published an essay in the New York Times about how she loves her husband more than her children. Much of the essay dwelled on her wondering why she seems to be the only one who feels this way, that every other mother she knows would sacrifice anything, even their husband, for their children, but to her, her husband is her “sun” while her children are “moons”. The best expression of her feelings went like this:

I often engage in the parental pastime known as God Forbid. What if, God forbid, someone were to snatch one of my children? God forbid. I imagine what it would feel like to lose one or even all of them. I imagine myself consumed, destroyed by the pain. And yet, in these imaginings, there is always a future beyond the child's death. Because if I were to lose one of my children, God forbid, even if I lost all my children, God forbid, I would still have him, my husband.

But my imagination simply fails me when I try to picture a future beyond my husband's death. Of course I would have to live. I have four children, a mortgage, work to do. But I can imagine no joy without my husband.
When I first heard about the article, Linda was several months pregnant, and Waldman’s feelings resonated with me. The romantic in me wanted to believe that our child would not lessen my passion for Linda, and since the relationship between a mother and a father forms the basis for their child’s idea of a healthy relationship, I didn’t feel guilty for going against the cultural norm of “child first, spouse second” (all right, maybe I felt a little guilty). I promised myself that we would go out on a date at least once a week, we would have sex on at least a semi-regular basis (after a reasonable amount of time had passed), and not lose sight of the slow-burning core of a relationship we had before we became a couple “with child”.

But even as I thought those thoughts, I wondered what the reality would be like. I wasn’t na├»ve enough to believe I knew exactly how our new life would play out. So, now, five months in, all I can say is: Wow, it’s damn hard to live up to those expectations.

See what you think. Here’s a link to Ayelet Waldman’s article:

161 days old

Friday, April 29, 2011

Mmmmmmm...Forbidden Gummy

You know that feeling you get when a cop drives by you, heading in the other direction, and then, in your rearview mirror, you see him turn around and his lights go on? There’s that deadening drop in your gut, the stricken feeling across your chest, the quickening heartbeat? You feel like you want to die. At least I do.

I had a similar feeling today when I was letting Violet suck on a gummy bear, only the feeling was amplified to a sickening degree. I pulled the bear out of her mouth and a chunk of it was gone. I stared at it, imagining the missing piece lodging itself in Violet’s throat, and I immediately begin rooting around in her mouth. She just looked at me, feeling fine. Either she swallowed it or the gummy bear was decapitated before I put it in her mouth. Either way, no more gummy bears until she’s eighteen.

160 days old
Linda wanted me to mention that it wasn't a gummy bear. It was an Annie's Organic Gummy Bunny, but I figured most people wouldn't know what that is. They're delicious.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dustbuster for Sale

Depending on dinnertime and how motivated we are, Violet’s bedtime is somewhere around 8 / 8:30, and for the past ten days or so, it has been an unexpectedly smooth affair. We change her diaper and her clothes, and after a quick feeding, I carry her into the bedroom and place her into the bassinet. She looks at me as I wish her good night, and then she wraps her arms around her stuffed seahorse and stares at its glowing belly. I leave the room, fully expecting her to start crying, but it does not come. Maybe a few whines of protest emerge from the bedroom after a few minutes, but they don’t last and she’s soon asleep, arms out to both sides and bent as if she’s flexing her muscles. Maybe this isn’t all that uncommon at five months or maybe we’re just getting lucky for the time being or maybe Violet’s just the really exceptional kid that we think she is, but I’m enjoying this while it lasts. And it’s wonderful to not have to listen to the dustbuster at bedtime anymore.

159 days old

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tonight I can write the saddest lines...

I never understood poetry. I was an English major in college, so it was inevitable that poetry crossed my path, but I was left confused when it moved on, unsure of what I had just encountered. One talented and passionate professor was successful at opening a door to Shakespeare's sonnets, but only in an academic sense. It wasn't until I met Linda that poetry wormed its way into my day-to-day life. When we started dating, she was into the soundtrack from Il Postino, a movie that imagines the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda taking a postman under his wing, helping the shy and simple man to woo the woman he loves through poetry. The first half of the soundtrack was a spoken word collection of Neruda’s poems, and listening to those poems while falling in love with Linda forever left the two intertwined. She especially loved one of the poems, and so I loved it, too. I memorized it over the course of a few weeks, saying it over and over to myself in the car or while falling asleep. I imagined reciting it to her at some point, but as our relationship moved from dating to moving in together, the time never seemed right. Really, it was because I never had the courage. I told myself that I would recite it to her at our wedding one day, but when that day approached, I found that the years in between had faded my memory of the lines and I didn’t take the time to learn them again. I regret it to this day, but now and then, a few of the lines pop into my head, or I’ll hear Neruda’s name mentioned or come across one of his poems, and I get a free ride back to those first immaculate days of falling in love, when you can’t keep that beautifully goofy smile off your face and the other person is all you can think about. Most of Neruda’s poems seem to come from that place, or from somewhere near it, and now, I can see Violet in those words, too. Not in the same way as I see Linda in the words – Neruda wasn’t thinking about babies - but the depth of feeling they explore is exactly where I am when Violet favors me with a smile. Last night’s poem was the first Neruda I came across since she was born, and to me, it was about her, and it also brought the rest back, too, everything I wrote here and even some of the poem that I once memorized to try and impress Linda.

The whole thing is below. Read it slow.

Tonight I Can Write
By Pablo Neruda

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, 'The night is starry
and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.'

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.
Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.

I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.
She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.

How could one not have loved her great still eyes.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.
To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.

And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.
What does it matter that my love could not keep her.

The night is starry and she is not with me.
This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.

My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.

My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.
The same night whitening the same trees.

We, of that time, are no longer the same.
I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.

My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.
Another's. She will be another's. As she was before my kisses.

Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.
I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.

Love is so short, forgetting is so long.
Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms

my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer

and these the last verses that I write for her.

158 days old

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I'll share the story behind this one tomorrow...


I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Pablo Neruda

157 days old

Monday, April 25, 2011

I Want a Hug...And just to clarify...

I know I'm not supposed to wish Violet was older than she is, but... I can't wait until she's old enough to hug back.

And in response to all the people I heard from (in person and through comments here - thank you for your input) about toys in Easter baskets, I feel I should clarify what I posted last night. The idea for that post started fermenting when several of my students, prior to Easter break, told me how they were sure the Easter Bunny was going to bring them Xbox games, a Nintendo Ds, a four-wheeler, and a flat screen TV (OK, that last one I made up, but the four wheeler is true). I'm all for the Easter Bunny slipping in small toys, stuffed animals, whoopie cushions, etc. (did I mention books?), but I draw the line at anything I wouldn't leave in an unlocked car.

156 days old

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Linda says I'm the Easter Nazi

Violet’s first Easter. I was just telling Linda how I don’t agree with the idea of kids getting toys in their Easter baskets (books are okay), but then the irony of our situation hit. Violet’s still exclusively breastfeeding. So, what was in her basket today? Toys. And books.

155 days old

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wishful Thinking

I happened to have two separate conversations today about parents. Not just any parents – “those parents.” You know, those parents who do or allow certain things even though they know other people frown upon them. The one conversation centered on a mother who allows her nine-year-old son to sleep in her bed. She admits that it’s not what most people would consider a good habit, but she’s a single mom, and in her words, “He’s all I have.” While I can empathize with her, I can’t imagine finding myself in such a place with Violet nine years from now, even if, God forbid, something happened to Linda. I hear about a situation like that, and a voice in my head asks, “Why can’t she see that she’s putting her own needs before those of her child?” That’s my judgmental voice, and although he speaks up more often than he probably should, I have other voices telling me things, too. They’re harder to hear, but one of them is telling me, “Be careful.” He goes on, mumbling that down the road – or maybe at this very moment – I could be the one under the microscope, and let’s face it, all of us parents screw our kids up in one way or another (some of us, in more than one way). I’ve only been at this parenting thing for 5 months, and already I can appreciate how one’s idea of acceptable parenting behavior can veer off into the ditch over the course of days, months, or years (or even a really long night). So what’s the lesson here? I’m not sure, but I think it has something to do with “judging not, lest I get judged” and trying to keep the bar high, no matter how exhausted, aggravated, or discouraged I get.

I hear a voice saying, “Good luck with that one.”

154 days old

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pain Threshold

Linda had a job interview this morning, we visited some friends in the afternoon, and then some grocery shopping. For the most part, Violet was a champ about all of it.

During the interview, they asked Linda if she would come in on short notice or work extra hours beyond her part-time schedule. This was the first time she ever interviewed for a job as a mother, and she realized how interviews have changed for her. Previously, she might have answered with an enthusiastic yes on both points, even though she wasn’t really excited about either. Previously, she had more freedom to become the candidate they were looking for, but Violet’s presence, and our insistence that she have a parent home more often than not, coupled with the fact that our day care provider (Grandma) lives 45 minutes away, mean Linda has to be a little more direct in her answers.

Our second realization of the day came when Violet was grumpier than usual, crying for no apparent reason at home and at our friends’ house, and then we noticed her lips working up and down, pursing and relaxing, all with a look of deep concern on her face. It looks like teething is starting.

153 days old

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wildlife Encounter

Violet saw her first beaver stick today. She could barely contain her excitement.

As for the leg thumping mentioned in yesterday's post, fellow parent and friend Amy gave some good advice in her comment and Violet’s grandma pointed me to a website where I discovered that "thumping" is a fairly common behavior. The theories range from expressing displeasure to self-soothing, from practicing new, learned movements to an idea that the baby’s trying to rock him or herself to sleep. So, no one has a definite idea of what it’s all about, but most kids outgrow it around the six-month mark. It’s nice to know that Violet’s not being bratty, she’s just being a baby.

152 days old

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Five Months Old Today - "Crazylegs"

When we put Violet down for the night, her new thing is to pick up both of her legs and slam them down onto the mattress. She’ll do this again and again until she falls asleep. When she stirs in the night, she’ll do it some more...Slam! Slam!...until she falls back to sleep. During nap time – same story. Linda worries that this is her being ornery; Violet expressing her displeasure at the notion of “time for bed”, but she does it on the nights when she is truly upset at bedtime and she does it on the nights when she goes down easy. So, I’m not sure what the behavior is all about. But I’m curious, and I have to wonder, even if it was her being crabby, what can we do to discourage it? Hog tie her at bedtime?

151 days old

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

22-inchTower of Babel

I’ve heard the long, beautiful moans of loons on a nighttime Adirondack lake. I’ve heard a wolf howl close by, its mournful voice raising the hairs on my neck. I’ve heard music that sent chills across my entire body in waves. But I have a new favorite sound because none of the others holds a candle to the quiet coos and mumblings of Violet. We went for a walk today, Violet perched on my chest in a misty drizzle, and at a certain point, she started commenting, softly, as we walked, and I didn't want her to stop. Tonight, as I rocked her and Linda read to us, trying to get her to go to sleep, Violet again started up with her hushed commentary. Maybe I find it so intriguing because I have no idea what she's saying, and I can fill her noises with everything I hope she’s thinking.

150 days old

Monday, April 18, 2011

Natural Beauty

Linda and I looked through our pictures and videos of Violet, and once again we were stunned at how much she has changed. Even as recently as a month ago, she seems a different baby. The movements of her hands, the look in her eyes, her sounds. I watch those images of Violet and I wonder how anyone could doubt the veracity of the long miracle that is evolution? The pictures echo those I’ve seen of infant primates – the sweetness of grasping fingers and gangly frame, the desperate dependence of a new life. It makes me wonder if Darwin had never sailed to the Galapagos, would his thoughts on natural selection have occurred to him anyway, once he laid eyes on his first child?

149 days old

Sunday, April 17, 2011

False Stop

This post started out as possibly my last one, but it's not. When I started this blog back in August, I had visions of writing something profound each night on the nature of fatherhood, childhood, being a husband, and anything else that came up during the final months of Linda’s pregnancy and Violet’s first year. In the beginning, ideas often came easy and, whether profound or not, there were many posts that satisfied the writer in me. Those posts contained ideas worth putting down, and I did a reasonably good job of doing so.

As I’ve mentioned in posts before, I didn’t want this blog to be just another collection of baby pictures, exclamations about how beautiful our baby is, and/or a list of all the cute things our baby does day after day. As time went on, however, I found myself writing those posts. More and more, I started to wonder if I should end this blog. I’d scan the list of recent posts, looking for one that I was really proud of, something memorable and true, and I’d come up empty. It was true that I committed to posting each day until Violet’s first birthday, and giving up would be a failure of sorts, but what if fulfilling the commitment meant dozens and dozens of mediocre posts? What would be the point in that?

And then today, Linda went out for the afternoon and took Violet with her, leaving me alone for the longest stretch of time since before Violet was born. I did some cleaning, and while putting books away on a downstairs shelf, I knocked one of my old journals to the floor. I opened it up and happened to look at an entry from 1992, nearly twenty years ago, about an afternoon I spent with my girlfriend at the time, my first serious girlfriend. It was an afternoon I hadn’t thought about since I wrote the entry, and the entry was full of melodramatic worrying and wondering that most young adults in the throes of first love go through (at least I hope they do). It made me cringe a bit to read it, but in an entirely pleasurable way. The entry took me back to that afternoon, and if I hadn’t written it down, I might never have thought about it again. That thought didn’t sit well, and it made me realize the point of keeping my commitment I made last August. Every post I write here that seems ordinary or second-rate now will take on something more in time, something that only the forgetful nature of time can bestow. Five, ten, twenty years from now, I’ll be grateful for every post – the mundane, the poorly worded, the fawning – the faults won’t matter. What will matter is that I’ll have a small sliver of each day of Violet’s first year. I’ll have them and so will she. To end it now would mean letting those slivers dry up and disappear as most memories inevitably do. So I’ll still keep searching for the profound thought or moment, for the posts that will leave me feeling satisfied, but if I can’t find them, I’ll let the proud poppa out of the bag, and he can tell you how beautiful Violet is or what astounding thing she did today. Years from now, I’ll be grateful for every word.

148 days old

Saturday, April 16, 2011

That'll do, pig

Today, a friend told Linda about a call he received from his kids’ school; a call in which the principal told him, “Your children don’t fit in with the other kids.” My friend responded, “I’ll tell you what my father used to say. ‘Good. I didn’t raise sheep.’ ”

I wonder if I will be brave enough to say and do likewise.

147 days old

Friday, April 15, 2011

Seventeen little muscles that make my day

At this age, does a baby have any idea how much her smile is worth? After a day that involved finishing report cards, lice, and pre-vacation, jelly bean-fed eight year olds, I’ve learned that the restorative powers of her toothless smile are phenomenal.

146 days old

Thursday, April 14, 2011

There will be forts

I’ve been reading a book to my class, a book by Beverly Cleary called Henry Huggins. I read it in fourth grade (but hadn’t picked it up since), but I remember bringing it home from the Hamburg Public Library and loving it. Filled with the small adventures and trials that befall ten-year-old Henry and his dog, Ribsy, the book is a snapshot of a child’s life in the 1950s. I worried my students might be turned off by the quaintness of the book – there are no wizards or magic tree houses or talking sponges, just a boy who finds a dog and has to deal with calamities on the level of losing a friend’s football or getting picked against his wishes to play the lead in the school play. As I read it to my class, I was amazed at how dated the book seemed. I don’t mean dated in a negative way; maybe far-removed is a better term. The things Henry does in the book, things portrayed as natural and everyday for a ten-year-old boy, are things I can’t picture my own students doing. He takes a bus, by himself, downtown to go swimming at the YMCA. He stays out alone late at night in the town park (digging up night crawlers to sell to pay for his friend’s football). He and his friends spend long stretches of time on their own, pretending to be circus acrobats or playing catch - doing nothing in particular beyond what strikes them in the moment, far away from the scheduled after school and weekend routines of the students in front of me. I read this book, and I feel old – old because my memory paints my childhood as more like Henry’s than theirs; old because I can’t help thinking that “now” isn’t as good a time to be a kid as “then”; old because I feel like any minute, I’ll start beginning sentences with the words, “In my day…” But don’t all parents feel this on some level? Thirty years from now, will Violet be thinking something similar? Maybe, but I still want a “then” childhood for Violet. One with plenty of rock-skipping and rock-flipping, long afternoons spent wondering, “What should we do now?”, and, as God is my witness, there will be forts.

145 days old

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Notice the look in her eyes...

Linda says it's cheating to let someone else write this post, but I'm taking a feeding tonight and this is better than anything I could come up with so close to bedtime...
A Harvard Medical School study has determined that rectal thermometers are still the best way to tell a baby's temperature. Plus, it really teaches the baby who's boss.   Tina Fey 
144 days old

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Her health is satisfactory at the present time...thank you for asking...

Ever since Violet came home from the hospital, people have been asking me how she's doing. Up until this past weekend, I could say, "Better," because each day she was couging a little less and her voice was losing its rasp. Linda and I sat with her on the deck on Sunday and marveled at how, in a single week, she went from being on oxygen and fluids in the hospital to smiling and all-flailing-limbs on my lap at home.  So this week, when people at work ask me how she's doing, I want to say, "She's all better!" But there's a reluctance that appears between thinking those words and saying them. After going through what we did at the hospital - and believe me, I know it was nothing compared to what some parents go through - I don't want to take our good fortune for granted. I didn't know how wonderful it was to have a healthy baby until ours was gone, and now that we have her back, I don't want to jinx it. Superstitious and maybe a little silly, I know, but it helps me sleep at night.

143 days old

Monday, April 11, 2011

One Step Closer to College

Violet has graduated. She has outgrown our bathroom sink, and although I never imagined the possibility when we moved in six years ago, I washed both dishes and a baby in the kitchen sink yesterday (at different times). Violet did well. I think she likes the extra room, or maybe it was the ambience.

142 days old

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Thumbs down

Yesterday, Violet figured out that she could bring her mouth all the way down to her foot.

This is her on the way down...
aaaaand after...
141 days old

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Violet's Second Nature Walk

Linda went out this afternoon, leaving me to watch Violet. I was trying to get a good start on report cards - they're due this Friday - so I put Violet into her jolly jumper while I worked. Within five minutes, her cries said she'd had enough. I moved her to her rainforest playmat, then into her crib to watch her mobile. Still, the tears came within minutes, and I had to admit that report cards would have to wait until tomorrow.

So I strapped her to my chest and we went outside and I will be forever grateful to her for making me put off report cards. It was the first truly warm day of the year - not just one of those slightly warm days that cause guys to wear shorts when it's still way too cold (my father calls those days "idiot summer").

From her perch on my chest, Violet watched me take down the maple buckets and check a few of the bluebird boxes - no bluebirds yet. We walked down to the pond and spotted the goldfish for the first time this year - still winter-timid, they shied away from the shore as we came near. We walked around the pond and into the woods. As I hoped, the first, few trout lily leaves were poking through the leaf litter - a sure sign that Spring is here to stay. One of the first edibles of the year, I always taste one or two trout lily leaves when I meet them each April. They have a flavor that's a combination of apples and swiss chard. Violet's still too young for a sample, but she watched, and she did the same a little farther down the trail when we came to a patch of wild leek leaves; each of them still slender, strechting up and out in the sun. I tore off a small piece of a leaf and let her smell it before I ate it. She wrinkled her nose.

We walked along the trail, up our wooded hill to the top of the ridge where our mapling trees stand, and along the ridge to a small clearing. There, sitting on a rock in the tired winter grass, was a mourning cloak - the earliest butterfly of the year. (It overwinters as an adult, unlike most butterflies that migrate or spend the winter in another stage of their life cycle). All black wings and body, but edged with yellow and flashes of irridescent blue, the butterfly allowed us to get close. Violet watched it, and she kept watching it when it took flight after I pushed my luck and tried to sit us down next to it. I imagined it returning and landing on Violet, giving us a great story to tell Linda when she came back home, but it didn't happen. Instead, we just sat, Violet surprisingly content to just stay put and enjoy the watm day. It gives me great hope - to see her so willing to sit and watch the outside world. I know it's too early to be gauging her tolerance level, but I can't help it.

140 days old

Friday, April 8, 2011

Here's to Jack

     Back in 1996, I was in Ireland. Staying up late at a hostel, I was reading by myself in the kitchen. A woman walked in. We looked at each other, and I nodded hello before going back to my book. She busied herself about the kitchen, and a minute later, asked me, “Where are you from?” I told her, but, intent on reading, I didn’t ask her the same. From her accent, I guessed France. Not taking the hint, she went on, “And what are you reading?”

     I held up the book. “Keruoac.”

     “And how old are you?”


     She waited a second - and grimaced - before responding. “That seems about right.” And she waited a few more before walking out of the kitchen.

     It took me a moment to realize what she’d meant, and a bit longer to feel irritated. Although if it was due to her rudeness or the fact that she might have been right, I still can’t say.

     I thought of this story because it’s April, and April is National Poetry Month, and in looking up material for the poetry lessons I’m teaching, I came across the fact that sixty years ago this month, Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road in a marathon three week stretch. I read the book once in high school, again in college, and again on that trip to Ireland. I don’t think I understood it all then or now, and maybe that French woman was right. Maybe reading Kerouac is something that certain people do in their late teens or early twenties because they think they’re supposed to. I don’t care. I loved that book, and I’ll be handing it to Violet when she turns eighteen and telling her to soak it up.

139 days old

Thursday, April 7, 2011


I was reading through old posts tonight, trying to think of something good to write about, when I stumbled across a comment from fellow blogger Amy LV. She said her pediatrician called the 4-9 month stage the "always happy" stage for babies. I was thinking something along these lines while washing dishes tonight - that ever since we returned from the hospital 3 days ago, Violet seems remarkably happy (except for right after she wakes up). Her generosity with her smiles is a joy to behold. She sat in her vibrating chair on the floor near my feet, and every time I would turn to look at her, to make sure she was okay, she would look up at me and break into a wide tongue-in-the-gums grin. I even caught her smiling (and talking) at the birds on the feeder outside our window. And we get five more months of this? Is it the calm before the storm?

138 days old

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

He said what?

I debated about telling my students about Violet's trip to the hospital. Second grade is a funny age - some kids can have a hard time with the heavy stuff, but in the end, I felt it was better to tell them. It would likely come up in classroom conversation or they might hear me talking about it with another adult, but beyond that, I decided it was something that just felt right to share with them. They're a great bunch of kids that I've spent seven months of my life with - they were my students when Violet was born - so I told them. I left out many of the details, but they understood that Violet had something like a bad cold that left her unable to breathe properly on her own and that she had to go to the hospital for help. My students seemed to take the news in stride, without more than a simple question or two, and then we moved on to our writing lesson for the day. Another funny thing about second graders? You won't know their true reaction until the next day, when you come in to school and see if there are any messages from their parents.

137 days old

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's Not The Miles...

We drove onto our street yesterday, and Linda said, "It's only been a couple of days, but everything looks..." I knew what she meant. It was like returning from a long vacation, when familiar things look slightly differrent than how you remember them. But this time, it wasn't the length of our time away that made the difference. My sister-in-law called today to find out how we were doing, and she asked, "How many grey hairs did you get this weekend?"

136 days old

Monday, April 4, 2011

Violet Unchained

Violet has RSV (respiratory syncytial virus)! It’s a virus that is one of several causes of bronchiolitis, a respiratory infection – in other words, it’s a bad, bad, highly infectious cold. Why is this good news? Because it means she doesn’t have whooping cough, and there’s not much to be done for a kid with RSV. It just needs to run its course. Since it’s a virus, antibiotics won’t touch it, so the doctors stopped all of Violet’s meds. The nurse came in at today, gave us the results, and told us we would be discharged. It was better than Christmas. We immediately unwrapped the heart/oxygen monitor from Violet’s foot and removed the tape and gauze around her IV. The nurse took out the catheter, put a band-aid on Violet’s arm, and with that, we picked her up, free and clear. No tubes or lines to get in the way. We’re a little nervous how things will go at home - what if her symptoms get worse? - but for right now, we’re going to enjoy going back home with a (nearly) healthy baby.

135 days old

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Just Breathe

It’s frustrating, trying to carry a baby around with three lines attached to her. Thankfully, one of the lines came off this morning – her IV fluids. The doctors wanted to see how Violet would do without them, and so far, she’s doing very well.

The doctors aren’t sure what she has - it could be bronchiolitis (we’ve learned that it’s not the same thing as bronchitis), RSV, pertussis (whooping cough), or a bad flu. The tests won’t come back until Monday, but they’re treating what she has as if it were pertussis, the most serious illness of them all. That means antibiotics.

The hardest part of her treatment is how often it spoils her good mood. Her fever finally broke today, and that meant she was feeling more like herself – smiling, interacting, playing; the Violet we’d been missing for nearly a week was finally with us again. But every few hours, we have to help hold her down while the nurses suction out her lungs and her nose, give her eardrops, or shoot a dose of antibiotics down her throat. Violet screams and screams. It scares me that it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to.

The plan is to start weaning her off the oxygen today. If she can breathe on her own through the night, then they might let her go home tomorrow. I’m surprised at my apathy towards the idea of going home. It’s not that I don’t want to, but I feel no rush to do so. If staying here longer means she gets well, then by all means, let’s stay. At home, we can’t suction out her nose and chest, making it possible for her to breastfeed. At home, we don’t have a monitor telling us how much oxygen is in her blood. At home, she only has us to rely on.

134 days old

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Worst Day

“Her oxygenation levels are lower than we would like.” Even when they are said with as much compassion as our doctor used, those words were among the most heart breaking I’ve ever heard, beaten out only by, “I’d like you to take her to Children’s Hospital as soon as possible.”

So now, we sit with Violet in her hospital room, an oxygen tube running across her face and under her nose, an IV plugged into a mass of gauze and tape on her right forearm, and a heart/oxygenation monitor wrapped around her foot. We sit here, heartsick with worry, wishing beyond reason that we weren’t here, but also feeling grateful to be here because of the care they can provide.

133 days old

Friday, April 1, 2011

Linda called this "gloomy"...

Most of my students earned a homework party at school today. In my class, anyone who brings their homework in every day during the month gets to eat lunch in the classroom on the first day of the following month. To a second grader, this is huge. They smile ear to ear as they carry their lunch tray through the hallway while kids from other classes pass by, staring and wondering what they did to earn such awesomeness. It's a wonderful way to spend a lunch, eating alongside happy kids for 20 minutes - just joking around with them. But today, on my way back to the classroom, I noticed an ominous text from Linda, "Call me." It knew it had be about Violet, and it was. After a morning of Violet's inconsolable moaning, refusing to eat, congestion, and lack of wet diapers, Linda decided another trip to the doctor was necessary. It was a good thing she did because it turned out that Violet's cold had progressed into an ear infection and bronchiolitis. It was a strange thing, listening to Linda relate the news, my heart sinking, while my students laughed with each other in the background. All I wanted to do was rush home. I kept trying to tell myself what all other parents are telling me - that their kids went through it and that Violet's going to be okay. But this is our first time. We've never witnessed Violet pull through something like this, so there's always this nagging doubt, a terrifying shadow peeking out from behind all those reassuring thoughts.

But by the time I got home, Violet had a smile for me. The doctor told Linda that we could use ibuprofen (the infant’s Tylenol had done nothing for Violet), but no more than twice a day – apparently it taxes the kidneys – and it gave us a window of an hour or so when Violet was more like herself – raspy and stuffy, but she was there. Now, she is sleeping in the bedroom, and we sit on the couch, listening, wondering if her breathing is too shallow, hoping a wet diaper awaits us, feeling too powerless for comfort.

132 days old