Saturday, September 7, 2013

so, how long has it been? weeks? months?
Well, I suck at daily or even bi-weekly posts. I admit it, you should just accept it. have been plenty round here.
We moved to a new house on the other side of town. Our other home was old (in its nineties), but the neighborhood was becoming somewhat annoying. I miss our sweet house, especially the backyard. We had a secret brick path, slate-roofed pergola and hammock that I could vegetate in for hours. It was the house that nurtured me when Penelope was still an unknown "bibo" in my belly. It was the house we brought her home to. Its floors creaked and moaned as we paced back and forth trying to comfort her colicky cries. The old floor furnaces belched out warmth and a steady hum that we savored during those fleeting moments of respite.
It was ours. It was old. It was loved.

The newbie was born around 1968 and is a split-level model with lots of living space...plenty of room for Penelope to gallop around in.
The new neighborhood is pretty fantastic and our house is nestled just about 1 block from Penelope's school. There are block parties, lawns to keep up with and neighbors that have organic attitudes and random chickens that break free from their coops for a yard stroll every now and then.
I feel safer and guilty just for saying that. We lived close to downtown and the area was overrun with rental properties. We endured torturous moments of domestic side-shows, gun-toting neighbors and the occasional old woman or man who could come to our door asking for money. It was a mixed bag. 
 I feel guilty, like a sellout. I was the person who wanted to be part of a downtown urban resurgence. We supported local businesses and tried to be good neighbors and make our little patch of Nichols street a place to be proud of.
In the end, I failed. A few of us DID make our block awesome, but it didn't make up for the magnitude of poverty and bad attitudes that prevailed. My drive home would often leave me sad, mad or a strange mixture of both. "Why is that woman constantly letting her kids in the road?" "Why is our neighbor only able to turn on his music and cuss in his front yard at midnight?" "why are the police over at that house, again?!"

Do I feel like a schmuck when my new drive home is beautiful and I'm surrounded by people who have everything they need? Yes.
Do I feel like I'm just another surburbanite who caved in? Yes.
Am I happier than I've ever been? Yes.

We still go downtown, we still support local businesses and I still reach out to others. Just because I don't live there doesn't mean I can forget or ignore the plight of center city.

We still own the Nichols house and the girls that are living there have already started to make it their own. New paint and a sweet little table that rests under the creeping wisteria and fragrant honeysuckle.
I drive by now and then and think about the times we spent there...good and bad.
I wonder if they have found all the secret nooks and crannies.
I wonder if I left any reminder of me there.
I wonder if our new house knows how lucky it is.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


I work with old folks...senior citizens, older adults, geezers...whatever you prefer to call someone who has matured past the age of 60.
While I was pregnant almost everyone I came across would ask if we were having a boy or a girl. Chad and I chose not to find out the gender and this made drove most people slightly mad. The seniors I work with would be distressed over thoughts of a little baby boy bounding home to a room that was yellow or, for the love of all things holy...PINK.  "How will you know what to buy?" "How will you be prepared?"
As if gender dictates an entire new set of baby tools in your arsenal...*sigh*.

So, after they would get past the boy-girl issue, most would say the phrase that always stung me "As long as it is healthy".
Mostly I would just gloss over it and flash a smile and go on. At the time the pain of the unknown and the thought of all that little baby was going to endure was just too much.
However, sometimes I didn't want to leave it at that.

"We know the baby has a birth defect", I would say. This typically stirred up many emotions and awkward pauses. One woman furrowed her brow and said, "I don't think you are supposed to say that anymore."
 The seniors were not so delicate and one actually said, "You don't want a retarded baby to take care of, you just don't!"
I chalked this attitude up to a time when children who were not the norm were swept away into hauntingly bare buildings to be locked into a regimen of secrecy.
Many of the senior women I deal with have suffered many loses...especially children. Babies that today would be easily tweaked were left to wither away in their mother's arms. They rest in a soiled womb next to great-great grandparents and other siblings who left this world before them. These women know pain and who am I to dismiss their feelings?

Truth was, and is, our baby was born with a birth defect. Call it a 'happy accident' or a 'little tummy trouble', but I prefer to call it what it is. She has an Omphalocele and she will grow up knowing exactly how she came into this world.
In a society of political correctness (don't you despise that phrase? I do, along with AMAZING which no one should say anymore.) we've started glossing over truths. I am not a mean person or lacking in compassion. I don't want to shield her from things. This world can be brutal, but it can also be exciting and full of promise. I will not raise a child to be so tender that the sting of reality sends them into a downward spiral that no amount of Elmo, fruit roll-ups or Daniel Tiger can fix.
We cannot wrap our children in emotional bubble wrap and send them into a world ready to pop them.
Am I bullying my baby? No.
(By the way, we are also overusing the word BULLYING. Maybe I'll work AMAZING BULLYING into every sentence until it loses all meaning.)
So, in short, my child came into this world with part of her insides on the outside and we will one day bully those amazing innards back where they belong.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pot-bellied Girls

SweetP and I have a lot in common. Amongst them is our pot-bellies. Hers is adorable and makes her look like a Dr. Seuss character when she is in a sleeper. Mine, not so charming.

During my 12th week of pregnancy something was askew on the ultrasound. The belly of the fetus was a bit poochier than normal, for lack of a more medically high-brow term. At first we were told it was Gastroschisis- a birth defect, but one that was “manageable” and easily corrected soon after birth. Her intestines were outside of her abdomen floating in a murky stew of amniotic fluid.
OK, not great, but everyone seemed fairly chilled about it so we weren’t TOO worried.
Then came the 16th week check up: Diagnosis O.
Omphalocele is a more serious defect of the abdomen that carried a multitude of complications and a higher mortality rate. Penelope’s intestines and part of her liver were outside of her abdomen in a sack. Many tests ahead. Many things to worry about.
not cool. NOT COOL.

Once we had an actual diagnosis I tried to learn all that I could. The computer became my nemesis. I stalked the Mac and could not touch the keyboard without migrating to some medical sight explaining everything that would probably go wrong and how there was nothing I could do about it.
Too much knowledge is not always a good thing.
Would her lungs be underdeveloped? Would the sack rupture during birth causing immediate surgery? Would she have other defects that would be unrepairable? What about her heart...was her heart “normal”?
The major issue hovering over us like a bloated storm cloud was a heart defect. A defect of her heart would trump the O at birth and there was a chance she would be scooped up and flown to St. Louis for heart surgery, leaving me in Springfield. (not cool)
 After an echo-cardiogram and an excruciating waiting game one cold winter weekend, we found out the heart looked good. There might be a small hole, but there was a chance it would correct itself before birth.One hurdle jumped--many more to go.

Still, there uncertainty loomed. We postponed baby showers because the thought of being confronted with rooms full of baby goodies after a tragedy was just too much.
I grew bigger, we took things one day at a time and prepared for our little Bibo.

Penelope Rose burst onto the scene at 38 weeks and 3 days.

Her vocal protests let us know that her lungs were healthy.(Second hurdle jumped). All her fingers and toes were wriggling and accounted for. She had the prettiest face and brightest eyes. SweetP was born a very healthy baby despite her giant O.

It hasn’t been easy, far from it. She spent the first 6 weeks of her life in the NICU and had trouble with feedings, acid reflux, colic, infections and thrush. Momma wrestled with postpartum depression, NICU madness and overall exhaustion. Dad managed to hang in there. Somehow we survived those early days; a little battle scarred, but tougher.

 The O is there, a fleshy knob reminding us how resilient our little girl is. She will be surgically repaired when she is about 2 years old.

My pot-belly excuse if less dramatic: I have a love affair with pastries and gave birth to a brilliant little girl 8 months ago.
Works for me.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

yeah, like we need ANOTHER "mommy blog"...

Ok, I know the thought of reading another "life of our only child" blog may cause an acidic taste to well up in the back of your throat, but such is life.
After tiring of seeing every other mother in America sitting through an awkward satellite interview on Good Morning America while discussing her "journey through motherhood ((double gag)), I decided I might as well throw my hat in the ring.
First official post to follow...