Remembering

IMG_9768Each October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. At 7pm, families who have lost babies light a candle for an hour in their memory. Doing so creates a “Wave of Light” across the nation, as we remember and honor our little ones.

I look forward to this day. Six years out from losing Charlie and with the chaos of young kids, it’s rare to be able to pause, reflect, remember, and honor Charlie. Last year, this day was difficult. Liam was the age Charlie was when he died, which brought up a lot of trauma reminders.  I was also in the throws of a pretty dark postpartum depression. It’s nice to be in a different space this year.

I appreciated that a few family members reached out their support, lighting candles for Charlie, but also checking to see if I was ok. I told them, that yes, I am ok! This day brings up painful feelings of loss, but those feelings feel sacred, tender, and beautiful.

I couldn’t always say that. Especially in the early years of grief. But now, I actually welcome an experience to connect to those feelings. Like I said, daily life is chaotic and it’s too easy to get lost in the swirl of demands. Grief anchors me. It feels cleansing, in a way I can’t actually describe well. But it resets my priorities. It reminds me of what is really important in life. It also provides an opportunity to reflect on how far I’ve come in this grief journey. I love bringing out Charlie’s photo to put by the candle and see all our children together in one space.

I also value the experience this tradition creates for my children. I loved Liam waving at Charlie and playing with his photo. It was also striking to see Hailee’s genuine grief reaction that arose later that evening. She cried for at least an hour over the loss of Charlie but also the “twin” that we lost in the Ectopic pregnancy. She cried that she should have two other siblings here on earth with her. (I didn’t mention the five other miscarriages I’ve had! ha!)

Then, she asked me how sure I was that Liam wasn’t Charlie, come back to us? That is such a difficult question to answer. It’s one that’s come in my head too. Part of me wants to believe that Liam could be Charlie. It would heal SO MUCH. They also look extremely similar! But I believe Charlie and Liam are their own little people and believing them to be the same negates the work we do with grief; with creating meaning, honoring painful emotions, rumbling with difficult questions, and appreciating the depth and beauty we experience through moving through grief. I also want Hailee to understand and believe, as I do, that Charlie is her guardian angel, who watches over her and all of us. I continue to look forward to seeing Charlie and holding him again one day. That night I snuggled Hailee as she cried herself to sleep. Hopefully, one day, grief won’t feel as confusing as it does for Hailee right now. I will continue to support her feeling all her “feels” and loving her through her own grief process, as I’ve had to be patient and compassionate with myself through my own grief journey.

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“Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!”

Cami is a little liar. Or maybe, in service of avoiding labels, Cami has a tendency to lie frequently. It’s somewhat funny and I admire her creativity. But it also creates a conundrum for how to direct her creativity in more adaptive ways.

Recently, Cami had a playdate with one of her favorite little friends, Emme. I was at work, so our nanny was watching them. Cami told her little friend that we had a pet kangaroo. She told her friend this lie in all earnestness and convinced her friend it was true. When her friend wanted to see the kangaroo, Cami expressed that the kangaroo had gotten out and was lost! Oh no! They needed to go scour the neighborhood in search of the lost kangaroo! So the girls began running around the neighborhood trying to find this elusive, exotic pet. They did not tell our nanny where they were going. After the nanny had gotten Liam down for a nap, she discovered the girls were missing and were no where to be found! Our nanny ended up having to get in the car and drive around the neighborhood looking for them. Later, when Emme’s mom, Sarah, picked her up and Emme told her mom about the kangaroo, Sarah asked Emme why she believed Cami had a pet kangaroo. Emme replied, “Because Cami is my best friend and would never lie to me.”

Then, last week at parent-teacher conference, Cami’s kindergarten teacher showed me some worksheets where Cami had begun to write her name differently. Cami had told both another parent volunteer, and her teacher, that I was changing her name to Caitlin and that she wasn’t going to be Cami anymore. Not only did she tell this lie, she proceeded to act on it and tried spelling her name differently on all her homework sheets. “Keitliin.” This gave us all a pretty good chuckle.

A few months ago, I sat Cami down and tried to evaluate if she even knew what a lie is. I gave her some scenarios and asked her to tell me if it was a truth or a lie. She was able to tell the difference. I tried to transfer that into talking about how she lies. I don’t think Cami lies to be overtly deceptive. I do think she lies to get her way, sometimes, but more often than not, I think her fantasy world blurs with the real world and she doesn’t see the harm in telling fibs.

What equal parts impresses me and scares me is that Cami is able to lie with sincere earnestness. She lies easily and naturally. I often wonder how many times she lies to me and I don’t catch it? Right now, her lies are pretty benign. And, like I said, I love her imagination and admire her creativity, but we need to channel this more pro-socially before she becomes a teenager! Or else we are in BIG trouble!

The elusive goal

Hailee wants to score a goal in soccer, so badly. She has played soccer for several years now and has never scored a goal. A big part of that has been because she most often plays mid-field. But also, she isn’t aggressive and confident when she gets close to the goal. She has amazing assists for other teammates to score, but has yet to earn that glory herself…and it’s wearing on her.

Today she came close to scoring but another teammate ran in front of her and took the ball from her and scored instead. This deflated Hailee’s spirits the rest of the game. It also left her in tears in our car after the game.

It can be painful to watch, as your child psychologically spirals into self-doubt, embarrassment and shame. I tried encouraging her from the sidelines but she’d shoot me evil glances and thought I was “yelling” at her. I felt helpless watching her lose her fire and barely follow the game because she was so lost in her head.

As I continued to shout encouragement from the sidelines, I had flashbacks of my childhood sport-playing days and my own mom shouting at me from the sidelines. My mom was one of the loudest moms and my biggest cheerleader. She could also embarrass me. I remember her shouting once, “Smile Anna!” I don’t remember the context but I must have been grumpy and down, because either I, or my team, or both weren’t playing well. Was I sensitive and insecure like Hailee? Did I deflate easily?

I am always fascinated how life spins a full circle and how our children are little mirrors of ourselves. Aren’t I still sensitive?

Oh Hailee, we are so alike. We both feel things easily and deeply. Having this emotional sensitivity can be challenging, for sure. But Hailee, something I’ve learned that I want you to understand, is the importance of continuing to TRY. To not let yourself get bowled over for long. To pull yourself back up. To figuratively and literally, get back in the game! Pushing into the hard, making countless mistakes, learning from them, building resilience and strength, is how you will eventually score that elusive goal! But more importantly, it is also how you will learn that you can DO hard things.

Packards do hard things and we are strong. I will do my very best to try to teach you these important lessons. Maybe that was what my mom was doing from the sidelines all those years ago and that is what I will be doing for you! I will be forever, your cheerleader! I will probably embarrass you and annoy you. But I will continue to believe in you (loudly) until you also believe in yourself!

EpiPen Adventure

This last week, I took Liam into the allergist’s office for a “baked egg” challenge. This challenge involved eating a muffin over the course of a couple hours, starting with super small bites and then working toward progressively larger bites. Every fifteen minutes they would take Liam’s vitals and offer him more of the muffin, all the while being careful to monitor any allergic reaction. Liam was doing great. He made it over two hours in. He made it until the very last challenge, which was to consume the rest of the muffin. However, right before he was to eat it, he threw up everywhere! He threw up everything he had eaten, all over me and all over himself, his blanket, and the chair we were sitting on.

Now, technically, according to FARE guidelines, because Liam had ingested a “known allergen” (the egg) and he had one severe symptom, as characterized by the vomiting, he should have been given an Epipen at that point. However, when the allergist examined him, he had NO other symptoms and was acting completely FINE. Because he was acting so fine, she said she would monitor him for an hour and if he didn’t develop any other symptoms, she would just send us home.

An hour passed and Liam continued to act normal. So home we went. However, as soon as we got home, Liam’s eye started swelling. I called the allergist and the dr. said I needed to give him an Epipen and go straight to the ER.

At this point, I panicked. I was still covered in puke, so I quickly jumped in the shower to rinse off and changed my clothes. Then I grabbed Liam, who was pretty upset and so tired and took him downstairs where I got out the Epipen.

I sat on the floor, held him between my legs and restrained him, and with shaking hands, administered the Epipen in his outer thigh. Luckily, the Epipens we have talk to you so I didn’t have to think, or count. It told me when to release the cartridge. I then grabbed a now-screaming Liam and put him in his carseat to take to the ER. Luckily, my mom was in town, and had been with me all morning. She had come for moral support but we didn’t know to anticipate how important her support would be! She quickly drove us to the ER while I sat with Liam in the backseat.

Within minutes of him getting the Epipen, Liam became pasty white and kind of, zoned out. He wasn’t non-responsive, but was eerily silent. His breathing was also a little shallow. I was so scared and told my mom to hurry. However, within a few more minutes, Liam’s color returned and he even started babbling to me, which helped me breathe easier.

By the time we got to the the ER, Liam was super calm. I rushed him in, while my mom parked the car, and knocked on the window and told the receptionist he was having an anaphylactic reaction. She immediately took us back. Pretty quickly, a doctor came in to look at Liam. I told him what had happened and that I had already given him an Epipen. The doctor looked at Liam and his vitals and said, “Well, this kid looks great.” Liam continued to be so calm throughout all of this. His calmness was an added blessing. I was overwhelmed with fear and adrenaline and Liam just calmly snuggled me in my lap, helping to calm my nerves.

They kept us at the ER for a little over an hour to watch him and also gave him an oral steroid before we went back home. Finally back home, for the last time, I put Liam down for a MUCH overdue nap (wearing the Owlet), and slowly, began to breathe normally.

I called Chad, who I had been communicating with on-and-off throughout the day. He was on a business trip in California. He was supposed to stay overnight for another board meeting the next day, but I asked him to fly home. This was hard for me to ask because Liam was doing fine and the danger had passed. I needed him home because I needed emotional support. Chad questioned his need to come home but when I started crying, he immediately agreed he would fly home and re-arranged his plans.

After the fear wore off, I found myself feeling defeated. I was hopeful this baked egg challenge would go well and that Liam could begin to progress toward overcoming at least one of his many food allergies. But instead, now we know he also has anaphylactic reactions to ingesting eggs, whereas before he would just throw up.

These food allergies are scary and overwhelming. We don’t have a follow up appointment scheduled with that allergist because she said you can’t try the baked egg experiment again for at least another 6 months to a year, and in the meantime, the recommendation is to simply avoid those foods.

We do have an appointment still scheduled for Liam to start the Oral-Immuno-Therapy in a couple weeks…but we don’t feel good about it. Or we feel scared and we aren’t sure if now is the best time to start that treatment. We don’t have great reasons to not move forward except that OIT isn’t standard care in the US and it’s possible something new and less risky can come on the market in a year or two. I also feel anxious when allergists don’t agree with one another, as the two allergists we have seen, disagree on treatment strategies.

I’ve also lost a little trust in this first allergist who gave Liam the baked egg challenge. She should’ve given him an Epipen in the office, or monitored us for longer than an hour. When she talked to me on the phone later that day, she admitted she thought that maybe she should’ve kept us for two hours. Now, I have an unnecessary and expensive ER bill to deal with. I’m not really mad though, even though I think I’d be justified if I did feel that way. Instead, I feel validated at how unclear decisions can be in these tricky situations!

This parenting gig can be rough. Especially when knowing what is the right decision to make for our baby. Especially when that decision involves his health and trying to prevent life-threatening reactions! It’s overwhelming, this responsibility to try to keep our kids safe and healthy and thriving!

Since Thursday, Liam and I have been together almost non-stop. There has been a lot of snuggles, and playing, and nuzzling, and breathing in all his baby-goodness. I am so grateful Liam recovered well from this event and that his reaction wasn’t worse than it was. I’m so grateful Liam is back to himself, and just as happy as if nothing ever happened. He won’t remember that event, but man, I sure will! Hopefully, it’s not an experience we’ll repeat anytime soon.

I do feel proud of myself though. When called on to be brave and take action, I was able to do it. Although, I’ll admit I definitely dropped a few swear words! I think (hope) the first time you give an Epipen is the scariest, simply because you don’t know what to expect. Now, I know a little more and that decreases some of the fear for having to use it again. But, like I said, I’d rather avoid having to do that again, if possible! Sometimes I get really tired of having to do hard, scary things! I’m not whining, I’m stating a simple fact of our life.

Breathing, and pressing forward…

Dodging a bullet

Dear Hailee,

Tonight I felt like I carefully dodged a bullet with you. Cami lost her first tooth the other day, while your dad and I were on vacation in Canada. The Tooth Fairy gave her five dollars but forgot to take the tooth away. When I got home and you brought up that discrepancy, I explained that I contacted the Tooth Fairy and told her to leave the tooth so I could see it, as it was Cami’s first lost tooth!

A little while later I found you crying in your room. Your journal was on your bed and I read the entry you wrote while you were in tears. You wrote that you thought I was lying about the Tooth Fairy and that I don’t have a way to contact her. You were so sad because this was the first time you felt I had ever lied to you.

With some coaxing, I was able to get you to talk to me. You asked me how I could contact the Tooth Fairy. Did I have her phone number? You hadn’t seen any way for me to contact her. I can’t “float up into the clouds.” Then you continued to question. “Is the Tooth Fairy even real?” “Are you the tooth fairy?” “Is Santa real?”

I did some quick thinking and took your face in my hands. I said that if I told you how I could contact the Tooth Fairy, it would ruin the magic. You looked at me with tear filled eyes and asked me if  I was lying to you. This made me pause. That was a painful, direct question. Instead of answering, I asked you, “What do you want? Do you want me to answer your question or do you want to keep believing in the magic?” You thought a second and said you wanted to keep believing in the magic. Still holding your face in my hands I said, “Then let your heart feel that.”

You said your heart felt it but your head did not. You asked when you would have the answers to your questions. I told you moms know how to contact the Tooth Fairy, but you don’t want to wait until you are a mom to find out how that happens. So you asked me to tell you when you turn 11. I pinky promised that I would tell you the secrets about the Tooth Fairy when you are 11. With that, we hugged and I cuddled you while you fell asleep.

That was a difficult conversation to have with you Hailee. You have never asked such direct questions before and I felt pained to see the big emotions you were holding as you wrestled with these thoughts. I’m not ready for you to lose the magic, Hailee. The world is a tough place. It’s full of beauty too. But the world is a little more beautiful while magic exists. It’s a little better of a place when Santa brings you presents each Christmas, the Easter bunny hides eggs, just for you, and the Tooth Fairy slips money under your pillow for your lost, pearly ,baby teeth. I love that you genuinely believe that when you turn 11, you could find out you have magical powers and be recruited as a student, to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

You are on the cusp of growing up in so many ways and I want to protect your dreams and imagination, as long as I can. I don’t want you to feel I am lying to you. I want you to feel that I am bringing magic into your life. When you learn that I am the Tooth Fairy, I hope you know I didn’t deceive you to be cruel. I can see how special magic is to you. I can see how you light up with possibility when you talk about wizards, unicorns or making real magic wands. Already, I know that magic has diminished as you talk about those beliefs less and less. But I loved when your cousin Ellie, recently asked her mom for an LOL animal for Christmas, and you turned to her and immediately corrected her by saying, “You can ask Santa for it.”

You have the most beautiful, believing heart ,Hailee, and I want to preserve that magic for you a little while longer. I want that for both of us. Almost nothing makes me happier than witnessing your joy on Christmas morning when you wake to find gifts from Santa, or on Easter when you find a basket that was left, just for you, from the Easter Bunny. When you insist on knowing the truth, I hope to soften the blow, by inviting you to become a giver of magic, with your dad and me, and help foster and preserve the magic for your younger siblings. But I hope, for at least one more season full of magic for YOU, my sweet, wonderful Hailee.

Birthday boy!

Liam turned One Year Old! I cannot believe this time, over a year ago, I was laboring in the hospital, about to greet my baby boy.

We love our “puppy” “googy bear” “pup pup” “baby head” SO MUCH. He is the SWEETEST little boy. He brings so much happiness into our family. It’s amazing how he completely changed from being the hardest baby, EVER, to being the sweetest, happiest, little guy! I understand now, when parents say their kids feel like “gifts.” I feel that way about Liam. He just brings so much light and joy to my heart and the heart of everyone in the family! The girls can be at each other’s throats and then Liam toddles into the room and suddenly they are oohing and gooing all over him and inviting him to play with them. And then they quickly start fighting over who gets to play with the baby…but that’s not a horrible problem to have!

I was so excited to have Liam turn one and “officially” be past the SIDS risk. However, my heart aches because we simply replaced the fear of him dying in his sleep, to a fear of him dying while he is awake. Sometimes, when I write, I feel like I sound dramatic. But it’s true.

It turns out Liam has a “severe” peanut and egg allergy.

I discovered this by accident a few weeks ago when I gave him the tiniest taste of peanut butter on his lips. He immediately started throwing up. Then, he got some on his fingers and wiped his face and immediately broke out in hives all over his face! I didn’t know it at the time, but that was an anaphylactic reaction! When I took him to the allergist and described the reaction, she said, “That was an Epipen worthy event.”

So instead of getting a cake for his birthday, I substituted Oreos. I took the top off an oreo and put a candle in the frosting. I had taken him to the allergist that morning so the news of these allergies was fresh and instead of feeling happy to celebrate his first birthday, I felt sad and overwhelmed. I know it’s not a big deal that he didn’t get a cake to smash in his face, but it felt sad to me. I have to reframe some of my hopes and wishes for Liam and the Oreo substitutes felt symbolic of those changes…and he didn’t like the Oreo.

I want to do a “do-over” for his birthday where I can make an eggless cake and I’m not in such a negative headspace. For a couple weeks after we got this information, I felt I needed to grieve. I felt angry and deflated that it feels we don’t EVER get to let our guard down! The whole first year it was anxiety over whether Liam would die in his sleep, and now it’s anxiety about an anaphylactic reaction with an accidental exposure to peanuts! We purged the house of peanuts and stocked up on Epipens, and I have been practicing with trainer pens on the girls (they think it’s kind of fun).

Now, a few weeks out, I feel less overwhelmed and that this just is a new normal I need to get used to. I have talked with several people who either have, or have friends, who have similar allergies, and they’ve been really helpful. I know as I get used to reading labels and making new recipes, eventually, this won’t feel so overwhelming. Also, there’s hope that Liam can outgrow these allergies!

The allergist said that 80% of kids with egg allergies outgrow them and 20% of kids with peanut allergies outgrow them. I did some research on Oral Immuno-Therapy for kids with peanut allergies and while it is a newer practice, it has excellent research to back it up and has great efficacy rates (as high as 80%!). Liam’s allergist doesn’t do that kind of treatment so I found a doctor in Salt Lake who does, with a great reputation, and we have an appointment in July. I’m hoping Liam will be a good candidate for that treatment. Even if we can just get him to a place where exposure to peanuts isn’t life threatening, I’d be super happy! But we shall see.

Looking at Liam, I can almost forget he has these vulnerabilities. He’s so healthy, and happy, and thriving! Now that he is one, I’ve begun to wean him. That’s been a bitter-sweet experience for me. As you know, I’ve worked so hard to keep up my milk supply and I love nursing him. And while I’m happy to keep nursing him in the morning and at night, I don’t think my milk supply can keep up. We are trying, but it just keeps going down. I tell myself it’s ok. Maybe even a good thing, as Liam is a little on the skinny and small side. Drinking whole cow’s milk might help him grown and gain weight. But it’s such a heartbreaking transition from my BABY to my little toddler, who will forever just continue to grow more independent!

Having Liam has brought so much unanticipated but much appreciated healing. He doesn’t, can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t fill the hole in our hearts left by Charlie, but he has breathed so much needed joy and life into our family! I honestly think he’s everyone’s favorite in the family right now! He has the biggest smiles and happiest coos for his sisters, his dad, and me. Grateful to have him in our arms, every-single-day!

 

 

Parenting trial runs

Dear Hailee,

We don’t know what we are doing. I’ll just own that! You are our first child and our trial run. I worry constantly about how I may be screwing you up! This week I have been so stressed making decisions for your future. In reality, these decisions may be inconsequential, but they feel life changing.

Club soccer tryouts are this week and next week. You played all last year for the 08 team even though your birthday is 09. You did well, held your own, and improved SO much. You are so speedy on the field and not afraid to go after the ball, no matter how big the player is you are confronting! It has been so fun to watch your growth, Hailee! However, more than once throughout the year, you wanted to quit. We insisted you finish the season as you made a commitment to your team and we are all glad you did. Your team, Avalanche, went from being the worst in your division to the second best! All of you improved SO much! At the end of the season, you were really enjoying soccer again.

Selfishly, we really want you to stick with soccer. It’s something you are good at and a sport you can play throughout high school, if you wanted to. We like you playing a team sport where you learn the value of teamwork, sportsmanship, etc.

But do we keep you on your 08 team? Your team is moving up a division because you all did so well! We are so proud of you for that, but also wonder what that means? You are already younger and smaller than everyone on your team. While you aren’t afraid of playing against bigger girls, as you get older, players will get more aggressive. Will that matter? I don’t know. Your coach says he is happy to have you continue to play on their team but said it might be to your advantage to play with your age group; the 09 team. The 09 team’s coach is eager to have you and she seems like she’d be a great coach. You are also a little young, interpersonally, so maybe you’d have an easier time connecting with teammates if you played on the 09 team. However, your best friend is trying out for the 08 team and you really want to play on the same team as her. But we have no idea if she will make the team or not!

Ideally, we’d just wait to see if your best friend makes your team and then make a decision. But we have to let the 09 coach know tomorrow if you ware going to be on her team or stay on the 08 team.

The good news is, we are faced with two good options. But which is the RIGHT one? Is there a right one? Does this really matter? My biggest priority for you, Hailee, is for you to grow, build confidence, learn teamwork, develop skills, appreciate your body, and have fun! I worry that staying on the 08 team you won’t have fun if your best friend doesn’t make the cut and you face really hard teams. But I worry that if we put you on the 09 team, you won’t have fun if your friend makes the 08 team but you can’t play with her!

On top of all this, you qualified to move up in gymnastics. They want you to enter the Pre-Team level, which requires four hours of commitment a week at the gym. I honestly don’t want you to do this but you get so upset at any suggestion of not moving up in gymnastics or quitting. You say you love gymnastics. And in contrast to soccer, with gymnastics, you never, ever complain about going.  You have also come a really long way with your gymnast skills and can do a back handspring into a back tuck. You are especially proud of your skills on the bars. You are really coordinated in your body and it’s fun to watch you. But I honestly don’t want to encourage gymnastics much more. As you progress in gymnastics, it takes over your life. Just ask your aunt Ruth. She had a really positive experience with it but I don’t want you to spend every day at the gym, for hours on end. I want you to be a kid and have playdates and time with family. I am also sensitive to environments that can make you vulnerable to caring about your weight, shape, and size. I want you to love and honor your body and I know there are sports that (depending on the coaches, teammates, and environments) can be toxic for body image.

Soccer is more focused on performance and it doesn’t matter what your body looks like. It only matters what your body can do. But soccer is also big commitment and I don’t feel we can continue to do both soccer and gymnastics. I’m also not sold on you choosing just between soccer and gymnastics. I want you to try tennis. Maybe even karate. Maybe lacrosse or volleyball! You are only 9 (in one week) and you don’t need to decide now what sport to specialize in! But there is only so much time in the day and I really feel the pressure, that if you want to be really good at something, you need to start NOW. I could totally be wrong about that, but this pressure is in the water. So many parents are stressing out about this! That’s validating but also serves to increase my anxiety. Parenting decisions are the worst!

I also want to be mindful to not project my history onto your story. I have a lot of regrets with sports. I am athletic and could have been really good at either soccer or volleyball. But I lacked the commitment. I gave up too easily and didn’t push myself. I also had some negative experiences with coaches, but instead of quitting, I could’ve found a new team. I don’t want you to have regrets like mine. But I also don’t want you to feel you need to compete at an elite level. You don’t. In fact, I don’t want you to.

All I want is for you to be able to be the best version of you. I want to provide you opportunities and experiences to facilitate that growth. But I hope you always know that I see you as amazing, worthy, and whole, just as you are. Nothing you can do, or don’t do, can ever change that fact or my love for you. I am so proud of you. I am also probably going to screw you up. We all get screwed up by our parents, right? I can only do my best and hope I do more right by you than wrong, and through it all, love you fiercely and unconditionally. I am also more than happy to pay for your therapy bills in the future! 😉