It’s been three and a half years since my baby was delivered. My baby who didn’t cry and made my heart sink that something was wrong. My baby who couldn’t get warm so couldn’t be brought for me to hold her, until several hours later. My baby who had a hole in the roof of her mouth, and two feet turned in, which was explained to me before I even really got to get a good look at her. My baby who was the size of a preemie, despite being full term, because something had gone wrong inside the womb, and the placenta was abnormally small.
We’ve been through a lot, but really, she’s fine. She’s had so many doctors visits that she thinks of them as a field trip, with toys and adventure. In fact, she was so excited to go to the hospital for her ear tubes surgery, that she couldn’t wait for the day, and got up with me in the early hours with joy instead of grumbling. But she continues to grow and learn and improve and for the most part it’s a history that has left very little stain on her present. Most people have absolutely no idea that anything was ever or could possibly be wrong with her. She’s bright, sociable, lovable, kind, talkative, energetic, funny, clever and all around a wonderful and, in the best way possible, normal little person.
But for some reason, when I go through her medical documents my heart still lurches. I keep a running medical diagnoses document to take with me, so that I don’t have to remember the last time she had an ear infection or what she took for it, or try to remember the date of a specific surgery. Or the medical names for things we’re tracking with blood samples or sonograms or whatever. I keep it all written down, modify it as needed and print a copy before a visit. It makes keeping up with her history painless for me. And yet, my heart still hurts.
I can’t fathom why. She’s such a treasure of a child, and none of that past impacts her day to day life now, really, so why do I get squeamish when I’m filing her papers? I should be used to it now. She’s here, she’s my snuggle bunny, she drives me nuts in a typical threenager temper-tantruming type of way. Why does my heart still go up into my throat when I think about her past? My five year old has had surgeries.. she’s had adenoidectomy, tonsillectomy and tubes, all because the poor thing couldn’t hear in school or breathe well at night, but I don’t get the same sinking feeling when looking at her old photos. Granted, she is a strong, brave, spirited child who doesn’t know the words ‘slow,’ ‘quiet,’ or ‘calm.’ I love her just as much, but she doesn’t make me ache.
I wish I could get past this because I don’t want my feelings to make my baby think she’s not strong or that she’s somehow not whole.
With the brief hiatus of nearly three years of child rearing out of the way, I’m finally ready to get my brain back into writing mode. The intention is two-fold: document the stories of my bitty girls’ childhood for remembrance always, and to hopefully gain the capacity to someday be an actual writer.
I frequently regret that I haven’t been keeping up with sharing the daily anecdotes. I have those moments of, “oh gosh I need to tell someone what they did, it was soooo funny/cute.” Instead I wait until I’m only left with the residue of the memory, just that it was something really share-worthy, but heck if I can remember what it actually was.
And that’s just awful. It’s the bitter after-taste of forgetfulness instead of the flavor of a memory well shared.
I can’t tell you the number of times I call Eric and say, “Aria asked the funniest thing in the car this morning!” and he’ll go, “yeah?” and I’ll pause and then, “yeah.. it was.. it was something about dinosaurs.. and it was really clever.. but I can’t remember what it actually was..”
I guess motherhood really zaps the memory cells or something.
So anywho, Aria is in Kindergarten and Avery is in daycare pre K and both love school and the new house and snow and being each other’s sister (most of the time) and life is constantly chaotic. Aria is involved in a few activities and I’m working on getting Avery back into activity-mode. She regressed upon turning three – or maybe upon our move into the new house – and has been unable to detach herself from my leg long enough to go do paid-for activities. Therefore, she hasn’t been enrolled. But I’m thinking we’ve turned a corner because when she sees Aria doing “kicking and punching” or hockey or whatever, she asks if she can do something. I think dance was great for her when she participated, so I’m hoping we can try that again with better success.
Ok well, this is my official first effort to get back into it, let’s not push it.
My pretty, precious little girl is devilishly deceitful. Adorably astute. Cleverly cute. Maddeningly manipulative.
Anyway, she gets these reports from daycare that come home each day that list things like what she ate and how much, if she used the potty, diaper changes, etc. At the bottom the teacher puts stickers and always writes “clean up stickers” so that the parents know if and how many times they helped clean up. Aria always gets clean up stickers because she enjoys cleaning up (note: at daycare; NOT at home unless there’s a huge song and dance number that accompanies the process).
The other day I was working from home so walked down to the daycare to pick her up. Eric was there when we arrived at home and as we were headed in I was perusing her report and noticed there were no stickers! I made an offhand comment to her about not getting any stickers today and she took it from me and said, “I got clean up stickers!” to which I replied “… mmnnoo you didn’t..”
She took it and ran inside to show Eric. “Daddy! I got clean up stickers!”
Her joyful enthusiasm spilled over to him, “You did?!!”
Mommy’s willful determination to squash all bubbles and rainbows, “no she didn’t. She’s lying to you.”
Daddy’s hesitation, “you didn’t get clean up stickers Aria?”
She grabs the paper from him, runs in the other room and I find her sitting in the middle of the kitchen putting her OWN stickers on where the teacher would have put them. She then takes the paper back to Eric.
“Daddy, I got clean up stickers!!”
Eric looks at me with the same look I’m feeling.
Our two year old is already forging report cards!!!!
PS I told the teacher about this experience the next day (who found it utterly amusing), and when Aria did earn stickers and the teacher put them on her paper Aria said, “I got Real clean up stickers!”
I just love my babies. When singing lullabies to them sometimes I’ll sing “You are my sunshine” but instead of “my only sunshine” I say, “one of my sunshines” because it just wouldn’t be true! In my world there is more than one sun. And they’re so sparkly and girly, and one has little bitty curls.
Anyway, my girls confound me at times. Aria can spout off any rule she’s ever been told while deliberately disobeying it at the same time. I watched her in the baby monitor one night as she leaned on the edge of her bed to reach the light and said, “no Aria, leave lights off or mommy will take out the lightbulbs” as she turned it on. “Turn the lights off, Aria.” “Lay down, Aria” as she sits there fluffing her blanket. At daycare she apparently sits on the potty and says, “no sticker if no pee on the potty,” which amuses her daycare teacher. She is constantly rattling off things she’s been told.
She had Eric and I in stitches one night, even though she just would NOT go to bed. I had put her back in bed countless times, had tried completely ignoring her but she would just come out of her room, I tried closing the door but she can open it now, I tried threatening her with spankings but she is very clever and manages to do the exact bare minimum of what I ask to avoid it (like sitting on the edge of her bed so she’s technically “in bed”).. Finally I just gave up. She came in to our room and crawled in to bed next to me and I just rolled over with a “whatever” and tried to tune out her babbling. She kept sitting up to do something or other and I was about to leave her to torment Eric alone and sleep on the couch when she sat up and said, “mommy, put Aria to bed” and climbed down and went to her room. “Come on mommy!” So I followed my very-awake-at-11:30pm-child to her room and tucked her in to her bed for the umpteenth time. And left the baby gate open because Eric and I agreed it did absolutely nothing anyway.
The end of the world happened. Just as I was crawling back in to bed we hear her yelling, “Mommy! Close the gate!” I grab the baby monitor and Eric and I watch as she stands in front of the baby gate which is mostly closed, just not latched, as she cries and screams about how her gate is open. Mind you, she can close the gate herself. She does it all the time. It is completely within the realm of her capabilities. But instead she stood there with her blanket around her shoulders, crying at the top of her lungs “mommy close the gate!” over and over again. Eric and l looked at each other like she was insane.. which she clearly is. Eventually it became clear she wasn’t going to stop freaking out over the gate so I went and closed it. And of course then she crawled over it. *sigh* We were wondering what would happen if the baby gate were to disappear completely.
Speaking of OCD, I made it a goal of mine to make ties for her curtains but I’ve only managed to make one so far. I tied her curtain back and she had a conniption fit. She literally cried and freaked out over it and threw it away she was so upset. So it hasn’t gone back up but Eric suggested I keep putting it back until she gets used to it. I figure I will once I get the other ones made. Maybe then it will have more order and she’ll be ok with it.
Avery is developing her own personality as well. She thrives on routine but isn’t OCD like Aria. It’s amazing that, when I watch her, I can lay her on the blanket on the floor with a blanket over her when it’s naptime, and she’ll just go to sleep. Sometimes it takes longer than others, sometimes she has to babble a bit first, or even cry for a brief moment just as she’s dropping off, but she always takes a nap eventually. And I don’t mean eventually like, hours waiting for it to happen.. more like minutes. The longest was probably 20 minutes of her playing on the floor before she went. She also tells me when it’s time for bed. She’ll be super sweet and playful and happy and all of a sudden she looks at me all devastated and starts fussing a little and I say, “ok we can go to bed” and she’s calm as long as she sees that I’m starting to get ready to put her bed. Even if it’s past her bedtime, once she knows we’re headed upstairs soon, she’ll chill. She sometimes cries out when she sees her bottle, but she still waits patiently for it. We’ll go upstairs, change her diaper and clothes, put her shoes and helmet back on, we’ll even read some books and the bottle will be sitting right there next to us, and she’s totally cool. But once we turn out the light she starts freaking out. She gets squirmy when I pick up that bottle and everything is flailing until she can snatch the bottle from my hand and jam it in her face. Then she’s calm and quiet and content again. Even if she’s still awake when the bottle empties, she’ll usually sit there in my lap all quiet until I flip her over and snuggle her. Or she’ll take it upon herself to try to flip over and snuggle. She’s an excellent snuggle. Probably the best snuggler that ever lived. Ever.
So she doesn’t have a soft palate in the roof of her mouth. And yet somehow she makes clicking noises. Sometimes I’ll be holding her in my lap and she’ll be sitting there contemplating life and I’ll hear the noises that you can make when you create suction in your mouth. I’ll look at her and say, “Avery! How did you do that?” and she’ll just look at me all nonchalant like, “I just do. Why do you ask?” Then I’ll do it to her and she’ll smile and find me amusing, but still won’t explain how she does it. She’s mysterious like that, keeping her secrets secret. She can also suck down a bottle in nothing flat when she’s feeling ravenous. She can hold her own bottle now and I’ve even seen her squeeze the nipple part to refill it when it’s empty if it’s not refilling fast enough on its own involved (special bottle, one-way valve that creates pressure in the nipple so she can essentially bite/chew on it to get milk out instead of having to suck). I’m not sure if it’s possible for her to understand that concept or the physics, but I have definitely seen her squeeze it to refill it more than once.
She does other things that she shouldn’t be able to do. She’s been arching her back to help you lift her out of her car seat since she was conscious of the world.. so like since 2 months or so. She has been pushing her arms through sleeves (VERY consistently) and, again, arching her back when you pull the shirt down behind her since she was 6 months. She started banging objects together and passing objects from hand to hand at 5 months. All of these early, some, like the helping to dress herself, ridiculously so. Meanwhile she was delayed on a lot of motor skills like rolling over and sitting up, but the thought is maybe because she was restrained by things like casts and devices or surgery restrictions, she just started working on other stuff instead.
Since she was restricted from nearly all physical activity for almost two months it was really hard work for her to sit up or stand once we got the all clear, but within days she was pretty much back to where she had been at 6 months and is continually improving. I was able to sit her up and leave her for roughly five minutes at a time, with her able to look around and not tip over. She’s even started to figure out how to catch her balance. She’s also willing to stand again; the first couple of days she just wouldn’t, but if you sit her in your lap in front of an activity table she’ll pull herself up and stand hunched over it. So I’m hopeful that with the progress we’ve made so quickly in a week’s time that she will just keep pushing forward. She does still have scoliosis to deal with, but hopefully it’s not too severe (we learn more in May).
I have such a hard time with my feelings towards Avery. Sometimes I look at her and think she’s going to be fairly normal, maybe very similar to her sister, and will have a normal childhood and life after she’s done with all of this stuff she has to endure right now. Other times I think she’s going to be special. Not sure how special, but somehow special. I mean, obviously both of my girls are special, but while life seems to be ridiculously easy for Aria, who rarely meets a challenge she can’t force to comply to her will and therefore gets frustrated easily when something is above her capacity, Avery is a hard worker who rarely gets frustrated and who seems to adapt amazingly to overcome her disabilities.
One thing though that I’m so blessed with is that they are both such sweet little girls. They adore each other, and they both know how to make me smile and laugh. They are such joys to be around and I’m so blessed to be their mommy. I don’t want to wish away Avery’s babyhood because she really is, no joke, the best snuggler of all time and I just love holding her, but I do also look forward to watching them play together and Aria teaching Avery how to get into mischief. 🙂
- It’s important to exert your independence as early as possible so that they know you are capable of taking care of yourself. Never allow help when getting dressed, changing your diaper, or going to the bathroom as it shows weakness. If you absolutely cannot do it on your own, and you’ve tried screaming and rolling around on the floor already, then and only then accept help but make sure you demand it in a loud whiny voice.
- Always say “No” first when answering any question someone asks you, then actually listen to the question to make sure it’s not something you really want.
- Actually, you don’t even have to always listen when someone asks you a question. Sometimes it’s better to just tune everyone out and pretend you don’t hear anything, because at some point someone will say Cookie or Go Play Outside or something else awesome to get your attention, so get really excited about it so they feel guilty and have to give you whatever they said.
- When mommy or daddy count numbers in the wrong order it means something very bad is going to happen. It’s best to hold out as long as possible, until they get to 1, before actually doing whatever it is they want.
- A plate is just a general suggestion of where food should go.
- Procrastination is your best friend. Make sure that you wash your hands three times, brush your teeth for 10 minutes, and play dress up with all of the clothes in the bottom drawers before bed. It may mean no story time or only a 20 minute nap, but it’s so worth it.
- Your sibling’s life is in your hands. Make sure mommy knows every time your baby sister is crying, and what it is she needs. If mommy is taking too long to give her a bottle, go ahead and make one for her.
- Because of all that you do for your sibling, half of her dinner belongs to you. Make sure you remind mommy every other bite that it’s your turn.
- Mommy needs lots of help cleaning. If she gets out the vacuum cleaner, go ahead and take over for her so she can watch but not go anywhere else. If she starts sweeping, you should take over that responsibility too. If she’s doing dishes that for sure is something you can and definitely should help with.
- Be careful, things on the stove may be hot. Make sure everyone knows this.
- Frequently remind people of what belongs to who. Tell mommy that she’s wearing mommy’s shirt, and tell daddy that this is daddy’s cup and make sure they know what stuff is yours. And be sure mommy knows that she is your mommy. Catastrophe may happen if she is not fully aware that she is your mommy, so remind her often.
- Be sure you keep everyone in line. If daddy gets up from dinner empty handed, go ahead and scold him to take his plate to the sink. If mommy isn’t singing and dancing along with the song you just learned in daycare, be sure to cry at her because she’s definitely doing it on purpose.
- Never get left behind; if mommy is more than three steps ahead of you, tell her to wait for you, and if she doesn’t, have a meltdown on the stairs, or in the kitchen, or wherever you might be that you could definitely get lost.
- Rules apply to everyone except you. If you aren’t supposed to step in grandma’s flower bed, make sure you trample some flowers while telling your cousin to get out of the flower bed. Pull mommy’s hair but then reprimand your sister when she does it to you.
- When daddy decides to watch TV it is optimal timing to put in a movie. Go ahead, try out three or four movies before walking away and leaving daddy to watch Dumbo or Sing Along Songs without you.
- The cat is not allowed to sleep in past you. If you catch him sleeping in his cat bed in the morning, make sure to tell him it’s time to get up as you dump him from his cat bed. Then make sure you throw the cat bed in another room so he can’t sneak back to bed.
- On random occasions, completely baffle your parents by being the most angelic perfect child ever for a little while, just to get them off their guard.
Two Fridays ago Eric had foot surgery to repair an ankle so damaged that they found broken pieces of bone and the ligaments on one side were no longer really attached to anything. It was an injury he obtained at a younger age, but had wanted to correct for a number of years. In fact, when we would just go for walks in our neighborhood, the slightest unevenness would cause him to roll his ankle if he wasn’t paying attention.
When he found out his insurance would be changing he took the plunge and scheduled a visit with a doctor who recommended surgery and got him scheduled.
Unfortunately for me, his surgery took place at the end of February, just a couple weeks after Avery’s back surgery. So she’s still recovering and requires a little bit of extra help, and now my hubby is out of commission too. So not only is he not able to help with the babies, he also needs help himself.
I will say, it has been a little bit stressful at home. I’m starting to find a rhythm and things are getting better, plus now Eric’s becoming a little more self-sufficient now that his pain is managed and he’s figuring out how to get around and to better take care of himself. At first it was so incredibly hard being nurse to two and mommy to two (Avery in the overlap), but each day gets a little easier (with the help of a LOT of prayer.. mostly for patience).
Aria is a little frazzled by all of the changes, between Avery and Eric’s extra requirements and now bedtimes and mealtimes are a little different, and mommy is the only one chasing her around and taking her places and reprimanding her bad behavior (Eric will verbally enforce but can’t pick her up so can’t do any physical punishments like putting her in timeout, etc.). It may have taken a toll on her behavior as she has gotten multiple negative behavior reports this week. I’m not entirely sure what to do about it. We had a talk last night and I told her she needs to be a good girl at school, and I’m trying to help her see that listening to instruction is beneficial (and can be fun.. like cooking or learning something new) while not listening means reprimands.
Funny thing, at home she is actually being pretty good. She’s been helping me with preparing dinner, she LOVES to take care of her little sister, and she’s been just an all-around help for the most part. We’ve had a few rough moments, but in general she’s actually a pretty good girl. And it’s not like she’s suffering from not enough attention, we go for walks or play outside most evenings, she went to the park for an entire afternoon with most of her cousins and her sister, and she’s having a pretty good spring. (The monkey is all about climbing right now)
And she really does adore her sister.. in the mornings before being dropped off at school she wants to just sit and hold Avery’s hand. Avery seems to really enjoy the attention. And she makes sure Avery has toys, and tells me if Avery is crying and needs a bottle (which she sometimes tries to make herself).
I think her favorite part of her daddy’s whole “boo boo” situation is that she gets a free ride around the house whenever he’s on the move. She throws a fit if he goes somewhere without her, because she loves to catch a ride on his kneeling scooter thing.
Bedtime has been a little different, but she really gets excited when I tell her Avery’s going to read books with us. I put Avery on the beanbag chair and Aria sits in my lap and we read books and it’s very sweet.
Last night when I was reading, Aria went over and was showing Avery how to put shapes in a shape sorter. She would stick the shape in the hole so that it was just sitting there not quite all the way in yet, and then she would take Avery’s hand and make her push it the rest of the way in. Then she would applaud her. It was so cute.. my phone was dead or I would have taken a picture.
She’s actually participating in prayers more now too. When I say her bedtime prayer for her (I say it from her perspective), she actually repeats everything as I’m saying it. Then we both say a very fervent “Amen!” at the end together.
So while things are different, I’m just not entirely sure why she’s acting up at daycare
Avery on the other hand has figured out she can manipulate me. She just loves being held, cuddled, snuggled, kissed, adored… She can play by herself as long as someone is nearby and she’s not all alone in a room, but she prefers to be held most of the time. I just can’t manage that, though, so she ends up on the play mat on the floor or in her bouncer seat in the kitchen and she generally tolerates it most of the time. But at bedtime she demands my full attention. So after Aria is in bed Avery’s bedtime routine includes washing her stitches on her back, cleaning her helmet, and then whatever else depending on time or dirt (like a full sponge bath or not). Then we usually read a couple little baby books, some of which she gets SO excited over, like the ones with flaps that open and show something different underneath. Then we cuddle and she has her last bottle of the night. When she falls asleep I flip her over and she drools on my shoulder. It’s very sweet. It’s the only me-time I really get during the day, because she will just snuggle there and I can read or watch something on my tablet and no one bugs me during that time.
When I’m sure that she’s sated and snoring and I’m ready to go finish off the night (like dishes or laundry or general cleaning up or preparing lunches or getting ready for bed or whatever is left to be done) then I go to lay her down in bed.
And that’s where the trouble has started. It used to be that I could lay her down and she would be done for the night. Lately she’s started waking up as soon as I lay her down and then I have to hold her more and try again. Or she might go down but then wake up an a few hours later and I have to try again. She’s figured out that I will tend to her if she cries… because I have to. As she’s still recovering, part of the limitations were that she can’t cry. At least not hard crying. It apparently puts the wrong kind of pressure on her spine, which we’re trying to heal, so along with no sitting up or standing or straining to poop, she’s not allowed to cry. And therein lie my troubles.
The last couple of nights she woke up and I let her cry as long as it was just fussing and whimpering, but when it became more forceful I would go try to comfort her. But then she would just get louder and louder until I ended up picking her up and holding her. I tried snuggling her in the rocking chair, and she would instantly fall asleep on my shoulder, but when I would lay her back down her eyes would pop open and she’d start crying again. I tried feeding her more, repeated snuggles then attempts and placing back in her own bed, but kept failing miserably. So I did what any exhausted mother in the middle of the night would contemplate but probably not actually do… I brought her to bed. I tucked her in between Eric and myself, made sure she safe from being smothered by the blankets, and then passed out. And or course she would sleep perfectly, pressed against my side, through the entire remainder of the night.
When she’s allowed to cry again I think we’re going to have to work on sleep training. Poor baby’s just going to have to cry, because she needs to be able to sleep in her own bed. Even if she is the cutest snuggle in the entire world.
So with Eric’s surgery at the end of February, the total came to four surgeries within seven months, one for each member of the family: my c-section, Aria’s tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy, Avery’s cord de-tethering and Eric’s foot reconstruction. I’m sure our insurance company LOVES us right now, and we still have at least one more surgery to go in just a few months!
Well the whole Christmas season excitement has finally gotten to Aria. What with candy every day, and way more junk food than we would ever normally allow, and just all the fun the season brings, I can’t really blame her for being all riled up.
Which is why last night, although surprising at the time, in hindsight is not so surprising. Yes last night Aria scaled her baby gate, then the baby gate across our door, and into bed with us. With her Blanket. I said something about putting her back in her own bed and Eric surpringly said to let her be.
At first I thought it was the cutest thing ever and snuggled her in bed next to me, and cuddled her and let her share my pillow, and nuzzled her and thought to myself how sweet this was. That lasted for all of a minute, until I realized how uncomfortable I was, and how much I really wanted to go back to sleep and how squirmy she is.
Not to mention all of the commotion woke everyone, including the baby, so I had to keep rocking the bassinet with my foot to try to lure her back to sleep.
When Aria had tried the whole “lying still” thing and tired of it, she would stand up to see Avery, or would press herself up to her daddy to see if he was sleeping and what his face looked like.
I tried whispering to her that we needed to whisper so we didn’t wake Avery back up, so she at one point put her face in mine, one hand on either side of my head and whisper gibbered at me very seriously.
I snuggled her back in bed next to me, held her close, and pet her hair to soothe her. So in return she put her fingers in my hair and tangled them up and made a mess. I had left my glasses on so I could check on Avery and so that I wasn’t blind when needing to figure out what Aria was doing, but she made me take them off. And tucked me in just so.
After a very long squirmy hour (or however long it was) I asked her if she was ready to go back to bed and she very firmly rooted herself in bed, asked her daddy to cover her with Blanket, and I guess eventually fell asleep. That was all from 5 to some much later time. Eric said when he got up she was snuggled next to him but migrated over to me until he woke me up because I kept snoozing my alarm.
She woke too and jumped up and ran around the bed and followed him to the bathroom to brush her teeth alongside him. This from the child I usually dress, including diaper change, while she is so knocked out she’s often still snoring.
It was a bit of a battle to get her dressed and convince her she wanted to go to “school” (daycare), but finally the idea of seeing her friends won out.
Oh, and the stinker usually clings to my legs when I drop her off, but this time she went and stood next to her friend, and when I said bye she just waved.
Eric, despite being super tired, talked to me the whole way to work, swapping stories about Aria’s antics last night and how cute and ridiculous she is, amidst many yawns.