Thursday, September 29, 2011


I am itching to write, to capture moments, and I have to surrender: while I started this as a loss blog four years ago (almost), now my joys outnumber my losses four to one, and thus it only makes sense that perhaps my posts should begin to reflect this.

I am overwhelmed with happiness right now. I absolutely love having four children; I love so many things about it I can hardly begin to wrap my head around expressing what makes it so wonderful. I feel so lucky that I was physically able to pull of this feat of having four living children in my house, but I also feel lucky that I was emotionally and mentally able to open myself up to the chaos that this big family entails*. I feel, somehow, that being "busier" has liberated me somehow, and opened me to just really embracing how amazing it is to have these four people to live with, and to raise, and mostly to enjoy. I absolutely love their company, each and every one of them. I love taking care of them and watching them grow and I'm just so giddy and thrilled that I get to love FOUR of these little walking, talking people (or maybe not quite walking and talking yet....) which is four times as many people for me to love.

I am almost operating on a new theory, which is that suddenly now that there is barely time for me to do anything other than take care of them, I'm forced to just embrace that as the joy in my life as opposed to trying to find other things that are my own, personal things that I crave to do. I also have this sudden, alarming context to it all: (and could this be the result of having the second child enrolled in full-day school?) which is, that childhood lasts for such a brief flicker, and if I don't pay attention, it will be gone, and forever. I have so many years of my life to do other things, but only now to do this. It is not work to take care of them, it is my privilege. (oh, okay. So it is work, a lot of work, but that work is my privilege) And it makes me so happy.

Last night the rain was blowing in. The river was riding high, sounding like a fan on high speed as it rushed over the huge boulders outside my bedroom window. A cool breeze blew in the windows as I climbed into bed onto smooth bedsheets and lifted baby Maeve, who had been sleeping on the bed, into my arms to nurse her before I went to sleep myself. She was swaddled in her turquoise blue flannel blanket with wavy coloured stitching around the border, and her little fuzzy head stuck out the top. I latched her on and grabbed my book and suddenly became aware of her feet, which had come out of the bottom of her wrap and were now settled on my thigh as she nursed. The soles of them were flat to my skin, and as the wind blew across our bed they radiated warmth into my body. It felt so, so warm, so beautifully warm on my leg, and it was in such sharp contrast to the night air that surrounded us. As I laid down to sleep, I inched her carefully down by my side and tucked up my legs around her so that her feet stayed there, warm on me, as we fell asleep together.

I love this.

* Yes, there is a financial piece: I suppose that if Greg and I, who ourselves could barely send our children to nursery school, didn't come from families who can and will help us to conquer whatever pieces of university we can't get paid for elsewhere, we might have had to reel it in a little earlier. I just have to state that because obviously kids cost money; I will also say that we do sacrifice somewhat in order to have a big family: i do not buy myself a juice if I'm thirsty, and we don't get take out food or go to restaurants on any sort of regular basis or buy new things for fun. We share bedrooms and get our toys at our town dump's swap shop and we have a great time doing it!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

There he was, just sitting on a picnic blanket in front of me.
It was a man, we'll call him Rich, and I'd worked with him 10 years ago, the year I became pregnant with Charlotte.
I had known for several months that my new acquaintance Kellie had a husband named Rich, but I'd never met him or seen a photo.
Then suddenly there he was, right in front of me. He had a new 5 month old daughter and I had my new 4 month old daughter and it happened so fast, because he and his wife were leaving the picnic as I arrived, that I almost could have missed the fact that the last time I laid eyes on him was the day I left work, on the second of May, to have my baby girl.
"You're Rich?" I staggered, so caught off guard to know this man already. I was frantically doing the math in my head at the time, trying to figure out which pieces of my life story were known to him.
He was, of course, Rich. And as he and his wife left with their baby girl I wondered if there was anyone else on earth who I had known up until the eleventh hour of my old life and had not seen since.
I cannot think of a single one.

(typed with one hand)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Baking Cookies

I'm making cookies right now, while both girls sleep. There are about 7 baskets of unfolded laundry and wet clothes in the dryer and toys strewn about my feet as I bake, but I really, really like to eat cookies, and so I'm baking.
This is another thing I've adopted lately, as my life has become more and more consumed with caring for others: I try to be really nice to myself in the little ways I can, like buying myself peanut M&Ms at the grocery store checkout before my girls are old enough to ask for a packet themselves, and sometimes sneaking in a quick read of the paper while I'm nursing Maeve during Fiona's nap instead of nursing her in the Ergo while I do housework.
Do you know that in 7 years of being a stay at home Mom I have never once just done something fun or nice for myself while my children napped? I hesitated to write this, because I had to spend quite a few minutes thinking carefully to make sure I was not conjuring up some sort of lie. But I think it's really true, I don't think I've ever just sat in a chair and tucked into a good book or started a sewing project (unless I was working frantically on the project for somebody else) on a weekday. You could look at that and say, "Wow, she's a really devoted mother and housekeeper" but I look at it instead and say, "Wow, what an idiot. All those hours where she could have had just half an hour of self-care and she's racing around like a madman and probably crabby by 5 PM as a result."
I remember that when I was pregnant with Aoife in the winter of 2006, Liam had a swimming class on Saturday mornings and Greg and I took turns bringing him. I vividly recall that somehow, since it was the weekend, I felt this gave me license to sit in the yellow glider in the sunroom with my book. It was so delicious to be alone in my house, just reading. I remember so well, it was Catherine Newman's book "Waiting for Birdy", and while it was a book on parenting (which usually annoy me to no end because the authors are so entitled and oblivious of the possibility of either loss or gratitude) this book did not strike me this way; one because I knew Catherine and she was so kind and emotional during Charlotte's death and Liam's birth, and also because her writing is neither assuming of her own good fortune nor annoying in any way. I read on those mornings and I felt no guilt because it was the weekend; yet I have not been able (or has it not even occurred to me?) to do this during the week in all those years. Why?
On those mornings, what I wanted to do was read, and so I read. But somehow I was under the (false) impression that since others (namely my husband) were at work, I also should be working.
But won't I work better, and more efficiently, if I'm happy and fulfilled? I say, YES, heartily and fully. So in the oven they are, delicious cowboy cookies, and if you're so inclined you could go and bake them yourself.

1 cup sugar

1 ¼ cups packed brown sugar

1 cup shortening (I use butter)

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp/ baking powder

2 ½ cups quick cooking oats

2 cups chips (flavors of your choice!)

Combine all ingredients in bowl in the order given, mixing by hand after each addition. Place on greased cookie sheet (I use the parchment paper instead).

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until light brown…..Cool on wire rack…

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I love this now.
This here, right now in my home.
Logically this seems odd, because I am far busier than I have ever been in my life, but it's caused an almost calm. The kids are in school and Greg is at work and the dishwasher is broken and the list is so long that I don't care anymore if I get it done. I don't have fleeting thoughts of time alone or a sewing project I'd love to tackle; right now what I crave is little spots of time with each child alone and quiet moments and times when we're all laughing together, usually at Fiona, and by now even little Maeve's eyes are lighting up when the room is afire with joy.

I sat tonight, in Aoife's room. She was having trouble falling asleep so I came and perched on the edge of her bed and scratched her back, ever so lightly in small and then bigger circles, just like I myself crave. She settled into her nest of pillows and finally, finally drifted off. And I could have stayed there, and it seemed like almost the first time ever where it didn't seem like there was something I wanted to try to get to after bedtime, I was just savoring bedtime. Savoring a warm, relaxed girl beneath my hand, and the quiet, and the dark, and the peace of being with her.
Why is this?
Tomorrow I might feel differently, but tonight, I'll take it. It's a magical feeling because you know, this is it. In 10 years I will be sewing and Aoife will have shut her door tightly and she'll be asleep in there alone and she won't want me (or maybe, if I'm lucky, she will...) to go in and lie with her in the dark for twenty minutes, just thinking and feeling calm. Or it will just be another night when somebody else needs me and I'm itching to get away but tonight it was just her, a little girl who couldn't sleep, and my lucky job was to sit on her bed by the night light and scratch her back.

Aoife will never be five again, and this point in my family's history is not going to repeat itself. The children will grow and be different stages of children and then they will be gone, and I will have the rest of my life to have a clean house, and cook intricate and fabulous meals, and sew interesting things, and have a fulfilling professional career. But this is it, this is the best. There will never be anything more beautiful than this.

Tonight, I nursed Fiona and Maeve together in the rocking chair after their bath. Maeve was sorely exhausted, and I snuggled them in on my lap in the tight little chair and began to rock, singing their little lullaby (a slight variation on the tune of Go Tell Aunt Rhody):
Good night Fiona,
Good night Maeve Eloise.
Good night my sweet girls,
It's time to go to sleep.
I looked off into the darkness of the room as I sang, rocking hypnotically, and when I looked down I saw that they were curled into each other while they nursed, and were clutching each others' hands. Maeve had fallen asleep.

I will leave you with that beautiful moment. Tomorrow there may be tears of frustration, I may fling a dish towel across the kitchen in frustration and shout at the top of my voice but today was full of things that made me glad to be just where I am, here, and now.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Just a throw-out for the loss mamas out there.

As most of you know, I recently authored a pamphlet with a lactivist friend on Lactation After Loss (picture it as a trifold, folded up). I have received many requests from hospitals around North America to use the pamphlet (yippee!) to which I say, of course, HURRAY! YES! HAND IT OUT!
They say, I notice there is no copyright. I say, that's because I want you to copy it. I want you to give it to mothers. I want people NOT to be sent home with swollen, dripping breasts and no idea how to feel and what to do.
I am pleased and proud to be able to offer such a thing, it is an honor to me and my daughter's memory if people give this to as many mothers as possible.

Recently, I had a bereavement counselor say that she liked the pamphlet, but felt concerned about the section on milk donation. It was her feeling that we shouldn't include the section on donation, and that if mothers were interested in donation (and we all know that it is the minority who would have this interest) those mothers could simply ask about it and be given the information at that time.

I countered her suggestion that women would ask for the information by saying that I felt strongly that, while indeed the suggestion that one could donate could be a sensitive topic to newly bereaved mothers, it is presumptuous to assume that this information is simply to difficult and to therefore omit it. I have met mothers who have indicated that they wished they had known about this possibility. I also felt that we wrote the section sensitively so as not to make mothers feel as if donating is something they should do.

My take is, the right thing to do is to present all the options.

What do you think? (and feel free to call me wrong, if you wish. This is what I'm asking for)

Please share this pamphlet with your local hospital or support organization.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Our time away...

I actually still exist.
It's been so long... so much longer than I ever thought I'd go without writing.

There are many aspects of my life that have fallen aside, intentionally. I have four children now, four very young, very precious, and very lovely children who need me desperately. They need me to hug them, kiss them, play with them, tell them stories, sing them songs, tuck them in, rock them, nurse them, change their clothes and diapers and shoes, pack their lunches, drive them places, pick up their toys (or could they do this themselves?), run a support group in her memory, they need me to wipe their noses and bums and wash their hair for them, lay out their clothes and breakfast dishes and pour their orange juice and stir their oatmeal and wash the pot, they need me to take photographs of them so we'll remember all of this and call the dishwasher repairman so we'll have more time together in the evenings and go to the library to get books. They need me to scratch their backs, and swaddle them, and change their sheets, and vacuum the house so we won't have allergies, and cut the grass so it's perfect for soccer. They need me to push them on the swings and take them to the park and grocery shop for them and get them school supplies and teach them how to knit, and take them to ballet, and drive to soccer practice, and organize playdates, and take them for a walk to see the cows, and rock them to sleep.

To all of this, I say yes. And lately, to the computer, I say a loud, and definite no. When all of the above has been accomplished, and it's 11:00 at night, and I have two nursing babies who need me all night long, I have remembered how important it is to prioritize what's here and now, and so I do.

I'll be around, I'll be around.