By: Stacey Ellis
One year old. One. Wow. Where did the time go? I feel like I keep saying that. In the beginning I think new parents wonder if they will make it to one year because every day seems so long. But as the months passed, one by one, we got the hang of it…we learned her cues and her cries. We taught her baby sign language for “eat”, “milk”, and “more” and oh, she’s a pro at “more”. And our hearts melted when she said “Mama” and “Dada” even if they weren’t directed at us at first. But now we know she understands what we say. When we say, “Can I have your leg?” She sticks one out, waiting for her pant leg. And then we say, “Can I have your other leg?” Here comes the other leg. We ask for kisses and get them. We ask, “Where are the doggies?” and she grabs at them. We tell her we’ll be right back and she doesn’t cry as often when we leave the room. It’s amazing how much she knows. What she doesn’t quite know yet is that she is adopted.
We use the word “adopted” as often as we can without trying. I will say to her every night, “We are so lucky we adopted you.” Or, I’ll try to say, “Adopting you was the best thing that ever happened to us.” I try to make it sound natural so that when she does understand that word, “adoption”, she will think it is like the word “apple” or “shoe” – a word that is a part of her life.
On this – the end of her first year – we wrote the birth parents her 12-month update letter. In it, we included pictures of our daughter doing everything she loves – going down slides, swimming, running, climbing. And we included a charm necklace – the charm necklace I wrote about a few weeks ago. It says “Many hearts, one beat.” It symbolizes all of the hearts that go into adoption which all beat in unison toward one goal. I bought one for myself and I wear it every day. I also bought one for her birth mother and one for our daughter. I thought if our daughter ever meets her birth mother, it would be neat if we were all wearing the same charm – a connection – so our daughter would know she was thought about every day.
But when our adoption lawyer went to send the letter, something unsettling happened. The office called the birth mother’s and birth father’s cell phones – both were disconnected. My husband and I had their phone numbers in our cell phones for that day when our daughter asked to meet them. But now, they were not valid numbers. So, the office sent an email through Facebook and through regular email trying to confirm they were at the same address before sending the package. No response. At first, we thought “oh, maybe they don’t check their email that often.” But as the days turned into weeks, we knew. Those words they said in the hospital were true: “She is your daughter. We are not going to interfere in your lives. When she’s 18 or 30 or 50 and she wants to meet us, you reach out to us and we’ll all decide if that is a good idea.”
They’re gone. My husband and I didn’t know what to think or how to feel. At first we both felt abandonment – not for us, but for our daughter. Not that we ever agreed to continued contact, but we guess we just kind of assumed they’d always be out “there” somewhere. People always ask whether we have maintained contact with them. We have sent a letter and pictures every three months and never expected anything in return. But after the six-month letter, we did get a letter back and it felt, well, good. After a week, we moved from abandonment to feeling, well, weird. As if for some reason, the closure we had isn’t there anymore. Maybe it’s because we didn’t send the “last letter”. Or maybe it’s because we finally feel like we are truly her parents.
People say those who raise a child are the child’s parents. I’m not sure I truly believe that all by itself. I think we always knew and respected the fact that she has two sets of parents – us and her birth parents. But now, we feel like we are her only parents. We don’t know if they ever think about our daughter. We don’t know whether they will be open to meeting her if she wants to meet them someday. Those lingering questions make me sad for our daughter – it’s not that we can’t track down her birth parents and that part of her history someday, but we won’t know until that time whether her history will smile upon her or close the door in her face.
By: Stacey Ellis
When I hear the word “menopause”, I think old. I just do. Not old as in 80 years old, but “past your prime” old. My mom went into menopause at the age of 55. That seemed normal. Most of my friends are in their early 40s. The concept of menopause is completely foreign to them. Well it’s no longer foreign to me.
I haven’t had my period since April. So I went to see my doctor and had that good ol’ FSH test run – you know the test that your whole fertile life hinges on. Sure enough my FSH was 63. For those who don’t know – anything over 10 is bad for attempting to become pregnant. Over 15 is a “don’t even try” to get pregnant and well, above that is simply menopause.
It didn’t shock me. Like I said, I hadn’t had my period for months. And now this finally explained my complete and utter irritation with the world around me. Every morning I wake up irritated. Every night I go to bed irritated. It’s not anger, or depression…it’s down right irritation. Like a bug that bites you and you can’t stop scratching. Or a cricket that simply won’t stop chirping. The best way I can describe it is irritated.
I don’t want my daughter to be around negative energy so I put on my best ‘show face’ and make sure the game is on during our time together. We have an hour commute to daycare and an hour commute home. We play children’s songs or she sleeps. I make sure evenings are full of “happy mommy”. But sometimes I really wonder how much she can sense. She seems to be very intuitive for a nearly-one-year-old.
And so after five months of being period-free –and I must admit, as irritated as I have been, that has been pretty darn nice– I got it…heavy, long, for over a week. I was like, “What the___?” Sure enough, when you take hormone replacement therapy, it can trigger, of all things, your cycle. WHOOPA! I’m in menopause with an irregular, who-knows-when-it-will-hit, cycle! It doesn’t get more irritating than that.
So today I woke up and decided I wasn’t going to be irritated. I smiled before I got out of bed. I smiled before I took my daughter to daycare. I smiled through my whole day. Smiling helps. Really, it does. It doesn’t take away what is crawling under my skin, but it helps. And so tomorrow I will smile again…because irritated people aren’t really fun to be around. And I like when people want to be around me, especially my daughter.
By: Stacey Ellis
I’m fat. Yes, fat. Okay, not fat. Chunky. Overweight. Uncomfortable. In my brain, fat. My baby is exactly eleven and a half months old. She’s thriving and tall and thin and happy and healthy. When she was born, everyone would say, “Wow you look great for having a one-month-old.” I’d say, “Thank you.” It was a rare day that I admitted she was adopted because that meant I didn’t look great. I looked lazy and overweight.
I felt the best I have ever felt in my life on my wedding day. Everyone probably says that. We all want to look our best when people are staring at us so we diet and work our butts off (literally) to be as thin and beautiful as possible. I loved working out. It was my morning caffeine hit. I didn’t feel like the day started right if I didn’t get in a solid workout. And the results definitely showed. I was strong, happy, healthy. I felt like I could conquer the world. I remember specifically coming back to the hotel room from an early morning workout on my wedding morning and lifting up my shirt to show off my taut waist and saying, “Look at this? I’ve never seen my waist this tight!”
A week later it all went to hell. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. I figured sure enough it was the “after wedding” exhaustion or “after wedding” blues – the event was over, and I was bummed. Two weeks later, the same. Three weeks later, not only was I too tired to get out of bed in the morning to work out, I was going to bed by 8PM every night. I felt like a zombie all day who never woke up. I just couldn’t figure out why I was so tired.
I gained 16 lbs in 6 weeks. Besides not working out, I’ll admit it: I certainly wasn’t completely eating healthy. Every magazine says to lose weight, you need to sleep and eat right. I was definitely sleeping but was still tired all the time. It wasn’t until I had a thyroid test that I learned I was extremely hypothyroid. I went off the pill days before my wedding and right after, my thyroid apparently went crazy. I had no idea the brittle nails, dry hair, 24/7 exhaustion were all signs of hypothyroidism.
That said – by the time I was diagnosed, I was 16 lbs heavier and learned it would be nearly impossible to have a biological child. Both of these pieces of knowledge sent me into a tailspin. So, I did what depressed people do. I ate. Today, I am 30 lbs overweight and extremely uncomfortable. I want to not only look good, but I want to be healthy for my daughter. My husband also gained his pre-wedding weight loss back and is uncomfortable too. Right now you are saying, “Well, do something about it!” I want to, yet, we can’t seem to get it together. Actually, I can’t seem to get past the past.
Now that my thyroid is controlled with meds and I have a beautiful little girl, my motivation that got me out of bed every morning to work out for the past ten plus years is simply gone. I’m angry at myself for letting myself go like this. I’m frustrated that I can’t seem to just stay on course at least with the eating part. I used to see other moms out and about and think – when I get married and have kids, I’m still going to put on makeup and dress nice and keep myself together. I’m not going to let myself go. And that is exactly what I did. And I’ve only been married two years. And I keep making excuses.
I joined Weight Watchers online and at first – filling in all the foods was fun BUT now I’m bored with it and can’t find time to always fill it in –especially on weekends when my eyes are always focused on a toddler and I am not near a computer. I got Cardio Barre classes for Mother’s Day. I have two left and I love it, BUT I can only get there maybe once a week or once every other week. I want to work out in the morning – we have a FULL gym in our garage -BUT because of my work commute, I have to get up at 5AM to do it – which means going to bed at 8PM, seconds after my daughter goes down, which means, I’m once again exhausted all the time. We have a membership to the YMCA which has a great gym. I’d love to work out after work BUT afternoons are not about me any more – they are about my daughter. She hasn’t seen me all day and I haven’t seen her. Plopping her in a stroller for a power walk seems really unfair. Going to YMCA and putting her in gym daycare for an hour seems even more unfair. Or are those more excuses?
I definitely know my time is not “my” time anymore. My guilt over not being with my daughter during our limited time together will rage long after any workout so I defer to being with her. Then I open my mailbox and get the latest People Magazine where I see all these “stars” in magazines who have their bodies back in two weeks after giving birth – or even two months. I know in my mind they have trainers, chefs, and lots of nannies and they don’t have a full time job during the day for a few months after giving birth so taking an hour or two for themselves to work out, get a massage, or simply relax, is a lot different than being at work 8 hours then coming home and taking another hour or two to myself. But I have to find some time…and not only time, motivation. It’s not about my looks anymore…it’s about my happiness and we all know children can sense when something is wrong or off. I want to be happy and healthy and fit for her, so she can be proud of me as much as I am proud of her for eating her first grilled cheese sandwich this week. Now I just need to not “try her food” as well.
By: Stacey Ellis
My husband and I had a fight. You’re probably thinking, “So what?” Well, we never fight. Really. We’ve been married three years and I can recount the two times we fought. The first time was actually the day we were matched with our birth parents. Our adoption happened so quickly – three weeks after we turned in our paperwork – we weren’t sure we could even accept the match financially. Seriously, adoption is expensive and had been told six months to a year. Three weeks was not in our “budget”. As he tried to explain the math to me, I just couldn’t get it. I’m not a math person. I’m a writer. He increasingly got frustrated and raised his voice at me to which I yelled back, “You know I don’t process information like you!” And a few words later, doors were slammed and I was crying in the bedroom for a half hour.
This one wasn’t much different. This time, I was really pissed off. REALLY. PISSED. OFF. Let me preface this with, my husband is an AMAZING husband. And he’s an even more AMAZING father. When he’s talking to, playing with, or engaged with our daughter, he is beyond incredible. He’ll feed her, change her diaper, and do everything and anything I do with her. He takes her out for daddy – daughter breakfast once a weekend just to be with her alone. Household-wise, when dishes need to be done, he’ll do them. He’ll help pick up her toys and he’s definitely the “fixer” in the house when something breaks. Now that you realize he’s one of the good guys, I can tell you why I was pissed off.
I still feel like I do 90%. How can that be you ask? I mean, I just told you how wonderful he is. Well, he is…when he’s present. My husband is a man and I truly believe men are trained from the time they are little boys to let their “mommies” and then their “wives” handle things. I’ve asked my male friends from time to time, “What are you doing this weekend?” Every one of them answers nonchalantly, “I have no idea. My wife will tell me when I get home.” I used to think that was cute. What is not cute is my husband disappearing to take a nap on a Saturday while I do the usual – feedings, changing, playing, entertaining. He wanted to take a nap, so he did. He has done this before and I have always been like, huh? How come I don’t get to take a nap?
Granted, I probably wouldn’t lie down in the middle of the day. It’s not my nature. I’m a doer. If I have time on my hands, I’m going to work out or accomplish something – organize cabinets, food shop, plan her first birthday party. And my husband, when he has time on his hands, he likes to watch TV, relax, hit golf balls, play on the computer. So why does he have “time on his hands” and I don’t? How can he sit and watch TV for a half hour? How can he read The Daily on his I-Pad for an hour? How can he take this nap?
The nap set me off. I was done wondering how he had “all this time” that I never seemed to have. So when he showed up from his nap, I lost it. Okay, my tone was very off. And he stated he had a splitting headache (didn’t tell me this before the nap, and yeah, he’s had naps on weekends before). And he said he “thought the baby was asleep.” I was trying to put our daughter down for her afternoon nap and she wouldn’t go down so the afternoon marathon continued – feeding, laundry, diaper changes, dishes etc. Within seconds we were screaming at the top of our lungs at each other – neither willing to budge. He screamed at me, “If you need help, you should just ask!” I screamed back, “I shouldn’t have to ask, we have a child!” The worst part was my daughter was right there, in the middle, hearing it all. I was conscious of this but I was so angry I couldn’t stop, until I did. I picked her up and walked out of the room and then played with her in the other room, pretending like it didn’t happen. Then I went to her room to try to get her down for that afternoon nap she simply would not take. She wound up sleeping on me and I had no interest in putting her down. I never felt so alone. I wanted her on me. I wanted the comfort. I wanted the love. I wanted the snuggle.
My husband and I have always gotten over “tiffs” by just going about our daily lives – like I mentioned, we’ve only fought twice and none of the little tiffs was as bad as this. The tiffs were mostly someone used a tone – the other one calls that person out – there’s silence, and then someone will inevitably break the silence with, “What do you want for dinner?” Or some other benign question. This one wasn’t so simple. I was fuming.
I fumed for three days. We weren’t silent, but I was not bouncing back like normal. On Day Two I even recognized I was slightly depressed, probably from thinking about it for two days. He tried instant messaging me that he loved me and I wrote back I loved him too. I do love him. That doesn’t change with one fight. But my emotions were going crazy. How could we adopt another child? I feel like a single mother already at times on weekends. I certainly don’t want another one “by myself”. How could he not see that I put everyone else first and he needs to at least put her first? When one piece of toast is burnt, I take it. When there are two pieces of chicken and one is smaller, I take it. When she wants to play and he’s tired, I play with her. How could he not get that I was not his mother ready to step in at any moment and take over so he could do what he wanted? I had to say something – but every night, I just wasn’t in the mood. I also wasn’t done stewing in my own mind.
Then it hit me. I had to calmly explain how I felt. This couldn’t go one more day. So I did. I explained that before we had a child his weekends were full of golf, naps, playing on the computer and mine were full of organizing cabinets, baking and cooking, and writing screenplays. I said, his weekends haven’t changed that much but mine haven’t been the same at all – I never get to decompress my way. I explained that he is a wonderful father, when he’s engaged. But he checks out when he wants to and I never get to check out and “do my own thing”. And even if I could check out, it’s not my nature to check out. I am never going to ask for help because technically, I don’t really need help. Just like when I’m not home, he doesn’t need help. That’s right, I could go on a business trip for a week and he’d be totally fine. It’s not about the help, it’s about the partnership and about being engaged fully when she is awake, sharing in the laughter and the chores.
He got it. And I learned something – the message gets lost in the tone and sometimes you need three days to know what that message should be…if I took those three days before saying I was pissed about his nap, I may have come up with the right words…I hope I will do that in the future so my daughter will never hear us raise our voices again. And this weekend – we had a great time…together.
By: Stacey Ellis
I watched the young woman cry and say it was the worst decision of her life. She is a birth mother, who gave birth to a little girl and gave her up for adoption to her aunt and uncle. She was 16 at the time, 17 now, and was being featured on the 16&Pregnant Adoption Special on MTV. I was mesmerized.
Ten months ago this week we adopted our beautiful baby girl. Ten months. Where did the time go? She’s crawling, walking while holding our hands, smiling, giggling, clapping, and eating anything and everything she can get her little hands on. She’s happy and healthy and we think we are providing the best possible life for her with love, stability, and lots of kisses.
I think about her all day at work and look at her pictures all over my office and on my cell phone. I’ll talk about her to anyone who asks (or doesn’t ask). But I don’t just think about her and her well being; my mind continues to drift to her birthmother. How often does she think about our daughter? Is she okay? She originally said she didn’t want any contact with us at all after giving her daughter to us but the state law requires us to send photos and a letter once every three months for the first year. We are nearing the last letter to be sent on her first birthday and a letter just doesn’t feel like enough. (I say final letter, but of course if she wants more letters in the years to come, we’re happy to send them.)
While watching the Adoption Special, I also saw another couple who gave half a charm to the birth mother and the adoptive mother kept the other half, to give to the baby girl they shared between them when she was old enough. That seemed nice. But is that too much? Will that “shove” in our birth mother’s face every day that I am raising her daughter? Or is she thinking about her every day anyway and this charm will give her something tangible to see when her mind drifts as well? I can’t imagine that she doesn’t think about our little girl every day. But what if she doesn’t?
One of the things that struck me on this Special was Dr. Drew kept saying to the one birth mother who was still grieving her loss, “When are you going to move on?” MOVE ON? Even I was offended and appalled. How can he possibly expect the birth mother to “move on”? I mean, she can accept the reality of the situation – that she is not raising her daughter – but “move on”? Can a birth mother really “move on”? I am not sure any birthmother ever moves on, but what if our birth mom has?
So, I scoured the internet for a gift. I found bracelets that have various sayings like, “Adoption is Love”. I particularly liked the one that said “In my heart”. Again, I don’t want to be presumptuous that our daughter is still in her heart. I found sterling silver heart necklaces which can be engraved, but is that too much? I found memory boxes which can be engraved. Then that made me think – our daughter has a biological brother – do I have both of their names engraved on a gift? I continued to look for the next hour.
Then I found it…a sterling silver charm on a chain that says, “Many Hearts One Beat”. I read the story behind the charm. The woman who created it met so many people along the way to adopting her son, people who all played a role in bringing her and her son together, she wanted a charm that would symbolize their journey. Wow. This was it. I feel like across the miles, this gift will touch her soul as it has touched mine.
I am not ready to “move on” and I am sure my heart beats the same as the birth mother’s who I believe has not “moved on” either. At least I hope she hasn’t, as I may just buy three charms, one for the birth mother, one for me and one for my daughter to wear when she is old enough. That way our daughter knows we are all here for the same purpose – to give her the best life possible.
By: Stacey Ellis
“She’s bleeding.” I heard the words and instantly jumped to my feet. “Where?” My husband was holding her as I scanned her face. Blood was pouring out of her mouth. Okay, it wasn’t pouring. It was trickling. Okay, it wasn’t trickling, it was smudged from the corner of her lip to her cheek. It felt like it was pouring. Our daughter is active. And I mean, ACTIVE. She’s just over 9 months old and about to walk on her own. I presume dancing, bouncing, and running will soon follow. I expected her first ‘accident’ to happen then. Not now.
We spent July 4th with friends at their block party. It was a beautiful day with tons of activities, from an egg toss to relay races to fingernail and toenail painting. Our daughter was having a blast watching everyone and everything. She rode in her first ever parade in a wagon next to all the kids on bikes. She held her pinwheel in one hand and occasionally tried to eat it. She tried her first snow cone. She took a nap in her stroller, right in the middle of the rock music and screaming kids. When it was time to change her, we went into our friends’ house. Business as usual. Then she wanted to roam around. She crawled around and pulled herself up on a glass table. There she was, doing her usual bouncy thing and then we heard a ‘conk.” Not a crash. Not a real bang. A conk. She started to cry and I scooped her up and comforted her. She seemed fine. My husband then took her and within seconds, he said, “She’s bleeding.” Her face was fine but she must have hit her chin and bit her lip or tongue or something inside her mouth. It was a nothing event, as she was smiling a second later. But it scared me out of my mind.
Ever since we had our daughter, I have been scared of losing her or my husband or all three of us. I think this fear is somewhat normal for most but exacerbated for me because of my background. I am a former TV news reporter who saw the worst of the worst. I regularly saw the random person die when the drunk driver hit him but the drunk driver survived. I watched two children be brought out of a house in body bags after a house fire in a home with no smoke detectors. I covered American Eagle 4184 which crashed into an Indiana field. I witnessed the F-5 tornado that ripped through Oklahoma City on May 3, 1999, killing dozens of people.
Before we adopted our daughter, when my husband used to leave town on business trips, I’d cry. I’d picture the worst happening. The plane going down. Me, alone in the house with our two dogs. His house. I don’t even know how to work the air conditioning or the heat. I’d literally obsess over the worst until he called and said he landed and was safe. Then I’d start to tear again when he was on his way home until I could hug him. Now, I am just as nervous, if not even more nervous, about my daughter.
I have covered the sex trafficking cases, the child abuse cases, the school shootings. How do I keep her safe? How do I prevent another “Elizabeth Smart” and teach her that if she’s every abducted, don’t believe that we are dead or the abductor will kill us if she tells while at the same time not scare her about the bad men out there? How do I teach her about protecting her private parts, without making her uncomfortable about sex. How do I make her feel good about her body no matter what shape it is when every day, every magazine and talk show talks about who lost weight, who is fit, and who looks great or horrible in a bikini? I think about how to pepper in positive messages in our natural conversations, just like I use the word adoption daily, “We are so lucky we were able to adopt you” and “We are so happy you are happy we adopted you.”
I know there isn’t a right answer on how to keep her safe so I will do the best I can. At the same time, I don’t think it’s weird that I sometimes tear up when my husband takes her for daddy daughter breakfast without me, because I fear a car accident. Notice, I said “sometimes”…I’m already getting better.
By: Stacey Ellis
Toys. Games. Strollers. Bouncies. They are EVERYWHERE. I always thought our house would be great for kids. It’s a ranch. It has a huge great room on the back which is a kitchen and main room that people salivate over when they visit. It has another living room which we have turned into a sort of playroom (baby gates are also doggie-keep-out gates). And the house is two bedrooms. But we are out of room.
Before we adopted our daughter, we had to move all of our gym equipment to the garage to make a baby room. So, we finished the garage, added some storage over the ceiling, and found ways to hang surf boards, bikes, and anything else we could on the wall. Well, the storage above the garage is sofull, it’s causing slight cracks in the ceiling plaster. Not kidding. And now, our kick-butt gym is more storage than gym. There are bags of baby clothes, swings, bouncies, etc. EVERYWHERE! So, we had to join the YMCA to work out (that is if we ever actually do work out).
We would get rid of the baby clothes, but what if our second child is a girl? We just can’t, even though we may try for a boy. We figure you never know, so we have to keep everything. That includes everything else too,such as the infant bathseat, baby toys our baby has long outgrown, and soothing swings she now climbs on to stand up.
I look back at my childhood. I grew up in a much smaller house than the house that I live in now. My parents still live there. My sister and I each had our own rooms, our own sinks in the bathroom, and we had one den to watch television in with my parents. Of course we don’t remember the real young years, but I do remember some toys laying around the house. I thought if they could do it, why can’t we? Well, we can’t and I have no idea why.
So, we started trying to figure out how to add on to our house. There are very limited options when it comes to building and even if we did, we don’t think we can add on enough room for storage. So that leaves us with moving. Has anyone taken a look at the housing market lately? We’re not wealthy so we’d have to sell our home first before we ever consider buying. Yet, we started “looking” – first where the school districts are best. We roamed around Culver City, California, just south of Los Angeles. There are no homes in the nice areas for sale. We roamed around our own neighborhood for a bigger home with more space. Nothing. And we roamed around Sherman Oaks and found nothing. It’s hard to find a home these days!
And I must say, it’s not easy to house hunt with a baby. She really has no interest in square footage, the number of bathrooms, and whether or not the master bedroom has a walk-in closet. But she does want to walk! She wants to check out every inch of the house, while holding our hands. And what was most fun was when we changed her, then she pooped and we realized we ran out of diapers – so we had to change her BACK into the wet diaper because that was the lesser of two evils.
It just occurred to me – a storage unit may be in order.
By: Stacey Ellis
My husband had a great idea to be adventurous this summer and ‘get away from it all.’ So we booked a trip to Hawaii. We have always said when we have kids, they will simply go where we want to go. We’re not going to become shut–ins like a lot of our friends. We have numerous friends whose kids are approaching age 5 or older and have never traveled outside their home town. They haven’t even driven anywhere to stay overnight. And they certainly haven’t crossed time zones because that would be a “nightmare” on their kids’ nap schedules. Those who have traveled either bring nannies or grandparents with them. We figured, we can do this on our own. We have had only ourselves to rely on in raising our daughter. Our daughter has no grandparents who live near us, and even if they did, they aren’t very mobile and wouldn’t be any help. We have to seek out babysitters just for a night out. This vacation was going to be family bonding time and we were going to enjoy every second…including the 9-hour plane ride.
Okay, so we didn’t book a direct flight because we had a two-for-one fare if we flew through Seattle. We’ve been on 12 planes so far, what’s four more? Our flight departed at 6 am. That means getting up at 3 AM and leaving our house by 4 AM. We are pros, no problem. We had plenty of time at the airport. Our now 8-month-old daughter, who wants to do nothing more than walk holding our fingertips, was amazing on the first flight to Seattle. She hung out, flirted with the other passengers and did her usual –eating, pooping, sleeping. The second flight was definitely more tiring as we traded who would hold her, who would make the formula, and how many toys we could take out that wouldn’t wind up lost somewhere under the seats.
Kauai is a beautiful island. Lush and green everywhere. We hit the local Wal-mart, which was feet from the airport (planning is always good) and then hit the local Foodland. We stocked up on diapers and wipes, sand toys for her to play with, baby food, and enough food for us for the week. And we were on our way to the hotel in Princeville. The Westin resorts all have villas, which are equipped with full kitchens and one-bedroom suites. It was beautiful. The sun was shining, the roosters were cock-a-doodle-dooing. And our little baby girl was as happy as a clam. We were relaxed and ready for our week of sunning and relaxing to begin. My husband made a point to say to me, “I want to get some sun.” In case you missed the translation, that’s code for: You entertain our daughter while I lay in the sun and pretend for a few hours that we aren’t parents of an 8-month-old.
For the next seven days it rained. And I mean, RAINED. I kept accidentally seeing the beautiful weather in Los Angeles on my husband’s programmed Ipad. On the news, I kept seeing sunny skies over Maui and Oahu. Yet, Kauai was rain, rain, and more rain. We learned that May was the rainiest May on record in Kauai. Every day, when the rain broke, even momentarily, we’d throw on our bathing suits and race to the kiddie pool. It was chilly with no sun to warm it, but still we’d plunge in, give our daughter time for a good hard kicking swim, and race back to the room where our daughter would be exhausted enough to sleep for a long nap. It wasn’t until Day Three that we realized our vacation felt like being stay-at-home parents.
My husband and I both work. I always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but with the economy the way it is, and with my husband owning his own business in the advertising arena, my dream never came to fruition. I came to accept it and since I truly love my job, I don’t dwell on it. I must spend as much quality time with my daughter in the afternoons and on weekends. Now, three days into vacation, we realized, this is what it would be like if one of us stayed home (though both of us were there). Entertaining an eight-month-old on vacation on an island which relies on being outside for entertainment can be overwhelming when it simply won’t stop raining.
Two of the days we drove 90 minutes south and found SUN! We spent Memorial Day on the public state beach in Poipu. We nestled under a palm tree right on the beach – had our shade and looked out at the crystal blue ocean which had a nice jetty creating a “child’s play area” in the cove. The other we spent with my husband’s aunt who owns a house on the beach. Both days, our daughter splashed around in the ocean, tried to steal other kids’ sand toys, and tried to eat sand. It was absolutely blissful watching her absorb everything around her. She was loving every minute of her time in Kauai and didn’t have any clue that rain was mostly spoiling our vacation. So we too ignored the rain.
We tried to take her to the farmer’s market one day but the rain started falling sideways. We tried going to a beach about 20 minutes southwest –a deluge. We walked around a little shopping area and it poured so hard we had to go into a restaurant and order food we didn’t really need. Each time we got rained out, we looked at it as an adventure. Oh well, at least we tried and we got out of the hotel. And at least we were all together as a family which means we got to see milestones first hand without our Blackberries going off.
We watched her go from slow crawling to bolting across the room at record speed – a lot of time in the hotel room meant practice! We watched her cruise from furniture piece to furniture piece while walking. We watched her try new foods such as bitty pieces of bagel, chicken, and salmon! We watched her knock down sandcastles. We watched her start to understand how to wave goodbye with just her hand and not her whole arm. And we felt her first tooth poking through her bottom gum. All in all, there wasn’t much more we could ask for. Our vacation was perfect.
By: Stacey Ellis
Tears flowed so hard it was impossible to stop. Most people reserve these crocodile tears for a death in the family or a tragedy. Babies cry when we adults can’t figure out what they need or want. But it wasn’t my daughter crying on this day– it was me. I was standing at the airport gate with my husband and baby and they were about to take off for Los Angeles without me.
We all arrived in New Jersey the week before as a family. It was going to be a big week for all of us. I was launching big structure changes at my company. I started this job just six months ago and was working in a chaos I couldn’t deal with – so I made changes and now it was time to get the rest of the company on board. Meanwhile, my husband had some big meetings in New York City as well. So our daughter was going to spend five days with grandma and grandpa – my parents – and my sister who would play nanny in New Jersey. I knew it would be incredibly hard to leave her for five days, even if we were only going to be an hour away. But I also knew with our work schedules, she would not have had any quality time with us this week and her grandparents and my sister would spoil her and dote on her. Yet I still teared up when we left to catch the train into the city.
At the beginning of the week my mom called – she’s teething really badly. I found this interesting because she wasn’t teething the day before. I told my mom to freeze some wet wash cloths and let her chomp down on them. My parents did that and she was fine. On Tuesday my mom said she has a cold. She suggested that they take her to a doctor or look for baby Afrin. I put my foot down – NO medications, period. I asked – does she have a fever? My mom replied, “No.” I said – then feed her, make her drink a lot of liquids and get a lot of sleep. As a “new” parent – I’ve already been through a few colds – and two doctor runs, I already know the doctor doesn’t want to see her if she doesn’t have a fever over 101.3. And I also know my mom is a hypochondriac.
My sister said our daughter was playing, having fun, and having a great time. But she wasn’t sleeping well and every time someone put her down in her crib, she woke up instantly and wailed. I felt guilty. I know she doesn’t sleep well in a strange place when we ARE around – now it was the combination of the strange place and strange people and she wasn’t sleeping at all, unless she was on top of my sister. I couldn’t be there to soothe her and tell her, “It’s okay, mommy’s here.”
By day three, my mom made a comment, “Your sister is a great mom.” My sister actually isn’t a mom. She decided not to have children due to health issues. My mom was referring to my sister caring for my daughter. Weirdly enough, I took no offense to it and was thrilled that my daughter was so attached to my sister and I was glad my sister had “all the care duties” under control. While I didn’t take offense, I did feel left out. I was now exhausted from three ridiculously long work days – 7 am til midnight – and I couldn’t wait to see her…two more days. Thursday was uneventful. Then came Friday.
“Your dad had a stroke.” Yes, my father was being rushed to the hospital because he had tightness around his chest and his arm and leg went numb. They believed he had a stroke and maybe a heart attack. I had one more meeting in New York but I had to get on the train. I pushed up the meeting two hours, did it in 20 rather than 90 minutes, and ran for the train. The whole way I was crying off and on.
My parents and I are very close. My parents have been married more than 45 years. They are codependent in every sense of the word. And neither is entirely independent. I just kept thinking what would happen to my mom if my dad was gone. He was the rock. My aunt and uncle picked us up from the train station – fortunately my uncle is a doctor. He said my dad seemed stable and he may have had a TIA stroke – it’s like a warning stroke with no lasting effects. And he has water in his lungs and around his heart – congestive heart failure. They took us to my parents’ house to see my daughter and then my sister and I would go to the hospital. I couldn’t wait to see her but felt incredibly torn and needed to see my dad.
My husband and I arrived at my parents’ house and our daughter looked at us like, “You look familiar.” Within a second, and me saying, “It’s mommy,” she burst into huge smiles and grabbed at me for big hugs and kisses. I had already forgotten how incredible those hugs felt. I sniffed her just to remember her smell. She looked bigger, older, different. Then she showed us her new trick. She crawled across the carpet. Yes, my sister taught her how to crawl through a week of demonstrations. I missed her first crawling. Again, I felt horrible but I was so amazed at her scooting all over the living room. And with that – within 10 minutes of seeing my precious daughter – we had to leave for the hospital to get there before visiting hours ended. I had 10 minutes with her. That’s it. My husband would stay with her at the house – it’s never a good idea to bring a healthy baby to a hospital.
When we arrived at the hospital my father looked okay. He was flush, had a fever of 102, and still felt some constriction in his chest. He kept joking that next time I come in, don’t forget to bring my black suit. It wasn’t funny. He was adamant, “Don’t change your travel plans.” We had all planned to fly back to Los Angeles the next morning. Too bad, I told him. I already changed my plans. I hadn’t yet, but knew I would. He was his usual stubborn self, telling me to go home. But I knew better. My mom is not independent. She needed someone to take the trash out, to get dinner, to drive her back and forth to the hospital. And well, I live 3000 miles away and have not been the one “there” when other health emergencies happened –my sister was the one to drive in, as she lives about two hours away. I knew it was MORE than my turn and of course, I wanted to be there. But that meant not seeing my baby for another three to four days. I was distraught.
All night as my husband repacked bags, I hugged her and held her tight. I cried relentlessly. A week’s worth of guilt, missing her, and exhaustion came flowing out. I didn’t want them to leave. We checked about changing all of the tickets, but that truly made no sense since someone had to be at the house with her and I’d be at the hospital all day anyway. She needed to go home, be back in her crib, in her familiar surroundings so she could sleep. There wasn’t a choice to be made – I knew what had to happen. Still it felt like I was choosing between my father and my daughter, even though I knew I’d see her in just a few days and for the rest of her life.
So there I was standing at the gate. Thank goodness I was able to get a gate pass and had more time with her. But as I stood there and people gathered to board the plane, the tears flowed harder and harder. I thought, “What a spectacle I must be making.” Every time my husband said, “She’ll be fine. I’ll be fine. You’ll be fine. Take care of your dad,” I cried harder. She clung to me too, though her face was opposite mine so while I’m sure she sensed mommy was upset because I was holding her so tight, I don’t think she saw the tears flowing down my face. When I finally had to hand her over to him and watch them disappear down the walkway, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have her, a diaper bag to cling to, a stroller to fold down. I had nothing but me and my tears. I crossed my arms and left as quickly as I could.
I drove back to the hospital. The fever broke and my father was sitting up in bed. The doctors determined he did not have a stroke. He had congestive heart failure – water around the heart – something my mom has lived with for 15 years. I was familiar with it. He had to have a few more tests to rule out a few other things like a valve leak because his blood pressure was so low, but they were pretty sure that was it. That, combined with the defibrillator he had in his chest, caused the other symptoms of a stroke. The only way to control it is by some medicine -if he can tolerate it -and diet.
I spent the next two days having serious talks with my parents about the house, maybe moving to a retirement community, about taking care of themselves so they can be around for our daughter’s birthdays, bat mitzvah, etc. I realized how close I came to not saying to my father what I wanted to make sure he knew – I love him. He’s been the best dad ever and the best grandpa “with the white hair” ever and that I need him to be here for us and my daughter. I said nearly the same to my mom. As much as I missed my daughter horribly, it was a “nice” three days.
Finally I was going to head home…the plane was delayed a bit and I got home well after my daughter’s bed time. But when she woke up at 4 AM and needed a little back rub and some water, I jumped out of bed. It was my turn and I was happy to take it.
By: Stacey Ellis
From Day One our daughter would go to anyone. Want to hold her? Here you go! Hand-off. Want to play with her? Go for it. Hand-off. Want to take her to see someone in another room? No problem . Hand-off. Not only would our daughter hang out in anyone’s arms from the day she was born, as she grew older, she would laugh and smile and act like she didn’t have a care in the world. I told my friends I wanted her to be comfortable with other people. When you’re an “older mom” you’ve had a lot of time to watch your friends raise their kids. I’ve seen it all – the mom whose kids can’t say a word without their mother holding them and encouraging them and the mom who doesn’t say anything when her one-year-old runs with a knife. I knew I didn’t want to be either of those moms. And I certainly don’t want my child to be afraid of everyone and everything, hiding behind my leg at 8 years old, being dragged to school every day for a week BEFORE school starts so she could get “used to” the environment, being unable to go to summer camp because her former counselor is no longer there and she can’t adjust to a new counselor, and being scared of trying any kind of new activity with new kids. I want her to try everything, embrace the world, have a healthy fear of strangers, yet be sociable and be able to enjoy different people. She seemed that way…easy go lucky…and then we visited my husband’s parents.
His parents are lovely people with big smiles, warm hearts, and nothing but love for their grandchildren, including our daughter. But for some reason they brought out the mommy, mommy, mommy in my daughter and she can’t even speak yet. All she wanted to do was be held by me, not even by my husband –me. Of course, as a mom, I can admit out loud there is some teensy bit of joy associated with this – she wants ME! Her momma! I remember those first weeks back at work feeling like I was the “nanny” and feeling like the nanny was the mommy. When I would come home from work at 4:15 she was fussy and cried, cried, cried as the nanny left. I felt horrible. Finally she adjusted and smiled and threw her arms out to me when I came home. Now my daughter knew I was momma and her grandparents were not momma so she wanted nothing to do with them.
I simply can’t believe that all those “hand offs” to my friends and family were for naught. She wasn’t comfortable at all with new people, even her grandma and grandpa who she Skyped with every week. After five days at their house, she was no more comfortable than she was on Day One. I expected her to wake up in the middle of the night – she does that when we travel and she doesn’t know where she is when she opens her eyes. I expected her to need some adjustment to the routine and the time change – but this was not what I expected at all. And neither did my husband’s parents.
Instantly I felt like I was defeated. Then I remembered what all my friends with kids said: “Just when you get used to one thing and you find a routine, it all changes.” And when I used to “brag” that my daughter would go to anyone? They all said, “Oh just wait until the attachment phase.” In my naiveté, I truly believed this wouldn’t happen. Sure, she’d be “attached’” to mom and dad, but I truly believed she’d still want to be held by friends and family. She did a week ago. I believed I could put her in the pack-n-play for a minute and leave the room and go to the bathroom. I could do that a week ago. I believed my husband could hold her and play with her without me and she wouldn’t so much as flinch. She did a week ago. My belief system was all wrong. Now, in one week, all she wants is me, me, me.
I had to get to the bottom of this – I whipped out the dusty baby books on my night stand. I say “dusty” because as a working mom – I wake up, go to work, come home, play with baby, go to bed when she goes to bed. Dusty. As sad as this sounds, the only way we know that our child is reaching every milestone is because Baby Center sends us weekly “milestone” updates. But there was nothing this past week about attachment issues.
So I opened up The Baby Book by the Sears. There it was – five pages on stranger anxiety and separation anxiety between babies and parents. In five minutes, I knew her actions are all normal for her age. In fact, it’s quite mild compared to some of what was described. It’s amazing how all I needed is five pages in one book to tell me she’s okay and I’m doing okay. It was enough to make me realize I’m now ready for that “next phase” of changes and challenges. Bring it. Or at least wait until after we see the next set of grandparents in two weeks from now.