the year of living unexpectedly
How is it the middle of August already? It is absolutely impossible to believe that in just a few weeks, Baby Z will be a whole year old. I know. I mean according to her adjusted age, she’s not even ten months old. But sure enough, she was born on the second day of September, which is just three weeks away.
This whole year has caught me off guard, thrown me really. From first diagnosis to this very moment, I am still adjusting. After a few months of being convinced that I was seriously ill around our big move a year and a half ago, our world was completely overturned. Soon I was making appointments with high risk specialists and frequent monitoring over an hour away. I had to begin sharing the news and fielding inappropriate comments and loaded questions. Then after a spotting incident at 28 weeks last July, I was placed on moderate bedrest. All of a sudden, I had to begin to finish up work, three months early. I also had to figure out how I was going to care for an energetic 35 pound toddler, who I was no longer supposed to lift.
Not only was I shocked to learn I was carrying a real live baby, but by the time I had my first ultrasound, I was already well into the second trimester. With my doctor’s plan to deliver early to avoid further risks, my due date jumped from mid-October to mid-September. Then even earlier. After spending the month of August afraid to do anything — for fear of even one more spot of blood — on the first of September everything changed when just after dawn I was carried out of my home and taken by ambulance to not one but two hospitals.
It became clear that I wouldn’t be leaving until she came. The next morning they decided it was time. It was an extremely harrowing birth experience, to say the least. Yet Baby Z was welcomed to the world — albeit under entirely different circumstances and surroundings than big sister Jaye — at 33 weeks and 3 days. She weighed under four and a half pounds.
One very difficult week later, I was discharged. After two weeks, we moved back home. And three very long weeks later, we finally brought Baby Z home from the NICU. She weighed just five pounds. Only preemie clothes fit her (which are now worn by Jaye’s doll).
By the time her due date arrived, Z was seven pounds and still tiny but she looked like a real baby. As hard as those 6.5 weeks were on all of us, I realized how amazingly precious was this gift of time. Here we had gained more than six weeks with this sweet baby girl, getting to know one another, bonding 24 hours a day. I would never wish prematurity on anyone – and we are still dealing with the repercussions — but I am now grateful for the extra time I was able to share with our daughter.
To say it was an adjustment to recalibrate our lives to welcome a newborn is an understatement. It was a colossal transformation. To this day, I lack the energy to recount it all in detail. The first month was a surreal blur. Z nursed every two hours or so, sometimes more. She had a lot of catching up to do. Sleep was — and still remains — elusive.
Jaye stopped sleeping for a few months as well. Our now big girl, who had slept through the night since 12.5 months old, was now waking multiple times throughout the night. She had her own adjustment too, sharing the spotlight — and her mama — with a new baby. It was hard on everyone. As thrilled as I was to have the unexpected ability to grow our family, I still mourned our little trio and the life of three we had created. I imagine Jaye did too, much as she seemed excited and proud to be a big sister.
For her part, Z has still never taken a bottle since those early days, or a pacifier. She still wakes throughout the night, often sleeping for just two or three hours at a time. Rare and cherished is the night that I get 4 or more hours of sleep at once. Sleep deprivation has taken a toll, to be sure. I’m three years older now than I was when Jaye was born and less able to function and recover from a tough night. Plus, as anyone will attest, 2 = WAY more than 1+1. Still, I’m not complaining, merely hoping for a good night sleep, and soon.
Z has been slow to hit some of her milestones. Although she has remarkable fine motor skills using her hands, gross motor development relying on core strength has been slow. She only recently began really sitting on her own and moving around. She can get across a floor, but she is not yet crawling. While every kid is different, Jaye started crawling at about 9.5 months, which is Z’s adjusted age now. By one year old, Jaye had 8 teeth and and was eating all sorts of foods. Z has just two lower teeth and still eats only mush when coaxed.
As for me, this is the longest stretch I’ve had without real work in more than ten years, 15 if you don’t count the break I took between taking the bar and starting a new job after recovering from my first major fibroid surgery in 2002. I was able to negotiate a five month leave after Baby Z was born. But my organization lost a major source of funding and just before Thanksgiving I was told my position as director would be eliminated. While an unfortunate turn of events, it wasn’t entirely surprising, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. There was no way Z was ready for child care at that stage, refusing to take a bottle yet in dire need of constant nourishment. Though we knew it would be tight for a while, Mac and I celebrated the end of the year with reflection and gratitude. In the spring I contracted to do some consulting work with my old group a few hours a week, nothing to live on but helpful all the same. Now, I consider various job opportunities and wonder how the hell I could ever take a full time job. I couldn’t. Between Jaye in preschool part time and Z’s needs and my lack of sleep and a commute, it just wouldn’t work. So again we are adjusting to yet another new normal.
This is way longer than I anticipated writing. I’m just still sort of in shock that it’s August again, coming up on September. Baby Z won’t get the big lavish first birthday party that Jaye had. She’ll get her cake — the family tradition is the one year old gets his/her own cake to eat however she wants — but we’ll just have family over for birthday brunch. I hope she doesn’t get screwed on all the other things Jaye had as the first and only child. At least she’ll have a sister.
Such a crazy year this has been. Truly a monumentally upside down just trying to keep up kind of year.