grandmama

Dear Teapot,

Can I tell you about your grandmama?

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She loves you very much. And she loves me very much, too. When you were born, she and grandada came to the hospital with special soup she had made so I would get back on my feet faster. She had knitted you lots of blankets and a dress and hats and sweater vests. Your famous pink sweater vest? She made it for you, years before you were born. After we took you home from the hospital, she amd grandada would visit so I could get some rest. You were always such a good baby for them. They would somehow get you down for a nap, comfort you when you woke up, change your diaper and feed you a bottle and get you back down all while I napped. They brought your dad and me food – lots of Burger King! – so we would have an easy lunch. They played with you and held you. Grandmama was the one who changed your diaper, though! She never shied away from the smelly tasks.

When you got older and it was time for me to go back to work , they offered to look after you. She told me she really enjoyed it and that you were such a delight. She marvelled at how musical you were and how clever. She put cream on your bum when you had diaper rash. She wiped your nose when you were sick. She and grandada took turns holding you for your naps because you refused to be put down. She always, always had time for you.

I’m sad you won’t have as much time to get to know her as your cousins did. Just know that she held you and loved you and cared for you, and that love lasts forever.

Love,
Mom

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Books

Teapot is a huge nerd. She looooves books. One night, Teapot’s dad showed her a new book he’d bought for her to read together before bedtime and she refused to let him hold it or flip the pages. All she wanted to do was carry it around and hold it. And then she was too excited to sleep and cried when we took it away.

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Now she’ll pat our legs when she wants to sit in our laps and look through her books. Her head fits right under my chin and she fits so snugly in my arms. We love our little reader!

what it’s like

every couple of days, I think about quitting.

what’s that saying? never quit on your worst day?

i knew it would be difficult. but i didn’t think it would be this hard. i’ve always gotten by on my hard work, my ability to deal with people and get things done, and my instincts. i didn’t think working under a different manager would make me feel so… small. and unappreciated. and frustrated. and flip-the-pool insane. i feel like if i don’t fall in line soon, i’ll pay for it come evaluation time. and yet, i don’t know how. the way he wants things done feels wrong. against common sense, even. i used to know where i should be, what i should be doing. i knew my priorities. i knew what had to get done and how to get it done. now i just don’t know anymore.

i actually used to like going to work for the most part. now i dread it. i sit in the parking lot sometimes and think about just… continuing to sit. i think about what might happen if i drove to work and then just kept… driving. i self-medicate with Starbucks. retail therapy. i tell myself I deserve it, and that i need it to face the day. i didn’t use to. it isn’t right, and i see it, and i don’t know how to stop.

one of the only good things that came out of me going back to work is, oddly, having to commute there. i used to walk to work – seven minutes tops. then we moved, and then my job moved. and there was no way i could take transit and teapot to my parents’ place. so after almost two decades (yep) of not driving (not having to drive), developing a full-blown fear of driving, getting over it, getting back behind the wheel, i sort of drive now. good life skill.

can i stop now?

 

goodbye

I was all right until the very end. I shed a few tears during the service – one-and-a-half kleenex’s worth. But at the very end, someone let out a wail – a howl of despair – that fractured into broken sobs. It was her mom, paying her final respects before the casket was closed, crying in anguish. And the sound was like a dagger that tore a jagged hole in my heart. A mom, having to say goodbye to her baby.

Afterwards, we greeted friends – most of us with bleary eyes. We exchanged hugs, handshakes, shaky smiles. We went out for lunch. We laughed, reminisced, talked about new things happening in our lives. It struck me again how life goes on – how it wants to go on, how it must – even in the wake of so much tragedy.

“Being doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We only have this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand – and melting like a snowflake…”

~ Marie Ray

a long trip

So few grains of happiness
measured against all the dark
and still the scales balance.

The world asks of us
only the strength we have and we give it.
Then it asks more, and we give it. 

Jane Hirshfield
(from “The Weighing”)
 
 

We weren’t good friends.

I didn’t even know her birthday, and I’m sure she didn’t know mine either. We had Teapot’s dad in common – they had played sports together. Our maternity leaves overlapped – Teapot was born in December, and her baby A was born in February, and Teapot’s dad, ever concerned that I didn’t have any mommy friends, said that we should go out, here’s her number, you should give her a call sometime.

We texted.

I commented about a trip she had taken with her daughter and husband and she replied with travel tips and recommendations. Soon we were messaging each other every few days. We swapped war stories of nursing and sleepless nights. We commiserated during sleep regressions. Celebrated baby milestones. We talked about poop and boobs. Sometimes we even got together in person – sometimes with mutual friends, and once, just the two of us. She and her daughter were the first people to visit us in our new apartment, fearlessly making the trek across the city on the train. Our last messages were about our babies (what else) – I had asked her if her daughter had started shrieking yet, as Teapot had just discovered this new ability; she had replied yes! All the time! I had missed her daughter’s birthday party (but Teapot and her dad had gone) and she sent me a photo of all the babies and their moms lined up in a row; Teapot’s dad had not wanted to be in the photo, so she had carried Teapot and her own daughter in her lap. My last words to her were, “Adorable!” That was February 15.

Then she died.

She was, truly, one of the most genuine and kind people I have ever known. Through all of the challenges that motherhood threw at her, she was always strong and brave and full of grace. Maybe she was afraid sometimes (because she was human) but she never let fear get in the way of being there for family. I miss her a lot. Sometimes I think of something that I’d like to share with her and I have to remember that she’s not there. I feel like I got punched in the stomach, that I can’t possibly cry any more (and then I do); I can’t imagine how her family must feel, how profoundly they must miss her and how keen her absence must be.

She is gone.

Teapot’s dad often tells me that he processes a person’s death by telling himself that he or she has just gone on a journey. A long trip, perhaps abroad to some exotic country, where communication is sketchy. It will be a while before he sees this person again, but perhaps one day in the future they will reconnect. So until then.

Life, as we know it now, goes on.

Baby A probably won’t have any memories of her mom. But I think (I believe – I have to believe this is true) that she will know her, because all the love that her mom had for her lives on. In her daughter, in her husband, in her family, in her friends. And that’s a lot of love.

signs

We’ve been trying to teach Teapot more sign language. She just picked up “please” a couple of days ago, but rather than a hand making a circle at chest level, she kind of scrubs her hand up and down her sweater. It’s pretty close! Today, Teapot’s dad told me he was trying to teach her “wait,” which is sort of both hands up and fingers wiggling. Teapot’s version is “jazz hands,” which is completely adorable and hilarious.

number two

One day I will tell you the whole story. For now, what you need to know is that after being in labour with Teapot for over 40 hours, I ended up delivering her via C-section. I wasn’t progressing at all (I maybe got to 1.5cm, and I think the resident who was doing the checks had started feeling sorry for me and gave me that 0.5cm just to make me feel better) and Teapot’s heartrate was decelerating during contractions instead of speeding up. Those “decels” suggested that her oxygen supply was being constricted during the contractions, and any attempt to bring on actual (haha) contractions with pharmaceutical means could put her into real distress. So I went under the knife, and Teapot arrived without a hitch. The surgical team commented on the long umbilical cord when they were taking her out, and to this day we scold Teapot for playing with it while she was in-utero; we don’t really know what was causing the decelerations, but cord compression was one possibility.

So. What happens if we try for number 2? Will we end up on the operating table again because of a long cord? What are the chances of something going wrong?

These are some of the questions I’ve been pondering lately.

waking up

Today, after I picked up Teapot from her crib after her nap, she didn’t want me to put her down. She pointed to Gibsy, the radioactive-green gibbon, so I picked him up too. She held him and I held her and she rested her head against my shoulder for a while. Then she raised her head and looked at me and smiled, and then put her head back down. She did this a couple of times. I had to lean against the crib; she’s not a light Teapot anymore! I held her and breathed in her scent and pet her hair. And then she was ready to be put down, so off we went.

I believe in love.

Sometimes when I lean in to kiss Teapot, she squeals and squirms away. I blame Teapot’s dad – the way he kisses her, he makes MUMMUMMUMUM sounds and tickles her ear with his lips and prickly facial hair. She has this radioactive-green gibbon (we call him Gibsy!) that she will hold out for me to kiss, and so I do. And then Gibsy will pass the kiss to her. I have this silly belief that every kiss, every hug, builds up her immunity against the sometimes-awfulness of this world. So therefore, it is my duty to smooch and squeeze her as much as possible.

last night

…at 4am. Some complaining from Teapot’s room woke both myself and Teapot’s dad. We looked at each other through bleary eyes, listening to the fussing. Teapot was half-awake. Her little voice, then, in between the fussing noises: “all done.”