Monday, July 18, 2016

Yes You Can, Fellow Human

At the end of May, we passed the two year anniversary of Grace's diagnosis. Last Tuesday, Grace had eye surgery. Today, I made two more appointments with specialists after two therapies. I'm going to be the first to admit that keeping up with Grace needs a lot of planning and coffee. She's doing awesome overall, and of course, needs some tweaking too with all the growing up. (That's where the specialists come in, for the fine tuning.)

A few hours post-op
Grace is constantly changing. Every week in therapy, I have something new to discuss with her six therapists. Her language is exploding - this is especially exciting since her stroke was in a language center, and we didn't know how she'd be affected or what the symptoms would be. Speech therapy is an amazing resource. On Wednesday, we have a transition meeting where she'll be evaluated for what her state-provided therapies will be once she turns 3 years old. It's exciting and nerve-wracking.

I was talking to my best friend about Grace, and we talked about Grace's diagnosis. It's part of her, but it's a complicated relationship. Most days I'm fine; other days, I feel overwhelmed. I try to avoid talking about future Grace - there's too many unknowns. I remember being in an appointment with the neurologist, and she told me Grace would never use her right hand normally. I was really taken aback - for me, as long as we did the therapies, Grace would get better, right? Well, the hand is a complex blah blah blah. One of her occupational therapists provided a more optimistic viewpoint, with the consideration that we just don't know. I find a lot of comfort in not knowing. It's the reason I try harder every day. Every day, you see, is a glimpse of the ultimate triumph. God has given me this little girl to cherish, love and teach.

Motherhood is a very emotional journey. When I write, I only write of my own experiences. I cannot testify to anything else. There are a few very distinct memories from Grace's first year which I carry with me: when they first handed her to me; when they first woke me up to feed her and I was still deliriously tired from labor; looking at her MRI scan. No one can love Grace more than me, and I take that responsibility very seriously. It helps me keep my patience; it helps me apologize when I don't; and it lets me indulge her a little more than others would. The same goes for Laura and Stephen. Sometimes just holding them feels like our moment in eternity.

Grace isn't neuro-typical, like her two siblings. And that's okay. Everyone has trials in life. Grace's trials will be many, and she has an amazing support system on both sides of the family, as well as friends, therapists and doctors who love her. That alone can sustain a person.

So can possibility...

{chills, right?!}

I dwell in Possibility —
A fairer House than Prose —
More numerous of Windows —
Superior — for Doors —

Of Chambers as the Cedars —
Impregnable of Eye —
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky —

Of Visitors — the fairest —
For Occupation — This —
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise —

by Emily Dickinson 

Grace has limits physically. We're working on those. A good attitude and perseverance is the best asset in life. A life centered on Christ; a live given to others and served in love. These are the things the world needs. 

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Maternity Leave Musings (Or, Sorry for Not Writing More): 7 Weeks Young

Bonjour! Hola! Hello, friend. Thank you for reading. How are we (almost) through the month of June and I haven't published again? I suppose summer is my maternity leave and summer vacation. A vacation where I attend circus camp, or, learning to juggle of three kids under three years old and handle toddlers who want the blue cup, not the yellow, or whatever her sister has (currently).

Hi yourself! What have you been doing?!

Stephen was born, I turned in my students' grades, and I was balancing three different medication schedules. Lyme, thrush and postpartum anxiety. PSA: check yourself and your family for ticks, if you spend time outside.

How are you feeling?

If you would have told 18 year old me that I'd be tired by 9:45 p.m. when I was 28, I probably would have laughed. I've always been a night owl... which means now is I can be up at 4 a.m. to walk Stephen around until he falls asleep; collapse into bed; wake up with my two chicks clucking from their bedroom.

Motherhood makes me stronger. It's endurance training. It's creativity and adventure. It's the tea bag in hot water metaphor that Eleanor Roosevelt said. I'm re-learning my limits and re-organzing our schedule/ house. I'm reading books for fun! (Need more David Foster Wallace! Currently reading about Catherine the Great and listening to Tolkien on cd.) I'm getting outside and enjoying our summer schedule; starting postpartum exercise. Grace was just approved for eye surgery by our insurance (hooray! more on that later!), so that's one more thing going our way.

Which is to say, I'm feeling fine. How are you?

Okay, elephant in the room: Seriously - how do you handle three kids by yourself?!

I don't live on an island alone. I have a husband who pitches in with everything and helps keep me focused and organized. I have a cleaning company come once a month since our rental is so old and our children are so young. Friends to text. And family! My MIL came for three weeks, then my mother for two weeks, and after I was alone during a number of night shifts (shakes fist at scheduling gods), my MIL arrived for another couple days stay to pick up our former Honda CRV. It's been a revolving door, honestly.

Sure, many days, I am alone. I've taken the kids out of the house multiple times - the grocery store, therapy, and even wrangled them to two doctors' appointments last Monday. I pack my bag full of snacks/bribes, diapers+wipes, and give myself enough time to get from point A to point B.

You're not convincing me, lady. 

It's a day by day thing.

I take a deep breath, nap when I can (or mentally rest with a t.v. show while I take care of Stephen if the girls are napping) and practice the value of "me" - enough sleep, water, nourishing food, exercise (even just a little), prayer and my medication. Last night, we took a walk to the emergency department for a change of scenery and to give Will dinner; it was a win-win for both of us.

My parents came to visit us after the Youth National Rowing Championship my brother and sister were in a few weekends ago, and my dad reminded me that they got a nanny after three kids. That sounds like a dreamboat, even though I do not work full-time like my mom did (does).

 It does give a person perspective, though. I'm officially in zone-to-zone defense.

Stop the presses. I read "medication" earlier. Are you on medication because you're crazy enough to have three kids in three years?

I developed anxiety while pregnant with Stephen; there were a lot of factors, but by the time the birth came, I was feeling amazing. When Will and I were walking home from the hospital with Stephen, I remember telling him that this was the best I've ever felt after a birth, and how excited I was to jump into this new adventure. About a week later, I felt the baby blues; a week after that, I felt them getting worse. I called my PA and immediately took action (but not before crying to the Phone Nurse). I'm trying to be honest about this because these meds are going to be with me for the summer, at least - and to remove some of the stigma of going on medication. Sometimes, you need it.

And yes: having three kids under three is the craziest and most amazing experience yet. You'll have to trust me there. I don't recommend it to (or for) everyone. But I'm thriving.

What makes it so amazing?

One thing my PA told me is that a lot of women get postpartum depression/ anxiety because their partner is not supportive of them. This is not my issue, and she stressed to me how lucky I am. I can 110 percent say that I could not do this without Will, even though his hours are not super-changing and residency is still residency. Have you ever been part of a team where your side is always for you? Even when you're crying because you ordered the birth announcements and made a minor error that no one else notices unless you point it out to them?

Will and I are both very independent people, and one of the best parts of having more kids is how we've become more interdependent on each other and really embraced the family lifestyle. This is not easy with our schedule; whether it's falling asleep on the girls' floor after a shift so he can be there for the bedtime routine, or staying up late to clean the kitchen and get ready for the next day.

One of my favorite sayings its from Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring: "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." Will and I choose each other every day. It sounds romantic, and it is; it can also be hard and self-denying. Still, we see beauty in what we know and how we choose to love ourselves, each other and our family. This is amazing. The actions we do each day builds our family, our adventures, our life. Boring is a perspective.

So! Things we're doing:
  • Cleaning up/out every single room in the house. We've completed 4 so far; working on the dining room (dining room/ my downstairs office/ the girls' art table) right now
  • Writing/ sending birth announcements and thank you cards 
  • Playing outside and taking walks to the park
  • Adjusting nap schedules 
  • Eating popsicles
  • Napping and getting to bed earlier 
  • Books on cd; tv shows from the library; podcasts during the day and night
  • Starting potty training (and watching Potty Time)
  • Adding more items to my Subscribe & Save (guilty pleasure/ part of our kids budgeting)
  • Making a zillion lists
  • G's therapies 
  • Trips to the library and grocery store
  • Exploring new places
  • Work stuff (third year and last year of residency starts tomorrow!)
  • Posting on Instagram 
Hopefully, I'll publish more too (I write all the time, but I'm trying to keep it 50-50 with my reading). But in the meantime, here's to new adventures. May you have one every day.

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Paternity Leave in Pictures: Part I

Today is Will's last day of paternity leave/ vacation time and it was glorious. I mean, truly. Sure, I am sleep deprived beyond anything before and I definitely have a touch of the baby blues (not PPD, fortunately... still working through all the emotional highs and lows); but when I get overwhelmed, Will is (was) there to help me breath, or remind me to eat, or give me perspective, or let me cry into him.

And on that note, here's a splattering of all the fun we Baldwin babes have enjoyed with our favorite guy around the house more than we've ever had during residency.

Reading books together every night; Laura trying to look natural before the umpteenth attempt at stealing Dad's glasses off his face...

Woohoo! Nana bought the girls a tunnel!

Will and I fit through it too; we checked.

Took Stephen and Laura to their first Emergency Department Family Picnic; everyone just drank Stephen up. Laura loved all the dogs and climbing up the slides; played well with the older kids too! Will and I lost horseshoes miserably. Will played frisbee and regained his street cred. I made play dates like a champion.

These were some of the best times - just being with each other. Too often, we underestimate the importance of not doing something special. We lose the art of being; of being content with ourselves and with others as we build our relationships.

When school (well, classes) were over for me, that is really when time started to hold out a bit longer. Then it got hot, which always helps the clock drag. And somewhere in those ticking minutes, we find ourselves. We find our family - how we love, how we tick, how we move, and how we interconnect. While building blocks together on the porch (in the oppressive heat of a spring late arriving), we are literally building our family unit closer by the time spent just being.

So I repeat: how glorious.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Going to the Library: 5 Reasons to Get Out During Maternity Leave

High-five to Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum for hosting!


The biggest reason to get out of the house after you've had a baby 8 days earlier is because your older children are getting stir-crazy, and maybe you are too.


Also, it's the first full day of your husband being off. This will, in fact, be the beginning of the longest break/vacation he's EVER had during residency, which alone is cause of celebration.

#dadcation time, y'all.


There was sunshine today in PA, and that was also celebration-worthy considering the dreary days May has thus proffered. I am supremely looking forward to many more of these jacket-less days ahead.

And: toddler backpacks. Adorable.

The girls made me proud by repeatedly not acknowledging strangers who attempted to say hello; they would, however, say "bye bye" and wave occasionally. We had an extremely leisurely stroll to the library, considering how short toddler legs are, so I certainly was not over-exerting myself by any means.


If you get out of the house, things happen like:

  • A $50 fine becomes a $20 fine simply because your library card expired
  • You pick up their entire collection of potty books because GHB decided she likes sitting on hers
  • You find a couple cookbooks (and promise yourself a good fiction or non-fiction book once grading is completed)
  • The new children's section is done and you love it! Your husband offers to watch the girls while you peruse books and you take him up on that offer. This means all hands on deck (because little people like taking all the books off the shelves in no particular order),

while you wear Stephen in the ring sling. Meanwhile, in the checkout line, a little girl asks you what is inside said sling; you're a little sad you can't say, "A puppy!" simply for the element of surprise.


A big reason to get out is simply a change of scenery. We like to avoid crowds and have a place for the girls to run around, and they love being outside. It only took us 45 minutes to get out of the house, and a brisk 7 minute car ride, and ta-da! Historic downtown with its two hour parking.

Upon arriving home, the children and I all napped. Glorious.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Happy Due Date, Bebe Baldwin!

Today is Bebe Baldwin's due date and... he is six days old!

He was born on Thursday, May 12 at 2:50 p.m. He was 7 lbs, 6 oz. of cuteness and we are all super smitten with him. Stay tuned for his birth story, because it is exciting!

We love you, Stephen John Baldwin!

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