Monday, September 25, 2017

My Pregnancy Is Not An Invitation Into My Personal Life

It's amazing the things people say. It's even more amazing the things people say when you're visibly pregnant.

At 7 months pregnant:
  • "Wow, you must be due any day now - you're so big!"
  • The next day, "You're so tiny!"
  • A medical professional: "Your chart says you are measuring small." No one had ever told us Elizabeth was measuring small, and it turns out she wasn't. We were told baby was, "definitely not small."
  • A medical professional, the next day: "Your belly is so small!"
First of all, commenting a pregnant woman's size is incredibly rude. We're not saying it's rude to talk about these things with people you are very close with. It's natural to compare pregnancies and experiences with loved ones. It is not normal for acquaintances and people you are meeting for the first time to feel like they can comment on your body. 

About 32 weeks pregnant with Oberon, Everett, and Bitty. A lot depends on the style, angle, and where her hands are.

We're pretty sure this would be annoying even without our history. But being parents after loss, it's downright infuriating.

Comments about Elizabeth being big are stressful because she was bigger than average when pregnant with Oberon. She had extra amniotic fluid and Oberon was big for his gestational age. Neither of those things were good things.

Comments about Elizabeth being small are also stressful. Babies that aren't growing within the expected ranges can have medical reasons for that low growth. 

You would think that at least medical professionals, especially those that work with high risk patients, would keep these kinds of observations to themselves. Inevitably, they don't.

When people are meeting for the first time, there's this moment when the group is trying to find a topic. The weather comes up, travel stories, the usual. Enter, a pregnant person. All of a sudden, the pregnant person's personal life is latched onto as the obvious topic. This happens, a lot. 

Sometimes, Elizabeth is able to deflect gracefully before things get awkward. Sometimes, other people talk about their own families and she can simply smile and nod and then walk away. Other times, people are persistent. Peppering her with questions and ignoring the one word answers and closed-off body language. 

She knows she risks being perceived as rude, but it's just getting to be too much. She didn't bring up her personal life or her family, the only reason it's being discussed is because she's visibly pregnant. That visibility leads coworkers, flight attendants, receptionists, restaurant workers, baristas, and random strangers to launch into personal questions. Every single day. It's exhausting. 

A lot of the advice is to answer these people honestly - people shouldn't ask questions if they aren't ready for the answers. But answering honestly also puts Elizabeth in a difficult situation. Lie, or tell the truth and deal with the emotional avalanche that comes with it. Or don't say anything, look like a crazy person and still deal with the emotional avalanche.

Did we mention it's exhausting? Because it is.

Not everyone wants to talk about their personal lives. Especially not as "small talk." Not everyone has simple, happy stories. Some people might love talking about the complications and tragedies and differences in their personal lives. We promise, if that's the case, these people will bring it up on their own - you do not have to drag it out of them. 

In general, we could all be more respectful with personal questions. But for now, we'd settle for people not using a pregnant woman's body as an invitation.

Why write this? If you're reading this, we probably wouldn't mind talking to you about this pregnancy (we're kind of an open book). But that stranger in the office, airport, or coffee shop? Take a beat before you assume she wants to talk to you about her pregnancy, her body, or her family.

You made it to the end of a rant post! Thank you for listening, here are some pictures of Everett playing. We totally dig it when people ask us about Evie at the park! <3


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

So Long, Summer!

Just like that, we're heading into Labor Day weekend, into football season.

All smiles at the pool - 8/26/17

The weeks are flying by, and we are all a little overstimulated. We had Chris's birthday, Elizabeth traveling for work, Elizabeth's birthday, a big house party, meeting lots of neighbors, and a quick weekend trip to SoCal. Not to mention that both of us have pretty intense work obligations this time of year.

Oh yeah, and we got lice!

Whenever we think we'll have some down time, it just doesn't happen. We haven't had time to sit down and settle on a name for Bitty. We haven't put closet doors in our bedroom yet. We haven't been hiking in months.

All that said, it's been an enjoyable summer. Everett enjoys things like cake and presents this year, and he participates in video chats which brightens up work trips (or working late).

Playing at playgrounds and in the back yard - August, 2017

We took the time to walk around and meet the neighbors. It was very nice to introduce ourselves to the people who live on our street. We invited them to our open house party and quite a few took us up on the offer. Of course, inviting them into our home meant opening up to questions about Oberon. Chris was more vocal about it than Elizabeth, but it was good to get our story out there. We don't want to hide him, but it's still difficult to talk about in small talk situations.

The open house was a wonderful day. It actually felt relaxing and enjoyable to spend time with the people we share our life with here. So much so, that we didn't take a single picture! There were kids playing in our yard and adults having happy conversation. It felt...good. If you'd asked us a year or two ago, we wouldn't have been able to say for sure whether we'd ever have a day like that again. Whether we'd ever feel comfortable in a group social situation like that again. We're not sure whether it's that many people already knew about Obie, or that we were in "our space" where Obie is everywhere, or simply that more time has passed. It's never going to feel normal to have a child that isn't alive. But it's also our reality, every day, and has been for coming up on three years.

Hanging in Obie Corner - 8/2/2017

The visit to SoCal was a little hard on our hearts. Seeing our nieces interact with Everett is so joyful, so wonderful, that we can't help but wish Oberon was growing up with the cousins too. We miss him. And we feel guilty when life takes up so much space that we don't give him the attention he deserves.

 Mom: Did you just eat sand? Evie: No...yes. 8/26/2017

29 weeks with Bitty - 8/29/2017

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Keep Growing

So much is changing, and suddenly it seems so fast.

Our house is nearly where we want it to be. The to-do list is getting very short, and that feels awesome. We’re starting to really settle into our new home. Finally trusting that yes, this is indeed our house and our home.

Everett has been upgrading too - a water table! 7/23/17

Elizabeth’s body is changing too. Her belly is swelling to accommodate a growing (and kicking!) Bitty. Pregnancy aches and pains exist, but they aren’t too intrusive. She continues to be monitored closely (so far, no red flags). It’s hard to compare how she feels physically between the three pregnancies, because the circumstances were so drastically different. Emotionally, it’s markedly less intense - veering into disconnected. There’s so much pulling at our attention and time that there just can’t be as much focus on the pregnancy, or on grief. It makes it easier to get through the days without breaking down, but it carries with it some guilt.

24 weeks with Bitty - 7/23/17

Everett’s changes are the most visible. He is learning new words all the time. He is getting more brave climbing and running. It’s such a joy to watch him figure things out, to watch him be proud of himself. As we barrel through toddlerhood, it’s clear that Everett won’t stay little forever, won’t stay a baby.

At this point, many parents would be tempted to say something like, “stop growing!” or “he’s growing too fast” or “I wish he would stay little forever.” Not us. Definitely, not us.

We know what it’s like when a child doesn’t grow, and stays little forever. It’s not an outcome any parent would actually wish for. It seems like an innocuous thing to say, but it isn’t. We aren’t the only loss parents who react badly to sentiments like that.

Watching Everett grow and change is the most rewarding part of parenting. Providing love and support may be the number one responsibility as parents, but helping our kids grow and change is a close number two.

All smiles at the Happy Hollow playground - 7/29/17

We never got past love and support for Oberon. We made decisions that were best for him and our family, we gave him as much love as we could while he was alive - and there’s so much leftover that we continue expressing it now.

With Everett, and now Bitty, our biggest hope is that we get to help them grow and change for the rest of our lives. We’d never wish for it to slow down or stop.

4 generations in Michigan - 7/7/17 

Hanging out with cousins, refusing to sit still - 7/8/17

Playing and learning at Impression 5 - 7/9/17 

Hanging with old friends at Impression 5 - 7/9/17

More friend time in Michigan - 7/9/17

 Evie's first solo amusement park ride (Happy Hollow) - 7/29/17

Horsing around on the way to the grocery store - 7/30/17

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Riding the Waves

We're not sure if you know this, but California (and much of the western U.S.) is in a crazy heatwave right now. On Father's Day it was 108 degrees! Our house is still a work in progress, and this heatwave week has turned out to be a particularly bad time to have no insulation in the attic. Thankfully, our air conditioning is working some and it hasn't gotten above the mid-80s inside the house.

Morning playground time on Father's Day - 6/18/2017

Speaking of the house, we are making some progress. Putting things on the walls, building closet organizers, buying patio furniture, and getting bids on turf were all big activities over the past month. We've both been able to stay pretty chill about the continued chaos, but impatience is starting to creep in. While not necessarily a bad thing (it will push us to manage the work and GET IT DONE), it does remind us that emotional regulation is a different beast after losing Oberon.

Obie and Evie newborn canvases - UP! 

In some ways, the enormity of Oberon's loss makes it easy to let the "small stuff" roll off our backs. It makes sense not to get wound up over things that don't really matter and simply let the waves wash over us. In other times, the exact opposite is true. For whatever reason, something gets stuck and we can't properly manage it. Being able to recognize those moments is helpful because we can clue each other in - "I know I'm overreacting, but this is really affecting me." But recognition doesn't always help with the internal struggle. Heart racing, stress mounting, tears welling, it can be hard to stop the spiral. Coping mechanisms that used to work (deep breaths, logic, talking about it) aren't reliable anymore.

Weathering the different types of waves is a learning process we'll be in the rest of our lives. Little waves we can ignore, little waves that compound and turn into huge waves, and legitimate tsunamis are all going to happen. Acknowledging that sometimes helps.

One set of waves we've been handling lately is a bit familiar. For the third time in four years, Elizabeth is pregnant. We are excited, yet measured. Hopeful, yet anxious. Things are so different from our first two pregnancies, but there is still familiarity.

Hard to see, but Elizabeth is holding Obie's O - so technically it is the five of us - 6/18/2017

There was still the early part of pregnancy when we didn't really believe it was happening. Especially this time because we were surprised with how quickly it happened.

The first trimester was a lot tougher on Elizabeth physically than with Oberon or Everett. She was nauseated a lot more and for a lot longer. Her belly "popped" a bit earlier as well, and it was difficult to keep it a secret for very long. We've had to manage the emotional response to telling people a little bit sooner than we had originally intended.

When the telling began - 4/27/2017

One thing that made us feel a (tiny) bit better about sharing the news was the Harmony Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) that we did early on. This test only checks for major chromosomal abnormalities, but it was nice to have something tangible during the first trimester. We found out that Bitty Beastie has the normal amount of chromosomes and we also found out that she's a girl!

Bitty needed souvenirs from her first Disneyland visit.

She's our first girl, and she's also the first girl (after many boys) on the Fiorani side. It's nice to have an excuse to buy some things specifically for Bitty. She'll use a lot (a LOT) of hand-me-downs, but she'll have some new things too.

In general, the waves of Bitty's pregnancy have been smaller and easier to handle than Everett's pregnancy. We've come up with lots of reasons for this, but who knows which one is really impacting our emotional state.
  • Easier physically: Now that the nausea has subsided (for the most part), Elizabeth is having a relatively easy time physically. Maybe it was the back-to-back pregnancies, maybe it's just different this time. So far, ancillary discomforts have been minimal.
  • Time is going faster: After Oberon died, time dragged. Each day felt like a marathon. That's less true now. We find we aren't always sure exactly what week of pregnancy it is, and sometimes we are surprised when we do the math. It's a nice difference.
  • Everett: For a couple of reasons, having Everett here (and healthy) is making this pregnancy less consistently stressful. Evie is growing and changing so much, and we are really enjoying parenting him. It's a lot of energy to take care of (and keep up with!) him, but it really does keep us from focusing too much internally.
Even with distractions and differences, there are still waves to handle. We have less time to focus on anxiety and worry, and that can start to feel like jinxing. In addition, it can lead to guilt about not focusing on the pregnancy and honestly guilt about not feeling as anxious. We don't know the outcome of this pregnancy, and ignoring that can feel wrong.

More big waves came as we had the anatomy scan. (Spoiler alert - no concerns identified!) The ultrasound technician asked Elizabeth whether she wanted to focus on anything specific given our history, and Elizabeth just started crying and couldn't speak. She pretty much cried through the whole appointment (luckily Chris is a good hand-holder). 

The technician and the doctor were both pretty gentle, but there are always words and phrases that just hit us in the heart. Although it was a tough day, the most important thing is that Bitty looks healthy. 

Another new thing for this pregnancy is that Chris is giving Elizabeth her weekly progesterone injections at home. For those of you who know Chris, he is really not a fan of needles so this is a big undertaking for him - and he's doing great.

If you've made it this far, congratulations! You get to find out Bitty's bug...although we think it's pretty obvious...

JJ paw photobombing the BittyBug

And her color is indigo. We've already started finding things in our three colors!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A House And A Mouse

We've officially moved.

Emotionally, I think it's been easier than we anticipated. We packed up the truck three weeks ago now. Unpacking is slow going, and part of that is because we've got a laundry list of work to do on the house before we can officially "settle in."

Our new house - May 2, 2017

But even 80% settled in is treating us pretty well. Evie runs all over the house and has mastered the half step into the family room. Kitty litter has it's own space (for the most part). Most of the major furniture is already anchored.

Playing in the new house - April 25, 2017

Already Checked-off the to-do list:
  • Whole house painted
  • Bedroom, dining room and living room furniture purchased
  • Appliances cleaned
  • New dishwasher
  • Halogen and incandescent bulbs replaced with LEDs
  • New locks, new front door handle, and door jams fixed
  • Drain lines in the bathroom replaced (drains downhill instead of uphill now!)
  • Gas shutoff valve for fireplace put in a safe place
  • New garage door opener
  • Major electrical work almost done (lots of new wiring, making circuts and outlets safe, running new wire throughout, installing recessed lighting in bedrooms)
  • TV mounted on bedroom wall
Still on the to-do list:
  • Patio furniture
  • Dining room storage furniture
  • Closet destruction / organization
  • Decorate the nursery
  • Hang stuff on the walls
  • Maybe turf in the back yard
  • Maybe redoing a bathroom
  • Solar system
  • And more!
It seemed crazy, but one of the best things we did was take a few days to go down to Disneyland the week we moved in. It was a chance to decompress, to visit with Elizabeth's parents, to get away from the house and that endless to-do list.

Woody, meet little Woody - April 28, 2017

As probably every parent says, Disney is different with kids. It was still a lot of fun, but totally different. Evie had fun, but he doesn't know anything about the characters so his fun was being able to run around and to look at all the things and people. Plus Mommy's bride ears. Plus the amazing new foods!

In line for Peter Pan (his first ride!) - April 27, 2017

Some people feed their kids off their plates, but we were purchasing a kids meal (not a toddler meal) almost every time! Our boy can sure put the food away. Especially mac and cheese! He also got a taste of Dole Whip and the Gray Stuff (it's delicious).

Meeting lots of characters on April 27-28, 2017

He wasn't afraid of the characters, but wasn't particularly delighted by them either. He liked the rides, but wasn't overly excited. His favorite thing to do was run around. He sure looked cute doing it, too!

Walking around and riding rides - April 27-28, 2017

One special moment was when we met Mickey Mouse. We were second in line and rushing to get ready (with Everett sleeping in Elizabeth's arms). After we took pictures, we realized we had forgotten to get out Obie's O for the pictures. The cast members there were amazing and let us sneak back in to take more pictures with Obie's O. They clearly have dealt with loss families before, and it showed. It was comforting that they were willing to talk about it directly and be sensitive, but it's also so sad to realize how many times they must have dealt with this. Infant loss is rare, but not *that* rare and there are a lot of people in the world.

Sleeping through meeting the main mouse - April 28, 2017

Did we mention it was also our 5th wedding anniversary? To celebrate, Grandma and Grandpa Fiorani babysat while Chris and Elizabeth had a relaxing dinner at Napa Rose followed by the World of Color fountain show at Disney's California Adventure. It's a great show, but we were puzzled (and emotionally gut-punched) when the scenes went from Colors of the Wind (Pocahontas) to Under the Sea (The Little Mermaid) to Mufasa dying (The Lion King). WHY would you put an extended sequence involving parent death in a nighttime family show? What a way to end our day at Disney.

Even with the weird, frustrating ending to the park days, we had a great time and are glad we took a couple days for our family. There's certainly enough work to do over the next few months!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

On The Move

We're moving!

As with everything these days, it's bittersweet. We're doing our best to focus on the sweet while still acknowledging the bitter. So in that spirit...

The Bitter.
  • We're leaving our first home together. Our first family home. This is where Chris proposed, where we found out we were expecting Obie and Evie, where we set up the nursery for Obie, where we brought our boys home to. And yes, where Obie died. We don't think the full weight of leaving has hit us yet, but we expect it will be a tough few days.  
Showing Obie his room for the first time - December 9, 2014 (Obie Xmas)

The Sweet.
  • More room!
  • A yard!
  • No more common living space drama!
  • No carpet!
  • A chance to set up a new family space, with places to memorialize Oberon and for Everett to safely play. Rather than fitting our babies into a full apartment, we get to start fresh with dedicated spaces for both our boys.
  • We'll have a chance to set up a child-safe house from the get-go.
Evie playing in the new house - April 13, 2017

The Things to Accept.
  • Our mortgage payment and property taxes have increased...a lot. We will need to adjust our lifestyle accordingly.
  • There is a lot of work ahead of us to move and to get the new house where we want it to be.
  • We need to buy almost a full house worth of new furniture! Exciting, but also daunting.
Everett has already been to the new house and really enjoys running all over. He's mastered the half step from the dining room to the family room and he loves opening and closing the closets.  The dowel rods to help lock the sliding doors also make great toys.

More and more every day, he is becoming his own person. His balance and physical development changes seemingly by the week. He walks, nearly runs, climbs, and climbs down. He hugs the cats (they let him do it, our cats are not normal).  He'd fantastic at making a mess with utensils, and just staring to understand they help him get the food into his mouth easier.

Giving Pepper a hug - April 12, 2017

Fun in the tub - March 29, 2017

Helping with the laundry - April 9, 2017

Food, glorious food - April 13, 2017

Emotionally, he's also going through changes. His face changes immediately when he hears "don't" or "no" - even if it's a very minor thing. He calms down, but the initial reaction always happens (so far). He hates being done with meals and will try to shovel in all the leftover bits when we start wiping him up. He still loves peek-a-boo and being chased, especially being "gotten." His endless giggles at at even the simplest things help us to relax and remember to enjoy spending as much time as we can with him.

Big smiles on the swing - April 1, 2017