So Long 2011

I’ve been wanting to write an end-of-year post, but I haven’t had much time until now. So here it is, a little late.

My Facebook status for New Year’s Eve was “good riddance 2011”. I really felt that way. I’m incredibly grateful and happy that 2011 brought us James. However, his wonderful triumphs and miracles could only come from traumatic scariness. That’s what I was saying a happy good-bye to. On top of all that, this year was especially dark for many of my loved ones. What I’m most anticipating for 2012 is normalcy.

In August, I posted about what 2011 had brought so far. I’ll pick up from there without further adieu.

The month began with promise. I’m happy to say that it played out accordingly. The three of us thoroughly enjoyed Paul’s last days of paternity leave with sleep-ins, occasional errands, and trips to the park.

We had more visitors over, which was fun and made us feel like we were emerging from our bubble. As I’m sure other NICU parents can attest to, it’s hard, in some respects, to leave the protective world of the hospital behind. Also, I hit a milestone. I was able to return the hospital-grade breast pump because I no longer needed it. I was no longer pumping around the clock; James was nursing. Happiness and relief.

We finished the month off with a small adventure. We took an overnight road trip up to the coast to Jenner in Sonoma County. James proved to be a wonderful little traveller. He loves seeing new places. He got to strike being nursed under a giant redwood from his bucket list.

The day after Labour Day, Paul returned to work. It was a big adjustment for all three of us. He was sad to leave James. I was overwhelmed at first at being the only daytime parent. The first week was especially tough. Covered in spit up, I’d hand James to Paul as soon as he walked in the door. Soon though, we figured it out. We got into a routine. I also started doing things with my mommy friends.

Two more rather traumatic, yet short-lived occurrences happened. James’ breathing monitor went off when I was driving us over to our friends’. What ensued was horrible. I hurriedly pulled over, but in my haste I inadvertently locked rather than unlocked the car doors. I couldn’t get to him. I almost passed out from panic. Paul has written a full account on Grow James Grow. However, as you’ve probably guessed, it all worked out thanks to passers-by and firemen. Still I shudder to think what if the monitor had gone off for real rather than a false alarm.

James had to have his lingual frenulum (the fleshy bit under the tongue) clipped because the theory was that it was causing him to clamp down (ow!) while breastfeeding. However, when I took him to the specialist to have it done, she said she was uncertain it would help. I had to make the hard decision to go through with it. (I recalled all the comments from lactation consultants as well as NICU nurses.) Usually the procedure isn’t supposed to result in much blood. Well, James’ frenulum was particularly fleshy (groan) and there were many mouthfuls of blood, which got all over both him and me. Why they didn’t give us a protective cover is beyond me. He was beside himself for about half an hour. I was horrified. And, even worse, he wouldn’t nurse at first. I feared I had totally messed up. However, when he did nurse, he clamped down much less. Within a couple of days, he was barely clamping down at all. Phew.

Finally my parents could come to visit and meet James, which made me so happy. My mom did remarkably well for having broken her hip at the beginning of the year. She barely needed her cane. We all went to Muir Woods, plus stopped by the hospital to see where James (and Paul and I) had spent 105 days. There was lots of cuddling, hanging out, and baking.

October was rather quiet. James started rolling and would take his most epic naps only at Starbucks. I became somewhat obsessed about his naps, but soon realized I had to let something so variable go if I was to stay sane.

The only blip for the month was that at an ultrasound for James’ kidneys (given his previous two urinary tract infections) they saw some spots on his liver. They believe them to be vascular – like a strawberry birthmark that’s internal. Most days I can believe that and try not to worry. Only time and observation will tell. When I get scared about it, I remind myself that James has been scanned and prodded so much more than most babies. We probably would have never known about the “mass.” (Yes, gulp, that’s what they call it.) Also, he’s defied the odds all along. This time the odds are on his side. Ninety-nine percent of cases they see resolve themselves.

For the last couple of weeks, Paul and I spent most of our spare time working on James’ Halloween costume. We didn’t plan it that way, but costuming our little man as Totoro took a bit longer than we expected. The results were completely worth it. James looked super cute, even after he spat up on himself at the preemie Halloween party. Also, the hat I made still fits and is the go-to one on cold days.

Right at the beginning of November, I left Mister James with Paul for a weekend so I could visit some dear friends in Toronto who were going through tough times. My friend was nearing the end of his valiant eight-year war with brain cancer, and his wife is one of my best friends. His fight, her care, and their love was inspiring, beautiful, and heart-breaking to witness again. I’m so grateful I did, as hard as it was to leave James.

Cancer also continued to wreak havoc with my brother-in-law. His relatively favourable prognosis hasn’t changed, but his treatment has been rough…to say the least. Plus one of my other best friends finally saw the hard end of some stressful times which had dragged on for years. I’ve missed her.

Thankfully there also was a lighter side to November. James found his feet and fell in love with them, so much so that for a while, he forgot he also could chatter and roll. He was reunited with Grandma Jane who returned for a hospital-free visit. I love to see grandparent-love. It’s amazing. We all had a really fun time together. Paul and I even had our first date since James came home.

Paul, James, and I celebrated American Thanksgiving. Very aware that we have so much to be thankful for, we took our little American to a cozy cottage on Tomales Bay near Point Reyes National Seashore. It’s rather fitting, I think, that that’s the weekend James tried solids.

I’ll sum up the goodness of December first. James fell just a little out of love with his feet and recalled he could roll. Because of it, he became really mobile. He also started trying to crawl. All so very exciting!

To my surprise, I love feeding him solids. It’s fun to think what foods would be good for him to try. I like making his food, knowing exactly what’s in it. Plus his reactions are so very amusing. He’s become a food mooch, and will often grunt and thump his feet if I’m having something he believes he should be having too.

We introduced him to Santa. We took him to get a medium-sized (huge to him) Christmas tree, which he tried to eat when it was decorated. The three of us had a cozy, quiet Christmas together, punctuated with quite a few Skype sessions with family back home.

A little before Christmas, I decided to resign from Blast. The timing seemed very right. I wasn’t ready to return to work yet; I want more than a year off with James. 2011 brought so much change for me that I felt it was time to make even more.

Now onto the bad. My friend passed away a week before Christmas. Anytime would have been difficult but during the holidays was terribly poignant. I miss him. Also, it’s hard to be so far away from his wife, my dear friend, who has so much grief to bear. It’s all still rather hard to believe. Words really do fail in such times. I tell myself that all of us who mourn him need to have the grace he showed in his amazing fight.

It was quite the year. I’ve never been so emotionally and physically drained. I’ve never known such trauma and such tremendous marvels. The old adage about what makes you stronger does seem to hold true. I’m now a happy mom with much more perspective than when the year began. I’m grateful for where I’m at. I just hope 2012 gives me some time to savour it all.

About gwenamon

bookworm, confidante, creative director, cyclist, global wanderer, music lover, shutterbug, shoe shopper, snowboarder, writer, yoga geek. i'm also a very proud mama of a lil mister named james.
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