one to go

feeling very round today

“I think I might be pregnant.”

It seems like forever ago that I was somewhat nervously saying those words to Mike. And some days it feels like just yesterday. But here we are, with only one month to go until my due date, this incredible ride nearly behind us, and a whole new life just ahead.

This pregnancy has been pretty much the exact opposite of what I was expecting at the start. I hate to say that it has been easy because there have definitely been some challenges along the way, but by and large it has been calm, steady, uneventful… completely and utterly normal, which is everything I could have hoped for.

After years of living with this dysfunctional body, I was expecting to have a much harder time of things, particularly since I had no time to prepare it for the task of growing another human being. I was worried about my age, my health, about those holiday cocktails I indulged in before we even knew there might be a reason not to – I worried about everything, really. But instead of watching my fears become reality, as the months have unfolded and each successive prenatal visit continued to reveal a healthy, growing, thriving little being, I began to relax and enjoy, watching this little boy and the belly he’s inhabiting grow and grow.

I get why people call this whole process a miracle. And I can’t really express how incredibly lucky I feel.

But try as I might to avoid it, the fear and worry are creeping back, as our final countdown begins in earnest.

I wonder sometimes if the price for my easy pregnancy will be a difficult delivery, or complications, or worse.

(Why does there have to be a price? Because there always is, it seems. I’ve gotten so used to things going pear-shaped after anything good happens that I almost expect it now. And I hate that feeling.)

We weren’t at all prepared for this. In many ways, the timing could not have been more wrong.

But here we are. Joyful. Excited. As ready as we can possibly be.

I have gotten a bit better over these last eight months at living in the moment, at realizing that there are things that are just plain beyond my control, at taking a breath and saying “okay, X happened, we’re fine, now where do we go from here?” or “we’ll get through this; we always do.”

Because we always do.

I can accept and even embrace the fact that while I have an idea about how I’d like the birth of our son to play out (full-term, no drugs, non-surgical delivery, healthy baby, we all go home and live happily ever after), there are no guarantees, and you can’t ever truly expect that all will go according to your plans or hopes or wishes. Life doesn’t work that way.

I’m not afraid of pain. I’ve lived with it, daily, for the last 10+ years of my life. I’m not even particularly afraid of the unknown anymore – so much has happened that we didn’t see coming, good and bad, and Mike and I have gotten through it all together, with the love and support of so many friends and family.

But there is still this anxiety, this fear of something creeping into my psyche at night, keeping me awake and unsettled, pushing the calm away. Even as our son bobs around, stretching, rolling, turning toward his daddy’s voice or pushing back at the cats’ paws as they poke curiously at my belly, I worry.

I worry.

When we learned we were going to have a baby, I thought I’d write a lot more about the whole experience, record all my feelings and memories from this time. I have a little journal I bought for our boy that has just one entry in it, one short letter to him rather than the series of entries I had planned to write, telling him about this time in our lives. I’ve had so many words for him, but something has kept me from writing them down, or saying them aloud. It all feels so fragile, like speaking or writing about it all would somehow bring bad luck, like the slightest shift in the wind would burst this shiny bubble and make it all disappear.

I worry.

And as we count down the last weeks and days of this time, I don’t want to worry. I don’t want the end of this wonderful ride to be marred by frayed nerves and anxious thoughts.

I just want to remember the beauty of it all.

Life’s Too Short

My emotions have been all over the place this week.  It always seems to happen to me this time of year, as summer fades to fall and we approach September, a month of many anniversaries, a time filled with both memories and promise.

This time around the emotions are particularly strong.  Mike and I are now about five weeks away from welcoming our little boy into the world, and the fear and joy and anticipation are almost overwhelming.

On the flip side of that, there is sadness:  like so many of you we have come to know online and in “real life”, we have been stunned and saddened by a friend‘s unimaginable loss.  We have been reminded how quickly joy can turn to heartache, how plans and dreams can be crushed in an instant, and how we need to treasure every moment of this life and those we share it with.

My first husband once told me that he didn’t like to say “I love you.”  That if you said it too often, “it wouldn’t mean anything.”

In the ten years that have now passed since we parted, I’ve learned that he was just plain wrong.

In truth, you can’t possibly say it or show it enough.  Life is too short, and you never know if you’ll get the chance to take someone’s hand, to look into their eyes and tell them “I love you” again.

Say it.  Show it.  Mean it. Every chance you get.

And on Friday, think of Jennie and Mikey and their beautiful girls, and make some pie to share with the ones you love.

11.5 weeks

sonogram, 2/24/11

Since I can’t seem to muster the energy or the brain power for a proper blog post, I give you a few brief thoughts on this whole pregnancy thing:

• We’ll get the TMI bit out of the way first. As I alluded to over on that other blog, we were not trying to conceive (or “TTC” as the annoying websites call it. And yes, the websites already bug the crap out of me. You know the ones. Don’t even get me started on the books). And after, oh, let’s say years of not doing anything to actively prevent a pregnancy, we had pretty much assumed that it was a non-issue. And I had finally gotten to a place where I was really and truly fine with that. We had never been told by a medical professional that we couldn’t conceive (because we weren’t, you know, trying to), and we never took any steps to help things along. It just happened. And we decided to go with it. My grandma always says, “everything happens for a reason,” and I like to believe she’s right.

• Even though Mike and I have been together for 8 years, married for 5, and I have a great relationship with my parents, I felt incredibly nervous about telling them that I was pregnant. I have no idea why, as they were predictably elated.

• I’ve observed over the years that parenthood can bring out some of the… less attractive aspects of some peoples’ personalities. (Present company excluded, of course.) I really, really hope we don’t turn into those people.

• Our baby is due on September 15, 2011. We said goodbye to our beloved Kali on September 16, 2010. I have been struggling with the proximity of the due date to that anniversary a lot, and I’ll probably write more about it here at some point.

• I have never felt so exhausted in my life. I think I underestimated the double-whammy effect of my usual fibro fatigue plus the first trimester pregnancy fatigue.

• Aside from the exhaustion, I’ve felt pretty good. I’ve had a fair amount of nausea, mostly on the train in the mornings, and mostly triggered by bothersome smells, but other than that I really can’t complain. I feel incredibly lucky.

• The sonogram photos above are from my last OB appointment. We were supposed to listen to the baby’s heartbeat via Doppler, but couldn’t hear anything. My CNM told us not to worry and went down the hall for the portable ultrasound machine. It was probably the longest minute of my life. She returned with the machine, gooped up my belly, and voila – Sproggy appeared on the screen, bopping around and looking healthy and fine. (Apparently, this kid’s already stubborn. I have no idea where s/he gets it from.)

• December 2005. We still lived in Brooklyn during the transit strike, and though I had been able to arrange for rides at least part of the way to and from my office in midtown Manhattan for most of that time period, on the evening of the 23rd, I walked from 53rd and Lexington south to Delancey Street, then to the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge. The only way home was to walk across, and I am absolutely terrified of heights. I took a deep breath, focused on the path ahead, and started walking. It’s five years later and I find myself feeling very much like I did that day.

My name is Papa

My name is PAPA. My Animal ID # is A885900.
I am a male black and white amer sh mix. The shelter thinks I am about 3 years old.

I came in the shelter as a STRAY on 01/04/2011 from NY 11221, owner surrender reason stated was MOVE2PRIVA.

Reason for New Hope: DISEAS-ILL.

EUTH MEMO
No Euth Memo

MOST RECENT MEDICAL RATING, BEHAVIOR RATING & MEDICAL ENTRY
01/15/2011 Exam Type RE-EXAM – Medical Rating is 3 C – MAJOR CONDITIONS , Behavior Rating is MILD, Weight 9.0 LBS.
sneezing nasal d/c tx doxy 1 ml SID x 10 days

Profile date 01/04/2011 PET PROFILE
No Summary
Length owned >1 YEAR, Spends day time in or out? INSIDE, Spends nights in or out? INSIDE, Housebroken? LITTERBOX, Mated? NEVER, Travel in Car ? YES, Leash? NO, Obedience? GOOD, Escapes? NO, Fence? NO EXPERIA, LOVES WOMEN, LOVES MEN, LOVES CHILDREN,

WEB MEMO
No Web Memo

01/11/2011 BEHAVIOR EVALUATION – MILD
Exam Type BEHAVIOR
Front of kennel. Soliciting attention. Talking. Comes over, does not sniff hand, but allows petting and chin rubs. Rolls around. Headbuts hand. Purrs. Very friendly. Behavior is mild.

To be destroyed tomorrow, 1/18.

Breathe

I’m not big on resolutions, but I’ve promised myself that I will do one thing this year: I will remember to breathe.

You see, at some point, probably when I was living in NYC, I stopped breathing. Sounds silly, right? But some of you know what I’m talking about.

You hold your breath to keep out the smell of a rank subway car, the aroma of garbage fermenting in the street, the fumes arising from row upon row of gridlocked idling taxicabs. It’s a defense mechanism of sorts.

And then it carries over to other parts of your life. It becomes second nature to hold your breath, to stop breathing, in times of stress or when anxiety strikes or when you’re concentrating so hard on something that you need to block out everything else.

no, really

It has gotten so bad that I have notes taped up on my computer monitor at work, reminding me to breathe. I set a calendar reminder so that once an hour I am reminded to stop what I’m doing, unclench my shoulders, and breathe. But I don’t. I sit and stress until I’m lightheaded, and I literally have to gasp for air.

This is no way to live.

I need to remember to breathe.

I need to feel lighter.

2010 was a difficult year for us. The losses we suffered, both public and private, were devastating. But we weathered them, and we’ve entered this new year with a strong resolve and a renewed determination to make the life we want for ourselves. Already we have much to look forward to, projects and plans, milestones and celebrations.

I want to enjoy it all to the fullest.

I want to remember how to breathe.

Thanksgiving and Gratitude

I came home from work yesterday to find that a copy of the Fall issue of EdibleRhody had arrived in the mail, an issue which contains, in addition to Mike’s regular cocktail column, an article I wrote about our 100-mile Thanksgiving feast last year. You would think I’d be more excited to see my work in print, but it was a bittersweet reminder of that November day, the day we discovered the lump in Kali’s mammary tissue, the day we knew we were dealing with something far more serious than the anemia she was fighting so well.

We came so close to losing her last October, right at a time when so many wonderful and exciting things were happening in our lives. We should have been celebrating, enjoying those moments more fully, but instead we were in emotional and financial crisis, just trying to do what we could for her with the means we had available. Our friends, families, readers of our blogs – some of whom we’d never even met – rallied around us in a heroic show of support, and by Thanksgiving day Kali had bounced back, always a fighter, so much spirit and spunk in that little body of hers, and we really thought the worst was behind us. Her brother Dub had lived happily and well for years with his anemia before leaving us too soon as the result of an unrelated heart condition – why should Kali be any different?

I spent most of that day filled with immense gratitude, thankful for the food we were eating, the people in our community who work so hard to farm and raise it, for the people around us who had helped us through the difficult times we had faced, thankful we had seemingly gotten to the other side. That changed with the stroke of my hand over Kali’s side. We were heartbroken, scared of what was ahead. Those years we thought we had with her suddenly turned into months, and while you always know when you bring a beloved pet into your life that you’re going to outlive them, it just seemed cruel that first Dubby, and now his sister, were both fated to die so young.

The way Dubby’s death played out was like some sort of horrible movie scene, Mike running up Fifth Avenue to get to the vet’s office, me pacing and crying on a midtown subway platform waiting for the slowest V train ever to arrive, elevator doors opening when I finally got to The Cat Practice to reveal my husband, crestfallen, giving me the news that our boy was gone. It was so sudden, unexpected, the timing so bad. As awful as it was for me that I never got to say goodbye to him, I felt almost worse for Mike for seeing him in those last terrifying moments.

As Kali’s health failed, particularly in these last weeks where it was happening at such an accelerated rate, we had some hard decisions to make. She had surprised us as well as her veterinary caregivers so many times before, bouncing back and fighting with her characteristic tenacity that we didn’t want to end things too soon, but we did want to have some control over the situation, control that we weren’t afforded in her brother’s case.

The signs came slowly at first. A few litterbox mishaps led to a vet visit where we learned her blood sugar was high, and she was losing weight again despite a ravenous appetite. We adjusted her meds in an effort to regulate things, but the anemia returned, and her white blood cell count was climbing. She had lost so much fur from the high doses of prednisone she had been taking that her skin had turned thin and brittle. She developed sores on her little legs, scabbed over and some infected. We added high dose antibiotics to her regimen, but the decline continued. She was clumsy and getting weaker, first unable to jump onto the kitchen table, then the chairs, then unable to navigate the stairs.

In cats, we learned, high blood sugar often makes their cartilage deteriorate, affecting their gait. This was happening to our girl, and though at first she didn’t seem to care, hopping and hobbling and eventually scooting around on her belly to get to her food and water dishes (which she still went at with gusto), by the beginning of last week her mobility was nearly gone.

She went to the vet’s office last Monday. She was still eating and drinking, still moving around as best she could, but we were very concerned. She came home dosed up with another shot of antibiotic, having had another round of bloodwork, and we waited. Dr. Lund’s voice was grim when she called Mike with the results on Tuesday. We roasted chicken for our girl that night, one of her favorite treats, and began the difficult process of saying goodbye.

We had hoped to find someone to come to the carriage house on Wednesday so she could pass at home, but nobody was available. I stayed home from work that day, the autumn sky as blue as our beautiful Kali girl’s eyes, and Mike and I just tried to soak up every moment of our remaining time with her. We talked to her, sang to her and tried to get her to eat canned tuna and anchovy oil, but she wouldn’t accept any food. She was done fighting and we knew it. I shot photos and video that I will cherish forever.

I headed to work on Thursday morning, and Mike scheduled an appointment with the vet for that evening. I took an early train home to spend a bit more time with her at home, then we headed out with her for one last time. It was heartbreaking, the car ride excruciating, but when we got to the vet’s office and Dr. Lund examined her, it became clear we were doing the right thing for Kali at the right time. In a matter of days her abdomen had filled with fluid, and her organs were beginning to fail. She was, after all this time and all she had been through, showing signs of being in pain, her eyes glassy as she laid curled on the exam table.

Dr. Lund was comforting and reassuring as she explained the process to us, and she asked if we wanted to be in the room with Kali as she got the first of two shots that would put an end to her suffering. She took Kali for a moment, returned with her swaddled in a soft red blanket, then we held our girl in our arms for the last time as the sedative took effect and she slipped into a sleep she’d not wake from.

It was surprisingly peaceful, so tender, and while the memory of her suffering will hurt my heart for a long time to come, I once again felt an immense sense of gratitude. I was grateful to be with Kali in her last moments; I was grateful to have Mike at my side; I was grateful to the incredible Dr. Lund, Dr. Mercurio, and all of Kali’s caregivers at City Kitty for all they’ve done for her and for us; I was grateful for our families and friends, for the steady stream of emails, DMs, text messages, tweets and phone calls, for the strength they shared with us during this time; but mostly I was grateful that, even though our time together was too brief, that I had nine wonderful years with this beautiful little cat, this sparkling, stubborn, sassy little personality who could melt my heart like no other. She and her brother helped me through some tremendously difficult times in my life, and I have been comforting myself with the thought that they’re back together again, somewhere, chasing mousies, grooming each other, sleeping in a furry heap of cream and orange colored fur. Our time together was a gift I will cherish forever.

Rest in peace, my sweet princess. I will never forget you.

fighting darkness

I’ve been pretty open about the fact that I’ve struggled with depression for much of my life, and I’ve been fighting it hard of late. There’s been a lot of churn in both my personal and professional lives over the last couple of months, most of which I can’t discuss publicly, and it has gotten harder and harder to deal with it all. I’ve been feeling incredibly overwhelmed, by my responsibilities, by meeting the expectations of others and of myself, by just about everything. I feel like I’ve collapsed under the weight of the many hats I’ve been wearing, and while I know I’m not yet in my “danger zone”, I did feel that I had to slam on the brakes and try to regain some balance.

That meant that I dropped out of a blogging project I had agreed to take on, and I feel a huge amount of guilt about that, but between work and the other responsibilities I was juggling, something had to give. I’m getting my equilibrium back, slowly, but now I’m torn about whether I want to jump back into blogging at LND again at all. It’s the height of summer, our farmers’ markets are bursting with vibrant color, and it is by far the best time of year for a food lover like myself, but I just haven’t felt inspired. There’s a part of me that wants so badly to get back to cooking *my* food, to photographing it for posterity, documenting that part of our lives on the blog, but as I sit here and watch a steady stream of tweets popping up from yet another blogging conference, I feel like I’ve been doing it all wrong anyway, so why bother?

But then I think about last weekend’s farmers’ market, and how as Mike and I walked into the area of the park where the tents are lined up, one of our favorite farmers came out from behind her table and gave me this huge hug, telling me that she had finally looked at LND, and how much she loved it, that there was so much negativity out there in the world and how nice it was to look at my photos and read my words and how positive they were, and she thanked me again and again. I teared up a bit, because as much as I like to tell myself that I blog for myself, this was yet another reminder that people out there are reading, and watching, and sharing what is happening in our lives via LND. And then there are these opportunities arising, people coming to me because they like what I’m doing and see some value there and want to work with me. And it’s incredibly flattering and humbling but weighty. It’s weird and uncomfortable to feel so many eyes on me, and there are more to come once my Edible Rhody piece publishes and another project I contributed to launches in the fall, and while I should be terribly excited, every time I think about it I want to hide.

There’s a very big part of me that wants to go back in time, before food52, before the New York Times, before the whole mess with the restaurant and the aftermath. I realize that I would be giving up the wonderful relationships that grew during that time, but it would also take me back to a time where I had some anonymity, where the blog was just the blog and not what has come to feel like a second, unpaid full-time job, one that I’m currently failing at.

I’m depressed. I’m sad. I’m scared. And it could not be happening at a worse time.

The Next Move

I’ve been staring at this photo of our old apartment in Brooklyn, taken two years ago today, when we closed the door for the last time and made our way to Providence. Our first year here was hard, but we felt pretty confident we had made the right move. After the way our second year came to a close, I’m not so sure anymore. I’ve been missing New York hard lately, and while I know we had to leave there for a lot of reasons, my heart has been heavy. I feel like it was all a huge mistake.

The scale of this city is something that appealed to us, but in recent weeks Providence has felt almost oppressively small. There’s so much about the city that we still love, but my commute is wearing me down, and I feel like we’ve outgrown our space. We’ve been talking a lot about our next steps, and I’ve pretty much decided that since I pulled the trigger last time, Mike gets to choose where we land this time around. I don’t know when it will happen or where we’ll end up, but I think it’s pretty clear that this isn’t the home we had hoped it would be.

time flies

7:30 a.m. I went from bleary-eyed to full-blown panic in a heartbeat as Mike started awake and asked “Where’s Kirby?” then raced to the window where the expanding flap on the air conditioner was gaping open. He pulled aside the curtain and there you were, sitting outside, on top of the air conditioner. The air conditioner in our second floor window. I threw on shoes and my bathrobe and ran downstairs and outside, as Mike first tried to get a firm grip on you and bring you inside, then decided you were squirming so much it was safer to try to talk you back indoors. By the time I got to the yard you were safely back inside, having climbed in on your own.

tuckered out

Our first year with you has been interesting, to say the least, and if your adventure this morning is any indication, you’ll be keeping us on our toes through year two. Happy Gotcha Day, buddy. We love you and are so happy you’re a part of our lives.

Cinnamon Girl

cozy

We took Kali to the vet yesterday, after a week in which she had about 4 “peeing outside of the box” incidents. She wasn’t her usual sassy self, and we noticed that she had lost some weight, but we had no idea how scary things were going to get at the vet’s office.

Her abdomen was extremely firm on examination, and the vet noticed that she looked anemic. X-rays showed that the firm abdomen was caused by a pretty extreme case of constipation (which Kali has had off and on for years), and once that was dealt with everything looked pretty clear. But the cause of the anemia was still a mystery. She wasn’t running a fever, but her heart and spleen were slightly enlarged. And the weight loss was troublesome. The vet ran a full range of blood and urine tests, and we brought Kali home for the night with some medications. And we waited.

The news we got this morning was better than I think either of us was expecting. Her blood work came back with no signs of thyroid trouble, kidney problems or leukemia. Her urine was a little dilute but otherwise normal. The vet told us to up her dosage of the Prednisolone we started her on yesterday, and continue with the course of antibiotics and the Laxulone she was prescribed. She’ll go back for a recheck next week and we’ll see where we stand.

Those of you who remember Kali’s litter-mate/brother Dub may also recall that he suffered from Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia for most of his life – anemia which came on when he was just 11 months old, with no apparent trigger. It took a while but we got it under control, and as far as we know it wasn’t a contributing factor to his early death. So I’m hopeful, I guess, that if we can just get Kali’s blood count back up and get her eating, her prognosis is good. But what scares me is that we are in such a bad position financially. I can’t tell you how devastated we will be if we have to make a hard decision because we can’t afford more intensive or aggressive treatment, or if she takes a turn for the worse. She’s eight years old – middle-aged. She should – and hopefully does – have a lot of life left in her, but I’ve learned that things don’t always go as you expect or hope they will. We’ll just do the best we can.