29 June 2008


It's hard to tell in pictures just how small Annika is. Of course, there are babies in the NICU who make our little one look large and robust. Anyway, perhaps this picture can give you a better idea.

And another one, just for fun. She often has her hands up around her face, and when she deigns to open her eyes, she looks around, brow furrowed, as if to say, "How in the world did I get here?"

28 June 2008

In Between

It all feels just a little bit skewed. I'm no longer pregnant--no longer waddling around, feeling kicks, wondering what is to come. But I have no baby at home, either. And when I'm at home, giving birth, having Annika, all seems like a dream. Life seems normal--taking care of Katrina, thinking about what to have for dinner, planning playdates and trips to the playground. I'm pumping around the clock so that Annika can have breastmilk, but other than that, moment-to-moment, it seems like nothing has changed. Except a vague feeling that something's missing.

Until I arrive at the hospital, and see my baby in the isolette. She's becoming familiar now. She no longer looks impossibly small--even though she still is. The lines of her face, her cleft lip and slightly flattened nose, her long fingers, her muddy bluish eyes...she's no longer a stranger. I stay as long as I can, just holding her, a little gnome wrapped in a towel, sometimes looking at me, mostly sleeping. It is often peaceful in the room; monitors beep every few minutes, but nurses generally speak in hushed tones. And I talk softly and sing softly and feel the weight of her on my chest or in my arms. And that missing part falls into place, and for the only time that day, everything feels right. I am where I am supposed to be, holding my child, cupping her small head, telling her I'm her mama.

And then I have to leave, to tend to my beloved older child, to go home and pump once again, to eat, to sleep. So I give my baby back to the nurse, and tell her good-bye, and walk away.

And it just feels wrong.

So I give myself a pep talk, and try to put aside my longing, and go home. And again home feels the same, yet different.

Something's off. Someone's missing, a someone who hasn't even been here yet.

27 June 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different

A friend of ours is working in Baghdad for about six weeks. He's a contractor working on computer-type stuff for the military. With his permission, I'm posting some of his pictures and thoughts. I thought you all might find it interesting.

I’ve been consistently pulling 16 hour days so I come home and crash pretty fast. [My wife] sent me a box the other day with some cash and our little camera so I finally have some pictures to share.

This first shot is walking up towards Al Fah Palace where I work. We’re on a bridge over or at least next to the water. The two guys in front of me are my co-workers/friends here. M. is the big guy on the left, and the Navy guy on the right is CDR B. They’re running my project for the government. Both are terrific people. We have lunch and dinner together every day along with a few other people from the office. It’s nice to have companions that you enjoy spending time with.

One of the others is an Army SFC and behaves exactly the way a senior NCO should. He respectfully guides the 1LT in our group while taking good care of the whole office. He has something like 13 kids. Seriously. The guy has the biggest heart. It’s a bit of “hers, mine, ours and theirs”. They have been adopting children and fostering children for some time. His wife is in Hawaii living on post in special housing because of the number of kids. He grew up poor and can’t believe how lucky he is to be in the Army and able to provide for his family. Amazing guy and a good dose of perspective for us all. I’ll have to find a picture. Oh yeah, his favorite word is hoo-ahh, but it’s the fun, friendly style, not the aggressive one. On his wall he has a list of 15 definitions of hooahh for the Air Force and Navy guys.

If you look at the palace you’ll see some black SUVs. Those are General Petraus’ vehicles. I sit within earshot of his morning briefs and use that conference room for my training. Hooah! Can you say ring-side seat to history?

Below is a common sight, but it still gets my heart rate up. I love seeing the helicopters take off low and fast.

Sunset around the palace. I think we were walking back after dinner.

My bed. They take a single wide trailer and divide it in thirds. Then two people share each third. So it’s basically just enough room for a bed and your clothes. I walk about 100-200 yards down a set of gravel roads to go to the bathroom or take a shower. I wake up every morning to my bladder telling me to get moving. You have to get dressed and make the walk. Sounds silly but it is almost always an emergency and is the worst part about living here (beside being away from my family). Be sure to show M. [my son] his picture on my wall.

These are the toilets in the palace. Picture doesn’t do the palace justice. The detail work is all some sort of gold. It’s quite a luxury to have these bathrooms. The palace is pretty amazing. The overall workmanship isn’t always the best, but the sheer volume of detail work is amazing.

Another shot in the bathroom.

Walking out of the palace. This is the exit along the same bridge. Notice the white blur in the sky. That is one of the blimps that is tethered to the ground and always out there presumably monitoring Baghdad. Also, look at the tower on the left. When you get close you can tell that it obviously took some hits during the war.

I miss you all terribly. I don’t know how these guys do these long deployments. I’m only over here for a month and I’m already dying to get home. Thankfully the work keeps me busy and is something I mostly enjoy. I’m also getting lots of runs in and am getting into better shape, although not marathon shape.



23 June 2008

Fingers and Toes

Quick update: I'm home from the hospital and doing well, with hubby and Grandma playing fetch and carry for me. Annika is staying stable and has gotten back to her birth weight plus about an ounce (as of yesterday). She's sleeping most of the time, so has not taken much nutrition by mouth...too sleepy to suck. But the gastric tube is doing its job.

And now, pictures!

22 June 2008

The Daily (Hourly) Cry

I ordered a CD by Sara Groves before all the drama of this week and I just put it in to listen this morning. Haven't gotten past the first song yet. "Song for my Sons." I couldn't find an official video on YouTube, but I did find a pretty good amateur video using the whole song. This mother has daughters, not sons, just like us. But the song works just as well. I can't wait to have video of Katrina and Annika playing together, just like the girls in the video.

I needed the reminder today...life doesn't always go as planned. But God is always there....and so are friends, family, the precious ones who have been given to us and to whom we have been given.

21 June 2008

An Early Arrival

Annika Stefanie was born at 1:14 am on Tuesday, June 17, after a day-long but unsuccessful attempt to delay her birth. She was 3 pounds, 3 oz. and 17 inches long. Despite her early arrival, at 31 weeks’ gestation, Annika is doing very well. Her APGAR tests were 9/10/10…amazing for a preemie. She is breathing on her own with no need for extra oxygen or a respirator. She’s receiving nutrients intravenously and formula/breast milk through a small stomach tube, but can also suck well and will get more and more nutrition by mouth as she gets bigger and stronger. For the foreseeable future, she’ll stay in the Kaiserslautern hospital’s Kinder Klinik (NICU), until she’s big and healthy enough to come home.

Annika was also born with a cleft lip, which will be corrected with cosmetic surgery sometime in the next year. Luckily, the cleft only affected the soft tissue of the lip, and did not include the palate (the bony part of the top of the mouth). So the defect is only a cosmetic issue, not one that impairs the working of her mouth.

We think she’s beautiful, anyway.

I’m doing well, after an eventful c-section and recovery that, ahem, “challenged” the doctors. The senior doctor on call did a stellar job in saving my uterus, and my life, with little of the loss of blood that caused my very hard and slow recovery from Katrina’s birth. The medicine that effected this minor miracle unfortunately had the side effect of bronchial spasms, so I spent the twelve hours or so after Annika’s birth clutching my poor midsection, coughing, and trying to breathe. It gave me a whole new sympathy for people with asthma.

Once the coughing abated, though, I’ve recovered pretty well…I’m surprised at how well I do feel, compared to my state after Katrina was born. It does help that I’ve been through it before and know what to expect (for example, the copious crying for no apparent reason arrived right on time, about 24 hours after the birth. Sniff.) As I write this, it is Friday night, and the doctor said I could go home on Saturday if I continue to feel well tomorrow.

When I was a teenager, a friend of mine had a button on her backpack that said “Why Be Normal?” When you’re a kid, normal is boring. Average is a dirty word. Believe me, though, that in this situation, being normal, average, and boring is a good thing. One does not want to be interesting to a doctor. If your doctor thinks your case is average, or perhaps ignores you a bit, be grateful. Interesting cases are hard cases. I can’t wait to get back home and be uninteresting again.

Katrina is doing as well as could be expected with the upheaval of our lives the past few days. She spent two nights with friends of ours who have a little girl the same age. She had a lot of fun but very little sleep, which all of us are paying for at the moment, especially my poor harried husband. The biggest issue for her right now is that she can’t see her new sister; children are not allowed in the NICU. So we’re trying to make do with pictures, but it is hard for her to wait outside with Papa while Mama spends time with the baby (and vice-versa). Grandma was able to get an earlier flight than originally planned and arrived this morning, which will make the mix of taking care of Katrina at home and Annika in the NICU much easier. Plus, another person to give Katrina much-needed attention while my husband and I are more distracted than usual will, we hope, make the transition to “big sister” a bit easier for her.

This could get very long if I include the million and one little stories and details of the last five days. I’ll try to include some in the upcoming days and weeks, as well as keep you updated on Annika’s progress. Right now we’re just so grateful that our little one has arrived safely and is in capable hands. Nothing like a miniature baby to remind us of both the fragility and strength of life. Though she looks impossibly fragile right now, our Annika has already proven her strength.

Thanks be to God for his marvelous gifts.

06 June 2008

The Fog

My normal state is one of disorganization. It takes a real effort for me to focus and accomplish much of anything minus a deadline (and that deadline must be, like, tomorrow. I am a skilled procrastinator.). After many years of standing in front of the fridge at 5 pm trying to figure out what to make for dinner, I have managed to both start and maintain for a number of years (since Before Katrina, a long span of time, indeed) weekly menu planning and grocery shopping. That's about the only thing that's kinda organized. But I have now descended far below my normal state. I didn't think it was possible.

At the moment, the pregnancy nesting instinct is at war with the pregnancy brain fog. In practice, it looks like this: Must make a list of things to do/buy before baby is born! Must write thank-you notes for baby gifts! Must plan Katrina's birthday party and order random crafts from Oriental Trading!...yawn. Soooo sleepy. Must...take....nap. Oops! Time to pick up Katrina from school. Wait! What have I been doing for the last six hours? What day is this again?

So at some point I will post a few pictures from Katrina's exquisitely cute kindergarten graduation--you know, if I can find the camera and remember how to plug it in. She has one more week of school, which includes two field trips. The child is so DONE with school, and frankly, so am I. Looking forward to NOT badgering her to get dressed as soon as she wakes up. (Instead, said badgering will happen, oh, two hours later or so. She does love her pajamas.)

Oh! and good news! My computer is back from HP in Texas and working again! No more Ominous Beeps of Doom. No more clunky web e-mail interface. I'm so very glad, I might have to take a nap to celebrate.