Monday, August 6, 2018

Kindergarten, please be kind

It’s not like I didn’t know that years would turned into months. Then weeks, and now days until Harlow starts “Big Girl” school.  I knew it was creeping up on me, but like most things that I’m not ready to deal with, I pushed it way back in my emotional vault.  I’m pretty sure Harlow is about 65% excited and 35% nervous to begin Kindergarten.  I guess I might be feeling the opposite. Not because she won’t do great. I know she will. She always does. Sheis so smart and such a good little girl and I know she will make new friends and expand her knowledge and become more and more independent.  So, when I’m laying in bed and my mind is racing and anxiety is beginning to make a lump form in my throat, I just keep whispering to myself, “Kinder, please be kind”.

We can walk her to her classroom for the first THREE days.   THREE!?!?  That’s it!?!  This is my baby. The only one I’ll ever have and I’m supposed to just throw her into the trenches and drive off?  Ok, I realize school isn’t “the trenches” but for me it’s unknown territory. Yes, we’ve been to summer camps. Yes we’ve been to Pre K and she shined through all of those firsts, but this seems different somehow. More grown up. More permanent.  Like a chapter that’s ending on her being a baby and suddenly she’s wearing a big kid backpack and walking the halls without me.  I know some moms laugh at the women who tear up at the thought of their child beginning school, but I don’t care.

What if she can’t find her way to the classroom?
What if she can’t open her lunch?
What is she gets diarrhea and needs help wiping? (Gross, I know. But still a worry).
What if she doesn’t recognize one single child in her class?
What if no one wants to play with her or partner up with her?
What if her shoes are rubbing against her barely there heel?
And what if, what if children make fun of her legs?!

The last one usually overwhelms me to the point of tears. I know kids are kids. And kids are curious. But I pray that children will be kind and if they ask her questions, I hope they are gentle. I hope Harlow can remain as strong and mature about her scars as she has been in the past.

Please don’t make fun of her. Please don’t point or whisper. Please don’t treat her differently or make rude comments.

I know there  are kids out there that have it so much worse. My child isn’t handicapped. She isn’t limited on most things. She survived and we are always reminded of how lucky we are and how amazing she is. I just hope that the teachers and students will always be sweet and understanding. I pray that she handles all questions and obstacles with bravery and grace.  I hope she remains the kind child.

I hope that like most things that I’ve built up in my head, this too will be an easy transition.  But most of all,  I wish my entire being that the tears shed at school are mine and not hers.

Kindergarten, please be kind.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Being "normal" is boring

Deformities.  Never will be normal. Sick bones and joints.  

These were all words we were told at our Pediatric Orthopedic appointment yesterday.  

Our amazing surgeon, Dr. Beale recently referred us to an orthopedic surgeon, as he just wanted to follow up on Harlow's legs and make sure everything was okay. Her skin and tissue expansion went perfectly and her leg is fully healed and looks amazing. Our Doctor did have some concerns about her mobility and range of motion on her left leg and foot and sent us to be assessed, just to be certain that Harlow was on the right track. He told us it would most likely be recommended that we do stretches with her and maybe do a little physical therapy. As you know, Harlow is missing a big chunk of her left heel and therefore sometimes walks on her toes with her left foot. We have slowly been working with her and encouraging her to consciously walk flat footed and help aide her in stretching and flexing that foot. 

The Orthopedic doctor took X-rays of both of her legs/feet and with the new technology, we were able to view those images almost immediately.  The physician began by showing us what a "normal" 3 year old's legs/feet should look like.  Then he showed us what our daughter's look like.  I'm not an x ray expert, nor am I a doctor, but although it seemed slight, there were differences.  Especially on her left leg. I believe at one point he referred to it as her "sicker" leg.   
He went on to say that with her "deformities" her ankles and legs could be more fragile. Deformities. Wow, that was a term we hadn't heard before  and it immediately stung. Scars, sure, but deformities?  I know there are far worse things than that and I'm also aware that so many parents have children who live with life changing deformities, but in that moment it was just me and my baby. And it hurt. He told us that by looking at the X-rays, he can see that her joints and legs were very sick when she was. Basically that when she was dying, they were too.  She recovered, thank God,  but they didn't.   Even her right leg that looks almost totally normal now, with a few scars, is abnormal underneath.  
We asked if we could fix it. Could she go into surgery, break her bones and repair the issues?  Could he shave or shape her bones to make them normal?  The answer was somewhat vague.  Maybe. Maybe they can one day. I know how sick and near death my baby was. I will never forget that.  I guess I just never thought that her bones and joints would still be "sick".   
As of now, the plan is for our surgeon and this new Orthopedic surgeon to talk and make a plan. I don't think any immediate surgery is needed...thank goodness, but eventually the two docs may go in together and rebuild her heel and look at her bones and joints.  
He told us to continue working on the walking and stretches and if we want, we can start some physical therapy. However, he mentioned that at three years old, it's more likely she will do better with us.  So that's our plan. We will take this news with a grain of salt. We will continue to work with her and make her the best that she can possibly be. 
So when we left and my eyes were a bit watery, I made myself stop and look for that silver lining.  Here's what I found...

Her deformities are so small and insignificant compared to many other children out there

We are so lucky she still has limbs

There is always the chance that as she grows, her legs will improve and there are possible procedures to help. 

She can still sign up for soccer and dance and do all the activities that normal toddlers do. 

She doesn't know the difference between her normal and other people's normal.

But the best silver lining is most definitely that we aren't speaking about my precious baby in the past tense. Nothing is lost.  No one is saying, "well, Harlow was just so sick that if she had of lived, she would have some complications". 

She did live. She is here and we are so thankful for that.   After all the horrific tragedies that occurred in Orlando this past week, it is all that matters.  With all those parents who have to bury their babies. Old and young. We are so lucky to have this sassy, stubborn, always talking back, favorite person in the world still with us. 
Normal is boring.  

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Monkey See, Monkey Do

A 4 year old boy fell into a Gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo and suddenly everyone is a primate/parental expert.  

Let me start by admitting that when I first heard this story, I was quick to judge. My first initial response was to blame the mother for not taking care of her child.  "Where was his mom?!"  "Why wasn't see watching him?!"  "Mother of the year".  

I think most of us said or felt that way.  And I think to some aspect, there is some truth there.  However, I've always tried to play Devil's Advocate in these situations and the more I learned of this scenario and more I heard from eye witnesses and animal experts, the guiltier I felt for rushing to my original judgement.

I can see both sides.  The choice to save the child and unfortunately, kill the gorilla and I can also understand why people are upset that a wild animal, who was already held in captivity, was sacrificed for acting like, well, a wild animal. 

There are so many details and points to evaluate in this terrible event.    

Let's just start with the gorilla habitat and the security breach. Some people are saying that the exhibit was unsafe, as a toddler was able to pass the barriers and make his was into the area. Ok, I can see that.  However, I feel our society has gotten so entitled and so in need of bigger and better stimulation, that a more natural and open exhibit was needed to keep people interested. Think about it.   It may sound ridiculous but the movie Jurassic Park is a great example.  We need more and more or we get bored. At some point, everyone pushes the limits to make a dollar and stay relevant.  I sincerely hope we never actually attempt this with dinosaurs. Kidding. Unless it happens. Then I'm as serious as a heart attack. 

 Let's address the mother in this situation as she is by far catching the most heat. I will say that when I first read this article, I instantly blamed her. Which is sad. I'm a mom. No one is perfect and toddlers are hard work.  The other day Harlow and I went to the donut shop and I turned away for TWO seconds to grab her a milk and just like that she was behind the counter, helping the lady serve pastries.   Now, I totally understand that slipping behind a donut counter and falling into a gorilla exhibit are not the same...but the point remains that kids are fast. And sneaky. And don't listen.  Imagine being at the zoo with two young children and one keeps saying how he wants to go swim in the gorilla's moat. Mom says no, obviously, but the toddler won't take no for an answer.  Do you know how much useless junk I've purchased for my daughter, simply because I didn't feel like arguing with her anymore?  The toddler ran away from her, while she tended to the younger sibling and quickly disappeared into the crowd. It's happened to me before. It's happened to you too.  Maybe she should have had a closer eye on him. But it wasn't like she was dangling her child over the exhibit and lost her grip. 

I'm still a bit confused about the witnesses who saw this toddler slip past the barriers that didn't grab him. Apparently one woman assumed the lady standing next to her was the boy's mother and therefore assumed the situation was under control. Once she realized it wasn't, it was too late.  I go back and forth with this as a part of me thinks, why didn't she grab him and then find his mother?  But then I'm reminded the world we now live in and how we have to be super sensitive about every little thing. If the lady would have snatched the child up and walked him around to find his parent, would the mother have been thankful or would she be livid at the lady for stepping in?  Can't you see it on the news now?  Two women got into an altercation at the zoo.  It's sad. It's ridiculous. But it's the truth. 

Now let's address all the primate experts. People all over the world are suddenly Gorilla experts and activists. Some say the gorilla was protecting the boy. Some say he was attacking him.  Some say the gorilla's body language showed signs of aggression. Some say he was playing with the child. You know what I know about gorillas?  Not a whole lot. They are big.  And black. And hairy and I think they like bananas.  I don't know their behaviors or lifestyles.  People should stop acting like they know.  Even the guy who lived amongst gorillas for many years doesn't know.  He probably has a better idea than we do, but he isn't a gorilla and cannot fully understand. Even celebs are now voicing their opinions about how the gorilla died because people have no brains. Hmm.  The people saying that do not have children of their own.  Was he protecting the toddler? Maybe. And maybe not. 

Killing the gorilla to save a child, was that right?  I know PETA and animal enthusiasts all over will say no.  Why must the primate die because a human came into his area?  I see that.  I get how it wasn't the animal's fault that a child came into his home and he shouldn't be faulted for acting like a wild animal. He is a wild animal. In captivity. I've watched the videos. I wasn't there. It was hard to tell if the animal was playing or being aggressive. All I know is it was scary to watch. 

 I think it's so very sad that an animal had to be killed in this situation. The gorilla was displaying it's natural instincts.  How can he be punished for that?  I get it.  But for just one second, close your eyes and imagine it was YOUR baby in that exhibit.  I know, I know, YOU would never let that happen to your child. You're amazing. And a perfect parent. But imagine if for whatever reason, your child was suddenly inside the gorilla habitat, being drug around by a 400 lb animal. Imagine the pure terror you would feel.  The instant guilt you would carry forever. And tell me you would choose the animal over your baby. You can't. You wouldn't.  

I love animals.  I have an annual pass to the Dallas Zoo and take my 3 year old often.  I would like to think that she is always right beside me, but she is a toddler. And I am human.  I hate that this animal was killed due to this incident.  It's not fair.  But I know that if my child's life appeared in danger, I would have wanted the same actions to be taken.  Selfish of me?  You may think so, but I find it hard to believe that ANY parent would plead to save the gorilla over their child.   

Now here comes the backlash. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Thank You x 3

I'm writing this letter to you even though I know you won't read it.  You can't read yet. You are merely three years old, but oh how full your life has already been. The reason I'm writing this, is to say, thank you.   You are by far, my best three years and you've been more than just my child; you've been my motivational, my purpose, my inspiration. 

Thank you for fighting so hard when a nasty illness tried to take you from me. 

Thank you for being so brave. In the hospital. Through multiple surgeries. And for all these painful fills.  

Thank you for making me smile, cry and laugh. 

Thank you for fighting with me every single damn morning about getting dressed. Who wants their morning routine to be easy?!

Thank you for being excited to see me every time we have been apart. The feeling is oh so mutual. 

Thank you for still asking me to rock you like a baby.   You have no idea how much that breaks and mends my heart each time

Thank you for pooping in the bath tub. It was hysterical to me.  But also, thank you for no longer doing that. 

Thank you for being such a great child. Of course you are starting to show very strong signs of terrible 3's, but I will take them. At least I have a toddler to deal with. 

Thank you for saying I'm your best friend. I know there will be times that you swear you despise me and I'm counting on these sweet times to get me through those years. 

Thank you for never giving up.  Even when the odds were stacked against you. Even when they said you wouldn't survive. I remember sitting by your hospital crib, pleading with you to please continue to fight to live.  And you did. 

You have exceeded all my dreams these past three years and although you won't understand this; I'm so thankful for you.  Every ounce and tantrum. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up. Period.

I'd be lying if I said I never compare myself to other moms and Harlow to other toddlers her age.  It's not a contest, because if it were, we would totally be winning.  I'm kidding. It's just natural to see a child around the same age as yours, hitting milestones quicker or achieving certain things and not feel behind or a failure.  My daughter has leapt over so many obstacles in her sweet, short life, that I always give her (and myself) the benefit of the doubt.  

Case and point: pacifier, co sleeping and potty training. 

I've heard so many moms say that one day they just said enough with diapers and strongly convinced their child to use the potty.  That's amazing.  Truth be told, diapers weren't a huge burden for me.  I of course, don't enjoy cleaning up poop all day, but if you think about it...diapers are super convenient. You don't have to run to the potty the second your little one needs to go.  If you are in the car, there is no end of the world crisis. You can sit through an entire movie without taking 30 potty breaks. Overall, those diaper things are a pretty great invention. Good job guys. 

I knew I wanted to try that 3 day potty training program with Harlow and aimed to complete it before Christmas.  It's sad how busy our lives get and how guilty I felt that it took over a month to find a completely open weekend for us. Plans changed a few times and finally the weekend came.  I have heard all the horror stories about this process.  So much pee and poop everywhere.  Throwing out dozens of soiled panties.  Losing patience. Needing lots of wine. And Valium.  But wasn't all that bad.

It always surprises me how certain things fall in to place so easily. After struggling for many years to get pregnant, once I conceived, everything was pretty smooth sailing. I loved my pregnancy. Labor and delivery were both beautiful and praceful. Nursing came naturally and every transition so far has gone well. I always build things up in my mind. Maybe I'm preparing for the worst so I won't freak out.  Whatever the reason, potty training was just another thing that Harlow aced.  

Yes, there were accidents and a few pairs of panties to toss in the trash. Yes, there were times I looked at her like, "did you really just piss on the floor again?!".  But it didn't kill us and we still like each other.  And...we are officially in big girl panties!!  Well, I have been for a while , but after potty training Harlow, I see what a win it really is for us all. A few pull ups at night, for those measly little leaks, but overall...she is kicking butt. One of the hardest parts was finding Thomas The Train panties for little girls.  They only came in boys' briefs. What?  A little girl can't like locomotives too?!  
I should feel proud. And I do. But there is a tiny piece of me that is sad too. Losing diapers means there is another "baby" part that is going away.  Diapers represent babies and now that we are done with them, it's a bit devastating. 

I'm not sure if we will have another baby. It will just have to be a wait and see plan for now. I would love to give Harlow a sibling as I know she would shine as a big sister, but I'm totally content if she is all we ever have. She's simply magical and we are so lucky to have her. 

As far as the pacifier goes...we are waiting until after her tissue and skin expansions and surgery are finished.  I want her to be soothed in any way possible during this time. It seems almost cruel to strip her of it while she is going through all these procedures etc.  

Now, for Co-sleeping.   Forget about it.  Ha ha ha 

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Thanksgiving is next week and it seems only fitting to express how thankful I am, for all we've been given.  I don't need a specified holiday to show and feel gratitude, as it's something I live with daily. 
Tomorrow is Harlow's first fill and I'd be lying if I denied the ever growing lump in my throat.  I was hoping by now we would be at the tail end of the expansion process, but unexpected complications have caused delays.  Sometimes it feels wrong to use the term "we" as although I'm her mother and have the emotional attachment to this, I'll never know what it's like to be her; enduring all of this before the age of three.  
Three.  It's a number I'm so grateful for.   There was a time I feared I'd never see past one and a half. 
I pray that Harlow handles these 8-10 fills with the same courage and strength she has shown throughout this whole ordeal. 
I pray this expansion is tolerable and as painless as possible. I pray that she understands why mommy and daddy are having her go through all of this. I pray this will all be a vague memory, at most, for her in the future.  I pray for a successful procedure with the best outcome possible.  
Thankful?  Absolutely. Thankfill. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Needing Closure

We need closure.  Not the emotional type that one seeks after an unexpected break up, but the physical kind.   We literally need Harlow's sutures to pull her incision closed and heal. 

I'll start by saying that Dr Beale wasn't pleased with her stitches last week.  He said that the skin surrounding them looked compromised and he switched her to a stronger antibiotic.   We were worried but knew we had to remain calm and stay positive. A few days on her new medicine and the incision was looking better and appeared to be healing; not just to me, but to the doctor as well. Last night when I was changing her bandage, I noticed what appears to be a hole in her skin. The sutures are spread apart and her skin is split.  This is obviously not what we wanted or needed to happen.  The silver lining is that throughout this whole ordeal, Harlow has been comfortable and happy.  She never complains about pain or when we have to change her bandages. She's such a damn trooper. 
I sent a picture of the area to our family friend, who happens to also be a nurse who has worked on many of Harlow's surgeries.  Bonus:  she will one day be quasi family! She confirmed that it wasn't  supposed to look like that and she was kind enough to send that picture on to our doctor. He too, agreed that it was not ideal. 

I'm not sure why, but last night as Harlow was sleeping on my chest, I started having all these vivid memories of her in the hospital, getting respiratory therapy treatments.  I had not thought of those times in a while, so the clearness of the events was a bit shocking to me. I couldn't tell if it was the 32 lb toddler on me or anxiety that was making it hard to breathe. 
Maybe it was a little sign to let me know that things, although not how we hoped, still aren't as bad as how they were.   I know how lucky we are.  I hear and read stories almost daily that remind me of how easily things could have gone a different way. I will never stop being thankful for that. 

This morning when the doctor called to inform me that we needed to go back into surgery, I shouldn't have felt so defeated; but I did. He is hoping that if the implant isn't exposed, that he can just remove the compromised area and put a new incision on the front of her leg. I know this isn't life changing. I know this isn't life threatening.  I know everything will be ok. I'm just...sad.  And disappointed. I'm upset for Harlow. She had such a rough time coming out of surgery a few weeks ago and now we have to put her through all of that again. 

I'm thankful she is here.  I'm thankful she still has limbs that can be operated on.  I'm thankful that this child that I waited so very long for, is built with so much understanding and strength.  And bravery. And cuteness. And mounds of curls.  She's holding up her end of the deal and I'll be damned if I'm not going to hold up my end of it.

I cried. I wiped the tears away.  I say this is a setback. Not a permanent roadblock. Little by little I'm getting the closure I need to move forward and let go of what happened and what could have been.   Now we just need her body to continue working hard to better itself and finally reach the point where we can begin to put all of this behind us.  Closure.