Category: Graham

I Have Returned…

June 15, 2020


(Spencer, 13  Graham, 15)

Hello Friends.

It’s been a minute, hasn’t it?  It’s actually been about six and a half years.  I’m doing the math in my head as I type this and I truly can’t believe it has been that long since I’ve been back to this space.  A LOT has happened.  A LOT is happening right now for all of us, isn’t it? The question of why I am back now is a lot simpler than the question of where I have been.  I’m back because I’ve been wanting to come back for a long time and earlier this year, when life was, you know, normal-ish, I set a goal for myself to get back to my blog.  Generally I’m not a big goal setter, but I have a Big Birthday coming up at the end of July and I thought setting some goals for this year would be helpful.  When I’m not actually in the kitchen cooking, or planning on what I will be cooking, I tend to be a procrastinator and sometimes a little lazy.  So as I made that list, it seemed ambitious.  Now, with life altered and a lot of time on my hands, I’ve been chipping away at the goals.  I have already surpassed doing 50 Peloton rides by the end of July, I’ve tackled pizza and sourdough among other baking challenges, and at long last, I’m back here in the land of food blogging.

I’ve missed this space so much.  So much.  Please let me say thank you so much for all of you who have reached out over the years, all of you who have asked me when I’m coming back, all of you who have continued to use the recipes on this site and have recommended it to friends.  It has continued to be a source of joy for me even as I went dark.  Once I get this post out of the way, I will get back to posting food photos and recipes.  I just need to tell you where I’ve been.

In January of 2014, I was felled by a terrible episode of depression.  It seemingly came out of nowhere.  One day I was fine, the next day I felt a little blue, and the next day I felt like I had been hit by a truck.  At first I chalked it up to coming off a busy holiday season with family in town but after the third day of terrible exhaustion, I went to see my doctor.  She told me I was showing signs of depression and gave me a prescription for Lexapro.  She also told me to try and find someone to talk to but “good luck with that because they all have really busy practices”.  (I no longer see this doctor.)  And thus began the next four years of my life.  Crushing soul sucking depression.  It runs in my family and I had had minor bouts of it in the past but absolutely nothing could have prepared me for how awful I felt.  It’s called mental illness for a reason, I was sick.  I felt sick.  Not sad.  Like a migraine without the headache is how I sometimes described it. But so much worse than that. The first year was absolutely paralyzingly awful.  I was seeing a psychiatrist who was not really helping me but I was too wasted to find someone else.  We were trying to find the right meds and the right dosage and all of that took so much TIME and so many side effects.  The few weeks of intense anxiety I felt while adjusting to Lexapro, on top of paralyzing depression, almost sent me over the edge.  I was just waiting and waiting to feel better.  Thankfully, my kids were still young enough to not really understand that something was drastically wrong with me.  They didn’t question why they were getting Oreos in their lunchboxes instead of homemade treats, or why I was in bed all the time.  They didn’t mind the spaghetti with jarred sauce that I made regularly and which should signal to anyone who has read this blog how bad I really felt.  I lost all my joy besides my kids.

After the first year and switching to a new psychiatrist and a different med, I felt a tiny bit better.  Joy was still in short supply and I had absolutely no energy and I was sleeping an alarming number of hours each day, but I didn’t feel that unspeakable awfulness.  The following year was a little better and by year four, I could say that once I was able to get myself out of bed, which was most of the time around noon, I felt more or less normal.  I was back to cooking and baking a bit, I had things I was looking forward to, I was a more active participant in my life.  That terrible weight sitting on my head had lifted.  I had gained a significant amount of weight (common with anti-depressants) and it seemed that most of my feeling terrible had transferred to how I looked.  I really felt all right but I had all this weight on me, a visible symptom of what I had been through.  By January of 2018, I felt ready to take control of the situation.  With my doctor’s blessing and plan for doing it safely, I went off my meds.  Very slowly I started exercising and I also got back to a healthy way of eating. Much more importantly, I found joy again in my life and rejoined my family and friends.

So what happened?  Why did it strike me the way it did?  These are two of the many questions I explored with the two doctors I saw.  Depression, of course, can just happen.  There doesn’t have to be a cause.  But for me, I realized, with the help of my doctors, that I had so many unexplored feelings about having a child with special needs.  We’ve known since Graham was 18 months old that something was wrong and his childhood and adolescence has had so many twists and turns.  But I had never really talked to anyone about how that felt.  I talked about him to people but it was more situational than emotional.  “We need to find a different school for him because his school is becoming a language immersion school and that won’t work for him.”  But not how that felt. How sad I was that he wasn’t “normal” and how exhausting it was to have to keep ahead of the game and find the right thing for him.  How I would think “Why me?” and then immediately feel guilty for thinking that when I had the gift of this amazing kid.  I think the deepest and most candid I got about these feelings were the posts I wrote here on my blog.

But even deeper than these unexplored feelings about having him as a child were/are my feelings about how I mother him.  Beyond the terrible guilt about sometimes wishing he was different, lies the shame in all the times I have yelled at him for things he can’t help.  The impatience I feel for things that are not his fault.  The worry I feel about his future, beyond the regular worry that I feel for Spencer, and how much despair I feel about that.  These are terrible dark things to feel and so painful to confront and I came away from the four years of feeling bad thinking, no wonder.  No wonder I got felled hard by these terrible things I was feeling and these terrible things I was telling myself.  I think the most valuable thing my doctor gave me, besides her unflagging empathy, is the idea that I am so incredibly hard on myself about how I mother Graham because I have very high standards about the mother I want to be and how I should mother him.  He’s an amazing giving loving person, so I should be more patient.  He can’t help it that he can’t keep track of his things, so I shouldn’t yell at him for losing his jacket.  My doctor helped normalize the things I was telling myself and was very adamant that I not “should myself to death”.

Now that I am on the other side of those four dark years, I have many thoughts and feelings about it.  I feel fear that it will all come crashing down again.  I worked really hard in therapy but I could have worked harder.  There are scary things that I explored but also scary things that I left alone.  Will that come back to haunt me?  I also have to deal with the fact that I lost my mid-40’s.  I have memories from those years, of course, but with a pall over them.  It was the dark time and it took up a significant chunk of my life.  When I expressed regret about that to my doctor, she asked me if I could have a magic pill to make it so that the depression never have happened, would I take it?  That’s a tough one but after thinking about it, I would say that no, I wouldn’t take the pill.  My life changed forever when I was 43 not because of anything I did, and that’s a twist that I have to own.  I came out the other side so grateful to feel better.  When I exercise, when I plan for and cook a big meal, when I am fully present with my family, I am extremely aware that it was not this way for a long while and to never take health, mental and otherwise, for granted.

Next up, a food post!


December 16, 2013

Deep deep sigh.

My son, my big boy, is nine years old.  His birthday was November 28th – Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and his birthday all in one this year.  I started doing these birthday posts when he was six – the age his younger brother is now, although it is only two more months before Spencer turns seven. I like to go back and reread these birthday posts more than any others here on my blog. I have a good memory but being able to capture little moments that slip through my mind’s cracks gives me a better sense of my family. The journey from eight years old to nine was a challenging one so truthfully, I’m not sad to leave eight behind. Even though Graham has become this huge person, not a little tiny boy anymore and that makes me sad, I’m just glad we are able to move on to the next year.

If you have been reading here long enough, you know that Graham has some challenges that do not have a name.  (You can read more posts about him here.)  He is not on the spectrum (Autism or Asperger’s), he is not dyslexic, he doesn’t have behavioral issues, and he is healthy as an ox. He probably has some kind of auditory processing disorder meaning that he doesn’t process language in the way that you and I do. He hears the words fine but doesn’t make sense of them in a timely manner, or sometimes at all. Language, as I have learned first hand, affects everything you do in your life. If you are not fluent in speaking and understanding, you are probably also not fluent in social language. He struggles to follow along in his classroom and he also struggles on the playground. Ever the cheerful and friendly child, he wants to join in games at recess but can’t follow the complex rules that sometimes go along with those games and frustration ensues.   Fortunately, in his case, frustration means walking away, not hauling off and hitting someone.  He also just doesn’t read people in quite the right way so kids sometimes find him annoying or inappropriate. It is heartbreaking to watch. All he wants is to connect, to be friends, and he just doesn’t go about it quite the right way. I watch Spencer, his junior by two years, navigate friendships effortlessly. But for Graham it is just so much harder. I will say that the older kids, especially the girls, adore him and he gets high fives whenever he sees them.

All along, Randy and I have held tight to the idea that public school is the best choice for Graham. Because he has been tested and has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), he has legal rights to services within the school. If we opt out and go to private school, we lose our rights to services during the school day. The burden would fall to us to get him extra help. Over the years, the schools he has attended have offered him quite a bit in the way of services, but it has never been quite enough, especially as he has gotten older and school has gotten more sophisticated. This past year it seemed they are always just falling short of what he really needs. This has been a frustrating process, to say the least. Both Randy and I believe that their hearts are in the right place, that they care deeply about Graham and want him to succeed, but for many complicated reasons, including funding, they are not able to give him quite enough help. Last year, at the end of our rope, we hired a lawyer to help us navigate the meetings and to help us speak the correct language to get what we want for him.

Through the process of many meetings and innumerable emails, not to mention an honest threat to sue the Oakland school district, Graham is now being helped more than before. He attends a special reading clinic every morning where he and one other student get intensive reaching coaching by a specialist. He still gets help with reading and writing during the school day, and he has an aide shadowing him at recess, to help him navigate the complex rules of the playground. He also goes to speech therapy twice a week. This kid works so hard. I have to wake him up most mornings, then he gets breakfast, then I pile the two boys in the car and drive to downtown Oakland where the reading clinic is. He spends an hour and forty minutes with no break practicing reading and pronunciation. He scores a ten out of ten almost every single day for his effort.  Then he gets on a bus and goes back to his regular school where he has just missed recess, and has to jump in with two feet to whatever is on the schedule that day. His teacher is kind and accommodating, telling him to get his wiggles out on the playground if he needs to, and offering him time to eat a snack, but it is still a big transition. One that he does every single day and will do through the end of the school year. Graham has homework every night that can take him up to an hour, with a lot of assistance, and it is so difficult for him. All through these long days with challenging expectations, he is cheerful and compliant. “How was school today?” is met, unfailingly, with “Great!”

I am so proud of him. I also continue to be frustrated by him. And that is where this post will sound like all the other birthday posts that I have written about Graham. I have this beautiful amazingly sweet tempered child, who tries his best every single day (how many of us can say that?), and much of the time, in addition to loving him, I am impatient with him. Homework is the time of day where I am tested. I sit with him as he struggles to recognize his spelling words (must they be written in cursive??) and watch as his math skills, which are very good, flee his brain as he contemplates word problems. Third grade is a big transition, the work is less linear, more complex. This does not work well for our child. Again, I am grateful to his teacher who is compassionate and understanding. She suggests that he does 20 minutes of homework only, set a timer, and whatever he finishes is great.  So far, that has made things a bit easier for all of us.

At his last IEP meeting, an emotional one where the school therapist shared her findings, and her deep affection for Graham, in a stirring way, Randy raised the difficult question. The one that has been in the back of our minds since he started school. “At what point do we hold him back?” It was one of those things that had been with me so long that it was startling to hear it voiced aloud. And even more startling was how they unequivocally told us that studies show that “retaining” students does them no good. They progress for a while and then continue to get stuck about where they did the previous year. Much better to keep assessing his needs and making accommodations for him along the way. I felt so much better after that was cleared up.  And I also worry.  Of course I worry.  How will this look in the future?  How will he continue to be in the classroom with typically developing kids without his very strong self esteem being impacted?

And then I remember what his pediatrician said long ago.  Before we knew what this was (and we still don’t), before he had started in school, just about when we realized that he wasn’t talking and all the babies his age were.  She told me that as long as he was making progress, we shouldn’t worry.  His peers will make progress too, most of the time faster than he will, so it won’t be a race.  He won’t necessarily catch up.  But as long as he is moving forward, that is what we need to hold on to.  And he is moving forward.  When he was starting developmental preschool and he was still wearing diapers, I could not imagine a day when he would sit at a real desk and do real math problems and read real books.  And here he is doing all of those things and thriving in his own way.

There are lessons here.  Be easier on him.  Be easier on myself.  Celebrate what you have without wishing for what you don’t.  Why is it all so hard?  I imagine other people’s houses at homework time and how effortlessly it must flow.  I imagine other people’s weekends and how much less frustration they must experience just trying to get out the door in addition to everything else.  And then I remember a valuable lesson I learned when I went through my divorce from my first husband.  When we announced to friends and family that we were splitting up, people were absolutely shocked.  From the outside, we seemed like the perfect couple – how could we divorce?  I realized that no one knows what is going on in your house and the challenges you face.  So as I imagine these other people with their other children, I need to remember that everyone has something.  What I have is a gloriously happy (and handsome) child with an amazing attitude who thinks he is awesome and that his life is great.  And I have a temper I wish was less volatile when it comes to this child.  We’ve done the work for him and we will continue to do it.  I think I need to do some work on me.


November 29, 2012

Today, Graham is eight.  He is the age I was when my youngest brother was born.  It’s been three years since I first wrote about my first and oh so special child.  At that time, I felt just the slightest bit bewildered by him.  Crazy overflowing amounts of love with just the stirrings of fear about what the future might bring.  By the time I wrote my second post, a subtle impatience was starting to take up residence in my psyche.  I have written other posts to celebrate his successes and some to celebrate his birthdays.  You see him often in my Slice of Life posts.  But I haven’t written much lately about how is doing and how I am doing with him.  This is a hard post to write, as all of them have been.  How do you talk about your child?  How do you begin to explain someone who you think is so incredibly wonderful but who can be a never-ending source of frustration?

I had a complete breakdown moment soon after we arrived in France in June, for our month long vacation.  Randy and I had just made the difficult decision to move to the Bay Area after years in Seattle.  I had gone through all the pros and cons in my mind ad nauseum.  In spite of leaving family, an incredible network of friends, my career, and a wonderful elementary school, we decided our family was ready for a new adventure.  The breakdown came when I circled back to thinking about Graham.  All of our wonderful friends who have children around his age have known him since he was a baby.  Graham is just Graham.  His quirks are just a small part of who he is.  Children who have always known him can appreciate that he is a sincere and loving child who wants nothing more than to play and laugh and eat snacks.  He is a little different and that fact does not seem to phase those who have always known him.  What about a completely new network of people?  How do I explain my child to families?  Should I have to?

Graham is in second grade.  He has an undefined developmental delay.  He is not on the autism spectrum.  He has an IEP (individualized education plan) which allows him to get help in the areas where he needs it, but he is in a regular classroom.  His delay affects his speech and cognition and because those two things are integral in interacting socially, he is delayed in that area too.   He is shockingly good at math and puzzles and things requiring spatial awareness.  His short term memory is terrible, his long term memory is scary good.  (He won’t remember where he put his pencil, but will remember an event that happened years ago just from a glance down a street.  I operate this way too.)

Graham continues to be a very even keel child.  He almost never gets upset and almost always goes with the flow.  This is surprising considering he doesn’t always understand exactly what is going on.  He is very well behaved in his classroom and at home.  He loves people and will strike up a conversation with just about anybody.  Adults and older children are utterly charmed by him but kids his age – not so much.

I used to wonder at what age kids would start to notice that there was something different about Graham and it turns out that second grade is the age.  He has been teased.  The kids nudge each other and ask, “What did he say?”  Some of them have hidden his lunch box from him and, according to Graham, they make fun of his clothes and his skin.  (He dresses well because I still pick out his clothes for him and he has dark skin.  I wasn’t aware that those were things that were tease-able offenses.)  I have talked to many friends about what is going on and most of them are horrified.  Most schools have a strict no-bullying policy and I’m sure ours is no different.  I know that kids are cruel.  I see most of the girls in his class completely ignoring him while they are catty behind each others’ backs and I thank the universe, for the umpteenth time, that Graham is not a girl.  (Disclaimer:  we know some amazing empathetic and kind girls who are absolutely lovely with Graham.)

And where am I in all of this?  I am heartbroken for him.  The fact that anyone would make fun of such a sweet soul makes me want to scream.  I am grateful that he still doesn’t know that anything is different about him and that he misses most of the eye rolling and nudging.  I am thankful that (still!) every time a new adult helper comes into his orbit, the first thing they tell me is how delightful he is.  Graham handled a huge transition – a move to a new state, new house, and new school – with a smile on his face and adventure in his heart.

Our next steps are to involve the principal and his teacher as much as possible.  Our hope is that getting some awareness about kids who are a little different at this still young age might nip some of the teasing in the bud.  We also plan to enroll Graham in some social therapy.  The idea is that there is truly a social language that most children learn naturally.  I see this with Spencer.  The way he interacts with his peers is not something I or Randy have taught him – he just picked it up.  Graham tries, he is so motivated to make friends, but his language delay sometimes makes it difficult.  So we will get him in a supervised play group where he will learn about how to be a good friend, how to appropriately interact with kids, and how to walk away from people who are being unkind.  That is the hope at least.

Whenever I write these posts about Graham, I get the most amazing and kindest comments and emails back.  Many of them applaud me for being a good mother.  Most days I feel like I am.  Some days I know I am not.  Graham tests my patience at some point everyday and sometimes all day.  I know we all get inpatient with our children and some of us yell.  When I get angry at Spencer, I rarely feel bad afterward.  He has done something he is not supposed to, he knows it, he does it anyway, and I get mad.  We talk about it afterward and we move on.  With Graham, the things that drive me to distraction about him are usually things he cannot help.  He doesn’t deliberately forget to bring home his jacket or the name of someone he has known since he was born – there is a section in his IEP about his memory.  It is truly impaired.  He doesn’t intentionally not listen to me, he only catches about three-quarters of what I say, if that.  He can’t help it if he just can’t grasp the concept of days getting darker, or geography, or many of the other things children his age just seem to get.

What makes me feel terrible about myself (at times) is that I believe that Graham tries his best at everything every day.  How many children can you say that about?  He is a first born, rule following, approval seeking, sweet-to-the-core kid.  Why do I feel embarrassed by him sometimes?  Why do I occasionally wish it was different in our house?  How can I hold him in my arms, almost unable to bear the sweetness, and then be driven to distraction by him not five minutes later?  Is it him that I wish was different, or myself?  I read something recently that said if we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we would grab ours back.  As much as I look to parents of typically developing children and envy them at times, I know that they have their own struggles, struggles I would not want.  And there are, of course, people who have it much worse than we do and those who have it unspeakably bad and when I think about those folks, I want to simultaneously squeeze Graham and hang my head in shame.

In all of this, I have to say a word about my amazing husband.  My Naval Academy educated, former Navy pilot, Harvard MBA, brilliant and athletically gifted husband.  If you had told me that we were going to have a child who had some undefined issues that would make school and team sports difficult for him, I might told you that Randy would would really struggle with that.  He takes great pride in his intelligence, his fearlessness, his drive, and his successes – as well he should.  I hope he also takes great pride in what a kind and loving father he is.  The man who tells you he has no patience is the one sitting with Graham helping him sound out his reading words over and over again.  He is the man taking him to Cub Scouts and soccer, helping him learn to ski, and is the first one to say that he doesn’t care if Graham goes to college at all as long as he is happy and healthy.  And out of the house by age 18.

This is a serious post.  So allow me to tell a funny story.  When Graham was in kindergarten, he was in the bathroom peeing and a mean boy pushed him.  This terrified Graham and ever since, he has sat down to pee.  (This is not the funny part.)  It’s not something we care about except when we are out and public toilets are sketchy, we are at a park and the restrooms are closed for the winter, or when we contemplate future camping trips with the Cub Scouts.  Randy and I have tried cajoling him, patiently sitting with him in the bathroom, bribing him, threatening him (I’m not proud), all to no avail.  Last week, Spencer wondered what would happen if we paid Graham a quarter each time he stood up and peed, with the promise of a toy when he reached eight times.  Wouldn’t you know it – he has stood up ever since.  Happy birthday my sweet eight year old boy.


November 29, 2011

Today, November 28th, is Graham’s birthday.  He is seven.  I have written so much about him that I have created his own category here on my blog (scroll down on the right hand side for the categories).  What I haven’t written about is his birth story.  It is a story I have told countless times and have written about in my journal, but not one I have told here.  It’s time.  Don’t worry, no blood and guts, just the story of having Graham.

(Age 3)

My pregnancy with him was easy.  I felt sort of yucky for the first few months but only at night and was never very sick.  I had some food aversions (salad) and some cravings (citrus juice) and I didn’t gain too much weight or retain water or develop hypertension.  Easy all things considered.  My due date was December 3rd and once I passed into my 38th week, I breathed a big sigh of relief – he could come any time and would be fine.

On the morning of November 27th, I woke up at 7:30am to a contraction.  I had had a few before but I knew this was different.  I lifted my head to look at the clock and note the time.  Then I waited.  If another didn’t come – it was just a teaser.  But about ten minutes later, another came, just like the first.  I woke Randy and we called my doctor.  She told me to wait until they were five minutes apart and then call her again, so I spent the morning eating breakfast, taking a shower and packing my bag with a stopwatch in my hand the entire time.  I was scared, I was excited.  I called my mom to wish her a happy birthday and also to tell her that we would not be attending her birthday dinner that night as I would most likely be delivering a baby.

When it came time to leave for the hospital, we had a She’s Having a Baby moment.  I was sitting calmly in the living room, packed bag by my side, and Randy was running all over the house trying to find his wallet and keys.  After a few minutes of male hysteria, we were on our way.  We had done a practice run to the hospital so we knew exactly how to go and this happened to be a Saturday so traffic was light.  We were there in no time.  The night before had been a full moon so there were no rooms immediately available – it turns out that more babies really are born on full moon nights.  They hooked me up to monitors in the triage area and our long day of waiting officially began.  I had some fear of being turned away at the hospital and told to labor more at home, this had happened to people I knew, but I was already 3 centimeters dilated when we arrived.  The nurse told me I would not be leaving without a baby.

(Age 4)

The next few hours went by quickly.  The pain from the contractions was intense but not terrible.  I got moved into my room.  Periodically a nurse would check me and I was still 3 centimeters dilated (you need to get to 10 before you can start pushing).  I got in the tub at one point, just for something else to do and also to help ease the pain in my back.  My brother Michael was living in New York at that time and had been home for a Thanksgiving visit.  My parents brought him by the hospital on the way back to the airport.  He took one look at me and said, “You look like shit.”  I told him, “Maybe that’s because I’m in labor.”  Oh, the sensitive male.

The afternoon progressed.  My doctor, who was fortunately on call that weekend, came in to check me and when I was still stuck at 3 centimeters dilated, she told me it was time to walk.  Randy and I took an hour long stroll in the hospital halls, the pain getting more intense as we went.  At each contraction, we stopped, I held my arms around his neck, and we swayed back and forth.  Almost as though we were dancing.  We had learned this trick in our lamaze class and somehow that swaying and the rhythm of it calmed me.  I started to worry.  If I was feeling this much pain at 3 centimeters, how was I going to make it much further?  Natural childbirth was not something I had considered.  I applaud women who go that route but my feeling is that if there is a safe way to ease the pain of what is known to be one of the most painful things in the human experience, I wanted to take advantage of it.

When we finally made it back to the room they checked me and I was 6 centimeters dilated.  No wonder it hurt so much – I had dilated 3 centimeters in an hour.  Time for the epidural.  A nurse told me that the anesthesiologist was with another patient and could I wait 5 minutes?  Yes,  I could wait 5 but I literally could not wait 6.  Fortunately, he walked in about a minute later and in another few minutes, I was feeling those contractions but without pain.  An extraordinary relief came over me.

(Age 5)

Afternoon moved into evening and I kept dilating.  Around 9pm, my doctor checked me and said that in another half hour, I would start pushing.  The hospital where I delivered has birthing suites which means that the room you start in is the room you end in.  There is no labor and delivery room – it all happens in your room.  They are set up like hotel suites and the overall effect is very pleasant.  As we counted down that last half hour, we turned the lights down to a nice soft low, put on some Miles Davis, and prepared to meet our son.  We had put very little in our birth plan – just that we wanted to avoid a c-section if possible and that we wanted as few people in the room as possible.  No friends, no family, and certainly no interns.  So when the time came, it was just me, Randy, my doctor, and one nurse.

I pushed once.  I pushed twice.  After the third time, my doctor’s eyes jumped to the machine that was monitoring Graham.  I will never forget her voice saying, “Come on little guy.  Come on.”  And then, “We’re out!”  His heart rate had plummeted and not recovered and so, in a matter of seconds, we were in the OR with a bright lights and a flurry of people.  I was crestfallen.  I had just made it through 15 hours of labor, only to have a c-section?  I was also terrified.  Was he all right?  Surgery?  I had never had surgery.  My doctor promised me that, once they got me all hooked back up, if he had recovered and kept his heart rate up, we could resume pushing.  But we had to stay in the OR just in case.

(Age 6)

He did recover and I did resume pushing and slowly, all the extraneous people melted away.  It was once again just me, Randy, my doctor, and a nurse, but now I was in the OR with its antiseptic atmosphere and bright lights.  I was not allowed even an ice chip as surgery was possibly imminent.  Thirst started to make itself known.  But truly I didn’t care.  I kept pushing.  I did not feel the pain of the contractions but I did feel them and I could also feel the toll they were taking on my body.  An hour went by and he still had not descended.  After the second hour went by, my doctor looked at me and said, “I’m sorry Dana, but I think we have to do the c-section.”  I had read or heard somewhere that doctors at this hospital will let you push for three hours before they do a c-section so I begged her for another hour.  She relented and I spent another tortured hour just trying to get him to budge at all.  My doctor said that if I got him to a certain point, she could use forceps to get him out.  But I could not even do that much.

The end of the third hour came and I was beyond exhausted.  I was also very worried.  Why was he not coming out?  Was he all right in there?  At this point, I just needed to see him and I did not argue when she said it was time for the surgery.  A drape was set up, more doctors and nurses came back in.  I begged the anesthesiologist to give me something to prevent nausea (I am more afraid of throwing up than labor contractions), and then a dreadful feeling came over me.  When I say beyond exhausted, I truly mean it.  I felt like I was lying at the bottom of the ocean with the weight of all that water resting on me.  I could barely move and I would have sold my soul for a glass of water.

The actual surgery is blurry for me.  Randy watched (which surprised me) and I just tried to hang on and stay conscious.  They pulled him out and I remember that he did not cry.  That worried me.  A nurse whisked him off to get cleaned up and when they finally did bring him over to me to see him, my little Graham who I had been waiting nine months to meet, I could hardly turn my head to look at him.  My voice just a croak, I asked how much he weighed and was surprised to hear that he was just 6 pounds, 13 ounces.  Not a big baby at all.  I couldn’t push him out?  Randy got to hold him as they stitched me back up, surely the worst part of the surgery.  Of course, I didn’t feel pain, but I could feel them tugging at me and I started to feel really sick.  I begged the anesthesiologist for more nausea medicine – after all this, the last thing I needed was to throw up.  Fortunately, it worked and I started to feel better.

I learned that Graham was born at 12:40am.  This meant that he was not going to share a birthday with my mom after all but have his very own, November 28th.  I also learned that his blood sugar was low and they gave him formula immediately and did not bring him to me that night.  I don’t remember much else except soreness, fear, and complete exhaustion.

The next morning, the pediatrician on call came in to tell me how he was doing.  I had to keep slapping myself in the face to keep from falling asleep.  He had a somewhat rocky start, including jaundice and a few days under the lights, but never had to be in the NICU.  My grandmother’s mother died in childbirth and now I understood how easily that could happen in the days before c-sections.  Graham surely would have died and I might have as well.  It was a sobering thought and one I tried to hang on to whenever I had feelings of failure about the c-section.

My recovery was rough.  I had been through full labor and pushing, followed by major abdominal surgery and it took me a while to come back from that.  But of course I did and I also made it through the first couple of weeks of breast-feeding when I thought I would cry my eyes out before we finally got the hang of it.


Seven years ago.  There have been times that I have looked back to those moments in the OR and wondered if it was my stubbornness that caused Graham to have the issues he has had.  If I had just gone ahead with the c-section right away, would he be typically developing?  I have barely dared voice this question aloud but when I have, I get a resounding “no”.  No one knows, and probably no one will ever know, why Graham is the way he is.  I had some bleeding in my second trimester and it is more likely that something happened then than at birth.  Still, even these many years later and even though I know better, I torture myself with this question.  Guilt is a complicated thing.

It is hard for me to believe but now I have a first-grader.  He is tall and lanky and has none of the baby fat that was once so much a part of his face.  He is pretty darn cute and pretty darn sweet.  We had his teacher conference last week and his lovely teacher told us that he is doing great.  She adores him.  She showed us some of the terrific work he is doing.  She mentioned that although he struggles with some things, he seems to get other things on a deeper level.  The class did a big segment on Veteran’s Day and she encouraged the children to write a note to a soldier.  She had stationary set up for them to use when they wanted.  She saved Graham’s note for us.  It read, “Dear Soldier, Please do not give up.  Love, Graham”.  That made me cry a little.

First Grade and Pre-K

September 11, 2011

In the Seattle school district, the Wednesday after Labor Day is The First Day of School.  So we had a big day in the Dana Treat household last week.  Graham had his first day of school in his new school (1st grade!) and Spencer moved up from the Orange Room to the Yellow Room at preschool.  The Yellow Room is pre-K, the room with the biggest kids.  How it came to be that my baby is in that room, I can’t really explain.

Emotionally, I’m a bit all over the place.  I don’t feel the crushing nostalgia that hit me last year at this time.  I feel thrilled about Graham’s new school.  Being there for an open house last week, meeting some parents and kids at a 1st grade brunch, being there on the first day as the ribbon was cut and the community was welcomed – I just feel such relief.  This is the right place for him.  He will thrive there.  I want to get involved.  I see myself making lifelong friends and really joining this community.  Why didn’t I feel that way last year at his other school?  Was I afraid that Graham would not be successful there and was I protecting myself?  If so, how selfish.  I’m not sure truthfully.

I feel glad to see Graham back in school.  We had a nice summer.  He spent a few days a week at a day camp near our house but he also got plenty of time with me and Spencer.  We had a couple of Lopez weekends and two trips involving airplanes.  I love and adore that child with all my heart but he does tire me out.  The fact that he still, at the age of 6¾, requires so much of my attention is exhausting.  I can’t just say something offhand to him, every remark, every request has to be extremely deliberate.  At school he has a lot of success.  He has many people who adore him and are cheering for him.  He will have the same resource room teacher as last year and the same beloved librarian.  I am ready to hear about how well he is doing instead of focusing on challenging he can be.  I hope that doesn’t sound too callous.  I have to add the caveat that Graham continues to be a sweet, loving, charming, sensitive child who really truly always tries his best.

My emotions about him continue to be so complicated.  I still feel that I have failed him every night when I get into bed.  I need more patience, more acceptance, more tolerance, more light-heartedness, more thankfulness, more celebration in the things that make him uniquely Graham.  I need to be easier on him, kinder to him, more generous with him.  I first wrote about these struggles years ago and I am ashamed to say that rather than improving I am worsening.  Sometimes I feel that I don’t really “get” him.  I don’t know what he is thinking or experiencing because often he can’t really tell me.  It is hard to see the world through his eyes.  But on the first day of school, I did get a glimpse.

Because it was the first day for everyone in this building, they had a photographer on hand to get a picture of all the kids.  The parents stepped away for a few moments as the photographer clicked away, hanging out an upstairs window.  Before we knew it, the ribbon was cut and there was a bit of a crush as all the kids, parents, and teachers went up the steps and through the doors.  I hurried over to find Graham and saw him a few paces ahead of me and his body language (shoulders rounded, head down) told me that he was trying to hold it together.  I pushed past a few small people, touched him, said his name, and he spun around with a look of terror on his face.  Once he saw it was me, he burst into tears and wailed, “I don’t know who my teacher is!”  Oh my.  Of course.  Here we are, walking into a building that he has only seen once before, to a classroom he has only seen once before, to see his teacher who he has only met once before.  Overwhelming for really any young child but particularly one who doesn’t totally understand what is going on.  This poor kid who tries so very hard but spends a good part of his day a bit confused.  He knows he is at a new school, he does not know why.  At times he embodies that saying “fake it ’til you make it”.  He smiles and charms people all the while not truly understanding what is going on.  And yet.  He thrives in school.  He is learning at a pace similar to his typically developing peers.  He does not have any behavioral problems.  He eats and sleeps well and is nice to his brother.  Sometimes being a mother is a bit bewildering.

This post is not about me but I do have to say a word about my hair.  I’ve stopped coloring it.  I am not sure how I feel about it.  As it was starting to grow out, I even considered writing a post called “Gray – No or Yay” but that seemed a little vain.  My mom has the most gorgeous all-silver hair and while I know I am far from that, it seems to be the path I am taking.  Randy loves it, my family loves it, I think my friends are puzzled by it.  I’m on the fence but I don’t miss paying a fortune to sit with chemicals on my head every six weeks.  Thoughts?


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