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Which Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island? Australia. Which, according to the Internet, may or may not be an island, given it has “continent” status, but either way, it’s surrounded by water and we visited it in our Spring, their Fall, of 2017. My brother married a Brissy girl (aka an Australian from Brisbane) and they planned their wedding halfway around the world. I had so many apprehensions about leaving my two little ones behind, but I’m so happy my brother and sister-in-law “forced” us to take that 16+ hour flight to the land down under.
We spent an action-packed 48 hours in Sydney.
I’ve never been good with blood—or pain for that matter. I’ve fainted while ripping off a Band-Aid, getting a flu shot, and reading the vampire birth scene from the third Twilight book. I was even wary of reading ahead in What to Expect When You’re Expecting during my first pregnancy because I didn’t want to pass out in public or change my mind about this whole giving birth thing.
So while I knew a “natural” birth experience wasn’t for me, I didn’t know my water would break five weeks early, drenching the passenger seat in our car as my husband and I drove home from our first parenting class.
A quick U-turn back to the hospital and it wasn’t long before I was being wheeled through an eerily empty corridor towards a green-lit OR. It was near midnight and I literally watched one of the doctors about to cut me open yawn as I passed. Thankfully, another doctor held my hands maternally as the anesthesiologist stuck a needle in my spine. She assured me the baby would be fine before she disappeared to the other side of the blue curtain.
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The day my grandmother died, I missed the phone call to tell her goodbye. I’ve often wondered how I would have handled the weight of that moment. Surely many “I love you”s would have been blubbered through tears, but would I have told her what I’d known for as long as I could remember? That if I was lucky enough to have a daughter someday, I would name the baby after her? I’ll never know.
But let’s not talk about that, she would say. This is not a sad story. A year later, I did have a baby girl. And I did name her after my beloved grandma, Corinne.
My pregnancy had been pleasant and uneventful until my water broke five weeks early, dousing the front seat of our car as my husband and I headed home from our first parenting class. Two hours later my baby was out and I enjoyed regaling the tale of our late-night surprise to my family, friends, and even clients via calls, texts, and emails. It was 3 a.m. and I think I was still high on adrenaline and whatever drugs they gave me for the C-section. Initially, doctors said to expect a week-long hospital stay for our preemie. I had only seen her for a second before she was whisked off to the NICU while I stayed on the table to be sewn up.
Eight hours later, with my husband’s coaxing, I finally stood up in slow motion and shuffled my way toward the NICU wing. I stepped into the room and froze. She was tiny. She was hooked up to tubes. She opened her mouth to cry, but no sound came out, a ventilator stuck down her throat. She would spend nearly three weeks gaining strength in the hospital, while I found myself in a dark fog. Even after she came home, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had missed out on so many “firsts” of motherhood.
Then, something miraculous happened. My dad emailed me a direct line to the past. My uncle had come across a typed essay my grandma, my new baby’s namesake, had submitted to Reader’s Digest sometime in the mid-1960s. It was never published—he also found the rejection letter—but today she may have been a bonafide mommy blogger.
I’ve always had to travel for the holidays. My parents were wonderful about keeping Christmas morning focused on our immediate family, waking up at home with Santa gifts under the tree. But then after breakfast, we’d be packed up and on the road for at least an hour’s drive to visit relatives.
When my first baby was born, my husband and I decided we weren’t going to travel for the holidays. She was a preemie, we were recovering NICU parents, and she was only a few months old. Plus, my husband had always been a closeted Clark Griswold, and wanted to make Christmas magical for his firstborn.
Then the miraculous happened. My entire extended family was coming to me in Chicago on Christmas! In truth it wasn’t just me drawing them there, some cousins lived in the city too, but now 30-some of my relatives were going to be gathered in our city to celebrate a real “big old-fashioned family Christmas!”
My husband and I planned a casual Christmas eve dinner with friends since my family would be arriving Christmas day. I couldn’t wait to introduce our new bundle of joy to the expansive extended family she’d been blessed with, plus my three younger brothers, one even flying in from his job overseas. I imagined everyone swooning over her and pictured us bundling up and strolling downtown to take in the twinkling magic of Michigan Avenue at night.
But the day before Christmas she got sick. New parent worry kicked in and we took her to the doctor that day, assuming we were probably overreacting. A quick check-up later and we were told to go straight to the ER and, alarmingly, not to even stop at home.
Our little preemie had RSV. No visitors. No unwrapping gifts under the tree. No “big old-fashioned family Christmas”.
When my parents downsized their house, my mom seemed overjoyed that she could finally unload the boxes of memorabilia she’d amassed throughout my childhood. My husband received a similar delivery from his mom when we got married. Both were unsentimental send-offs of stuff to the rightful owners.
We moved these unopened boxes from apartment to apartment to finally our first home. They sat stored in the basement for months until one night we decided to dig in and purge. In his, we found a stack of juicy notes from two high school girlfriends, a truck collection, and loads of football and hockey paraphernalia. In mine we found art projects, scrapbooks, my troll collection, and, at the very bottom, a lone trophy. As I carefully unwrapped the newspaper surrounding that golden girl set atop a metallic blue pillar, it brought me back to the summer of 1992.
The air was frigid, even though it was mid-July. The gray sky loomed ominously as I snapped a swim cap over my head and shoved my ponytail into the tight rubber rim. I looked around. Only two other swimmers had shown up, so I had a lane to myself. I stretched my goggles over my eyes, dipped under the water, and propelled myself off the wall into my warm-up. I was 11 years old and I had my eyes on a big goal.