The Lost Year


I can remember the timeline leading up to it with startling clarity, even if the emotional memory is a big fat blank. I can replay those few weeks between Henry’s birth and Penny’s diagnosis like I’m watching a movie, a movie about someone else, some other birth, some other family. I’m sure it’s some kind of self protection that I can’t remember how any of it feels, even the good parts. 


I was in labour for weeks, contractions all the time, walking around 3, 4, 5cm dilated, anxious about when it would actually be time. Penny was having a tough time at night, night terrors and wetting the bed, again and again. When we finally went to the hospital, Henry was born within minutes of us leaving triage. My water broke, and a few pushes later, he was there, nine pounds and change. A few days in the hospital, some trouble with baby's low blood sugar somewhat ironically, and we were home. I vaguely remember being very distraught about having to give him formula via a supplemental system, and looking back with everything I know now, I feel pretty ridiculous about how I reacted. 

Home, with Jim on paternity leave for six weeks, was supposed to be glorious. I remember thinking about how much we would get done and how much family time we would spend together. The first afternoon we were all home together Jim and I actually talked about Penny and the far off possibility of Type 1, a vague concept to us at that point. I even got a meter I had from when I had gestational diabetes and tried to test her primarily because I was sure it would make me feel better, but she got really upset and I just gave up. I called her pediatrician instead and scheduled her 3 year well-child visit, which was several months over due.  We ended up with a two week visit for Henry in the morning and a three year visit for Penny in the afternoon of the same day. For the next two weeks we just plugged along, taking Olivia to school, up at night with a newborn, just a blurry haze of diapers, breastfeeding, packing lunches, ordering take out, tired and grateful to have the time to be together. Henry was a joy, easy and affable, even at a few days old. We had an appointment with Olivia’s psychologist and Henry, content in the stroller bassinet in the corner of the office, laughed after the adults in the room did, at only a few days old. The doctor, an expert in infant and child development remarked on how extraordinary it was for an infant that young to already be engaging socially through laughter. 


On the day of the peds appointments, it made the most sense for me to take Henry in the morning and for Jim to take Penny in the afternoon, while I picked Olivia up from school. Henry’s appointment was a nonevent. He had surpassed his birth weight and was apparently thriving. I had no anxiety about Penny’s appointment because she was clearly fine, and any worry or concern we had was unfounded. They were going to check her urine, laugh at us for being over cautious. I remember talking to Jim on the phone as I pulled up in front of Olivia’s school. "There is something weird," he told me, "but they are going to send it to the lab, and it is probably nothing." A dear friend happened to be in front of the school at the same moment. I mentioned my concern to her briefly and she assured me it was nothing. For some reason, this part always sticks out, the worry on her face paired with her desire to comfort me in the moment.  

We met up at home. We put the kids to bed. We made rice and melted Trader Joe's frozen orange chicken. We sat on the couch. Jim got an email with Penny's lab results. Minutes later the phone rang. Time to go. Pack a bag. You'll be there a few days. I might never eat orange chicken again. 

From there I have only snapshots. Penny in a hospital bed. Needles so tiny I can hardly see them. Nurses cooing over Henry sleeping in the stroller bassinet in Penny's room. Being baffled that the hospital cafeteria would give her pancakes but not fresh fruit. Jim holding me. Me holding Jim. Both of us holding Olivia trying to explain things neither of us fully understood yet. Henry laughing. My dad and my stepmom and Jim's mom and dad showing up to fill in the gaps at a time when Jim and I were almost all gaps. Nursing Henry in our bed while Penny slept beside him, her body curled around him, her breathing slow and even.  Counting her breaths, reassuring myself. She's breathing. He's breathing. I'm breathing. We are all still alive. 

I lost his entire first year. I don't remember when Henry rolled over. I don't remember when he crawled or walked or started solids. I couldn't tell you when he cut his first tooth, how he handled his first fever, or even what his first word was. That year is another entry on the list of things Type 1 stole from me. I don't remember so much about that first year of his life. It is lost to me in a haze of panic and stress that I am still recovering from.


I do remember his laugh. I do remember that he was alway there, in my arms, with his heart on his sleeve and his easy smile. I do remember the weight of his tiny body against mine in the middle of the night when I was sure I could not ever again take a full breath, reminding me that he was breathing. I am breathing. We are all still alive. 



You guys, Q is awesome. There is some third-baby-magic stuff happening over here. He eats when he is hungry. He sleeps when he is tired. He laughs so hard he gives himself the hiccups, and then his hiccups make him laugh, which makes me laugh and pretty soon the two of us are laughing so hard that we look like crazy people. His pancreas works, for now (more on that later). He is always happy to see me. His needs are concrete and his problems are solvable. I swear, he understands me in a way I have never been understood before. He is my buddy, my buddy who just wants to nap and cuddle. It is so much good, an island of good in a rough sea of big, hard things, a respite that I so desperately need. 


His birth was fast and furious and before T1D, I would have had a lot to say about it. I might have more to say later, but in the weeks that followed, the play-by-play of November 19th has grown fuzzy and inconsequential. I do remember that one minute I was waddling down the hallway being admitted and the next minute (no, but really, like the next minute), he was here, ushered into this world by an indomitable midwife named Felicia, who at the moment of truth, locked eyes with me, told me to close my mouth and bear down. He weighed over 9lbs and other than some initial issues with low blood sugar (more on that later) was the picture of health. In the past three and half months he has grown and bloomed into the most reasonable human I have ever had the pleasure to meet. I am so glad that he is here. 

Pregnancy Brain

K: You know, the thing, the thing you use to get the tangles out of your hair. The hair thing. It's under the bed, I think. Or in the bathroom. The thing.

O: Huh?

I completely forgot. I completely forgot about pregnancy brain. I mean, I totally understand why I forgot, because I am currently forgetting everything, so it makes sense that I would have next to zero recall about my previous pregnancies. I've become the guy, the one from that movie, where he has to tattoo, or write everything, because he can't remember the thing about the girl. That one. Except instead of tattoos I'm relying on a combination of notes on my phone and post its. 

I know it all mostly comes back, but, man, I'm only half way there. And I'm responsible for the health and well being of these other two tiny people. Good luck, tiny people. 

So, I'm going to try to start writing again, but I can't make any promises, short sentence, small words. Now, how do I post this again?

Tiny Feet

O went up three shoe sizes in less than one year. Last year's shiny purple Saltwaters were size 8 and this year's red ones are size 11. Nothing puts the progress of time in a clearer perspective than those tiny feet: the ones that jabbed at me from the inside, the ones I held in my palm while she nursed, the ones I pretended to gobble after bath time, the ones I used to put tiny shoes on. She can manage those size 11s all on her own these days.


It's too fast and it's too soon, and yet it is right on time. Early this morning I was woken up by a smaller pair of feet. P found her way to our bed, wedged herself upside down between us, and was trying to pick my nose with her tiny toes. Tonight, as I type, an even smaller pair of feet are distracting me. Our son, due in November, has the tiniest feet of them all. For now. 

It's So Hard to Remember

O: For my next birthday, I want tools, house-building tools.

K: Okay. Why?

O: Because I want to build my own house and move-out. Don't worry. It'll be close by. 

It is so hard to remember, when you are trying to finish a simple task made complicated by the squirming toddler on your lap, that someday they won't want to hug you in front of their friends.

It is so hard to remember, when they awaken every morning at 5:00am, that you will someday be dragging them out of bed.

It is so hard to remember, when every toy, book and art supply is strewn across the floor, the dishes are stacked inches from the ceiling, and no one has clean underwear, that someday this house will be empty, that even the junk drawer will be organized.

It is so hard to remember, when they cry at preschool drop-off, that someday soon, you will be the one crying as you leave them, be it the first day of elementary school or in their dorm room, or more likely, both.

It is so hard to remember, when you are frustrated and tired and impatient, that these moments are a gift, the things you will look back on with warmth, love, and longing, when things really get tough, when the stakes are so much higher.


And yet, it is impossible to forget, when you are rocking them to sleep, their heavy, sweaty bodies slack in your arms, their breath sweet and even, that they are only little for a second, that they are only ours for such a short time. Soon enough, we give them over, to kindergarden, to best friends, to sleep-overs, to summer camp, to college, to lovers, to the world. They are ours, in our hearts, forever, yet they are truly ours for only a moment.

Why is that so hard to remember?

My Birth Day

O: What's a birthday? 

K: It's how we celebrate how many trips you've made around the sun.

O: How many trips have I made?

K: You have made four.  Four whole trips.

O was born at 4:26pm on 4/26/10. Whether that was fudged by a nurse with OCD or actual fact, I'll never know. I was a little distracted.


I woke up that morning planning to go to work, sure I had at least 6 more weeks of waddling around with a baby in my belly. I sat up in bed, sneezed, and my water broke. I called Jim, told him I was going to head to the hospital, but that he could probably stay at work. He came home. As we drove to the hospital, I was convinced that I wasn't going to have a baby that day.  It was too early.  We had just interviewed, but not yet hired, our doula. We didn't even have a car seat.  Her baby shower was the following weekend.

By the time we hit the hospital, my contractions had started and reality had taken hold. My dreams of a drug-free birth hit the floor as the pain hit my body. The anesthesiologist looked like an angel, halo and wings, when she came in to give me my epidural. I was in transition, but was too scared, and too overwhelmed to realize it. The rush of relief from the epidural was one of the highest highs I've ever felt.  Never had I more clearly understood how pleasure can just be the absence of pain.

No one said anything about those six weeks. Suddenly, when it was time to push, a team of gown-clad doctors and nurses rushed into the room. I realized pretty quickly that they weren't there for me.  The NICU team was there, just in case.  

5lbs 9oz

5lbs 9oz

O was born quickly and without incident. She was small, but strong and cried lustily. That team from the NICU quickly and quietly left the room, happy to have witnessed a birth that they were not needed for. I still remember holding her, her body stretching from my elbow to my wrist. That first night was hard, with two botched blood draws and panic about her white blood cell count. But somehow, even only a few hours in, my newly-minted mother's intuition kept reassuring me that she was fine.  

And she was. She came home with us the next day, and other than some gnarly jaundice, she was perfect. They gave us an electric light-up blanket to wrap her in. She reminded me of a glow worm. At some point, I remembered to call in to work.

Look at that chub. Somebody made up for lost time. 

Look at that chub. Somebody made up for lost time. 

Today, she is four. Each year, her birthday seems to become more hers and less ours. Today was about surprises, special lunches, and a big girl bed. Tonight, though, now that she is asleep, is about memories. Tonight is about my birth day, one of the most terrifyingly beautiful days of my whole life.  

Congratulations on your 4th trip around the sun, O.

There Are No More Babies in My House

O: I am not a tiny O anymore. I am a gigantic O who makes her own choices.

There are no more babies in my house.  O will be four at the end of the month and P is 20 months.  Somehow, last week, she stopped sleeping in the crib.  I'm still not sure how it happened.  I was cleaning their room and I started investigating what it would take to remove the one side of the crib railing. Next thing I knew, it was off and O, recognizing what a great fort this three sided crib/bed would make, quickly claimed it as her own.  I put the safety railings back on the toddler bed, and P climbed right in, like she'd never slept anywhere else.  We are realistically about 3 weeks away from being done with diapers all together, as P has been using the potty with more and more regularity since she was 6 months old. Yep, there are no more babies in my house.  

When did that happen?

When did that happen?

Maybe we should get a puppy. 


P: Shooooooooooze!

K: Do you want them off or on?

P: YEAH! Shoooooooooooze!

P has a thing for shoes. Shooooze is among her first words.  In the morning, when Jim is getting ready for work, P will follow him around carrying his size 13 dress shoes.  She brings my flip flops to me, when I am sitting barefoot at the computer and tries to put them on my feet. As for her own shoes, well...

Got to admire a girl who knows what she likes. 

Kids Are Gross

O: It's okay, momma.  I don't need a tissue. I can use my shirt!

Today, I found

a half eaten apple in my bed,

at least a tablespoon of sesame seeds ground into my kitchen rug,

paint splatters on the wall in the living room,

three and a half pairs of sand-filled shoes on the dining room floor,

a mysterious, grey and brown smear on the wall behind the toy basket,

and a sippy cup of what used to be milk under the couch. 

Geez, kid, get it together

Geez, kid, get it together

I have wiped butts, noses, and hands, and the hands were the grossest of the three.  I have been sneezed at, peed on, and licked.  I have made them beautiful meals, only to turn my back for a minute to discover that they have poured the milk over their fish, or dropped hunks of mashed potato into their cup of water, creating some inedible, unholy stew that I will later have to scrape off of their tiny, brightly colored dishes.  

Don't let that sweet face fool you. GROSS.

Don't let that sweet face fool you. GROSS.

There is a smell in the car that I am afraid to investigate. 

Once, P actually blew her nose directly into my mouth.  Please don't ask about the logistics. Just know, it happened.  

God, they are gross. The grossest.  

So gross

So gross

Spring Cleaning

O: We can give those stuffed friends away to another family that will cuddle them.  

It is officially spring, and somehow, here in Los Angeles, that means it has been greyer and colder than this winter ever managed to be.  We are in the middle of a great clear-out and clean-up: tossing out, donating, and scrubbing. 



It feels good to start fresh, shedding the layers of dirt and clutter.  It feels good to role-model the importance of letting go of things that are no longer useful, to teach, by example, how you can hold a moment in your heart while letting go of the physical manifestation of that moment.

I held in my hands today, the clothes that each of my children wore when we brought them home from the hospital.  O's was a tiny newborn onesie, striped with green.  I remember how her skinny arms barely filled out the long sleeves.  I had purchased a grey, long-sleeved newborn outfit for P, but it never would have fit her and was much too warm for the early August heat. P came home in a plain, white, cotton onesie, sized three months.  I let go of a lot today.  

I kept those two onesies.