|Photography by Juls Megill|
December first started with an early morning doctor's appointment for me. For those of you who don't know, we are TTC number two. I had an IUI which is surprisingly covered by our new insurance. I know, there are as many acronyms in the infertility world as there are in education. TTC stands for trying to conceive, and IUI is intrauterine insemination, or artificial insemination. We're doing these unmedicated, without any fertility drugs, so my doctor says "it won't work." Good to know! That way, we don't get our hopes up, and can start looking into our backup plan: IVF in Prague this summer.
Those of you who have followed my journey know that I announced my pregnancy with Autumn super early, right after I POAS (you can google that one). I hadn't even had a blood test. That won't be happening this time. We will keep it under wraps until we know everything is alright, like most people do. I don't have the data to back it up, but with IVF, you know you have a "good" egg, which is one of the reasons I was so optimistic. Plus, I needed to be since we were loosing Mom at the time and I desperately needed something positive. But my current doctor said that only 1 in 7 of my eggs is normal. Not me personally, but just because of my age.
After the appointment, Autumn and I went to Target and did a small food shop. I bought another turkey and a few ingredients to do another Thanksgiving dinner. Autumn tried avocado (fresh, not from a jar) for the first time and really seemed to like it. No more new foods for a few days, that day alone she had quinoa, apples and avocado. Her full tummy made her sleepy, and we continued our nap-time adventures.
We finished the house lights and started reading a copy of A Christmas Carol that my parents gave me, with a touching inscription on the title page.
We had to have Nathan's beautiful husky, Skippy, put down. He was Nathan's constant companion since he was 22 and together, they went on at least 3,000 walks over the twelve years. He had been declining for awhile and spending a lot of time outside, even when it dipped down to 50 degrees. But that morning, he had trouble walking and was dripping blood from his mouth. He yelped in pain when touched. I went with and took Autumn, and we both were there for the procedure and cried. I thought of Autumn being 10 or 12 and having to do this with Trevi or another dog. My first inclination was to not get another dog - ever. But, going through life not getting attached to and loving just to avoid hurt and loss is no way to live. We both believe that if she does have to go through this, it is good training in developing coping mechanisms for other losses that are sure to come. Plus, a childhood without pets is just no childhood at all, in my biased opinion.
On the 3rd, Autumn and I attended an event called Good Grief at Christ Cathedral about surviving the holidays after the loss of a loved one. I was hopeful that it would help, but it just made me sad. I sat through most of the two hour session alternating between tears streaming down my face and making faces at or rocking Autumn. It really didn't learn anything new or helpful, other than the idea to light a candle for Mom at Christmas dinner this year and every year after. Maybe the reason I was there was not for me. I was the youngest in the room, and about half of the other attendees, some of whom had lost adult children, came up to me at different times and commented on either how cute Autumn was, or how well-behaved she was. She gave her huge gummy smile and flashed her dimple each time, and everyone smiled back, some through the tears in their eyes. I made a mental note to myself to visit nursing homes with her next Christmas. I also was reminded to never persuade friends, family, or students to go into grief counseling if they're not ready.
Friday the 4th was Autumn's very first trip to see Santa Clause! My friend Andrea, her husband Bill and her son Casey drove out here and we went to Irvine Park Railroad. Seeing Santa is free, but you have to take a train to get to him which costs $12. A fair price, since they allow you to take your own photos.
|I finished her red infinity scarf just in the (St.) Nick of time!|
I had Autumn's Christmas photos done and was thrilled with the results! As I mentioned before, Juls Megill Photography is beyond reasonable. Her Christmas photos cost $20! I plan to use her for Autumn's entire childhood!
|Can you spot the three ornaments?|
I brought three very special ornaments to the shoot: Big Ben (Mom gave me), a pram that we purchased at Buckingham Palace, and her hand-print ornament. I also chose her dress to match the pink leather shoes that Dad bought for her last Christmas. The shoes and the pattern of pink roses on her dress are my way of paying tribute to Mom because they're both something she would choose and love. Plus, I was privy to the set beforehand, and knew that an outfit with traditional red and green colors would not really fit in. I ordered our cards, something I always look forward to, with even more enthusiasm than any other year. Her Grandma said she looks like a little princess, and is much cuter than Princess Charlotte. I'm sure her Nana would concur.
I had a nail in my tire and had to get it repaired, surprisingly for free, on Tuesday morning before a doctor's appointment at my fertility clinic for blood work. Usually, this could be seen as a hassle or a chore, especially so early, but not with Autumn. She was smiling so much, and making eye contact with anyone she could. Eye contact was always followed by a huge, dimple-baring smile, the same at my doctor's office. On the way home, I thought of how she is so much like my Mom in this respect. Mom could have a good time anywhere, under any circumstances. She was never stressed and she never complained. It is so wonderful having Autumn as a reminder to be like that and not sweat the small stuff.
When we got home, we had another nap-time adventure before cleaning up, while she continued to sleep.
|Our little bookworm.|
I introduced spinach with peas and she didn't love it, but she did eat it. We also started having fun at feedings when she's due for a bath. I made a big pot of spaghetti and let her play with it. I was right there, to make sure she didn't put any in her mouth and surprisingly, she didn't.
I met my friend Stella and her daughters at a park in Irvine and Autumn played in the sand for the first time, sitting quietly and touching it. She seemed to like it and didn't even try to eat it. I texted Nathan that we needed to buy some sand for her. The next day, as we were finishing up our morning walk, I noticed a Little Tykes plastic sand box that had a cover and a FREE sign on it. I went home and got my Jeep and couldn't shake the feeling that maybe Mom had something to do with it. It seems like every time she needs something, it's provided. Plus, Mom loved thrift stores and used items.
I had my annual Christmas party with my running/triathlete friends, and really wanted to bring Autumn. But, she had fallen asleep the night before at 6:30pm which is when the dinner started, so I decided to leave her with Nathan. He's great with her, and it's important for her to spend time with him, but I missed her the whole time I was there. I couldn't wait to get home to her, even though she was asleep. I quietly crept into her nursery, and watched her sleep for awhile.
We noticed on Saturday the 12th that her second bottom tooth was coming in. It had already broken through the skin and again, she did not act any different. We took her to church and she didn't even make one sound, just quietly watched the choir and then fell asleep at lunch.
We attended her last consecutive swim lesson for awhile, but will return for a day or two in both January and February so that she doesn't get out of practice.
On December 15th, I took her to what will be her daycare so that she could start to get familiar with it. Our visit was disheartening and I ended up driving home in tears. The plan was to leave her for a bit - under an hour, and I just couldn't do it. They were particularly busy that day, with seven babies and two workers. The workers were busy tending to two other babies, and I imagined her just laying on the ground, crying, and no one to console her. Plus, all of the kids were really sick, with running noses and bad coughs, and Autumn has never been sick. I came home and told Nathan I didn't want to leave her there, and we begun exploring Nanny options, setting up an interview with a nanny of an acquaintance. That night and into the next morning, I felt incredibly guilty about having to leave her every day.
I made myself go back to her daycare the next day as planned, and I'm glad I did because it was a bit reassuring. When I passed through the first locked gate and then the second, all of the toddlers were out in the play-yard with supervision, running around and having a great time. I could picture her, a little older, out there having fun. There were only four children in the infant room this time, and I learned that some days and parts of the day are busier than others. Christmas music was playing. While I still did not leave Autumn, I enjoyed watching her curiosity with the other babies. She even called out to one girl, with her baby babble. When they cried, she watched them. She smiled at the staff.
I went back a third day, and left her for one hour while I went to my work which is close by, to meet with the counselor who has been subbing for me. She has subbed as a counselor at other schools in our district and told me that there needs to be two at our site because it has been so hectic. There always used to be two, one for 7th grade and one for 8th grade. But now, I am the only one and have a caseload of 650. It made me feel good that someone else recognizes how busy can be. And I hope my first day, week and month are chaotic and busy because I will worry about Autumn less and the time will go by faster. When I returned to pick her up, she was happily sitting and playing, until the worker moved from her side, and she started bawling. I rushed to pick her up, and it as clear to me that she had been crying previously, because her little eyelashes were clumped together with tears. January 4th is going to be tough, to say the least.
I have to remind myself that it's okay for her to have some time when no one is interacting with her. It's actually important for her development. According to the developmental book I'm reading, solitude is good for baby: Continue to allow baby quiet time by herself. It's okay to leave her safely on the floor or in her playpen while you attend to tasks. Don't feel guilty when you leave baby alone; it's an important part of her development. When she's alone, baby can process and internalize various pieces of information. She can observe her surroundings at her own pace. She can also rest physically, which she needs for her well-being.
It's going to be such an adjustment for me to be apart from her, whether it be daycare or in-home, and I know I will cry on the first day. Part of what is tough is that before she was born, I imagined that I would "need a break" by now and be ready for some adult interaction. But I don't feel that way at all. All I want to do is be around her, and I even miss her when she sleeps. I don't even like to leave her with Daddy!
But, thank God I do love my counseling job, and having it allows me to provide her with things that I didn't have, like travel abroad and private school. While I would stay home until she started school if I could, I would still want to work once she was in school, because I love being a counselor. It's part of my identity and I do miss it. And, I have a career that affords me a lot of time off, much more than the standard two weeks because I only work 196 days per year. Also, I can pick her up some days as early as 3:30. If you can't tell, I'm trying to assuage my guilt here, as these are the things Nathan reminds me of on our walks, and I repeat to myself before l fall asleep at night.
|Grandpa & Uncle Glen|
We flew to Oregon on the 21st to spend time up there through the first of the year. Autumn and Trevi were both amazing on the flights. We used miles for free tickets, and as a result, had a short layover in Seattle before boarding one of those super tiny planes where you feel everything. No one seemed to mind Trevi on my lap, and several people approached me to ask how much she cost (free) or how I was able to have her there.
Temperatures fell into the mid to low 30's during the nights and I was very excited to see snow falling on one of my morning walks with Trevi. It didn't stick until Christmas Eve, but still only provided a very light dusting on Christmas morning. It "felt" like Christmas, Mom and I always used to lament the days when it would be 80 degrees and sunny on Christmas, and always hoped for some cloud coverage or cooler temperatures.
|Christmas Eve excitement!|
Unfortunately, Nathan and I were both sick on Christmas, and not able to keep anything down for 8 hours. I haven't been sick in years. When you are devoid of energy and the world seems to have twice the amount of gravity, it makes even re-positioning yourself on the ground difficult. Thank God Autumn did not get sick, and with us taking turns caring for her, she still seemed to have a wonderful day. Well, every day is wonderful for her. She loved all of her toys, and right around Christmas, started being able to sit all on her own. She also started playing independently on her own, not noticing or caring that I was out of sight, in the kitchen for over thirty minutes at a time. Both of these things made me feel better about upcoming daycare dilemma.
By the next day, we both felt well enough to put on our amazing pajamagram Santa suits, courtesy of TJ and Rebecca, much to Nathan's dismay. Even Trevi was included!
We were also able to go out to Red Lobster with Ben to celebrate his birthday, complete with a cake with a picture of him with his newly adopted cat, Terry.
I absolutely love being in Oregon and Nathan's family, and seeing his parents, and Ben, interact with Autumn. This trip was so relaxing. Grandma worked every day to teach Autumn to wave, and she seemed to try and wave back a few times. Most days, the only thing on my agenda was helping prep something for dinner, a walk around some of the property or down the road, feeding the swans, feeding carrots to the horses and pony, playing with Autumn and crocheting or reading. Nathan, on the other hand, remained busy helping plan a remodel or addition for his Mom who cannot make it up stairs anymore. He called contractors and obtained estimates, helped move her downstairs, explored finding someone to dig a well, scheduled doctor's appointments and dealt with the insurance, packed up the Christmas decorations and planted the Christmas tree.
All of that is not really work to Nathan, who loves helping out family. We still made time for our walks every day, and as always, used them as a time to reconnect and talk about the future. Future trips to Oregon, where we plan to return at least twice a year for the rest of our lives, and passing it on to Autumn. The Autumn Empire. And future Christmases, wondering with excitement when she will be old enough to be too excited to sleep on Christmas Eve, and how we can make them as special as she is, or at least try.