From our first OB appointment to confirm my pregnancy, I knew I was high risk. Rachel and Claire were monozygotic/dichorionic twins, meaning that they resulted from the same egg and shared a placenta, but they each had their individual amniotic sac. Not the most risky twin scenario, but the chances of developing complications was high. Still, I went through the majority of my pregnancy with nothing but slight anemia giving me trouble. Except for the fact that I was exhausted and was a complete menace if I forgot my support belt, pregnancy was a piece of cake.
I knew preeclampsia was a possibility. But hearing it actually declared at 29 weeks sent jolts of panic through my body. I was ordered to go to work only to tie up the loosest of ends, then head straight to the drug store for a portable blood pressure monitor, then straight home to the couch, where I would remain for the next week until I was admitted to the hospital. The preeclampsia was progressing too quickly. I delivered a week later, at 31 weeks. My girls stayed in the NICU for a thankfully boring 38 days.
When I read Kate Hopper’s memoir Ready for Air: A Journey Through Premature Motherhood, I was dumbfounded by how eerily similar our stories were. Kate gave birth to her daughter Stella at 32 weeks after her own battle with preeclampsia. I felt my blood pressure rise just reading her account of her hospital stay (fun fact: I still get extremely nervous when I get my blood pressure taken). I felt her heartache. I knew her guilt of feeling like she had done something wrong, although the situation was beyond her control. I nodded in recognition as she described how the magnesium sulfate, a horrible, yet life saving drug, made her hot and sluggish, and I recalled many a nurse I too wanted to scream at because their bedside manner was less than stellar.
Her illness and Stella’s resulting NICU stay were all so familiar to me because I had lived them myself in such a similar way.
Kate’s memoir is a melodious read of a difficult time. She captivates the reader with her grace and candor, while still allowing her raw emotions and uncertainty of Stella’s future to show. And although mine and Kate’s NICU days are behind us, there’s nothing like the comfort of someone else knowing what you went through. Kate’s story is real.
NICU Book Giveaway
Kate is graciously offering 15 NICUs a chance to receive a copy of Ready for Air. Please visit Kate’s blog and leave a comment with the name and address of the hospital you would like to receive the book, and specify whether it should go to a NICU or a family resource center. At the end of her virtual book tour, Kate will randomly pick 15 hospitals to receive signed copies of her book.
Ready for Air Book Club Contest
Kate Hopper wants to come to your book club! The author of Ready for Air: A Journey Through Premature Motherhood and Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers, is giving your club a chance to win one of three Skype or phone chats with the author to discuss her memoir. To enter the contest, please e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Ready for Air Book Club Contest,” and include a few sentences about why you’d like to have Kate visit your book club via Skype (or, if you’re in the Twin Cities, in person). Contest deadline: October 31st.
Ready for Air is available for purchase at the following online retailers:
Kate Hopper is the author of Ready for Air: A Journey Through Premature Motherhood and Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers. Kate holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Minnesota and has been the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, and a Sustainable Arts Grant. Her writing has appeared in a number of journals, including Brevity, Literary Mama, Poets & Writers, and The New York Times online. She is an editor at Literary Mama. She teaches online and at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. For more information about Kate’s writing and teaching, visit www.katehopper.com.
I was given a copy of Ready for Air and was asked to participate in Kate Hopper’s virtual book tour. All opinions, bad analogies, and typos are my own, as usual.
Tuesday was my birthday. 35, that’s me! It feels a lot like 34, and 33 before that, but 32 sounds just plain young now.
The day lacked all fanfare, which is fine for 35. Celebrations were supposed to be held on Monday, only I hadn’t figured out a thing I wanted to do except visit Gorgough’s Doughnuts, because if you’re going to treat yourself, it may as well be a doughnut as big as your head, smothered in strawberries and cream cheese frosting. But instead of celebrations, the long weekend was filled with flu (Claire) and rain (the entire city of Austin).
About this flu business. Claire came down with a fever Friday evening, of course. I have a real “wait and see what happens” attitude towards fevers, especially with no other symptoms. The flu didn’t even cross my mind until Sunday when she still had a consistent fever, save a few periods of what I like to call Medicine High, where the fever was down and she bounced around the house until she once again crashed in a hard, terrible, feverish heap. Then what was once just a fever became OMG ALL THE GERMS! with every little cough and sniffle.
Even if she had been well, it rained all day Monday, so festivities were cancelled. Instead we hung around and watched TV all day. After three days of sickness, I can say that I have found the End of Netflix, and it’s Spooky Buddies.
I am terrible at birthdays, even my own. Christian said, “One of these days, I’m going to throw you another party.” The last one was my 30th. 5 years ago. I haven’t lamented not having a party since.
“Because it’s fun!”
“For whom?” I’m not trying to be a bitch. I just don’t like being the center of attention. I’ll attend your party all day long, but being the guest of honor stresses me out.
For dinner we opted for Chuy’s, the local Tex-Mex place, where I learned that dinners out with 3 young kids are overrated, even on your birthday. The bathrooms were nice though. I know because I made the trek three times.
And upon my return from the third trip, the waiter came by with the check and a heaping plate of fresh, hot sopapillas and honey.
“Someone told me that it was your birthday, but they also said you hate being sung to…so here you go!” And I couldn’t help but give Christian a thankful smile across the table. I could have died and gone to Heaven, not just because the sopapillas were melty in my mouthy delicious, but because in this moment I knew he really got me.
Also, the sopapillas. Because DUH.
I have a deep, abiding love for a good cover song. I’ve hardly met a cover song I didn’t like. Except the Flying Lizards’ cover of Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want),” which was also covered much less terribly by the Beatles. But the Flying Lizards did end up winning me over a bit when the song was featured in the movie Empire Records. Man, that movie was the showcase of everything about the 90s that I loved and wanted to so be a part of, but I was a tad too young: the short skirts and boots, moody alternative music, and cute boys with long hair.
But back to the cover songs.
I have a soft spot for Neil Diamond. I grew up listening to his music, as my mom is a huge fan. In those days I just thought he was a fluffy haired, caterpillar-browed, sparkly shirted music man to the old folks. Now it’s one of the legacies I pull from my childhood, a source of comfort and nostalgia. One of those things that we realize as adults that we really did love, no matter how much we made fun of it at the time. If only a photo existed of him without the Farrah Fawcett ‘do and the sparkly, open collared shirt…
Now whenever I hear one of his songs, I belt it out like I’m his #1 fan. Because somehow I know all the words. I’m well aware that my kids will soon think of my favorites as Old People’s Music too, but I only hope that someday they grow to appreciate it for the music that it is, like I have my friend Neil. Still, I’m readying my cane and my “you kids don’t know what good music is!” lecture as we speak. Possibly related: I am getting old.
I heard this cover of “Solitary Man”by Johnny Cash on the radio today and thought it was fantastic. Yes, I realize it’s like 12 years old. I never claimed to be the first to hear about things.
And then it was down the rabbit hole of Neil Diamond cover songs on YouTube. Hours, I tell you. Here are my favorites.
Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon, Urge Overkill
Pulp Fiction. This might be one of my most favorite Neil Diamond covers EVER.
Sweet Caroline, Waylon Jennings
You can’t talk about Neil Diamond covers without throwing in Sweet Caroline. The most popular covers seem to be from Sinatra and Elvis, but this one’s more my style. I only like Big Band in my Christmas tunes.
You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, Barbara Streisand
I’m not a huge Babs fan, but this song is seriously gorgeous. She and Neil also did a duet that I remember fondly from my childhood.
I’m a Believer, The Monkees
Didn’t know this was a cover? Me either, for the longest time. The Monkees are another one of my favorite childhood memories. I watched the show every day after school on Nickelodeon, and had a mad crush on Davy Jones. Now I think I may be more of a Peter Tork girl.
Forever in Blue Jeans, Will Ferrell?
Of course there could never be a cover of Forever in Blue Jeans that beats this one. Because really? David Hasselhoff is the only other person who’s covered it? Someone else get on that, stat.
I didn’t find any good covers of some Neil classics like “Song Sung Blue” and “America.” Because like with most things, nothing beats the original. No one sings a Neil Diamond song like Neil Diamond. I’d have a hard time not snatching up tickets if he came to town.
Neil, you still got it. Also, you’re better with short hair.
I witnessed a car accident today, on my way to pick the big girls up from kindergarten. We usually walk, but today Zoe and I had run an all important errand to Garden Ridge for random decorative crap.
If you’re not from Texas and don’t know what the hell Garden Ridge is, think humongous, unsavory-looking orange warehouse filled to the brim with all things home decor. And scrubs. I have no idea why they carry scrubs, but if you’re in the market, they’re over by the wicker baskets.
I was following a black sedan down a house-lined road with a relatively slow speed limit when a black SUV approached from the opposite direction and went to turn left into a driveway, directly in front of the sedan. Like SO RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER it was obvious she just didn’t see her. The sedan slammed on her brakes, but there was no time. Her front end crunched into the passenger side of the SUV. I pulled over, already reaching for my phone to call 911.
EVERYONE IS OKAY. Thank God. Had the sedan been going faster, or the SUV, who knows how much worse it could have been than a crushed hood and dented side. Fire and EMS were on the scene within minutes, and man, did those people get to work. Much respect.
I learned a few things about myself during the scenario. Not that it’s even about me, because it isn’t, and had everyone not been okay, I’d likely be telling a different story. But as much as we try to prepare, sometimes we never really know how we will react in these situations.
1. I am quick enough to think to call 911 and try to get someone out there. Tell me what to do, and I can follow directions like a boss. I maintained a clear head, dictated our location, the makes of the vehicles, and exactly what was going on, including whether or not anyone was in dire need of medical assistance. And I managed to hold onto the mallowcreme pumpkins I may or may not have been about to pop into my mouth when the accident occurred. So I’m also resourceful?
2. I am NOT responsive enough to immediately jump into the scene. As I was on the phone with 911, I could hear the driver of the sedan wailing. The driver of the SUV ran over and helped her out of her car. Turns out she had a little girl, maybe 18 months, strapped into her carseat. Was I hesitant because I saw people already responding? Or was it because I couldn’t think past what I was already doing, which was on the phone and being passed around more times than a doobie at a Phish concert?
Sometimes I am too self absorbed for my own good. I don’t think that I am the “run into a burning building” type. We all play scenarios out in our heads, and we’d like to be the ones who valiantly pull victims from dangerous situations, but in the heat of the moment, I kinda froze. Let’s all hope that a) that status won’t stand when my own children are hurt or in danger; and b) I never have to test that with my own children.
3. I am terrible a cop-speak. I’m all, “She was going that way, she was coming this way, SHE turned in front of HER at the last second, and SHE…” and he’s all, “Who exactly was doing what, and OMG CIVILIAN, YOU ARE KILLING ME.” So I had to stumble through a cop-appropriate version using makes and models and possibly directions. It was rough.
Let me reiterate, everyone was okay, just shaken up. But the scariest part about this accident is how out of your control things can be some times. You can be driving as safely as you can, all eyes on the road, and it won’t necessarily matter. Someone else who isn’t paying attention or just plain didn’t see you can pull out right in front of you. I saw every move of that accident with my own eyes. There was no way the sedan could have avoided hitting the SUV that turned in front of her. It was a good reminder to remain attentive while driving and make sure your kids are appropriately strapped in. I know how easy it is to rush through the strapping and the clicking and the tightening.
And maybe since she was paying attention and not speeding, she was able to keep the damage to a minimum, and she and her little girl got to walk away today.
Have you ever witnessed an accident? What did you do?
I read an article once where a woman said to her photographer friend, “Wow, those are great photos! You must have a really good camera!” The photographer responded, “Thanks! You look really pretty! You must have really good make up on.” And her friend was all O_O … “Point taken.”
I have always had a love for photography, but not so much when it came to the mechanics. I had no interest in taking classes in college mainly because I was scared away by the complexities of fancy cameras and dark rooms. AKA I haz the fears of trying new things. I’ve had my DSLR for about 4 years and still struggle with exposure and aperture and keeping the damn lens clean.
So I guess what I’m saying here is that while the camera on my iPhone is good, I suppose, it’s no megabucks DSLR. It’s a tool used to take a good shot, then I work on making that shot better. I see something worth capturing, whip out my phone, snap it quickly — maybe several times — then save it for later when I can do some editing magic and make an ordinary moment an amazing one. The process of editing a good shot into a great one, or even a blah one into a good one, makes me happy.
Some say that thanks to Instagram, everyone with a phone deems themselves a photographer, but I can’t place fault on an app or device that helps bring out the creative sides of people and brings more beauty into the world. I’d rather just look at all the pretty photos and sing Kumbaya. But in the end, it’s the person behind the lens taking the good shot, not necessarily the camera.
Since the girls have been in school, Zoe and I spend a lot of time together, and thanks to my gig over at Free Fun in Austin, a lot of that time together is spent going on adventures. One look at my Instagram feed, and it’s obvious that she’s my latest insta obsession. She’s just so dang instadorable and is the perfect model. She doesn’t try too hard, she doesn’t scowl at me, and she’s often just being Zoe, which is what makes these shots so priceless.
These are a few of my favorite recent InstaZoes. And making Zoe the new spokes model for the City of Austin is now on my life list. You hear me, Mr. Leffingwell?
So what do you say, City of Austin powers that be? Do we have a new spokes model on our hands?
We’ve been talking a lot about babies, the girls and I. Not Christian and I, because that baby ship has sailed, let me tell you.
Claire is adamant that she wants “an adopt-a-baby.” Apparently it’s like something you can just pick up from the local mall. Stuff it with stuffing, pick out a dress, and give it a name. If only it were that easy. When my grandmother was a girl, she remembers her mother wanting a boy so badly, that she was ready to just go get her one, back in the days when one really could just want into an orphanage and pick out the newest member of their family. She never did though, because #6 was her boy, and that’s my reigning argument against Christian’s “#4 will be a boy” theory. Because I’m definitely not going all the way to 6.
“Some women can’t have babies?” she asks. I wonder where her curiosity comes from, but then I don’t. She’s my little mother, my caretaker to sound cliche. She’s always quick to the side of a sad classmate or sister, stroking hair or rubbing backs, and she adores babies of all kinds.
I know in this case, she’s thinking of Ellie from the movie Up, and the scene where she learns she can’t have children. So I try to explain that no, some women can’t have babies, because their bodies work differently, so they adopt babies that don’t have homes. And then we’re back to the shopping mall version of Adopt-A-Baby.
In the dark of their room at night, I’m asked to tell the story of when they were born. I usually go through the CliffsNotes version to save time and possible freak outs. You and Sissy were both in my tummy at the same time, side by side, and I got reeeeeally big. Then the doctors needed to take you out because I was sick. And you were so small, so very small, that you lived in the hospital for five weeks. But I went to visit you every day.
“And you held us?” Yes. “And you rocked us?” Yes. “And we cried because we missed you.” Well…you actually slept most of the time, but whatever.
I get a slight pang when I see a baby. Slight. At the preschool I’m surrounded by mothers in that particular stage of life of juggling strollers and toddlers, or wearing tiny babies on their chests while they walk their little ones into the building. Part of that ache says, Yes! You want another! Look how cute and sweet and sleepy it is! But the other part says, HELL TO THE NO! LOOK AWAY! LOOK AWAY! And that’s the part that I know will win out because I’m ready for everyone to just be done with having babies already so we can move on with our lives. I’m content with now being the “mom of older kids” compared to those still in the trenches of babydom, even if my kids are only a blink and a half older. I’m done. No more high chairs, swings, bouncers. We’re weeding out the board books and the baby toys as the donation trucks come around.
So I give the other parents knowing smiles because it wasn’t that long ago that I was herding two 3-year-olds down these same halls while carrying an 18-month-old because she refused her stroller.
But it also seems like forever ago.
I’m over at BlogHer today, where my post about how I may or may not be a little resentful of parents of one kid (at least at a time) is being syndicated. Would you come over and see me if you haven’t read it yet?
Just for grins, I’ll leave you with this photo. These kids have been asking about pumpkins ever since that one day we had the slightest cool breeze. Check out the thermometer in the upper right. 70 degrees, yo! Downright chilly.
Anniversaries as parents to little kids are hard. For our eleventh last week, I was content to do our usual romantic take out from That Place That’s Good, But Not Too Expensive, You Know, The One You Ordered From Last Year? But nay. This boy, he’s a romantic, even if he does preface the evening by saying, “I took you to the Driskill last year. This one’s on you.” Swoon!
Planning date nights stresses me out. We’ve never hired a babysitter for a few reasons. One, they cost money, and I wasn’t prepared to double the cost of our dinner by having someone sit on our couch and watch Project Runway* while the kids slept. Two, I just have this thing about people I don’t know being in my house? I’m weird like that. And three, finding someone I could trust to hang here would be a challenge, and if this is your first time here on this blog, hello, my name is Leigh Ann and I am lazy.
Back in the days we call BZ (Before Zoe), we had a good run of date nights. We would swap with my friend Vanessa, who has twin boys just days older than the girls. Since our kids all went to bed at 7, we would trade nights about once a month, and we’d pay in ice cream. Teenage babysitters should really think about accepting this type of deal if they want more business.
But now it feels intrusive to ask a friend to leave their family on a weekend evening to come sit at our house. We don’t even have cable. Plus, I would have to clean, and well, see above. LAZY. So I did what any mom whose husband was offering a night out would do: I Facebook messaged my friend Lori (LORI!) and begged her to take my children for a slumber party type gathering while Christian and I hit the town. I promised it would be “fun (with extra !!!)!” I promised we wouldn’t stay out late. I promised reciprocation. I sweated while she clearly tried to pretend she hadn’t seen my request, despite having JUST answered that her Saturday evening was wide open.
And finally…”I’d love to!” It sounded forced, as forced as words can seem on a screen, but I didn’t care. I took it.
It was a perfect Austin evening, so naturally, everyone and their dog (literally, this is a very dog friendly town) was trying to sit on a patio somewhere. Saturday evening dining is hard enough in this city without the prerequisite of fresh air.
After a few “Oh, an hour? Fuck that – I mean, no thank yous,” we settled on Kona Grill in the Domain. There was no wait. We sat in a ridiculously large booth, big enough for 6, and took silly pictures of each other. No cat GIFs were had, unfortunately. The food was amazing, and then we celebrated with cake balls and milled around the Domain until the stores closed. At 9. Our night owl tendencies astound.
Anniversaries have changed. Or have we? It’s not that we can’t hang with the raucous night crowd, it’s just that we don’t really want to. We declined second beers because we are lightweights, and we still had kids to pick up and put to bed. And don’t you know, childless waiter, that hangovers and 6:30 a.m. don’t really mix, and my husband has to go help his boss load furniture into storage pods tomorrow morning, and OH MY GOD we are so old we are lamenting hangovers we don’t even have.
The food was amazing. The company was better. The cake balls were the best. H&M was underwhelming. We picked up the kids a little after 9 p.m. and had them home in bed in no time. Eleven years in the bag.
*I have no idea what they would watch. We don’t have cable. They’re stuck with Netflix documentaries, I’m afraid. Babysitters, line up!
September in Austin is absolute torture. We’ve left behind the sweltering months of June, July, and August, and my brain is telling me it should be cooler, but my skin is reminding me that it’s still a hundred million degrees out.
Then one day, when we least expect it, we wake up to find it cool and crisp. And we can open the windows for the first time in 4 months, except that time in June when I horribly burned that popcorn and had no choice because burnt popcorn is the WORST especially when the smell is embedded in all of your couch cushions.
And when the children feel the cool, crisp air, they sense the shift is seasons has finally come. Rachel will insist on wearing the long sleeved shirt that’s been sitting in the drawer for weeks – the new one, the one with the kittens on it, and Claire will declare that it’s Halloween and demand we go get pumpkins this instant.
The so called lazy days of summer have been gone for a few weeks now. School is in full swing, and we’re adjusting accordingly. Now also gone are the days where we don’t dare go outside for fear of melting or getting third degree burns from the fake leather car interior. Gone is the swimming, the all too frequent ice cream trips, and soon the mosquitoes, GOD, THE MOSQUITOES.
I know the heat will return before the cool is here to stay. But I also know that we’ve had our last glimpse of summer.