Friday, August 28, 2015

Meeting Eli

Every once in awhile the Peer Support folks at The Shepherd Center will dial us up. I guess they see similarities in the lives, interests, personalities among past and current patients. Since we're local, and four years in, they'll ask us to come meet with whomever.

About a month ago, Spencer and I met with an expecting Mama from South Carolina who's husband was diagnosed with a spinal cord injury and a brain injury after drowning on a trip to Mexico. I never know what I have to offer to any of these people we're asked to meet with, but after meeting with Charissa that day, I realized that for her, bringing Spencer was the best thing I could have done. Sure she asked me some questions about life after a SCI. But she couldn't take her eyes off the baby and couldn't stop smiling at her. Spencer, of course, was her usual social, smiley self right on cue. Spencer went to her and let her snuggle her. Baby therapy. It works well. Spencer tends to fill in the blanks when Mama falls short.

This week, we met with Eli Culp. Eli was injured on the Amtrak crash headed from Philly to New York, his nightly commute home. Eli is a well-known chef, and it seems, is very talented.  Jimmy and Eli talked cooking school, kids and their fascination with their wheelchairs, nurses, vehicles of choice, life after the injury, etc. All while Spencer crawled all over the therapy mats with extreme excitement. I remember being in that 5th floor therapy gym in 2011 with Jimmy, sometimes seeing newly-injured Dads with their babies do the same. 

As Eli and Jimmy talked, it was kind of a full circle moment. Having Spencer in the therapy gym her Dadda spent many of hours in, really learning how to live again.    

Eli seemed to be dealing with his injury rather well. As well as one could. The fact he was willing to meet with us indicates a certain level of acceptance, I think, that many in Eli and Jimmy's situation have a rather hard time with.

He asked Jimmy if he's accepted the randomness of the accident and the injury, and how long it took him to do so. Eli's accident, while so different than Jimmy's obviously, was very random, freakish, and one-in-a-millionesque like ours. It's feels that way, at least. 

I loved that Eli asked that question and never really heard Jimmy's take on it.  As a spectator, very interesting to hear them talk and comparing the then and now perspectives.

But once again, Spencer's constant motor-boating into my arms or the air with spittle flying about added a certain lighthearted realization that we have our kids to help us get through this injury. Something I think Charissa will learn as well.

The crawling on the therapy mats, the fascination with the wheelchair, the vent tubing, the injury-related items that Spencer has now made her toys. It will be a part of her childhood, and her fascination with it all makes the injury feel normal, even special.

The meetings with these special people are so meaningful for us. Probably more than they know. It helps us to realize how far we've come and allows us to become cheerleaders for these folks who are following in our footsteps, so to speak. 

For Eli: figuring out life after the injury and Shepherd, figuring out technology, learning acceptance, being a Dad in a wheelchair.

For Charissa: the exhausted caretaker not willing to venture too far from The Shepherd Center just yet, learning to take small moments for herself, gearing up to be a mom while still figuring out the injury.

We're rooting for you guys! We're so glad to have met you. We're here to tell you it can be done and there is life after the injury.

Just keep going.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Two Great Grandparents

My parents are here to love on their Grandbaby girl. And she loves them right back to pieces. 

Yesterday, Spencer got to help wish Mom a happy birthday and today is Mom and Dad's 30th (!!) wedding anniversary! 

These two have been pillars in our lives and we don't know what we'd do without them. 

Happy birthday, Mom. Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad. You two have gone above and beyond as Grandparents for our sweet baby.  Thanks for always caring. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Married One Month

Instagram says this picture was posted 213 weeks ago. The caption reads: Married One Month. Oh, the ease of just sleeping next to each other. Our only worries were snoring, cold feet, hogging the covers and on-call calls. 

Such happy, honeymoon times right as we were about to move into our new apartment and then abruptly shoved into our new lives. It wouldn't be long after this. 

Missing this guy in bed tonight.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Fourth Year

Jimmy and Spencer, 8.8.2015

This morning probably started like any other Life Day in the past. In sadness. I wanted to be alone with my memories, the hurt and the pain. I would allow myself to revisit it all since it was in fact, August the 8th. 

Today marks four years since Jimmy was paralyzed in a car accident. 

Spencer woke up around 5:10 this morning (she's teething...) and went back down around 7 for a few more hours. At 7, I had started to write was turning out to be a really depressing blog post on the injury and Life Day #4. I'm glad I didn't post it. I hadn't given the day a fair chance yet. 

After feeding Jimmy breakfast, Spencer and I went to the gym and then picked up some lunch. We came home and he was up, somewhat energetic, and happy to see us. We all ate together in the living room with the patio french-doors open. Spencer with her purees, me with my salad, and Jimmy with his calzone. Feeding three mouths at a time. Only once did I try to give Spencer Dadda's calzone. And then only once did I try to give Dadda some baby food puree. (5:10 in the morning...)

We spent the rest of the day out on the patio. We played on our phones and I gave Jimmy a shave. He had his brown liquor drink to celebrate all the shiz he's been through and lived through. But really... we just stared at our daughter, played with her and laughed with her.

That's the difference this year. It's her. 

Everything else seems the same. Although this year - wowza. Had a close call, didn't we? Most of the time it's the infections, the fatigue, the staffing, the appointments, the medication, the nutrition, the whatever! Any given time, it's always something.

This morning, though, I just wanted to wallow. I pulled the blanket up to my eyes. I looked out the window and let my mind travel down that road. I cried.I continue to grieve. I thought about the what-ifs. Four year sounds like such a long time. I have to make myself to think about our life before, think about Jimmy before. I don't want those lively, warm memories to fade. Jimmy's walk. The clothes he picked for himself every morning. His work ethic. The food he used to cook. His handwriting. What we did the day before the accident. What we did the weekend before the accident.  The little gifts and gestures. Some of that has bled through, of course. He's still very much here. But it's definitely two completely different lives. Our old life and the new one. 

For the most part, I think we're content in this life. We've settled in, even among the pain and the scars. We've got a routine to help get us up in the morning. It helps us to keep going. We just have to keep going.

Because let me tell you something: nine month-old baby girls don't care if you're sad. They still need Mama cuddles and full-on entertaining in the morning. And they want to be walked into Dadda's room for morning time there, too. No wallowing. Get it together. 

We made the best out of our August 8th of this year. Even with Jimmy only up for four hours in his chair. Even with me running on fumes. Even with Spencer teething and a bit fussy...

We had our day. We had our happiness today.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Spencer: 9 Months

Dearest Spencer, 

9 Months! Congratulations, you're the happiest baby in all the world. 

You're a pretty good sleeper now, eating every type of baby food possible, and are very active. You're crawling, into everything, and pulling up. You just love standing (while holding on of course). It's your new favorite. 

You're pure joy. Your giggle is the world. 

I love how happy you are when I walk towards your crib every morning. Thank you for being happy to see me.

Love you lots little baby muffin doodle head. You're my favorite!


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Our Trip Home

We're back from a much-needed trip home. Spencer's first trip to the SC coast! We stayed at my parent's house. Felt kinda full-circleish having her there: my baby pictures on the wall, having my own daughter in my old room.

Mom and Dad spent every waking second possible holding and loving on their little one and only. They loved having their granddaughter there and introducing her to their kitties.

Spencer met her uncle Nick, was cuddled lots by cousins Madison and Makayla, met some of Dadda's buds, met Momma's old co-workers, Mom and Dad's neighbors. We didn't squeeze everyone in, but hope to continue showing off Spencie next time we make it in.   

It was super duper hot, which made our first trip to the beach a quick one. Just long enough to nab some pretty great pics. We met Spence's bud, Luna, there. Sweet, salt-water memories.

This was Spencer's longest trip in the car -- six hours. Luckily we had help. My dear friend and baby Luna rode with us. Two babies, two ladies. Jamie was such a huge help entertaining Spencer as I drove. Luna is still at the age where she's pretty content for the majority of the ride, but we made it!  

There was so much joy in bringing Spencer to where I grew up... she loved it!

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Beach

Surfside Beach, SC
8 Months Old

Spencer's first time at the beach. Very curious. Very cautious. Very unsure. When I would dip her toes in the water, she didn't mind too much until the wet sand and then EWWW GROSS.

I have a feeling next summer at the beach will play out a little differently. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

What I Want To Remember

Spencer Rosalyn, 8 Months Old
I want to remember how you woke up twice this morning. Once at 5am. Then again at 8am. How happy you were to nurse. You flailed your arms and legs about, joyfully. How you fussed when I put you down to play while I got my very much-needed morning coffee. How you sat with me on the bed and tried to dive after the remote and my phone. How we picked out your outfit: something very pink that still had tags on it. How we strapped you in the car seat; the fussing stopped and the observing began as soon as the stroller wheels rolled. How you looked out your window at the sun bleeding through the trees. It almost put you to sleep. How you screamed a shrill when I turned off the car because you knew I was coming to get you. How you peacefully went to the caretakers at the gym daycare. How excited you were when I came to pick you up. How you hummed, cooed, sang, and spit in your car seat on the way home. How daycare must have worn you out -- you slept over two hours when we got home. How big time you were sitting in the big girl part of the shopping cart at the store. How much fun you had with Dadda running around in the halls of our condo building in your walker as I put groceries away. How you patiently played while I gave him a long overdue shave. How you sat next to Dadda in your high-chair as you both required a snack; two bites for you, one for him. Repeat. How you like to watch closely as our caretakers transfer Dadda into bed.  How happy bath time makes you. How you love to read your favorite book, "Where is Baby's Belly Button?" It's the only book that you pay attention to and don't try to eat.  I want to remember how you happily gulp your last milk of the day and drift off into sleepyland. How you sweet you look and sweet you smell as you lay asleep on my chest.

Usually I countdown the hours until bedtime. Tonight, however, I missed you before I even put you down in your crib.

I want to remember the normal day we had and how much better you made it. How much more lively and funny you made our day and make all of our days.          

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Spencer: 8 Months


My love. You've become quit the explorer as you started crawling consistently within just the past week. You're not one for sitting still anymore, at least not for long. You've even pulled up a few times while holding onto your crib, the couch and me. Your favorite is to climb up my leg.

You're very social and happy. You spit and blows raspberries -- that's when I know you're content. You love to be held by anyone and see what's happening at adult eye-level. You're still very curious and love to look at people in the face and eyes and take them in.

We've started sleep training. You're doing great! Think we're both on the path to better sleep and better nights, although it's SO HARD.

You've spent some time around your BFFs Luna and Jenna lately. You get so excited around other babies! We traveled with friends this past weekend and had a house full of kids, all ages. I think you loved it! When we got there, we plopped the babies in front of each other. You screamed with excitement SO LOUD that you made Jenna cry. I've never seen you do that! We travel with Baby Luna soon. Excited to see how you do.  

You're a great eater! Along with nursing, you've eaten all the veggies and fruits I've given you. You still prefer purees, but you're slowly getting acquainted with some other more solid, not liquid food.

You're the twinkle in your Dadda's eye and made Father's Day truly mean something special for him this year. He loves you so much and loves watching you grow and flourish right before his eyes. You light up when you see him and it awakens his soul.

We love you to pieces!


Saturday, June 20, 2015

What I Know About My Husband

I know that he loves his daughter, Spencer Rosalyn, more than anything in the world. I know he smiles every time he lays eyes on her. I know he is always worried about her, concerned about what she's getting into. Is she too close to the outlet in her walker? Is she too close to the edge of the couch? Should she be putting that in her mouth?  Is his wheelchair leaning up against her car-seat in the van?

I know how much he wants to hold her. I know he wants to blow raspberries on her belly. I know he wants to tickle her and toss her up in the air. I know he wants to help bathe her. I know he wants to feed her, change her diaper, and push her in the stroller. I know he really wants to hold her as she sleeps on his chest. I know he wants, so badly, to take the reigns when I'm exhausted, mentally broken, and in tears.

I know the physical limitations he is up against. I know he's working through the tough stuff... the "not-ables." I know it hurts, even when he doesn't say it. I also know he's finding his own, unique ways to parent without functioning arms, legs. He's adjusting, healing, and learning as we go. I know he will perfect it. Maybe soon it won't seem as hard as it is right now.

I know she loves him so much. When he's not here, she walks her walker as far as it will allow as she reaches the terrain that is the carpeting in his room looking for him. I know she lights up upon the sight of him. I know she loves to crawl all over him in the morning. I know that she thinks his SCI-world is all too exciting. SO MANY TOYS. Better than anything I could possibly get at a store.

I know there is so much he wants to do, but can't. I know there is so much he can do, and does. I know there will be so much more for them to do together as she grows.

Here's what I know about my husband: that he maybe wanted a boy when I got pregnant. I also know he'd never trade these sweet baby girl moments for anything. Spencer forces him to rise to the occasion. She's his joy. His reason. His love.

A father-daughter bond that's already strong as oak.

Jimmy and Spencer on the first day of her life, October 29, 2014.