snot, pumpkins and another step

How I spent most of my weekend

We’ve had a grumpy, snotty few days around here. We think it’s Ruby’s teeth that are causing fevers and rashes and drool and tears. And then Margot caught an empathetic sisterly cold.

Working on the Halloween costume

Last weekend we abandoned most plans and only left our home to sneak in some exercise and friend time. We held our girls more than we didn’t and considered ourselves productive when we put the half and half back in the fridge.

Alice supervised from the couch

Mostly, we hunkered and soothed around Halloweeny things like carving, sewing and toasting.

Pan toasted pumpkin seeds: wash seeds, toss in olive oil and salt and cook over medium heat while constantly stirring.
Takes about 20 minutes to cook and two minutes to eat.

I also thought a lot about our friends’ whose new baby boy is in the hospital. I went to see them last week and, yo, did I revisit some uncomfortable stuff from when my Ruby was in the hospital. I came home and wrote about it and the eventual, wonderful realization that what almost happened didn’t happen and what did happen is survival.

Andy read my column before I posted it and suggested that perhaps I should move on from publishing* stuff about Ruby’s illness and recovery right now. I felt a little defensive because maybe he’s right…if it feels to you like I am regurgitating the same feelings, the same process, the same effort, it’s because I am. But I do feel like every time I think on it and write about it I get closer to the place I seek: honest memory of the experience and honest celebration of where we are now. Now was all we had back then and now is all we have today. In any event, right now, because of my tumbling encounter last week, I am closer. She survived. So did I.

Read more in this week’s mama digs, another step.

*Edited to add: just to clarify: Andy fully encourages my writing! He was talking about taking a step away from hitting ‘post’.


ps Congrats to the winners of a Feeleez game and poster! And thanks to everyone for playing along and sharing your feelings.

Jess said…
I feel like Emily. It has been a tough week, lots of people in pain around me. What a cool game! Reminds me of the Kimochi dolls.

Katie Anderson said…
I feel like Brook right now, just happy, in a good place. However I am all over the place with my feelings lately being 6 months pregnant and all.

Email me at to claim your prize!

37 Responses to snot, pumpkins and another step

  1. Katie says:

    I love weekends where putting the half and half back in the fridge counts as productive. We all need those.

    I’m sorry to hear of your friends’ son. I am understanding when it comes to the feelings you have for Ruby and how writing about them is therapeutic for you – I say a lot of the same stuff over and over when I write because it’s what I feel. Just because you’re still writing about it doesn’t mean it’s consuming you – it’s your brain’s way of figuring it all out in the context of now.

    Always, hugs.

  2. Kelley says:

    Ruby looks so much like you. Thanks for sharing all your highs and lows…you are an amazing woman!

  3. Marty says:

    Made me cry.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Going through those emotions is a process you need for healing and moving on to the next phase…. Like you have evolved into helping someone going through what you did last year. And, it gets easier. :o) Through adversity we get stronger and we are able to help those who are walking in the valley as we were there.

    Keeping it real! Yes, you both survived.



  5. Writing about it is essential. And when it isn’t, you won’t write about it.

    You’re words about the pulling-away, and the not-caring touched me. I *know* that feeling. My bean turned one last week and just the other day I asked my husband, Do you remember a year ago today? It was our worst day. It was our first full day home after a cesarean for breech and our baby wouldn’t/couldn’t nurse. And then, she wouldn’t/couldn’t wake up. It was horrible. We sat there holding her and both seemed to realized at the same time that our baby was dying right there in our arms. At the lowest of the lows, I remember thinking that maybe she just didn’t want to live. I think I was actually mad at her, a six-day-old.

    I believe it’s a survival instinct for mothers, that pulling-away from a dying baby.

    Our experience was miniscule, almost laughable, compared to yours and your friends, but I know the feeling. That same day, our “worst day”, was also the day we pumped five syringes of colostrum into our baby’s belly and she not only woke up, but nursed fully and completely for the first time (and hasn’t stopped since!). Our “worst day” was also the day we realized everything would be just fine.

    I never wrote about that day when it happened. But I journaled about it on the anniversary, and I’m probably not done. Birth and the weeks following are powerful, especially when they take us to the edge. I’ve been contemplating a 6-hour trek up to Missoula (where my daughter was born)–some part of me feels a need to touch that edge again, to remember. So, no, I don’t think you need to feel defensive and you’ll move on when you’re ready.

  6. Jessica says:

    You are such an inspirational writer. Seriously, after each time I read your blog I want to take more pictures of my kiddies and write a novel! :) Love the picture of the pumpkin carving!

  7. Zoe says:

    What Marty said. Good thoughts for your friends’ baby.

  8. Joy says:

    wiping tears away…just beautiful!! Ruby survived..lovely words! Prayers to your friend and her little one.

  9. Margaret B says:

    Hi! I’m kind’of a new follower. I’ve been stalkin’ ya since kelle hampton blogged about your super cool fam. I’m not for sure, but sounds like our daughters share similar beginnings in this world, yours being more severe. Funny how you’re helping me understand things from ‘those’ days, like the giving up and wanting help but not being able to ask for it…oh and the nipple destroying pumping. I’ve been there. Also, I was surrounded by 22year olds, who “don’t like” hospitals and I was miles away from family. And thats just the tip of the iceburg! haha! just wanted to say hi and its nice to know there’s people out there who understand! thanks for sharing!

  10. Amy says:

    Beautiful! Wiping tears away. Wishing all the best to your friends & their little boy.

  11. jen says:

    it’s what we do as mamas. as women. as girls.
    we chew our experiences over and over and over (slightly cud like. gross. but true.)
    it will always drive the men/boys in our lives cah-razy.
    but it keeps us sane. and grounded.
    thinking of you and your friends.

  12. Crystal says:

    Keep hitting Post as long as you need to. You aren’t just helping yourself process, you are helping those of us who need it too. I didn’t have a daughter who was sick in the first few weeks of life but I did have repeated miscarriages on the road to meeting my daughter. I blog about it…alot. It helps me and often my husband is confused about why and how..frankly sometimes I am confused about why it helps. But it does. I cried when I read your last entry for Mamaload. It touched me and helped me remember all the ways that we open ourselves up to the beauty and tragedy of life to have the privilege of being a mama.

  13. RMAinMD says:

    ,,,I’m anxious to see the halloween costumes,,,i so admire the way you parent,,,

  14. Jennifer says:

    fabulous. honest. i was so ‘there’ reading this. wow.

  15. Amy says:

    Beautiful! Wiping tears away. Wishing all the best to your friends & their little boy.

  16. Melina says:

    You know, I struggle with the same thing. I find myself returning to the same traumatizing thing, time after time, in my writing. I’ve had very conflicting feedback- from my exboyfriend who insisted I should ‘only write happy things’ on my blog, to a good friend who said ‘everyone deals with these things differently- write until you don’t want to write anymore, that simple.’ I actually found a comfortable place between those ends of the spectrum (okay, so it edges nearer to the ‘write until you don’t feel like writing’ end, so maybe ‘middle’ is the wrong word…’

    Moving on is always a good idea, however remember that even if it’s ‘recycled material’ for you, whenever you write about something tough and put it out there, you are helping someone else.

    besides the colds, your cozy weekend sounds really nice!


  17. Amie says:

    Sending a BIG get well soon to your family!!

    Those pumpkin seeds look delish-can’t wait until we carve ours so I can try it!! Yum!

  18. Susan S. says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about the baby and the feelings welling up in you. I think you might really appreciate this poem, by Julia Kasdorf, called What I Learned from My Mother. I’m adding a link here because I’m too ignorant about html to know how to make to the poem look right in the comment box. But, please read it.

    Hope and prayers for your friends and for you.


  19. Lesley says:

    We had a ‘sick weekend too’, which was really nice :) Love your photos, I follow your blog posts, but this is the first time I’ve commented.
    Write about Ruby’s illness as much as you need to, we all love to read and it’s a great way to help digest it all. Don’t be self conscious about it. Be you! I write about my daughter’s issues all the time :)

  20. Lulu says:

    Beautiful writing. Real living.

  21. Katherine says:

    Ok, big fat tears here… such beautiful writing. It has been more than 4 years since our NICU stay, but it all comes rushing back. Sending good thoughts for your friends & their baby. xo

  22. J says:


    I understand your edit about Andy. I have read enough of your posts to know that you adore this husband of yours, which makes this particular post (and your pain, and growth and pain and growth) even more meaningful. You know what you need to do and you trust your process.

  23. Sarah says:

    What a beautiful way you told your story. I have picked up from your writing a little about Ruby’s illness, but didn’t know exactly what happened. For those of us that just started reading you, it is good to have the back story. I loved the way your heart shifted and the way you put it in words. :)Sarah

  24. Ellie says:

    There is always a reason to pause before hitting “post,” but given the sort of response you have gotten, I would say that writing your way through grief and healing, and making it public, has not been a bad decision. I cannot even begin to imagine what you went through, but it has been a joy watching the happy ending grow and thrive (on this blog) in the last few months. I hope Ruby and you never have to go through another moment of terror like that illness. And I hope your friends’ little boy pulls through, just like Ruby did.

  25. Melissa says:

    I love the photo of you with sleeping baby and also the one of the tree branch–similarly vibrant and fragile at the same time . . .

    It’s so important to keep working through the trauma of Ruby’s time in the hospital. We should never become desensitized to the cold walls of the PICU and what it means to be there. It’s awful.

    And–you give so many people with similar experiences a voice for feelings they may struggle to articulate. Very powerful mama, you are!

    Can’t wait to see pictures of the finished Halloween costume for Margot!

  26. No doubt that almost losing a child would cause ptsd that requires some working through..and writing and reflecting on it over this past year, what better way to work on it than that?
    I feel like I have some ptsd from the day last Oct when my baby was 2 months old and diagnosed with a vsd (hole in heart). I tried to write about the day a couple of weeks ago when we fell on the anniversary- it was my very first attempt at reliving that day. I haven’t wanted to think about it, it was the worst day of my life. I wasn’t really happy with what I wrote, it was frantic, but I felt so much better afterward.
    At 14 months old my Vivian is as healthy as can be and the hole has closed a little on its own.
    The difference a year can make. I’d have to say just one year later I am in the best place I’ve ever been in my life whereas last year at this time it was the darkest time I’d ever had. Without her diagnosis there is no way I could live my life as I do now, full of gratitude and full of the utmost appreciation for every little thing. Though you never want to experience what you did, you will always carry that extra appreciation too!

  27. sarah elise says:

    beautiful. thank you for sharing.

  28. Beth Begley says:

    Everytime you share about this difficult time, Nici, I am moved into reflecting on my own NICU experience, 45 days watching a 2 pound baby grow, and the lack of work through processing I’ve done as of yet. Now, I know I can’t wait any longer, as I’m 20 weeks pregnant with my second babe and can feel myself living in fear of repeating that terrifying time at the end of this pregnancy. I count the weeks, milestones, and kicks with sheer delight, but it is tinted with this knowledge of how wrong things could possibly go. I do this all with a healthy, beautiful, picnic skirt wearing, nearly two year old, goofy goosey by my side who survived. She survived, and this babe will too. Thank you.

  29. Joan Cline says:

    As hard as it was to walk the path again, I am sure it was great for those parents to see you and a thriving Ruby Jane and know that there is hope for thier son. Happy endings do exist. My fingers are crossed for your friends. XOOX

  30. Jen says:

    Goosbumps. This brought tears to my eyes. Prayers are going out for your friends and their little one.

  31. sgmillar says:

    wiping the tears rolling down my cheeks. Yes, it was great that you were able to walk those halls again, and I’m sure the new parents found hope in seeing happy, loud and healthy Ruby on your hip. Sending your friends and their new baby son love and light.

  32. savagemama says:

    When I came to bring you soup and lattes when Ruby was sick I did it because you were my friend and I didn’t know what else to do. But I was shaky every time I pulled into that parking lot. Those spinning doors, that front lawn…I remembered it all too well. The second floor, that’s where meningitis lives in that hospital. I thought about it every time I rode that elevator up to the third floor to see you and your baby who almost died. Almost. But she lived. I lived. And now, here we are all taking deep breaths together.

  33. Jocelyn says:

    Beautiful. All of it. The honesty, the having little choice BUT to be in the moment ( which is the greatest gift my little one has brought) the peaceful surrender to what is….

  34. Anonymous says:

    A year ago Friday, my youngest son was born. Nearly three weeks later, he was in congestive heart failure and was diagnosed with two defects. He had open heart surgery 2 days later. We were floored and swimming and trying to suppress this overriding anxiety that kept bubbling to the surface. There were two different instances where we really thought “this is it”.

    So, it’s been almost a year and my baby is perfect. We are so lucky, but my husband and I find that we re-live, re-play, re-tell snippets of those 3 weeks to each other over and over again – almost as if the other wasn’t there at the same time. I honestly can’t think of a time in the past year where we’ve gone anywhere alone and NOT discussed it.

    So, I’m glad that you write about your experience. It helps me to think “yes, I remember that, too.”

  35. Jennifer says:

    On the mend. Don’t let anyone rush your process of working through the pain and the experience. Ruby, like her name, is a brilliant gem; surviving and gleaming.

    I am thinking of both you and of your friends. I hope their son is fighting and thriving. And I’m glad that you made it through the experience and can appreciate the breath moving through your lungs and through Ruby’s lungs.

    Here’s wishing you a great week.

    -Jennifer from Annapolis

  36. Wow. Thank you for sharing this beautiful, hopeful story.

  37. Logan says:

    Thank you for sharing that story. I’m tearful. I’m so lucky and blessed.