Now and Then

These photos really make me smile. Beren often came along with us. It was always easier to bring him along. Meals were more peaceful with him on the table circa 1.5 months old. 

"March 2014" my herbal homework submission was dated. I finished it in August. And in between? We found our home in February and decided on a 30 day close or "quick close". It was a decision I was both thankful for and regretted at times. We spent March providing endless paperwork to the mortgage broker. We purchased our house in April and moved in May. I hardly remember the arduousness of those 30 days.

In September, I received my homework back with comments. Proofreading my writing, I felt sad.

The reading and projects were partially about herbs for children's health. In my homework, I wrote about the struggles we had with chronic respiratory problems. I had some breadth of experience on this topic. I recall many sleepless nights due to croup. I read and reread several books on children's health.

One book talked about the average number of illnesses that the typical child in the U.S. might get annually. The author, a noted holistic doctor, said she'd be very unhappy if her children became sick that frequently. She went on to say that those statistics (unfortunately, I can't find the stats right now…), were based on children that are likely to be formula-fed, in day care, and other life situations that would increase their likelihood to become ill.

What I do remember is that Beren's average illnesses per year were right up there, and possibly beyond, the typical child. "But, I nurse, we eat healthy, we're outside often, we exercise. I don't understand."

During the day, I'd hear Beren cough once. I'd cringe. No, please, no, don't get sick again. A sneeze. Two days later, Beren would wake hourly, or more, coughing. The croup, the rotten, rotten croup.

Beren got sick often and woke frequently, up to 3 and sometimes 5 times per night until he was three and a half. "I can do two wake ups, even three sometimes, but more…I can't. I can't." I'd tell Jared as though I was bargaining. We worked it from every angle.

We got all the advice. Try garlic. Rachel go away for several days. Make sure baby's (and the child's  as Beren got older) needs are met during the day. Make sure you're not "over" meeting needs during the day. Let him cry it out. Honestly, I found it all really f*cking insulting at times.

I'd look at my child and try to sort out the difference between dark circles under his eyes from being tired and "allergic shiners" due to a food allergy. We removed all preservatives and artificial ingredients from our diet, which wasn't difficult because there were already so very few to begin with. We limited our dining out experiences.

Or, if he was tired, why wouldn't he or couldn't he sleep? By the time we 'woke' in the morning, I was exhausted after a night of parenting and soothing my child back to sleep. I hardly wanted to continue to parent a cranky, tired child. When possible, I'd ask Jared to give me a break in the morning. "I need some space," I'd say.

I'd look at my child's bloated belly and wonder exactly what the books meant when they said that children's bodies had disproportionately large abdomens. Does that mean they're distended and hard? Does that mean they're cranky until they have a bowel movement?

I was often sick, too. One swollen tonsil, swollen glands, run down, tired. I'd want to visit friends, but it seemed that so often one of us would be sick. "I have to cancel our play date. We're sick," I'd say. "See you in the spring," a friend once said.

So we'd stay home, or I'd drag us out of the house. Mucus dripping, we'd shuffle along a trail or go shopping. Many times I could hardly muster to strength to pack extra clothes, diapers, snacks, and so on. I was overwhelmed and isolated at times.

Many times we were fine, cheerful, and companionable. Other times, I thought we fit the bill for "high needs". At the doctor's office we found we were generally quite healthy. And, you know, I believe that was true, though it felt so very much like a lie at times.

We spent two weeks at my parents' house in mid-April, preparing our new house for our move. They live just ten minutes away from our new house. We slept in my childhood bedroom. We slept in mattresses went from wall to wall of the small room. One night, I said to Jared, "Listen to Beren's breathing. It's so much clearer."

Once our whirlwind floor sanding and wall painting was finished (kind of), we began moving our plant nursery and then our personal belongings. We arrived at the new house with a load of furniture, and I threw open the cargo door of the moving van. A familiar, sickly sweet, and dark smell surrounded me. Mold. I began to obsessively sniff my clothes. Mildewy. Moldy.

I knew we had a wet basement. I knew we had mold. We had two dehumidifiers. It might seem surprising to you, but I had in some ways had no idea it was so pervasively bad. But then again, what could I do?

Over the next couple weeks, I watched Beren begin to run freely. He didn't stop and start as he did before. His belly slimmed. Over the summer, his sleeping became deeper and sounder, and mine did, too.

He became that sweet child Jared always said he was. I believed him, but sometimes it was so very hard to have a tired, chronically ill child who just wanted to nurse to sleep all the time. In a way, I feel robbed. Robbed of all the pleasant days and nights we might have had, if Beren had been able to breathe fresh air.

But mostly I feel blessed the our family lives on a breezy mountain ridge now. How lucky we are that we could change our circumstances.