The Problem with a Diagnosis

Owen and I both got some strange news this week. He’s had a couple of ear infections (or one that took a while to clear). Anyway, it turns out that the bacteria broke through his eardrum and now there’s fluid behind it. We have to wait to see if it clears on its own. If it doesn’t, we’re supposed to do hearing tests, etc.

This news was hard for me to hear for a number of reasons, but perhaps especially since yesterday, I’d been to the doctor and had (finally) been diagnosed with moderate hearing loss, not enough to qualify for a government-paid hearing aid, but enough, said the doctor, to benefit from one. I was surprised to hear that – not that I didn’t know I had hearing loss – that much was pretty obvious. Duncan gets frustrated with me all the time for pretending I heard something after I’ve already asked him to repeat it (I try only to ask once). I can’t hear crickets in the daytime. I can’t hear electronic beeps. According to the doctor, I can’t hear a pin drop. I’ve not tried yet, but I’ll take his word for it. I can’t hear students if they speak softly or if I’m not paying direct attention. I can’t always tell who spoke. It’s a bit stressful, I suppose, but I’ve managed (“quite well,” said the doctor). Um, yeah. So now I know that, officially, I have a problem, but that doesn’t make me hear any differently. On the contrary, I have been marvelling over how much I can hear. The car engine, the radio, birds singing, the rain, Owen’s sighs and cries, whispers, telephone conversations.

I asked the doctor how likely it was that I had passed along this “impairment” to my son – I got it from my mother, whose hearing loss is (and has long been) more severe than mine, but in the same pattern. My mother can’t hear the sibilant sounds (s, th, f – those whispers in everyday speech), so she pieces together words, supplying their missing pieces from her (sometimes quite inventive) mind.

Owen is certainly not noticeably hearing impaired. He’s learning to speak just fine and as far as I can tell he hears everything around him. But, of course, I’m so worried that he has what I have and that this ear infection will take more away from him. Because if he has the same hearing I have, part of me thinks, so what? – he’ll manage (quite) well. But I’d hate for him to struggle to hear any more than that. The doctor was gruff and brief and I didn’t think to ask the right questions (or any questions). I guess I’ll take Owen out of swimming (recommended last time he had an ear infection) and try to keep that ear dry. There’s a 90% chance this will resolve itself, he said – but I’d like that number a lot higher.

As we were leaving, the doctor got Owen to smile. And he says to me: “You know he has a little seventh nerve palsy.”

“What?” I said.

“A seventh nerve palsy. It’s a weak nerve on one side of the face.”

“Oh,” I said (thinking: we just called that a crooked smile. Did we need a diagnosis?)

“He won’t ever be a politician like Chrétien,” he said.

And we were off. I’m sorry. I’m sure he was trying to be helpful. But am I supposed to be worried about it? Owen’s smile has always been a little lopsided. I think it’s cute. My smile is a bit crooked too (though not as much as his). I worried a little that it would look strange when he got older, but it’s not that noticeable unless he really all-out grin or opens his mouth super-wide.

I googled it, of course, to be greeted with all kinds of frightening pictures. It can happen in infants, apparently, usually as a result of birth trauma. Owen’s birth wasn’t especially traumatic, but he did have the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and arm, so I suppose that could have affected something. And I did get an epidural – one of the other potential causes. I took him for an operation when he was 8 days old because he was tongue tied and it hurt me to breastfeed. Who knows.

Do you see what this diagnosis did? It took my adorable little boy and stamped him with a flaw. It turned his little crooked smile into a problem. It ratcheted up my guilt another notch. I needed to get this out of my system. I’ll file it away and ask Owen’s pediatrician about it when we visit in September. But I am a bit haunted by our trips to our doctors, who seem to have created conditions simply by naming them.

Halloween Guilt

If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know already that almost every area in my life is riddled with guilt – or potential guilt. Well, Halloween is no exception.

In this case, it is my bizarre idea that if I don’t make Owen’s costume myself, I will have failed as a mother. My mother always made our costumes (though sometimes we went as gypsies in oversized skirts and tops, with a dollop of lipstick). Also, I am not a particularly clever sewer, so I have to make something really creative without resorting to a pattern. And because I am likely to make something vaguely makeshift, I should really spend as little money as possible. Luckily, one of the most amusing recent trends (to me) is to upcycle — take scraps and turn them into treasures. This satisfies the environmentally conscious (recycling and reusing in one! No added pressure on the planet!) and the inherently cheap. Scraps of fabric may be found in one’s fabric bin, in the fabric store reject bin, at the second hand store … and they cost pennies. I spent $4 and have reams of fabric left over.

I had this idea that Owen could be a turtle. I thought I could make a breast plate and a shell out of fabric and an old cushion I had hanging around. I could quilt on the shell pattern. And put Owen in some green and/or brown clothes (and some green makeup maybe) and voila! Instant turtle.

Like many of my plans, this one is turning into more work than I was hoping, with less reward. Duncan, my only judge on the project so far, looked at my creation and asked if I could make it look less like Owen was wearing a pillow on his back. I cut open the “shell,” added a book – it still looked like a pillow – just heavier and less comfortable. We went back to the original plan. Now Duncan has suggested painting the quilted pattern so it will look more like a shell. I entirely agree with his suggestion, only unfortunately, it means I’m not finished yet – and I was really hoping to be finished this costume in 2 hours.


So I will (next weekend) get out my acrylic paints and try to make shell-like shading on the quilted pillow backpack. This is a lovingly made costume that will be awarded lots of points for trying – but it will never be nice enough to merit a professional photograph. Oh well, at least I will have avoided commercialism this Halloween. That’s a little less guilt for me.

I will keep you all updated on my progress and will include pictures once the costume (such as it is) is complete.

Grey Street

I’ve been feeling grey lately. Not blue exactly, though I’ve cried more this week than I have in the past 6 months, maybe a year. I’m not exactly sure why, but I can trace parts of my feeling to a general sense of being overwhelmed. My work is wonderful, my students are for the most part lovely, but I haven’t quite managed to get back to the resilient teacher that I have been for the past couple of years.

I feel like I am trying so hard that it’s too hard and that somehow all the cracks are obvious.

I’ve been missing Owen, too, in the now full-time daycare schedule we have him in. I was craving his cheeks the other night and almost wanted to wake him up just to feel them. I was at a meeting that night and got home when he was already asleep.

I am worried (this week) that I am trying to do too much at once. That I can’t slow down to enjoy the little moments of colour that pop into life. I am worried that, to quote Dave Matthews’ Grey Street, “all the colours mix together to grey.” And when it’s grey like that, it’s foggy and dreary (inside my head).

I was berating myself at dinner the other night because I haven’t read enough Greek literature. I should read the Odyssey. I really should. But I probably don’t need to read it this week. I should probably read Dante’s Inferno. Also a good idea. Also a big hole in the education of someone who teaches literature. And then I should probably reread Paradise Lost and some Shakespeare and all those Victorian novels whose plots are growing hazy. And Ulysses. And when I get like this I feel frantic and I start reading bits and pieces of things, trying to squeeze it all into the 5 minutes before I fall asleep. It’s like trying to catch up on e-mail or marking when I am also playing Lego with Owen. Why can’t I just play Lego? Why do I have to try to do something else also? Why can’t I just relax? That’s what I always tell Owen. Chill Chill Chill, Relax Relax.

When I am like this I grow insecure, fragile. And I know, intellectually, that I’m probably not perceived as a fool by most people, but I feel exposed, like everyone can see everything I am trying to hide.

All this is probably too much to say here, but that’s how I have been feeling this week. I do feel better today. I am glad that tomorrow is Saturday and there is nowhere to rush to. I am going to try to stop and breathe a little, try to focus on the small flashes of colour that, after all, make up our lives.

In the wee small hours of the morning…

…when the whole wide world is fast asleep (except Owen), Duncan and I cringe and groan.

Since we returned from our trip to Nova Scotia (about a month ago now), Owen’s sleep habits have shifted. He’s still a fairly reliable sleeper, but has developed some attachment issues that have meant that he is now only going to sleep if we give him a bottle right before bed (which means he’s not brushing his teeth). In addition, there have been several mornings this week that he has awakened at 4:30, 4:20, 4:10.  I know some mothers who will get up with their babies, give them breakfast, and play with them. But I just can’t. I can muster some very forced enthusiasm at 5:30, but in the wee small hours, I just want to be asleep, eyes closed, cuddled in downy duvet and pillows, relaxed, warm. Asleep. You know?

The past two mornings, Duncan (bless his running legs and aerobicized heart) has taken Owen out on his early morning run, so I’ve been able to sleep in until 6:15 or so — pretty blissful for a work day. This morning, however, it was definitely my turn when Owen was heard making little squawks from his bed. A bottle in a dark room will usually get him back to sleep at 2:00 or 3:00, but when he wakes up at 4:00, he’s wired for morning. I tried the bottle, slipped him into bed, left the room. He rolled over and cuddled into his quilt (and I felt triumphant!) but by the time I got to the bedroom door, he was crying.

So we had a cuddle. And it was one of those wonderful middle-of-the-night cuddles with warm, soft baby skin and soft breathing. I closed my eyes and really did revel in a moment that I know is fleeting. Eventually, I thought I had gotten him into a sleepy enough state to return him to bed but no… his crib was a betrayal! So then I brought him into our bed, and again, we almost had him asleep, but it didn’t work either, and he began kicking and squirming to be free. So, beast that I am, after trying to get him back to bed for an hour, I put him back in his crib, shut both of our doors, and slept. He did cry a little, but it was very short-lived (maybe 3 minutes, and even that wasn’t steady). We all slept till 7:00, which is so much more reasonable for a Saturday morning!

Owen’s bedtime is about 7:30 and he wants to be in bed by then. He gets clumsy and sleepy and is almost begging for bed. The other night he even grunted and pointed to his bed. I think that meant he wanted to go to sleep, but who knows. If this persists, we’ll have to think about putting him to bed later, but we’re hoping this trend doesn’t continue. Usually, he when he goes to sleep at 7:30, he wakes up after 6:00 – to as late as 8:00.

I’ve heard from other mothers that they cherish the midnight, 2:00 am, 4:00 am cuddles. Last night/this morning I got a glimpse of why, but I still vastly prefer sleeping to cuddles with sleepy babies (who are not quite sleepy enough) in the wee small hours. This seems like a selfish admission, but I feel somehow that for all the mothers who are wired to love to nurture their babies in the middle of the night, there must be others of us who would rather not see or think about their babies until 7:00 am, unless of course in the middle of a sweet sleepy dream.

Idle Parenting?

Here’s an article referenced by Dana in response to this post by Rebecca Woolf of Girl’s Gone Child:

Idle Parenting Means Happy Children.

Tom Hodgkinson’s tone is slightly tongue-in-cheek, but he voices real enthusiasm for leaving your children alone to develop their imaginations. I’m kind of torn on this one. I think I aspire to be a bit of an idle parent, but Owen’s still too young to be left on his own entirely out of sight. He can play by himself without tons of stimulation, though I still get down on the floor to play with him if he seems to be bored or fussy. I build lego animals, he destroys them. I hide balls in boxes, he finds them (or throws them). I say “mama,” he says “baba.”

I grew up with a healthy amount of neglect. My mother, at her wit’s end, would often yell “Go play outside!” And we would grumble and head out wondering why mothers didn’t have to play outside too? But then of course we would discover something – a ring of rose-shaped weeds? A fairy garden! Or we’d build a snow fort. And then we’d forget our griping and come inside only when our fingers were numb and our snowpants wet through.

My friend Stephanie’s house bordered a fairly large river and we played IN the river on a fairly regular basis. Most of the time, we just skipped from rock to rock (once we did this in Parisian party dresses). We got in trouble, but we thought it must have been because we were wearing our party dresses, so the next time, we changed into ballet leotards (which is exactly like a bathing suit, perfect for rivers!). This time we waded to an island in the middle of the river, up to our armpits in fairly fast-moving water, losing our footing occasionally. We were genuinely shocked when we got in trouble again.

Another time we decided to walk from her house to my house, through the woods. We hadn’t planned it, but we were playing in the forest and got so far in that we figured it was closer to go to my house than to hers. Our houses were 2-3 km apart. And again, we got in trouble! We were so surprised. I think we expected the accolades of explorers discovering a new continent.

That our parents punished us for these escapades I guess indicates that we weren’t supposed to play in the river or hike through the woods without telling anyone. But that we did, fairly often, means that we were left to our own devices, and that no one missed us for hours at a time. These memories of play remain, when the memory of punishment has faded.

Duncan has similar memories of childhood freedom: exploring World War I forts near his home in Halifax, tobogganing and almost falling into the harbour, or playing with a real hammer and whacking his thumb.

We want to allow Owen to have these kinds of memories, and I’m curious to know what my response will be when he’s old enough to understand the concept of danger. I’d like to think I’ll allow him a good deal of freedom.

Then again, I burst into tears yesterday after hearing on the news that a one-year-old had drowned in the bathtub (left unattended for just a couple of minutes) and hurried around the house trying to childproof whatever still caused me anxiety – the cupboard doors under the bathroom sink, a tall bookshelf in Owen’s room not yet attached to the wall…

My lazy side is going to have to do battle with my anxious side. I’m just afraid my anxious side will win.

Whirling Dervish of Home Organization

I’ve spent the week cleaning, sorting, getting rid of, boxing, trashing, sweating, drooping, reviving. I don’t know why I got this bee in my bonnet, but I think it might have something to do with the guilt of having Owen in daycare full time while I have no real work in the summer, so I had to create a job in order to feel like my days were meaningful.

This morning as I backed out of the driveway at 8:30 to take Owen to daycare, my neighbour and her mother were on the front porch. And in my head they were judging me for taking him to daycare and then coming home. They don’t know how busy I am going to be today! I thought to myself. I am not just going to sit around and watch tv or update my blog. OK – they don’t know about the blog, but anyway.

This week, I organized the bathroom drawers, my underwear drawer, my wrapping supplies, the winter scarves. I ironed napkins. I hung pictures, dusted shelves, vaccuumed and mopped under the couch. I threw away expired cold medication, vitamins, and a pregnancy test (no one wants to risk that emotional roller coaster… you’re pregnant – oops, no – the test expired in July 2010 – OR – You’re not pregnant and you go drink half a bottle of wine – except you are because the test expired in July 2010).


I have spent so much time justifying to people why daycare is so awesome – and it is – when I’m working. But right now, I am kind of craving a daycare vacation. Fortunately, in a little over a week, we’ll be off to Nova Scotia and free of schedules and at least that kind of guilt. Does anyone feel guilty about leaving their child with his grandparents? Surely not!

What I have done this week is the nesting that was supposed to happen in the third trimester of my pregnancy. A nesting phase that I tried to force. Well, here it is – in response to daycare, not impending childbirth. It got so bad that earlier this week I was cleaning up Owen’s play area while he was still playing. I think I took his train out of his hand to tidy it up.

Duncan is afraid he will end up in a box in the basement, tidied away.

I’ve finished the house and am now itching to go get Owen, but he’s still napping. Soon I will kiss those scrumptious cheeks (after I’ve scrubbed them and rearranged his hair).

A Second Childhood?

When we have babies, we fully expect to have to take care of them, right? To change their diapers, to feed them, to calm them when they’re grumpy or sad, to make them laugh, to shield them from harm (as much as we can). But as I have been discovering this week, the expectations are really different when it comes to looking after the elderly.

Duncan’s elderly relative (whom we love dearly) fell on Saturday and couldn’t get up by herself. Her neighbour sounded the alarm when she noticed that she hadn’t picked up her newspaper by the regular hour. She was sent to hospital, where she was diagnosed with a cracked elbow and a broken hip. Or, should I say, misdiagnosed – since as it turned out the next day, no bones were fractured. She was also pumped full of an opiate that caused her to hallucinate dogs and cats in the emergency room and to confuse the floor with the ceiling.

Too weak to walk by herself, she was sent to a temporary rehabilitation facility, a beautiful place that looks more like a hotel than a hospital. The whole family breathed a sigh of relief: finally a place where she could rest and get stronger and (we thought to ourselves and discussed amongst ourselves) where she might be convinced to move to a senior’s residence.

This woman has no children. She has nieces in B.C. and Nova Scotia, but Duncan and I are her nearest relatives. As we quickly discovered at the rehab facility, that means we’re “family” – responsible for buying her toiletries, for bringing her clothes from home, and for answering the doctor’s questions. It’s a responsibility we are willing to undertake, but it’s complicated by the fact that we know so little about her or her affairs, and because we lack the strong, tough love of immediate families.

Fiercely independent all her life, She has become increasingly frustrated with her lack of control. She declared to me this morning (I had dropped by to bring her some mail, some more clothes, and her cane) that she would only speak to blood relatives from now on. Then she proceeded to talk to me for an hour about how she was going home (by 4:45 today). That if it meant that she climbed the 12 steps to the second floor for the last time, she would do it. That she would do it with or without my help. That she would rather lie in the same clothes in her own urine and feces than to stay in this place. Her imagery.

And I get it. I do understand what she’s saying. I tried to explain that I know that she wants to go home, yet I don’t think she’s strong enough to walk out the door of her room. Is it her right to go to a familiar place to die? She’s not even dying, though she certainly might if left in her apartment by herself.

Yesterday she offered to pay Duncan to look after her (I don’t think she understands how much help she needs), but Duncan’s not willing and, frankly, doesn’t have time. In trying not to be a burden, she is being (unwittingly) selfish. But does she have the right to go and die on her own if she really wants to? Apparently not. I’m just so confused and frustrated.

I told the head nurse on my way out that if she needs it, I have the key to her apartment. But I told the receptionist that if she sees an old lady in a hospital gown trying to leave, to please stop her.

We try to keep our children safe because they don’t know any better. But what of the elderly? What if they don’t want to be safe? Do we let them fall?

You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello

Owen’s first word is “bye-bye.” Not Mama, Dada, Ball, Book, Cat, or Hippopotamus. I actually had a guilt pang about this yesterday (does he feel like we’re always leaving him?), which I quickly got over (he says and/or waves bye-bye for hello as well as goodbye, and says it repeatedly as he crawls across the room, turning around for a confirmation “bye-bye” before grinning and crawling another couple of feet.)

I was at a party on Saturday night with a whole bunch of childless people. I don’t know if they want kids or not, but there seemed to be a lot of apprehension over losing your entire life if you happen to be caught in the black hole of  parenthood. (The unknown can be a scary place for a grown-up*).

One question that came up (as it so often does) is whether I like being back at work. The answer: an unqualified YES. This answer shocks people. Really? But you must have a good daycare. Yes, I do. But don’t you miss him? Not really… I don’t. I don’t miss him when he’s napping or down for the night, either. I don’t miss him when Duncan takes him out for a run. I feel weird about this, because it seems to be taboo to admit that you don’t pine for your baby when you’re away from him. I look forward to seeing him, but I don’t think that’s the same thing.

I went back to work when Owen was 7 months old. Was I ready any earlier? Absolutely not. Was it difficult at times? Of course. But overwhelmingly, my return to work was a relief. It was a return to the person I was before I had Owen, a person I had, quite frankly, missed. I enjoyed teaching, reading, talking to students and colleagues, and I also enjoyed picking Owen up from daycare at the end of the day for a jaunt to the park or a walk or an hour of playtime before dinner.

At my staff party last week, a couple of my colleagues admitted that they’d felt the same way. Another friend of mine has always insisted that she is not cut out to be a stay-at-home mother. And of course I know others who love spending every day with their kids. For me, though, daycare has been miraculous.

I still want to clarify that I love having a child and that I am not racing to be away from him every day. Owen is a giggling, squishy bundle of sunshine who radiates joy onto his surroundings. I think I could spend every single day with him (and never crave daycare’s breaks) if I had another adult around all the time. Part of what I found difficult in the early days with Owen was the profound isolation I felt. The good days were always the days I’d had coffee with a friend, or lunch with family. The difficult days were the days I spent alone with Owen. Some days I would go to the drugstore just to have a conversation with a grown-up. It didn’t even matter if Owen was having a good day or a bad day. It was just the long lonely stretch of having only a baby to talk to. It’s not the baby. It’s the loneliness – it’s free time that you can’t occupy with any of the normal things you do to relieve boredom.

Owen is at daycare as I write this. He happily waved goodbye when I left… because I think he knew he would see me soon.

* Scaredy Squirrel… again!

The Art of Accidental Parenting

The Baby Whisperer does not approve of what she terms “Accidental Parenting.” I do not approve of the Baby Whisperer.

I think there is a kind of beauty in the accidents of parenting. I became a parent on purpose, but it could just as easily have been a happy accident. I certainly make use of whatever works in parenting Owen. To get him to sleep, I’ve gone through phases of nursing him, of walking him up and down, of lulling him in the swing, of giving him a bottle, of reading him a story or three, of letting him cry, of going back to lay him down, or of picking him again up to calm him down. And I change what I am doing when it’s no longer working. (I am sad to report that the bedtime story routine that I was so proud of – Owen likes stories! Stories put him to sleep! – has failed for the past 3 days. He’s become squirmy, possibly because he’s figured out that storytime means bedtime. I am fighting this particular accident).

I think it’s natural to do what works – BECAUSE IT WORKS! – and just as natural to phase something out when it’s no longer right.

I had a horrific beginning to breastfeeding. I’m sure it was not as bad as some people’s, but it was bad enough that I winced in pain at the thought of Owen’s approaching mouth and once worried that I would squeeze his head too hard. I was that tense. But after the first 2 weeks, it got better (it only hurt a little!), and after the first couple of months, it was not painful at all, and after more months, it had become pleasant and convenient. My plan was to nurse Owen until he was one. I pumped once a day until he was nine months old so he could have breastmilk at daycare. At some point, though, this arrangement wasn’t working for me anymore. So I stopped. Then Owen got 2 ear infections and the second doctor we took him to suggested that it might be because I wasn’t breastfeeding. I had just stopped pumping the week before and was nursing him in the morning and at night. I was, after all, working full-time. I thought I was doing pretty well. But inevitably, guilt kicked in, and I eliminated formula on weekends, trying to make up for daycare. I lasted about 3 days. I couldn’t do it anymore. We were past that point, ear infections notwithstanding.

One day last week, at eleven months old, Owen refused the breast for the very first time. He pushed it away, grinning. He bit me. Twice. I put him to bed and I cried a little. I hadn’t decided whether or not that meant the end. The next day, he seemed to want it. So I fed him. And two more days after that. But my heart wasn’t in it anymore. So we stopped, and it felt right.

It was accidental, but mutual, like so much of our developing relationship. If it’s good for him, and good for me (and good for Duncan), then we proceed. If it’s not working, we try something else, until another accident becomes the solution. Individually and as a family, we’re trying things on to see if they fit. Sometimes they’re too big, sometimes they’re too small, but sometimes, they’re just right. At least until you outgrow them.


When I had Owen, the one thing I was not prepared for was the fear that something bad would happen to him. I guess I knew on an intellectual level that I would love him, but I did not realize how much his limbs would become an extension of my limbs, and that I would almost feel his pain in my body (or heart?). Not quite daily, but often, I find myself terrified that something will go wrong, and when things happen that could have been worse (like he falls down two stairs and cuts his lip, or I let go of the stroller and it almost rolls off the front porch), they run through my mind for days.

For example, last week I was mowing the lawn. We have a manual mower that can’t even cut through a twig (or a dandelion stem, if it’s at the wrong angle). And I had Owen standing at a bench with some toys on the other side of the lawn. He was smiling at me, and I said hi periodically, checking in with him to make sure he was OK. And I mowed that lawn! But then, for some reason, all evening long, I had visions of his limbs caught in lawnmower blades. I had to shut my brain off, but for days, this image kept creeping in.

Before we had Owen, Duncan and I both had our fair share of cynicism. We didn’t understand why children were presumed to be more important than adults. We would roll our eyes at certain (fictional) shows where children were always the victims of crimes (think: CSI Miami). And the bad guys were worse guys because they did bad things to children. OK – I can still muster an eye roll at that show, but I have also become one of those people who can no longer watch bad things happen to a child. I wasn’t before. It hurts me now to see a child separated from a parent. Last night, I was reading a wonderful book (small spoiler alert if you click on the link). And when the mother’s child is taken away from her, possibly forever,  I had to put the book down. I couldn’t go back to it until the next day. When I hear news reports of children who have gone missing, who have drowned, who have been hit by cars, I crumple inside. For me, having a child has opened up a connection with humanity. Owen has been an antidote to cynicism.

The other day, we were out walking with Owen (in his big, fancy, expensive stroller) and a teenager came up to us to ask first for a cigarette (we don’t smoke) and then for some change (we’d left the house without our wallets). The boy could have been anywhere from 14-19. He was slight, had sores on his face, and looked like he was having a really rough time. I realized then, as I’ve acknowledged so many times since Owen was born, that we need so much from our parents, from society, and from life. Owen is so so lucky to be loved and held and laughed with. When he was just starting to smile, I remember thinking: what would happen to a baby who didn’t get a smile back? What would happen if a baby kept flashing toothless grins and no one was there to mirror those smiles? I know that people can surmount all kinds of difficulties, and I’m certainly not trying to draw any easy conclusions here. I don’t know how long our lucky streak will last. And I can’t keep Owen from hurt. Life is full of hurts, small and big.

So all I can do is hug him and love him and smile back … and hope we stay lucky. I am so scared of the alternative.