Author Archives: Kristine

About Kristine

I answer most proudly to "Cora's Mom." After losing Cora in 2009, I've become a passionate newborn health advocate. I'm also an author and speaker. Cora's story is also my story, as I carry her with me everywhere I go. Her memory will never die.

Due Date

One reason I keep this blog is to jot down all the little moments and memories that will disappear as my mind ages. I want to be able to look back and retrieve these memories using my writing as prodding. I want future family members (Cora’s siblings I can certainly hope) to be able to sit down and read about their sister. And of course because I keep it public, I want the world to know about my little girl.

I’ve shared before Cora’s pregnancy was a huge surprise. (Male family members, you might want to skip a few sentences). I’ve also shared that I have poly cystic ovarian syndrome. When I got pregnant with Cora I hadn’t menstruated in four months (that was fun trying to answer the “date of your last period” question to doctors who immediately drew the conclusion I was five months pregnant, not a few weeks). We definitely weren’t trying. So by surprise, I mean SURPRISE!

With the whole wonky period thing, my due date was originally December 15. We were excited because we have so many December birthdays. Ben’s is the 18th, both of our grandmothers are that month, as well as Ben’s dad, my sister’s is a few days before Christmas, not to mention a good minivan full of cousins and uncles and aunts who were born in the last month of the year.

We so wanted her to share a birthday with a grandparent or great grandparent, and thought it just fit so perfectly. My birthday is November 24, so it was like our little family was all meant to be. Did you know that’s why she’s wearing the pink bow in the one professional picture of her? I decided that she was our birthday gift that year because she was born between our birthdays.

Coraprofessional5

At my first ultrasound, the due date was pushed up to December 4. I immediately thought of one person, granny. I could tell she was hoping for a great-grandchild born on her birthday, which so happened to be the 5th of December. When I called her to tell her about the new due date, she exclaimed, “I knew it! I knew it! She’s coming on my birthday.”

Cora picked her own birth date after all (which she shares with a great aunt).

I remember on December 4, 2009, whispering with a grin on my face into Cora’s tiny ear, “You’re not even supposed to be here yet! Today is your due date!” I was certainly glad she was there.

I didn’t know I only had two more days with her.

After we got back from the hospital early in the morning on December 6, my mom took care of all the phone calls. She called my grandma who was alone at my aunt’s home while my aunt and uncle were at church. She was so strong, and later fretted to my aunt if Cora died on the 5th. I remember reassuring her later that she did not.

Now four years later, I’ve lost my granny, who if you’ve been reading here long, you know was a second mother to me.

I don’t think I could have survived it if Cora died on her birthday.

So much happiness and profound sorrow all mixed together at the beginning of December.

Today was my due date.

#GivingTuesday: Linking Up with Bloganthropy.

Today my email has been bombarded by nonprofits reminding me it’s #GivingTuesday. Unlike the onslaught of Cyber Monday emails that came the day before, I didn’t mind. I wished I could give to them all.

Fact is, we live below the poverty line, but I don’t consider us poor. We have a home, food, and I always feel comfortable.

We just don’t need that much.

I only wish we had more to give. I give when I can though. Sometimes it’s only $5. Sometimes it’s entering contests like a Babble contest a few years ago and winning $5000 for a charity of my choice (I picked the Preemptive Love Coalition).

We can all give. Each and every one of us.

We can give a tiny amount of money. We can give a few moments of our time.

This Giving Tuesday, I had $6.46 in my PayPal so I gave that to Broken Hearts of the Big Bend, a group that helps CHD families. When I told one of the co-founders that I was sorry it was so little, she pointed out it would buy lunch for a mom living in a hospital for days or months on end with her child.

I’m also giving by writing this post. I’m linking up to Bloganthropy.org and for every link up, that organization will give $1 to Postpartum Progress, an amazing nonprofit that supports mothers dealing with postpartum mental health issues.

It took me three minutes to write this post and a few minutes to donate.

Before I had Cora, I never gave as much.

She taught me that giving doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money. And it sure feels amazing.

Time to Really Give It My Best

Every student in my freshman college writing class was required to meet one-on-one with our professor a few times a semester to discuss the direction of our research project.

At the end of my last one-on-one meeting with my professor, he changed the subject away from my research paper (about how school violence was actually decreasing. I’d started to write a paper about the increase in school violence and interestingly found overall violence was way down).

“In my 20 years of teaching, you’re the best writer I’ve had,” he said. “You could be great, you know, if you put some effort into it,” he finished, leaving me perplexed.

Red-faced I argued, “I do put in effort.”

I was lying. I flew through everything with the goal of finishing and getting a passing grade.

I blew off the weirdo. He’d given me all A’s. I always got good marks in my writing classes.

Now, I understand.

New Year’s Eve second grade I decided to finish the year by writing as many short stories as I could by midnight. I can’t imagine too many other kids sat quietly in a corner writing on one of the few nights of the year bedtime was whatever time you passed out on the sofa or floor after boisterously ringing in the new year.

From that point on, I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.

I entered Indiana University with an intended degree in journalism in 2000. Most of my classmates changed majors at least once, but not me.

I was set.

After college I worked as a newspaper reporter before I realized making a living working for a small newspaper wasn’t possible, and oh yeah, hey, newspaper was dying.

Everything was up in the air. I got a few part-time jobs here and there and was searching for something permanent when I became pregnant with Cora. I remember feeling extremely relieved. I could stop trying. I’d be a stay-at-home mom and work here and there on the side.

But then she died. It might seem silly because after all this was only the plan for nine months or so, but I was so attached to that identity, I didn’t want to give it up.

I’ve worked here and there and scraped around, but during the day, I’d mother her. I’d work to get laws passed in her name. I’d come up with graphics I was sure would spread to tell the whole world the signs of heart defects in newborns.

It felt right for awhile.

I believe firmly that dead children still need parenting. Maybe it’s part of the grieving process.

It was another stall tactic.

I’ve wanted to be a writer my entire life.

I’ve been terrified of failing my entire life.

After all, obviously my writing needs polishing.

When people ask what I do, I always stammer and grow nervous inside. Most of the time I settle on “writer.” Their next question is inevitably about what I write.

Real writers write every day. I haven’t.

Real writers work to improve every day. I haven’t.

My knowledge of proper grammar has faded. It’s something that requires constant reinforcing.

I know what my college professor meant. I had some natural ability, and with hard work and dedication I could be better.

I don’t know if that better is good enough to write a best-selling novel.

Maybe my good enough will not be that great.

But, it’s time to find out. For real.

Time to set at the keyboard and bleed and then have my work torn to shreds.

Least you think I have some kind of big head,  a few years later I turned in an assignment for a journalism class. It was about a topic I was really interested in. I got to interview the head coach of the IU basketball team at the time, and I really tried.

It was even set to be published in the school paper.

The professor tore into it and made me feel like it was the worst article in the history of journalism. I think she gave me a C. I remember calling one of the editors at the paper and begging her not to run it out of embarrassment.

That’s how writing goes. Not everyone will love what you do.

 

My Grief Enters a New Season

In the cold winter months, I turn to my husband at least twice a week and mutter, “We need to start wintering in Florida.”

Truth is while frigid, overcast and well, ugly, Indiana days sometimes seem unbearable, I can’t imagine living a life without them.

I gather so much energy from the seasons. So much of who I am and how I frame my life resolves around the ups and downs of Mother Nature.

I’ve entered a new season. It’s the end of fall here, but a new season is blooming.

Like the November day you wake to bare trees and think to yourself, when did that happen, the new season didn’t come in like a lion. It was a subtle shift.

I still miss her.

I’ve cried.

But.

But. There’s now a but.

For three years, she was nearly all I thought of. She will always be my whole world, but I had room for nothing else.

Cora would be four in ten days. She’d start to be more independent. Sure I wouldn’t leave her alone and leave the house. She’d still need tons of my time. But, she’d be her own little person. She’d depend on me less.

Somehow my heart and soul knew this and parallel to my path of parenting her, I started moving back from my much of my work for her. I’ll never drop it completely. Just like she’d always be my baby.

I don’t know what this means yet.

As we often don’t know what Winter will bring in late December. We guess that it might be rough full of snowstorms but we never know.

I’ve been much quieter here and in all places I work for her.  I’ve spent more time focusing on other things. Over the past few months, I’ve quietly folded some projects, thought much about where I want to focus and stepped away from things that weren’t a good fit after all.

To me, Fall is a time to get back to the bare bones of what really matters, just like the leaves fall and uncover the skeleton of the tree.

I turned a corner in my grief. I turned it blindly. I don’t know when it happened. So far it feels like a good path. I’m going in blind, so excuse me for not being able to paint a picture of what it looks like here, I’m still tip toeing in with my hands feeling for boundaries and debris in my path. Soon the sun will rise and I’ll be able to see where I’m at, but for now, I am quiet, back to the basics.

With bated breath I take in the wonder of a new season.

2947274184_05f9eaeb0a_zSome rights reserved by eschipul

 

Blogger Baby Shower Sponsor: Infant Lane

This summer I teamed up with two other awesome bloggers to host our second annual blogger baby shower.

For me as the childless mother, getting introduced to new companies was part of what made this event so much fun.

I’m obsessed with all things baby, including having a baby, even though that doesn’t seem in the cards for the time being. I’ve always been a baby lover, so it’s a natural extension to work with bloggers to tell them about companies I love.

We were thoughtful about who we partnered up with, and I loved this company because it was started by a mom who saw something she thought could be improved on to make life better for all babies and acted on it–sounds like something up my ally!

Infant Lane was one of our sponsors for that shower, and I’m excited to tell you all about them today!

merino kids clothing

I waited to write this post until it was fall and we were all thinking about cozying up in the most comfy pajamas ever, because everything from Infant Lane is made from merino wool, straight from New Zealand.

Infant Lane makes PJs, swaddling blankets and kids clothing for ages newborn to 6.

Next time I get knocked up, they’ll definitely be on my shopping list. I can only imagine how exquisite it is to wrap a tiny little newborn in an uber soft and cozy merino wool swaddling blanket.

merino swaddle blankets

I also liked how Infant Lane got started, and their goal. From their “About Us” page:

“Many years ago, as part of my career as a textile agent, I had several opportunities to visit textile factories in China.

A decade on, with the upcoming birth of my first daughter, these visits would prompt me to find a purer product for her sleeping environment. Knowing that in the first year alone an infant spends 16hrs per day sleeping I wanted the purest product that nature could provide.

Merino was the answer to my quest as it encompassed other natural factors of warmth, cosiness and the ability to provide a beautiful finish without the necessity of harsh chemicals.

At Infant Lane we want to offer you and your young family nothing but the best in New Zealand merino and New Zealand creativity.”

My baby shower co-host and friend Emily calls Infant Lane her “favorite pajamas” for her daughter Rebecca. I’ll let you read more about her family’s experience in her post.

Rebecca modeling her Infant Lane pajamas. The cute! (Image from Baby Dickey).

You can buy pajamas, swaddling blankets and other goodies from the Infant Lane website directly.

 

81,200

12.

That’s what this post was originally titled.

In the first 12(ish) months that Cora’s Law (newborn heart defect screening with pulse oximetry) was in effect 12 babies with congenital heart defects were identified.

I don’t know how all of those babies are doing now. I have had the privilege of being contacted by at least two of those families and their babies are here and growing.

Sometimes even with detection and intervention (surgery, medicine, treatments), heart babies don’t make it. CHD is a monster. So I can’t say all those lives were saved.

We’ll also never know if those babies would have been found before they left the hospital by another method (an observant nurse or mother that knew the signs of CHD).

But I thought to myself. 12. 12 babies that had a better shot at life because of Cora.

I get far to much credit when it comes to newborn heart screening. I can in no way take credit for this movement. It started years ago when I was still a wide-eyed high school student, when parents and researchers first started to see the value in screening babies with pulse oximetry for heart problems.

Since then, the effort has been a group effort, with people fighting hard to make this happen.

However, in Indiana I do know that there would have been no heart screening right now without Cora. With all the other events around the country, it probably would have happened at some point, but without Cora, those 12 babies would not have the opportunity for earlier treatment, in many cases I can venture enough to say life-saving treatment (or so I hope), without Cora.

And then I read that 81,200 babies were born in that same time period in Indiana, between January 2012 and January 2013 and it all became pretty overwhelming. Sadly, 1 in 100 of those babies statistically speaking had some sort of heart defect, either detected in utero, detected via an observation, or even found years later because it was something that doesn’t show up on any normal screening. Many others, too many others, had another sort of health problem.

But of those 81,200 most of them are alive and thriving, and most of them are heart healthy.

And thanks to Cora, their parents know. Each of them was screened for a subset of lethal if not treated congenital heart defects, because of Cora.

I’m so proud to be this girl’s mom.

Kristine and Cora