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Special Sneak Preview: An Excerpt from Four Seasons for Charlotte

As promised, I am bringing you a sneak peek excerpt from my forthcoming book, Four Seasons for Charlotte. The book will be available May 15th. You can currently pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also add the book to your Goodreads queue! Stay tuned for book release party info!


This is an excerpt from Chapter 10, titled "Bringing Up Baby". I'm including the very beginning and very end of the chapter so you can get some context. Believe it or not, I reach a startling epiphany around....poop.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen.  You read that correctly.  Poop.  Here we go...



Before Charlotte was born, well-meaning parents and friends kept repeating the same tired mantra, “You know, after your baby is born, your life is never going to be the same.” Roger and I both thought this was one of the most ridiculous things anyone could say to us. Wasn’t this a given? Who, in their right mind, had any idea that after a baby entered your life it would continue to be “the same”?

I distinctly remember the first few weeks of Mommyhood. I was exhausted. I was overwhelmed. Less than a week after her birth, we found ourselves back in the hospital. Charlotte had experienced latching issues with nursing and was sleeping more than she should. After three days at home, her temperature dropped to dangerous levels and we faced our first visit to the emergency room. The official diagnosis was failure to thrive. After multiple tests, including a spinal tap that forced my post-partum hormones off the deep end, the doctors couldn’t seem to come up with a definitive diagnosis but recommended a course of IV antibiotics. Whatever the cause, this seemed to do the trick. Within 24 hours, Charlotte’s eating improved. Gradually, the nursing got easier. After a few more days, we returned home.

Early in the journey with cancer, we found many comparisons between the whole experience and having a newborn baby: the sleepless nights, the anxiety of the unknown, the hospital experience, everyone rallying around and wanting to help. It's just a little more extreme and intense. OK, it’s a lot more extreme and intense, and there are fewer people who have actually been through it.
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While regularity had never been an issue in her life before, Charlotte struggled with constipation almost constantly after her cancer diagnosis. Frequent anesthesia, certain medications, and many of the chemotherapy agents cited constipation as a main side effect. Couple this with her inability to move a great deal and her limited appetite or diet, and Charlotte was far from “regular.” Early on, the medical team tried many different strategies to induce a bowel movement including laxatives, stool softeners, fluids, flax meal, fruits and juices, and high-fiber supplements. As we posted our struggles in our online blog, friends, family, and strangers would offer up their tips and tricks for poop induction. Alas, at one point during our first hospitalization, it became necessary to administer the first of more than a few enemas. This was certainly a last resort but a necessary one as her belly was extremely distended and she was in obvious discomfort. We had already tried everything else.
As we sat by Charlotte’s bedside waiting for the enema to work on her tiny body, Roger and I were instantly transported back to our childbirth experience. I have never had an enema but seeing her in pain and, more importantly, seeing Roger's response to her pain, I was suddenly back in the delivery room 3 ½ years ago. The heart racing, the cramping, the crying, and through it all, Roger was calm, quiet, and an oasis of peace. He held her hand, rubbed her forehead, distracted her by singing her favorite songs, and reminded her to breathe... modeling all the while. Roger was a fabulous labor coach when I gave birth and that calming demeanor just continued to shine through as a beacon of comfort for Charlotte.
Later, as Charlotte’s time on earth waned, she began to sleep more and more. In her final days, her sleeping time increased and the time that she was awake and alert became shorter and shorter. She gradually lost her ability to walk, her ability to talk, and her ability to eat; however, she never seemed to lose her awareness of the world around her. Even in those quiet moments when we thought she was a breath away from death, she would react with the slightest finger squeeze, eye flutter, or twitch as we talked, sang, and read to her.
In those moments, I was again brought back to the intensity of the birth experience. We kept vigil by her side, knowing that at any point things could change. We knew what the typical progression of the disease would look like, but nobody had an exact timetable. It was like waiting to go into labor. As the process went on, we grew tired, cranky, and impatient, but we didn’t want to leave because at any moment, it could happen. Like childbirth, we knew, scientifically, what to expect. We also knew that nature had a way of taking its own course and we had to trust the process as it happened. We couldn’t rush the experience any more than we could slow it down.
As Charlotte drifted towards death, she also drifted back towards infancy. As parents, we never wanted to miss a moment. We were exhausted by the process, but we hung on every possible opportunity to be there with her.
People keep asking us if we'll ever have another baby. It seems we already have. We’ve had the same one twice.
  

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