How to help in the Syrian refugee crisis: reacting to Aylan’s needless death

how to help syrian refugees
-Warsan Shire, via UndocuMedia

Lately, I’ve had a really difficult time filtering out anything sad or upsetting. I faced the same thing when Peeper was a baby: My defenses are nonexistent, so anything difficult—from a mildly emotional TV show to a news story about yet another black person killed by police—floods me with the irrepressible need to cry.

As a result, I tend to hide from the news.

The other day, though, I was driving Kiwi to a doctor’s appointment and turned on NPR. I heard a reporter translate for a grieving father, who described the horrific moments that led up to the death of his entire family.

I had to turn off the radio: My eyes instantly overflowed, and it was hard to see the road.

By now, you’ve probably heard of, read about or even seen photos of Aylan, the 3-year-old Syrian refugee whose body washed ashore on a Turkish beach after the boat carrying him, his family and other refugees capsized. The image of his tiny lifeless form has broken the hearts of millions.

Aylan’s story has made it too much for me to simply tune out the negativity. I’m done just turning off the radio. I had to do something, even if it was small.

So yesterday I donated to Tearfund, a nonprofit that provides basic necessities like hygiene kits, water and camp stoves to refugees from the Syrian civil war—the “worst humanitarian crisis of our time,” according to a UN official.

It is overwhelming to sift through the number of organizations helping in Syria and the surrounding countries that are absorbing a staggering number of fleeing Syrians. That’s why this article from the UK’s The Guardian helped me: It briefly summarizes a handful of nonprofits that are working in the area and what they’re doing to help.

For any Portland- or Vancouver-area readers, you can donate used or new baby carriers to be brought to Syrian refugees, who often have to carry their children for hundreds of miles to reach aid. You can drop them off at Floating World Comics in Northwest Portland before September 15; here’s the link for more information.

Will you join me in doing something, no matter how small? Thousands of Aylans are out there, and too many people need our help for us to sit by.

What have you done to help? What other ways can we contribute?

I am the coziest place in the world

Baby Kiwi sleeps on MamaKiwi spends a lot of time sleeping on me lately.

Whether it’s in the carrier on a walk, on my chest as I watch a football game or leaning on me for the now-requisite 30 minutes after each feeding, she rests with her face on that magical spot of skin beneath my collarbone and her ear pressed against my heart.

Can I blame her? No. After 40 weeks inside me, it’s no wonder she craves that closeness.

But I am tired. So, so tired.

Last night, for example, as she nursed or slept on me (I’m too far gone to remember which), I stared at a spot on the sheet. I couldn’t tell if it was a bug or just a smidge of something. If you had offered me a million dollars to tell if it was moving, I would have had to guess.

People, sleep deprivation would have reduced me to 50/50 at a chance for a million dollars. Read more

Some days

Some days I wake up and take in Kiwi’s wide-open eyes and marvel at how lucky I am to be her mama. Some days I get Peeper out of bed and ask her, “Is it going to be a good day?” And when she says, “Yes!” I am all-in.

Today is not one of those days.

I feel wrung out. I spent part of last night crying and all of it worrying about Kiwi. It’s probably regular newborn stuff, but I’m anxious that her inability to stay asleep, her grunting noises, even the spit bubbles that collect on her lips, reveal something deeper that is wrong.

I skated by in my second pregnancy without the worries of my first. “I got this,” I figured, and I did. I found the answers to the things I’d forgotten about without spiraling into a bout of anxiety.

I thought I’d ease into new motherhood again in the same way. Imagine my surprise, then, when breastfeeding was still hard. Really, really hard. And when I asked things like “Does her belly look distended to you?” And when I found myself paralyzed over whether to unwrap Kiwi’s swaddle or not.

Motherhood, like anything, is riding the ups and downs that come like a tide—if a tide changed every three minutes. It just so happens that I’m in an ebb, and that means not wanting to get out of bed. It means I don’t want to do today.

Probably in five minutes I’ll see Kiwi smile—a new development that lights up the entire house. I’ll eat some breakfast. Peeper will tell me all about the zoo train she is building and the animals she remembers seeing the last time we visited. Maybe I’ll even drink a cup of tea to counteract the zombie brain of waking I-can’t-remember-how-many-times last night.

Will it be a good day? I’m pretty sure it will be. But for the few moments I steal in bed, typing this on my phone, I’d rather go back to sleep and let the day enjoy itself.

On my own as a mom of two

Peeper rocking Baby Sister - Ten Thousand Hour MamaThe other day was my first extended stretch with both girls on my own.

You can take a guess as to how that went.

Much of it was a shitshow—imagine both children screaming, the macaroni boiling over and my boobs leaking all over the place. (At least Finn was well behaved.) I did, however, manage a minor miracle: I put Edie down for a nap while holding Maxine, too.

Honestly, I have no clue how it happened and have zero hope to repeating it anytime soon. I held Kiwi in one arm and Peeper in the other with a book on my lap. We went through Peeper’s whole routine, reading books and drinking milk and rocking. Then it came time to turn out the light and sing her wind-down songs.

As I sang and rocked them in the dark, Edie kept lifting her head from my shoulder and touching Max’s head. “You’re petting that baby,” she whispered, then went back to resting on me. Somehow—someway—I got Edie into her crib and that was that.

Much of the day was hard. At one point I texted Eric, informing him that we were not having any more children. I was scrambling.

But that moment of Peeper tenderly touching her little sister’s head—that was pure beauty. Peeper may later ask to send Kiwi back to the hospital or put her back in my belly, but this is the story I’ll tell over and over again about their early days learning to be each other’s sister.

See? I’ll say. You loved each other from the start.

A poem for my water bottle

When Peeper was born, the folks at the hospital gave me a giant double insulated water jug. I reveled in its 28 ounce capacity and brought it everywhere. I drank water like it was my job because, for a breastfeeding mama, it was my job!

Then one bad no good horrible day, I left the jug on top of the car and drove away. The jug was smashed. My heart was smashed. I missed that hunk of plastic for months.

I told this story to the nurses at the hospital where I delivered Kiwi. Not only did they gift me a new one, they gave me two.

Maybe they were angling to get Kiwi named after them.

Well played, nurses.

Anyway, the other night I was trying to keep myself awake and amused as Kiwi nursed, so I composed a little ditty in honor of my favorite drinking receptacle. (What, isn’t that what everyone does?) I give you:

My Giant Water Jug

You’re my beautiful big water jug
Night and day you allow me to chug a lug
I fill you with ice
Splash in water so nice
And continue to breastfeed my little bug

Now I’ll just wait for the poetry contracts to roll in.

Welcome to the world, Kiwi!

Baby Kiwi is born! Ten Thousand Hour MamaWe are beyond thrilled that our sweet, darling Kiwi has joined us!

Maxine Elizabeth Griffin Gregory was born Sunday, July 19, though it took us until minutes before discharge before settling on her name.

“Kiwi is a beautiful name!” the pediatrician on the floor reassured us. “You could always stick with Kiwi.”

I spent most of my labor at home, using HypnoBirthing breathing techniques, baking cookies (but leaving plenty of raw dough to eat after delivery!) and trying to sleep. My mom arrived to watch Peeper at the perfect time—just when I knew we needed to head to the hospital. We were a few minutes away from Labor and Delivery when they told us they were on divert, so we turned around and drove across town to another one.

Thank goodness we went on a Sunday and there was no traffic, because Kiwi was born an hour later.

Meeting the new baby - Ten Thousand Hour MamaShe and I are both healthy, and we were fortunate to avoid complications and interventions. We have been spending the last few days getting to know each other as a new family of four!

Peeper is very excited to be a big sister. She wants to help with diaper changes, watch Kiwi breastfeed and bring toys—though she’s having a hard time sharing some things (e.g. Mom’s lap and the Moses basket, of all things).

Thank you for all your support, encouragement and kind words over the last 40 weeks. I feel so very lucky to bring Kiwi into a world where love, compassion, empathy and love are the rule.

Mama baby skin to skin

Bonding with the baby

Peeper brings toys to the baby then asks to read a book with her.“Want to open that baby!” Peeper will say, lifting up my shirt or, more awkwardly, my dress.

She puts her hands on my round bump and leans in close, her nose almost touching my belly button.

And she smiles.

Peeper has already begun to bond with her little sister. She asks to see her, brings her toys, asks me to sing her a song, puts the spout of her sippy cup on my belly and gives her hugs. Sometimes she’ll shyly wave.

Some mornings when I lift her out of the crib, her first request is, “Wanna see the baby.” She’ll stand in her jammies with her halo of curls mussed every which way and place her hands on my bump. Her dimples are never as precious as when she shares a smile with her unborn sister. Read more