Happy 4th!

Henry mustered all of his enthusiasm for the neighborhood parade, as you can see.
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We had a backyard water balloon fight with friends. I was reminded once again that we need to work on Eleanor’s pitching arm.
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And then dessert. Those chubby cheeks don’t just maintain themselves, you know.
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The vacation splurge

I was reluctant to mention our vacation to people before we left. For me, Cape Cod conjures images of yachts, seaside mansions, and the Kennedys. I worried that my vacation was making me sound snooty. So I would follow each mention of Cape Cod with an explanation of how we were getting a good deal because the summer season doesn’t really start there until July. And it’s true. We found a reasonably priced rental house that could have accommodated far more than the four of us.

The real trouble was Boston. We planned to spend a couple of nights there too so that we could visit some historical sights and museums. Our Boston stay came at the end of our trip, and I wanted to splurge on a nice hotel room. I quickly found that having a room, any room, in Boston is a splurge. Greg and I agreed on a hotel that was close to Boston Common and deemed kid-friendly by multiple websites. It definitely was a splurge for us, but we went into it knowing that we would get a shoebox — albeit a nice one.

All of us were reluctant to leave Cape Cod for the city. We’ve gotten used to renting houses when we go on vacation, so hotel rooms always feel like a hassle. It’s harder to deal with the snacks and milk that we need for the kids, and Greg and I have sometimes spent an hour squeezed into the hotel bathroom, maintaining perfect silence, while we wait for the kids to fall asleep.

Greg had looked at pictures of the hotel before we arrived and expressed concern about taking our ragtag bunch into such an ornate place. So I dressed them in the nicest clothes I had brought for them, which is to say that they at least didn’t have any ketchup stains on their shirts.

When we arrived in Boston, Greg pulled up outside the hotel, and we unloaded our children and our luggage. We recently bought new luggage, all of it varying sizes of backpacks that we can easily tote through cities. Greg carries a behemoth backpack that weighs about thirty pounds when full. I carry a medium one, and Eleanor has a small one. Just like the three bears.

The valets, who were clearly more used to business travelers, were immediately confused.

“Is your company coming to pick up the car, sir?” they asked.

No, no, we explained. He was just going to return the rental car and would then walk back to the hotel. Meanwhile, I would carry 50 pounds of backpacks and a large, sleepy toddler into their fine establishment.

One of the valets helped with our bags, and we proceeded to the lobby. The man at the desk told me that we had received a free upgrade so that we would have space for the crib. I felt mildly embarrassed that we had apparently chosen a room that didn’t have space for a crib. He handed me the keys and directed me to a bellman who would take us up. I fumbled for cash in my purse because I knew I would need to tip the bellman. I had a twenty and three one-dollar bills. The ones would have to do.

The bellman asked the room number. I told him 1402, and he said, “Oh, the Harvey Parker Suite. Have you ever stayed in that room before?”

This was a fourteen-story hotel with more than 500 rooms. I assured him that I had never stayed in the room before.

“This is where the owners stay when they come,” he said.

Hmm. Either this guy was confused, or he was laying it on thick. I got that we had received a free upgrade, and I was grateful. He didn’t need to pretend I had the best room in the place.

We arrived at 1402, and he brought us inside. You guys, this is where the owners stay when they come.

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“Let me just open it up for you,” he said, and he walked around pulling up blinds and turning on lights. We were in an enormous room, but there wasn’t a bed. The bed was in the next enormous room.

Then I remembered the three dollars in my pocket. This bellman thought that I belonged in this room. I handed him what was probably the saddest tip he has ever received in that room, and he departed.

We had a banquet table for eight people, a butler’s kitchen, two bathrooms, and views of Boston Common and the North End, including Old North Church. This hotel room was bigger than the house I grew up in.

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Greg was still dropping off the car. I sent him a text with nothing more than the room number so that he could be surprised. When he arrived, we both gushed over our good fortune, and Eleanor practiced handstands and other gymnastics skills. We read up on the hotel, which has a history too long to recount (but includes hosting JFK’s bachelor party and employing Malcolm X), and speculated about who had stayed in our room.

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(You are here. Oh yes, we have arrived.)

We had booked a two-night stay, and I expected that after our first night, they would tell us they had make a mistake. Why would you give your nicest room to a family with a toddler who I sometimes refer to as “Destructo Henry”? (I only call him that in my head, you understand.)

We should have thrown a party, but we know only a handful of people in Boston, most of whom we haven’t talked to in years. Maybe that’s why we got the room. They saw the kids and thought “These people aren’t going to be doing anything crazy.”

Oh, but we did. On our second night, we filled up the jacuzzi tub, turned on the jets, and both kids flung bubbles and danced naked in front of the floor-to-ceiling mirror behind the tub. Eleanor is insisting that we request to have that room again if we return to Boston. We’ve become snooty, y’all.

Stillbirth resources

Stillbirth is a word that is whispered, or more often, not used. Most people have no idea how frequent stillbirth is because nobody talks about it. In the U.S., one in 160 pregnancies ends in stillbirth, which is 26,000 lost babies every year. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists held their annual meeting last month, and for the first time ever, they had a panel on stillbirth. We might be racing along like snails to solve this, but at least we have started moving.

I have been compiling a resource list for parents and others who have been affected by stillbirth and want to contribute to stillbirth prevention and education. There isn’t any large, national organization dedicated to reducing stillbirths, and I can’t list every group. There is plenty to do.

Most states have no uniform way to collect stillbirth data. Most do not have policies for providing mental health care to couples who have experienced a stillbirth. Most do not issue birth certificates. If you want to get involved, here are places to start:

Healthy Birth Day
This nonprofit was founded by a group of Iowa mothers who lost children to stillbirth. They helped get the Iowa Stillbirth Surveillance project passed as a law. The law creates uniform gathering of data on stillbirths. They also started the Count the Kicks campaign to educate pregnant women about the importance of kick counts in reducing stillbirth.

Stop Stillbirth ASAP
Stop Stillbirth ASAP seeks to create a coalition of groups dedicated to reducing stillbirth. The organization’s co-founder, Debbie Haine Vijayvergiya, worked to pass the “Autumn Joy Stillbirth Research and Dignity Act” in New Jersey. The law, which was named for Debbie’s daughter, created a statewide policy for the treatment of families after a stillbirth and for stillbirth data collection. I talked with Debbie recently, and she is hoping to find parents in other states who would like to work on similar legislation.

The Human Placenta Project
Are you excited about placenta research? I am! The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has begun a huge research project to better understand the placenta, which is thought to be responsible for many unexplained stillbirths along with a bunch of other pregnancy complications. I spoke with researcher Susan Fisher, and she said that they can now accept donations of archived placentas. If your baby was stillborn and you had testing done on the placenta, she can use saved placenta cells for future research. To donate, contact her at sfisher(at)cal(dot)ucsf(dot)edu.

I had hoped to include information about how stillbirth parents can get involved in educating doctors and medical providers to better help grieving families. As far as I can tell, this education is piecemeal, done differently by each medical school and hospital, if it is done at all. If you have done educational speaking, please fill me in on your experience.