About Abbey Doyle

Abbey Doyle, mom to toddler Miles and wife of Michael, is a Vincennes native and senior writer at the Courier & Press. She will cover a variety of topics and is always looking for important people or issues to write about. You can reach her at abbey.doyle@courierpress.com or 464-7516.

Memories take me ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’

Memories are funny things.

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You can be driving home, mindlessly listening to the radio, when … BAM! something out of the blue hits you and reality takes a back seat to whatever time and place you are recalling.

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Sights, sounds, smells and even tastes can bring these recollections out when you least expect it.

It was sound, specifically music, that recently brought memories of my dad racing throughout my mind. I usually have him somewhere dancing around in the back of my mind, but occasionally those background thoughts become the focus of the moment.

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The littlest munchkin, Owen, and I were driving back from a weekend spent sewing at my mom’s house. Talk about memories — the hum of that sewing machine instantly put me back to a Sunday afternoon in my elementary school days as my mom sat in the dining room sewing while my dad watched football. The melodic hum of the machine would often be interrupted by dad’s cheers or colorful language, depending on how the Bears were doing. But that’s another story altogether.twins2

Music was huge in our house. We made a lot of road trips to see out-of-state family, and those trips always included music — mix tapes and CDs, usually. We’d loudly sing along with John Prine, the Beatles or the Indigo Girls. Many of the songs would end up getting slightly modified to suit whatever trip we were taking or whatever else might be happening in our lives at the moment.

The Temptations’ “My Girl” was a favorite of both my dad and his girls — my twin sister and me. He’d sing the chorus, “… Talking ‘bout my girls …” and Sarah and I over him would sing, “… Talking ‘bout my dad, my dad, my dad.”

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So back to this recent drive back to Evansville — of course “My Girl” comes over the radio; I sing my version of it through tears. Happy ones, but tears nonetheless. As soon as I get myself mostly put back together, here comes Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s ukulele cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and the waterworks start back up again. This was the song that played as my dad walked me down the aisle for my wedding.

That’s a good memory. My dad being classically my dad: After the bridesmaids had gone and it was time for us to make our way, he goes down the aisle without me, starting toward his seat to the laughter of the audience — our closest family and friends who had made the trek to Louisiana from Illinois and Indiana. They amusedly directed him back up the aisle to retrieve me.

Good thing that was a long song.

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I treasure those silly memories. Those times in the car when dad would say, “Where’s your microphone?,” and we’d all grab the nearest thing that we could sing into. Or that intimate moment when we finally got ready to go down the aisle and he squeezed me close to him and said, “I’m so proud of you. I love you so much!”

The anniversary of his death, although that phrase is really a cruel one, is Wednesday. It doesn’t take that day for me to think about him because he is really all around me. I hear him in a song. I see him in the eyes of my two boys. I know that without his guiding influence I wouldn’t have the fulfilling professional or personal life I do today because he taught me how to dream big and how to live bigger.

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Ultimately, I am my father’s legacy. In some small way, I know that part of him will continue to live on in his grandsons and their grandchildren. I can’t think of any better way to remember him than to keep singing through those happy tears and know that he is proud of me.

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Heart of the matter

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When I got that positive line on the pregnancy test a million things raced through my mind – I was ecstatic. My husband and I had been trying for months to get pregnant with our second child; I couldn’t be happier.

I had lots of expectations, like most moms, of what this pregnancy, birth and child-rearing experience would be like. And one thing that weighed heavily on my mind was my desire to have a good breast feeding relationship with this baby.

With my son Miles, now three, I struggled with nursing. He lost more than 15 percent of his body weight while we were still in the hospital and continued to lose weight eventually being diagnosed with failure to thrive and falling off the growth chart meaning we supplemented with formula. But I tried just about everything to maintain a good breast feeding relationship – constant pumping, the use of a supplemental nursing system for supplementation, what seemed like around the clock nursing, daily visits with lactation consultants and more. Miles got a mixture of breast milk and formula for nine months before my breast milk diminished completely – not the breast feeding experience I’d at all imagined.

Looking back I see some of my pitfalls – a huge one being no skin to skin in the beginning. I didn’t even get to touch my son for a couple hours. I feel like this may have doomed me from the beginning. So I was determined to make immediate and constant skin to skin contact a priority.

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But things, like with my first breast feeding experience, don’t always go as planned. I have a heart condition and pacemaker which makes things for me a little more complicated, especially in pregnancy. So within the first few weeks of pregnancy I had an appointment with a high risk obstetrician. The doctor said she thought I would either have to deliver in Indianapolis or deliver at The Heart Hospital with my baby immediately being taken to The Women’s Hospital where he would stay for the duration of our hospital stay. I’d get to see the baby once or twice a day.

Once or twice a day? Obviously this wasn’t going to work, especially with my desire to breast feed. I talked to my OB who said that wasn’t going to be the case—that we would figure something out.
After a few more complications arose later on in my pregnancy it became clear I wouldn’t be able to deliver the baby at The Women’s Hospital. There’d been two other babies born at The Heart Hospital and Deaconess Gateway handles one or two deliveries a year but in all those cases either the mother was too ill to care for the baby or the baby needed NICU care. They’d never encountered a situation like mine – a high risk (yet healthy) mom and baby with no complications.

With some persistence on my part and amazing work on the part of Dr. Foster and the entire team at The Women’s Hospital, a plan was hatched. There were meetings, phone calls, e-mails and compromise. I know at one point they had a room full of all the key players who would be involved in my medical care in a care conference. All along I’d stressed that separation not only would be traumatic for me but it would mean the end of my hopes for a positive breast feeding relationship. That was what I kept in mind each step of the way.

The end result was amazing, so much more positive than I think any of us expected. I gave birth to Owen at 38 weeks via a C-section performed at Gateway. The anesthesiologist allowed me to have immediate skin to skin contact while Dr. Foster continued the surgery. There was a lactation specialist in my private recovery area to help with the initial latch and with nursing. Someone from lactation made the trek all the way from The Women’s Hospital to Gateway (through a super-secret tunnel) for nearly every feeding those first 48 hours.

The care I received was amazing! I spent the first two nights at Gateway. While there I had two nurses assigned to just me – a cardiac nurse and a nurse from The Women’s Hospital. They all were aware of my strong desire to have a successful breast feeding relationship and did everything in their power to make it possible.

I was transferred to The Women’s Hospital after I stayed stable for the first 48 hours and spent two additional nights there. I continued to have amazing care and am so grateful to the staff and nurses who made the experience so positive.

And all that work was worth it. Owen and I are still going strong, fifteen weeks in even with a return to work. Until I went back to work he’d only gotten two bottles so the little guy definitely has this whole breast feeding thing down.

After I came home it wasn’t without speed bumps – I got thrush from the antibiotics I received after the surgery, there was a dip in weight gain for a short time and like many moms I struggled with latch. But the amazing care offered didn’t end when I left the hospital – I have taken full advantage of the trained lactation staff at The Women’s Hospital coming in several times for weight checks and to talk to an expert. And every single time the experience was amazing. I was helped, reassured that I was doing everything right and that I was a good mom – something we all fret about.

It’s been hard to say thank you enough. I know that a lot of people went to a lot of work for little old me. I’m not a celebratory, I’m not special, and I didn’t have to pay more. I’m just a mom who expressed a strong desire to successfully breast feed and bond with my kiddo who happened to have some additional medical concerns. And without missing a beat they all made it happen.

I apologized to nearly everyone that first day knowing that I was causing extra work and headaches; every single one of them talked about how they were happy to see the positive outcome. And now the hospital has a plan in place if this situation arises again.

For more information on The Lactation Services at the Women’s Hospital, click here.

This blog was originally published on The Women’s Hospital’s Breastfeeding Connection blog.DSC_0815

Spontaneity at its finest

I don’t think this is the way it works.

The older I get and the more responsibilities I earn the more spontaneous I become. I thought this crazy “fly by the seat of your pants” stuff was for the “kids,” not mothers of two who are just “learning the Twitter.”

But it’s hit me — the spontaneous bug has hit me.

This morning as I was nursing Owen before coming into work I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw a post for Big Splash Adventure, an indoor water park and hotel in French Lick. I’d liked the page for just this reason, to be alerted to deals they had. This one was for a one night stay around Christmas that seemed too good to pass up.
But I thought, “That’s just silly. We can’t do something like that. We’re grown-ups. We plan things out weeks in advance. It’s Christmas.”

While at work it kept gnawing at the back of my head. Waterpark, fun, memories, crazy!
So I dashed off a message to Michael with the details saying, “Let’s do this.”

In typical Michael style he said, “Sure!”

I decided that it would be fun to have my mom join us. So I called her.

“What?” she asked, dazedly. “I need time to think.”

You see, my mom is not of the spontaneous variety, or at least not typically. But she mulled it over for about an hour and called back with a yes.

So, yes, we are nuts and we will be spending Christmas Day at a water park! And I can’t wait! I’m going to bring our stockings, Miles’ Santa present and a miniature tree. And we are having a more traditional Christmas celebration Saturday with mom and my sister and her family. So why not?

Hope everyone else has at least one moment of spontaneity this holiday season. This feels pretty good!

New adventures ahead

Last week I took my first steps into a new world as features editor here at the Courier & Press.

When I was hired about two years ago as senior features writer, I knew this was the kind of paper for which I had always wanted to work.

What I didn’t realize was at that same place I would find a tremendous mentor and friend in the woman I am replacing, Linda Negro.

I find myself trying to fill some pretty big shoes.

As a newsroom, we just said goodbye to five valuable colleagues, tremendously skilled journalists with deep ties to this community. Two of those five came from my department — Linda and longtime arts and entertainment reporter Roger McBain.

Their departure is a loss we will certainly feel in the newsroom. I learned much from Linda and Roger in a short time.

Yet, this big change has also provided an opportunity for a next generation of leaders to step up. In addition to myself, two others have taken on new roles of leadership in the newsroom — Jon Webb as assistant metro editor and Erin McCracken as photo editor.
I am excited that the Courier & Press’ leadership has shown confidence in us as we work to introduce the newspaper to a new audience.

If you haven’t been a regular reader of my occasional column and daily parenting blog, here’s a quick intro. I am a native of Vincennes, have worked for newspapers all over the country for about a decade and came back to Evansville early last year. I have a family — Louisiana-native husband Michael and two little boys. Miles is a strong-willed and spirited 3-year-old who attends preschool at St. Theresa School, and Owen is a lovable two-month-old night owl obsessed with his momma and ceiling fans.

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As a career journalist, I strongly believe that a newspaper must remain a vital part of any community. It is my hope that we can find a way to reach out to people my age and younger, for which to many, the newspaper is seen as a thing of the past.

I don’t think that’s true at all. And in interacting with the public I’ve discovered a number of my regular blog readers — young parents, professionals and more — who like what we as a newspaper do. I’m hoping to help even more discover this too.

This doesn’t mean we are neglecting or forgetting our established readers. We will continue to do many of the things you enjoy. Hopefully you will also enjoy the innovative and exciting storytelling and new ideas we are adding as we try to reach more people and enrich our audience.

Linda’s strong involvement in several nonprofits and service organizations has been a very important part of the newspaper’s efforts to be an engaged and vital member of the community. It’s important for me to live up to that example and continue my own dedication to community service. As a returned Peace Corps volunteer — I taught English and HIV/AIDS awareness in Bangladesh — this has always been a big part of my life.

One of the city squares in Comilla.

One of the city squares in Comilla.

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I currently serve as the vice president on the board of directors for Project Reveal, a nonprofit that’s working to provide a voice and community for women by sharing their stories of daily struggles and survival through written, video and photo “reveals.”

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My first act as editor was to hire Roger’s replacement, a huge challenge. His talent and connections are irreplaceable. But our new reporter, Kelly Gifford, has an energy and enthusiasm that will serve the arts community well. She’s excited about incorporating new storytelling techniques and will breathe new life into our coverage. Check out her weekly column, Culture Shock, on page D3.

My family and I plan to be here in Evansville for a long, long time. So I have a vested interest in seeing this community thrive and grow. I hope this paper continues to play a role in that by telling the stories that you the reader want to hear.

That’s where you come in. What kinds of stories do you want Kelly and me to tell? What changes would you like to see? I look forward to your input and working to make this paper the best we can for our readers.

Until next time.

Back at work

In one breath I can say, “Eight weeks isn’t enough time!” and “Oh my goodness I was so ready to come back.”

I returned to work exactly 56 days after giving birth to my newest joy and blessing and the little creature that ensures I get no more than three hours of sleep every day — Owen Michael. I loved my time home with Owen and older son Miles when he wasn’t at school.

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Those eight weeks were an amazing opportunity to bond with my new son and also to help Miles adjust to a different home dynamic. It was also a chance to see a whole lot more of my husband and to get our money’s worth from our Netflix account (I’d be embarrassed to tell you how many television series I consumed during those sleepless, long nights.)

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I had all these grand plans of the things I’d accomplish over maternity leave both in the way of tasks that had been put off and Pinterest-worthy activities we’d do as a family.
Wah-wah. (That’s the game show “you didn’t get it right” sound effect.)

Not much got accomplished beyond snuggling. I am nursing Owen so those first few weeks it felt like I didn’t really move much from the little nest I’d created for myself. I was grateful to have Michael there to refill my beverage and bring me snacks when I was tethered down by a baby who was hungry, needed comfort or had fallen asleep and looked too darn comfortable to move.

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Miles was always able to find his spot on my lap too so I would still be able to snuggle him while nursing Owen. Those quiet moments with both of my babies snuggled peacefully and closely to my chest were magical. That’s when I said — eight weeks isn’t enough time! I can’t go back to work. How can I leave this tiny baby and little boy who need their mama? How will I be able to focus on my work when all I can think of is Owen’s pursed little lips and shiny eyes? It’s not enough time!

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And in a lot of ways it wasn’t.

But, there were also days or moments when I was hunkered down in that little nursing nest when it didn’t feel like a cozy, comfortable retreat to snuggle and nourish my baby. Instead it felt like a prison. I wanted out of the house. I wanted to shower on a daily basis. I wanted to not have a baby attached to me 24/7. I wanted to be able to eat a meal while it was still hot. I wanted to be able to sleep more than the hour here or there between nursing, pumping and laundry. I missed my work and my co-workers.

Those are the moments when I would scream (in my own head of course), “I’m ready to go back!”

And of course when my maternity leave finally started to wind down I was feeling less and less ready. A lot of that stemmed from guilt — I was leaving my tiny, helpless baby in the care of someone other than me, really for the first time. Anxiety peaked the night before as I ran over the list of “how-tos” with my husband — who I know is more than capable. I’m lucky is able to be the caregiver.

An additional factor is that just days after I return I’ll be taking over as the features editor as my editor, Linda Negro, and fellow reporter Roger McBain are both retiring. While out on maternity leave I interviewed candidates to find a replacement for Roger and I thought about (and if I’m honest fretted a little) about how things would work. So in addition to some guilt with my return, I’m facing a little doubt and fears of inadequacy.

The day finally arrived; I came to work. I just cried a little in the parking lot. I have an amazing group of friends and co-workers who surprised me with treats and gifts to distract from the stress of the day and I kept busy and accomplished a lot. And while things were going well at the office, poor little Owen (and his daddy) were struggling at home. Owen refused to take a bottle. He’d taken about three up to that point so he was far from an expert but at least knew what he was doing. But he flat out refused. He was hungry. Hungry babies scream.

So much of that first day Michael had a screaming, starving baby and I worried from work. That night Owen nursed for about four hours.

Day 2 I got a desperate text message from Michael: “This is not working. The longer I try to more upset he gets and the more frustrated I get. It’s not doing anybody any good. You might need to come home and feed him. I can’t do anything for him.”

That message broke my heart for both Owen and Michael. I hated the notion that my husband felt helpless to soothe and comfort our son and I was devastated that my son was hungry and couldn’t stop crying.

My first instinct was to run home and nurse him. But I knew it wasn’t the solution. So we waited it out.

I called the pediatrician, the hospital’s lactation services, my mom and my friends. They all agreed that he would eat when he was hungry enough and that it was worse for us than him.

By 4 p.m. Michael texted a picture of a smiling, happy baby.

“I think we have a breakthrough — empty bottle, happy baby!”

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Happy and relieved mommy too!

So, is eight weeks enough? For this mom it might have been. I’m so happy to be back especially with the challenges and changes ahead. I’m not going to lie though, it certainly doesn’t come without sacrifice. But, I’m treasuring my time outside of home grateful that I’m able to support my family and my sanity.​

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The stay-at-home-dad “thing,” and a farewell

For much of the past three years, I’ve been a stay-at-home dad.

They say it’s one of the fastest-growing segments in our society, that it’s trendy, that it is the wave of the future. I don’t know about all that. I do know that for our family, it was not the first choice.

As I’m sure I have mentioned, Abbey and I moved from central Louisiana to Anderson, Indiana in summer of 2010. I left the only home I’ve ever known, all my family and friends and a job I really liked — okay, mostly liked — and came to this cold, different place. I couldn’t get a handle on it at all. That was a bad year. Abbey’s father died, our car was broken into, we lived in a rental house that smelled like sewage and we were hundreds of miles away from our closest family. I had an extremely demanding job an hour’s drive away, so I was gone 12-15 hours a day. I had no anchor at all. I was profoundly depressed and lost.

Miles came along in July 2011 and changed everything. The circumstances that led me to leave that job were difficult, but I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Of course, I am lucky in that Abbey had the earning power to support our family, because my piddly freelance earnings weren’t good for more than a few trips to the grocery store.

However, staying home with Miles was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It was rough at first – guilt, feelings of inadequacy, all that stuff you would think a man might feel in that position. But what I came to realize is that staying home with kids — even one kid — is HARD.FREAKING.WORK. It also completely absorbs your being.

And now I find myself getting ready to do it all over again with Owen, our two-month-old. Abbey returns to work next week and will soon take over as The Courier and Press’s lifestyles editor. I am proud of her, and although there is a tinge of guilt at not matching her on the financials, I know that what I’m doing is important.

But it will be one mega-balancing act some days. I’ve written enough stories on deadline with Miles literally hanging all over me to know it’s not going to be any easier with two munchkins on my hands. I’ll probably be stressed to the limit sometimes. But that’s not something that really scares me anymore.

I’ll probably never be one of those dads that grocery shops with a baby in one of those carrier things strapped to my chest, worry-warting over whether their food has GMO or preservatives in it. I’m not likely to be attending any stay-at-home dad conventions. It’s just not my style.

I’m also not going to be one of those dads who stays at home after the kids are both in school. I don’t plan to do this forever. Somewhere down the road, the right career opportunity will present itself again. But right now, when the kids are little, I really do feel like the best possible thing for them is to be at home. They’ll be going to work and school for the rest of their lives. I love the idea that they get to be at home and just be kids for now.

(I also love not paying through the nose for daycare. Sometimes, I wonder if I had a full-time job how much financial difference it would really make. The answer is probably not much. Such is the way of the world these days.)

And I love that I get to bond with them and teach them weird things. After all, I do have the only three-year-old boy in the world who knows all the words to Rush’s “Fly by Night” and agrees that the Atlanta Falcons are — and I quote — “yucky.”

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As I mentioned earlier, Abbey will be returning to work next week, which means that this blog will be handed over to its rightful owner. I enjoyed filling in during her absence and hopefully managed to hold your attentions. Who knows, maybe I will fill in from time to time with dazzling and bizarre tales from a household with too many Y chromosomes.

Thanks for reading.

– Michael

 

Throwback Thursday – Thanksgiving

Yes, Thanksgiving is a week away but this time of year is special. Every year we make the trek up to northern Illinois where Abbey’s extended family gathers.

Even better this year is the fact that most of the family will be introduced to Owen. Not so long ago, it seems, we were making the same trip where the family met Miles. Here are some pictures of Miles’ first Thanksgiving in 2011:

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Hanging out with mom.

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Being a turkey.

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Hugs from cousin Phila.

I am always surprised at how much I look forward to this trip. It’s one of the highlights of my year. I’m happy to be accepted into such a great family. If I can’t be near my own parents, sister and nephews during the holidays, there is no other place I’d rather be on Thanksgiving.

 

Wordless Wednesday – the snow day edition

 

 

1375965_10152547804773434_8303160038705441113_nMiles’ preschool was closed Monday with all the snow. Abbey took him outside to play.

I am from a much warmer part of the country, and as such have very little regard for being wet and cold. So I “volunteered” to stay in with the baby and we kept our toes toasty warm and dry. Afterwards, Miles came in and enjoyed a nice warm cup of “coffee” in his favorite chair.

I am soooooo not ready for the winter. Let’s hope this is just a false start and it warms up for a while.

 

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