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February 09, 2005


As you can see by the long gap between Irish entries, we spent quite some time at home over Christmas. We had planned on being in Rhinebeck for Christmas, anyhow, but our stay became extended – on both ends.

It was week 32 of the pregnancy when we got the call that Anne was in the hospital being checked out, that the doctors were doing what they could to stop contractions. But Babies A and B were making their way into the world no matter what. Baby A was, in fact, lined up and ready to go, but Baby B was sideways. C-section was the solution, and Baby A, later known as Alexander Witherspoon Lytle, was lifted out at 6:38 in the evening on December 1. Rabbit, rabbit! Two minutes later Baby B, soon to be called Mary Jane Elizabeth Lytle, was born. Pinch, punch! First of the month!
new parents.jpg
Both babies were safely born, Anne was fine, and there was much rejoicing on both sides of the Atlantic! A newborn.jpgXander, above, weighed in at 3 lb. 12.9 oz, and Janie upped him by an ounce. She had a strong grip right from the start.Janie's grip.jpg

Both were in good shape, but the final touches involving coordinated breathing, sucking and swallowing were still to be learned. Evidence of success would show in weight gain. So they spent their first twelve days in Baystate’s NICU. They quickly shed various tubes and wires. Feeding tubes for pouring Anne's milk into their tummies remained in place.
Xander hosp 2.jpg Janie hosp 2.jpg

I was able to come home in time for their one week birthday, and I picked up Mom/Gran, the great grandmother, in North Branford. The two of us traveled together to see the new babies.gran.jpg Gran held Alexander, and I held Janie. Abu.jpg

Mark arrived a week later and was the first to hold the pair at one time.
Papa with pair.jpg

Shortly, they graduated into the Continuing Care Nursery. Many visitors in addition to their parents came by and had a chance to cuddle the little babes.

On January 7, Xander headed home, and four days later on January 11 Janie joined the family at home.

Mark, now known as Papa, had to head back for second semester classes at UCD on January 9. But I, Abu, on sabbatical myself, could make my own schedule. I settled in with Anne and Jess in South Hadley for the next several weeks. I made myself useful cooking, stoking the woodstove, doing errands, cleaning (ever so briefly) and holding, changing and feeding babies whenever I had the chance. These sweet little babies slept well and often, and they learned to nurse and to drink from a bottle - that being the easier task. Needing less sleep than in my earlier years, I happily volunteered for the middle of the night wake-up feeding. No two nights were ever the same, but somehow I changed, fed, burped and rocked both babies and put them back down, even remembering to turn Janie’s oxygen up at the beginning and down at the end. Janie was to continue with increased oxygen for a half hour after eating, and I wondered whether I would stay awake for that half hour. It turned out to be a treasured, peaceful time. I would sit by their crib in the rocker under the gentle glow of Tom’s lamp and knit, watching them through the end slats. A half hour later I would tiptoe downstairs to the oxygen tank to readjust the dial, rinse the bottles and then sneak back up to my cozy bed for a couple more hours of sleep. If I were really lucky, the dogs missed my footsteps going downstairs, and I didn’t have to quietly but firmly point out to them that it was not yet time for their breakfast.

As the days went by, Xander and Janie had more wakeful moments, fortunately during daylight hours.

both awake crib.jpg

Concentric black and white circles captured their attention.

b&w circles.jpg

Babies sleep on their backs these days so they need tummy time for exercising more muscles. Can you imagine lifting your legs like they do?

tummy time.jpg

Both lift their heads, but Alexander seems to have a notable amount of stamina for this challenge.

X head lift.jpg

They also are both intrigued by the mobile over their crib. Janie especially likes it up close and personal.

Janie and mobile.jpg

One Sunday, when Kate and Danny were visiting, we contacted Mark by phone and on-line. We used little video cams so that we could see each other across the ocean on our computer screens, and we donned the telephone headphones so we could hear each other as well. Xander happened to be awake so he caught a snippet of a Papa lecture, and Mark could hear Xander's little sounds, most of which we feel mean that he is hard at work processing, that his digestive tract is in gear, or, as Jesse puts it, he's having office hours.

xander on-line.jpg

Still, much of their days were spent asleep. Anne's grandfather had made a cradle that now holds Janie and Xander when they are downstairs during the day in the livng room near the warmth of the woodstove. They seem to settle down best when swaddled in their cozy flannel blankets. Note their jaunty caps, handknit during the dark of the night by their loving Abu!

asleep in cradle.jpg
They also sleep well in their crib upstairs in their sunny yellow bedroom. Don't they look peaceful? There are times when we would find them trying to worm their arms up and free, often out of the neck opening of the stretchsuit. We especially appreciated what we thought of as Janie's alien imitation. She can stretch her neck way high, reminding us of an alien emerging forcefully from its chrysalis.

A sleep.jpg

J asleep.jpg

As a grandparent, you get all the joys of babies for a fraction of the effort and worry of parenthood. The parents were the ones to be concerned about whether the bathwater was the right temperature for their first baths at home, and I got to be the swaddler and photographer. Then I got to have my picture taken, too!after bath.jpg

Anne and Jess are seemingly tireless, patient, enthusiastic and loving parents. They are also sensible and generous. family2.jpg Janie and Xander are lucky little kids. I also count myself incredibly lucky to have had the time and opportunity to share their new babies with them. It was not without tears that I wrenched myself away on February 2.

I brought these photos of the babies with me, and I marvel at their growth over the first 8 weeks of their lives. At their due date towards the end of January, they looked like healthy little newborns. Xander weighed 6 lb. 13 oz., and Janie weighed 6 lb. 2 oz.
Janie awake.jpg

xander awake.jpg
Fortunately, I had Mark and Ireland to return to, no small thing - and plane tickets for a trip back in March!

P.S. I was just chatting with Anne and listening to Xander sounds, and I told her how hard it was to send only these few photos. Would you be surprised to know that there are hundreds in existence? You can count your lucky stars that I was somewhat circumspect. (And you can also ask for more!)

Posted by gretchen at February 9, 2005 12:38 PM


Lucky lucky little ones and even more lucky are the grandparents! The pictures are such a wonderful journal of their first journey. Thanks for sharing Gretchen.

Posted by: Anita Jones at February 10, 2005 02:53 PM

How sweet Gretchen! Reading this and seeing the pictues makes me well up! They're getting so big! I'm anxious to get back to South Hadley to do some more burping!

Posted by: Danny at February 10, 2005 08:36 PM

Dear Gretchen and Mark,

What a joy to see your fantastic pictures of the babies and to enjoy your commentary. Those two wee ones don't know yet how blessed they are in grandparentdome. Hope to see all soon. Diane Kang

Posted by: Diane Kang at February 14, 2005 06:52 PM

Hello, We got your Christmas card. Thank you so much! We really enjoyed reading about your year. It sounds so interesting. Hope to talk to you soon. Happy Holidays!

Posted by: Andy Gresho and Family at December 16, 2005 01:30 AM