From Melinda on 10/08/2005

Ah, what to say about our dear, sweet Angela, celebrating her first
birthday on Saturday. It's been a full year--full of grief, full of
delight, full of amazement, full of just-get-through-the-day, full of
anger and short tempers. It's been so full of so many things that words
have not been forthcoming from me, and even now come only reluctantly.
been so IN it and not so much reflecting on it, though always pondering
it in our hearts, I suppose.

Much has passed since our last update in February. Angela continued to
suffer from colds and congestion and in late March we put her on some
antibiotics for suspected bronchitis or pneumonia. She responded quite
well and by the Friday of the Pinewoods Campers Week Reunion in
Connecticut was
feeling pretty chipper. Unfortunately, over the next couple of days at
the reunion she began to feel bad again, though we still enjoyed the
chance to get out of our house and to see old friends and do a little
dancing and singing. Also to go south where the promise of spring was
more tangible than at home. A couple of weeks later we had an
appointment with the cardiologist which included a chest x-ray, which
showed her left lung completely socked in with pneumonia. We gave her 2
kinds of antibiotics and once again she responded to them instantly, and
when we took another x-ray 10 days later she had almost completely
cleared things up. Wonderful!

Highlights of our life together included:

--early April, going to a La Leche League Conference in MA. A good
seminar on talking about death with children, a nice connection with
another mother of a trisomy child (21, not 13), a mix of fun and
difficulty being around so many beautiful healthy nursing babies, having
the tiniest but not the youngest one.

--In late April, the beginning of Summer Revels Chorus rehearsals. Every
Monday evening Karina and Angela and I went to chorus rehearsals--Karina
played and slept in her sleeping bag, Angela listened from the sling or
slept in her Moses basket, I sang and tended them. This was a wonderful
boost in my life and gave me lots of memorizing work to do as I folded
laundry, washed dishes etc. throughout the week. June 18 was the
performance. Angela really did great and it was a gift that she was
still so portable and easily cared for during that time. I had thought
it would be years before I'd be able to sing in a chorus again.

--May Day, early rising for Morris dancing and brunch with friends.

--late May, a last-minute decision to go to New Mexico for dance camp and
visits with friends. Even though Angela was kind of hair-trigger fussy
during most of the visit (hindsight says she had a lot of fluid pressure
in her ears), it was SO good to have everyone there meet her (though we
miss a few people--maybe another year?!?) and just wonderful to be in
that place we love well. Very sad and strange to visit with friends
David and Sarah whose baby Ana was born and died in the week after
Angela's birth. Last year we were pregnant together looking ahead, this
year I'm holding my tiny temporary daughter and their arms are empty.
I'm thinking of them now too as this milestone which has proved to be so
joyful for us is full of grief for them.

--early July, a false promise of update from me, followed by a trip to
Ohio by van to see much of Dave's family, including his brother & aunts
who had never met Angela (also Angela's cousins who got to hold her).
Turned out there was no phone line there, ergo no email. Lack of a firm
deadline caused my intention to write to recede yet again. Nice times in
the van and along the way on Lake Erie, Seneca Falls, NY, the
Adirondacks. Great fishing
and camping at the pond in Ohio. Unfortunately Melinda had her first
run-in with dwindling milk supply, and had to spend much of the visit

--early August, Campers' Week dance camp! This felt in many ways like a
huge triumph/blessing. I had only dared to hope last March when I sent
in our registration that Angela would be with us. She got to meet the
many people she had danced with in utero last year and we all just had a
relaxing, warm, wonderful week together at camp. Grandparents Wayne and
Joyce were there too along with cousins Amy and Timothy.

--September has been full of Karina starting Kindergarten and Dave
traveling a lot for work. Busy and sometimes quite hard for all of us.

After her bout with pneumonia Angela had a couple of minor colds but
since June has been extrememly healthy and happy. She has really been
blossoming, engaging with us and her surroundings, practicing new feats
with her hands, building strength in her neck and torso. Tummy time is
still a lot of work for her and she has come to strongly prefer an
upright position--sitting or standing with support. In fact, if we would
help her, she would probably stand all day! She LOVES it, and even if
she's been crying and you stand her up, she stops, leans her head back a
little and gets this happy look on her face. She stamps her foot and
laughs or makes other happy noises. Her head and neck control are really
quite good and she likes to be carried on my hip in the sling these days.

She weighs 11 lb 12 oz as of last week but is very long for her
weight--27 in. She's still pretty tiny as you can tell but she really
looks like an older baby now, with her facial expressions and new
abilities. It is really nice to notice that when I'm around other
babies. People still ask constantly how old she is, especially when
she's asleep in the sling, because she is really still newborn size. But
she doesn't really look or act like a newborn anymore.

Angela is still drinking primarily my breastmilk, supplemented with
formula sometimes when I don't quite make enough. We just met with the
nutritionist and we're starting to introduce solids. We're still trying
to optimize her calories, though, so it's a balancing act.

We're meeting weekly with an Occupational Therapist and have regular
consults with a Physical Therapist and with someone who is helping us
assess and encourage her regarding sight and hearing. She sees and hears
some but we're still trying to figure out how and how much. We had our
first surgery with her in August, putting in ear tubes to help drain
fluid from her middle ear. Her hearing has seemed to improve but we've
not been able to test it yet. She's had her first real cold of the fall
over the last couple of weeks and though it came with a pretty bad cough
there for a while she seems to be getting over it by herself. It is hard
after such a healthy summer to anticipate the many illnesses of winter,
especially with our increased exposure through Karina's days in school.
But certainly Angela has proven to be tough and who knows what the weeks
ahead will hold for us all.

Hmm, lots of facts, not much on emotions. I think we've pushed things
underground a bit and day-to-day work has wrapped itself around us.
Also, I have tried to figure out how to express Angela's personality with
words, and find it difficult. I don't know how to convey what a neat
little kid she is. But, I am really enjoying the chance to get to know
her and to be with her so much. She's a lot of fun and is really
starting to assert herself. She has a sweetness and a toughness and just
*something* about her that draws people to her and touches them, changes
them even maybe, a tiny bit. Maybe it's just regular baby cuteness,
maybe something else. I wish all of you could have a chance to know her

So as the rain falls softly outside and October 8th approaches, I send
this out to all of you remembering this day a year ago when the start of
a new life was quickly followed by fear and sadness, but which called up
in us a fierce love and reached out to all of you who were sad with us
and showed your love to us in big and small ways, from meals and
housecleaning and wood stacking to cards and gifts and thoughts,
expressed or unexpressed. From a moment of prayer taken in a busy day or
night to the spreading of the word to churches and people all over the
world, the ripples caused by Angela's appearance in our world spread out
and were reflected in ever more complex patterns. Those patterns are
still forming, inside and outside of our daily existance.

Yet before I wax too poetic on you, I'll conclude, with a
belated-if-I've-ever-seen-one invitation for those who can to stop by
tomorrow and see how our girl has grown. We'll be having an open house
here from 10am-4pm. Bring nothing but your good cheer. We will provide
finger foods and drinks. We're planning on having a little cake around
1:00 pm. phone number (603) 353-9099.

To all of you near and far, warm regards from the Ricker family, full to
the brim right now with David, Melinda, Karina, Dylan, and Angela.