Monday, August 24, 2009

Not My Most Refined Post

Note: I did write this on Sunday morning, but Blogger refused to let me post it then. So, here’s my second attempt!

Okay. So here I am at 4:45 a.m. on Sunday morning. Wide awake.

For once, the baby is sleeping peacefully. He’s cozied up next to Brett in the bed – which seems to suit them both very much. I can hardly put Sam in his bassinet before Brett is reaching in to take him out for “snuggle time.”

I have to say I think I am the only one NOT surprised by Brett’s reaction to fatherhood. Anyone who knows Brett knows he is not a fan of kids. I always knew it would be different once it was his own.

I was right. He adores Sam with every fiber of his being. And God knows I’m glad he is so patient. It helps that one of us is.

Sam is very much his daddy’s boy, and I couldn’t be happier. I know he loves me, too, but there is something very moving about watching a father and son bond. Especially when I happen to be head over heels crazy in love with both of them.

Over the past month, I’ve really wanted to blog.

There have been many topics I find myself needing to write about, wanting to explore. So much to say and no time to say it in.

I “knew” about the sleeplessness. At least, I’d heard about it. I had no idea it could be relentlessly exhausting. I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again – how do single mothers do it? I am endlessly amazed and impressed with the caliber of these women!

I mean, I have live-in help! I’m on maternity leave, and Brett is unemployed. There are two of us right now with the singular purpose of taking care of a little ten pound human being. And still. There is no time to eat, sleep, organize, and (my life’s breath) WRITE!

I had no idea how much I would mourn the loss of my time. Not that I don’t cherish the time with Sam.

I just miss being able to eat three times a day when I was hungry, as opposed to now, where I have to jam in whatever is available when the baby gives me a break.

My life had changed, as I knew it would. I’m glad, but also still adjusting.

Everything is compounded, of course, by Brett’s unemployment, my looming and possible job loss, our recent move to the apartment, and our race to clean out the house pre-foreclosure notice.

Perhaps the biggest change (aside from the lack of sleep, as that is the ever-present elephant in the room – God knows if there is ever need of evidence that man has indeed “fallen,” the newborn parents’ lack of sleep is rock solid), has been my membership in the circle of moms.

I find myself needing advice, wanting advice, on subjects that would have sent me snoring only a few short months ago.

What’s strangest of all is that – when I ask for advice – I receive it, on a variety of subjects, from wonderful women the world over. I have never been so grateful for the advice of relative strangers. God bless the pea-pickin’ internet.

I am also most appreciative for my cousin Candice who serves as my toll-free number for absurd baby questions.

Case in point, last night I was trying to sort Sam’s clothes. I called Candice, mystified, as to whether “24 months” was the same as “2T.” And what does the “T” mean, anyway? As I rambled on, I found myself peppering my long-suffering cousin with questions about clothes size, babies, and bottles.

Eventually, I just flat-out asked her, “How did you do this?”

She laughed and told me that the key is taking it one day at a time and not giving in to fear. “Every baby is different. You’ll figure it out,” she promised me.

Thanks to her help, I just might.

Speaking of bottles, I have to say my vocabulary has completely changed. Never in my life have I said “nipples” as many times a day as I do now.

My nearly-40-year-old husband still has a 15-year-old reaction to the word. Which leaves me rolling my eyes and asking if and when men ever grow up.

I also use the word “poopy” much more than I ever thought I would. I am not proud of this fact, but I am nothing if not transparent on this blog, and so now you know.

I am no longer ashamed of my “poopy” word usage. There I said it. Do you believe me?

There are so many things I am uncovering about motherhood. Some are hard (constant crying – me and the baby, not knowing what’s wrong, exasperation, and exhaustion), but there are moments.

Like singing my father’s favorite hymns to Sam and watching the wonder and peace move across his face. Seeing Brett lift Sam up for a kiss. Being the only one the baby wants. The joy in my mother’s eyes when she sees “her Sammy.”

Suffice it to say, the one thing I am most aware of is that Sam’s very existence is proof of God. Proof, even, that God answered my specific prayer.

Sometimes it’s easier to remember this than others. When Sam’s crying, and I don’t know why, I find myself praying, “Okay, Lord, this is YOUR child…”

Other times, like when I sing hymns to Sam, the realization that I hold tangible evidence of God’s love for me is overwhelming. And humbling.

I hope to find more time to write and balance it with my new life – with our new life.

Not writing, not blogging, is just not an option. I mean, I have to write.

Anything else would just be…poopy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

On Being the Noisy Neighbors


That’s what I think when I sit in the living room of our new apartment.

I mean - screaming, flag-waving, kilt-wearing, blue-faced Mel Gibson charging his horse down a hill - FREEDOM!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I love apartment living. I always have.

Far less space to clean. No more yard work. No more snow shoveling. No more home repairs.

I like both the social opportunities and delightful anonymity apartment living provides. I like knowing if Brett isn’t home, at least SOMEONE in the building is, and if some desperate robber/rapist (I say desperate because we don’t have any money, and I am about as far from a supermodel as one can get) breaks in, I can scream my lungs out and there’s a good chance someone will call 911 on my behalf.

I love hearing the bumps and thumps that come from living near other people. I love hearing a shower come on at 3:00 a.m. I like the thumping bass of our neighbor’s guitar. I like the sense of community. It makes me feel young, alive, and vital. In an apartment, I am urbane, engaged, and wired.

It also helps me not feel the least bit guilty when Sam screams his lungs off at 2:00 a.m., since we can barely hear him over the roar of hard rock emanating from the walls.

It’s funny how life comes full circle.

Back when we were first married and in an apartment, we lived above a couple of young guys who worked the night shift. They’d come home around 1:00 a.m. and turn on their game system full blast. Unfortunately for us, their game room was situated directly underneath our bedroom.

The incessant blare of gunfire, bombs, and witty dialogue present in Grand Theft Auto did not lull Brett to sleep. I, however, enjoyed the free massage thanks to the vibrations coming from the floor boards.

Over the course of a couple of weeks, Brett went downstairs several times and politely asked the “boys” to turn it down. They were polite right back with promises to turn it down. And, of course, they never did.

Brett (in the running to become the cranky old man who calls the cops on his neighbors) called the cops. But, in a strange twist, he was actually the one who got scolded.

I tried to talk him out of it. I did.

“It’s just not that big a deal,” I said. “They’re, like, 20 years old. Don’t you remember 20?” I said this from the perspective of actually BEING in my 20’s at the time.

He swore up and down that he had never been that obnoxious. I believed him. He’s actually a pretty polite guy (except in traffic. Oh, no. Not. In. Traffic.).

Now, you have to remember Brett grew up in the quaint, country town of Geneva. This was Geneva of 40-odd years ago, not the shopping and development metropolis it is today. I, on the other hand, grew up in crime-ridden, gritty Rockford, Illinois, where – while corruption may not be king; it is at least governor.

Don’t ask me when or how I knew this, but I KNEW that you ONLY call 911 in Rockford if someone is a.) dead, b.) dying, c.) bleeding profusely, or d.) actually on fire.

However, in Geneva, you call 911 if your cat is up a tree.

So, when Brett told me he was going to call the police and invoke the wrath of our downstairs neighbors, I ASSUMED he meant he was going to call the non-emergency number.


Instead, he called 911 where, when he explained the reason for his call, the dispatcher rightly reamed him for “wasting our valuable time.”

Brett was shaken, and I bit back the “told you so,” on my tongue.

When we moved to our house, Brett insisted a huge part of his happiness was due to leaving “those rude neighbors” behind.

During our first night in our new apartment, Sam got us up at 2:00 a.m. screaming his precious little lungs out. Brett’s eyes got as big as saucers as he frantically tried to shush our son.

I had to laugh, since Brett just kept saying an irritated, “Shhhh” louder and louder, as though that would have any effect on Sam. Meanwhile, I could see the thought coasting through his mind – “What will our neighbors think?”

We eventually got Sam calmed down and back to sleep. The next day Brett was freaking out about what the neighbors thought.

I told him I could give a rip because a.) we already know three people in the building have babies – they’ve been there, done that, b.) apartment living means making concessions to other people’s noise, and c.) what are we going to do? Move to a deserted island? Babies make noise, plain and simple. No matter where we live, Sam will have the volume cranked up to MAX occasionally.

Still, I could tell it really bothered Brett that we had become “those” neighbors.

Until last night. Blessed last night.

We arrived home late from moving some more house-to-apartment stuff. As we climbed the stairs, we reached our floor and were instantly surrounded by the pulsating rhythm of our neighbor’s stereo – a screaming lead vocalist accompanied by a raucous band of guitars, drums, and (I’m pretty sure) a cannon.

The noise continued well into the twilight and morning hours. Sam wasn’t the least affected by the noise, and we were both relieved our little boy would not be the annoyance we had feared.

As Brett expressed his gratefulness for our neighborly noisemakers, I made the observation that he might just owe an apology to those young kids from our early apartment years. He smiled, just a little ruefully. Oh, the lessons parenthood brings!

A few minutes later, he looked over at me. “You know, if they ever DO call the police on us, I hope they know not to call 911. If they do, they’ll really be in trouble!”

Oh, the lessons being a cranky old man brings.

P.S. - Have I mentioned how much I love my new apartment? Do you know how much I love it? I totally didn’t notice it doesn’t have a microwave! Oops. Don’t care. Still love it!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

And Then There Were Three

The truth is…I didn’t want to be induced.

All my fantasies of pregnancy and childbirth had included the penultimate moment of my water breaking.

I had visualized the moment in my mind a hundred times. Where would it happen? At work? At church? In the middle of Panera? (which would have seemed more than appropriate given this pregnancy.)

But, I had resigned myself to induction. I had spoken with friends who had never had their water break naturally. And, despite all the horror stories about Pitocin, I trusted my OB to know what was best for me.

After all, the man and his staff have spent nine years supporting us in our infertility and nine precarious months caring for me and my high-risk baby. He could have told me to walk backwards on my hands over London Bridge, and I would have done it, no questions asked.

Saturday night found us at Mom and Gary’s enjoying a delicious meal and several rousing rounds of Sequence. We went over our plans for Sunday – go grocery shopping and get the fridge stocked, pack all the “last-minute” items in the going-to-hospital bag, and get a solid night’s sleep before our Monday appointment.

We left Mom and Gary’s and headed home. I fell asleep almost immediately, but Brett couldn’t sleep and went downstairs to watch a movie.

At 4:30 a.m., I had my usual going-to-the-bathroom pregnancy urge and rolled out of bed. About six steps away from the bed, I felt a sudden rush and looked down to see a strange water spot spreading ruthlessly over the carpet.

The realization hit me in the gut as I stood frozen over the spot, afraid if I moved the mini-Niagara would stop. Eventually, I hunch-walked to the bathroom where I accomplished my original goal. Then, I went back to the water spot and confirmed that the whole thing wasn’t just a dream.

Feeling exhilarated and breathless, I fled to the top of the stairs where I shouted joyously, “Brett! My water broke!”

Proving he is not a man prone to panic, my husband calmly paused his movie and called up, “It did? Okay, be right up.”

In a minute, he was beside me staring at the water spot. When I expressed doubt in my own perception and bladder, he proved he is the man I love by getting down on his hands and knees and sniffing the spot like a dog just to be sure.

“Odorless,” he proclaimed, CSI-like, remembering the C.O.A.T. clause from our prenatal class (you can tell amniotic fluid by it’s Color, Odor, Amount, and Timing).

With our assessment agreed upon, I called Mom.

“Mom! My water just broke,” I crowed into the phone, as though I had something to do with it.

“What time is it?” Mom said, groggily re-surfacing.

“It’s a quarter to five.”

“I thought it was 2:00 a.m.” said Mom, still focusing on the time, the other news just background noise for the moment.

A second later, she seemed to energize with the news. After a short discussion, we decided Mom and Gary would head to the hospital just in case the baby came quickly.

(And the heavens fell helpless with laughter.)

Brett drove silently to the hospital while I chattered on like a magpie. I was strangely triumphant about my water-breaking, as though some great and mysterious power had been granted to me.

The streets were deserted at 5:00 a.m., and we were at the emergency room entrance to Swedes before we knew it. We gathered our accoutrements, like Civil War soldiers preparing for battle, and barged into the entrance like Elvis at the Apollo.

Our excitement took a chill pill as we had to wait at least twenty minutes for a nurse from the maternity ward to wheel me up to maternity admitting.

Before I knew it, I was hustled into a hospital gown and told that my water had “indeed” broken, and so I was actually “in labor.”

At that point, I had only experienced some twitches in my abdomen and was feeling pretty good, buoyed by the realization that nine years of waiting was almost to an end.

The nurse brought me back to reality when she pointed out that if I wanted an epidural, I should decide now, since they would have to do a blood test and many things would have to be confirmed before I could actually RECEIVE the epidural.

I felt fine, and I almost decided to wait, until I had a flashback of my cousin Candice in flown-blown labor before her epidural. I remembered the writhing, the pain in her face, and her impassioned plea that “No one should do this. EVER!”

So, I decided to fly my pain-wuss flag bravely, and told them to “hook me up!”

Somewhere in all the excitement, Mom and Gary arrived, already in proud grandparent mode.

A wonderful woman arrived a few moments later, introduced herself as my anesthesiologist, and proceeded to do an amazing job of keeping me distracted while giving me the best baby gift ever – no pain.

She also had one of the best quotes I’ve ever heard. “I’m a lot of peoples’ best friend for about ten minutes.”

The day slowly began to slip by. I was in labor, but I felt great. Mom, Brett, and Gary passed through the room, sat with me, and relieved the others as they ate, drank, and slept. I updated my status on Facebook (the supportive comments buoyed me even further toward the stratosphere), read my book, and chatted long-distance on the phone with my sister-cousin, Charity.

Suddenly, in the afternoon, I began to have some back pain. I wasn’t alarmed at first, since the anesthesiologist had warned me the epidural doesn’t always block all back pain.

However, the pain began to intensify, and before I knew it I was reliving my Candice flash-back from earlier - writhing in pain as horrible demon beasts feasted on my internal organs. I was panting, squeezing Brett’s hand, and cursing the human body’s high threshold for pain before passing out.

The nurses came in and were mystified. Brett was confused at how fast I had gone from serene to shrieking, and Mom looked terrified. Finally, in a burst of anger, I said, “I don’t think I’m getting the epidural anymore!”

Mom was brave enough to investigate, and sure enough, she discovered my epidural had become unhooked.

Apologetic for the mistake, the nurses plugged the tube back in. I had twenty more minutes of “real” contractions before the meds kicked in.

As I lay breathless on the bed, relief flooding to every corner of my being, I wondered aloud at the audacity and freakish fortitude of women who deliver naturally. Hats off to each and every one of you.

Never. Again.

I repeat. Never. Again.

The rest of the day slipped by. The nurses went on and off shift; my OB checked in and gave me kindness and kudos (which I felt were well-deserved, considering my twenty minutes of hellish torment). Brett slept on the rollaway bed; Mom and Gary dozed. I counted the ceiling tiles (106).

At 7:45 p.m., my OB sat on the edge of my bed. He looked me straight in the eyes with the directness, professionalism, and insightful nature I have come to love him for. “Do you think you can do this?”

I was a little startled. I knew he wanted a vaginal birth, if at all possible, but he was giving me the chance to ask for a C-section (perhaps the nurses had disclosed my earlier wussitude during the epidural-less twenty minutes).

Instead of answering confidently one way or the other, my sniveling inner-child sough affirmation. “Do you think I can do it?” I asked, just a tad fearful of his answer.

He clapped my leg and said, “I absolutely think you can do it.”

“Okay, then,” I said, emboldened by his confidence in me. “I can do it.”

(At which point, the heavens collapsed into the giggles. Again.)

He gave orders to begin pushing at 8:00 p.m. Brett took up his position on the other side of the nurse in the Red Zone, while Mom and Candice happily took up residence by my head.

I barely remember the next two hours. What I do remember is pushing. I felt exhaustion, but not pain (God bless my anesthesiologist and the evolution of medical wonders that led to the epidural). I remember my husband – the man I get so frustrated with at times – counting patiently to ten each and every time, and giving me every encouraging comment he could think of.

I know, I know. It’s an absolute cliché. But when he told me I was doing a great job, it was exactly what I needed to hear. Every time he told me to breathe, it was a reminder I needed. He was there every second of the way, and I will forever love him for the precious gift of being my partner when I needed a partner the most.

After pushing to each agonizing set of three ten-counts, Mom would feed me ice chips. Candice kept the hand-held, battery-operated fan blowing on me the whole time (I think her hand may have fallen asleep, but she never faltered.).

I could tell we were getting near the end when I felt like an oddly-shaped barbell was sitting on my tailbone. Mom, Brett, and Candice were happily shouting that they “could see the head.” After what seemed like five pushes and still no other comment, I finally said I didn’t care if they could see the head. I wanted to see some EARS!

The nurse offered to go get me a “birth mirror,” to which I ardently protested. No thank you. I mean. Gross. I had enough going on, you know?

Finally, the very last couple of pushes (Brett said, “Her lips are blue!” Candice said, “Her face is purple!” – see, these are the things I remember. I’m so vain.), and the baby, our baby – Sam – was welcomed to the world.

A very slimy alien being was placed on my chest for a split second and then whisked away for cleaning.

I vaguely remember Brett standing in the whirl of activity and just saying, “Wow.” There you have it, all the pain and suffering of childbirth through the ages and only word we can come up with is “Wow.”

I had incurred a surgical tear during the birth, so my legs were kept hoisted in the air, my OB repairing the damage, as the nurses cared for my already-quiet baby. They offered the clean baby to Brett who happily cradled his tiny son in his arms.

He held on so tightly and was so enthralled that Mom told me later, “I didn’t think he’d let anybody else hold him!”

Eventually, Mom got the chance to hold her grandson. Flesh of her flesh, blood of her blood, and tangible heritage of the first man she ever loved, my father, Robert Lawrence Trotter. His spirit and that of Brett’s mom, Jean, were the unspoken loved ones in remembrance on the night of Sam’s birth.

We were reminded how much we missed them, and saluted them the best we know how, by promising to tell Sam how much he would have been loved by his departed Grandmother and Grandfather. It is no replacement for flesh-and-blood arms, but they were amazing and godly people, and his heritage will be enriched as we honor their memories.

Candice happily hugged her new not-nephew. I will forever be grateful for my biggest fan – and fan-holding – cousin. I don’t know what I would have done without her.

Eventually, they let me put my legs down. Hallelujah.

Mom, Gary, and Candice headed home for a reprieve from the day’s excitement (Mom told me later she couldn’t sleep a wink!).

Brett and I feasted on bag lunches (I hadn’t eaten since 6:00 p.m. the previous day) while Sam was getting his first check-up.

We did have a scary moment when I passed out while trying to make it to the bathroom. But it was just a combination of blood loss and low-blood sugar, and after I recovered, we were wheeled down to the post-partum ward to wait for our son.

It didn’t take long, and about 3:00 a.m., Sam was wheeled into our room. I got to hold my son for the first time, really hold him, much nicer now that he actually looked human.

I looked down into those eyes and saw the promise delivered.

I witnessed answered prayer. Observed generations of Trotters, Rehfeldts, Newells, and Soderstroms. Spotted potential. Glimpsed the present, future, and past.

But most of all.

Perhaps the simplest of all.

Manifested in human form, I saw my heart. Forever and always, the whole of my heart.

Thank you, God, for the safe delivery of Sam.