Archive for the ‘sprout’ Category

The Sound Of Crazy

June 27, 2008

I read somewhere, some time ago, that the sound of an infant crying is one of the most stress-inducing sounds for the human ear to hear; it induces anxiety in the listener, and for good reason – a baby’s survival naturally depends upon its ability to command the resources of its mother or father or any other adult human being that is equipped to care for it. Our natural response, then, to a baby’s cry, is to rush to it and seek to resolve whatever problem is causing said baby to cry. Which is great, for the baby. Not so great for the exhausted mother who really, really wants to sleep, badly, or at least have her arms to herself for a minute or two, but can’t, because her particular baby a) has recurring gastrointestinal challenges that, quite understandably, upset him and cause him to cry, and b) just really likes to be held ALL THE FREAKING TIME and is not afraid to say so.

I’ve also read, everywhere, that when baby’s crying gets to be too much, you should just take a break. Put baby down somewhere safe, they say, and walk away for a few minutes and stretch and breathe and try to calm yourself down. Which, ha. Did ‘they’ not get the memo on the stress-inducing pitch of an infant’s cry? I can no more walk away from my crying baby to stretch and breathe and “calm myself down” (*makes frantic air quotes with fingers*) than I could leave my toddler playing with her crayons in the middle of a busy street while I painted my toenails or some such shit. NOT. POSSIBLE.

Fine, they say. If that doesn’t work: get help. Find someone to hold baby while you take a break, take a bath, listen to some music. Which, yeah, great idea. UNLESS there’s no-one around to help. Unless your husband is working these super-insane long hours making stupid TV commercials that are really only hastening the decline of civilization anyway so even though you know the paycheck is important you’re all like whaddup dude plz come home but anyway he’s just not at home when you could most use the break and he’s not going to be home for the whole goddamned long weekend and you live in a new town and only know, like, one other person and maybe you could call on your neighbors but, um, you’re topless because holy hell the nipple chafing and in any case the ones that are around in the daytime are mostly elderly and your giant freakishly strong baby would probably break their arms and so what are you supposed to do then, huh? HUH? ANSWER ME THIS, BABY EXPERTS. And, then, prescribe me some Zoloft, because, seriously.

He’s sleeping now, merciful heavens, pressed against me, his chest rising and falling against my own, his little fist curled against my neck and this is so, so sweet, but still – my arms hurt and I am tired and I am bracing myself for the long evening ahead and I am wishing that I had, the other day, given in more fully to the happiness that I suspected would be fleeting (as I was exhorted to do by a friend, who lobbed Pindar at me: We are things of a day/What are we? What are we not?/A shadow in a dream in man, no more./But when the brightness comes, and it is given by the gods/Then there is a shining of light on men, and their life is sweet. Which is ancient Greek for chill the fuck out, dude and enjoy it while it lasts. Woe that I did not do this, because my happy reserves are seriously getting depleted.)

I know that the moments of brightness are many, and my heart is nourished by the weight of my sweet, sweet baby against my breast, but still. This shit is hard.

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The Closer You Are To Fine

June 14, 2008

We spent most of the afternoon, yesterday, at the hospital. It is not a happy experience, taking your baby to the hospital. Even when you’ve mentally psyched yourself and have told yourself that it’s nothing it’s nothing it’s nothing it’s just tests they’re just being cautious it’s just tests there’s nothing wrong, it’s rough. When they tell you that you need to bring your baby to the hospital for tests, that they need to check his spine, that he has some markers for spinal problems, for serious things but maybe nothing but still maybe serious, that it might not be anything but maybe it’s something so it must be checked, it must, your heart constricts and you hold your breath.

And you can manage the constricted heart and the withholding of breath until you get there, to the hospital, but once your baby – your tiny, tiny baby – has been stripped of his tiny clothes and is laying naked on the hospital bed – a vast expanse of cold sheet beneath his tiny frame – the machines looming, menacing, around him, you struggle. You crouch beside him, cradling his head and nuzzling his cheek, babbling whispers of love into his ear, willing him to not cry, to not squirm, to let this be over, fast.

And when he does begin to cry and squirm it feels as though your heart has retracted into the furthest recesses of your chest to cower and hide.

You say to the ultrasound technician, can I lay down beneath him, put him on my belly, my chest? Can we do it that way? He’ll be calmer. And you think, I’ll be calmer.

So you remove your shirt and lay yourself down and ease your naked, struggling baby onto your own naked belly and you cradle his head between your breasts and you breath. And you breath. And you breath. And he settles into you, letting his little body relax from the arch and flex of discomfort and fear and settle, softly, into the curves of your belly and breast and lay there, eyes fluttering, cries turning to gurgles and squawks, and he rests. Happy now, safe now.

And it occurs to you, as you lay in the dark, on the hospital bed, an ultrasound wand hovering above your body, the light from the screen of the sonograph flickering just out of sight, that this is just as it was some weeks ago, before he arrived, when he was still in your belly, tucked away safe in your belly, and you were wishing with all your heart that he’d come out soon so that you could hold him your arms and nuzzle his little head and keep him safe here, in the outside, out in the big wide world but always, always pressed close to your heart.

And he did, and you do. And you tell him, in the softest of whispers – and you tell yourself, in the loudest of internal cries – that he is safe, that you will keep him safe, and that it will all be fine, no matter what.

And he is, and you do, and it will be. It will be.

(We don’t know the results of the ultrasound. We probably won’t know for another week. I’m choosing to not dwell on it. I’m choosing to simply believe that it will all be fine.)

21 Days

June 9, 2008
Nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing…


nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.

Speed Racer: The Birth Story

May 22, 2008

The first contraction hit at 7:46 pm. I know this, because I checked the time. I was pretty sure that it was just more false labor, but still. One always hopes. So I checked the time, and then went back to eating my fajita.

Ten minutes later another contraction hit. Ow, I said to no one in particular. That hurt.

Was that one different? HBF asked. Is it time?

Probably not. I’ll just wait and see.

Eight minutes later I was doubled over. Emilia pulled out her doctor’s kit and held the stethoscope to my belly. Baby brother wants to come out now?

I don’t know sweetie.

HBF: Should we go in?

I don’t know. It might be another false alarm.

HBF: I think we should go in.

I don’t know. (*doubles over*)

HBF: Seriously.

Fifteen minutes later we were in the car, no thanks to me. I dawdled, even as the contractions sped up, reluctant to go in to the hospital and face another round of eye-rolling if these were, as I thought, just another bout of bad false contractions. HBF prodded and pushed until I relented and buckled into the passenger seat. We drove away at 8:26pm, just as another bad contraction hit.

And then another.

And another.

We were barely fifteen minutes from home – and still probably some thirty minutes from our downtown hospital – when it became apparent that whatever was happening was happening quickly. Very quickly. Since we’d left home, the contractions had gone from eight minutes or so apart to barely a minute apart to not apart at all. HBF called 911; 911 patched him through to an ambulance; the ambulance advised that we pull off the highway and wait for them.

HBF: Pull off and wait?

(Me: GAAAAAR-OHMYGOD-GAAAAAR-NOTGOINGTOMAKEIT-GAAAAAR!!!)

(Emilia: WHAT’S MOMMY YELLING ‘BOUT DADDY?!)

HBF: I really don’t think we have time to stop and wait.

Ambulance Dispatch: We can’t chase you down, sir.

HBF: Then I’ll just keep driving.

Mad vehicular dashes to hospitals with women in labor are usually played for laughs on film and television. Let me tell you: there is nothing funny about racing toward a hospital that seems to recede ever further into the horizon as you speed forward in excruciating pain, your body completely out of your control, medical disaster ever more imminent with every passing second. Even when the toddler in the back seat starts shouting MOMMY YOU NEED MEDICINE YOU NEED MY TOADSTOOL? it’s not funny. It’s stone-cold terrifying.

And when your body just starts bearing down and pushing and you cannot stop it and then you’re still like ten minutes away from the hospital and the baby starts shoving its way out of your parts and OMG YOU CAN FEEL IT COMING OUT? Then? Your mind kind of snaps.

(So does the mind of your husband, who at this point is simultaneously driving a speeding vehicle with one hand on the horn and the other trying to feel for baby’s head between your legs while shouting into his phone-headpiece to someone at the ER that the baby’s coming the baby’s coming you need to be ready when we get there!)*

We arrived at the hospital at about 9:05pm. At the wrong entrance. Which was locked. Sufficient banging and the luck of some random guy wandering through the lobby got us in, and much shouting from HBF brought the medical team that had been waiting for us running. I was already mid-delivery: the bag of waters was being involuntarily pushed out – intact – and the baby was crowning. Eleven minutes later, at 9:16pm – after much horror-movie-worthy screaming – Jasper was out.

90 minutes from start to finish of active labor. Eleven minutes after stepping out of the vehicle. Fourth degree tearing (borderline) requiring on-the-spot surgery which, you know, without epidural or spinal anaesthesia or anything more significant than local anaesthetic and an extra-strength Tylenol? Almost as hair-raising as the near in-vehicle delivery. Almost.

It was terrifying. The most terrifying experience of my life, bar nothing.

But still, still… after all that – there’s him. Big and hale and hearty and a joy – an infinite joy – to behold. Worth any measure of terror, worth any measure of pain.

And the best birthday present ever.

*****

HBF broke, like, a zillion traffic laws, but he was a hero, he really was, getting us to the hospital in the nick of time. We found out immediately after the birth that we couldn’t have delivered Jasper safely without help – the cord was wrapped around his neck. There was, quite literally, not a second to spare. My mind snaps a little bit more every time I think about this. Which is why I’m going to try to not think about it anymore.

I bitch about the gods a lot, but someone or something was looking out for us. And for that – for everything – I am deeply, deeply grateful.

Now, am going to rest. Really.

*******


Because you asked: he weighed 9 lbs 2 oz – just a hair under what the ultrasound indicated. Around 20 inches long with a VERY big head (and chubby cheeks with one dimple).

And Emilia was right there until the gory parts, at which point she was enlisted by nurses to help supervise the nursing desk until it was slightly less terrifying for her to enter the room. When she did rejoin us, she was all smiles – huge smiles – and bursting with pride for having helped bring her baby brother into the world.

Birth Day

May 20, 2008

Miss Emilia would like to introduce you all to her baby brother, Mister Jasper, who arrived last night at 9:16pm.

After very narrowly escaping being born at the side of the road.

Their bad mother, who is happy but nonetheless shell-shocked from what was – no exaggeration – a somewhat traumatic birth experience, needs to recover for a day or two before sharing that story. In the meantime, accept this photo and a weakly blown virtual kiss as both birth announcement and thank-you (for your amazing support during this crazy pregnancy) card.

xo

Getting Down To Business: Update

May 17, 2008

No baby. Lost rocked, though, so, hey, there was that.

Spent the better part of today at hospital while doctors fussed over size of baby and fact of ongoing contractions that seem to go nowhere. The baby? IS HUGE. Well over nine pounds now and measuring off the chart for length and head size and everything size and very near to the point where they automatically recommend c-section. My doctor, however, is very anti-c-section unless absolutely medically necessary so there was consultation after consultation with other doctors and OBs about whether the fact that my body has been preparing itself slooowly for ‘natural’ labor is reason enough to wait some more days.

They decided that it is. Wait.

I cried.

Which, embarassing, but still. CANNOT do this. Need this baby out. And would strongly prefer that the ‘getting out’ not involve my nether regions being torn to shreds by a gargantuan head and general fetal massivosity.

I’m now exhausted and in pain and terrified of staying pregnant while this baby grows and grows and becomes too big to fit out my hoo-ha. And the castor oil? Has done nothing as yet. (Although, for the record? Mixed with a cocktail of cream soda and root beer – don’t ask – it doesn’t taste all that bad.) NOTHING.

So. Having tried pretty much everything – seriously – that there is to try, all that’s left is praying.

Am praying.

Getting Down To Business

May 15, 2008

Why I have to have this baby this weekend, or else:

1) Because if I have to go through another full day or night of ‘false’ but nonetheless really f*cking painful labor contractions, I may be compelled to shoot myself in the head, or dope myself to sleep with vodka, and neither of those things would be good for the baby, would they?

2) Because my current daily ratio of sleeping to not-sleeping, given the above, in hours as measured on a 24-hour clock – 2:24.

3) Because once tonight’s episode of Lost is over, I’ll only have 6 days and 23 hours in which to get this baby out and sorted so that I’m back on schedule to watch the next episode, next week.

4) Because it’s my birthday next week, and a) I’d prefer that this child be born at least a few days before or after my own birthday, and I’m not waiting until next weekend (see #’s 1 – 3 above), and b) I’d very much like to have a vodka martini on that day, and not one that is cut with castor oil.

5) Because, have you seen me lately? I am the size of a small dirigible. And if this baby was pushing 8lbs over two weeks ago – even allowing for margins for error – I do not even want to contemplate how big he will be next week.

6) Because I’m ready. We’re ready. It’s time.

So, having exhausted all other options except Eggplant Parmesan (cooked eggplant being a couple of notches below castor oil on my personal list of stomachable foodstuffs and beverages), I’m pretty certain that I will be quaffing some castor oil within 24 hours of the closing credits scrolling onscreen for tonight’s episode of Lost. I am well aware that many of you will regard this as reckless, reckless behaviour, but still: am at wit’s end. Must act. Gastrointestinal discomfort, even in the extreme, is, at this point, among the very least of the physical evils that I face, including but not restricted to intermittent but ongoing painful labor and the many-days long stretch of no sleep caused by that labor. Diarrhea? MEH.

Am forging ahead. Hopefully, the next time you hear from me will be from the other side. Otherwise, expect more bitching.

PS -I refuse to confirm or deny any of the name guesses made on my last post, but I will say this: you will know. It may be a one-time only deal, but I will share the name with you. After I share it with him.

My Baby, By Any Other Name…

May 13, 2008

We’ve known Sprout’s name for a long time. Naming him, in fact, was one of the easier parts of child-preparation for us. It came to us, and it felt right, and that was that. So he has a name, and we – and Wonderbaby – have been referring to him by name for a long time. Which I love, because he’s already part of the family, someone we know, someone whose name is included with all of our own when we talk about the future, or when we whisper good wishes to everyone we love at bedtime. I love that Wonderbaby discusses him freely with anyone who asks – I have a baby brudder his name is xxxxxx I love him I gonna share my toys we gonna have CAKE and and and I love him and I kiss him LIKE THIS (blows kiss at mommy’s belly) – as though he were already here, which he is, of course, in the most important way, in our hearts.

And I’ve gotten accustomed to the occasional eyebrow being raised when Wonderbaby utters his name. It’s not a strange name – artists and writers and characters of fiction have had this name – but it is a little on the eccentric side, maybe. It’s not a name that you hear every day. So, yes, there have been moments when an utterance of his name provokes those arched brows and a politely restrained oh isn’t that an unusual name. Which doesn’t bother me. It’s his name, and I just know that it’s perfect for him, even having not yet met him. I just know. It just is.

Still, I avoided telling my mother, because I knew she’d hate it. I knew, because she hated all the boys names that I mentioned to her when Wonderbaby was just a Wonderfetus, gender unknown. “Theodore? Theo? Oh, NO, honey, I don’t like that name AT ALL. Not AT ALL.” I knew that I would have to preface any announcement of his name with the caveat that she would not like it and that I wouldn’t care and that she’d just have to deal, etc, etc, but still. I knew that it would be an uncomfortable conversation. I knew that there would be an awkward silence over the telephone. I knew that she would sigh deeply and maybe issue a protracted hmmmm before saying something to the effect of I don’t know, Cath and I suppose that I’ll have to get used to it. Which is exactly what she did, yesterday, when I told her.

I’m not crazy about it.

I knew that you wouldn’t be.

I just worry… will kids make fun of him? What will you call him for short?

MOM. It’s not unusual enough for him to be made fun of just because of that. There are far more unusual boys’ names out there. And I don’t know what we’ll call him for short. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that this is his name.

Well… (DEEP SIGH) I suppose that I’ll have to get used to it.

Yes. Yes, you will.

What about Theodore? Didn’t you want that name before? I’ve always liked that name…

I love my mother, I really do, and have always valued and admired her naked honesty – she is very nearly constitutionally incapable of withholding her opinion – and I had told myself that I just wouldn’t care if she didn’t like his name, I had told myself that I knew she wouldn’t like it, that I was prepared for her to not like it. But still… there was a moment there, the briefest moment between his name falling from my lips and her reaction to that name, during which I held my breath and willed her to like it. Wished for her to like it, to recognize it as the perfect name, as his name. And so I was deflated when she reacted as I had expected. Disappointed.

Because, as I keep saying, it is his name, his perfect name, and I feel lucky to have found it, just as I felt lucky to have found Wonderbaby’s perfect name. So, the larger part of me says that it does not matter what anyone else thinks: I am his mother, and, along with his father, I hold responsibility for his naming, for finding the name that is uniquely his. Only we can recognize that name. It is ours to give to him, his to take from us, his to wear, his to own. Even if he grows up to hate it – which is always a possibility – it will remain his name, his original name, the one that I will whisper in his ear the very moment that he is first placed in my arms and that I will shout from the rooftops at every opportunity thereafter.

But, but… my instructions to my mother – get used to it, you will just have to get used to it – remind me that to some extent a name really is just a name, just a word, something that we get used to, something that grows on us, something that becomes our own because of what we make of it, not because it fell from the sky of ideas like a shooting star into our mother’s lap and presented itself as sacred, sacrosanct, perfect. Our boy will be our boy, regardless of his name, regardless of whether we call him Jack or John or Junior or Pilot Inspektor. He will, if our experience with Wonderbaby is anything to go by, have many names, be called many things, be referred to by many terms of endearment. He will be, no doubt, our Prince, our Pirate, our Monster, our Parakeet, our Crunch. And no matter what he is called, he will always be him.

The him that he is, though – the him that he will be – that ‘him’ has a name, a name that I, we, have given him, a name that we love him by, and will always love him by. His name, his very own name. It is indeed special, and it will be the first word that he hears.

What anybody else thinks of it? Doesn’t matter. It’s between we and him.

(A question that vexes me, though: DO I TELL THE INTERNETS? I’ve long wanted to stop calling Wonderbaby ‘Wonderbaby’ and call her by her real name. And I’d so love to share Sprout’s real name. But I’ve become so accustomed to using pseudonyms, even as I’ve become less convinced of their protective effect. This, however, is another topic for another day, and something to distract me while I continue suffering through this interminable, unpredictable labor.)

White Flag

May 1, 2008

This is probably the last (intrauterine) picture of my boy:


It’s not the best picture, not least because he’s a bit squished up in there and he wouldn’t hold still and so what might otherwise be a sweet sideways view of his wee face turned out to be a sweet sideways view of a wee face with two noses and four eyes. Which, you know, wouldn’t stop us from loving him with all our hearts, but still. It doesn’t matter, though, two eyes or four: it’s a picture. It’s him.

This picture was taken two days ago, when I was 36 weeks and 4 days pregnant. His estimated weight, at time of picture taking?

7 LBS 12 OZ.

With over three weeks to go until my supposed due date, he weighs 7 lbs and 12 oz. And he’s been trying to punch and kick his way out for days now. No wonder my body has started advanced labor training already: I just might be facing childbirth on a par with the Battle of Thermopylae, where my nether regions are the pass at Thermopylae and this child is the Persians.

Whether I end up like Leonidas remains to be seen. At this point, I’m already conquered, so it doesn’t really matter, does it? Take the pass, my fetal Xerxes, and just try not to break anything, please.

PLEASE?

Seconds

April 21, 2008

In four weeks, give or take some days, I will give birth. To a baby. Another one.

At this point in my first pregnancy, I was totally prepared for the arrival of the baby and for any and all potential natural disasters and had already moved on to alphabetizing the boxes of teas in the tea cupboard. I had purchased and assembled (okay, had husband assemble) a stroller (carefully selected after extensive research) and a crib (examined and re-examined and re-examined again for possible defects and potential baby-head-mangling gaps.) I had outfitted the crib in organic cotton linens and stocked the dresser with impossibly tiny onesies and receiving blankets and diapers and diaper ointment and baby jammies and wee socks and booties and even some of those creepy little fingerless cotton mittens that I never did use. I had stocked the bookshelves with baby books, and put pictures up on the walls, and put little stuffed toys on the daybed. If that baby came early, I was ready. If that baby came late, I was ready. If a tornado hit and shut down the city and we were suddenly faced with an extreme diaper cream shortage? I was ready. If the ice caps melted and the streets flooded and we were suddenly forced to float south on a crib made bouyant by a thousand Pampers Swaddlers and some teething rings? I. WAS. READY.

This time? I am not ready. Not even close.

I have one new onesie for this child – one – and that was a gift. I haven’t even gone through Wonderbaby’s baby things – the stuff that I didn’t give away in the weeks and months during which I was convinced that I would never go through that new child thing again, HELL NO – to see if there is, by chance, one or two onesies or pajama sets that are not a) pink, or b) irretrievably shit-stained. The bassinet is in storage, as is the infant car seat. The BabyBjorn was given away, loooong ago, after Wonderbaby rejected it. And the nursery? Looks like this:


Those are bins of laundry – washed, yes, but unfolded, because who has time for that? – in the foreground. And a vacuum cleaner. And while there are books and magazines on the bookshelf, they’re all old New Yorker magazines, Penguin Classics paperbacks and Martin Amis novels. Not a single work of Margaret Wise Brown to be found.

I tell myself that it doesn’t mean anything, my inattention to the details of preparing for the arrival of this child. I tell myself that I’m slacking because I learned from the last one that all the organic cotton onesies and stocks of diaper cream in the world can’t prepare you for the onslaught of mess and noise and love that a baby brings. I tell myself that what’s different this time is that I know that money can’t buy me baby-love. Or peace, or quiet, or security from fear. I tell myself that I’m not nesting, that I’m not feathering the nest, because I know that the feathers don’t matter. That only my love, and his father’s love, and his sister’s love matter.

But still I worry. Isn’t there a fine line between acknowledging what doesn’t matter, and not caring? Mightn’t I be perched on the slippery slope of devoting less care and attention to this child? This second child?

When I first found out that I was pregnant this time around, I was gripped – along with the joy – with fear and anxiety and ambivalence. I worried that while I was providing Wonderbaby with a wonderful, wonderful gift in a new sibling, I might also be depriving her of me – my love, my devotion, my attention, all of these things, undivided. I don’t worry about that anymore. She has been and will always will be given enough love and attention and adoration to last lifetimes. Now, instead, I worry that I am bringing her brother into a life where everything that he is offered – love, attention, adoration, onesies – is divided. Handed down. Seconds. Even if what he is being handed down – even if what is divided – is in quantities that can only be measured by infinities, doesn’t it matter that these are still seconds? That whatever he has – kisses, hugs, baby socks – will have been had by his sister, literally or figuratively, first?

That my love for him – although perhaps more the sweeter for coming from a calmer, more mature place – will not be my first, most intense love?

I will love him – DO love him – to the height and depth and breadth my soul can reach, etc. There will be no gaps or shortages in that love; there will be no further distance that that love could travel, no greater height that love could climb. It is, and will be, complete.

But it will always be the love that came second.

Does that matter?