Monday, June 28, 2010

{i call back}

Each spring since I learned how to walk, I helped my father plant his vegetable garden in the southwest corner of our property. The springs and summers spent in the grass and sunshine of our half-mile stretch of land hold my fondest memories, and I call them back to my thoughts during dark, cold city nights while lying awake in bed.

I can call back the soft glow of morning's first light as it snuck into my bedroom through pink linen curtains, the fragrance of freshly picked lavender resting in a vase on my nightstand, the soft, curious sniffs on my face from our yellow Labrador as she greeted me with wet morning kisses.

I can call back the warm, organic smell my father had in the first hours of the day while still unshaven and pajama-clad, the monotone voices of National Public Radio murmuring on the stereo, the sizzling of bacon and cracking of eggs on the stove, the whirling and grinding of the blender as Dad created his famous concoction of blueberry, strawberry, grape, banana, and pineapple juices.

I can feel the cool, crisp morning air on my skin and the way it made my eyes water as we stepped out onto to the back patio and the sliding screen door snapped behind us, the dampness of the dawn's dew on the grass soaking through my tennis shoes. I can feel the roughness of the wooden fence on my palms as my brother and I raced to climb over it. I can hear the buzzing of mosquitos, the chirping of the crickets, the squawking of the birds, the humming of the locusts, the croaking of the frogs, the clinking of Gracie's collar as she ran ahead of us.

I can call back the crunch of gravel under our feet as we walked back to the old barn, the way the coolness of the shadow from the trees lining the road gave my arms goosebumps, the blinding light of the morning sun reflecting off the pond, the roar of ancient wood and metal as Dad slid the barn doors open and the aromas of horse hair, hay, and dust that came floating out.

I know how the metal tools hung neatly, high on the walls waiting to be thrust into the earth, how the wood felt solid in the palm of my small, willing hands. I know the smile in my father's eyes as he looked over what was then a plot of barren land and saw the harvest of autumn, the tenderness of his direction as he showed me how to space the seeds, the hope in his voice that his new method of discouraging weeds would finally bring success, the joy in his laugh as he caught Gracie trying to carry away his gardening gloves to bury.

I know the sensation of dark, moist earth seeping between the cracks in my palms and the spaces under my nails, the salty smell of freshly tilled dirt, the cold sting of water flowing from the hose, the creaking of the lever on the well pump, the sweat beading on my forehead and the back of my neck. I know the awe of holding a tiny-yet-powerful seed in my hand and wondering how it could ever grow into a luscious tomato, the wonder of setting it deep in a hole and covering it with soil. I know the exhilarating fear and surprise of meeting a garden snake face-to-face, the excitement of pulling a big juicy earthworm or tiny roly poly bug out of the ground, the satisfaction in chasing away lettuce-eating rabbits.

I know the cracking of corn husks as Dad pulled them off the stalks, the soft pearly touch of a ready-to-pick cherry tomato, the sticky skin of a zucchini, the pop of a green bean being pulled from its vine, the agony of carrying a giant watermelon in my arms for the long trek back to the house. I know the giant, steaming caphalon pots filled with green beans and the snapping sound they would make as Mom broke off the ends, the salivating mouths of my brother and me as we awaited fresh green beans and buttery potatoes for dinner. I know the rubbery film that would stick on my hands as I shucked fresh corn and the frustration of trying to remove every single wisp and thread from its rows, the sweetness of corn cobs cooked on the grill, the way my mother would laugh when my brother and I would stick corn kernels over our teeth to look like they were rotten, yellow, and misshapen.

I can remember the peacefulness of our backyard as the hot, sticky, summer afternoons cooled into dark, quiet evenings. I can count each tall tree and see each bed of yellow, dancing sunflowers and bright, white magnolias. I can hear my father laughing as he throws at old baseball to my brother, I can see the stars shining like thousands of fireflies in the sky, I can feel the warmth of the fire pit and the smell of perfectly roasted marshmallows. I can remember the clanking of glass as my brother and I searched the kitchen cabinets for the perfect jars, the thrill of spotting a large patch of lightning bugs, the sound of our laughter as we caught what seemed like hundreds of them, the popping sound saran wrap made as we punched little air holes for our new friends.

I can remember drifting off to sleeping staring at my new nightlights, the slight warmth my skin radiated after soaking up the sun all day, wrapping my arm around Grace as she settled deep into the cotton sheets. I can remember the quietness and soft creaking of our old ranch house when the sun went down, the soft light of the moon on my bedroom floor, the smokey smell of my father's pipe, the muffled sound of my mother's laughter.

Friday, June 25, 2010

{revenge of the nerdy mom}

This morning was big. I mean, monumental. I actually had the chance to get cleaned up (code for "brush my teeth"), get dressed (change out of my pjs), and go out on the town (the grocery store) for awhile. It was life changing. Jason is on a small break before starting summer school this coming Monday, so I was able to put Ave down for his nap & leave him at home. And leave the apartment. By myself.

It was exhilarating. I could hardly contain myself; I felt like a teenager sneaking out in the middle of the night to go tee-pee someone's house. I think I frightened some of the Dominicks employees with my eagerness to find Greek salad.

And...that's about as far as the teenager-analogy goes. I had to laugh at myself, because I used to NEVER leave the house unless I looked like I just stepped out of Seventeen, even if I was only running an errand. And I always had music on in the car, full blast, while talking on my cell phone. Today, I felt dressed up in a t-shirt and shorts, was excited to leave my phone at home, and wished the car ride was longer so I could finish listening to the story on NPR.

It made me wonder what kind of things Avram will consider dorky when he's a teenager. I know a lot of people my age who want their kids to grow up with land to roam, to take music lessons, to not have video games. They want their kids to be aware of the environment, of different cultures; they feel they somehow missed out on these things during their own childhoods.

I had to laugh because I often picture myself over the course of the next up-teen years as a parent, doing all the right things, molding Avram into this incredibily-interesting-and-intelligent-but-well-rounded-and-not-snobby individual: which, of course, means teaching him French & how to take pictures, identify trees, & play about 6 different instruments, going on camping trips, & not letting him watch TV. But obviously still enrolling him in public school so he doesn't become a social invalid. We just won't push sports like our parents did, you know, because athletes aren't cultured or deep-thinkers and don't grow up to be anything cool like movie producers or Peace Corps members or indie rock singers.

I know that inevitably there will be some things that he will wish I taught him, and some things I did teach him that he will consider super nerdy or irrelevant. Who knows, maybe he'll look at me thirty years from now and say, "Geez, Mom, how could you not think ice fishing would have been something I needed for my future? What were you thinking with mandolin lessons? I mean, come on."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

{baby vs. naptime}

I'm a terrible mother.

I've been trying to get the boy on somewhat of a schedule, which means I'm starting to let him "cry it out" a little bit when I put him down for a nap or when he wakes up before he's supposed to. The last couple days I've been letting him whimper and wail it out for a little while, in hopes that he'll soothe himself back to sleep. Hey, he's 2 months this week. Time to toughen up and take it like a man.

But it never fails: whenever I resolve to be stern & not immediately go check on him, almost every time I walk in to find him lying there in a pool of urine. He just lies there, helplessly, looking up at me with this smug look of disappointment, as if he's about to shake his head at me & say in his cross baby voice, "Now...see what you made me do?"

I swear, as soon as I leave the room, he is purposely loosening the velcro on his diaper just for a chance to rub it in.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

{vine to wine}

Well, the babe was constipated for 3 days. Needless to say, that made for a pretty unpleasant start to the week. Not being able to get things moving for him was one of the most helpless feelings I've ever had.

The poor guy would push and cry and push and cry, and I was trying every trick in the book: hot baths, pedialyte water, back massages, the magic thermometer "trick" (he was not impressed), hypnosis, dancing to the Beatles, looking deep in his eyes while trying to telepathically send "push push push push" message his way, scaring it out of him, performing ritualistic Indian rain dances in the living room...nothing worked.

And then, today, at 3:04pm, the clouds parted, the heavens opened, the good Lord smiled upon on our little family, and the floodgates were released. A good two diapers full of peanut-butter-poops came forth, and by the way we danced and sang and laughed and cheered, you would have thought the three of us single-handedly won the World Cup. I mean, he was so dirty, it wasn't even worth wasting all the wipes it would have taken to clean that busy bum of his: it was straight to the tub for the little man.

I have never in my life been so excited for someone to have a bowel movement.

The little man is sleeping soundly now. Things are going to be ok. He turns two months this Saturday: if I wasn't so depressed that he is getting so big so fast, I would be relieved that we have made it this far.

Jason always celebrates Christmas or his birthday by going on an Amazon shopping spree, and one of his birthday purchases arrived today: "From Vines to Wines." You can guess what new hobby he's taken interest in.

Tonight, right before he drifted off to sleep, he rolled over and said, "We need to get busy making that wine."

"Don't we need grapes first?"

"Yes. Which is why we need to plant them. It takes a few years to get them started."

"Don't we need somewhere to plant them?"

"Yes. Which is why we need land."

"But we live in Chicago. In an apartment."


That conversation pretty much explains how I feel about Avram turning two months. I desperately want him to be crawling, walking, talking, smiling, laughing, learning, proving to everyone that he is a perfectly healthy baby boy, but the reality is that right now he's busy deciding if his hand is a part of his body or some kind of bizarre animal. I want the wine, but first we have to get some land.

I'm reading "Operating Instructions" right now in a small attempt to keep myself more on the joyful side of the fence, so forgive me for quoting Anne Lamott so much. In the book she tells a story about one of her mom-friends. This lady was on a business trip and had taken her two year old with her. The rental house they were staying in had those extra-thick, black-out curtains, and the mom had placed her two year old down for a nap in the bedroom, shut the door, and sat in the living room to get some work done. The two year old woke up early from his nap, and began to call for his mom. When she went to get him, he had somehow managed to lock the door. She panicked: she called the manager of the property, the booking one picked up. As she got more anxious, her little boy got even more frightened and began crying and shrieking. Just as she was about to call the fire department, she had the idea to get down on the floor and stick her fingers under the small, 1-inch opening under the door. She called to her son, telling him to find her fingers down on the floor. The two of them laid there for half an hour, with him grasping her finger tips until he had calmed down and was able to jiggle the door open.

I feel like I'm nose-to-the-carpet with God right now, with a death-grip on His fingertips under a door. I know He could smash down the door if He really thought that was the best thing to do, but I also know that He wants me to figure some things out before the lights come back on, to work and push and cry through some of the crap I've let sit around for too long. It's taking just about everything I have to not scream or hide in my closet some days, but I'm reminding myself to look for His fingertips.

Friday, June 18, 2010

{small bits of light}

I can't get over how different this tiny person seems everyday. It's like every morning he has a new face, a new gesture, a new little sound. His spastic reflexes are slowly becoming graceful, coordinated moves. His arms use to flail over his head like swarming bumble bees; now, his hands float exactly like little birds. I know he would probably be so humiliated that I said this, but when he moves in his sleep he looks like a little ballerina.

I mentioned in my previous post that my pregnancy had been pretty scary and nerve-wracking, and I'd like to give a short explanation. Ok, not so short. It's practically a novella. Bless your heart if you actually read it.

When we went in to the doctor for our 20 week ultrasound, Jason & I were busting at the seams with anticipation. We couldn't wait to find out if it was a boy or girl (we both were feeling boy-vibes), and I was so excited for J to hear the heartbeat for the first time. During the ultrasound, J & I kept making stink-eye faces at each other because the technician was being so quiet and so not excited. Without telling us the gender, she turned to us with this concerned look and said she was going to get the doctor.

Not exactly how you expect your 20 week ultrasound to go.

So, 20 minutes later, my doctor comes in to the room and sits down across from us. She says that they can't tell for sure, but it looks like the baby has Dandy Walkers syndrome. Of course, we had no idea what that was, and neither did she, really, but she said that it usually means that the baby would have terrible motor skills and probably severe mental disabilities. To make sure, she wanted to send us across the street to the hospital for a Level II ultrasound.

J & I drove over to the hospital. J was in shock, I was balling my eyes out. We sat in the waiting room for an hour before we went back for the Level II ultrasound. If I hadn't been so scared out of my mind, it would be been an awesome experience. Instead of that tiny, old school tv screen that I had to practically break my neck to watch, this ultrasound had a huge flat screen tv mounted on the wall across from my bed so we could watch everything and see each detail. This ultrasound nurse was actually humane, and asked us if they had told us the gender at my doctor's office. We realized that we had totally forgotten and that they didn't tell us. When she said it was a boy, I had never seen Jason smile so big. Also unlike the first ultrasound, we actually got a whole chain of ultrasound pictures to take home.

After another long wait, another doctor came in to see us. Well, good news, she said, is that it's not Dandy Walkers. Bad news, it's agenesis of the corpus callosum. Again, we had no idea what that was. She explained that it seemed like the part of the brain that connects the left and right hemispheres was completely missing. What that meant...she couldn't say. She said that some people are missing the corpus callosum & are totally fine, others are severely impaired. And, yet again, we were told that they couldn't tell 100% from the ultrasound and that we should schedule a fetal MRI.

So, Jason & I drove home with a handbag full of emotions. We were so excited to find out it was a boy, and so excited to know that every other part of his body looked perfect (The Level II ultrasound nurse told us that his heart couldn't be more beautiful). I went home, got in bed, and prayed and cried until I fell asleep.

That Friday we went home for Christmas break, and we got to meet our 8 month old nephew for the first time. He was so beautiful, so perfect, so much fun, but it was so hard to spend time with him. Whenever I sat down to play with him, I ended up excusing myself back up to our room. I was so overwhelmed with grief & fear: What if our baby can't sit up on his own? What if he can't talk? What if he has to rely on other people to take care of him his whole life?

Peace came in small bits and pieces, and joy came in baby steps. Each night, we would read Psalm 139 & pray over the tiny person growing in my belly. That Anne Lamott quote became alive for me: Hope begins in the dark: we wait, we watch, we work, we don't give up.

The Lord gave me so many small gifts over those two weeks. For one, I ran into the dad of someone I went to high school with. Without knowing anything, he told me how with his middle son the doctors said that the baby would be severely handicapped and physically deformed. The man said that he called my grandpa because the doctors were saying they should abort the baby, and my grandpa told him to act in faith and not in fear. His son is now serving in the Peace Corps and doing amazing things: no disabilities or deformities. "Don't listen to doctors, no matter what they say, " he had told me, "They don't know what the hell they're talking about." I sat in my car afterwords and cried and thanked the Lord for a little bit of light in the darkness.

The second gift came during the Christmas Eve candlelight service. I won't go in to detail, but there are reasons that my brother and I should not be allowed to sit next to each other in church. It was a very solemn service, but I came down with the worst case of the giggles I have ever had in my life. I mean, I don't know if I ever laughed that hard. I literally had tears rolling down my face and soaking my sweater. My mom was giving us a dirty look, and J was looking at us in complete bemusement. I eventually had to exit to the bathroom to compose myself. Maybe it was my crazy hormones and roller coaster emotions or the fact that my nerves were so frayed they were ready to snap, but it was another small gift wrapped up in laughter.

The service ended with the lights being turned off and everyone holding a small candle. For the first time all week, I knew that J, the baby & I were not alone. We were surrounded by the Lord's presence, surrounded by loving family, surrounded by stories of hope, surrounded by Light.

After two weeks of being loved on at home, J & I went back to Chicago. Our first Monday home, we went in for the fetal MRI. I didn't even know they could do an MRI on a baby in the womb, but apparently only a few places have the technology to do so. When they told me that they might not even be able to tell anything from the MRI because really, they've only been doing them for a couple years and aren't exactly sure how to read them, we almost decided not to go through with it. For one, it didn't matter what the MRI showed, we were having the baby. He could have 10 arms, a dragon tail, scales instead of hair, or eye balls in the back of his head, we were having the baby. If I hadn't already been suited up in the hospital gown and so emotionally psyched-up for it, I don't think we would have done it. Looking back, J & I both wish we wouldn't have. It didn't change anything.

The small gift that day was having my mom there with us. When I'm in shock, I get really quiet and pretty much completely shut down. We met with the neurosurgeon that afternoon, and he told us that the MRI showed that the baby had hydrocephalus (pretty much, he had way too much fluid in his ventricles) and schizencephaly (parts of his brain didn't form right, leaving little folds and clefts mainly on the right side). Good news: the corpus callosum was present and fully formed. Bad news: there was still no telling if he would be perfectly fine, have slight disabilities, or be completely impaired. J & I just sat there staring at him, while my mom had the presence of mind to ask questions and write down everything he said.

My doctor called me later and told me that I had to decide by the next Monday if we were going to keep the baby or not. She made it less than discreet what she thought we should do. I thanked her for all of her advice and help, but informed her that those services would not be necessary. Now, not that I endorse abortion, but I certainly don't think that the women who get them are evil or crazy. To be honest, I think the church needs to back off a little bit with the t-shirts & protests. The news we got about our baby was the most terrifying thing I've ever received, and to experience such fear of the unknown about this tiny person growing inside of you...well, let's just say I totally understand why women make that choice. And I can't say that in the middle of the night, when the shadows are dark and my mind is (again, as Anne Lamott says) a bad neighborhood I shouldn't go into alone, I didn't consider how easy that would make things. But we knew that this baby was a gift, and you just don't turn down gifts like this.

We resolved to take it day by day, and in the advice of our dear friend Betsy, we decided to not freak out until we had to freak out. I was not going to let some uncertain news ruin the next 20 weeks. The Lord was so kind, and so faithful. Our church prayed for us, and so many people shared stories with me about receiving similar news about themselves as babies or their own children and how everything turned out to be absolutely perfect. My mom and dad would call with stories of people back home and across the country who were interceding on our little boy's behalf. It seemed like every conversation I had was a testimony to how God heals and protects and provides, and Jason and I were filled with so much hope.

Meanwhile, I dreaded every doctor's appointment. Talk about Debbie Downers. The Monday before Avram was born, I had a fetal growth ultrasound. My doctor wanted to measure his head circumference, because hydrocephalus can result in, well, big heads. His head measured in the 97th percentile. Big. Really big. She sat me down after the ultrasound and explained that the ventricles could be putting pressure on his spinal cord, and it was very realistic that he wouldn't be able to breathe on his own at birth. If that was true, he wouldn't be able to eat on his own, either, and that we would have to be prepared to make a "decision" if that was the case. She also said that she would let me try a natural birth, but because of his head size if things went too long it would have to be a c-section.

Well, nice to see you, too, doc.

So, the next Sunday afternoon, my contractions started around 3pm, and by 8:23am the next morning, Avram Daniel was born at 7lbs 3oz, 21 1/2 inches long. No c-section required. Breathing on his own, eating like a champ.

Because the doctors were still concerned about what could happen, 30 minutes after he was born he was whisked away from us and down to NICU. That night, he had a brief episode of sleep apnea, so we were told he would have to stay at least 5 consecutive nights without another episode. As soon as they got me settled into my room, I was in a wheelchair down to see him. Big mistake. By Wednesday night, I had developed a pretty scary case of preeclampsia and was forced into bed rest, so angry that I couldn't go down to see my baby.

I was discharged Friday morning, but Avram stayed in the NICU for a total of 10 days. He did terrific after that first night: again, still eating and pooping and gaining weight like a champ. Let me tell you, there is nothing more difficult in the universe than having to leave your new born baby in the hospital while you have to go home. The first night we left, we walked out the same time as a couple leaving the hospital with their new born baby: complete with balloons, stuffed animals, and video camera rolling. It was all I could do to not collapse on the floor. It felt like someone had filled my insides with cement.

Despite how heart-wrenching it was to seem him hooked up to all these monitors in a room without sunlight for so long, the Lord gave us the most wonderful, kind, sweet nurses. Several of the nurses who took care of him requested to work with him every shift they had because they just "fell in love with him." After he had an EEG one night, his head was totally covered in this goopy junk--all stuck in that beautiful head of hair. One nurse, a man named Jason, sat with him all through the night: holding him and washing every last piece of that gunk out of his hair. If there is anything that makes a mom cry with gratitude, I tell you what man, that was it. That man is a saint in my book. See if I ever make fun of a male nurse.

There was one nurse I would have rather not had. She came up to see me while I was on bed rest, and explained to me that she had a daughter with disabilities and she knew how I was feeling. She handed me this poem, that went something about how I was planning a trip to Italy, but then got on the plane and found out I was going to Denmark, and how Denmark wasn't worse than Italy only different, and I had to learn a different language than I thought I was going to and so forth. It was all I could do to not wrinkle it up, throw it in her face and tell her where to take a trip to. Not my most graceful or proudest moment.

So, 10 days after he was born, after head ultrasounds & EEGs & blood tests & physical therapy examinations, Avram was finally allowed to come home. I've never been so happy in my life. J drove about 10mph the whole way home, and I stayed awake all night staring at him in his bassinet. We went to visit the pediatrician that Friday, and after measuring his head, he recommended that we meet with the neurosurgeon sooner rather than later.


I took Avram to the neurosurgeon the next Monday afternoon, and he sent us over to the Children's Hospital for a head ultrasound. After the ultrasound they handed me the phone, and the neurosurgeon informed me that he wanted Avram to be admitted that afternoon so that he could have a shunt put in the next morning. Now, let me tell you, I thought being sent over for the Level II ultrasound put me in shock. But going in for what I thought was just a check-up and being told they were admitting my 2 week old baby for brain surgery? Blew the ultrasound out of the water.

Avram was taken upstairs and admitted to the hospital, and the doctor came up to explain the procedure to us. He said that he would put a small drain in, running from the back, right side of Avram's brain down into his abdominal cavity. The drain would filter out the extra fluid in the ventricles and stop his head from growing at such a fast rate. Good news: it would prevent any brain damage from occurring from the enlarged ventricles, it's 100% internal and completely unnoticeable, it's a fairly common thing to have, and an easy procedure. Also, his only restrictions are no football, hockey, or soccer.

Bad news? He has to have it for the rest of his life.

The rest of his life.

That sat like a rock in my stomach.

Again, I had a small gift in having my mom there for the procedure the next morning since J had to be at work, and the procedure was over and done in 45 minutes. My mom and I had just sat down to lunch when they called and said he was in the recovery room. There he was: sleeping like a little doll baby. He did swimmingly well. Perfect.

That night, he had to share a room with a 14 year old girl. I was mildly irritated. Then, I overheard a conversation between the girl's mom and the nurse: this girl had a shunt put in at 3 weeks old because of hydrocephalus. And guess what? She was adorable. I mean, like puppy-dog, rainbows & sunshine adorable. And she played sports. And had friends. And she wasn't even in the hospital because of anything related to her shunt. I cannot explain what I felt when I saw her: I mean, she was normal. I breathed deeply for the first time in weeks.

To wrap things up, Avram has gone back for several check-ups, including a lengthy exam with a neurologist (whom J & I lovingly call Dr.Taco. I would explain, but, I mean, it would just make us seem even weirder). He spent like half an hour doing all these crazy reflex, hearing, and vision tests without saying a word, and I was just about to explode with anxiety. When Dr.Taco was done, he handed me Avram and said, "Well, it's like he read the textbook before taking the test. He's perfect." It was all I could do to not jump up and hug the man. He said we're just waiting to see if he has any learning disabilities, but, from everything he could tell, he's a perfect 6 week old baby. No sign of any physical or mental delay. I thought my heart was going to explode.

So now, just about every doctor's exam ends with, "Well, we're just going to wait and see." And so far, he's right on track for every developmental milestone there is.

I've been reminded through all of this that, as CS Lewis says, God is a builder and not a magician: that He works in steps and brushstrokes and He is patient and He really does have a plan that only works on His time. Sometimes I still feel like God has forgotten me, or that He's playing some nasty trick on us, or that I must have done something terrible to cause this, or that if I actually did trust Him and release my death drip on the reigns of all this that everything would come crashing down in smoke and flames and it would all be my fault.

I don't know why we've had to go through all of this, and perhaps I never will. But I do know this: Avram is, after salvation and J, the most beautiful and perfect and undeserved gift that the Lord has ever given me.

With his arrival, it's like all the windows have finally been opened up, and all this joy and love and grace has just come pouring sunlight.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

{lessons from seven weeks}

There are a lot of good stories and a book-full of observations I could share after experiencing pregnancy, delivery, and the first seven sleepless weeks of motherhood, but there are three experiences I feel pretty much sum it all up.

First of all, I believe I now fully understand why parents are so outraged, mortified, and depressed when their children pierce their tongues, get tattoos, dye their hair purple, or go sky-diving. For one thing, I find myself staring at this beautiful baby boy in awe and disbelief that such a perfect, perfect, perfect little person grew inside my belly. This baby. This beautiful baby. Inside my belly. I can imagine myself, 18 years from now, as a middle-aged mom tearfully pleading with my almost-adult son to NOT get a skull-and-cross-bones tattoo on his back because, for heaven's sake young man, do you not remember that I grew you from scratch inside my belly??!?

Secondly, I believe I also understand why moms aren't grossed out by anything. I'll share a bit of my labor/delivery experience, not out of some narcissistic belief that the world actually cares about a contraction-by-contraction retelling of Avram's birth, but more just for the sheer hilarity of it all, and I think it makes for a good story.

Before I talk about delivery, I'll say that I was surprised by how completely unladylike and humiliating pregnancy was. It was definitely not a nine months of cheeriness, glowing, rainbows, and sunshine. I was an acne-covered, bloated, exhausted, moody beachball with carpal tunnel, gas, sciatic pain, and one single pair of shoes to squeeze my fat ham feet into. On top of all that, I was more terrified and nerve-wracked than I have ever been in my life, for reasons to be disclosed in a blog yet to come. I didn't think pregnancy would be a walk in the park, but I certainly did not foresee the loss of any and all dignity I may have had pre-baby.

So, as if pregnancy wasn't disgusting and dehumanizing in and of itself, labor and delivery sure took home the cake. They don't really prepare you for the fact that every Tom, Dick, & Henry is going to have a front row seat to multiple showings of all your down-unders once you're admitted. Since my hospital was a teaching hospital, every doctor was accompanied by a troop of eager students ready to observe my every injection and inspection. Even though they always asked for my blessing in allowing the peanut gallery to be present, I had little say in the matter since I was too busy staring down the clock to see if 10 minutes had yet passed since I last pushed the button for the "happy juice" (which, I might add, was ter-rif-ic. The Dude abode).

Since I was admitted due to my contractions, my water still hadn't broken. Now, I had imagined water breaking would be like wetting my pants. Wrong. They used this giant plastic stick (which looked eerily similar to those little plastic swords for cherries in cocktail drinks), and next thing I know I feel like a beach ball-sized water balloon explodes between my legs and the entire bed is soaked. I think even the doctor was a little surprised. As if that wasn't awkward enough, when the doctor came in an hour later to check on my "progress," beach ball 2.0 exploded even bigger than the first and practically turned my bed into a floating recliner.

So there I am, floating literally and figuratively, for about 13 hours before they announce that it's time to start pushing. Now, I don't know about you, but I imagined that when this time came that there would be an entire army of doctors and nurses at my side ready to catch this little person flying out of me.


When the pushing began, it was me, J, and the nurse. She looked at J and said, "Alright, you grab that leg." I don't think I've ever seen J more confused or petrified. I was even a little uneasy that this was going to be his job; I mean, who's going to catch the baby? Who's going to get me water? Where the heck is everybody??

So, after three or four big pushes, I looked up at J to make some comment about the lack of personnel, and he looks at me a little funny. Next thing I know, his face goes flush, and passes out flat on his back. No joke. He was down for the count. Flat. On. His. Back. If I hadn't been so heavily drugged or incredibly annoyed, I would have started laughing. Instead, the nurse gets on her little walkie-talkie and says, "I've got a dad down in labor room 8, dad down in labor room 8." Next thing I know, three nurses come barging through the doors and I'm thinking, "Great! Finally! The army is here!" Wrong. One of them gets J an apple juice, the other one starts fanning him with my chart, and the other one gets him a chair. Now, not to be graphic, but I'm thinking, "People, what does a girl have to do to get attention around here? For heaven's sake, I just did you-know-what on the table. The TABLE." But no, as soon as J was situated with his chair & juice pack, conveniently facing the wall, the army retreated. You would think they would leave someone behind to take J's place holding my leg, but, no, we had to call my mom up from the waiting room.

As if I hadn't been fully stripped of all and any decency, I was diagnosed with post-partum preeclampsia and all but tied down in a hospital bed for 32 hours. Since they didn't want me walking around--one for fear of my blood pressure continuing to sky rocket and two because I was hooked up to all kinds of IVs--I had to have a catheter. I don't know if many things are more humiliating that having a nurse come in every hour to empty a bucket of your "output." Especially when they throw in a "Wow, I don't think I've ever seen that much urine before." Really makes you feel like a lady.

Again, all that to say, when this little person finally popped out, all soaked in blood and mucus with this nasty cord attached to his belly and goop all over him, I was in love. I had never seen anything more beautiful. No matter how disgusting he looked and smelled at that moment, I couldn't have loved him more. No matter what kinds of gross or humiliating things I had to go through to have him, I didn't mind one bit once I saw his face. I get it now. I get how crazy and bizarre and obsessive and blind and googley-eyed moms are.

The last realization I've come to in the last seven weeks is that the city is no place to raise a family, at least as far as this little family is concerned. I know that everyone's opinions may differ on this, and I certainly believe everyone is entitled to whatever opinion they hold. But, personally, the countdown until we leave the city has begun.

After growing up with a large piece of property to freely roam, complete with ponds, fields, wooden fences, barns, gardens, and trees, I already knew that I wanted my kids to grow up with their feet in the grass, their hands in the mud, and their heads in the trees. J & I didn't need much motivation to begin looking for jobs outside the city, but a conversation with our new neighbors certainly sealed the deal.

Our upstairs neighbors have lived here for 8 years, ever since their oldest was born. They have 3 daughters, all under the age of 8. A couple months ago, they drove back to their hometown in South Dakota to visit family. While they were enjoying an evening outside at a relative's house, the middle daughter asked, "Mommy, what are those?" My neighbor told me she about died when she realized that her daughter had never seen stars before. After hearing that story, J & I are looking for any and every opportunity to get out of here. I don't care what I have to do: my baby will know what stars are.

For now, it looks like we are here for one more year, which we are totally at peace with. With this crap-hole economy, if you have a good job with good insurance you're a fool to leave it. So, we are praying and waiting and believing for a job to open up somewhere where there is more grass than concrete and more trees than buildings. I'll tell you one thing, you grow up thinking your hometown is so lame, but a ring, a baby, and two years in the big city later...Fort Wayne doesn't look so bad after all.

{our new home sweet home}

Finally, after two weeks of shuffling furniture, tripping over cardboard boxes, & holding passive-agressive phone conversations with Comcast's so-called customer service, we are all moved in to our new apartment.We are now officially residents of Rogers Park neighborhood and officially not residents of Edgewater's pride & glory: Winthrop Towers. Good-bye & good riddance.

I have to say that moving was a bittersweet experience, with emphasis on "sweet" and only a dash of bitter. Our Winthrop apartment was J & me's first home together. Two summers ago, we had only two days to apartment-hunt while on our honeymoon, without a clue as to what school J would be teaching at or any idea what neighborhoods were decent to live in. We also thought "garden apartment" sounded charming....little did we know that "garden" means "basement." After driving all over town to see apartments, Winthrop was the one we fell in love with.

This was where we spent our first two years as husband and wife, in a tiny-but-charming one bedroom apartment on the north side. Whenever I remember this place, it will be hard to forget the oven that wouldn't light, the infestation of bugs, the maniacs throwing cinder blocks off the roof to smash cars, the van catching on fire out front, our upstairs neighbor lifting weights (or, should I say, slamming down weights) at 2am, the complete absence of water pressure save the boot-flushing toilet...the list of less-than-charming attributes goes on and on (Did I mention our bedroom closet door ripped clean off its hinges? Or the time the water pipes exploded & put a giant hole in our kitchen wall?).

But despite all of the malfunctions our first apartment had, Winthrop will always be the place where we learned and decided how to be "us." This was where our two worlds, our two libraries, our sets of trinkets, shoeboxes of pictures, and collections of Starbucks mugs all joined forces to become "ours." This was where we first entertained our new friends, who have since become good friends after nights spent crammed into our living room perusing the Beer library. This is where we had our first laughs, meals, celebrations, trials, disagreements, and lazy days as a married couple.

Our living room window had three large bay windows looking directly into the heart of a huge, leafy tree, so in the spring and summer it seemed like our living room was actually a giant tree house. In many ways, this apartment was a fortress for us, a secret place that belonged to just the two of us, where we decided how to run our small family, where we sheltered ourselves from the cold, cruel city and the trying times we faced our the last two years.

So, it seems only fitting that now, during this brand new season of our lives, we have relocated. It's no longer just the two of us. Winthrop Towers held our days of being newly-wed, young, and carefree, now begin our days as sleep-deprived-but-love-sick young parents. Where our first apartment was loud & busy, our new apartment is calm and peaceful. Our old apartment faced the exciting big city, our new apartment faces the eastern sunrise and a serene park. Our old apartment was snug & a big chaotic, our apartment is spacious, airy, secure. Our old apartment catered to our fat cat, our new apartment cuddles our beautiful baby boy. Our old apartment was where we became "us"...our new apartment is where we, day by day, are becoming a family.