40 Weeks or the Time Spiral

timeMy ride pulls up in front of my place of work.  It’s a busy place with a constant flow of people, ideas, goods and germs in and out of the doors.  I peel myself from the cold, cement wall that is holding me upright and waddle towards the car. 

“Hey babe, and baby.”

My husband is in the driver’s seat.  He nods at me and then at my watermelon sized belly.  I have stopped driving, no longer trusting myself to navigate even the short distance between home and work in this final week of pregnancy.

“I’ve got some bad news for you,” he says with a straight face. 

I appreciate the warning, the easing into whatever he is about to share.

“Do you want to hear it now or later?”

His fingers are wrapped around the steering wheel, positioned at 10 and 2. 

“Go ahead, I can handle it.”    

I rest my hands on top of the bump that is our unborn son who squirms under the pressure.  I am only partially listening as my mental capacity has diminished, like a reservoir with all of the water drained out with just the trickle of a creek cutting across the otherwise dry bed.     

“I did some recalculations and I think we got the due date wrong.”

He now has my full attention.  I turn to him in disbelief and horror.

“What?”

This is not what a woman who has been pregnant for close to 40 weeks wants to hear.

“Yeah, I think we still have three weeks to go.”

He flicks on the turn signal and changes lanes with a quick glance over his shoulder.

“Three weeks? Three weeks?”   

The light at the end of the gestation tunnel has suddenly grown dim; I thought we just had three more days to go of constant trips to the bathroom, swollen ankles, and an award-winning waddle.  However, with three days or three weeks as a hostage to our tiny terrorist, it’s all the same when it comes to delivering the mega-baby.  

Pain, joy and a scheduled induction if this goes a day past 40 weeks (and that’s the 40 weeks by my calculations.)

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39 Weeks

spring flowerI re-checked the carelessly jotted down room number on the sticky note with no small amount of frustration.  Was that supposed to be a 5 or a 3 or maybe an 8?  Apparently, there was something to the old saying that haste makes waste and I only had myself to blame which made me doubly frustrated.  I was going to have to walk down a flight of stairs, through a long hallway and then around the corner to get back to my desk; all the while travelling on the two marshmallows previously known as my feet, in order to get the right room number, unless I could figure it out based on the information available.

Think, I encouraged myself. What would a really clever and mentally clear-headed person do right now? 

I was carrying around an extra 30 pounds (dare I admit to the full amount?) between the baby and the protective layers and fluids keeping him suspended in a utopian womb world.  Over the past few days, I had started reviewing every potential destination and the required steps as a want or a need.  Life was getting pretty challenging in terms of doing normal human things like walking, sleeping and even eating.  Unfortunately, the way things looked, a trip back to the office was going to be a necessity as I had some paperwork that needed a signature and randomly popping into rooms didn’t seem like a productive option.

I glanced around for last minute inspiration, desperate not to make a second trip, and realized what I needed was right in front of me.  The meal order slips were clipped outside of each door with room numbers and names.  A quick peek at the slip closest to me revealed that I found the right room and a trip back to the office was not needed.  Hitting the hand sanitizer, I gave a sigh of relief and rubbed my hands together, dispersing the cold foam between my fingers and palms.   

Was I perhaps on the verge of returning to the world of the clear-thinkers? A leg kicked at my ribs and an elbow stuck out just above my belly button, reminders that this dream was clearly not to be for some time.    

A large trashcan on wheels rolled past me, directed by an old, wizened Indian woman with long black hair, pulled back into a low knot.  She wore scrubs and non-slip, black leather shoes.  Yellow gold earrings hung from either side of her tiny head.  She looked into my face with deep brown and knowing eyes.

“Baby come soon.”

It wasn’t a question, but rather a statement that only unclear in the soothsayer’s definition of time.  I felt overjoyed, like seeing a delicate spring flower break through the winter snow, there was hope.  I leaned against the wall, allowing her to pass and to rest my weight on something more stable than the before mentioned marshmallows. 

“I hope you’re right…”

She rolled her trash can past me and yelled over her shoulder, “It is a blessed thing,” and disappeared around the corner.   

But when?  When will it happen? I wondered silently, already knowing the answer.

Soon.

Nine Lives

soul mates

Her left eye doesn’t close all the way anymore, stuck in the instant before a wink, and her tongue slips out past the tiny front teeth that never fully developed and hangs from her petite mouth.  There is a patch of white fur missing from her back and as of most recently one ear remains parallel with the ground at all times.  Her sweet face is a mish-mash of teasing expressions that when put together are no laughing matter.  

I am describing my angel, JB Cat.  She has been with us since the beginning, rescued from a cat jail in Small Town, Indiana.  She came as a complete package with ear mites, worms and an extreme stranger danger anxiety that kept her curled up and hissing in a ball for the first three months. 

When she finally uncurled and moved out from underneath of the bed, we were still naïve enough to try and keep houseplants and a cat at the same time.  JB quickly assessed the situation, found the plants to be enemies, and set out to destroy them with various plots such as knocking them over and pulling them from the dirt.  Once free from the houseplant threat, JB settled in for a very long stay.

Over the past decade, she moved with us from apartment to apartment, always packed up in a carrier with the last load of most important belongings, and then finally to a house where she caught her first spricket (a beastly combination of a spider and a cricket). 

She terrorized every family member who ever stayed with us for the first few years, sneaking into their room and watching them sleep either from their pillow or chest.  On the day before our wedding, she went missing and almost caused a complete mental breakdown and then casually emerged from the recesses of the sofa when we came back to pick up our bags for the honeymoon.  Of the three times she escaped, she was always found mewing from under a pile of leaves, frozen by the overstimulation of nature and unfamiliarity of the world.  

Most days, she spends her time sleeping on top of furniture and waiting for food.  She rarely complains and purrs when pet.  JB Cat has personality, history, opinions and plans.  After being together for so long, she has a human family, and although, she isn’t liked by all, she is loved (perhaps only by me?).  Its hard to imagine life without her hiding from friends, stalking family in the night, or purring on my chest in the evening.  Yet, it seems that it’s an approaching reality, one that grows closer with each new ailment from which she never quite recovers.  While she is still living and wheezing on the couch behind me, her lifeforce grows dimmer and my sadness grows greater.

This world was never made for one as beautiful as you, JB Cat.  

Halloweenie Party Favor

pumpkins

The fire blazed a bright orange against the dark, cool night.  An old man with a beard heaved a log onto the flames, sending a whoosh of a thousand sparks into the air like a fireworks show in the middle of summer.

“Thanks, Firekeeper,” someone yelled from the crowd that circled the bonfire.

A zombie nurse and an overgrown Brownie jumped out of the way with squeals as hot ashes landed on their bare legs and arms.  What did you expect standing that close to an open fire?  I mentally growled at them from my perch atop a tractor tire.

I sat between the rubber treads; a huge, round woman dressed as a pumpkin, with green felt leaves and stem bobby pinned into my hair, waiting unhappily on a ride.  Three treads over, a jail bird husband nervously refreshed his phone, in hopes that a driver had picked up the request.    

Unfortunately, we were in the middle of a four cornfields and miles away from the city.  We had not anticipated the Uber and Lyft shortage of rural Indiana or of the nerve wracking nature in being at a costume party, elbow to elbow with drunk people and seven months pregnant. 

I felt like a character in a video game, the crazy clowns, police, walking dead, Gumbies and Trump-alikes were out to get me with their elbows, props and disoriented bodies.  I had to dodge big men and little women alike to escape from the warmth of the barn and into the open air with my jail bird following closely behind me, just as concerned about the perils of the party.

When we finally got a ride, it was with a MAGA Trumpster who couldn’t hold in his thoughts about his beloved leader, sexual assault and his interpretation of consent, and lastly, the current state of his marriage. I wasn’t sure if we would ever make it back to the safety of our home.   

Last year, it would have been just another crazy weekend of going out without consequences or responsibilities aside from the hangover that awaited us the following morning.  Now, the world feels different, somehow spinning more quickly and with more gravity than before, one in which we have an unborn babe to protect and raise until he can go out and make equally poor choices as us, like going to a party without a real plan to get home.

Lamaze class

bb's

There were eight couples, paired off and uncomfortably sitting in hard-backed chairs against the wall with pillows and blankets at their sides.  A pile of brightly, colored exercise balls were gathered together in the center of the room, and a slender woman in dark, ankle boots leaned against a table at the front, presumably the Lamaze instructor. 

It was a good guess, as she was the only woman in the room who could still see her feet to admire those cool boots.  She casually rested there and I couldn’t stop myself from noting the flatness of her stomach.  It was a slightly concerning obsession that has worsened over the past few months, categorizing every woman’s stomach into flat, fat, pregnant or other.  

On the way to work, I saw a transgendered person and had to stop, not only because of the traffic signal but also the delay in my mental processing, and to think how to classify them into the system. Then the light changed and I sped off, only to remember just now that I never finished that thought.  

The woman in the boots was indeed the instructor and she shared that she had several children, naturally no less, in addition to a plethora of other important information about contractions, relaxation and dilation.  There was hope to return to normal, I mused in an unfocused type of way.  My belly can be flat again, someday, and maybe an active listener, too.

Throughout class, much like pregnancy so far, I had a number of assumptions turned upside down. Exercise balls in this new reality are called “birthing balls” and the he-he, hoo-hoo breathing is to prevent pushing too early rather than as a pain management strategy.  Apparently, pain management is left up to having a strong mental reserve and the promise of an epidural should the situation become too unbearable. 

There is still so much to do and learn that life feels overwhelming, and at the same time, I am grateful to have a little over three months left to prepare a nursery and practice my breathing exercises, to further perfect my classification system and to generally enjoy this downtime of idle musing before the world flips, yet again.

Hurry up and wait.

docs office

A white, plastic-capped specimen container filled half-way with a clear liquid was next to a tiny, disposable spatula on a square of paper towel on top of the ceramic counter.  I recognized the container and label stuck to the front; it was clearly a sample from the last patient’s appointment. 

“It appears that they forgot to pick things up before bringing us back,” I exclaimed with distaste.  

At least the paper liner was clean and unwrinkled, I thought as I plopped my heavy body down and crinkled the perfectly smooth, white sheet.  I cringed at the waste; the paper would never be the same or used again, destined for the trash as soon as we left.  

My husband sat next to the counter on a low chair and looked over towards the used test kit.  His view was partially blocked by a white bottle with blue print; it was a lubricant with the cap hanging off by a plastic tab. 

“That bottle of lube is staring at me in the face,” he said in a tone between horror and disgust. “And it’s still open.”   

There was something threatening about that seemingly abandoned bottle of medical lubricant, like sitting next to a smoker in a non-smoking section.  My man was desperate for an intervention, but unsure from where it might come, so he stared up at the ceiling, unsure of where else to look. 

He glanced down at the clock on his phone once, twice and once again.

“Do you have someplace that you need to be?” I asked.

Sheepishly, he nodded, “I only took half an hour off for this appointment.”

I didn’t mean to, but I laughed out loud, the very definition of LOL.  I would have gone so far as to ROTFLOL if I could have easily gotten down from the table.  He was a perpetual optimist, always seeing the best in others, planning for success and positivity.  The laughter bubbled up directly from the well of my soul, apparently located in my stomach next to the extra-large baby and kept bubbling up.  

“What doctor’s appointment has ever taken thirty minutes?”  

Every doc’s appointment I have ever attended followed the same script.  Check in and wait, meet with the RN and wait, sit in a room and wait and wait and wait.  

“I didn’t know how long it would take,” he explained, shrugging off my LOL’ing.

“Ok then, let’s hurry up and wait.” 

We will wait together for the next four months to pass, wanting time to slow to a stop and speed up all at once, uncertain as to what the future holds and yet as prepared as possible for life, together, as we become three. 

 

Not you, Peg.

cookies

Class starts early for a Saturday, but it’s usually worth wrangling with the alarm clock.  There is a different topic and speaker each month, a sense of community, and a variety of homemade snacks.  Blueberry muffins, granola, fresh strawberries, cookies, crackers and a veggie tray are crammed together to cover the snack table on a regular morning.  I even gave up bringing my own stash of nuts and fruit because of the confidence that I felt in the generosity of the class to provide a spread of tasty treats.

We arrived late last week and shimmied behind the chairs of punctual members of class, carefully stepping over purses and bags to the last open seats on the far side of the room. The instructor finished with the announcements and upcoming volunteer opportunities as I began to strategize my trip to the back of the room to visit the snack table.  

How to do it without disrupting the rest of the people in the row again or drawing the notice of the instructor?  I was excited about what new surprising options awaited me and devised a complicated route to shimmy around a few more people at the end of the row, only to double back along the edge of the room where the treasure beckoned me.

“Excuse me, I have something to share,” a voice shouted from the front of the class.

It was Peg, short for peg-leg, but I think her real name was Brenda or Donna.  She was a below the knee amputee who always had something to say.  She pushed a pair of black framed glasses onto the top of her head and into a nest of light brown, tightly permed curls. 

“I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies and snicker doodles.”

She took a sip from a can of Dr. Pepper that was next to the unnecessary stack of papers, notebooks and books that she brought to each class.  I felt a mild irritation that she had to stop to take a drink to deliver what was sure to be a ridiculous message, but also a softness in my heart from the mention of the snacks that she brought for the day.  She spent time and energy to gather the supplies and to mix the ingredients in the perfect ratios, to stand in front of the hot oven and pull the cookie trays out after carefully watching the dough turn brown and the chocolate chips to melt through the oven window.

“But I left them on the kitchen counter this morning, right next to the plate of Rice Krispy treats.” 

A gasp escaped from my mouth before I realized that my jaw was hanging open; it was like the mailman forgot to close the lid to the mailbox and all of the letters and advertisements ended up scattered across the yard.  

“That’s why there isn’t anything sweet over on the table.”

She shrugged, not in an apologetic type of way, but rather in a matter-of-fact-sucks-to-be-all-of-you-who-don’t-get-to-eat-the-cookies-that-were-allegedly-left-on-the-counter way and pulled her glasses back onto her pasty face.  Her announcement was over.  She was over as far as I was concerned and had no idea of the impact from her negligence on her hungry and partially-insane-from-pregnancy and hormonally-imbalanced classmates or one classmate, in particular.  I withheld the snarl that started in the back of my throat and rummaged in my bag for an old mint muttering angry words about Peg. 

After a few days of self-reflection, I came to the following conclusions about the snack situation. Perhaps this wasn’t the unforgivable trespass that I originally thought, perhaps I should have been contributing to the snack table instead of relying on the generosity of others, and just maybe I wasn’t dealing with the normal disappointments of life very well.

How to get lucky with the Lotto

mega mill

Sadly, our chance to win half a billion dollars ended two nights ago in California along with our dreams of paying off the house and student loans, traveling to exotic locations, starting a charity, and buying a monkey.  I was really looking forward to casually handing in my resignation notice with a “no real plans from here” kind of attitude.  Instead, I return to work and ruminate on how things could have gone differently.

I find myself thinking about the man who parks outside of the office in a beat up, old white car with dents that are well distributed around ugly and jagged spots of rust.  As he waits for someone to come out, he frantically scrapes away at multiple scratch-off Lotto tickets.  He holds them just outside of the window to allow the silver bits and pieces to flutter to the ground as he works towards the potential prize, hidden just one layer down.  What drives his urgency to finish the task?  Is he feeling a rush of adrenaline or is he in a rush to finish before his expected passenger arrives?

After recently playing a few numbers in the Mega Millions, I understand the man better in my own burgeoning fascination with gambling.  We play to win and in that ever-so-unlikely chance of winning, there is an excitement about a new life and potential change requiring no work, like losing weight without diet or exercise.  It’s a fantasy for the lazy or over-worked.

On the night of the drawing, we carefully weighed our options.  Play and win, play and lose, or don’t play and definitely don’t win.  My hubby explained our odds of winning quite simply, “We are more likely to both get struck by lightning.”

So it wasn’t an impossible dream.  I frequently see lightning and signs of past strikes in tall trees and power lines.

With a boosted confidence in our winning potential, hubby was commissioned to buy a few tickets, given the money and sent out on his mission to be completed with all due haste.

Fur coats, diamond dust lotion, fancy cars and trips were just the beginning; we were going to start a school, a homeless shelter and a bad cat rescue.

And then we lost.

Maybe we got carried about with the dream, and surprisingly, I wasn’t even that disappointed when I discovered that we didn’t hit it big. I expected to lose, but suspended that belief while scheming during the night of the drawing.

The fun was in the dream, it was in the possibility of winning and that we had a shot at a different life, the same as the thousands of other Dreamers who took a chance and bought a ticket(s) for mega millions of dollars, and in retrospect, it was worth every cent of the investment.

Sharp Edges

gummiesEveryone’s voices are too loud and the lights are too bright.  Two women laugh by the copy machine. The sound saturates the air and is broken by the code being keyed into the door. Beep, beep, beep, beep.  A third woman joins in at the copy machine, their heads lean in and their voices fall to whispers.  They share the kinds of secrets that sink ships.

Just around the corner, sits the subject of their conversation.  A powerful sitting duck.

“He needs to get up off his rusty dusty and do something about…” a voice rises from the cluster of three and falls back to an inaudible whisper.

I am unable to cope with the drama and leave the office.  While wandering the long hallways, people pass with purses and bags on their shoulders with appointments and parking validation on their minds.  Conversation is light or heavy depending on the room from which they left or to where they are heading.

Finally, I reach the safety of the coffee shop.  Dim lighting makes it a cozy nook, plus it’s harder to see stains and spills in the dark.

“A small coffee and…”

Feeling impulsive, I look around.  I need something to make me feel better about life and work and getting through the next 8 hours.  There are energy drinks in the cooler, a tray of rock-hard rice crispy treats, and barrels of healthy snacks like nuts and apples.  And then I see it, the barrel that I need.

It is filled with baggies of brightly colored, freshly packed gummy bears.

“…and this.”

I casually throw a bag on the counter like it’s no big deal.  Like I am not going to open it immediately after purchase, rip it open with my teeth if necessary, and begin to annihilate the cute little red, green, yellow, blue and orange bears.  The clear ones are garbage and will be spared, while the rest are about to be put on the once endangered and now extinct species list.

Soon I will be intoxicated with a combination of gummy-bear power and caffeine, and once again ready to take on the world.

What’s in a name?

name

When we heard the baby was on the way, we waited nervously for the phone to ring all night.  I turned my ringer all the way up, just to make sure that I didn’t miss the call.  Periodically, I checked for a missed call and was continually disappointed by the lack of activity.  It could be hours before we had any news, but still I checked every few minutes for an update.  Separated by thousands of miles and an ocean, this was the closest that we could get to the soon-to-be parents and their bundle of joy.  

Random text messages from friends came in with push notifications from facebook which were quickly dismissed without notice.  We were waiting on a baby and couldn’t be distracted by social media and questions about the weekend.

Finally, a picture arrived with a ding like a kitchen timer going off to pull a tray of cookies from the oven.

A perfect pink baby boy was in the center of the screen with a wisp of reddish gold hair, arriving in a text message without words or a caption.  His image was enough until I realized that the picture was without a name, weight or length.  Additional messages and calls went unanswered and the baby boy remained without a name for the next 12 hours.

Could he be a Byron, Ryan, Thadeus or Drake? A Zander, Adam, Corn-Nut, or Ray-Ray?  

What’s in a name, anyways?  A rose is rose is a rose, after all.

It can create the first impression of a person, carrying the power to normalize or ostracize.  A name can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, shaping a child into the adult foreseen by their parents, likely why there aren’t many Corn-Nuts out there.  It is a gift that can last a lifetime and must be carefully considered and given.

The pressure to make decisions is heavy on parents-to-be, they must decide between breast milk and formula, to vaccinate or not to vaccinate, daycare, nanny or stay-at-home mommy (let’s get real, who can afford to stay home).  Some decision are made for them based on income and availability, but perhaps the greatest responsibility in which a parent has absolute power is in picking the right name (a close second is vaccination).

So when the next text came with another ding, our nephew had a name.  It fit him and would take him from infancy into his manhood with little room for silly rhyming nicknames or negative associations.  He suddenly became a real boy, not just an adorable anonymous baby, and soon-to-be cousin to another yet unnamed babe back home in Indiana.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.” 

William Shakespeare

 

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