Snow in June

As the woman stared blankly into the refrigerator, she stood with a slight hunch, a droop like a bouquet of old flowers. The cold air did not revive her, it merely preserved her current wilted state from progressing any further. She was nine months pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen.

“How did this happen?” she wondered, already knowing the obvious answer.

A Tupperware container with a mass of green stared back at the woman; three-day old broccoli, she remembered from earlier in the week. Not wanting to play the food poisoning pros vs. cons game, she continued to consider other dinner combinations.

Frozen pizza and bagged salad would be easy but problematic for the lack of a bagged salad, pasta was always a hit but not very nutritious unless she added a can of peas. She mentally checked through the usual meal options and their level of popularity as the remaining cold air flowed out and around the woman.

Meanwhile, the original source of her exhaustion rode a train around the kitchen island, propelling himself forward with kicks and a realistic choo-choo sound. Every few rounds, he redirected the train at his mother’s legs which got him the attention that he needed to continue with his well-worn route.

She suddenly realized with an instant dread that the kitchen was strangely silent. The train noises stopped. No choo-choo, no plastic wheels against the ground or the sound of the train ramming into the cabinets or her inconveniently located appendages.

“Little Legs?” the woman asked as she turned around fearing what she may see.

The tall, wooden cabinet doors were open behind her and the ground was coated with a fine white powder. In the air, the powder floated down and around Little Legs as he shook an open box of baking soda to a beat only heard by his ears. For a second, he appeared as an other-worldly creature in the midst of a freakish, summertime snowstorm. His long eyelashes were tipped in the same white that covered his arms and hair, the kitchen floor and lower cabinet shelves.

He smiled and laughed, showing a pink mouth and tongue breaking from the white, as he continued to make it snow, bigger and bigger, over his head and out to the sides. As his mother approached, he frantically shook the box harder and higher, aware that his special snowstorm was about to be involuntarily terminated.

His mother kneeled and wrapped her arms around the little space creature to not only prevent his escape but also to limit the spread of the baking soda dusting. She laughed in disbelief at the mess as she removed the box from his hand, prying it from his clamped fingers.

Through a flood of fat protest tears, the boy took in the beauty of the kitchen. It was covered in white, clean and crisp aside from the footprints of his meddling mother.

With a final yowl, he turned off the tears and seemed to take a babbled vow to make it snow again.

The summer was far from over.

snowglobe

What moves inside

stardustThere is a creature that temporarily lives within me who demands peanut butter and popsicles.

His brother likes to sing his own version of Row, Row, Row Your Boat while sitting in my lap and playing with Matchbox cars. He uses his unborn brother as a pillow and leans against him or rests his elbow on top of the ever-growing bump when he turns around to make sure I am paying attention. I feel the baby’s arms and legs move, finally big enough to test Little Legs in the beginning of the lifelong push and pull that is unique to siblings.

They are so close to each other, literally separated only by a few layers of tissue and skin when we sit like this, and yet they are still worlds away from one another. One floats in a blissful state, still gathering bits of stardust in his creation while the other waits on the outside, learning about worms and constantly outgrowing his shoes.

Change is hard for everyone. I am still trying to adjust to single spacing between sentences in a fight against my well-trained thumb that automatically hits the space bar twice. However, for children, change seems to be easier. Change is simply part of life as they constantly discover new things and experiences, like teeth where previously there was only a smooth line of gums and the sudden ability to crunch into a carrot when oatmeal and puree were the only options on the menu just a few months ago.

How will my sweet Little Legs deal with the introduction of a baby into the house that he currently rules? How will I find the time and energy to be present for my boys, my husband, myself? I ponder over the uncertainty of the future just as I did before Little Legs was born. And then I remember when my first stardust baby arrived how the questions disappeared and were replaced by instinct on how and what to do next.

Somehow there was enough love, time and energy for everything, but just barely.

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.)

They Came Bearing Gifts

wisemenThree very different women darkened my office doorway today, all before noon, bringing stories and wisdom about childbirth. Perhaps inspired by their own history or the need to help in a helpless situation, they offered what they could and went on down the hallway to the breakroom to warm up leftovers or to have a cup of coffee.

The first woman appeared like an opening act for the trio, with the jingling of bells, wearing a red sweater and matching lightbulb earrings that swung with every movement of her head.    

“Just bringing the Christmas spirit,” she announced.

“Still here?” she asked.  “And you still haven’t delivered that baby?”

It was unclear how she missed the watermelon sized bump resting on my lap.  I wrongly assumed that stupid questions came in sets of three, so I waited for the final one before breaking the silence.

I laughed, “No, not yet.”  

“Ok, then, hang in there.”

Great advice, thanks, I thought dryly.

Only a short while later, a second woman appeared at the doorway.  She wore a turtle neck and a quilted Christmas vest, which was just a slight variation from her usual vest. 

“Hey there,” she greeted me and then came into the office without an invitation.

“I was almost a Christmas baby,” she started. 

Her tiny eyes peered out from behind thick lenses, neither blinking nor breaking her stare.  She had the hint of a wicked smirk on her upturned lips as she continued.

“But my mother was in labor for four days and blew right past the 25th.  She told me that every time I came down the birth canal and saw the light, I went back inside and waited.”

“What a horrible story,” I gasped unable to hide my horror.  I felt my jaw drop and had to consciously pull it back up from the floor. 

“Don’t worry,” she reassured me with her creepy, un-breaking stare.

“She said I was the best baby after that ordeal.  My brother, on the other hand, was an easy delivery and turned out to be the worst baby.”

More great insight, I thought. 

“Thanks for clearing that up.” 

She shuffled off with a nod, happy to have been so helpful.

I was still reeling from the thought of being in labor for four days when the third visitor appeared, the boss of my supervisor, making rounds through the offices.  She gave me a warm smile and leaned against the doorframe.

“How are you feeling?” she asked with genuine interest.

 “Nervous and ready,” I replied, as a woman of few words.

She nodded in understanding, “This will be something that will change you forever.  You will tell your delivery story for the rest of your life.  It will change you in ways that I cannot even begin to describe and it is just the beginning, a rite of passage into the next phase of life.” 

“My only advice is to turn off your phone after delivery, unplug the hospital phone, and just focus on being with your baby and tune out the rest of the world.   You only get to do it one time.”

She winked and turned to leave, but suddenly stopped, “Oh, and send me a text so I know you will be out of work for a while.” 

 

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.

A Double Win

kurt

It’s Sunday morning, my husband has won another prize.  He is the most winningest (is that a real word?) person that I know.  Of course, it helps that he enters into every drawing and contest from around the country.

I can only imagine what the outcome of this announcement will bring to our front porch in the next few weeks.  The poor mailman has dragged packages of all shapes and sizes to our door and amazingly he still waves and smiles when he sees us in passing.

“We only have an hour to claim it, so we have to go right now.”

Blankly, I stare at him.  I am still in my pajamas and sipping a cup of coffee on the couch while he is preparing to collect his latest prize.  This one crummy cup of weak coffee is the only adult pleasure that I am still allowed and I. Need. It.  Sometimes, I wake up early just to get started on my one cup of the bitter nectar of life.

“I cannot go anywhere until I finish this coffee.” I declare firmly.

“Mmmm…..” he whines impatiently without words and waits three seconds.

“Ok, how about now?”

I sigh, there will be no peace until the prize has been claimed.

“Let me brush my hair.”

I change into a clean pair of leggings and t-shirt, my uniform as of late, because regular pants, shirts with buttons and dressing up in general is for regular sized, non-turkey-sized-baby carrying people, and we set off.  After a very long waddle down the road, we finally arrive at a brewery where I collapse into a chair while my beloved makes his way to the counter to collect his much-deserved prize.

He returns to the table with a double win, a Kurt Vonnegut book and an order of a Cuban inspired brunch.  We devour a stack of pancakes infused with guava jelly and topped with freshly whipped cream and a plate of fried eggs with a side of sliced mangos.  What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine, I secretly think and pull the book towards me across the table.

Just like brunch, The Sirens of Titan is exactly what I need to remember to take life less seriously but not for granted, to dream of adventure and travel, and to consider that we might not have any control over our path in life, but we can control our attitude, our sense of wonderment and how we treat those who walk along side of us during our short time on Earth.

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. 

 

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