Saturday, January 29, 2011

Finny the Giant

I have been shocked lately to find that Finny is humongous. When I pull his shirt over his head, I am astounded by how big and solid and sturdy it is. No soft spots, all skull. When I change his diaper, I am again taken aback by how long and dangly his legs are and how big his feet are and how meaty and solid his thighs are.

And he’s heavy. Now that I’m unpregnant, I can once again lift him and drag him up the stairs to his nap, but he’s so long and big and boy-like now. His legs hang down to my knees and I huff and puff at the weight of him. It’s freaking me out.

I knew that having a newborn in the house would be an adjustment, that it would shake things up a bit, but I was not prepared for how big Finny’s little tush would seem after changing size 1 diapers all day. I was not prepared for how large and solid his head would feel after sticking a tiny infant head through a onesie three times a day. I didn’t know that on my way home from the hospital, Finny would eat the Wonderland cake that would make him grow into the Giant Finny he has become.

And it’s not just his physical size, it’s what he says and does and everything that seems to be happening all at once. It’s wonderful and fun and amazing, but it’s also putting knots in my stomach and making me feel a little queezy and woozy and teary-eyed.

Just this morning I was singing a lesser known song from the Broadway version of Annie, a song that I rarely sing, and as I began “I’d like to thank you…” Finny finished the line with “Herbert Hoover!!!” Herbert Hoover! Like, no big deal, Mom. Why don’t you go ahead and teach me the names of all 44 U.S. presidents as well as the entire musical score to the Broadway version of Annie? I’m bored here.

Yesterday, we were listening to our Pandora Beatles station as we molded crocodiles out of Play-Doh and after listening to The Who and Credence Clearwater Revival, “All My Loving” came on and Finny immediately perked up and said, “Oh, there they are!” as if he’d just been waiting for his old buddies John, Paul, George and Ringo to chime in.

The poor kid has even picked up on my knack for nonchalantly misplacing things about the house. Ask him a “Where is it?” question and you’ll almost always get the same answer. “Finny, where are your shoes?” The response, a decisive,“They’re somewhere.”

And now preschool registration has begun and we’re talking about Finny carrying a backpack and having a cubby and hanging up his coat and it’s all so adorable and exciting and depressing and horrifying at the same time.

My little Finny! How I want to see you grow up! But how I wish I could keep little versions of you at all your various adorable ages around the house and take them out to play with them whenever I want. I could take out 9-month-old Finny when I want a taste of you with your smiley head of duck fluff. I could take out 14-month-old Finny for a taste of those wobbly little first steps in your soft, tiny baby sneakers. And I could take out 28-month-old Finny in all his enthusiastic sweetness and have him wrap his arms around my leg and proclaim, “I want hold you, Mommy!” and then give me his version of a kiss, which is nothing more than a gentle head butt to the cheek, with a forced fish-lip pucker into the air.

Maybe this is what Octo-Mom was trying to achieve. Some kind of small child Mecca where cuteness abounds and adorable little faces show up at every turn. No, thanks. I don’t want 14 kiddos roaming about my house all at once, stepping all over each other and eating old Cheerios off the floor, pulling on each other and on me. What I want is a plain and simple time machine, something I could tuck away in the corner of my dining room, something that would make it impossible for me to be sad when I realize that you are in fact doing exactly the thing you’re supposed to be doing—growing up.

Finny, my little gargantuan toddler, keep growing if you must. In the meantime, Stephen Hawking, wrestle me a wormhole and a super speedy rocket and help me figure out how to keep him little just a little bit longer.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Familiar Place

I wondered, back when I was pregnant just over a week ago, how all of this second child business was going to go down. I remembered how frazzled I’d been when Finny was a newborn, how there didn’t seem to be time for anything, how I would often seem to be choosing between life’s basics, “Okay, I have thirty minutes before he needs to eat again. Do I eat, sleep, or pee?” Often times I would choose sleep above all else and then find myself nursing Finny on the couch with a full bladder and an empty stomach, cursing myself for not eating or peeing when I had had the chance. Showering seemed important but impossible and any kind of chore above putting a dish in the dishwasher seemed likely to never be done again as dust bunnies huddled in corners and a funky orange mildew coated the shower tiles.

I remember feeling frustrated with David too that he didn’t share my sense of urgency. Immediately upon taking his last bite of breakfast, I expected him to bolt up from his chair and start racing to clean up the dishes. Didn’t he understand that we only had an hour before the baby needed to eat again? Didn’t he hear the loud ticking of the clock every time little Finny turned his head funny and started to root, root, root with his tongue? Didn’t he know how often I had to eat soggy Raisin Bran because just as soon as I poured the milk, Finny’s milk seemed to already be letting down for another feeding? How could he possibly think he was going to read the newspaper at a time like this?!

Well, here I am once again with the soggy Raisin Bran and the cold coffee ordering David around and penciling in time to pee. The difference is it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it did the first time. The difference is I sort of get it now. I get that now is not the time for me to enjoy a leisurely breakfast or shave my legs or organize the Tupperware cabinet. I get that now is not the time for these things, but that there will be time for them once again someday. I will drink a full mug of hot coffee again someday, I will find all the missing lids to the Tupperware, and sometime before spring rolls around and things really start to get scary I will add a few minutes to my shower and shave my legs again.

Life has gotten a little more complicated with a newborn, but this time, I’m planning on things not going as planned. This time, I am in familiar territory with a new perspective, and in that respect, so far, two has been greater than one.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Charlie's Story


I guess when all is said and done, you were really only three days late, but it felt more like thirteen to twenty to forever.

When they told me at my 37 week appointment that I was three centimeters dilated and 70% effaced and Renee, our nurse midwife smiled and said she doubted I’d make it to New Years and nurse midwife Trish winked at me on the way out the door saying, “Maybe I’ll see you this weekend!” I was sure you would be here before Santa.

But a week came and went without a peep. I wondered where you were, but then, since your brother was ten days early, and you were due January 2, I was certain you wouldn’t make it a day past Christmas Eve. So we went to church, had a nice dinner out, and came home to watch It’s a Wonderful Life and prepare for Santa.

And then, you started in with your tricks. When you started pushing and kneading my lower back from within, we got excited. This is it, we thought, the back labor. He’s coming. A Christmas baby. We packed our bags and my mom came to stay the night. When we woke up on Christmas morning the cookies were gone, but you, my little trickster, were still comfy in the womb and the back labor---gone.

A week later, and the day before New Year’s Eve, I was closer to four centimeters dilated at my appointment and nurse midwife Sue Holden stripped my membranes. “Maybe I’ll see you tonight,” she said. The next night as we celebrated New Year’s Eve at Aunt Laurie and Uncle Mike’s, once again you started in with your tricks. Contractions every fifteen minutes. This might be it, we thought. I went to bed that night with a watch on to count time between contractions. At some point, I fell asleep. When I woke up, it was morning. No tax break. We treated ourselves to breakfast.

Now, five days later, it is January 5, and you are three days late. I lay in bed, sleepless, anxious, impatient, praying at 1:30 a.m., “Please let my water break. Pretty please let my water break.” Maybe that is the wrong approach, I think. “No, you’re right,” I pray, “Your plan is perfect. Please give me patience. But also, please let my water break.” I seem to be getting fatter and fatter. Even my shoulder feels fat. I am laying there feeling fatter and fatter and anxious and impatient.

After three hours of sleeplessness, I get up to take a Tylenol and my pants are wet. It seems like there is some kind of slow drip occurring, like a faucet with a cracked washer. “David,” I say, “I think I’m dripping.”

“That’s probably your water breaking. Should we call your mom?”

Oh, no, I think, I’m not falling for this again. “No, I might just be peeing my pants. Let’s wait.” So, I climb back in bed and finally start to fall asleep when I feel a giant pop! Like a punch, like a burst from within, so significant that I shout out in my sleep.

“What happened?” David says.

“I don’t know. I don’t know what that was. Something punched me.”

David runs to get a towel and I stand up out of bed to check the dripping. Sure enough, it is now a gush on the bathroom floor.

It is 4:15 a.m. I call my dad. “Can you be here by five?” I ask.

“I can be there sooner than that,” he says. Thank you, Dad, for being quick and low maintenance.

This time, we know there is no time for showering. There is no time for sending quick emails. No time to stop by the video store. We have been living out of half-packed bags for weeks now, so we dress and throw in toiletries. No contractions yet, so we still have some time. David makes coffee, toasts some English muffins. Dad arrives in less than thirty minutes. By the time he arrives, before the coffee is brewed, before the muffins have toasted, the back contractions have begun and right out of the gate, they are five minutes apart.

We get in the car. David ignores the 25 mile per hour speed limit. He treats red lights like stop signs. He knows he has to get us there fast. Mercy Anderson is 30 minutes away. In the car now, the contractions are three minutes apart.

When we arrive at 5:15 a.m., they already have a room ready for us. Check-in seems much quicker this time thanks to pre-registration. Marion, our Irish nurse, introduces herself. She is gentle and calm. Tells me to put on the gown and we’ll check things out. When I come out of the bathroom, your name, Charlie, is written on the dry erase board beside the bed.

“Oh, can we erase that?” I ask, “I’m not ready for it yet. I need to see him first.”

“Marion has a Charlie too, Jill,” David tells me. Something about that connects me to Marion.

The contractions are now three minutes apart and Renee tells me I am five centimeters. I’ve asked to labor in the labor tub to ease the pain of the contractions and move things along quicker. They roll it in. It takes 45 minutes to prepare and they need to monitor the baby for 30 minutes before I can get in.

Marion asks me what my plan is. I tell her how I’d like to try for another natural birth if it’s quick, but if I get tired or it gets to be too much, I’m not opposed to an epidural.

“You’re a smart girl,” she whispers, “Keep your options open.” Something about her gentle nature and her Irish accent make me feel like everything is going to be okay.

As I lay on the bed, I am aware of things going on around me. The tub is being prepared, David is setting up the ipod, Marion is putting the IV in, asking me my medical history, another nurse is asking me to sign some paperwork. All of this is happening, as you, Charlie, keep nudging me on the back, telling me, not so quietly, that you’re coming. As I cling to the side of the bed through the wave of each contraction, you push and push on my belly and my back and seem to tell me with each quick, fast wave that that labor tub will not get used today. Not by me.

“Marion, I have to go to the bathroom. Will you tell me when I can go?”

“Certainly, dear. You can go right now. Let me unhook the monitor.”

As I walk into the bathroom, you press and press on me the whole way there. Renee follows me in.

“Renee,” I say when I get up, “I still feel like I have to poop.”

“That’s the baby, Hon. Can you get back to the bed? Let’s check you out.”

6:20 a.m. She checks me. 8 centimeters. 5 to 8 in one hour. Here you come.

A few more contractions come and go. The birth tub is still filling. Marion and David take turns pressing and rubbing my tailbone during contractions to apply counter pressure to get me through.

6:30 a.m. “Renee?” I ask, “Can it be possible that I already feel the urge to push?”

“Yes, it can. Let me put my birthday clothes on.”

And they tell me to turn on my back. Oh, how it hurts to turn on my back with you, little Charlie, pressing, pressing, pressing on it.

And they tell me to pull my legs back and I wonder, can I do this? Can this be happening again? Can this be happening already? And I lay there, filling up with doubt.

David helps me grab one leg. Marion grabs the other. “I’m scared,” I say, “I don’t remember how to do this.”

“You can do it, Jill,” I hear from David, from Marion, from Renee.

“Just do what your body tells you to do,” says Renee.

And the lights are bright, and my eyes are closed, and I’m ready to push, but we wait. We wait, for you, Charlie, and for the next big contraction to push you out. And I pray for strength. And here it comes. And I wince. And I push. Hard. And there’s your head.

“Good job, Jill. You’re doing a great job. Just one more…”

And I push again. And there you are, on my chest, shocked and gooey and a little pink and a little blue too. And I’m trying to open my eyes to look at you, but I’m a little shocked too. But there you are. Such a good boy. So worth the wait. Two pushes and there you are. It’s 6:49 a.m. and the labor tub is still filling with water, but my Charlie has arrived. Eight pounds, eleven ounces, 20 ¾ inches long. A little blue, a little pink, a little perfect. And a big boy to come out so quickly and easily. Put his name on the board, Marion. Charlie. Now I have a Charlie too.

And still the room swirls around me. They clean you off. They sew me up. But when they’re done, when I open my eyes, David hands you to me, all tiny and warm. And there I am, nursing my second son, my second miracle.

And I find myself in a familiar place. A place I had forgotten about. The warm, tired, spiritual sort of bliss that it is to nurse a newborn. The great relief that it is to no longer be pregnant. The feeling of overwhelming pride and accomplishment that comes at the end of a long race. I did this. Little old me.

Looking back now on Finny’s birth story, I remember the great drama of it all. The sense of fear and urgency and that everything was happening so fast and nobody was listening and nobody was bringing me the epidural and there was no relief in sight, just great fear of the unknown.

Your story is different, Charlie. It’s calm and smooth and well, sort of easy. It’s colored with the sweet lilt of Marion’s Irish accent, the relief of the hard pressure of your daddy’s hand on the small of my back, and the reassuring confidence from Renee that my body would tell me, that Charlie would tell me when it was time to come out. And you did. I was so impatient for you, Charlie. But you came when you were ready and you came just right.

My Charlie. Three days late. Right on time.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Passing Due Date/Back to Work Lament

Tomorrow is David’s last day home after over a week of time off for the Christmas/New Year’s holiday. That is, unless of course, the stubborn old baby decides to show up. If he’s anything like his father, he is paying no attention to the time and is likely doing a drum solo on his thighs contemplating having his third “bathroom break” of the hour so that he can read one more article on how to improve his chip shot from Golf magazine. If he is anything like his mother, he is likely ready to go, but cannot remember for the life of him where he put his sunglasses or his cell phone or any number of coupons that he’s clipped in vain. If he’s anything like his older brother, he is hiding behind the living room couch pretending to chomp on a wooden orange, thinking it’s hilarious that his swollen, pregnant mother has to chase him down the hall to get his arm in his coat.

Take your time, baby, take your time. We’re all just waiting on you. No pressure. I’ll be waiting in the car. You just come out when you’re good and ready.

Since we don’t know when the baby will decide to literally rear his ugly head (because they’re all a little ugly right off the bat), Finny, David and I are all a little whiny today because we’re antsy and because we know that very soon David has to go back to work.

It is highly likely that God, in all his omnipotence, knows exactly what He’s doing by leaving our baby in a little longer. Perhaps He knew that we needed some time to be together as a trio before the world flips inside out on us with the presence of another newborn again. For the past five months, David has worked long hours in a demanding role at work to provide for us as a family. This has meant a lot of early mornings, missed bedtimes, and sleepless nights for David and some loneliness and frustration for me.

But, this past week, we got a much-needed opportunity to just be together. We ate meals together, cleaned up together and played together. Finny had someone to chase him and tickle him and roll on the floor with him while I got to put my swollen feet up and just enjoy watching. During nap time, David and I got to play board games and I got some help with the vacuuming and mopping and bathtub scrubbing. Every morning we went to the gym as a family. We’ve been anxious and impatient waiting for the baby to show up, but we got to be anxious and impatient together.

Today, we all sense the tension that comes with the looming day that Daddy goes back to work and our happy little routine of play and relaxation and companionship comes to an end and we are back to the daily grind once again. The ugly truth of it is we need the bad and the ugly in order to fully appreciate the good. Without sadness, we would never appreciate joy, without poverty we would never appreciate wealth, and without hard work we would never appreciate time to build block towers, watch bowl games, play Scrabble and go to brunch at our leisure.

So here’s me pouring the glass half full today in an attempt to ease some of the stress that comes along with the return of the ringing alarm and the rush hour commute. We will miss you, Daddy/David, when you go back to the demands of work, but we will all adjust as we always do and we are glad we got this extended time to play with you.

Now, we’ll all look forward to a little more time with you when the baby decides to get up off his lazy ass and show up, which likely won’t be until sometime this May, after he’s had sufficient time to develop his superhuman lungs, to perfect his water polo game, and to really nail his thigh-slapping drum solo.

No pressure, son, but the car is running and gas was up to $3.09 this week, so you know, whenever you feel like it…