Thursday, October 28, 2010

Over Halfway There

I am 21 weeks pregnant today. As I write this, I can feel the bean doing a somersault. Maybe he’s excited and wants to come out in 18 weeks! Maybe she likes her cozy home and wants to stay there for another 20. Either way, the calendars tell me that I’m over halfway there.

“Happy halfway there!” read Elissa’s email from last Thursday. And I read it and thought, “oh my god.”

That night on the way home I turned to Matt with a panicked look in my eyes. “What?!,” he asked, “what is it?” I put my hand on his arm to steady myself. “Matt,” I said, “it has to come OUT.” He laughed. He can do that, you see, because he doesn’t have a vagina.

But in reality, I’m not scared about labor. I’m too naive to know what to be afraid of. I have conveniently skipped the “Labor and Delivery” chapter in my books. My “birth plan” is to be admitted to the hospital while pregnant and to be discharged from the hospital holding a baby. What happens in between admission and discharge is up to me, Matt, the bean, and my doctor, not in that order.

What I am scared about is actually being someone’s mother, and doing so sooner rather than later. It has to come OUT, as in, it has to come into the world, it has to exist in our apartment, it has to ride safely in our car. It has to be clothed and fed. It has to have toys and books, blankets and black-out curtains. But more than the things that it has to have, more than the mountains of necessary and not-so-necessary baby stuff that is certain to accumulate in our apartment overnight, the bean has to exist in the world as a baby. The bean has to become a person in the world.

And what a scary world it is.

I’m not talking about the world of wars and climate change and Republicans (though lord knows that I could). I’m talking about my world, the world where Matt and I are pretty young and have no idea how to be parents. I’m talking about the world where my genetically-related family lives miles and miles away. I’m talking about the world where daycare is expensive and people ask me questions about how much I care about infant CPR. I’m talking about the world where we still get wrapped around the axle (every day!) about work and bosses and dry cleaning.

Everyone says that our world will shift. These soothsayers explain it all calmly, with a wave of their hand. Sometimes the shift will seem gradual, they say, and you’ll wake up sometime in June and realize that the lens through which you view the universe is different than the lens you were using in December. Dry cleaning and bosses will seem silly in comparison. And sometimes the shift will be immediate, they warn, and the day after the baby is born you will find yourselves un-self-consciously referring to your breasts as the “moo-makers.”

To say that I’m excited about it doesn’t really explain what I’m feeling. Excited is how you feel about your birthday, or a vacation. Excitement for me always implies a known component; I generally know what I am excited about. This time, while I am excited to see our little bean live and in-person, I am also apprehensive. I am uncertain, confused, nervous, tentative. I am guarding the world that we currently live in, struggling to balance day-to-day life with the ways that day-to-day life is already 100% different, all while totally unable to comprehend how it will change even more than it has since that day in July when I found out that I was pregnant.

You see, the bean has to come OUT. I will have moo-makers and new lenses in a matter of weeks. WEEKS! That’s what it means to be over halfway there, there where the world is different, where the ground has shifted, where the population of the world (our world) has increased so fundamentally, so dramatically, that it’s like we’re making space for a bean farm, not a bean.

So in the next 18, 19, 20 weeks, I have things to do. I have to store up on fertilizer and dirt, rakes and tractors. I have to get ready for the bean invasion, the bean explosion, the magnificent mountain of bean. In plain English this means that I have things to buy, pictures to finally frame, dinner dates to squeeze in. But more than that it means that I have to do exactly what I’m already doing. I have to stand at the precipice of my existing world and peer over the edge, holding Matt’s hand and wondering what’s out there. And then, when the time is right, the bean will help us all jump, the first of many things it will do to take us to a new and different world.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Universe Unto Itself

I remember exactly where I was sitting the day that J called to tell me that Charlotte was born. I was at our kitchen table in our small apartment in Pittsburgh. I had spent the day planning for our trip, trying to nail down our precise route and figure out how we could fit all of the places that we wanted to see into just 100+ days (we couldn't). I wasn't working at the law firm anymore, so I spent my days at that kitchen table, listening to music and feeling happily unemployed for the first time in a long time.

When my phone rang, it startled me because I'd been by myself all day. But when I saw that it was Jason, my heart stopped for a split second, because I knew what he was going to tell me.

"It's a giiiirrrrrl," he said. "Her name is Charlotte and mom and baby are doing great." He went through the play-by-play of Cris's labor, and Charlotte's height, weight, and baby statistics. I know that my memory is accurate, because I wrote down everything that he said on a recipe card that I keep in the front of my recipe box, along with all of the songs that Matt and I heard in the bar that night when we went out to get a beer and celebrate Charlotte's existence.

Charlotte was the first baby that really changed my world. It's a hard thing to put into words, but the short version is that after Charlotte was born, I thought about her and before she was born, I didn't.

I thought about what she was doing, how she was growing, how her parents were adjusting, what she would be like in 3, 5, 15, or 20 years. Before Charlotte was born, there was no space for her in my head because she simply didn't exist. And then after she was born, either I found some untapped space, or I shoved over some other thoughts that weren't relevant in order to make room for her. Either way, she was in my head.

Since Charlotte, other babies have made their way into my brain space, eliciting boundless affection and a world of enrichment. My beautiful and perfect nephew, our dear friends' son who lives in Philadelphia with all of that delicious curly hair, Charlotte's adorable brother, my high school best friend's smiley sweet boy. These babies, (especially the nephew who makes my heart hurt, I miss him so much) are the opposite of how life often works. In my world, things are here today, gone tomorrow. But these children weren't here yesterday and today make up an entire universe.

It was something that I didn't totally understand before Charlotte was born, that a baby can take up an entire galaxy, that even when your life is complete, when you want and are ready for a child, it can make your life more complete somehow. Even when you are so happy about the path you have chosen, a baby can take you down a path you didn't even know existed.

The funny thing is that I know that I don't even totally understand this now, because I've watched other people go through it, rather than been inside of it myself. But as with many things on which I stand on the outside looking in, I have a sense of how much bigger my world will be after the bean is more than a bean.

It is a funny thing to credit a three-year-old with opening your eyes to a world that's a different place, but so it goes. Someday I'll explain this to her and I bet she'll do that thing where she crinkles up her eyes and nose just like her dad while smiling just like her mom. She will probably think I'm just being sentimental, OLD even. And that's fine. She will be well on her way to seeing new worlds of her own.

Happy birthday, Little C. I hope you help to water this baby for the rest of your lives together.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lonely But Not Alone

This is not the first time I have experienced something huge without my mother. For some reason, I just didn’t think it would be this hard. I would like to say that I just didn’t think about it, but that isn’t true. I thought about it a lot, but I truly believed that I would weather it differently.

These are the times I have missed her: when I look at bassinets online, when I think about where I will store the furniture we need to buy, when my dearest friends offer me hand-me-downs, when my brother says he wants to buy me something, when I have to buy maternity clothes, when my boobs are suddenly the size of grapefruits.

I am standing there, bra in hand, marveling at the fact that my breasts have morphed into something I don’t recognize, and suddenly I am weeping in the dressing room.

I am going through the book about baby bargains at the kitchen table, thinking to myself that the selection of bassinets are basically the ugliest things I have ever seen and then I realize that I am feeling bereft that there won’t be one waiting at my mother’s house ready to come to Boston when she gets the news about the bean.

I am trudging through department stores with Matt, irritated that most maternity clothes make me look like a pregnant orka, and I am furious that she isn’t there with me, that she can’t just go online and surprise me with some clothes that at least make me look like an animal that is cute while pregnant.

I am 14 again, buying bras without her. I am 17 again, trying to decide on a college. I am 24 again, picking out bridesmaid dresses with Matt. Except that I am 31, I am pregnant with my first child, and this, finally, I cannot do alone and without her.

“You’re NOT alone,” Julie says. And I know what she means. I have her, I have Andy and Elissa and my dad and Matt’s brother, wife, and parents. I have the people around whom I have chosen to expand our family, raise our child, here in Boston. I have Matt, Matt who has gone through these lonely-for-my-mom times with me as an adult and trooped alongside me through a surgical breast biopsy, to pick out bridesmaid dresses, to buy maternity clothes.

But I AM alone. I am alone because I have an abundance of love and support and I still feel lonely for my mom. I am alone because I wish
that it was different.

I hate that last paragraph. I hate that I sound so ungrateful, that I am taking all of this support for granted. I am not ungrateful, I don’t take it for granted. When I think about these people, when I think about how lucky I am, how lucky this baby is because it is already so loved, I feel like I am overflowing with good fortune. But I am overflowing with good fortune and my mom is still dead.

This is how it ends: I do get through this and I am not alone. I pick out a bassinet and a crib and a changing table, I ask if I can store it in a friend’s basement, and I hope he understands what this means to me; I tick through the list of offered hand-me-downs and I truly think, “thank god Cris saved all of this stuff!”; I avoid my brother’s request to buy me something; I buy maternity clothes that don’t make me look like an orka; I find bras that fit.

And if all goes well, in 21 weeks we bring home a live and squirming bean who is so loved that it brings some people to tears to hold him for the first time, who has her grandmother’s cheeks or her uncle’s mouth. I bring home a baby that my mother will never meet, but who I believe she will know somehow, through and through. I become the mother that my mother will never meet. And sometimes I will miss her like I miss her right now, through and through.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Our World: Getting Bigger by the Day

Some of you might already know that I have been secretly blogging for a few weeks now, an activity that coincided roughly with seeing two pink lines on a "First Response" pregnancy test.

I have decided to go public with the posts, and as I'm writing this, I don't remember why I kept them secret in the first place, or why I have now decided that they shouldn't be a secret anymore. Either way, I am ready to share them with you, the two or three people in the world who are interested in reading what I have to say.

A few words of warning about these posts:
  1. They are almost entirely about how I feel about being pregnant. There are no interesting pictures of far off lands, or stories about men touching Matt's butt in tight spaces.
  2. They have a theme that goes something like this: I am thrilled and I am terrified in equal parts; life is crazy these days; everything makes me laugh and cry; the end. They are awfully repetitive.
  3. I am 100% aware of the fact that I am lucky to be leading this life, but I also feel that since I am the only one I know who is living my life, I have the freedom to complain about it, cry about it, laugh about it, and talk about it.
With all of those warnings in place, please know this: if none of those things sound like something you want to read, by all means, stop reading! But if you decide to proceed, do not blame me if I sometimes make you want to throw up, shout "grow up already!" at your computer screen, or cry. You have been warned.

So with all of those caveats out of the way, welcome back! I can't promise it will be as exciting as watching a pizza hut dance party in Agra, or as crazy as taking a cooking class in Thailand, but I know for certain that we are in for the adventure of a lifetime.

Monday, October 4, 2010

You're Only What You Give Back

Written October 4, 2010

Nearly nine weeks ago, something really huge happened to me. Matt, Julie, and I were frantically preparing to host our house-warming party. None of us had showered, all of us were frazzled. I was cooking and cooking and cooking. Julie was as to be expected, cleaning the house from top to bottom. And Matt was running around doing errands, taking care of things we were sure we’d forgotten to take care of, and generally trying to stay out of our way.

There came a point in the day when Julie had finished the playlist and had gone out to get one last thing, Matt was doing a final beer run, and I had cooked everything I could and was taking a moment to savor the calm before the storm. I turned to Julie’s computer, which had been slowly working its way through the night’s playlist, and picked out a couple of songs to listen to. I danced around to a few and eventually landed on Imogen Heap, who was a new addition to my list of great artists. I had been playing her song, “Earth” on repeat for weeks. I can’t tell you why it spoke to me, only that it did.

That day, I lay down on the freshly-vacuumed living room carpet and listened to the song over and over again. I thought about the fact that I was living in this great apartment with two of the people I love most in the world. I thought about the fact that my best friend was happily dating someone I suspected might be around forever. I thought about the fact that our friends were coming over to celebrate our new place. I thought about how lucky I was to have this moment, and more importantly, to realize how lucky I was. I thought about the fact that I was pregnant. And then I burst into tears.

That was how Julie found me, lying on the floor of our living room, staring up at the ceiling fan, blasting Imogen Heap, crying huge and happy tears and gasping for breath. Only she didn’t know that they were happy tears and she knelt above me, touching my shoulders, my face, looking as worried as she sounded that day in January when I told her about the miscarriage, asking me what was wrong.

“Nothing,” I told her. “I’m just, I’m going to have a baby. Julie, I’m going to have a baby and I’m going to be someone’s mom.”

“I know!,” she said, her relief so obvious I felt like I could touch it, and she settled herself down on the floor next to me, shoulder-to-shoulder, and stared up at the ceiling fan as we listened to Imogen Heap and I laughed and cried and calmed down.

It was an amazing day, the day that I knew that this baby’s heart was beating inside of me, the day that I knew that I was right about Julie and that new boy, the day that I realized just how much my little world was changing, and how beautifully.

You’re going to lose it all and find yourself on your knees
So get a grip and you might flow, reverse the great slow bleed.
I’ve tried patience but you always want a war.
This house won’t tolerate anymore.

You’re only what you give back.
You’re only what you give back.
You’re only what you give back.

Today we had our 18 week ultrasound and saw kicking feet and waving arms and kidneys and leg bones. I stared at that screen and thought, “I love you I love you I love you” with every single inch of my body, crying and laughing and holding tightly to Matt’s hand.

I can’t totally explain why the two moments are connected in my mind, the sun-drenched day in July with Imogen and the happy tears, and today’s low-lit room flooded with pictures of our baked-potato sized baby. I think that it has something to do with realizing change, with being in a place where change feels amazing and right, despite the difficult things that come with it.

When I got up from the carpet that day in July, I turned towards the kitchen to put the finishing touches on something that we probably never got around to eating, and there were tears drying in the corner of my eyes. I remember smiling at Julie, who smiled back at me as she picked a final piece of lint off the carpet. When I hopped off the table today, I literally burrowed into Matt, holding onto him and saying what I always say after these appointments, “did you see the bone? Did you see the kidneys?” just so that I can hear him say, “did you see the ribcage? And the brain?” There were tears drying in the corner of my eyes and I smiled at him. He grinned back at me.

Yes, you’re only what you give back. And change can actually be everything you wanted and then some.