Monday, August 12, 2013

on just the three of us

So much more to say but, for now, as I type with one hand and hold a two week old in the other, this will do.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

on nesting

In the Spring of 1949, just before her first baby (there would be eight more) arrived, my grandmother began nesting.  She went to the grocer down the street and asked if there were any unused crates she could take.  There was, and she left with an orange one.  A short walk later and she was asking the sales clerk at the home store if there were any leftover wallpaper scraps. There was, and she left with a small sheet of the colorful stuff.  Once home, she papered the crate with her wallpaper find and then filled it with diapers and cloths.  She was finished.
On Saturday, as my grandmother told this story, I was sitting in my aunt’s house in my hometown surrounded by dozens of gifts.  She made the joke, “It’s amazing any of our babies ever survived without all of this!”
We live in a one bedroom apartment.  Like my grandmother and grandfather (or Mum and Pa as they would be named once the first of the 18 grandchildren arrived), we don’t have much room.  Unlike my Mum and Pa, we do have stuff.  Lots and lots of stuff.  Onesies and burp cloths, sound machines to white out police sirens, and contraptions created specifically to clean bottles.  I am grateful for all of it, but know it’s not needed.  My Mum told a few more stories and as she did I imagined those first few years before my Pa’s law practice took off, when they were just out of school, struggling, trying to create the life they knew they could have.

lovely stuff
They ended up with that life.  With an amazing love and friendship that spanned decades.  With a thanksgiving table so overflowing that it would often spark my Pa to call out, “Look at all these beautiful people! The fruit of my loins!” Which would, undoubtedly, produce both groans and laughs around the table.
Mike won’t practice law, and I won’t sell summer houses on the north fork like my grandmother did, so I know that our lives won’t look exactly the same (and there are no intentions for 9 children).  But it’s a nice reminder that what we start with is not indicative of what we end with.  As long as we have each other, and this little person who will be joining us soon, all the rest is a bonus.  An orange crate from the grocery store, some scrap wallpaper, and a proud mom-to-be bustling around a small apartment in Queens.  That seems like enough.

33 weeks this past weekend

Thursday, April 18, 2013

on good news, and dodging the odds

Last Thursday, after two weeks of waiting, we heard from the geneticist with results.  I was sitting on a boat in Florida, visiting my mom and step-dad, when I heard the good news.  After I hung up, after I knew that as far as any test could show there wasn't any genetic problem, I was thankful for those little club feet.  Those perfect, little, turned-in-on-themselves feet.

For a few days I suffered from some version of survivor guilt.  I didn't know what to say here after the nerves had passed and I knew that I had dodged some sort of odds bullet.  That in one day the geneticist may have made several other calls, with different words, different outcomes, different lives changed.

It would have been alright.  We would have been ok.  I know that.  But I also know that our lives were just made easier by not having to hear something different from that call.

I haven't written here this winter because I thought it would be a jinx.  I worried about getting my hopes up only for something awful to happen.  I didn't mean to let that negativity slip in, but I couldn't shake the feeling that our happiness could be taken away.  When Mike's Dad got sick we postponed our engagement to focus on family.  He passed away a year later and we postponed again because it was all just so sad.  Finally, when things were calm, we moved forward.  Only to have the tragedy of tragedies strike just a week before the wedding.  You can understand my hesitation. 

I don't believe that the world works this way.  I don't believe that there is some hand of fate that builds you up just enough to knock you down, but I couldn't be sure.  And so I wrote quietly.  In the notes app on the phone.  In scribbled margins of work notebooks.  But I didn't write any of it here.

But maybe I should.  Maybe now that I remember that good news and bad news comes and goes and we still move forward, maybe I'll remember what it felt like to share it here. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

on traffic and the Kosciuszko

On the BQE heading from Brooklyn to Queens, just as the road rises over the Kosciuszko bridge, there's a perfect span to the west of the Manhattan skyline.  Beneath the highway is Newtown Creek, to the north an acres wide cemetery (the kind my brother and I used to joke about, "aren't their heads bumping?"), then the East River, then Manhattan.  Without fail, no matter what time of day it is, there will be traffic on this stretch.  On nights when my Dad would drive me home from his place in Brooklyn Heights, I loved this traffic.  It meant I got him for another 20 minutes.  It meant another 20 minutes in the car for me to ramble on about every piece of information that entered my stream of consciousness.  For me to share the things I only shared in those quiet minutes when no one else was around. 

Last Thursday, Mike and I went to my doctor for a 21 week scan.  It was meant to be the last sonogram of the pregnancy.  I didn't want unneeded scans and I made the appointment for Mike's spring recess so he could be with me, so he could see that little being kicking around one last time before seeing it in person in August.  The sonogram tech made her measurements, chatted, and then left the room to show the doctor the pictures she gathered.  Last time this happened, the doctor came in, shook my hand, and told me that all was well and he'd see me next time.  Instead, last week, the doctor came in as he was putting his hands into a pair of gloves.  He sat down and said he'd like to do the sonogram himself.  I grabbed Mike and squeezed-doctors don't perform sonograms unless something is wrong.

Soon after we learned that our baby to be has bilateral club foot.  Both of its feet are turned inward, nearly upside down on themselves.  This time, as we watched on the screen and knew what we were looking for, it was clear.  Little knees, little legs, and then two too-small feet stuck awkwardly at right angles to the ankles.  Minutes later, in the doctor's office as we talked about the scan, I let a few tears fall.  I imagined the casts and braces (in my mind, some polio-era contraption), of my baby never walking normally and of being in pain.  All of which is dramatic and unrealistic-but the brain does strange things when confronted with such a surprise. 

We met with a geneticist that afternoon and learned that 90% of club foot cases are isolated.  Meaning, the only issue is the feet, which will be fixable and treatable (it seems braces have come a long way since the 1930's) and in most cases cured by the time the child starts to walk.  But with that lingering 10%, that stubborn remainder, the feet are a sign of a greater genetic issue.  A chromosomal defect.  One in particular that could lead to a "question of viability outside the womb", and so we are now in the midst of a 10-14 day wait on the results of last Friday's amio*.

That first night, as I tried to think only positive thoughts, as Mike cheered me by looking up every professional athlete who was born with club feet (there are a lot), as we told ourselves that 90% is a huge number and we don't have anything to worry about, I wanted my Dad.  It was a Thursday and I knew he was at his weekly gig.  But, more than knowing he was just out of the house, he felt very far away in Mexico, and I let myself cry for the first time since hearing the news.  In that moment, I wanted to feel like the kid, to be told what will be will be, but it will be alright either way.  To be in the passenger seat on the BQE, stuck in traffic on the Kosciuszko.  For the quiet moments in the car between my ramble and his words.

*A few days later our doctor sent us for a fetal echocardiogram to rule out any congenital heart abnormalities.  The scan showed another "soft marker" for genetic issues, an echogenic focus on the heart, so the amnio should tell us more about that as well.  Waiting.  Waiting.  

(not my photo)

Friday, February 8, 2013

on expecting

When a woman tells me she is "expecting", I can't help but think, "expecting what?".  It just sounds a little vague, like we think we're expecting a baby, but who knows, maybe we're expecting an elephant.  And then I can't help but imagine her in a hospital room cradling a baby elephant, in a "we weren't expecting this!" type of ba-dum-dum cymbal crash gag.  I see it in my head and I laugh every time.  But, since the other person is not seeing the funny reel of images in my head, they only know that they told me they were expecting and I started laughing.

Sometimes I wonder how I have any friends at all.

So now that I'm "expecting", I find myself talking to the little being in there and saying, "I expect you are a baby and not that worm alien who jumps out of the guys stomach with a little mini hat and cane to perform Hello Ma Baby on top of the diner counter in Spaceballs.  But, since I"m not really sure, it would be great if you could just give me a sign either way..."

I'm mainly kidding, but not totally.  It's a pretty strange thing to know you're growing a human but not be able to grasp that since, you know, it's not every day you grow a human.  Kind of sci-fi I tell you.  But pretty awesome too.

Not picking up the Spaceballs reference?: 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

on passing the test, and a new shore

On December 1st, just as the space behind the curtain started to fill with light, I quietly put my feet on the floor and made my out of the room.  I had spent the night before restless, rolling over to look at the clock every hour or so, awake with nerves.  Even though I had tried to tell myself that it would be negative, that it wasn't happening now, I had a feeling I couldn't shake.  A feeling that something was already happening. 

I took the test, and waited.  I put my head in my hands and did my own, personal form of praying.  Please, I thought, please let it be now.  I hesitated for another minute and then looked over to the test next to the sink.  No little lines to decipher on this model, the word said what I'd been waiting for.  Pregnant.  I made a sound.  A whispered yelp and then looked at the word again, not trusting the first sighting.  Pregnant.  The letters were still there.  I jumped up and looked in the mirror, half expecting to see someone different.  A few tears fell and I wiped my face and ran into the bedroom to wake Mike.  I climbed on top of him and told him the news.  He opened his eyes and asked me to say it again.  And I did.  He pulled me down on top of him in a tight hug and we stayed in bed for the next hour, amazed and happy and overwhelmed.

And in those minutes everything felt different.  At the time it was just a mass of rapidly dividing cells holding everything it would one day be, but still, it was there.  It was real.  A tiny bundle of genetic promise.  I put my hand on my belly and whispered, please grow baby, please stay with us.  And so it has.  Eight weeks after that morning and now it has hands and arms and legs which waved and kicked at us yesterday as we watched on the screen at the doctor's office. 

It's still early.  Just over twelve weeks.  But the riskiest part is nearly over, and so I am back to share.  After I found out the happy news, I didn't know what to say here.  I've always been a fairly good secret keeper, but the blank page asked for me to write about what was happening to us, and without sharing this huge new part of our life, I had nothing else to say.  There are unpublished drafts about Christmas traditions and a show with my brother, the new year and about sitting next to Patient Zero on the subway as he sneezed and coughed his symptoms all over me, but none made their way to this page.  It felt strange to write when the only thing I wanted to say could not yet be said.

I started writing here as a way of moving past the heartbreak that was losing Mike's mom so soon after losing his dad, but now the words on the side of this page feel fitting for this too.  Onward full-tilt we go.  To make good on a new shore. 

Saul Leiter-Mother And Baby In Mirror