Sunday, July 6, 2014

three years

Our path to parenthood started on a hot Sunday afternoon. We were in the car when I said, "Do you want to have a baby?" You reached for my hand and answered, "Rachy, I've always wanted to have a baby with you."

The bits between week 1 and week 38 only strengthened my trust in you: All the times I threw up, and you rubbed my back quietly until I was finished. The days in my first trimester when I came home from work to an apartment chilled to a perfect sub-70 degrees (who knew a cluster of cells could make me so hot and sweaty?). The nights before bed when you massaged the soreness from my lower back so I could fall asleep. The ultrasounds we sat through, and how the technician kept saying things like, "Here's her leg," "There's her heart," "See her elbow?" And you quietly watched the screen, and then eventually admitted, "I'm really glad you can see all that, because I sure can't."

The stares we got at the gym when you tied my shoes because I couldn't reach. The showers where I called to you to help wash my back because my tummy was too large for me to twist. The pillows I used that took up two-thirds of the bed, and yet you never complained. It all led up to the gentle, encouraging words you offered in that final hour of labor--the way you held me and said, "You can do this. We can do this," as I cried and yelled in pain and said that I was scared. I was so scared.

They said the biggest decision I'd make is who I married. That's not true. Marriage is largely reversible. I think the biggest decision I made is with whom I chose to have children, because children and parenthood can't be undone. I think about that every night when I look at you and Sage sleeping--the way she pouts her lower lip when she's deep in a dream, just like her dad. That is my favorite part of the day: nodding off in hypnotic breaths, feeling overcome that in this bed where there were once two warm bodies, there are three.

Happy three years, Fred. Thank you for being my husband, and thank you for being Sage's dad.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

how to lose 6 lbs 5 oz in one hour

Step 1: Take approximately 38 weeks painstakingly gaining 30 pounds. Be sure to eat things that taste all right on the way back up, should that occasion occur (which it will 85% of the time). Don't let anyone say "gorgonzola" in your presence. Resist chopping your father-in-law in the face when he innocently uses the words "marinated" and "sardine" in the same sentence.

Step 2: Wake up early Thanksgiving morning with inconsistent back contractions. Go about your day as normal. Drive an hour to your family's Thanksgiving feast. Drive the hour back in the backseat on your hands and knees to ease the back labor.

Step 3: Scratch your head in puzzlement when your water trickles and you lose your mucus plug. Chuckle that the term mucus plug is pretty accurate (unlike the euphemism "birth canal"). Shrug it off since your contractions are still inconsistent, though intense, and you do not feel like you are dying, so you probably aren't in labor.

Step 4: Get in bed, breathing through each contraction as you nod off.

Step 5: Feel a powerful POP inside of you, and then the feeling of the devil himself clawing at your pelvis.

Step 6: Scream.

Step 7: Keep screaming. Vomit from the pain.

Step 8: Fall onto your husband when he runs into the bedroom with worry on his face. Tell him you are dying. Tell him that you need to go to the hospital now. Scream some more. Realize you haven't packed a hospital bag. Fall to the floor in pain as your husband throws toothbrushes and undies into a duffel bag and escorts you to the car, stopping to apply counter pressure on your hips with each contraction peak. Scream so hard that you're sure your apartment neighbors will call the cops.

Step 9: Lie across your husband's lap on the drive to the hospital. Pound the arm rest with your fist as you shriek your head off with each contraction, which have double peaks at this point and are right on top of each other. Say over and over that you are going to die, that they need to cut you open, that you can't do it. Your husband will say, "Yes, you can."

Step 10: At your next contraction, your body automatically pushes. Tell your husband, "OH MY GOSH. I'M POOPING MY PANTS." Love him for calmly saying, "That's okay."

Step 11: It's after hours at the birthing center, so you will need to be buzzed in. Be sure to pound on the intercom and say, "HELLO PLEASE LET ME IN BECAUSE I'M DYING AHHHHH" with desperation. Again, your husband will be pushing on your hips.

Step 12: The receptionists will smirk at each other as if you can't see them when they find out you're a first timer. They don't think you're in as much pain as you think you are. They will send you to the wrong room twice. Once you are in the correct room, you will run to the toilet to vomit again. The delivery nurse will greet you in all your sweaty labor glory. Be sure to kick off your shoes and your pants and poopy underwear right when she introduces herself. Scream while you do it, too.

Step 13: You'll hear the midwife in the other room speaking to the staff. She will say, "Oh, we don't need such and such right now. She's a FIRST TIMER wink wink chuckle chuckle. We are in the PRELIMINARY STAGES eye rolling with a smile." She will turn around as you enter the room and invite you to get on the bed so she can have a look-see.

Step 14: "Oh, my gosh. She's crowning!"

Step 15: Suddenly a swarm of people will encircle the bed, chanting PUSH PUSH PUSH, and you plead for them to set up the squat bar so you can hang off it and squat while your "birth canal" screams with you.

Step 16: The squat bar is up. On your next contraction, roll up off your back, grabbing onto the squat bar. Bite down on the squat bar and drop the f-bomb so loudly that the nurse shushes you. You will have only been pushing for five minutes, but the midwife is ready to be done with her shift and tells you that if you don't push harder, she will give you an episiotomy. Lean in and snarl in her face, "DON'T THREATEN ME."

Step 17: Moments later, everyone will cheer. The baby's head is out! Push for her shoulders! You'll feel your husband touch your arm as he says, "I can see her. You are so close! You're almost there!"

Step 18: Flop back onto your side to help the baby rotate out. Scream. Push. Feel the ring of fire and push harder. Scream some more.

Step 19: Suddenly, you will have lost 6 lbs 5 oz. It will only have been an hour since you went into hard (very hard) labor. It will be the most surreal weight loss experience you'll have. You will be breathing heavily, dripping in sweat, flat on your back in utter exhaustion. You will look down and realize you are completely naked. Your clothes are strewn all over the room, and you don't know at what point that happened, and you decide you don't care.

Step 20: As you turn your head, you will see your husband across the room cutting the umbilical cord. You'll see him drop the scissors to bring his hands to his mouth to choke out a sob as he peers down at the 6 lbs 5 oz--the baby, healthy and wonderful and so peaceful that the midwife and nurse say they don't see such quiet babies often. Moments later, your baby will be snuggled into you, her giant blue eyes fluttering open and her breathing steady and calm. All of this will be happening while the midwife stitches you up--sans anesthesia, because you figure nothing will hurt compared to what you just felt. (You will be correct.)

Step 21: Hold your baby. Tickle your nose against her scalp because she will smell amazing. You and your husband will give her soft kisses over and over. As you come out of the bathroom from brushing your teeth, you'll catch your husband looking at your sleeping baby, telling her in a low whisper how much he loves her. The nurses will tuck you all in and turn off the lights for you to sleep. You won't sleep a wink, though. You will be cuddled up to her, watching her chest rise and fall until the quiet sun beams streak through the shudders and light up the dust in the air. Outside, it is crisp and cool, and you can see cars and people from the window. And you and your new family will be squished onto one small bed--dazed, speechless, warm, and humbled.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

the confidence of motherhood

I suppose I'm only a mother as much as my fetus is a baby, but if there's something I've learned in my embryonic stages of motherhood, it's that parenting requires confidence.

Like anyone else, my confidence is as easily gained as lost. I would say that I've mastered the art of faking it 'til I make it; in the times when I'm doubtful of my capabilities, I dive right in and act like I know what I'm doing until I believe it. I've taken enough tests, been to enough social events, sat through enough interviews to understand that as long as they think I'm confident, that's as good as being confident.

But I'm learning a little at a time that motherhood doesn't allow for as much room for such fakeries and doubts.

The times I felt most energized and secure as a child were the times when my mother exuded confidence. I liked when she requested and disciplined without feeling the need to apologize. I admired when she sacrificed her friendship with her children for the good of her role as our parent. I imagine other mothers can relate to those times when doing what's best also means being met with a slammed door and an "I hate you!" Perhaps the best thing means severing ties with other mothers whom you've considered your closest lifelong friends or putting yourself at odds with your children's father.

I had an incredibly enlightening conversation with my dad the other day about life management. If you know Big Mike, you know that he's all about management. He bought me a Franklin planner for my ninth birthday and encouraged me to forego my eighth grade one-page current affair paper about the state deficit to write a dissertation involving complicated economics and business models to prove, essentially, that there was no deficit. When I confide in my dad about frustrations, he simply says, "It doesn't have to stay that way. Just learn to manage it!" There's a management model for any situation; life is one big business, after all.

Unlike Big Mike, I let personal bias get in the way of my management. I make servers choose my order at restaurants, trusting that their decision is as good as my own. I spent an embarrassing amount of time at my sister-in-law's house this summer to obsess over which mattress Fred and I should purchase. (This process took me weeks to decide, and I even visited the mattress store every other day and spent hours researching mattress models, reviews, and even the skeletal anatomy.) And once I thought I'd made my decision, one comment from a friend who said, "Oh, we almost got that mattress, but then we got this other one instead" made me reconsider my preference altogether.

The point is, sometimes what other people think deeply affects my decisions. I claim to be fighting it. I am fighting it, in fact, and I'm pleased with my progress. But I'm quickly learning that when I'm a mother, I will need the confidence to make decisions despite who agrees or disagrees.

I don't mean decisions like flannel or muslin, cloth or disposable, breast or bottle, epidural or birthing tub, crib or co-sleep. I guess I mean the bigger, harder decisions. The ones that only Fred and I will stand by because everyone else, including our children, will disagree. The ones that will make me prove my confidence as a leader to my family and as someone who is qualified to direct--not to force, of course, but to direct.

Several of my friends have mentioned that I'm "brave" to have a child because labor and delivery is pretty painful (so I've heard). Some friends have admitted that they are scared of motherhood for vanity's sake--stretch marks, saucer-sized nipples, widened hips. I get that. I understand it takes confidence to stand up after puking an entire Subway meal outside the bank in front of a crowd of milling strangers. It takes confidence to allow people to watch you in an extremely vulnerable situation--going through the pain and panic of childbirth (or the "discomfort" and "orgasmic beauty," as I've heard some try to convince me). But that kind of confidence comes easily to me. I don't mind standing up, curtseying in front of those strangers, and saying, "Whew! Should've gone with honey oat instead of flatbread." I don't mind bouncing on a birthing ball and using hydrotherapy in minimal clothing in front of strangers.

For me, the bigger challenge will be in the other things. In the management, I suppose--the thing that comes so naturally to my dad, and even comes naturally to me, but that I fear will be more difficult to apply to my own children than to other life circumstances. I have good examples to study and imitate until it becomes more natural. I'm up for the challenge.

And now I really want a Subway sandwich...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

two years

I have a whole heavy bag of past relationships. Although I learned a lot during that time in my life, I learned this the most: that I take heartache hard.

Because even in the situations where I knew this wasn't what I wanted, that I truly did want to turn away and move on, I'd still wake up the morning after the breakup with a bruise-y blue residue over my hands, my face, my bed, my closet, my path to school. While I was certainly mourning the loss of what was and what could have been, I eventually grew to mourn something more universal than just the individual comforts of a particular boyfriend in a particular relationship.

I mourned the fact that I still hadn't found someone who was good for me that I was equally good for, too. And that's the broader issue that weighed on my heart as I moved from love to love, from him asking, "What's happening to us?" in his pajamas on my front porch, from discussing the humanistic qualities of oatmeal while stargazing one last time, from a knowing farewell at a final American Heritage lecture.

I know this--or at least a variation of this--is a common theme in college dating. I think we all carry this grief at one time or another.

As I'm writing this, my feet are in Fred's lap. He's playing with my toes, watching Family Feud, chuckling to himself every few minutes. I hear again and again the improbability of soulmates; and yet, there are times when I am so sure that Fred is mine. When we ride our bikes and the setting sun lights his curly hair just so. When we pretend to be robots until we laugh so hard our sides nearly split. When we wipe away stray tears after Land Before Time. And, yes, even when we argue and have to be apart for a time to blow off steam.

In these moments when Steve Harvey's overdone attitude is shining into our quiet family room, the air still and quiet outside our screened windows and the cat is stalking a fruit fly in the corner of the room...these moments erase any trace of what ifs and why nots, the games of yes and no no no.

I'm in the right place with the right person, and the grief from before is gone.

Happy two years, Fred. :)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

a peek into pregnancy

Compared to the horror stories of pregnancies of women near and dear, I consider myself to be pretty lucky. I am able to eat things other than brownies and potato chips. I haven't thrown up more than once in a day. I have not been hospitalized for dehydration and pumped full of magnesium. I've been tired, yes. Queasy, of course.

And emotional?

Well, that's a given.

In all reality, though, the emotionality has been pretty even keel, but last week I had an episode that I find too amusing not to share.

One night, I was in the bed waiting for Fred to finish brushing his teeth so we could fall asleep together. Our cat, Fuzz, was snuggling next to me. I went to pet Fuzz, and he rolled away and walked out of the room.

Moments later, Fred found me curled up in the dark, bawling into my pillow. He asked me what was wrong, and I explained to him that Fuzz didn't love me, that he stopped cuddling with me, and that that really hurt my feelings. At the time, I knew it sounded ridiculous. It's like when you have a horrible nightmare, but the next day when you're talking about it, you realize how completely moronic the whole thing sounds--and yet, the nightmare really was that horrendous, and Fuzz really did severely break my heart!

Fred sat with me for ten, fifteen minutes, listening to me speak between hiccups, hugging and assuring me that our cat loves me and that he didn't mean to snub me. "I'm going to finish flossing, and then I'll be back," Fred said once I'd calmed down a bit.

After a few minutes, Fred came back into the bedroom. He climbed under the covers, and I snuggled in the crook of his arm.

"Rachy," he whispered.
"Fuzz just told me he's really sorry for hurting your feelings."

I'm really, really glad I'm going to have a baby with that guy. He knows just how to handle these moments--with sensitivity, genuine concern, and humor. I love you, Fred.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

rusty car

Okay, kids. It’s been awhile.

Freddy and I moved, and we’ve yet to set aside the funds (well, the motivation) to set up Internet in our new place. We’d rather spend that money (again, motivation) on late night trips to In-N-Out, to which we now live so close that it’s practically in our living room.

Anyway, I have to schedule weekly visits to the public library to use the Internet. I have grand plans to blog when I’m there, but once I sit down, my mind goes blank. I feel like I have nothing interesting to say. I tried to keep a word document as a blog post, intending to publish it each week, but am I the only one who associates word documents with vomiting up a 16-page research paper two hours before it’s due?

Vomiting. Now there’s a mental picture.

I WILL publish something today. I am so sorry that you keep seeing my cat every time you visit my blog. It’s a really lame post to make you look at more than once.

So last night, I went for a walk around the city. On my way back to my apartment, I saw a gal stopped at a light, hazard lights on. She got out of her car and worriedly looked around.

“Hey! Do you need help?” I called. She nodded enthusiastically, so I ran across the street to see what was up. She ran out of gas at the light; luckily, a Chevron station—a beacon of hope, if you will—glowed just a mere block and a half away.

We started to push and tug on her car, but apparently it’s difficult to push and steer a car with the effort of only two really lanky girls, especially if one of those girls had a broken arm, which that girl did.

Suddenly, a Hispanic guy showed up. He didn’t speak English, but we figured he was offering to help, because we didn’t know why else a person would approach a dead car in the middle of the street (…yikes, writing that certainly made me realize there could’ve been a few reasons). So, he started to push with us, and the car slowly picked up momentum until we were all running to keep up with it.

It was in this moment that I thought of those scenes in movies like Space Jam or Apollo 13 where they show a point in the starry universe, and slowly that point moves past meteor showers and space junk, picking up speed until it’s speeding through our galaxy, zeroing in on our planet, penetrating our atmosphere, and then zooming straight down on a country, on a city, on a street.

And I thought about how if my life were a movie, that point would land on me. That point—that small speck in our expansive, ever-growing, infinite universe—would land on me in my Crocs with socks and my coon skin hat, grunting behind a car with a girl with a broken arm and a guy who didn’t speak English.

Of all the places to be and things to do.

Only months before, I was sitting in a psychiatrist’s windowless office. The laughing, the crying, the crying, the crying, the sore muscles, the sallow skin, the slivery slices on my thighs, the panic attacks—all this added up to the horrible achy residue that was more than just the grand conflict of living with a peeled back heart.

In fact, it added up to the sum of four letters: You have PTSD, Dr. Brink said. PTSD. The letters floated across the room, and I chewed and swallowed them one by one until they ended up side by side inside my stomach: post traumatic stress disorder.

It’s trite, really. Here you are reading ANOTHER blog post about someone whose living has temporarily taken over her life.


I’m willing to bet that you have yet to read a post about a girl running behind a rusty car with two strangers late at night.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


A few weeks ago, our friends emailed us with the news that they found a one-month-old kitten at a gas station. They already have two cats, so they were seeing if we'd be interested in being foster parents. Coincidentally, Fred and I had just talked the night before about getting a pet since we just moved to a pet friendly apartment, and we have more income coming in now that I've graduated from massage school.

A few hours later, we had this little guy stumbling around our apartment.

And really, he is a very little guy--so little that the Humane Society was unable to take him in, and he still needed to nurse from a bottle.
(Fred was apparently too mesmerized by Olympic diving to look at the camera.)

So here's the thing about getting a kitten: everyone wants to know what his name is.

Here's the thing about Fred and me: we didn't even think much about naming him until everyone asked.

When I asked Fred, the most clever man I know, what we should name our kitten, he thoughtfully responded, "Whiskers. Or Jaws."

My nieces offered suggestions, too.

Adri (age 5): Monsambler, Batonia, Garmon, Sam, or Fluffy Pants.
Teya (age 2): Cat.

One morning, the kitten pounced in our bed to wake us up. Fred said something like, "Hi, fuzz ball." It kind of stuck. We kept calling him "the fuzz ball," then "the fuzz," and now just "fuzz," so I guess his name is Fuzz, and I guess we are really into one-syllable-F-names around here.

These days, Fuzz is not as cute and cuddly in the previous video, as he's entered into the phase where he barrels around the apartment like something is on fire, and where he attacks inanimate objects like they're animate, and where he hides and pops out all teeth n' claws. I read that this is the developmental phase where kittens start practicing their hunting skills; unfortunately for us, we are the only moving things Fuzz sees. So ferocious. I don't feel safe in my home anymore, really.