Gratitude

Standard

There are so many things going wrong in this world today. There are so many things that could have gone wrong in my second pregnancy. I was remined of that reading this post while searching for my next hit of baking therapy.

As i sit on the couch with Baby Wiglet propped up on my legs, i tear up in gratitude at how healthy she is. She is a healthy, beautiful baby. Seven weeks in and, touch wood, things are going relatively smoothly. Then she rips a fart. Comedy genius. Keeping it real.

IMG_0835-0.JPG

Tale of Two Births

Standard

20140706-111843.jpg

She is finally here! Our little I was born on Tuesday. We know have an E and I. It is a bit like Old McDonald’s farm, but no plans for an O to complete the song. E,I,E,I,O…

They were both healthy and strong and I escaped the ordeal relatively unscathed. This time around has been different in almost every other way, though.

For starters, I had an epidural this time and I was au natural last time. I recognized the building pain from a mile away this time and was so grateful for the epidural that I gladly accepted the side effects like all the wires and monitoring, body temp regulation extremes, and itchy skin. My first labor, I dilated from 1 to 10 cm in about two hours. This time, I was dilated at 1 cm for weeks then went from 3 to 10 cm in 45 minutes. Most women suffer through that pain in bite sized pieces over an 8-24 hour period. I do not know if one is better or worse than the other, but my first labor I literally thought I was going to die. The second time around, I ate lunch reclining in my hospital bed and texted friends while I dilated.

Pregnancy, labor and recovery are truly miracles, but Mother Nature is one wicked, sadistic bitch sometimes. No one really talks about the days immediately following giving birth. My uterus has already nearly contracted back to its normal size. So what took nine months to stretch from my pelvis to up by my rib cage has contracted back in 3 days. Contractions are Mother Nature’s way of doing this. And who is the driver? Your baby and her insatiable sucking urge. It felt like being in labor and nursing simultaneously. I could only take two paracetamol every seven hours. It felt like peeing on a house fire.

Yesterday marked the beginning of my hormone roller coaster ride. Let the tears flow. It must correspond to the uterus contraction completing and the filling of my milk jug sized, well, jugs. A sign should be posted on the door, “Beware of hormones.” They are so real and so controlling and overwhelming yet unrecognizable to most people.

For our recovery, last time I walked the four blocks home from the hospital just hours after giving birth. This time I am staying in the hospital’s birth hotel. Along with my mom staying with us for six weeks, staying at the birth clinic were the best decisions we could have made.

Surrendering

Standard
E and Belly by morethanexpat

E and Belly by morethanexpat

I am five days away from Baby #2’s due date. I had an appointment with my midwife this afternoon. Sometimes, I wonder why I bother speaking at all during these appointments. Don’t they know by now that hormonal pregnant women just want encouragement, commiseration and the promise of some very good drugs?

What does the last week of pregnancy feel like for me? Swelling, sick, painful and tired in ever-increasing amounts. This is the part no one talks about and women try to forget. I am taking paracetamol, but it barely takes the edge off.

I told my midwife about the pain and her response was, “You need to surrender to the situation.” I squinted my eyes, holding back my tears and angry laugh. I thought to myself, “You have got to be f$#@ing kidding me! What kind of airy fairy garbage is that?”

Surrender myself? Do you even see this person sitting across from you whose body has given itself over to a little person for the past nine months? Whose body will continue to be in the service of this little being for the next several months. I barely recognize myself now, have lost all sight of my feet and waist and have nearly lost control of some pretty major bodily functions. I lay in bed as the baby beats me up from the inside. She twists her head in my pelvis. She kicks and swishes her back against my skin that is spread paper-thin to accommodate her aquatic paradise. Surrender myself?

She tried to dress it up by explaining how adrenaline counteracts the body’s natural hormones or whatever that trigger labor. I gritted my teeth and smiled my best American smile and got the hell out of there as fast I could. She smiled and shook my hand. I sure she felt she’d really helped me.

Just tell me it sucks, but it is worth it. Just tell me that you cannot imagine what I am going through and would not wish this discomfort on anyone, but it will be over soon. Show me cute baby pictures. Remind me that the best things in life are never easy.

Father’s Day 2014: Play Ball

Standard
2013 Batting Cages by Morethanexpat

2013 Batting Cages by Morethanexpat

I believe in something bigger than myself, bigger than all of us, all of this. It feels like there is a fine line sometimes between a protective force and a karmic slap in the face, though.

This past weekend, my two year old daughter picked up a baseball and glove for the first time. I was dumb struck with awe watching her throw the ball to her father and trying  to figure out how to keep the oversized mit on her hand. I just stared. I could not even move to take a picture. I silently called to my father to come and watch this from wherever he was in the universe. It filled me with joy, wonder, and crushing sadness.

My father taught me to play baseball – how not to throw like a girl; how to field; swing a bat. I remember the pure delight in my father and daughter’s eyes just last summer when she tried on a baseball helmet and dragged around an aluminum bat at the batting cages. She was trying to mimic her old cousins. She sat on Dad’s knee and played peek-a-boo through the ear hole of the oversized helmet wobbling on her head.

“Baseball. It is in her genes,” I thought to myself this weekend.
I am now 38 weeks pregnant. My pregnancy began the week of my father’s 72nd birthday. He died one month later. It is possible this little girl will be born on Father’s Day. I am not sure if I believe in signs, but this one does not feel comforting.

 

Postcard from Germany

Standard

Today I wish I could send you an email.

I’d tell you about my single bed hotel room in the middle of the German countryside named ‘Sausage’ (Vorst). I had to stop and ask a gas station attendant, bar owner and carry out guy how to find the place, but I found it. It was dark and raining and I felt completely hopeless more than once, but I found this place the good old fashioned way – with a printed map, stopping to ask and lots of gesticulating. It was harrowing. I thought I’d have to drive back home, but would not even know how to do that.

We would laugh because this room I am now so grateful to have found is still larger and nicer than that room we shared in Berlin. I felt so bad making you stay there. Now I’d give almost anything to have that day back.

E stops and points at your picture and calls you Grandpa. It is all I can do not to cry. It has been over six months. When are you coming back?

Sick (Holi) Day

Standard

From our holiday in Devon in May….

My apologies for how long the gap has been since my last post. I blame the baby. I am now in my last trimester, the sixth month. While I feel Wiglet kicking everyday, I just cannot believe there will soon be two little girls in our lives. I look at our two year old and simultaneously wonder how I will love another being as much as I do her; how will I find this new child as adorable; and how will the thing I hold most dear cope with no longer being the center of her parents’ universe? It breaks my heart to think of having less time with her as I care for a newborn, but I chose this. I chose this because I think it will eventually make all of our lives better.

Thankfully, my mother is here for a month long visit. To celebrate, we are on a one week vacation in Devon, England. I really wanted to make it a memorable trip so I rented us a lodge (e.g. condo) on the grounds of a castle. Bovey Castle is gorgeous and has been converted into a hotel, restaurant and golf course. It is the closest I could get us to Downton Abbey, a favorite show of ours.

The vacation came with one surprise. E came down with chicken pox the second day of our trip. I shudder to think of us unwittingly adding to cocktail of bugs flying around the airport and airplane. That eliminated the heated indoor swimming pool at the castle and the daily children’s activities like egg collecting from the estate’s chickens and visiting the playroom. E has been a real trooper, though, and happy to tag along in the car on outings as long as Papa carries her. Thank goodness for the Tula toddler carrier! we are also never far from a 24 hour pharmacy here so we stocked up on children’s antihistamine and what E calls “Owwie Cream” to stop the itching.

Nostalgia: Juggling Plates

Standard

Listening to Ann Patchett’s book of essays, “Stories of a Happy Marriage” has made me surprisingly nostalgic and left me craving certain restaurant dishes so badly that I scoured Pinterest until I found knock-off recipes. We have eaten Portillo’s Chopped Salad twice and had Maggiano’s Shrimp Aglio Olio tonight. The Cheesecake Factory may be next.

Through college, I worked at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Oakbrook Mall. That upscale outdoor shopping center teams with all of the mid-range to upscale corporate chains you can think of. Maggiano’s and The Cheesecake Factory were my favourites. And just down the road was Portillo’s. I miss the Chicago suburbs for their restaurants alone. It explains those 15 pounds I could never drop.

Like Patchett, I waitressed in my 20’s. She worked at TGI Fridays while I on the other hand waitressed at Maggiano’s. I also worked part-time at a Jewish country club and two family owned restaurants – one upscale Italian and one Irish pub. In many ways, though, waitressing at Maggiano’s educated me in far more useful ways than my Bachelors of Science ever did. What strength my degree gave to my resume, waitressing at a nicer corporate restaurant gave me in business acumen. My degree got me an interview, but my waitressing experience got me hired and moving up the international corporate ladder.

That sounds very odd, but Maggiano’s with it’s mandatory wine tastings, extensive menu exam, and free meals exposed my 20 year old self to the likes of culinary culture and etiquette I’d never seen in my small town, middle class upbringing. (How I got that job as a doe-eyed minor I will never understand.) I needed to know how to sell the dishes and wines and Maggiano’s let us taste it all for free so we could speak with authority. I had no idea at the time how rare (and smart) this is. I learned how to approach a table and keep a mandated schedule (approach the table within in 3 minutes of being seated, never ask them how they are feeling, give them your name, deliver a drink order within 5 minutes, etc.) without looking rehearsed. I learned how to take criticism from nice people having a shitty day and from shitty people having a nice day.

I am a strong believer in the service industry. It taught me how to treat people and to separate them as people from whatever piece of work or food they are delivering to me. A waitress does not make the food or prepare the drink, but they are the face for better or worse to the customer. Most people are just doing their job inside of a large machine while swirling within a variety of circumstances. I learned that I can only control my part, but I can make sure to do that part well. Most people appreciate that. The others are miserable assholes.

I thank Maggiano’s for teaching me how to navigate a menu at any restaurant and order wine without looking like a hick. It taught me how to make small talk with anyone and the all important art of smiling and nodding in a convincing enough manner to encourage conversation, but not reveal my utter lack of knowledge or interest in a topic.

It was also the first time I had ever really dealt directly with grown-ups besides those in positions of authority. I was treated like an adult with all the weight of responsibility and the pure joy of earning some serious cash if I busted my butt. I looked down on the other waiters like only a sheltered college student can. Like Patchett, most of the women were newly divorced. Most were getting back into the job market by any means possible. Like Patchett, many were artists – authors, actors, writers. I could have easily been working with Patchett which blows me away now to realize since I admire her work so much. I should google my old colleagues. Their days at the restaurant would make for some great material.

There were a lot of adult problems going on around me – infertility, infidelity, insolvency. Bus boys snorted coke in the bathroom and managers quite literally got caught with their pants down with a married waitress. My naïveté mostly sheltered me from it all. Incredulous, I did not see things happening right in front of me. And people were too decent to expose such a fragile little bird.