Calamity Jennye

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Today is the day I begin life with a four year old. As she exited the dinner table proclaiming herself done (with half a bowl of food still in front of her) and answered my question "What do you say at the end of a meal?" with "thank you" instead of "may I be excused" then followed that up by choosing not to clear her place...I said "Well, here we go! Four looks like fun!"

She redeemed herself by clearing her dessert dish without being asked and generally returning to her pleasant self. But all day I've been thinking how did I get a four year old? She's like a person now. She has her own thoughts, about everything, she asks insightful questions, uses big words, buckles herself into a seatbelt, has phone conversations (sometimes with people she's called herself without my knowledge). No more baby, no more toddler. Person, small person, but fairly fully formed, right here in my house. So of course every year at this time I have to remember how it all began:

Four years ago this morning I got up at 4am to pee just like I did every morning of the month before that. I lay back down, and immediately had to get up to pee again. This is odd I thought, but I got up again, parted with a few more drops and lay back down. I had to get up again... okay, this really is weird I thought. And as I sat down on the toilet for the third time in like 4 minutes, a little light bulb went off. I remembered reading somewhere that most women's water doesn't break in a gush like the movies. It's more like a trickle... feels like you have to pee all the time.
So this is it I thought, my water is breaking. This Is It...My Water Is Breaking! And the pack and play isn't assembled, and we're not packed for the hospital, and the dog sitters haven't been trained, and I still have a full week of work to get done....
Okay. Pack and play it is!
So I stayed up. Assembled the pack and play, packed the hospital bag then planted myself on the couch with a heavy bathrobe and towel under me, prepared to do as many hours of work as possible. I'd been told by many people that staying still was the enemy of labor progressing. Technically there was no labor yet so I figured if I could just stay as still as possible I could make it at least a few hours.
At about 7 I finally woke my husband "Don't panic, really, it's okay, I think my water broke this morning." [Bleary eyes pop open wide as sand dollars] "No really don't panic, it's just that the water keeps leaking and I need you to go to the pharmacy and get me pads or something."
"But we haven't even trained the dog sitters!"
"It's okay we have plenty of time, like hours, we'll be fine. I just need you to go to the pharmacy."
He returns 15 minutes later "they don't open til 8."
"We live in Manhattan for pete's sake, you can't walk a few extra blocks to the 24 hour pharmacy? Never mind, I'll make it another hour."
So I stay planted doing my work while he goes on with his day. Training the dog sitters, attending some lunch thing.
Finally just after noon when everyone (husband and the dog walkers) has just returned from the lunch thing I feel the first pains. I finally decide I should call my boss and tell her what's going on and I also call the co-worker taking over for me while I'm gone. They both hustle me off the phone just as I'm experiencing my first inability to breathe moments.
I still have a couple e mails to send off before my work is done and my sister always told me that all she wanted while in labor was a hot bath, and that it really eased the pain of contractions. Nothing had ever sounded better than a shower did at that moment so one of our dog sitters (they're god-mothers now by the way) followed me into the bathroom to finish typing up the e mails while I showered.
Upon entering the shower my contractions were about 10 minutes apart. The doctor told me not to call until they were about 5 minutes apart. Husband popped his head in and timed about two contractions in the 15 minutes I was in the shower and when they suddenly hit 5 minutes he panicked. No problem I said, that's just when we're supposed to call the doctor, we've got plenty of time.
They forced me out of the shower, into some clothes, and wouldn't even let me blow dry my hair. The four of us rushed downstairs and out to the corner where our fearless native New Yorker in the ranks nearly accosted a woman about to get into a cab.
"This woman's in labor" [and about to faint from embarrassment rather than pain] "Can they please take your cab to the hospital?"
As a look of confusion crossed the woman's face (perhaps it was the please) she slowly agreed and we hopped in. The cabbie surely heard the whole exchange and after one look at me, which must have been more telling than I would have guessed, said "We're not going to be on the evening news are we?" I have to say that was by far the cheapest cab ride we had our entire time in Manhattan!
I'm guessing it was about 2:30 when we got to the hospital and no one seemed any too concerned about the woman writhing in pain on her chair in the maternity check-in. Finally a nurse on her fifth or sixth pass through the room. Stopped, looked closely at me and said we better get you into a room. Seemed like a great idea to me.
I think we got into that room at about 3:30. The anesthesiologist stopped by, looked at me, whispered something to the nurse and left. The nurse gave me a few nervous, side-long glances and I said "I'm not getting an epidural am I?"
"No, you're too far along she said."
"Okay! Ooookay."
I think the biggest blessing I experienced that day was to stumble into the hands of a nurse mid-wife on her last day in labor and delivery." Without her my labor experience would have been much more mentally painful. She knew just when to cheer, when to encourage, when to be forceful. She was calming, insightful, and patient.
I barely remember the pushing. I remember standing at a high counter in the room, hanging from it with my arms straight. I remember my husband being told to hold a leg, I remember the ice chips, I remember there was some screaming, I remember the pain of being sewn up afterwards (at which point there was a multitude of screaming, including the first swear words uttered all day).
I have this sensation somewhere in the back of my mind that it all must have been excruciating. But for the life of me I can't remember that it actually was.
I remember most clearly the moment they placed Esme on my chest. She immediately began to nurse like it was what she was born to do. I think that is the moment that every other memory, about what it took to get her there, simply disappeared.

Outfit of the Day

Four Year Old

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Esme Top Ten

My S-I-L is having a baby and my M-I-L asked me for "words of wisdom" to take to her shower:
so here's my top ten:

Susannah Don't read this if you want to be surprised at your shower!

1) Always talk in full sentences (if you want a talker), just tell them what you're doing as you move through your day, talk away, engage them. Always.

2) Don't ever let them fall down a flight of stairs, it's the worst feeling ever, but if it happens always remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

3) You don't have to have a "scheduled baby" unless you want one.

4) Breast feeding lying down is the best thing no one ever tells you about.

5) Your boob is portable...every other night time routine, not so much. Bedtime is always a trade-off, it will always suck... Your boob is portable.

6) Bedtime will always suck.
(if it doesn't you may not want to have child #2)

7) "Sleep when the baby sleeps" is ridiculous. Sleep when someone else is there to take care of the kid when it wakes up in the middle of your sleeping. some laundry
(sad to say you'll thank me for this huh?)

8) The squirt bottle of water they send you home from the hospital's like crack. Crack bottle.

9) Even if you hate your voice, sing to your kid. Hearing them sing is so worth it.

10) Do what feels right. You'll know what right is for you. Ask around, get advice, use what you like. You'll know what's right immediately. That's the best thing about a baby, all the feeling.

Do what feels right!

It's Esme's Birthday more to come on babies!

Outfit of the Day

More like outfit of the month lately huh?

Can you believe this is my (nearly) four year old?

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Homily

Our church is lay led and that means everyone takes turns doing everything (well pretty much everything) including the sermon. I was asked to preach this past sunday and that is part of why I haven't had many blog posts lately. I think all my brain cells were working together to create this:

“May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing unto you O God.”

I sat down to start collecting some of my thoughts for today and Esme asked what I was doing. I explained that I would be telling the story at church this week, immediately she wanted to know what it was about.

Perfect! I thought, maybe retelling this gospel at a four year old level will help clarify some of my thoughts about things.
So, I explained how there was a shepherd with sheep and goats. That he asked all the sheep to go to one side of him and all the goats to the other.

I tried to gloss over the first obvious difficulty in this passage by saying “then Jesus compares the sheep and goats to humans” – quick pause – no questions, okay that was successful.

Next I explained how the sheep took good care of the other sheep around them; when their friends were sick they took care of them, if someone needed clothes or food they shared anything that person needed.

“Wait, mom, the sheep had clothes?”
Should have seen that coming…
”remember? It’s a comparison, Jesus is just using the sheep and goats to explain how he wants us to act.”

I wrapped up with a couple quick sentences about how the sheep got rewarded with a really great surprise and that the goats who didn’t take care of their friends got… well … you know how we talk about “I love you infinity?” They got the opposite of that, pretty much an eternity without love.
She didn’t even miss a beat as her eyes got really big

“Why did the goats not share?”

I knew it was in there somewhere. I sit here thinking about the misery of an eternity without love, how do you even begin to talk about that? We may just have to ignore those goats…She goes right to root of the problem.

Why did the goats not share?
Why did the man last week bury his money?

I can only come up with one answer:


I think there are a million things we can fear; loss, anger, betrayal, endangerment, not having enough for ourselves. But like that man we see once again where giving in to that fear gets you.

Jesus is showing us the opposite of fear is risk.
We must risk!

There are some frightening images that flash before my eyes even as I say that.  
Oh wait, I actually am standing here.

The first time I read through this passage I was immediately struck with thoughts of hypocrisy and the age-old dilemma of words vs. deeds.

I feel somehow confident, especially given the goats shock at their judgment; that they thought they were doing all the right things. They were probably assuredly saying all the right things. But the part of me who listened last Sunday realizing that risk is a mandate, can’t seem to stop with just deeds. It seems to me it has to be about relationship.

Perhaps this notion of caring for those around us, for doing unto the least of these is not just about doing.  I can go to the lunch and dinner serving of empty bowls and donate twice at each one. But if I’ve overlooked an acquaintance who really needed a friend and missed a chance to invite them to come with me for that bowl of soup then I might as well have done nothing.

This is where we realize that Christianity, that faith, is about relationship. Not just with God but also with the community around me.

It may seem a leap but… We’ve been watching Mister Rogers Neighborhood lately and Alyssa and I have been so marveling at the draw that he has for all children that we recently spent an evening reading about him on Wikipedia. You don’t have to read half of what’s there, coupled with an ounce of experience watching the show to realize why everyone is so drawn in.

Mister Rogers was genuine. He addressed kids with an earnestness that no one can miss. There was no condescension, or patronizing. He simply picked things he thought truly mattered to kids and talked to them honestly about those topics.

When I think about the message Jesus is trying to send in this gospel I think about Mister Rogers. We are called to risk, to face up to our fears and address our friends, family, neighbors, honestly. To risk every bit of ourselves in honest interactions with those around us, and just hope that if we can be half as genuine as Mister Rogers we can’t help but also be meeting their needs.

May the God who calls us into relationship with all; bless us with the desire to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, and to risk boldly in the face of our fears.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

More on my opinions of myself coming soon

Here's the Story of the Day:
Original Drawing #1900-Boxed Book Set
Today she decided to be suitably ambiguous, so you can think whatever you like about her (Amount of time scheduled for the opinions of others = Zero)

Monday, November 7, 2011

A woman who stands for nothing will fall...

"When you're a kid you go down the road you go down. You don't get to choose. You emulate what you see. And you learn what you stand for... and what you'll fall for."

This is my biggest fear. That my daughter, like all of us is being tossed down a road not of her choosing. A road that will teach her to tolerate the intolerable and stand for things no woman should ever choose. I worry that instead of having distinct experiences of things she wants to stand for vs. things she will fall for. That those experiences will instead be so inextricable that as an adult she will think she's standing upright, tall and proud. Simply to wonder moments later what it was that knocked her out.

Like any mom I worry about my own issues being ones my daughter also will not easily overcome. When I think about how we all want our children's lives to be easier than our own I don't think about money, or ipads or organic food. I think about the simultaneous love of two parents, the knowledge that you are good enough, smart enough and gosh darn-it people like you.

I've spent the week composing an e mail in response to a particularly vicious one from my husband. He leaves me constantly questioning myself, the experience I know to be reality. He, more than anyone I know can construct alternate realities from the shifting sand beneath him. It is more than enough to leave anyone wondering where the sanity lies and I find it takes every ounce of my being to not get sucked in, to not be completely overwhelmed by the anger and insecurity of it all.

Because that's the real secret. If he can make his enemies more angry and more insecure than he is then he wins.
And that is my biggest fear. Raising a daughter who is so angry, and so insecure that she can never be sure who she actually is. I don't care who, or what Esme grows up to be. As long as she is a genuine creature who continues to care about the well-being of others. She can grow up to be Oscar the Grouch or Ariel for all I care. I just want her to care, about everything and be engaged enough in things outside herself that she can be healthy. Even Oscar had friends he cared about.

And that brings us full circle back to the episode of Parenthood that spawned that quote. Some of us are more healthy than we ever will be again, at  4, or at 16. For some of us it takes a lifetime. How do you begin to know when, where, how you are healthy? And how do you claim that, retain it and move forward through the rest of your life? How do you help your children do the same? Eternal questions.

This is one where I would love thoughts...What makes you healthy? Whole? How do you raise your children to be the people you want running the world?