You know how people (mothers) are always saying how tiring motherhood is? Some would even say Xhausting. Well, the thing about it, I’ve decided, is all the details you have to keep in your mind at once.
It started when Tre was barely a few hours old, in the hospital. I’d insisted he sleep in the room with me, because of the BREASTFEEDING and the BONDING and all the self-righteousness that welled up within me at the thought that those nurses might slip him a PACIFIER, thereby causing certain NIPPLE CONFUSION.
I knew, I knew the right and true path then, you see. I’d read a lot.
Ok, excuse me a moment while I laugh in bitter acknowledgement of my naïveté.
Anyhow, Tre had a wet diaper. At least, I thought he did. Who can really tell with those super-absorbent things? The only real way to tell if a baby has peed is to take the diaper off and weigh it. At least, until the baby gets bigger and you can discern soggy gel with a practiced poke with your finger in the pee collecting area.
Tre was squirming a bit, and I was certain he was evidencing deep discomfort at his soggy state. I buzzed the nurse, and when she poked her head in, I chirped,
“My baby needs his diaper changed.” She gave me a look of deep distain.
“Well, then change it.” And she was gone.
I looked at my newborn, aghast. It honestly hadn’t occurred to me that diaper changing was not a medical procedure. I stared into the dark of the hospital room, contemplating this. His every waste product was going to be my…well, business. It wasn’t just the feeding and clothing of him I was in charge of, I was also expected to whisk away all the ickyness that seeped from both ends of him.
I mean, the RESPONSIBILITY.
I think back on that overwhelmed, hormonal new mother, shaken by the burden she’d taken on, and I have to laugh. I mean, the details I attend to now would make that young woman just lay down on the floor and weep from exhaustion. Somehow I manage to keep three boys alive and fed and clothed. Although they are all in charge of their own toilet needs now, which is nice…all except the scouring of the bathrooms after them.
Before I go to sleep tonight I’ll give the dog her medicine, shoo the cat off Tre’s bed (she likes to sleep on his head, and with his allergies, it just doesn’t seem like a good idea), try to wake Max up long enough so he can go pee, and ease out from under him any noisy toys Raphael has collected since he went to bed, so he doesn’t roll over on something and cause it to roar in the night, giving everyone nightmares. None of that is too much, or all that onerous. But it’s the accumulation of all the stuff to think about during the day that leaves me brain dead at night.
And at night is when I blog.
Sorry. It’s the kids’ faults.
You know how people (mothers) are always saying how tiring motherhood is? Some would even say Xhausting. Well, the thing about it, I’ve decided, is all the details you have to keep in your mind at once.
It’s Raphael’s birthday and, inspired by Linda’s stories of her daughter’s births recently, I’m going to tell you about the day Raphael was born. So. WARNING! Birth story. Also, WARNING! Long birth story.
I’d had a very fast delivery with Max (two hours from “I think I’m having a contraction” to “It’s a boy!”), so I was petrified that I would have Raphael in the car. I carried around a birth kit with me for the last two months of the pregnancy, and went to the hospital THREE times for false alarms the week before he was born. My husband and I arrived home in the wee hours of the morning after the third false alarm. My mom had come over to stay with the boys while we went to the hospital, so we sent her home, and went to bed. Morning dawned far too early and my husband got up to fix the boys breakfast. I was peacefully sleeping when the first contraction hit. I woke up, thinking, that hurt! What the heck was that? I heaved myself out of bed and waddled into the bathroom. I was leaning against the counter when the next contraction hit. I looked at myself in the mirror and informed my startled face, “You’re in labor.”
I lumbered my way down the stairs and into the kitchen. The boys and my husband looked startled to see me awake. I shrugged and said, “It think I’m in labor.”
“Why?” my husband asked (remember, THREE false alarms). Just then another contraction hit and I leaned against the table.
“Because I’m in labor,” I panted. He smiled, a great shining grin that lit up the whole room. I remember that smile because I think it may have been the last time I saw him that happy, that joyful little boy happy.
But this isn’t about him.
We called my mom to come back and follow us to the hospital with Tre and Max in her car. She’s a nurse who used to work in labor and delivery, so I wanted her in the delivery room with me (she had been there for both Tre and Max’s births). Dad was going to watch the boys, but it was 8 am and he was at work. He had started a new job the day before. Mom went to find Dad and hand off the boys, and my husband and I went to the hospital. The drive there was a nightmare. I was having contractions about four minutes apart, and it was rush hour. Cue all the “having the baby in the car” fears. My husband was not going to be deterred by all the traffic, and he whipped through side streets and around slow moving cars. I clung to the armrests, my belly swaying with the movement of the car. It was hellish.
But we got there, with the baby still safely unborn. We made our way to the right floor, with people giving us the quiet space they do when you’re stopping every few feet to pant through a contraction. When we were riding up in the elevator (a trip that took roughly seventeen hours, by my count), a group of people got on with us, talking and laughing. Soon after the doors closed another contraction started. I turned toward my husband, gripping his shoulders and resting my head on his chest. He rubbed my back and whispered in my ear while I moaned quietly. I was dimly aware of conversation stilling around us, and when the elevator stopped on our floor, people leapt out of our way and held the doors open.
We went to the desk, where I informed the nurses with some intensity that I needed a room. NOW.
“Ok,” they said, “go right over there to the waiting room, and we’ll find you a room.” I leaned over and hissed,
“My last labor lasted TWO HOURS. I’ve been in labor FORTY FIVE MINUTES. I. Need. A. Room.” They nodded politely, and sent me to the waiting room. I went and sat in one of the uncomfortable waiting room chairs. After about ten minutes there, I stood up, feeling decidedly uneasy. I walked over to the sink. Another contraction gripped me and I leaned against the counter.
Then I threw up.
And my water broke.
A nurse walked in and found me standing in a puddle, spitting in the sink. I wiped my face with a paper towel and snarled, “I TOLD you I needed a room!”
And I got one.
I have to pause here to say something about my ex. Although I didn’t know it at the time, he was already on his way out of the marriage. Sort of poised for the exit. He wasn’t overtly unsupportive, but he wasn’t the same labor partner he had been before. We’d been this amazing team during the first two boys’ births. This time it was like reaching for a sturdy ledge and finding air under my hand. He was slightly detached. The thing that struck me the oddest during labor is that when I’d moan during a contraction, he would whisper in my ear, “shhhhh. Shh-shh.”
I’d think, “What is your problem? I’m not screaming. And hello, I’m in LABOR.” But, being as I was in labor and concentrating fairly hard, I simply ignored him. It left me with a vague feeling of guilt.
June 13, 2001 a rainstorm blew through Denver. The balmy spring weather turned cold and sheets of rain fell. So naturally, every baby that was due any time near then was born that day. I was supposed to have a midwife deliver my baby, one of eight midwives in the practice I had been with for my prenatal care. However, the nurse informed me that all the midwives were busy delivering other babies. She checked me and said,
”It doesn’t look like we’ve got much time to wait for one, either. You’re at eight centimeters already. One of the doctors will have to deliver this baby.” I groaned. I don’t have anything personal against doctors, they just make me nervous. After hearing about my previous births (fast and complication-free), she winked at me. “Well, who knows?” she said, “This baby could arrive faster than we expect. The doctor might not get here in time.” I smiled back, in tacit agreement. If nothing was wrong, I’d just as soon she delivered the baby.
At that point I sort of sank into labor land. My eyes were closed and my focus was elsewhere. At some point Mom arrived, the boys having been safely handed over to Dad. People talked quietly somewhere out there in the room, but I was unconcerned with them. A few times I called the nurse over and asked, “Is it time to push? Now?” She checked me and said “Nine centimeters, not quite time.” Then “Nine and a half. Almost.” Then “Now.”
It was such a relief to finally be able to push. My husband put his arm around me; I grabbed my knees, and pushed. The contraction passed and the room was still again, as we all waited for the next one. It came and the nurse announced, “Here’s his head!” then I heard her voice change, from joy to something else. Not fear, exactly. It just became serious. “Ok, now you need to stop pushing. His cord’s around his neck and we need to call the doctor in.”
Don’t push. That’s not possible at that point in labor. It’s simply not possible. It’s like telling a sky diver seconds after jumping out of a plane, “Ok, now stop falling.”
But his cord. Around his neck.
I looked at my husband, but he was watching all the other activity that had erupted in the room.
Pant. I remembered. Pant if you’re having a contraction and you aren’t supposed to push. You can’t pant and push. I felt another contraction swell and I closed my eyes, panted, and prayed.
Where is that doctor?
An eon passed. A moment, a year, I have no idea. But a doctor appeared at the foot of the bed. She examined me…him…and said something more unimaginable than “don’t push.”
“Ok, I want you to relax. I’m going to have to push his head back just a little, to slip the cord over his head.”
For this portion of the birth story, there are no words. Except maybe this.
Back is the wrong direction.
Nonetheless, once the doctor had slipped his cord over his head, the rest was fast. In a breath, Raphael was born. His cord was cut and he was whisked away to the warmer. Thinking back on this, I realize this is a doctor/midwife difference. I was accustomed to my newborn baby being handed directly to me. This time they didn’t pause to give me a glimpse, and he was gone. He was only across the room, but my glasses had come off at some point, and I was blind beyond about a foot in front of my face.
And he didn’t cry.
I saw a tiny, white infant for a moment, then nothing.
Why didn’t he cry?
I looked around, trying to catch someone’s eye.
“Is he ok? What’s happening? Why isn’t he crying? What’s wrong?”
My husband left my side to go look at his newborn son, and Mom came over to me. I grabbed her hand. “What’s wrong? Why isn’t he crying?” She smiled down at me.
“Oh, no, he’s fine! He’s perfect.” She handed me my glasses and I saw him. He was placid, laying in the warmer, and gazing patiently off into space. They brought him to me, finally, and he fixed me with that newborn yogi stare. After all the uncertainty and the drama of the last few hours, he was in my arms.
“Why, hello, Raphael,” I wept, “it’s so good to see you.”
Raphael was playing on the floor next to me while I worked on the computer. Suddenly he leaped up, startled.
“Ah hab to go PEE!” he hollered, clutching himself between the legs.
“Ok, baby. Go pee.” I replied. He started to trot off toward the bathroom, then spun around and pointed one fat finger at me in warning.
“But yoo not comin’ in wif me!”
“Ok, I’ll wait here.”
“Ah go by MYSEWF!” He gave me broad “stay” gestures for emphasis.
He ran away, barely skimming the floor. But when he arrived at the hallway by the bathroom he discovered that the light was off. It was too dark by far for his tastes, and he ran back, still clutching his crotch.
“Mama!” He put on a great show of trembling, to demonstrate his fear. “Dere is a MONSTER in da bafroom!”
“No there isn’t.”
He looked over his shoulder, and then redoubled his trembling efforts. In case I missed his point, he brought both hands up under his chin, in the universal sign for “I’m just adorable and I’m frightened.”
“Yoo come wif me to da bafroom!”
“Ok. Let’s go.” He grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the bathroom. I followed, and flipped on the hall light. He clutched my leg, and together we peered around the corner into the bathroom. No monster. We looked at each other and laughed, in relief and adoration, respectively. He ran into the bathroom, then turned around and glared at me.
“But YOO NOT COMIN’ IN WIF ME!”
And he slammed the door behind him.
Aaaaand today’s theme is “stuff that happened recently on our street.”
A few weeks ago the house down the street finally sold. It had gone under contract once, and then went back on the market. When it was re-offered, another Realtor’s name joined the other one on the “for sale” sign.
Seriously, is that not the worst name you can think of for a Realtor? I mean, is that the sort of subliminal message you want when someone’s handing you reams of legal documents to sign? “Naw, it’s all fine, don’t worry! Would good old Mr. Crook lie to you?” Could there be a worse name? Jerk Thief, maybe. Or Jackass Swindler. Or Bill Clinton.
But anyhow, the house finally sold, and yesterday I was walking past it while the new occupants were unloading their belongings from their van. Oh good, I thought, I can welcome them. As I approached their driveway the wife came storming out of the garage, hollering over her shoulder,
“First I have to organize all your CRAP and get it here from California, and now this?” She turned to see me, and I gave her a shaky smile.
“Hi.”I said, with an awkward wave. “Welcome to the neighborhood.” She snorted.
“My husband’s a sh*t head.”
I laughed uneasily.
“Well then, you’ll fit right in!”
She glared at me, clearly not in the mood to chat, so I moved on.
Thanks for the new neighbors, Dick.
Just a few doors down from them is a house that was just painted. I’m not sure what color it was before, but it mustn’t have been all that bad. I mean, I never noticed it. I noticed their gorgeous lilac bushes, and their pink and yellow tulips, but I could not for the life of me tell you what color the house used to be.
Now, however, it’s sort of the color of…lime sherbet. If Satan made lime sherbet.
When I went across the street to get Max for dinner tonight, the next door neighbor of the lime house was talking to the neighbor across the street. She’s not sure if that was the color they’d intended to paint the house, but she’s considering calling to complain. Seriously, it’s that bad.
“But,” she said, “I don’t even know who to call to complain to. I don’t know what to do. The glow from the green makes my children look jaundiced when they play in the back yard! Maybe I should just move, huh?” she joked.
Well, I know the name of a Realtor…
I took my Heidi, my grandparent’s dog, to the vet today. She’s fine, just needed a shot and a refill on some medication. Since Heidi's former vet is in Colorado Springs, I had to take her in to OUR vet here, for a new patient exam. It was something of a production, though, because I had to wake Raphael up from his nap so we could get there in time. Now, Raphael is not one to lose sleep without sharing his feelings about it. When it was almost time to go I went up to his room where he was sleeping. I leaned over the side of his crib and laid my hand on his rubbery round belly. He didn’t stir, so I stroked his cheek. He squirmed a bit, so I said softly, “Raphael? It’s time to get up, baby.”
He opened his eyes just wide enough to glare at me.
“Ah not a baby,” he croaked, “ah a big boy. An’ ah sweeping.”
“I know you’re sleeping, but it’s time to get up.” He rubbed his eyes, peeked at me around his hands, and, seeing that I was still there, threw his stuffed shark at me.
“Ah sweeping.” And he rolled over, emphatically turning his back to me.
You can imagine his joy when I reached in and lifted him out of his crib.
Once that screaming and kick-fest died down, we loaded in the van and headed to the vet. Raphael was crying most of the way there because he’d dropped his juice. Max was also wailing, because Heidi had chosen to sit next to Tre instead of him. Max’s booster seat is next to Raphael’s car seat, and it’s not hard to see how her doggy logic was working, but that was no comfort to Max. Max loves Heidi.
We managed to get everyone in the office calmly enough, and even into the exam room without incident. There Tre set to playing his GameBoy, while Max and Raphael took turns holding Heidi’s leash and walking her around and around and around the exam table.
The vet came in and took a look at Heidi. Ears were checked, thermometers wielded (much to Max’s shock), and she was pronounced healthy as a…well, dog. I asked about the medication she takes, and the vet asked me what it had been prescribed for.
“Well, she has really itchy skin. It’s supposed to ease the itchiness.”
“Oh. Does she have allergies?”
“Yes. Apparently she’s allergic to meat.”
The vet raised an eyebrow.
“I know,” I replied, “it sounds like a message from natural selection to me, but whaddya gonna do?”
NOTE: people who choose the field of veterinary medicine do so out of an intense passion for the welfare of animals. They do not think jokes intimating perfectly healthy dogs should die are all that funny. That kind of comment will earn you a very cold stare. Sort of like the kind of stare Raphael gives you if you wake him up from his nap.
By this time Max and Raphael were belly down on the door, fighting for room to see under the door. A big dog had come into the waiting room, and they both wanted a good view of it. A scuffle broke out, and I was mercifully called away from the vet’s disapproval.
We gathered our things, paid the bill, and got ready to leave. Raphael spotted a bucket of Milk-Bone dog biscuits. He wanted to give Heidi one, but I told him she couldn’t have that kind of biscuits (allergic to meat, remember?). He spent the last few minutes of our visit shrieking at Heidi, “Yooo can’t hab dat! NOOO! Isss not GOOD FOR YOOOOO!”
We finally left the office, with all the nice people inside dabbing at their bleeding ears. I don’t know why trips to the vet are always such an ordeal for me, but from now on I think I’m going to let our animals fend for themselves, health-wise.
Today we met friends at the local pool. This pool is where the boys have taken swimming lessons during the last five summers. Well, Tre has. Max has done a couple of summer’s worth of swimming lessons, and this will be Raphael’s first year. The point is that our summers have revolved around this pool for a very long time. It feels like home now. I remember sitting by that baby pool, watching not-quite-three-year-old Max play, and holding newborn Raphael, while Tre had his lesson. A dear friend of mine had stopped by the house with some lasagna she’d made for us. When she didn’t find us at home, she went directly to the pool.
Because that’s where we live during the summer.
Well, we’ll do our stint there this summer too, although with all three of them in lessons I’m going to have to cut back a bit. Rather than seven weeks of lessons we’re just doing three. Probably. Unless I get weepy at the end of the three week session and sign them up for the last session. But that probably won’t happen. Because, you know, I’m not a sap.
As the boys were buzzing around this morning, excitedly gathering their swim things, Tre stopped to enthuse, “I’m going down the slide!” It’s a fairly fast drop into the deep end, and when Tre overcame his nervousness about it last year it was a big deal. The year before that he would brace himself against the sides, inch down, then (with much pleading from the lifeguards), drop into the water. The year before THAT he would climb to the top of the steps, look down the slide, then turn around and climb down. “You know,” he leaned in to confide in me, “I used to slow myself down with my hands, then sort of jump off.” I tried to look surprised, since he really seemed to think he was telling me a secret. “But now I just – [insert flying noise here] – right down into the water!”
Yup. And here we go, into the water again.
Ok, so Raphael doesn’t like grapes. I can’t for the life of me figure out how he can NOT LIKE GRAPES. I mean, they’re GRAPES.
I, as you may have guessed, love grapes.
And strawberries. He doesn’t like strawberries either. Offer him a strawberry and he squinches his face up and shakes his head sadly. “Oh noooo. No sank you.”
Well, the other day I gave Tre and Max some grapes with their lunch, and they were happily eating them, because they are GOOD boys. NORMAL boys. Well, maybe normal is going a bit far…
It was bugging me that Raphael wasn’t eating any grapes, so I took a lovely, perfect, firm and juicy sweet grape, and ordered him to eat it. He clamped his mouth shut and shook his head. I held it in front of his mouth and again insisted he try it. He sighed and permitted the grape past his lips. He bit into it, his face a picture of horror. You’d think I’d slipped a slug in his mouth. I nodded back encouragingly.
“See? Isn’t that yummy?” He nodded, his face still scrunched into a grimace.
“Yummy,” he agreed. He chewed once, twice, then gagged a little and leaned over and spit the grape mush into my hand. He shook his head at me.
“Ah can’t eat that yummy grape.”
I don’t know why I try to make the boys eat foods they hate. There’s the time I made Max take a bite – just one bite – of a blueberry muffin, and he threw up. I guess he actually doesn’t like blueberries. Huh. Who knew? Well, actually, Max knew. He sat at the table with that muffin in front of him, shaking his head with a look on his face like a frog smoothie would be more palatable. But I couldn’t believe that he wouldn’t LOVE it if he TRIED it.
He did not love it.
Once, when Tre was about four, he was HOUNDING me to cut up a cantaloupe for him. He was STARVING. He needed that cantaloupe NOW. I was in the middle of something, but I finally set it aside to cut up the stupid melon and stave off my firstborn’s imminent demise. I set down a bowl of cantaloupe chunks in front of him, only to have him look at them, freeze, and refuse to eat them.
This irritated me, because I’d been DOING something, you understand. He’d BEGGED me to cut up this cantaloupe for him, and now he could by golly TASTE it.
No he couldn’t, he insisted.
Oh yes he could, I returned intelligently.
Eventually he did try the cantaloupe.
And had an allergic reaction to it.
So you’d think I’d have learned my lesson by now. And yet, just today I was thinking about taking the boys out to the local pick it yourself berry farm, and how Raphael would surely enjoy the strawberries there…if he just tried them…
This week Raphael will be turning three, so prepare for a slew of Raphael stories. I was telling a friend recently The Cool Thing about Raphael’s name, and thought I’d share it here.
When I was pregnant with him, we were at a loss for another boy name. We had our girl name all safe in the vault, but we were simply tapped for boy's names. Whatever I liked, he loathed, and right back. For awhile we were toying with the idea of naming him Timothy, but Timothy McVeigh was scheduled to be executed the week the baby was supposed to be born. Ick.
NOW, a little history.
After Max was born, I was very sick. Very very. The doctors said MS. They said Lupus. They shrugged in a helpless way that would have been comical if it hadn't suggested my imminent demise. One (idiot) doctor said, "I'm not sure what it is exactly that's going on with you, but I don't see women as sick as you are live much more than five years."
I chose to ignore her. I didn't even tell anyone what she said, and only remembered it when I came across a short story I'd written in which the heroine got the same news from her doctor.
BUT! I felt better! When Max was just a few months old things started turning around for me - and by the time he was six months old I felt fine. I went right on feeling fine and didn't think about it (save for a few midnight anxiety parties) until I got pregnant again. Then I worried. But I felt fine! Fine, fine fine! I saw a specialist, who said that pregnancy was a key time for auto immune problems, so he wanted to do blood work. The day I went in to hear the results, I sat in the waiting room, pouring over a baby name book. I mean, it was ONE MONTH until my due date. I needed a name. And I found the name Raphael. I said it a few times. I wrote it down and looked at it. I loved it. I called my husband from the waiting room, and he agreed on the spot. Raphael.
Then I went into to talk to the doctor, who said, "You feel fine because...you ARE fine! Perfectly normal. Consider yourself undiagnosed with all of the bad things they said before."
I went to my parents' house to pick up the boys. Mom was watching them. I spit out my good news, followed closely by, "And we've picked a name! Raphael."
"Raphael." She thought a moment, and then nodded. "What does it mean?"
"Oh. I don't know. Wait, I'll find out." I headed back to the back room where their computer was and logged onto some baby name site I'd been visiting mercilessly and fruitlessly. When I came back out I had tears in my eyes.
"Raphael means God Has Healed."
I am a fairly patient person. I like to think so, anyhow. Just today I spent the entire lunch portion of my day sitting in a park picnic table shelter, trying to eat my salad while Raphael clambered on and off my lap. And looked down my shirt. And drank my Diet Coke. Max sat next to me, repeatedly extracting promises from me that I would push him on the big swing before we left – HIGH – even though I was wearing the wrong shoes. Tre sat across from me, quizzing me on the items I had on my grocery list. He was certain I was going to forget the granola bars, and did not LET THAT GO until I pulled the list out of my purse and showed him the words “granola bars.” Then he questioned my spelling and penmanship.
But like I said, I’m a fairly patient person, and I actually enjoyed lunch at the park. I like my boys and I like spending time with them. I’m glad to be right where I am.
Then bedtime arrives.
Once we start the trip up the stairs I am DRIVEN to get them tucked in their beds. I’m marching and barking out orders. Tonight, like every other night, my patience dimmed with the setting of the sun.
“Here,” I pushed their toothbrushes at them, “brush your teeth.”
“Mama?” Max said, trying to do a headstand against the bathroom door, “I want to see a picture of a salamander.”
“Stand up. Now. Stand up. STAND UPSTANDUP!” I replied, “And BRUSH YOUR TEETH.”
Tre stood at the sink, toothbrush forgotten on the counter, inspecting his ears in the mirror. “Do you think this one’s bigger than the other?” he asked. I was busy trying to fold his fingers around his toothbrush.
“You know what evens out ears? Regular, speedy tooth brushing.”
He looked at me with sincere doubt, but set to work. Max looked at his toothbrush for a moment, then decided to poke Tre in the stomach with it. This caused Tre to laugh, spraying Max with toothpaste spittle spray. Max fell to the floor, shrieking with the indignity of it all. Tre was slumped against the wall, howling with laughter. I mean, spit flew. That’s funny. By the time I settled that little fracas and got them actually brushing, I was practically foaming at the mouth. You must get in your bed, I was thinking, you must lie down and be quiet and sleep now. NOW.
Eventually they did meander their way to bed. I zoomed through the bedtime routine, and arrived at the last stop on my bedtime itinerary, Max’s good night kiss. As I bent down to kiss him, he reached up and started playing with my hair.
“Mama? I just love it when you talk to me at night when I go to bed.”
I melted. I sank down on one knee next to his bed and petted his prickly head.
“Well, honey, I love that too. What do you want to talk about?”
He sighed, then rolled away.
“Nothing. I’m tired. Good night.”
Do you SEE how they mess with me?