Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Something is gnawing at me, and I don't know what it is. I feel unquiet, on edge and afraid of something that is just off my periphery and which I cannot see. I am constantly worried, before breakfast thinking a half dozen worst-case scenarios of all different stripes. I am slowly driving myself mad.
I think perhaps the problem is that I am waiting for the other shoe to drop, because things are indeed so good. I know what it means to struggle, to work hard, to try to overcome. I don't know how to exist in space where there is room to breathe, to live. It's making me antsy.
Okay, I really can't listen to that poor baby any longer. Daddy is lovely, but he's no mommy.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
I am LOVING learning Spanish. Truthfully, I don't know how much I am actually learning, and how much I am merely remembering. I had a phenomenal high school Spanish teacher, and bit by bit it has all been coming back to me. I took it for a couple of years in college, too, but it's my high school teacher that I hear whispering "wrong syll-AB-le" in my ear. It is such a joy to learn this language, and to have this time to do it. It's been a long time since I've learned something simply for the purpose of learning it, rather than for credit. There is a certain freedom to learning simply for the sake of learning that I relish. Of course, I'm not learning simply to learn--I need to be able to conduct business in Spanish. But still--I'm learning whatever I want, and not merely what some teacher wants me to learn. I'm learning with a larger goal, proficiency, rather than for a test. It's different. It is FUN.
And frankly, it's been easy to build on that early foundation. I never guessed that this would be the case. I expected it would be so much more difficult, given that it's been a good two decades since I set foot in a Spanish class. I've sporadically used it on vacation over the years, but nothing like this. It is really amazing to have words popping into my brain all of the time, and remembering their meaning. It's strange, actually, but in a really good way. It didn't all come back at once. It's more like, the more that I read and study, the more that I remember and know.
The only difficulty is that I would love more time to study, but since my work schedule is relatively relaxed right now, I am trying to spend more time with the kids. I thought I might study at night after their bedtime, but find that by then I am too burned out to absorb much. I thought I might get up early in the mornings, like 4:30 or 5am, and study before my morning class, but SB has been staying up a bit late, and that's been rough on my intended morning routine.
SB is a bit cranky of late (which is to say, occasionally she cries--she is still the smiliest, happiest baby that I have ever met). She is teething and growing and generally uncomfortable, constantly tugging at her ears (it's teeth and not an ear infection) until we dose her up with baby crack. She is still just the most awesome, lovely, huggy, happy baby ever. But more on her in a soon-to-be-written post. Suffice it to say, I love having an 8 month old--it is a wonderful, happy age, and watching her and Miss M interact and laugh and begin to play together is just AMAZING.
Miss M is also doing well. Preschool is going fairly well. I don't love it, but it seems good enough for the brief time we are here. Miss M seems to actually listen to her teachers. Every time I go to get her she is sitting still, paying attention, in a chair or wherever else she is supposed to be (unless she is supposed to be running around playing, in which case she happily complies). The other day, I asked her teachers if she listens to them, and they looked at me in surprise and said "yes, until Mommy gets here!" She was running out the door at the time, without her coat on of course. Argh. Three is both a glorious age, and a difficult one. We are trying to be kind and consistent, but there are definitely moments when I wonder where our lovely, pleasant, polite little angel went, and wonder how she became such a sassy, cantankerous bossypants.
We've been able to spend two weekends with family since we've moved here, which has been good for my girls and my family. I think, truth be told, that my family finds the full-on onslaught of a toddler and an infant to be a bit. . .chaotic. I wish I had a camera in my hand to memorialize the moment when my oldest decided she did not want to eat something, and spit it into my hand at the dinner table because she refused to wait one...more...second for anyone to get a napkin in front of her mouth. My stepfather's face was simply priceless, a study in horror and disgust. He loves the girls, but I think he's a bit mystified by them, too. Needless to say, he comes from a generation that was not actively engaged in child-rearing. He's been remarkably patient with it all, though. It's been a joy to watch my mom do ordinary things with my girls, like bake Christmas cookies with Miss M. These are the moments that I treasure, the ones we simply don't have when we are abroad. The beauty is in these simple joys.
We are settling into our life here, catching up with old friends and making new ones. We venture around the city on outings every chance we get, exploring new parks and museums. It was T's birthday this week, and we dragged the kids across the city on a weeknight (albeit at only 5pm) to visit a restaurant that he loves, for milkshakes and burgers and breakfast-for-dinner and homemade pop-tarts. It's a happy, family-friendly place with old-school yet trendy decor and a big ole bucket full of toys for the kids (in addition to high chairs AND booster seats and crayons and coloring paper and an awesome kids menu that includes pancakes for dinner). As the staff ogled our children as we headed to our booth, T happened to mention that we've been living abroad and he's been craving one of their adult milkshakes (because nothing makes a birthday milkshake better than booze!) for the last two years. They kindly sent his favorite one over, on the house. It was a big, kind, only-in-America gesture that made us love the place even more. We find these little, perfect moments around every corner here. Every day brings a new little blessing: a card in the mail for Miss M from a friend in Africa; an offer from a new playmate for a Play-doh playdate; running into an old friend on a pre-playground Starbucks run. This is a time of renewal for us, a time to reconnect with our friends and our family and our country, to learn a new language, to get ready for the next big adventure abroad. I am happy here, now, in this space. It's weird to think our time here is so short, and that in just over six months, we'll leave again for our next destination. I think that might be what makes this time so valuable, though--we know it's fleeting, and we are making the most of every moment.
Friday, November 2, 2012
It is completely fun to be studying and learning again. It's been YEARS since I was a student. On the other hand, the methodology my tutor is using is bothering me, so much so that I just tried to buy my high school Spanish book online, because the structure made so much more sense to me. I'm not sure what I imagined it would be like to work on my Spanish, but I didn't think I'd spend an hour spelling words out loud like we were at a deranged Spanish spelling bee. (Gabriel, He-Ah-bey-ere-ee-eh-elle, Gabriel). Boooo-ring! I need to give it a bit of time to see if it gets better, but I might need to switch instructors and go with a different process.
Day two of preschool seemed to go well. I don't know that this is the ideal preschool for us. This morning, when I asked the teacher how Miss M did yesterday (there was only one other student in the classroom at the time), she sort of craned her head to look at her and then clearly couldn't remember anything about her. There are only like eight kids in the class, so it really should not have been hard. When I specifically asked her whether she'd napped and if she'd eaten lunch, she couldn't remember. "I think she was okay?" she said, but it was clear that was a guess. I suppose that means that there were no major issues, because she probably would have remembered those. I think it's likely that it's more of a daycare and less of a preschool, but I'm trying not to be all Tiger Mom about it. It's preschool, and she's not even three, and I'm sending her more for the social aspects than anything else. We're only here for seven months, and she still has two years of preschool after this, because her birthday falls in January. I keep reminding myself that this place does not have to be the be-all, end-all, and the point is for her to have fun and enjoy herself.
We got there about an hour earlier today than yesterday, as I had an early meeting this morning, and it was clearly the hot drop-off time. The classroom was full of kids having full-blown meltdowns about being left at daycare. And my child? Yes, she would be the one who could barely pay attention to me long enough for me to say goodbye. The teacher tried to distract one of the distraught children by telling her she could paint, and that was all Miss M needed to hear. She wanted to paint--who cared that mommy was leaving?! She did not look back at me even once as I told her I was leaving! I'm glad she has that confidence. She was really excited to see me at the end of the day again, and was utterly exhausted by the time I picked her up. I think she might benefit from shorter days, or perhaps longer naps. She's a regular two-hour napper, but I suspect that she either isn't sleeping, or wakes too quickly due to the noise of the other children. She also is getting up an hour earlier than normal. I put her to bed an hour earlier tonight, too, hoping that she'll get a good night's sleep and wake well-rested in the morning.
I like to write in the morning, before anyone else is awake. It's so nice to be in a silent house with a hot cup of coffee and some quiet time for myself. This morning, however, I fell back asleep for an hour after my alarm went off, and had to race to get us to school and work on time, so there was no time for writing. I, too, was exhausted upon arriving home, but I made myself hit my writing target for the day. I can see that more than anything, NaNoWriMo is going to be an exercise in discipline. I don't find the idea generation or the writing to be particularly hard or time consuming--it's just making myself sit down and do it. Well, you know what they say--90% of success is just showing up. It's reaffirming for me that anything is possible, if only you take it one step at a time.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
She agreed to get out of bed and watch cartoons, but was slow to wake. When I came back from my shower, she was eating a whole grain Eggo waffle while watching cartoons. T dressed her in the clothes we had laid out the night before: skinny jeans and a trendy striped Gap sweater, with a pair of slip-on Merrill's, and capped with an adorable red wool Gap coat. When I finished getting ready, she was finally raring to go off to school, and we all loaded in the car.
At every stoplight, she wanted to know why we were stopping. She wanted to go to school! When we got there, T gave her a hug, and I took some "first day of school" pictures of her and daddy. He stayed in the car with SB while I brought her in. I tried to take some pictures of her in front of the school, but most are just shots of her back as she is walking in, because she was ready to go.
I signed her in and took her to her classroom, and as we walked there, she told me that she "loves this place." I have to say, it was really nice. We hadn't visited before, given that we applied from Europe. In her classroom, kids were already playing, and she had her coat off and melded in with the rest of the group before I knew it. I spoke with the teacher for a brief minute and put her things in her cubby, and by the time I turned around, she was surrounded by a bevy of new friends, playing away. I told her that I was leaving and that I would be back later, and she said goodbye while barely looking my way. This, from the child who has never been to daycare, never even been babysat by someone who was not very, very well-known to her. I teared up a little to see what a big girl she is.
When I picked her up this afternoon, she seemed a little sad as I walked through the door. She rushed over to me with open arms. "Mommy," she said, "you came back!" I think she had started to be afraid we would not return for her, which broke my heart. She perked up immediately, so much so that when we reached the front door to leave, she started getting upset that she had to leave, and wanted to stay. I had to promise that she could come back tomorrow. I think she needed me to come visit, and then wanted me to go away again!
On the way home, she chattered away about her day. She claims she had cookies and bread for lunch, and juice and milk in real cups, which she said she spilled. She said a girl cried, and they played on the playground, and she didn't get to paint. She was sunny and full of joy about all of it, and seems unscathed. I am so relieved.
I picked her up a little early, so I didn't get a chance to talk with the teacher to see how she did, and how she ate, and whether (and what time) she napped. I hope to get in there early tomorrow to try to talk with her, to get her perspective. Things were so hectic this morning that I didn't get a chance to warn them that she doesn't eat much, or that she only likes to drink milk, or that she isn't potty trained but I think we are close. I suppose those aren't necessary things, really--her backpack was full of diapers for her cubby, and everything else was obvious (or she'd make it known). I probably need to let go a little bit, anyway.
Oh, and my first day back at work was fine, although it was hard to sit still through boring meetings. And I easily met my target word count for NaNoWriMo, and it's not the worst thing I have ever written. I think this is going to be a fun month.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
We survived the storm just fine. We never even lost power. We did, however, suffer some leaks. This building must need a lot of work, since it appears to be made from stone/cement. We had about five leaks, to be precise. Leaks 1-3 were around the windows, and leaked onto the sills. . .no big deal. I put a bowl under one, and mopped up the other two. Leak #4 was from the ceiling, and leaked onto carpet. This one is a little more problematic. We put a bucket under it once we discovered it, but the carpet was already wet at that point. The plaster in the ceiling is starting to come down. Leak #5 is the doozy, though--a giant section of our living room carpet is soaking wet, as is the rug pad underneath it. The wooden baseboard is rotten all along the area, so clearly this is a long-standing problem. I need to inspect more, but it also appears that the bottom of the tv cabinet is moldy. They sent a guy to vacuum up the water, but that did little/nothing to remedy the problem. The carpet and carpet pad are both soaked. I think this is going to require me being a pain in the ass to get it all fixed. . .ie, writing a letter that cites the relevant state laws about wet and mold and what their obligations are. I hate be heavy-handed, when we have just moved in, but they don't seem to be in a hurry to fix things, and I don't want moldy carpet in my house with my two kids.
I have been trying to unpack and get settled with these three extra days off from work, but we mostly used the extra time to mess around. Why unpack when you can procrastinate? Actually, it's not going too badly. Everything is organized and put away except for part of one of my suitcases, and then the girls' things. The girls' things are taking over the house, though. I need to buckle down and get it done. We had three suitcases full of clothes and toys for the two of them, and then we were given loads more stuff every time we visited with friends and family. Miss M's bed is a mountain of stuffed animals at this point.
Miss M and I went exploring in the neighborhood today (which was MUCH more fun than organizing her toys). It's funny, you generally see your neighborhood through the life experiences you are having at the time you live there. The last time we lived here, Miss M was too little for playgrounds, so I never noticed any. This time, we spied one while on our way to the grocery store a few days ago, and we returned today to test it out. However, upon closer inspection, we realized that it was a playground meant for older kids, not toddlers. There weren't any swings, and it was sized for bigger kids, so much so that it was hard for her to climb on the equipment. After we played for a bit, I told Miss M that we'd look around for another one that was meant for kids her size. Thirty second later, just after buckling her back in the stroller, she yelled out "I see one--there it is!" Sure enough, a football field away there was another playground. I thought it was hilarious that she spotted it so quickly. When we got there, it was just perfect--sandbox full of communal toys, swings, correctly sized playground equipment, even bathrooms! She had a blast--so much so that we were late for the Halloween celebration in our building.
We went trick-or-treating after the playground, and Miss M had so much fun running around. She kept saying "it's fun to see their costumes" (as we saw other kids) and "this is fabulous!" After we finished, she told me that she wanted to go again. The trick now will be the candy. We don't usually let her have any, and now she has an entire bucket full. She started with a lollipop tonight, but spent more time playing with it than eating it, until I made her wrap it up so she could eat dinner.
There seem to be a lot of (young) families in our building, which is eight kinds of awesome. I'm hoping we meet some cool people soon, and also hoping that they have (nice) children who can be playmates with my children. It will be great for Miss M to have some local friends to hang with.
Finally, I'm nervous for preschool tomorrow. What if they're not nice to her? She's a bit bossy, but she is a very kind child, and she really focuses on it when children are mean to her. Some kids were mean to her a few months ago, and she told me all about it when I got home from work. She was so sad about it that it broke my heart. And she is still refusing to use the potty. What if they make fun of her? Oh, I hope this goes well. We've shielded her from bullies and mean kids, and I worry about her being exposed to them.
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Oh, what a joy you are! You are a happy, smiley, cherubic baby, and I love every minute that I spend with you. You have the most wonderful little personality.
It has been a long time since I have written you one of these posts, because it has been a very busy couple of months for us as we moved from Europe back to the U.S. (and in fact, we don't actually move into our own place for two more days--we are at Grammy's house right now, visiting). But you've weathered it all like a champ, charming everyone along the way.
You started rolling both ways back in August, and have now progressed to the point where you can turn yourself in the direction that you want, and then roll over and over again until you get there. It is pretty funny. You'll now get up on all fours as though you are going to crawl, and then rock back and forth, but you aren't quite crawling yet. You sometimes raise your arms and your legs while balancing on your tummy, trying desperately to crawl. You'll get there soon. You are not yet sitting up, and don't seem very interested. You can sit up when we put you in the position, though, resting on your arms. Your legs are very strong, too--you have been able to stand for more than a month, while holding on or leaning on something.
We started feeding you solid food at six months, and you have been eating very well. The only thing you don't like are peas. Other veggies and fruits and oatmeal and rice cereal have all gone down just fine. It is wonderful to have a child who eats! You are growing like a weed. We put you in the 9 month old clothing a six months, and you'll need to be out of it soon.
You were wonderful on the flight from Europe. You slept the entire flight, which was just amazing to me. The airline wouldn't let me use your carseat (the same carseat that Miss M flew over in when she was a baby), so you had to sleep in my arms. You just slept and slept, waking occasionally to eat, and I know everyone around us was impressed by how good you were. You are actually a pretty good sleeper, and will even sleep through the night occasionally. When you first starting turning over from back to tummy about two months ago or so, though, you'd wake yourself up and get upset, and out of desperation to get some sleep, I started letting you sleep with me. I swore that I would do things differently from how I did them with your sister, but I am a softie! You love to snuggle in with me and eat. It's working out just fine, and we are both getting plenty of sleep now. You wake and eat as you need (like?!), and I barely even wake to feed you. It's working for both of us, and I love our cuddle time. You are just a wonderful cuddler!
You are also, unfortunately, a terrible pincher. You have a lobster grasp. For a while, my breast was covered in little bruises from you pinching me while you nursed. We have worked on "no pinching," and you've gotten a bit better, but while hugging you sometimes give people a big pinch. It REALLY hurts, much more than I would have thought possible! You are crazy strong. Even thought it's painful, it cracks me up, because I cannot believe that such a little baby has that strength.
This month, you've had a chance to meet pretty much everyone--great-grammy, grampa, your uncle, and loads of cousins, friends, and other relatives. Everyone just loves you so much. You give them your big grins immediately, smile, giggle, and full-out belly laugh. You are just so full of joy and light. You even smile with your eyes.
You and Miss M already have a very special relationship. She just adores you, and constantly gives you hugs and kisses. She talks to you in a high-pitched voice that drives me a bit batty, but which you absolutely love and immediately respond to by smiling and laughing. The two of you get quite a kick out of each other. She is very protective of you, too. When we went to get each of you shots back in August, she went first, and cried bitterly when given her shots. When she realized that you were going to get them to, she tried to prevent us from taking you into the examination room, saying "no--no shots for my sister!" It was adorable. She always thinks of you, like this morning--"SB wants milk, too," when she got a cup of milk for herself. I am looking forward to seeing the two of you play together when you get a bit bigger.
You and your sister are the two best gifts I have ever been given. Every day with you is a wonderful adventure. I know that your daddy is looking forward to next month, when your sister will begin school, no only because it's a grand new chapter for her, but because he will get some special one-on-one time with you just like he had with your sister when she was little. I know you both will enjoy that time together.
I look forward to watching you grow and change, and seeing your little personality develop in the coming months. I love you so very much.
Monday, October 22, 2012
Do you ever have those moments when seemingly disconnected or vague thoughts that have been floating around your head all of a sudden gel together into a clear path that you obviously must follow? That happened to me today. I was reading this post by the always-awesome Mel today, which references NaNoWriMo, and something just clicked for me. For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. Basically, thousands of people attempt to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. I'd heard of NaNoWriMo before, but never paid much attention to it, because that seemed a bit. . .ambitious. But today. . .I signed up to do it!
I have bits and bobs of writing stashed all over the place. I like to write. I constantly put together snatches of dialogue and imagine characters and plots and beginnings and endings. However, I don't actually end up with much. I overanalyze and tell myself that everything is crap, and I basically kill the piece before it even gets started. I am someone who wants to be good at everything I do. With writing, I want everything to be so perfect that I get nowhere. It's ironic, because producing nothing is the ultimate failure.But this month, I was reading something that really spoke to me about giving yourself permission to be less than perfect, and getting out there and doing what you want to do--that by simply giving yourself that permission, you free yourself up to accomplish far more than you otherwise might. Then, I had a funny conversation with my brother about his creative use of facial hair, which prompted me to think of a plot for a story (hey! wouldn't it be funny if. . .). Plus, I've been thinking about how I'd like to write more, and how I could carve more time out of my schedule to write. Then, I read Mel's post, in which she referenced NaNoWriMo. Cartoon lightbulbs went off over my head. I raced over to NaNoWriMo's website, read much of the material posted while the girls napped, then signed up. Hot damn!
So, I give myself permission to fail. I give myself permission to be less than perfect. I give myself permission to write utter crap. I give myself permission to do it simply for the joy of doing it. I give myself permission to give up, even.
There basically could not be a worse time for me to be doing NaNoWriMo. On Saturday (as in, September 27, as in five days from today), I am moving to a new city. On Monday (as in, September 29), I start a new job (which, er, also involves me brushing up on my Spanish, for that assignment that I have in South America next year). Miss M also starts preschool next week. Then NaNoWriMo starts on Thursday. It cannot possibly work out. But that is the beauty of it.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
One of the great things about the last few years is that my "new" job (the one I took on 2+ years ago) permits us to live life in chapters. I take on work for a finite amount of time, so there are clear beginning points, end points and transitions as I move through and between assignments. Somehow, I feel more connected to my life as I live within this framework. I am more mindful of the passage of time, and of doing all I can to spend it well. Looking back on the decade before this job, my career was a speeding car, whizzing by the scenery of my life so fast that I barely took it in. I literally cannot pinpoint even the year certain things happened, because those years are such a blur. I don't regret them for one minute, but it was hell on my personal life.
I pick up odd bits of insight and wisdom here and there, sometimes from very unlikely sources. Years ago, I read an interview with Julia Roberts, and she was quoted as saying something that has always stuck with me. I think it was from a time period after she had met Danny Moder. I can't remember if they had kids yet. Anyway, she said something like "I feel like I am in the harbor of my life." I liked the sound of it, and now I'm finally living it. I feel like I'm finally in the harbor of my life, too.
Despite being in the harbor, there are still occasional storms, and I've been thinking a lot about how to create a strong family life and how to make myself happier. We are in transition now, home from Europe but not yet settled in our new city. This time has proven to be an excellent opportunity to not only reconnect with family and friends, but also to reflect on what has worked for us over the last two years and how I would like to do things differently in the next chapter. When you are still living in a situation, it can be much harder to critique it and to figure out how to make changes. But when you have already left your old life and have no choice but to reestablish yourself professionally and personally in a new city/country/continent, the bit of distance makes it easier to look back and appraise. I like that I will have a fresh start at the end of the month, a chance to start anew. It feels easier to make changes when you are in a new home, in a new city, making new friends and working at a new job.
I wrote this a few days ago, but never got to finish the post:
We've had the most perfect day today. It is one of those crisp, sunny fall days. Despite the cool weather, Miss M and I put on our swimsuits and went swimming in the lake, then took warm baths. After that, we got dressed and went to pick apples at a local orchard. Miss M had on a a beautiful new sweater that my MIL bought for her. The orchard had pumpkins and mums and cornstalks everywhere around the farm buildings, and I took some quintessential fall pictures of her.
It really was the most perfect day. The air and the water were both far too cold for swimming, but she really wanted to go swimming so we went in anyway, and had a blast. At the orchard, a tractor hauled us in a wagon full of hay up to the picking fields. We picked three kinds of apples from the trees, then went home and made an apple pie. The fall leaves were at their peak. Miss M picked out her very first pumpkins (she at first insisted on selecting one for each of us, but we ultimately settled on just the two for her and SB). The grandparents were there. It was just such a HAPPY day.
We've had a number of those days during this transition. It made me think a lot about what makes me happy, and how to make my life even better. In no particular order, these have been my thoughts on what I'd like to work on:
1. No complaining. Two years ago (for an entire year), I had no one I could complain to at work. I was working with people who I simply couldn't complain to, for one reason or another. You know what? I was blissfully happy. It was one of the happiest years of my life, actually. I was happy for a lot of reasons, but there is no denying the complaining/commiserating factor. When I can't complain, I let it go and move one. Complaining/commiserating is like fast food: you think it tastes good, but hours later you feel like crap. You vent and get it all out, which can relieve tension and stress, but then it festers. I need to get better about this, because the proof is in the pudding that I am actually happier when I don't do it. It's a hard habit to break when you are in a high-stress environment/situation, but I know I can do it, because I did for a whole year!
2. Budget I want to get better about budgeting. When you are living abroad everything feels like it's a "once in a lifetime opportunity," and I tend to want to gorge on travel and experiences. It's easy to overspend. I want to work to create better habits over the next six months while we are in the U.S., so that when we go abroad again we will have a good system in place and can be sure we are meeting all of our financial goals. We are meeting many of our financial goals, but perhaps are not doing as well as we should be in some areas. A better budget should help us reach our goals.
3. Project Positivism I tend to be fairly focused and reserved at work, and I hate to bother other people. Unfortunately, that sometimes causes people to conclude that I am stuck up, rude, or worse. It can be hard to mend fences even when the damage was inadvertent, particularly when you are working with foreign staff. I want to be sure that I an outgoing and positive ray of sunshine as I start this next phase of my job, because that's the kind of employee that people want to work with, and it will generally make my life easier.
4. Date Night! T and I have been stretched pretty thin over the last year. We haven't had a reliable babysitter, and have only had one dinner by ourselves in the last year, which is terrible. We need to make a standing date night, and then honor that. It will be really fun, and good for our relationship. I'm a bit anxious about leaving Miss M and SB with someone, especially SB (who is not yet verbal). But especially with little kids, it is super important. It can feel like every ounce of spare energy is focused on them, but we need to carve out time for us.
In another week, I will be heading back to work and putting all of these things to the test.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
I've only spent one week in the U.S. in the last two years. There are two things that I'm finding incredibly weird: one, there are many, many people, places and things that are exactly the same. It's like I only ran to the store, and have come back to find things just as I left them. I mean, really, NOTHING has changed. Many of my family and friends are quite literally doing exactly the same things, living and working in the same places. It's. . .weird. I know that if we were here, it would be true for us, too, but we've made all of these changes and lived so much in the last two years, and it freaks me out a little to think that if we hadn't left, we would have simply aged two more years.
The second thing that I am finding weird is how emotional I get over the little things I've missed, like the guy at the gas station telling me to have a nice day (people in Europe don't tell you to have a nice day--ever; customer service with a smile is largely an American concept), or the fact I can buy chipotle peppers in adobo in my small town grocery store in northern New England, or how far $10 gets me here. America, how I have missed you!
And so it is good to be here, but also a bit. . .melancholy, for some reason. I don't know what I expected. I guess I expected something to be different because I am different, we are different. I expected more, although I'm not quite sure what that might be. Did I expect it to be more special? I suppose that is it. We've been gone for two years; we've come with two children, one of whom had never been to the U.S. until now; we are older and wiser and have had all of these great experiences. It feels rather ordinary. It also is a bit depressing to me to see how little people have spread their wings since we left. I think that is the hardest part.
That's not to say that we are not having a nice time. It's been nice to see family and friends. The kids are having a good time, and everyone seems to be enjoying them. We've been eating our weight in things that we've missed (candy corn; barbecue; American Chinese food; American breakfasts; pastries from my favorite scratch bakery). We've been doing fun stuff, too--a bit of shopping (new jeans!); long walks through the woods admiring the foliage; trips to the children's museum; swimming in the lake; playing with new toys; and generally mucking about. Tomorrow we are going to a country fair.
I suppose the beauty of this trip home really is in the ordinary-ness of it all, and that this is what we have missed and this is what we are here for. I just need to embrace that more fully. It will probably be easier as a bit of time passes. The transition is still fresh and a bit jarring, and I am still sleep deprived. Changing time zones with kids apparently takes days!
Sunday, September 23, 2012
. . .that moms totally rock, I am sitting in Starbucks with both of my kids (because we have no internet at home until we move), watching a video for work that I need to stream via the internet, while also downloading a file and blogging. Contrast this to my husband, who is laying at home in bed, where he has been all day. Now, before you start feeling all sorry for him because he had surgery on Friday, note that he felt so good last night that he insisted on having a dozen people over for a farewell dinner. He is doing just fine, but "resting up" today. Did I do that after either of MY recent surgeries? Hell, no. Because moms have it going on. . .ALL of the time!
Our things have all been packed up and moved. We are left with just our suitcases now. Thankfully this place came furnished, so we are able to stay here until we head back to the U.S. at the end of the week. The move went reasonably smoothly, even though I felt like I had not done enough beforehand. I think it helped that the moving truck broke down, so they were here for three shorter days instead of two longer ones. It gave me a bit of extra time to weed out the last bits of stuff rather than just stuff it in boxes to deal with on the other end. It was a little complicated to wrangle both kids and supervise the movers for two of the three days while T. was in the hospital having his surgery, but we managed to make it work.
His surgery went well. He's a bit sore and a bit tired, but doing okay. The real test will be tomorrow, when I have to go back to work. I wanted to hire a nanny to come in for the week, but he didn't want to do that. He's got friends who will help him during the day, but he can't really lift anything. To complicate things, we shipped the double stroller to the U.S. this week. That means Miss M must walk to the park if they are to get there, which she is not a big fan of. There are not many toys left, so the park is an important option for keeping her amused and happy!
The rain has also returned here, which is kind of a bummer. I was hoping to spend today, our last weekend day, at one of our favorite outdoor spots in the city, but we can't do it in the rain. It makes me sad that we won't be able to hang out there again, as we have so many happy memories there. I really was hoping to visit one last time. It looks like it's raining too hard to spend the afternoon at the park, as well. We already went to an indoor play gym is morning, so it looks like I'll have to conjure up some art projects for this afternoon. It's currently nap time, which will hopefully last quite a while. There are still many hour to fill, and it's really hard without any toys!!!
. I am ready to leave this place. The last few months have exhausted me. I feel like my life has been controlled by my endless to-do lists, and it will be good to put that aspect of things behind us. I'm ready to move on to the next adventure. I'm looking forward to spending time in the U.S., and to seeing family and friends. There are still so many things that we have not done and seen here, but we've done enough. I've enjoyed the time, more or less. Maybe some day we'll be back, and there will still be adventures to be had here. I like knowing that.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
The best relationships, I think, are hatched when two very different people with core shared values unite. T. and I very much meet this mold, with one very important exception that is most felt when moving: we are both messy. Not in a dirty house sense or even a disorganized house sense, but in a stick-it-in-the-back-of-the-closet-and-deal-with-it-later sense. When forced to actually deal with the items in question, we diverge in our approach. T. is a "toss everything and we'll replace it if we later learn we need it," and I am a "save it for a rainy day, just in case, because why spend money twice?" Neither approach is really ideal when you are moving halfway around the world, because a) it costs money to ship things, but b) they might not have XYZ in the country you are moving to, so if you throw it out and find you need it, you might be SOL.
As I was sorting, I just found a black suit jacket that is really too big for me. It's longer than the current style, and boxier, because I bought it. . .hmmm, well some time ago, anyway. But still, I moved it to my "send to South America pile." Almost as an afterthought, I checked the pockets, and found a note. It was clearly from the last time I wore the jacket. I bought the jacket right after I graduated from grad school (in the late '90's), just before a big interview. I was out of time, and at the last store I could go to, and desperately in need of an "interview suit". The store had nothing in my size that was appropriate for an interview, so I ended up with a skirt that was too tight around the waist and a jacket that was too big. . .this jacket. When I unfolded the note, I realized it was from 1999. I have not worn the jacket since 1999. It's in mint condition, because it's never really fit and so I've never really worn it. It's moved from house to house with me since then. It was remarkably freeing to move it to my "donate" pile. I have at least four other black suits, complete with jackets that actually fit and look reasonably stylish. I clearly don't need this one!
Friday, September 14, 2012
I have three blog posts partially drafted in my head, but time is short and my to-do lists are long, so here's the rundown:
--I've been thinking a lot about people who create artificial lives for themselves on Facebook and other social media sites. I find it annoying, and then I find myself tempted to one-up them, and then I just get annoyed at myself. I manage to resist the temptation, but it's hard. I know FB is the highlight reel of life, and self-selected at that, but it just makes me feel competitive. It's like a perverse form of grown-up high school.
--The movers come a week from yesterday. I still have a lot to do. I feel like I accomplish a huge amount every day, but there is still a huge amount left to do every day. I'm exhausted and ready to be done with moving and finishing a job at the same time.
--Today we discovered that my husband needs to have surgery. The question is, can it wait until we are moved, which won't be for another couple of months? We are traveling until then. Should it wait? Can we squeeze it in while visiting family in the U.S.? What will the recovery be like? Who will take care of the kids? Can we leave for the U.S. earlier than expected and have it done there? If we have it done here, will he be able to fly home as scheduled, or do we need to stay here for longer? And so on. And that's without even freaking out about the actual surgery itself. Oh, and I told him MONTHS ago he needed to see a doctor. Sigh. Husbands!
I guess I should probably get back to one of the million things I am supposed to be doing.
Monday, September 3, 2012
The movers come in 2.5 weeks. Aieeeeeee. . . I'm actually doing okay, organizationally speaking. I have my rooms all laid out according to where the contents are heading. Large guest room=U.S.; small guest room=luggage to take with us; guest bathroom=South America; front of garage=donations to charity; whatever is left in every other room after I'm done sorting=South America. Once you have the system down, it actually works pretty well. Of course, it is much easier to move when all you have to do is pile, rather than pack.
I finally feel like my toddler airplane kit is in good shape, too. Miss M loves Curious George, and for $32 on Ama.zon I found 32 half hour episodes. They are each about 30 minutes, so I consider this quite a deal!!! She also loves Madagas.car, and I just discovered (I know, where have I been) that there are like four of them out there. For another $20 I nabbed a 3 movie set. We only have the first movie, and it was purchased for a couple of dollars at a flea market and is so scratched that it won't play on her portable DVD player (it only plays on the one in our living room), so this works out great.
We also play "I Spy" a lot when we are in the car and on trains, so I thought this Peek-A-Boo game was brilliant. I can call out something for her to find, and then she has to find it in the bag. I got the "boy" version rather than the "girl" one, because I thought the hidden items were more interesting. Don't even get me started on the crappy gender divisions of toys. I'm still pissed about the gender discriminating Potato Heads.
I also found some time to finally download some things on to the Leap.pad my mother sent over. She had sent a $20 gift card, and games were buy 3 get one free, so for $45 I got an even dozen games, videos, books, etc. I played with it for a few minutes, and it all seemed pretty cool. Of course, I haven't bought new batteries for it yet, and it died just as she was starting in with one of the new things I downloaded. The stupid thing does not come with rechargeable batteries, if you can believe it. In this day and age, I find that ridiculous. It has an a/c adaptor that you can buy separately, but who wants their 2 year old playing with something that is plugged into the wall? Yeesh. Epic fail, LeapCompany. But anyway, hopefully the games, etc. will be fun and keep her busy on the plane, along with the rest of my stash.
Once I finish sorting, I need to get down into the weeds on a million other things: can we still get four seats together if we upgrade our airline seats with miles? What is our baggage allowance? Are our particular car seats allowed on board? Has the car arrived in America yet, and what time does the dealership close? And so on, and so on.
Sunday, September 2, 2012
A family member has behaved in a very disappointing way in recent months. It is someone for whom we have done a lot and provided many opportunities over the last few years. Despite this, I have watched her treat my little family, her mother, and her siblings quite poorly at times over this last year, sometimes at the same time as going well out of her way for her friends, boyfriend and boyfriend's family. It has been very sad to see, and it's only gotten worse in recent weeks.
I know that deep down she knows that her behavior has been unacceptable. I think that she knows that she has done some things that are very wrong, although I don't think she recognizes how wrong they are. Perhaps someday she will wake up and realize that she has a decent family who mostly does right by her. Perhaps someday she will see her actions for what they are, and stop treating her family like dirt. Perhaps someday she will realize that friends and boyfriends come and go, but family is forever.>
Until then, I am choosing not to dwell on it. I am cleaning up the physical mess she left behind. I am ignoring the figurative mess, the lies, the bad behavior, and god help me, the misappropriation. I think it's all rotten, but that's on her. I am focusing instead on the positive intentions and actions on our part. It hasn't always been easy (or inexpensive) to do the things that we did for her, but we saw that we had a chance to provide her with opportunities she would otherwise not have in life, and we wanted to do that, and I'm proud that we did it, despite the ultimate outcome. And I'll be thinking of this email that her mother sent me yesterday:
"I will never be able to thank you [and T] enough for [all that you have done for her]. It changed the direction of her life considerably, all for the good!!!!"
Saturday, September 1, 2012
I am weary in my bones. Why did mother nature make teething coincide with an infant learning to turn over? I am not getting any sleep. When we hit this stage with Miss M, I thought the screaming and crying that ensued was because we had left her in the bassinet for too long, and it was the newness of the crib that was causing the disturbance. She would throw a crying fit when she woke herself up turning over, and it was awful. In desperation, we began letting her sleep with us, as it was the only way I got any sleep. At that point, I was in training for my then-new job, in a warm room, and it was sometimes a bit dull, and the sleeplessness was killing me.
Anticipating this happening again, T. insisted on transitioning SB to the crib months ago, to head off this problem. Only. . .that wasn't the problem. SB learned to turn over, teething struck us, and she who has never been a crier now shrieks like a wounded banshee in the middle of the night when she wakes up. I mean, this kid has NEVER cried in the middle of the night when she wakes up. NEVER, EVER. But good lord, when she wakes now she causes a ruckus that sounds like the catfight from hell. Or maybe foxes mating. (Have you ever heard foxes mating? We live in a city teeming with foxes, and I assure you that it is the worst noise ever.) What the hell?!?!
My solution, given how desperate I am for sleep, has once again been to let her sleep with us. Sure enough, she sleeps like a baby. :) Not a peep out of her all night. Sigh. It's not what I wanted. If anyone has the solution to the teething/turning over/screeching problem, I would love to hear it, as I really do sleep better without a child in my bed (no surprise).
In other news, the movers come in THREE WEEKS. Shit. I am a long way from where I need to be, in terms of sorting and organizing. If only we weren't moving twice. I am coping with this difficulty by segregating out our things into different rooms. Room A has our luggage, and the things we need imminently. These will be all of the clothes and toys that we have for the first 6 weeks or so that we are back in the U.S. Today I have to pull out the 9 month sized clothing for SB, who is about to go up a size. That should take us through the next 10 weeks, I hope.
Room B has all of the stuff that we will have with us in the U.S. while I am there for some training. We will ship a small amount of stuff, but not a ton, since it will all have to be reshipped to South America when we go next summer. In this shipment, I need all of the clothes and toys the kids will need during this time. For SB, that essentially means everything from 9 months to 18 months, or maybe even 24 months. She will be about 16 months when we move to South America, and she's growing much faster than Miss M. I think I'm just going to pack everything. I don't want to have to buy new clothes when we already have so many. Ditto for age-apprpriate toys. Plus, I don't want the move to be traumatic for Miss M, so I want to be sure we have enough of her things that she doesn't notice that many of them are missing. Oh, and T and I need clothes, too, and Christmas decorations, and cookbooks, etc., etc.
The rest of the house will all be packed up and shipped directly to South America, and we won't see any of it for a year. Needless to say, its important to choose wisely!!!
This is why my lists have lists. And now I'm off to sort bins of toys into "US" and "SA" piles.
Monday, August 27, 2012
I have a phone call to make, a stack of papers to go through, and a giant document I'm supposed to be drafting for work, but I don't feel doing any of the above. I'm really tired of making moving arrangements. My to-do list is a never ending array of boring and painful tasks. Oh, and I seem to have lost my drivers license. I used it as a form of identification at some point in the last two months, but I have no idea where I put it when it was returned to me. Apparently, not in my wallet.
So, one of my many current tasks is to come up with an assortment of goodies for Miss M for the plane. The general rule of thumb that I've heard is a new snack and a new toy/game/trinket every hour for toddlers on long trips. This is what I have so far:
--Stencils (including these spiraly things that are allegedly very cool)
--Plain white cardstock (for drawing and stickers)
--Disney princess paint with water thingy (no mess)
--Neon pipe cleaners
--Personal DVD player
--Toddler games loaded on iPhone (two matching games and a math game are her current favorites, thanks to Creating Motherhood).
--A Leappad thingy my mother bought, which I have yet to figure out
This is what I plan to purchase, but have not gotten to yet:
--a Colorform like book I found in our local bookstore (think reuseable stickers which can be placed on different backgrounds)
--a doll that comes with clothes that can be put on and off (a friend has one and she was mesmerized)
--an iPlay "find it" bag (lots of little things to squish around and look for) --2 new movies
Ideally, I'd like to keep her entertained and well-behaved throughout the flight. I know she will probably nap for an hour or two during the flight, but I want to be sure to have plenty of things for her to do. A happy toddler means a happy mother! What else will easily fit in a carry-on and will entertain a smart 2 2/3 year old for a long period of time?
Sunday, August 26, 2012
We have less than five weeks until we fly back to the U.S., and less than four weeks until the movers arrive on our doorstep to pack up our worldly possessions. I have done. . .nothing, unless folding the clean laundry and worrying count as "packing." Now that we truly are in our waning days, I am finding that I more often than not have a pit in my stomach.
I am not worried about the move, per se. I'm excited to be done with my job here (I am currently finding my job to be particularly vexing, but that's another blog post; suffice it to say I will be happy to leave it). We have a month off when we get home, before I have to start work in the States, and I'm excited to visit friends and family. I'm excited to be moving back to the States, to a city where we will know loads of people. I'm looking forward to the job I'll be doing in the U.S.. It's just. . .there is so much to do between now and then, and so many decisions to be made. It's causing me anxiety.
The hard part is the sorting. I really shouldn't complain about the move itself, because we have movers. It's the deciding and the weeding out that I find so troubling. We have to decide what to take in our suitcases, first of all. We need everything for that month we will be home. Plus, that is all we will have with us for when I first start work, so I need work appropriate clothes, too.
Then, I have to figure out what we'll need with us for our time in the U.S., because we are not headed back permanently. We're only back for a little less than a year, and then we head to South America. Much of what we have with us will be shipped directly there, because there is no point in moving twice. That means figuring out what clothes we need to keep with us for SB as she grows. I think it will basically mean everything, because she is growing rapidly! She is months ahead of where Miss M was at this point.
But the hard part is the weeding out of clothes--mine, and T's, and the kids'. That carries with it a whole other pressure. I loathe getting rid of stuff on a good day. I am that "maybe I'll use it someday" woman, who hates to throw anything away just in case I might need it at some point. I save the pants that don't fit, because maybe I'll gain weight or lose weight and I will need them. (While I was typing this, T just came downstairs with a giant pile of clothes that I asked him to go through and he wants of get rid of all of it. . .which drives me insane, because some of it is perfectly good stuff, and he just wants to get rid of it because he wants to buy new stuff.) It's exponentially worse, though, when it comes to the kids, for entirely different emotionally-charged reasons.
I'm just not ready to let any of the girls' things go. I'm not ready to say "we're done family building." I'm not ready to close that door. It makes me feel old and sad and broken to say "we're done." At the same time, I also can't imagine having another child. I wish I were younger. I wish I felt like I had another pregnancy in me. I felt so rotten in those weeks after SB was born and it took me so long to get my body back together that it's hard for me to imagine going through a pregnancy and delivery again. Yet it's also hard for me to imagine that there will NOT be the possibility of a third child, a third happy addition to our family. So I am in this impossible place, where I can't give up this stuff, and yet it feels ridiculous to keep it. It's not like I can just stash it in the basement and think about it some other day. I am moving to a different continent. . .twice in the next year.
I always thought that if we had a family, we would have more than one child. I really wanted more than one, and we were blessed with Miss M and then SB. Before I was pregnant, during my pregnancy with Miss M, during my pregnancy with SB, I always thought that two was my number. While I was pregnant with each of them, I thought that I would eventually reach this place where I felt content with the two kids, where I was comfortable with our decisions, where I was just DONE. I really thought that I would just know. But I didn't get to that place after SB was born. Or at least, I'm not there yet. If I had six more months, or a year, or two years more, perhaps I'd get there. Perhaps I just need more time. But I am moving in five weeks. Less than five weeks. I need to make decisions about all of this stuff NOW. I don't have more time. Tick, tick, tick. . .
On top of all of this, I know pregnant people who could really, really use my stuff. I have three close friends here who are either expecting, or have newborns. I am 90% sure I will leave the baby swing and the bouncy seat with one of them, in fact. For whatever reason, I am not attached to those two things.
But the clothes feel different. They feel more personal. I have pictures of Miss M in the clothes, and compare them to the pictures of SB in the same outfits. They are in good shape. Many of the clothes are beautiful, and I love them. I would be delighted to have a third child wear them (in my head, my third child is also a girl, although of course we'd be delighted with a boy). This is hard. Ugh. . .anxiety.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
We move in something like 59 days. I have done. . .nothing. We have so much crap to go through and get rid of. The movers are coming NEXT WEEK to figure out how long it will take them to pack us. In a perfect world, I would have done all of my organizing and purging already. Yikes. Some rooms are worse than others. Like, everything in the living room is going to get packed, but there is tons of crap in the bedroom closets that needs to be given away. And the baby clothes. . .I'm not ready to part with them, but it's crazy for us to move with them. But I'm just not ready.
I went back to my kidney surgeon this week for an xray and a followup appointment. The kidney is mostly looking good, but there are a few pieces of stuff still in my ureter. Argh. So frustrating. He thinks it will all come out on its own, although there is a small chance I'll need another procedure. I told him I choose "it all comes out on its own." Given where I was and how complicated the surgeries ended up being, I know this isn't a big deal, but I really was hoping to get the "all clear" this week. I have to go back in a few more weeks for another xray. Sigh.
We have Olympics tickets for THIS WEEKEND!!! I am so excited. It is weird to be watching Olympics in a country that is not my own. The commentators here are hilarious. They invariably always trash the American athletes and say how tired they look. They also constantly ramble on about how their athletes might actually pull off a medal, no matter how far behind they may be at any given moment. It's so patently biased that it makes me laugh. American Olympics coverage definitely is more highly produced, and gets better close-up shots, than the camerawork and production that is done here. There are more channels covering it here, though. Anyway, it's been an interesting experience, and I am really looking forward to watching the games live.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Monday, July 23, 2012
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Monday, July 16, 2012
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
So here we are, one month after the birth of our second child, Numero Dos, aka Little Star, aka SB for the nickname our oldest likes to call her. It has been a fairly blissful experience, from the birth through now. She is a HUGE baby--almost 11 pounds already, and it makes such an enormous difference in terms of just about everything--eating, sleeping, her strength in holding her head up and her arms and legs. She is mellow and calm, and already smiling, and I am smitten.
SB's birth. . .
At about 9:15 pm on March 7, I started having some contractions. I'd been having them for days, so didn't think much of them, except they started to get a bit painful. I told T that I thought I was in labor for real, so he decided to go to bed and catch a little sleep just in case. At around 11:15 pm, I was sure that the contractions were actual labor, and I called my doctor to tell her. She said that I could go to the hospital whenever I wanted to, but that she recommended waiting until my contractions were 3 minutes apart and 1 minute long. She said she had just come from the hospital and it was very busy, and there was no real need for me to be there before then. (It was, I noted to myself, to be a full moon here--loads of women in labor.) My doctor said that she had a number of patients in varying stages of labor that night. I agreed I would continue to labor at home and call her when things had progressed. She had previously agreed that as long as we were sure the baby was head down, she'd let me labor at home until the contractions were three minutes apart, and during my last visit, she was confident that the baby was low enough in my pelvis that she wouldn't/couldn't pop back up again and go transverse (again).
I let T know that I was really in labor, and he got up to tell my sister that I was in labor and that we'd need her to "watch" Miss M for us when we left for the hospital. It wasn't going to be any heavy lifting, since Miss M was fast asleep. After putting her on notice, T went back to sleep.
I hung out in our living room for the next couple of hours, messing around and just going with the flow. I can't really remember what I did other than write a blog post, as I couldn't really focus on anything for very long. Eventually, at around 1am, I decided it was time to go to the hospital. My contractions were about three minutes apart, although only about 45 second long, but I was uncomfortable enough that I didn't want to wait any longer. I was worried about being so uncomfortable in a moving car on the way to the hospital (especially since I didn't have to do that with Miss M, given that my contractions with her didn't start until we were at the hospital). Although we live only a couple of miles from the hospital, we needed to take a taxi, and I wasn't sure how long it would take for one to show up after I called them, and that was worrying me, as well. I called my doctor and let her know we were headed to the hospital. She said it would take her a bit longer than it would take us to get there, but she would meet us there.
I woke T up and told him we were going to the hospital. For some reason, he stood leaning on Miss M's crib, staring at me as I sat trying to dress myself. I had to yell at him to hurry up and get dressed so we could go, in order to make him start moving. I called the cab and arranged for it to come right away. Surprisingly enough, it was outside within minutes.
I had everything all packed, my sister was on notice, I was dressed in yoga pants and a sweatshirt, T was dressed and ready to go, the cab was there. . .and all of a sudden I had to race to the bathroom. I barely made it to the toilet before the contents of my intestines exploded. For some reasons, even though I knew intellectually that every pregnancy was different, I still expected this labor to be like my first labor. With Miss M, my water broke hours before my labor started, and I never had gastrointestinal issues. Things progressed slowly and methodically, and nothing happened until I was at the hospital. I also had lots of bleeding with the start of my contractions. This time, no blood, no broken water, no waiting for the hospital. . .but unexpectedly and most decidedly empty intestines! Thank goodness it happened before I got in the cab.
After that, I made my way downstairs and out into the car. The cab driver could see that I was in labor, and he was incredibly kind. I thought he might freak out that I was going to make a mess in his cab, but he was warm and polite and drove slowly over the many speed bumps that pepper this city as we made our way to the hospital. I had three contractions in the car on the way to the hospital, and stayed as quiet as possible so as not to freak him out. When we got to the hospital, he helped me out of the cab and wished me good luck.
When we got inside the hospital, we had to check in at the front desk, which took all of two seconds. A security guard had to take us up to the labor ward in the elevator, and I could tell that another contraction was imminent. I was impatient to get upstairs and sitting down before it began, but he was checking with the desk about something, so I leaned against the elevator wall head first. He must've noticed my discomfort, because he quickly took us up at that point. When we got to the labor ward, a nurse had me sit while she found a room for me. It took just a minute or two, but I barely noticed, deep in the middle of another contraction.
We ended up in the room with the birthing tub, which I was happy about. However, I noticed that the tub was nowhere near ready for use--it was full of stuff, and I knew they'd need to sanitize and fill it if I wanted to use it. Given how close together my contractions were, I decided not to bother with it. I sat on the bed while the midwife monitored the baby for a bit (every patient gets assigned a "midwife" at that hospital, but it's really just a glorified nurse and nothing like an American midwife). The baby looked great. My doctor came in and checked me. I think I was four or five centimeters dilated.
Then, I moved to a chair. There was no rocking chair this time, but rather a hard backed chair with pleather surfaces. I asked T to fill my hot water bottle that I'd brought with me, as I thought that might make my contractions feel better (it did). However, we had a bit of trouble getting it filled with hot water. None of the taps in the room would produce water hot enough for the bottle, due to safety regulations. My doctor, who was amazing throughout, arranged for someone to boil water and mix it with cooler water for the bottle, and I was good to go.
I arrived at the hospital at around 1:15. Over the next few hours, my contractions got closer and closer together, until I was having double contractions with no break in between. I would always get a break between the doubles, but I was pretty uncomfortable when I'd have to go through two without a break. With my first labor, I utterly ignored the clock and just went with it. This time, I was a bit more impatient. I remember looking at T's watch regularly, knowing that I was getting closer and calculating if I'd yet hit the mark where this labor would be half as long as my first (because in my head, this labor was going to be half as long as my first, and that's how I'd "know" I was almost done). When the double contractions started, I remember asking why there was no break in between, all the while thinking in my head "this is what I've read about--I must be about ready to push." That was basically my doctor's reaction to my rhetorical question.
The nurse/midwife had periodically monitored the baby throughout the time I'd been there. Each time, I'd ask if the baby was okay, and she'd tell me she was, and then the nurse would retreat to a far corner of the room. She'd monitor me by putting the monitor on my belly while I sat in the chair--utterly unobtrusive, and didn't interfere with my labor at all. My doctor was mostly in the room during my labor, sitting and watching. She left for a while to get a snack (and I later found out she returned an email to one of my friends, who is also her patient). When I mentioned the double contractions, she wanted to check me again, as she thought I was close. I scooted forward in the chair so she could check.
This is when we had a bit of a panic. I was 9.5 centimeters dilated, but she said the baby hadn't appropriately descended. I think she said something about her only being at -2. She said that she thought that the baby might be "a bit bigger than" Miss M, and that she could tell from the way the plates in the baby's head were already mushed together (my term--I can't remember hers) that basically the baby was stuck (again, my term). I remember thinking at this point that I was going to have to have a c-section. She was very calm, and I stayed really calm. She said that we needed to do something to try to loosen my pelvis and create some room for the baby to come down. She said she knew I wasn't going to like it.
She had me stand up and move over to the bed. She was on one side of the bed, and had me lean over the opposite side, facing her. She held my arms with both of hers, and she had me sway back and forth from side to side. As she held my arms, she swayed with me. I was reminded of elephants, tail to trunk and swaying together. As I was doing this, I got an incredible urge to push, and I remember saying "I'm really sorry, but I really have to push." She was like "that's fine--go ahead." I did this for a number of contractions, swaying back and forth with my hips and pushing as the urge hit. After a short time, she wanted to check me again, and then had me get up on the bed.
My doctor (have I mentioned how amazing she was?) said that we needed to make my pelvis as wide as possible in order to give the baby room to come out, so she was going to have me try to deliver in a somewhat odd position. I was on my left side, with my right leg up in the air against her. T help me keep the leg up in the air. I pushed against the doctor with it when I pushed, pushing about three times with each contraction. However, after a few pushes, the doctor had me stop. She said that I had "good skin," and that it wasn't stretching at all like it needed to, and that a tear was starting. She also said that she thought the baby wasn't lined up quite right. She thought I needed an episiotomy in order to get the baby out.
While delivering Miss M, my old doctor kept trying to give me an episiotomy. "One snip, and she'll be right out," she said. I refused it, as I didn't believe it was necessary. Indeed, it wasn't, and Miss M was out fairly quickly with no tearing. I had just a few stitches, and minimal healing. This time, however, I really trusted my doctor. If she believed it was necessary and was recommending it, I believed that she was right. I could also just tell that something wasn't quite right. I approved for her to do the episiotomy. Not only did I trust her, but I could actually feel that things were different this time. Whereas with Miss M, pushing had felt good, hadn't hurt one bit, and had felt like everything was lined up appropriately, with this labor, I could tell something was off. Things were pulling in weird directions, and I felt a strange pulling/burning sensation near my urethra that felt like I might tear in the front. I know that sounds weird, but it's the only way I can describe it. Whereas pushing with Miss M had been productive, pushing with SB didn't feel productive at all.
The doctor gave me a shot, and then did the episiotomy. She later told me that she only had to go through the layer of skin, and didn't go any deeper. She asked, as she did this, who was going to catch the baby. I didn't even think about it--I was so focused on getting this baby out, that I simply said "you are" without thinking about it. In hindsight, it would have been great to have T deliver her. But anyway, on we went. I pushed through one or two more contractions, and to my great surprise, SB's head was out. At that point, the doctor told me to stop pushing. Because I was in such a weird position, on my side with one leg up in the air, I had a great view of SB's head, which was absolutely covered in thick dark hair. Miss M was basically bald at birth, so I was mesmerized. What I didn't notice, but T told me later, was that the doctor had me stop pushing because the cord was around the baby's neck and she needed to unwrap it. Then, I pushed again, and the rest of her body slid right out, and the doctor and I pulled her to my chest. It was an amazing few moments, seeing her with all of that hair, and then pulling her right to my chest.
We have some funny pictures from right after she was born. My hair looks like a wild woman's, and I am beaming at our big new baby. It was sheer, utter adoration. Although I don't remember it, I must've fixed my hair at some point, because in the photo that T. sent to all of our family and friends, I look much better! My dear baby girl was born at 4:16 a.m., about seven hours after I went into labor and three hours after we arrived at the hospital. My first labor was about 13 hours from first contraction to delivery, so indeed this labor was roughly half as long. She was a very chubby baby, and her arms looked just like the Michelin Man's, with all of the newborn fluid. Her hands and feet were incredibly wrinkled, like she'd been in the bath far too long. She had chubby round cheeks, and was just so precious. We looked at her for a few minutes, and settled quickly upon one of the two names that were our top choices.
The nurse gave me a shot of pitocin in the thigh to help stop the bleeding and to quickly deliver the placenta. I don't think I had it with my firstborn, but it wasn't uncomfortable at all. I had an IV with my first baby, so I supposed they could have put it in there and I didn't notice (I don't think so, though, because I think it's given intramuscularly). No IV was even placed with this birth (they made me have one placed as soon as I got to the hospital with Miss M, although I negotiated to stay off the IV until late in the delivery). Shortly after I got the pitocin, the doctor delivered the placenta, which was intact. She then gave me stitches while we looked at our baby. I held the baby for a while, then the nurse took her and wrapped her in blankets and T held her for a few minutes while the doctor worked on me. The doctor gave me some sort of suppository pain relief, which she said I'd want once the shot wore off that she'd given me for the episiotomy.
Once the doctor was done with me, they gave the baby back, and I fed her. She immediately latched on and nursed. She nursed for two hours straight! The doctor and the nurse just kind of hung out with me in the room during this time, leaving us to ourselves for a bit toward the end. They gave us tea and toast, so we could have a bit of nourishment while we enjoyed our new baby. They also weighed and measured the baby during this time. We were utterly shocked when they put her on the scale and she weighed in at 8 pounds, 10 ounces--26 ounces heavier than our firstborn! The doctor laughed when they measured her head circumference. I think she said the average baby's head circumference was 25 cm, and SB's head measured 27 (if I'm wrong about those numbers, then SB's head measured in at 2 cm's larger than the average baby). No wonder this was a bit more complicated of a delivery!
After a couple of hours, they put me in a wheelchair and sat my bags on my lap. T carried the baby, and the nurse wheeled me down to the elevator, then to my private room downstairs from the birthing suite. It was a small room, with a large private bathroom, but perfectly adequate. T hung out with me there until around 6am, and then headed home so he could be with Miss M. Luckily, he got home just before she woke up, so he was able to be there for her just like normal.
After he left, I proceeded to start in on my first day with my new baby girl. It was a long sleepless day filled with nursing, nursing, nursing. SB was and is a great nurser. She had a perfect latch right from the beginning, and wanted to nurse frequently. She went to the bathroom a ton, so no worries there. Unfortunately, the hospital provided only cotton balls and cups of water to wash the baby's bottom in. Have you ever tried to clean meconium with a wet cotton ball? Let me tell you, it doesn't work so well.
I wasn't crazy about the hospital. The nurses weren't overly helpful--they only did things if you asked. When I had Miss M, the nurses would come in and check on me, check my pain level, make sure I had food, see if I needed them to take Miss M to the nursery so I could rest, etc. None of that happened at this hospital. If I didn't ring the bell, no one came in my room. It was kind of weird.
T brought Miss M to visit, and it was really lovely. As soon as she walked through the door, her face lit up in a huge smile. She was so happy to see me, and so happy to see the baby. She wanted to, and did, kiss the baby. She climbed up in bed with me for a bit. She explored the hospital room, and pulled the stools and chairs all over, climbing everywhere and raising toddler chaos. We gave her a present from the baby, a cute book I found. It was overall really nice. It was amazing to see my girls together for the first time, to have our little family together for the first time.
I feel like I have been given such a gift. Two amazing labors. Two amazing baby girls. I am so blessed.