Friday, November 21, 2014

Jon's One Month And Things That Make Me Sad

Welp you guys, I did it. I just seriously told my husband that maybe, just maybe it wouldn't be so horrible to think about having another baby (in four to five years). I never saw a man reach for the phone so make a vasectomy appointment. He is insisting on getting it done this year, an effort I would have generously applauded and encouraged up until yesterday when I realized that Jon was growing out of his newborn clothes and I would likely not be able to use them (on a real baby) ever, ever again.

I just....I just love babies. Especially OUR babies. I kind of want a handful more (not all at the same time). I think I have a sickness.

Also, four weeks in to having three boys and I'm absolutely cured of all my previous desires and fantasies about being a stay at home mom. I'm such a better, happier mom when I go to work for a chunk of the day. I'll fully admit it. I just don't have the patience to deal with fighting, bickering, and whinning all day long. OMG, the FIGHTING. It's suddenly  nonstop. This is totally a new thing as of six months ago. I wonder if it's the fact they are both boys, if it's their ages, if it's the fact that they share a room and have zero personal space at all (gee, how do they think I feel when they are picking their noses in my face while I'm trying to straighten my hair each am...welcome to the club of tiny houses). Maternity leave was so much easier (and more fun) with just two. Also having kids TWO years a part is SO much different than having kids THREE years apart.

If I have to smell one more intentional fart, clean up one more uneaten meal, wash one more urine-stenched item of clothing, or pick up one more errant Legoman head, I may just have to go put myself in time out.

In other news, Jonathan (ahh, I still feel giddy saying his name, I love that name!) turned one month old today! He celebrated by showing off both of his chins, being extra adorable, and then refusing to sleep all afternoon and evening, demanded to be held constantly, and screaming his head off for an hour (very uncharacteristic). We are cuddling on the couch now and I'm afraid to wake him because I don't know if i will be greeted by normal Jon or crabby-ass jerk-face Jon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Us: 2014

Last weekend we had our family portraits taken. I love family portraits, not because I'm narcissistic (although I may be that), but the snapshots say so many things to me.

To anyone else, the photo below may show nothing more than a young boy. But to me is says, "Remember your first born? Remember how tiny and small he was? Look at how big he has grown. But he still has that little round chin. How can he be the same boy that looked lazily up at me from the hospital nusery? There are those lace-up shoes that he refuses to learn to tie. It drives me crazy that he still slips his foot in and out of them. I can see his big boy front teeth. He was so excited about losing them and cannot wait to lose more even though it has been a while. See how he sits? That's how he sits when he is in the middle of building Legos but then gets distracted and mesmerized by the TV.

To a stranger this is just a picture of a boy. But to me it beckons the memory of a sweet little blue-eyed toddler collecting snails in his pocket at the park and tells of his transformation into a green-eyed inquisitive child. His eye color is different, but his passion for following the rules, learning new things, and discovering the world around him is the same.
This may be just a picture of a toddler. But to me, this picture of a sweet, smiling two year old harbors just the hint of a wily, rough-and-tumble boy masked beneath the skin's surface. The faint scar on his forehead reminds me of the numerous falls and tumbles this tough boy has taken while endeavoring to take the world by storm. I'm pretty sure nothing will come easily to this boy, unless he receives it as a result of his dashing, cheeky smile.
This picture of three ordinary boys tells the story of the power struggle of a two-year old trying to find his place while desperately loving the object that misplaced him as the baby of the family. He loves roughly, but only because he loves with his whole heart AND body. It also tells the story of an oldest brother who was beside himself with grief to learn that he was getting another baby brother instead of a sister but who instantly took on a new role as The Protector. He is guided by strong convictions and has a hard time dealing with the reality of the unfairness of this world (especially of the rivalrous world that exists between siblings). This picture also tells the story of a new baby boy, who is now completely oblivious to the non-stop love and admiration of his two older brothers. The baby that made us feel complete and our lives overflowing with blessings.

Four guys. MY guys. They are mine. They are the other parts of me. They are each and every one imprinted in my mind and my heart. Right here, in this picture of four regular guys, is everything I love most in the entire world. I don't have a big house or a fancy car or this season's wardrobe. I have them. And they make me feel rich.

Then there is all of us. I love reflecting on all the ways we change over the years. I especially love the portraits of those years in which ta-da! a new person suddenly appears, like magic, or spontaneous acquisition.
We all need each other for different reasons and love each other in different ways. Sometimes the love comes more easily than other times. Despite the impeccable color coordination and bright smiles, we are not perfect. But dang-it!, for a measly three snap shots out of the year, we can sure try our best.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Giving Tree

In my Facebook newsfeed a while back, I saw a post about Shel Silverstein's book The Giving Tree (maybe even through one of my fellow MILPs?). The post asked whether people loved or hated the book. I was shocked at first at the slightest suggestion that the book could be hated.

My mom loved the book and read it to us often. A tree that gives and gives and gives, motivated solely by love, and never asks for anything in return. To me, that book was the purest and simplest definition of love. To be completely selfless To never question the needs of others but to always put them first. To show your love through actions and sacrifice rather than through words. To love someone so much that you completely exhaust yourself in every way.

Reading through the comments, it became clear to me why some people hate the book. The general gist of such comments was that it is unhealthy to love so blindly without reciprocity. Unhealthy to give everything you have to someone who appears completely ungrateful and indifferent to your own needs. The tree is a horrible role model for children, so say some of the commentators.

I was taken aback that one of my most beloved children's books could be viewed so negatively. I had never once considered this side of the story. But after mulling it over some more, I simply cannot agree. The focus of the book, to me, is really the love and sacrifice of the tree, not the healthiness of the relationship between the boy and the tree. In my experience as a parent, I feel this is especially true. As parents, we have no choice but to love our children. We can't just abandon the relationship we have with our kids on the basis the relationship is imperfect- that our children do not reciprocate, that our children are ungrateful or indifferent to our needs and affection.

Perhaps the negative Facebook comments hold some truth in regards to romantic relationships. But certainly not of the relationship between parent and child. This relationship is rarely equal. And as I struggle to survive day in and day out with three little boys, the truth of this fact is abundantly clear. I give so much. By the end of the day, I'm exhausted from giving. I have nothing left. After I tuck two little bodies into their beds and collapse on the couch with a third little body snuggled up under my chin, I feel drained in every way- physically, mentally, spiritually. I am empty.

The kids rarely understand the depth of my sacrifices and work. They are busy learning and growing and becoming people. They don't reciprocate the 100% mental and emotional investment I make in them each day. They keep fighting and making messes and doing things that I have repeatedly told them not to do, with little concern for my sanity. So yes, at the end of the day I'm exhausted and empty. But I'm not hollow. I'm satisfied and happy (even on those not-so-occasional days where I all I can do is ruminate over my parental shortcomings). My love for them is not dependent upon reciprocity. It is unconditional. Impenetrable. Self-sustaining.

Now that I am three weeks postpartum and slowly taking back possession of my own body, I am acutely aware of another way in which being a parent is like being the Giving Tree. Bringing three children into the world does not leave a body unscathed. And as I look into the mirror I see the stretch marks, extra skin, and softness around my waist. I can feel the separation of my abdominal muscles. I see the dark line that still runs down the middle of my belly. I see the wide incision scar that rests below my bikini line and feel the rough edges of the scar tissue lying below the surface. And when I stop nursing, my chest will transform back into two fleshy pockets of stretched-out skin.

After three kids, I struggle to find my body beautiful. But the Giving Tree reminds me of a different kind of beauty. A beauty not of physical appearance but of the heart. At the end of the book, the tree is nothing more than a stump. To any stranger, the tree might not be beautiful. It would be deformed and easily passed over. But to the boy (and the reader), who is familiar with the gifts and the sacrifice of the tree, the tree is beautiful. Not for what it looks like, but for what it has done, what it has given, and how deeply it has loved.

My body has given and nurtured life, three times over. Each time, giving up a little more of what it once was. My postpartum body may never make the cover of a magazine. My stretch marks and extra skin  and incision scars may never be objectively beautiful by society's standards. But maybe it can still be beautiful and loved by those who know the extent of its sacrifice: the children to whom it has given life, and the man who it has made a father. Even if it is not beautiful for its appearance, may my body be beautiful for all it has done and for what it has given.

I see no better metaphor for a mother than as demonstrated by the Giving Tree.

And, back to the negative reflections on the book....maybe a person who loves without any thought or expectations of reciprocity is the perfect role model for the next generation (a generation of instant gratification). No child (not even the most grateful and giving child) can ever fully reciprocate a mother's love and sacrifices. And perhaps, this makes a mother's love even more pure.

Monday, November 10, 2014

"Everything Is Awesome"

Jon is 3 weeks old today. Last week, it felt like his time had flown by. When the reminder for his two week check-up popped up on my phone, I wanted to strangle my brain in disbelief. It felt like he was JUST born. Maybe the five day hospital stay had some kind of time warp affect on my brain. But now, it feels like he's been with us forever.

The newborn sleep-all-the-time phase has evaporated and left behind a less pleasant cry-all-the-time-unless-you-hold-me phase. This kid does NOT like to be a cooperative sleeper. It will take take five hours and two feedings for me to get him to sleep soundly somewhere other than my arms. But of course, the second I desperately need to feed him (rock boobs) or run an errand, he's so sound asleep that no amount of prodding or jostling will rouse him. ("rouse" - is that a word? If not, it should be).

And that nice Pack 'n Play I so painstakingly set up and cleaned as his bassinet? Used once. He does not like to sleep alone. And because he is my third and last baby, I don't have the energy or the willpower to force the issue. The little heart-stealer stows away in our bed every night. Bonus: sleep feeding. I don't even know how many times he wakes to eat anymore because I literally roll over and get him to latch in my sleep. I often wake up with a puddle of milk or spit-up (perhaps I'll never know which) seeping toward my (tiny) little sliver of the bed.

The three. They are mine. This makes me smile.

Also, I'm pretty sure he is constantly constipated. All night long he emits the most prolonged, disturbing pooping sounds I have ever heard. It's like the dude has eaten his weight in cheese and bananas. For someone who consumes and shits solely in liquid form, he is sure dramatic about his defecation. It's really hard to sleep with a 9 pound chipmunk-guinea pig hollering five inches from your ear.

Jon took his first bath! And left a present in the water.

There are many, many times that I find myself missing being in the hospital. It's really hard to go back to real life after you spend five days in a hospital bed where people bring you meals (of your choice!) at any hour of the day, change your baby's diaper, check in every three hours just to ask how you are doing, clean and groom you, deliver graham crackers and water and Vicodin to your bedside (even at 3am!), and (my personal favorite) where you don't even have to lift a finger to pee (oh catheter, how I love thee!).

But as much as I miss the special doting and attention that I received in the hospital, it is a million times better to be a normal human again, or as close to normal as you can be when you have to be on call to let another human suck your boob every couple hours. Now that I'm no longer pregnant and my incision is pretty much healed, I can do so many things that I so took for granted all my non-pregnant life. Like sleep on my tummy! The first time I slept on my tummy after Jon was born I swear I heard angels sing!

Also, I can wear ANYTHING in my closet! I'm not limited to clothes with a belly panel or stretchy waist band. I can wear any shirt I want to. It's so freeing. It also feels like I just scored a major shopping spree. I haven't worn my normal clothes in so long, I forgot that I even had them.

Oh and I can put on shoes and socks BY MYSELF! I can bend over to take off my boots! Wait. I can BEND OVER PERIOD. I still shed a tear of joy every single time I squat down to pick up a dirty diaper off the floor because: belly gone! Incision healed! I can physically move my body without discomfort or pain! I swear that for the rest of my life I will never take bending over for granted.

So basically, as the Lego Movie has taught us, everything is awesome (if you don't understand that reference, BLESS YOU, and be forever grateful). Because even when Jon is being difficult and insists on being held....hullo, baby holding is awesome. Although it does make some things more difficult such as making dinner, driving a car, eating, peeing, folding laundry, and putting on pants. But if holding a baby is the worst part of this whole new baby deal, I think I'll survive. It has helped me get a lot of reading done. In the past two weeks, I've read approximately 1,300 pages of the addictive Outlander series while Jon has slept soundly in my arms.

Finally, I would be remiss to end this post without mentioning one thing: baby heads smell AMAZING. If only I could collect them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Adjusting And Halloweening

Three kids Different. It's totally amazing and totally hair-pulling-out-ing at the exact same time.

There are times-- particularly when I'm loading up our car to the max with kids, or when I'm sitting on the couch and can't move a single body part without touching or brushing a child's limb, or when we are all sitting elbow-to-elbow at our tiny dining room table, or when I'm walking to the park accompanied by a double stroller filled with infants and toddlers AND a big kid on a bike-- when I almost feel like I'm going to explode with happiness. Having three makes me feel so much more full than I felt with just two. I don't just feel blessed. I feel gorged on blessings. In those moments, I literally have to bite my lip to stop the flow of happy tears threatening to pour down my cheeks.

Fullest Subaru on the block

Jonathan's first trip to the park

Being cute (11 days old)
Thank GOD for those moments. Because the other moments are not always so fun. Mostly it's the squabbling and teasing and fighting of the big kids. I don't think the problem is so much the fact that there is now three instead of just two, it's more likely related to the fact that I have a two year old who, in reliable fashion, acts EXACTLY like a two year old.

Jacob did not go through the terrible twos. He was a difficult three year old but nothing compared to the testiness and blatant disobedience of my two-year-old Ryan. Ryan is both the sweetest of my children and the most horrendous of my children. He tells people they are stupid. He says he hates everything. He refuses to eat....anything. He refuses to put on pants. He refuses to have his diaper changed. He will argue everything, every step of the way. He purposely does things to make his older brother mad. No matter how many times we tell him not to throw objects, knock down Jacob's towers, or break Jacob's Legos, he is deadly intent on doing these things every second of every day.

But then he will come up to me and smile and tell me sweetly that he loves me. He is generous with his hugs and his smiles. He will engage us in adorable dialogue. He follows me around the house asking me questions about what I'm doing. He will sing Jonathan a song. If I so much as mention that Jonathan needs a new diaper, he darts off down the hall to fetch a clean one. He's like two different children in one body and it is making me CRAZY!

Both kids absolutely adore their baby brother. I couldn't ask for this part of our transition to a family of five to be any smoother. They fight over who gets to hold him first. And when Jonathan's sleeping in his Boppy, the big boys sit on the couch and laugh at his newborn noises, kiss his head, and pet his fingers. They are smitten. But really, all of us are. 

The kids' new favorite activity: being baby burritos.

For Halloween this year, we kept with our tradition of going over to my husband's sister's house. Their family lives in a large neighborhood that is absolutely perfect for trick or treating. The houses are close together, the sidewalks are wide and well-lit, there is plenty of parking, and the residents go all-out with decorations and candy-giving.

Power Ranger, Spiderman, and Skeleton Baby

After some obligatory photos, Jonathan stayed behind with my husband's parents while we took the big kids trick or treating. Every year the big kids get more and more intense and come back with bigger and bigger loot bags. The scary decorations used to terrify Jacob (one year, he literally crapped his pants after a zombie jumped out at him), but this year he LOVED them all. He nearly missed trick or treating at some houses because he was so excited to jump ahead to the houses with the fog machines, motion sensor witches, skeleton graveyards, strobe lights and ghosts in the windows.

Ryan does not like anything scary. We went trick or treating at Jacob's school the night before Halloween and Ryan started screaming hysterically at the first clown he saw (the clown wasn't even a scary clown, it was a happy clown). (Jacob, on the other hand, was so proud as he lead us down the hallways of his school, showing us all the classrooms and saying "hi" to all his friends.) During trick or treating, Ryan clutched our hands in a deadly vice grip as we approached each house and flatly refused to go up to some of the more decorated houses. But the thrill on his face as each stranger plopped a candy in his bucket was priceless.

Ryan LOVING Halloween

All in all, we had such a fabulous Halloween. This is one of those holidays that is always fun, but 10x more fun with kids. And each year, the fun seems to grow exponentially.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Jonathan's First Day

The week before my C-section, I would lay awake in bed each night and try to visualize what would happen on the Big Day. I thought that visualizing everything would help ease my anxieties. So, for seven nights I fell asleep to thoughts of IVs, spinal block needles, catheters, blue curtains, and mesh panties. I know, I know. Not exactly sugar plums.

By the time Jonathan's birthday arrived, I had done the run-through so many times. I felt mentally prepared. "It's no big deal" I told myself. People have C-sections at the hospital every day.

I was really anxious during my last C-section. The staff offered me anxiety meds but I declined once they explained the side-effects. I didn't want to be loopy after my son was born. I was so exhausted and out-of-it during my first emergency C-section that I didn't hold my first born until he was three hours old. I wanted to be present and coherent for the birth of my second son. And even though I was insanely anxious, it was the right decision. As soon as they lifted Ryan over that blue curtain for the first time, everything was OK.

I assumed that since I'm now an experienced C-section patient, this time would be a breeze. Wrong.

I held it together just fine all morning. We dropped the kids off, parked the car, and walked toward the hospital. Suddenly, tears flooded my eyes and I felt like beavers had constructed a dam in my throat. I walked up to the registration counter and couldn't speak. My husband checked me in. They brought me back to a pre-op hospital room. The baby incubator was all set up in the corner. "My baby is going to be there," I thought as I smoothed my hand softly over the blanket.

My husband and I sat on the hospital bed and waited. He was trying to make small talk and little jokes to ease the look of horror on my face. We took side bets as to how much baby would weight. Then I didn't want to talk. To anyone. We waited forever (or 30 minutes). Apparently, no one let the nurses know we were there. Finally someone came in and handed me a gown and a stack of sanitizing wipes. I was instructed to wipe down my entire body. Between light sobs and watery eyes, I went into the bathroom and complied, shivering to the touch of the cold wipes. In the mirror, I glanced one last time at my round belly and then went back to the bed to be prepped for the IV.

Surprisingly, the IV is where I totally lost my shit. They swabbed my arm, numbed up my wrist. I looked away as they inserted the IV. I started to panic. I didn't want to be there. The gravity of the procedure hit me and suddenly I could barely breathe. I tilted my head upward and cried out, "I want to go home." Then I sobbed uncontrollably.

The nurses tried to reassure me. They brought in the head nurse and patted my hand and told me everything would be fine. The anesthesiologist tried to reassure me. Everyone seemed surprise that I was so nervous (as if it never happened before?!) and kept asking me what part of the C-section I was worried about. What? The entire fucking thing. I just looked at them dumbly and said, "You're going to cut me apart!" I mean. Duh.

Finally it was time to walk to the Operating Room. After they summoned me, I at on the edge of the bed, frozen. I leaned forward into my husband's torso and cried. I didn't want to go. I couldn't will my body to walk to that room. Not intentionally. Somehow, I did it. After several minutes and still deep in sobs, I got up off that bed and walked. Right into the Lion's Den.

I remember walking into the room. I was surrounded by white and sterling silver and the windexy-blue of scrubs, latex gloves, footies, and hair caps. It was so bright and pristine. The room was freezing. The smell of sterile chemicals made me want to vomit. I was instructed to sit on a very narrow, aluminum table. It's cold surface pressed harshly against me and I felt trapped. I remember curling up for the spinal block and suddenly it felt like ice cold water was being pushed through the veins in my legs. Everything from the chest down went numb.

I could hear myself breathing but I felt like I was suffocating. I couldn't feel my lungs filling with air. They put an oxygen mask over my face and I could feel the warmth of my breath fill the mask. But I still couldn't feel myself breathing. I panicked again. I yelled out that I couldn't breath. I yelled it over and over. The anesthesiologist assured me that I was breathing and tried to talk me to calmness. But his words couldn't take away the feeling of suffocation and I couldn't calm down. (Turns out the spinal block made my chest numb too and that's why I couldn't feel my lungs).

I gasped for air over and over. I yelled out. I cried. Mid-panic, I heard the anesthesiologist tell my husband that he was going to give me something to calm me down. And suddenly, completely and totally beyond my own control, calmness took over. The rest of the operation is hazy, at best. I remember asking my husband if he was able to sell our couch on craigslist. When the doctor asked what color it was, I told her it was purple (it's brown). The doctor said the baby was almost out and I asked my husband to take a picture when they lifted him over the curtain.

The next thing I remember is this:

My baby arrived into the world to a mother who was totally high on Valium (and thank GOD!) but who loved him so incredibly much.

I heard someone yell out that he weighed 8 pounds, 3 ounces and was 20.5 inches long. I felt a lot of tugging and pulling down in my abdomen, and both my shoulders began to ache (apparently during the procedure air gets into the body cavity and once they stitch you up, it has nowhere to go which causes pressure in the shoulders) and the rest is a blur. I don't remember the nurses placing baby next to my pillow. I don't remember my husband taking photos. I don't remember being wheeled out of the room. In fact, I don't remember what happened within the next hour and a half.

My next memory is in the recovery room. I don't remember seeing anything (my eyes must have been closed?) but I remember hearing a nurse shout for the doctor to come right away. She reported that my pulse was 38 beats/minute and that my blood pressure was really low. I remember hearing concern in her voice. I felt like a third party observer because I felt like something may have been seriously wrong but I lacked the ability to have any emotional reaction. The doctor rushed in. checked me out, I heard her say, "It's ok. She's a runner." After that, everyone seemed less worried about my stats. Later my doctor would tell me that she wasn't worried because a low pulse is only really a problem when blood pressure skyrockets but my blood pressure stayed really low- like 80's over 50's- during my entire hospital visit.

Finally I came around and at some point I was holding the baby in my arms. I looked down at his sweet little sleeping face and I was instantly in love. He looked so much like Ryan when Ryan was a newborn. I lay in the hospital bed, with the lower half of my body still numb, needles and wires sticking out all over my body, a damp cloth pressed against my forehead, and a host of nurses and staff fussing and working all around me but for a brief moment everything faded away and all I saw was him. And he was perfect. And I felt full-to-bursting with happiness.

It wasn't until nearly two hours after his birth that baby finally had a name. My husband and I were so noncommittal and indecisive to the very end. "Benjamin?" he suggested. That didn't sound right to me.

"What about Lucas?" I offered back.

"Maybe." He replied.

"Or Jonathan?"

"I like both of those." He said.

"You can decide."

"Well, what do YOU like?"

Eventually it was settled, Jonathan Roger. I had been pushing for Roger as a middle name from the very beginning (my dad's name). My husband vetoed it all along. But in the end, I could have asked for the moon and he would have delivered it to me. And I absolutely love him for it.

The rest of the week was a very long recovery. There was fainting, excruciating pain, more poking and prodding, and a five day hospital stay. Several times I felt that I would never be able to get out of bed or feel human ever again. Normal life seemed a universe away. But through it all, Jonathan was the bright spot. He made the whole ordeal worth every second. He brought me smiles at 3am. Tears of joy in the quiet hours of the morning. Hugs and kisses and happiness immeasurable.

Before Jonathan, there was a silent void. Our house and our hearts were full of noise and activity. But I didn't feel complete. I felt like there was a missing puzzle piece and I longed for one more baby. Jonathan's presence has far exceeded anything I had imagined. The void is gone. He is perfect. Absolutely perfect. From the little crown on his sweet-smelling head to his tiny little chicken legs. From his shrill hunger cries to his unintentional sleepy smiles.

I'm excited that for the next four months, my only job is to love these THREE boys: