We are travelling in the Jimmy, east on the rain-soaked little highway into Olympia, to the community college where Beeps takes their German class. Ralph quizzes our oldest child and they do some verb conjugation together; they are taking the class together two nights a week. Nels is cheerful as well; he is planning on hitting the Mario Odyssey demo at Target. He worked for, saved up for, and pre-ordered the game as soon as it was available; these last few weeks he has been reading up and watching videos and is quite the expert.
My children are still so incredibly demonstrative and sweet (I get to define the word “demonstrative” to one of them, today at lunch). Phoenix seeks me out and gently hugs me and kisses me every day first thing. Today they say, their voice muffled in my hair as they hold me close: “You smell good. Like a jellybean.” Interestingly Nels is a bit more standoffish than he has been as a child but please understand Nels’ “standoffish” is another child’s “wildly and intensely clingy”, as every day he hugs, kisses, asks brazenly for snuggles, holds my hand and kisses my face in public. I didn’t think I’d have children that were so lovely and kind to me and so touchy-feely, but I am not complaining at all.
Nels and I share a dish at the Thai restaurant while Ralph and Phoenix sit in on their test; sticky rice and golden sesame tofu and fragrant vegetables in a lemongrass and ginger reduction. Nels is absolutely the kindest and sweetest boy and he is a pleasure to spend time with. As night is falling outside I feel that inexplicable sense of panic; I have lived with it for more years than I can remember, I can’t remember a time I didn’t live with it. Today I manage through prayer and meditation and, instead of drugs or alcohol, the anesthetizing effects of a parlor room mystery on telly.
After finding Nels a demo at the local game shop – with an enthusiastic and sweet employee chatting through the experience – the drive home is cozy. We are loaded up with special and nutritious snacks for Phee’s class trip to Mt. St. Helens tomorrow, for Geology. My spirits have lifted just a bit; the thought of our home, my bed, our kitties waiting for us. And my son’s happy chatter, “I am so excited!” and “I am so happy!” he keeps telling us. Truly a gift, to know your child is well and happy, especially a gift in the dark evenings like this.
It has been many years since my daughter asked me to paint her nails. The children and I treated ourselves to professional mani-pedis just before last year’s Christmas vacation. Last December she chose a soft black, and calmly let it grow out over the period of months, her special little hands and feet.
Today: a soft black, again, in a little bottle she brought home.
First: the toes. they are each perfect, little beans. Some day they will be held and treasured by the familiarity of a lover.
Tonight, just me.
We’re in the kitchen and it’s very late and it’s very quiet.
Her toes only take a touch of the brush.
Then: time for her fingers. Her hands are delicate and beautiful. They are always warm, her hands. She holds my hand still; she held my hand in the drugstore today. I hold each finger gently and carefully brush each nail, all my concentration. Nail lacquer is a great mindfulness practice.
“‘No Light’ Gel,” my daughter tells me. “I don’t know much about manicures, but…” [sharp intake of breath] – “the idea doesn’t seem sound.”
I am quiet, thinking of her mind. She started her second year of college today. At fourteen. Her mind is as sharp as any I’ve ever seen. I forget she still needs my help, my nurture and guidance. Adult as she sounds.
Yes but – but in her voice I can hear the same sweetness I heard when she was an infant. I remember when she was only two years old, she could “read” the large Dr. Seuss book The Lorax. She couldn’t really read, understand, but she’d memorized the words and tone of the words when we read to her, and she has always been the most delightful mimic. She would calmly turn the pages and recite the story aloud: “What was the Lorax? And why was it there?” I’d hear her musical but sharpish lisp from her bedrroom while I breastfed her brother.
She says, now, about the nail laquer – which she bought herself while on errands with her grandmother, a thoughtful purchase, “But it was one of the more moderately-priced products on the market.”
Today my lithotripsy procedure was moved up a few hours. As it worked out, the family and friend who’d planned to accompany me – to give me moral support and to drive me home – weren’t able to be there. I got to check in alone, fill out paperwork alone, receive my IV alone, and be wheeled into general anesthesia without saying goodbye to anyone.
It suited me, to be honest.
Illness, accident, and then death: they come for us all. When I arrived at the hospital I parked my car in the sunshine and looked out over my beloved Aberdeen. Any time could be one’s last; I suppose when heading off for a drug-induced near-death sleep, it’s as good a time as any to appreciate these sorts of experiences. I wouldn’t want anything different. I am happy with what I have.
But of course – I woke again, and lived to see another day.
And now that I’m home, and the house is quiet, I’m thinking on how quickly life changes. We have yet another mama kitty here in our home, with her five (thankfully healthy) little two-week old kittens. My children are navigating teen- and preteen-life and there have been a few surprises: some pleasant, and some less so. My halftime job is heading into a period of intensity: Friday, a man screamed at me on the phone, for no other reason than he is a very unhappy human being and he thinks abusing a woman in the clerical field will make him feel better.
A friend of mine passed, suddenly, on April 27th. My heart still hurts over this one. Thanks to the internet, and a passionate community of friends, I have been able to trade stories, to see old photos, and to process the grief. It is a welcome experience. I need people. Maybe on the terms that suit me best, but I need them all the same.
Then home. And housework, laundry, filing papers, paying bills. And kitten handling and maintenance. Life’s a full time job!
We are back to what seems, to me, one of the more idyllic ways to live – my husband off to work early in the morning, and I about my house, making coffee while the kids sleep. They sleep for hours and hours, unfettered by school’s schedule.
Busy as I am – currently making a video tutorial on a silk dress – when I hear them stirring I go sit on their bed, or crawl in for a bit.
This morning: “What was the deal…” my son asks, his brown body curled up with his back to me, “with witches?”
I ask him what he means.
“Why did people put them to death?” I can see he is troubled. I breathe. It hurts to think about.
I tell him what I know: men are afraid of women. So women with power affect them most of all. .”Witches” were independents: midwives, women who worked on their own or in some way did not meet cultural standards. So it wasn’t right, but some of these women were persecuted, tortured, and killed.
He asks if witches are real, though. I’m like – I don’t know. But my friend N____ is a witch. He asks, “How does that work?”
“It’s like religion. It’s very personal. So you can’t always go up to someone and ask them ‘how it works’.”
As we talk I feel his body, which had been curled up defensively, possibly a bad dream – I feel his body soften. He turns his cheek under my arm, and pulls me close. “You are so nice,” he says. “So lovely!” Because it’s not that children can’t handle harsh reality. It’s that they aren’t meant to handle adults who don’t give shit, or adults who don’t commit to being the one to make it better.
I’m thinking how powerful it is to be a parent. I am almost never prepared for the responsibility.
My children’s first year at school together, come and gone. Not much fanfare after all; I brought out some homemade food on the last day of class – simply to be relevant, to impress upon the children there that their time is honored, that we do indeed see them and love them. And yes, I am glad to be there if only for this brief hour. The food in hand: deviled eggs and pretzel sticks, the eggs created in my kitchen only the half hour before. I carry the parcel to a few other classrooms, teachers. My footfalls are weary but I’m glad to ghost about the hall and experience the privacy of my thoughts.
The edifice, the institution, the classroom, is as it always has been now that I’m an adult: a bit dirty, small-minded, housing implausibly-cheerful young citizens and adults paid a wage for honorable work. My throat constricts and my heart thunders with hope, and despair. My children are happy – everyone seems to be! – but I am ambivalent, an experience that will follow me the rest of the day.
And I am distracted. Our grocery reserves are limited to a bit of folding money in my pocket, and we are paid Thursday next. But even this is familiar, an adventure. Only distressing if I decide it is. Instead: it just means on our last school roadtrip I text my husband to send me coupons for take-and-bake pizza; I think of what we have in the fridge, and of when in the next week or so I can reasonably set up something special for the kids. They have, after all, completed a year on their own steam.
Driving home I know the car full of children – four in all – are feeling joy, and sadness, and a since of pulsing life. Even now today’s memories are blooming in their chest, to be touched upon lightly in years to come. Music and singing, the wind through our hair, the sunshine painting the winding road flanking the Wishkah river. They can afford to let the moment come and pass, while it lives wretched and sublime through my body, manifested in my fingers resting on the steering wheel, tapping out a rhythm more cheerful than I feel.
Summer, then. And already my son is half-feral: he has plans to do his banking – he packs his stamped-leather piggy bank in my car and is querulous I don’t make the time to stop at his branch. He tells me he will stay a week at a friends’, someone he hardly knows. His summer tan returns seemingly overnight, his hair lightens from honey into an earnest, bedeviled blonde. He is outside and running the neighborhood as much as we let him; home, he cooks meals at late hours, and tries to take a bowl of soup to eat in his bed, although perhaps I have scolded the children for this kind of thing hundreds of times. He painstakingly arranges his most treasured effects in the many small wooden boxes and metal-clasped receptacles he’s squirreled away over the years. In one such repository: miniature Lego pieces, a geode, a key, foreign currency, fossilized sharks’ teeth, and nondescript rocks imbuing a meaning known only to he. “I wish I could keep your heart inside,” he says – then, with a quick glance lest I misunderstand, amends his statement to mean my soul, my spirit, not my anatomical heart.
He tells me he will forgo school next year – but who can tell? This time last year, we had no hint he’d want to attend, and we wouldn’t have predicted how that would go in any case.
I have a leadership role in my household. This is evident to anyone who knows our family. This is something we four know. Yet in so many ways I am blind and striking out, making way in hostile, confusing terrain so the family can grow into themselves. They thrive in confidence in this shadow, lush and verdant greenery twining in the loamy darkness, growing strong. They fall asleep easily while at night I am prone to anxiety.
And tonight – as evening falls, sitting on our couch with my legs folded underneath my body – I talk with my husband. I speak of the disappointment and sadness I feel to watch so many I know, falter in their spiritual path. I speak of Doubt, which is so much harder for me than Fear. A mirage of illusion. “There are a small number of people I have found to be faithful,” I tell him. “You’re one of those people -” I say, and turn my head strategically for just a beat, to let this pass, before I complete my thought.
I am glad of their faith because, if I cannot always be happy, be sure, they are still the best thing to have come along, to awaken me to something beyond my own machinations and limited understanding.
“We should focus on snuggling,” my son whispers, drawing nearer. He has a morning routine: his father wakes him up shortly after seven, whereupon the boy makes his toilet, dresses, gets breakfast – sharply objecting if Ralph dishes up too much breakfast as that means it will take up too much time – before climbing the stairs and into bed with me. His every single move in the morning, is such that he can maximize this time he holds me close. Sometimes I’m half-awake. Sometimes I get up after he leaves – sometimes, I fall back asleep.
For many days I didn’t even notice my boy was doing this, really. Living with children, swimming in the waters, you can miss even something special. And now I think: what gifts his morning demonstrations are. And I think, These days will pass by, just like everything else!
This evening I sat in a group, a spiritual gathering of sorts. I heard a man talking about his life a few years ago. He said some things that troubled me. I reached down and refolded my pant cuff, fiddled with my shoelace. Trying to process my thoughts, my feelings. Trying to touch them, first.
What is wrong?
I discover: I have a sense of unease, when people put themselves down. When they say how horrible they are, and especially when they use harsh words. Piece of shit, whiny little bitch, liar cheat and thief. I hear these things. I feel uncomfortable, that’s how I feel. Just about as uncomfortable as when people use that language to talk about others.
If I easily gravitate to hate-talk about others, or myself, even my past self – well, I’m probably still saying it, thinking those hateful things, about myself. Later, I will look back and ask, why was I so hard on myself? On others?
Life is too short for self-hate. It seems like it’s something we can’t stop. Maybe if we knew how much we did it, we’d feel appalled. We’d want to do something new.
Maybe that would be a beginning.
My husband and I meet in the kitchen, after housework is done and the kids are getting ready for bed; the cats are fed and the dog has been walked. I put my arms around my husband as it seems daily he grows more dear to me, more beautiful.
That’s one of those mysteries I wouldn’t have believed, or understood, maybe even not so many years ago.
“Mom,” my son says to me, quietly, from the passenger side of the car.
I know what he means. We’re just passing someone outside, a man with a cardboard sign, asking for money. It’s cold, and fizzly-drizzly rain. I am tired. I am hungry. I slept about half my normal hours, the night before. I have a working weekend ahead of me.
“I don’t have any cash, Nels,” I tell him. He is quiet, we turn the corner – there is another man, with another sign. My son asks, “Can we get some?”
I ask him, now: “Well – do you want me to buy them a couple burgers?” and he says Yes. His eyes are bright and his spirit is calm.
I am so hungry my stomach cramps and I feel lightheaded. Even if I was to head straight home, I’ll still need to cook. I resign myself that our outing will take as long as it takes.
I pull into the drive through of a fast food restaurant; even the thought of a burger – I haven’t had a fast food burger in many years – causes my stomach to clench. As if reading my mind my son says, “I know you’re hungry.” (I’ve said nothing to him.) Then he laughs, “You don’t eat fast food, mom!” Almost like he’s chiding. Like he’s teasing.
The drive-through is packed. Moving slowly (for fast food). As if on cue, comedy of errors, I realize my car engine temperature is millimeters away from THE DANGER ZONE. I curse, switch the ignition. Then in the next several minutes I have to turn the vehicle off, then on, as we inch forward. I raise the heat in the cab. The engine temperature falls to normal.
By the time we get two burger meals – fries and a Coke apiece – and pull into the street, and wheel around the corner back to the parking lot, one of the men my son had indicated, is gone. The other is huddled up under a sign asking for a ride to the HOSPITEL. We pull up, ask if he’d like a meal. He takes the food but tells us, “I cut my hand… I need a ride,” waving a napkin bright with blood. His eyes are a clear, watery blue. I tell him, “I hope someone finds you a ride.” He smiles and thanks us. A block later as I look back I can see him fishing around, the comfort of a hot meal on a cold night.
We drive through town, and my son sits up straight, our dinner groceries on his lap balanced alongside the cheerful white paper bag full of hot food. He holds an ice-cold Coke in his left hand. He asks me about the man, How can he get to the hospital? I say, “Someone else will help him.”
And I tell him what I was taught. “I was taught, you don’t have to help as much as someone asks, you have to help enough. Ask if you’ve done enough. Think about that man who wants a ride. If everyone who passed him helped him the little bit we just did, what would happen?”
“He’d be clean, and have warm clothes, and medicine, and food. Maybe a home,” my son says. I can see his mind working, as he pieces this together.
I am tired, and I am hungry, and I feel tender, and sad. My children are as compassionate as they were at age two. I am feeling overwhelmed with a love and a sorrow, like balancing on a riverbank.
My son asks me now, “Am I trying to be too generous?”
Then I tell him another thing I was taught. “I was told you can help as much as you want, after you’ve taken care of yourself and your family.” I tell him: “I have food for my children, so we can buy food for these men.”
It isn’t until Hoquiam, a couple blocks from my house, we find another man who might want a meal. I’ve seen him many times on the street – I don’t know if he’s friendly, or what. But I’m a hearty enough soul. I pull over and, after we get his attention – and he spies the bag my son holds out. I ask, “Want a burger?”
He is eyeing us, then: “What the hell,” he says cheerfully. He takes the food, and the pop, and thanks us. In the rearview mirror I see him dive into the bag.
My son is a unique vexation to me. He can out-argue anyone. Don’t even try. I am warning you. You think I’m kidding.
And of course, this morning he woke up ready to fight. Telling me he wants this and doesn’t want that, because it’s his birthday. His blonde hair is a tuft, his eyes wide and cross, his body warm and lean like a long cat. Sounds pretty cute, except every morning he is just as apt to wake up telling me he wants this, and doesn’t want that. Either that or he wakes with the most loving entreaties, asking me into bed. Twining his arms around me and he tells me in his low husky voice (which he inherited from his mama) about some delicious dream, as he swims to the surface amidst his soft, soft quilts…
He’s adventurous. That sounds lovely, right? But not everyone’s ready for his adventure. We’ve had dealings with authorities twice – because he ran off. Once, at least, barefoot. Now, he wasn’t running off because he was unhappy or confused – he had an agenda, and that was to see the world. He tried to ride the bus to see his papa. He tried to visit neighbors. He still, to this day, is apt to do something like this. Something others view as inappropriate in some way, but then I’m the one who has to tell him Why he can’t do this or that, and it never really makes sense.
I got mixed feelings that he’s learning to reel himself in a bit. Yesterday, we saw a friend, a lovely young woman, passing in the sunlight. I said, “Nels, why didn’t you give J. a hug?” He blushes and says, “She didn’t put her arms up – like this – when she wants one.” I’m like, you’re right, okay. And mourning for when he was a little smaller and would just smack right into people because he loved them so.
I remember a few years ago, my mother took up with a man named D., just a few months after she was widowed. The man definitely came from the, “kids should listen to and respect their elders” camp. (You know, that camp rarely thinks about what elders owe li’l ‘uns, just the reciprocal!) So anyway, the man was chastizing Nels for something, and Nels – who must’ve been all of five – was trying to explain his side of the story. D. just rolls right over him, keeps talking at him. Nels tells me later, recounting the event, his voice in a bloom of righteous anger. “And then – and then – I didn’t listen to him any more!” He shakes his head, his eyes a gathering storm. And I’m thinking, No shit.
And now, my son is growing into a young man. He’s up to my shoulder – I no longer need to stoop to kiss his hair, which smells sweet as straw as it ever has. He can’t win me at wrestling yet, but it won’t be long. There are mornings he heads off to school where he doesn’t even kiss me goodbye. At night he reads his adventure novels and comics and falls asleep with the light on, and a cat curled up under his arm. I turn the light down and kiss him goodnight and my heart breaks a thousand times.
And then he wakes up and it’s like, I want to go here, I want to do that, why can’t we go here, why can’t we do this, when I grow up I’m moving to Massachusetts and I will buy you a plane ticket to come see me, can you be my girlfriend.
It’s almost like I want to say Nels is a child of a different era, an era that suits children when they could be children, adventuring on railroad tracks and off wooded trails. But really, Nels suits any era fortunate enough to receive him.
Happy birthday, li’l Boo. I love you until forever.
I gave birth to my son eleven years ago today. Every year I post his birth story on this date. Several families have told me the story has influenced their birth choices; several women that it was the (beginning) inspiration for their home birth! I am humbled – and, as always, grateful.
Nels David Hogaboom a birth story
Born at home to mom Kelly, dad Ralph, and sister Sophia [/Phoenix]1:20 AM Wednesday April 7, 2004 8 pounds 7 ounces 21 inches long
April 6th, 9 AM – is it or isn’t it?
A couple hours after I wake up on Tuesday I’m having mild contractions that are only a tiny bit more intense than the Braxton Hicks contractions I’d had throughout the last half of my pregnancy. These contractions are only slightly painful and certainly not too intense. Nevertheless, they are somewhat distracting and never truly subside, coming anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes apart. Ralph senses things are going to go into motion and comes home at noon, starting his two weeks off of work. He calls my mom at about 3 PM and tells her to head up to see us (she leaves about 5 PM). At this point I am hopeful of labor but also feeling somewhat silly at the thought I might be treating everyone to a false alarm. My mom arrives at about 9 PM time and she and Ralph start writing down my contractions, calling midwives, and cleaning the house up a bit.
April 6th, 10 PM – the real thing
My mom and I are watching a movie together and my contractions are still coming about 10 minutes apart. I still claim I am unsure if labor is going someplace. But everyone is noticing I pause the movie during each contraction so I can concentrate on getting though it. I’m undecided if I should walk around to “get things moving” or lie down and rest in between contractions. I’m trying not to be too fearful of another long labor like I had with my first child. Suddenly at about 10:30 PM I hop up from the bed and turn off the movie, since contractions have sped up to about 4 minutes apart. Naturally my mom and Ralph are very excited and go about making phone calls and preparations while I pace the floor and cope with each contraction. It is going quite well but I keep telling myself these are the “easy” contractions and I try not to worry about what’s to come.
Around 10:30 my midwives and my doula start arriving and I am focusing inward in the classic “Laborland” manner. I notice peripherally how efficient and friendly everyone is, setting up the bed, laying out blankets and birth supplies and getting snacks. Everyone is wonderful to me and provides me with water and encouragement between contractions, respectful silence and privacy during. I feel very protected and honored and so it is easy not to be fearful. My doula Elizabeth arrives and strokes my back and speaks softly to me. She puts me nearly to sleep in between contractions. I am feeling so grateful for the love and encouragement I am getting. I know I am coping very well and in fact since I am doing so well I don’t think I am very far along.
April 7th, Midnight – silliest labor quote
Things are intense but I don’t want a check to see how far I’ve dilated. I am somewhat afraid to discover all the work I am doing hasn’t gotten me anywhere. Laura (one of the midwives) suggests I get into the tub. I’d always thought of the tub as what you use as a last resort toward the end of labor so I tell her I can wait. After a few more contractions I decide to get in, hoping for some pain relief. I spend about 40 minutes in the tub with contractions edging up their intensity. Everyone is around me encouraging me and vocalizing though my contractions. Elizabeth holds my hands and breathes with me through the contractions, then puts a cold cloth on my head and neck in between. Everyone helps keep me calm and focused, as does the knowledge I have to take each contraction one at a time. Close to 1 AM I feel the urge to have Ralph hold and kiss me while I rest, and help talk me through contractions (he’s repeating something I read from Birthing From Within: “Labor is hard work, it hurts, and you can do it”). I don’t realize at the time but I am going through transition. After a few contractions I start to feel a little of that, well — grunting urge. I know it is perfectly okay to grunt and push a little to help with the pain and I instinctively do so. The midwives clue into what I am doing and are back in the room. Laura says, “Gee Kelly, it sounds like you’re pushing” and I reply (idiotically) “I’m not really pushing, it just feels good to bear down a little bit”. These contractions are pretty rough but everyone is helping me so much it is still very manageable.
April 7th, 1:10 AM – OUCH, OUCH, OUCH!
Kathy convinces me to let her check me and informs me not only am I completely dilated, but that the baby’s head has descended quite a bit. I am completely amazed at this (despite knowing I am feeling the urge to push) and even accuse everyone of just saying that to make me feel better! (I feel a little silly about this later). During each contraction I am feeling the pain in my hips, all the way to the bone, which my midwives tell me is a sign the baby is moving. Kathy tells me later I comment that it is like a crowbar prying my pelvis apart. Despite the pain I am coping well and in between the contractions I am still calm. I comment that I am not feeling any pressure in my bottom yet and I think to myself this means I have a ways to go. Oops, I speak too soon — with the next contraction I feel the baby AT THE DOOR, so to speak. This takes me by surprise and my labor sounds change from low and powerful to very alarmed and – well – a little screechy. Everyone is talking to me and trying to help me calm down and focus. I am amazed at the pain and pressure and overcome with an almost frantic need to push. I am pushing, pushing, pushing, before I can tune into my midwives telling me to ease off. I do the best I can and manage to ease off a bit and direct my energies more constructively. Despite the pain I am overjoyed to know I am so close and my baby will be here any minute. “I know I will feel so good when I see my baby”, I tell myself and this helps me. Kathy tells me to reach down and feel the head and after an initial hesitation I do, surprised again at how soft and smooth it is. I can feel each part of the child’s head I deliver. It hurts! But I know I am close. The head is out and then I am surprised by the fullness and difficulty of the shoulders, which I do not remember from my first birth.
April 7th, 1:20 AM – Nels is born
With one final push I feel my baby being delivered and I am surprised it is already over. I have been kneeling in the tub and so immediately turn around and Ralph tells me later I am saying, “Give me my baby! I want to hold my baby!” to the midwives who are doing their thing. I have a vision of my baby’s long, smooth body floating in the water, the room lit by candlelight in a soft glow. Within seconds he is in my arms and I am crying and Ralph is crying and the whole room is full of a collective soft and surprised murmur. I am holding my child to my chest and saying, “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it” over and over, feeling so filled with surprise and happiness. The child is perfect and so soft and I feel wonderful. I realize I have done it, I have given birth to a healthy baby in my own home, with my own power.
April 7th, early morning – getting to know you
I stay in the water crying and holding my baby for several minutes before anyone thinks to discover the baby’s sex. I hold my newborn away from my chest and in between squirming legs and the umbilical cord I see we have a boy! Of course, this is perfect. Everything feels perfect! After a few more minutes I am ready to get out of the water and get cleaned up, but I know we have to wait for the delivery of the placenta. I feel like this takes forever but it probably is only a fifteen minute wait. Another surprising feeling of fullness and then the placenta is delivered. Kathy has to pull the cord a bit and gently massage my tummy to get the whole thing in one piece. My mom is on the phone with my dad and has to pass the phone around so she can cut the cord. I am ready to get out and dry off and nurse my second child.
I am helped out of the tub and into some dry clothes. I am so happy to have so much loving help. I prop myself up on the bed and hold my son to my breast. He latches almost immediately like a pro. I keep asking my husband, “Is this really happening?” because it has gone like a dream and I am so happy. After some time of nursing the midwife eventually takes my son to the foot of the bed to weigh him and check his limbs and reflexes. Elizabeth brings me food — cheese, bread, apples and oranges. My pulse is checked and found to be high (100) so I am encouraged to drink a huge glass of water (this happened with my first child, too). My afterpains are intense, more so than with my daughter’s birth, but I know this to be normal. I breathe through them. My daughter Sophie wakes up and is brought into the room, looking cranky and confused. I kiss her and introduce her to her brother (she is unimpressed) and Ralph takes her back to the bedroom to settle her back to sleep. Kathy checks my bottom out and finds only two tiny tears, no need for sutures. The energy of the house is settling, people are packing things, Elizabeth says goodbye. Laura leaves too and I take a shower with Kathy’s help. She stays long enough to give postpartum instructions and asks me to page her when I can pee. I am a little anxious about this myself, for vague fear of a catheter. Kathy leaves about 3:20 and as her car is pulling out I am able to pee, feeling now finally that everything is alright.
My husband is looking dead tired. I am wired and unable to sleep. We send my mom off to bed. I hold my son who is still awake! He is drowsy though and wants to snuggle. At about 4:30 AM I finally fall asleep on the bed, Ralph on the couch, holding his son. We are awakened just before 7 AM to the joyful sounds of our firstborn running through the house talking excitedly to Grandma. Grandma looks like she really needs a cup of coffee.
The light is on in the hallway; the dryer is running, keeping my son company while we hold one another close in his bed. He twines his arms around my neck and tells me, “I wish you’d sleep with me.” I am not at all tempted, because I can only fall asleep in my own bed. But there is a pang – I love him so!
Nels tells me he will “tempt” me, and starts listing all the soothing things he can think of to put me to sleep. “A nice chicken dinner,” he whispers, referring to our evening’s repast. And now – I’m stifling laughter. His hair, his skin, his breath – so sweet. And I am sad I will be leaving his arms.
Today – I was exhausted. I was so glad to be experiencing a manageable level of pain for our matinee performance that my time onstage was simultaneously joyful – and also monstrous, because with each bar of music I remembered the night before. I came home, had a late lunch, a hot shower, and retired immediately to pajamas for some junky television.
My daughter has a dry cough that’s gone on for quite long enough: tomorrow, a doctor’s appointment. Moving around a few dollars to cover the rent check. Canceling crafting out at the child’s school – probably, unless I feel much better. Tackling the handful of bills we can’t pay this pay period.
Tonight, though: gratitude for another day, for friends who are loving, helpful, and supportive. And that I didn’t vomit onstage.