Post #8: You Lintlicker!

There are some great words in the English language. There are limitless combinations of ways to say what you need to say. Even many ‘bad’ words, in my opinion, have a time and a place. The thing is, however, you have to be careful in distinguishing the words you should use from the words you should admire from afar, leaving for literary experts to handle. A few that come to mind off my do-not-use list are: asinine, lackadaisical, conundrum. Great words. I know what they mean, but I couldn’t use them effortlessly in a sentence despite years of Shostak vocabulary practice with doing just that. Sometimes, handling a fabulous word incorrectly can make you look pretentious, or, in the case of swear words, downright ridiculous.

When I was teaching, I had strong censors in place on my language. Even with high-schoolers, it’s incredibly important to keep dialogue PG-rated, both to set a good example and to keep your job. The only F-words I used in my daily vocabulary were Factor, Fraction, and Formula. Occasionally on the weekends, in the comfort of my own home, I would let my guard down and let the bad words out. It’s like eating that one piece of chocolate (or two or three) when you are on a diet. You have to give yourself a little bit of freedom to be really successful. Despite my allowance of sorts, a week’s worth of choosing “Shucks!” over “Shit!” usually prevented me from using the latter altogether. In a sense, I forgot how to swear. Not that I ever really knew how…

Kevin will tell you that I am the world’s worst swearer. At least 93% of the time that swear conversationally for emphasis or to demonstrate conviction, I do so unsuccessfully. Then, in times when angry swearing is actually appropriate (if ever), I choke. Kevin has been there to witness this phenomenon twice, fortunately for him and unfortunately for me. In one case, it was in response to an unjustifiably angry bike-rider in Providence who called Kevin a “JACKASS!”*. The second was while confronting the grumpiest, rudest used-car-salesman I’ve ever met. In both cases, I blacked out. In my mind, I was launching an intelligent, profanity-infused verbal assault that highlighted my frustration while effectively putting my opponent in his place. The kind of spoken lashing that would make a person feel embarrassed by the actions that inspired my loaded words. What was actually happening, according to Kevin’s testimony is an entirely different story.  Apparently, I not only neglected to incorporate swears, but I also barely gave the impression that I was angry. I thought I was issuing a counterattack consistent with the dialogue and wit of Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting but it was actually more similar to that of Matt Damon in We Bought a Zoo. Polite, friendly, perhaps even apologetic. “Excuse me, Mister… this is all the result of a big misunderstanding… sorry if you feel that way… blah blah blah”. I refuse to admit that it was THAT bad. I mean, I was frustrated for having been treated with such disrespect. And that’s really all I could come up with?

Me: Come on, Kevin. You’re exaggerating.
Kevin: Ok, maybe you didn’t call him ‘Mister’… it might have been ‘Sir’.

So I’m bad at swearing and worse under the pressure of confrontational situations. But that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped trying. Especially since my hiatus from teaching began three Septembers ago, I catch myself dropping more and more f-bombs into every day speech. “That’s f-ing crazy!”, “Are you f-ing serious?” I’m sorry, English teachers of my past. I know that you taught me other, less offensive ways verbalize astonishment and disbelief. I blame this habit on my husband to whom the f-word is just a multi-functional part of grammar. And he’d probably blame this on hockey. Swearing in a hockey locker room, after all, is far more socially acceptable than swearing in a classroom. Plus, being from Southie, I think everyone expects him to talk like he’s from Southie. Because, let’s face it, everyone from Boston talks like they do in The Departed. And who is Kevin to un-do the stereotype?

So here’s the obvious problem: What sounds almost natural coming from a Boston accented hockey-player does not sound the same coming from a someone like me, a friendly, non-confrontational, math-teaching MOTHER. Brayden will soon be repeating every word I say, and so this has to stop!

Which is why, as part of my New Years’ Resolutions list, I am reverting back to my teacher-appropriate language. And because I am feeling ambitious and I hate procrastinating, I am starting it early. Today. On the eve of the New Year. No more swearing. I obviously don’t want my son to swear at all. But if he ever is going to swear, I want him to swear right. And he clearly isn’t going to learn how to do that from me.

* This man, by the way, is the world’s second worst-swearer in the world for using the word “Jackass!” and thinking it was an offensive word. What I should have said in response was “I’d rather be a Jackass than a Butthead, you Butthead!”

Post #7: Merry Christmas

Two years ago, we were in Italy. As we approached our first Christmas away from our families, my moping put the year's celebrations in jeopardy. I didn't know how to embrace the season without having our loved ones there to share it with. I was homesick and, embarrassing as it is to admit, prone to crying about it.  Fortunately, I snapped out of my pitiful state just in time to save Christmas. I baked cookies, watched Christmas movies, and streamed holiday classics through an internet radio station. We went to mass despite not understanding the language. I even whipped up some homemade cinnamon buns because I couldn’t find any Italian equivalent to Pillsbury.

While our families were thousands of miles and several time zones away, these small pieces of Christmases past helped establish the feeling of my favorite holiday of the year. From there, new elements were integrated into our holiday festivities like a brunch of make-ahead egg strata and an afternoon viewing of It's a Wonderful Life. Blending the old with the new, we have developed what I suppose could be considered our own little Christmas traditions. Traditions that will inevitably grow and change as does our own little family and its location.

This year was perfect proof of that. Having a baby to share in the magic of Christmas gave the holiday an entirely new dynamic. (It also inspired the addition of "family nap" to our holiday's agenda.) While Brayden opened his gifts munched on wrapping paper I couldn't help but be excited for him and simultaneously excited for myself as a parent. Though he doesn’t necessarily understand it yet, this Christmas marked his first of many that will likely be part of countless cherished memories. Small details from these celebrations of faith, love, and happiness will bring with them the feeling of “home”, like they have done for Kevin and I. And, I hope that he values them as much as we do. If he does, he will be able to bring the spirit of Christmas wherever he goes, much like Kevin and I do now.

So, until the day that our December includes the company of our families again, I will be incredibly grateful for Skype. And, I will continue to be thankful that we have so many loved ones worthy of being missed on the holidays (and every day for that matter). Families that have instilled in us the true meaning of the Christmas. We love you all!


Post #6: So it goes

I've heard the expression that "life goes on", but I've never heard that it stays the same. Because it doesn't... not for anyone feeling the aftershock of an event warranting the expression. Trauma changes us in varying degrees depending on how far we are removed from the point of impact. For the friends and families directly connected to the Sandy Hook tragedy, I know this change will be immeasurable. And with the strength of human empathy, I think we will all feel its affects in some capacity. I think we can all imagine, as painful as it is to do so, what that change will look like for those who lost their loved ones. But what will this change look like for for people at the farthest periphery of the tragedy's influence? Parents who have held their children a little closer this past week... Teachers who have had to discuss an incomprehensible reality with their students... Policymakers who have the responsibility to protect everyday citizens.  As with anything else, I think that only time will tell. But, tomorrow, as we all pay tribute in our own ways to the lives lost, I hope we can consider where we want to go from here in how we view the world, live our lives, and value the lives of others. And I hope it's in the direction of love.

In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.:

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.

Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.

Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.

Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.

In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

May we hold on to the love for those who died. And may they be remembered as stars, casting a glimmer of light through this darkness.



Post #5: Keeping Faith

I was nannying on Friday and, since it was a game day for Kevin, Brayden was with me. He loves spending time with his four-month-old “girlfriend” and was thrilled that her older sister was with us on this particular afternoon as well. I wore a smile on my face as I watched them happily interact on the floor, but there was a lump in my throat.

Brayden looked up at his five-year-old playmate and flashed his new and improved smile. Head back, nose scrunched with lips curled above his gums. She put her foot onto his foot and they both giggled. “Look, Sarah,” she said through her laugh, “It’s a Toe Hug!” With that, my eyes welled with tears.

Five years old. She seems so big compared to Brayden and her infant sister. But she is still a baby herself. Completely and totally innocent, blissfully unaware of any dark side to her seemingly perfect world. She knows what it means to trust and to love. She understands happiness and finds wonder in the little things like making her sister smile, sipping apple juice through a swirly straw, and giving toe hugs. What more is there?

I’d heard about what happened in Connecticut before I’d left for work. I couldn’t bear to watch the news, and I haven’t been able to since. I don’t care about the man responsible. I don’t need details about how it happened. I especially don’t want to hear about how this is a case for more guns or how this is what is deserved for taking religion out of the classroom. The only thing I want to do is pray. I can’t stop thinking about all the people affected, all of whom I have never met. I feel love for those individuals who gave their lives trying to protect the lives of others. My spirit is heavy with the loss of all those beautiful, innocent children and I’m aching for all the families who are suffering from this senseless tragedy. No words can undo the devastation of what happened, but I’ll keep holding the victims and their loved ones in my heart. And I’ll keep hoping that this world is actually wonderful, like it is through a child's eyes.


Post #4: Brayden Kisses

I had only been asleep for an hour and a half when I woke up to the sound of Brayden cooing. It was 1:00 in the morning, and I was tired. Exhausted actually. I guess six months of interrupted sleep will do that to you. Not that I am complaining. I know better than to complain because I am reminded every day (and in the middle of every night) that every sacrifice of sleep is worth it. This night turned out to be the perfect example…

As I listened to Brayden’s soft babbles, I could tell that he wasn’t unhappy. He was just telling me politely that he was awake. I quietly made my way out of bed and to his room. When I peeked over the side of his crib, he rolled from his belly to his back as if he knew I would be there at that very instant. His eyes gave away the smile that was hiding underneath his pacifier. He pulled his blanket up to his cheek and smiled wider, I imagine because he noticed me smiling back.

To sleep or to cuddle? I looked at the clock, knowing that I was doing so in vain. Cuddling always wins…

I lifted him up so that we were facing each other and we made our way to the couch. When we sat down, he pushed himself off my chest to look at me. Eyes sparkling, he grinned widely. He makes new faces on an almost daily basis so I wasn't surprised that this one was different from the other variations of 'happy' that he's made before. But I recognized something familiar about his expression. The scrunch of his cheeks, the smile in his eyes... That's when I placed it. He was looking at me in the way I look at him, adoringly.

It is a really incredible concept to grasp. I am adored… by my baby… my son.

When Brayden was born, I wasn’t surprised when my heart grew to accommodate the overflow of love that was held there. I expected that becoming a parent would have this effect. I was prepared for what it would be like to feel love for my baby. What I wasn’t prepared for is what it would be like to feel loved by him. I was ready for the give, but hadn’t considered the take. And, thinking about it now, the two really account for an inseparable and beautiful duality. As much as I love this precious little person, this precious little person loves me. And Brayden is at an age where he can actually show it which makes this whole parenting thing all the more fulfilling.

With one plump, knuckle-less hand, he touched my cheek…. then my lips… then my chin. When he reached my nose he gave a little laugh. Then I put my forehead to his. I don’t know why or when it started, but this has become our little sign of affection. There are Eskimo kisses and butterfly kisses and then there are these…. Brayden kisses. Forehead to forehead, nose to nose. He sighed happily.

Nearly in tears after sharing this moment with my baby boy, I hugged him tight. I love you, little guy, I whispered. He smiled contently before nestling his face into my neck. Maybe I was delusional from being overtired, or maybe I was dreaming the whole thing up, but I swear this was his way of saying I love you too, mom.

I held him until he was asleep. And then I held him a little longer. Forget what the baby books say. Sure, B was supposed to be sleeping. And, yes, I was probably enforcing some bad habit by taking him out of the crib and letting him sit with me. None of that matters. I will happily trade six months more of sleep for moments like these.


Post #3: Home is wherever I'm with you (and a couple scented candles)

Every time we move (and, as you know, we move a lot), we find ourselves in the following quandary: We know that our living situation is temporary, but don't want our living space to reflect that. Bare walls, minimal furnishings, and empty shelves do not amount to what I'd consider "homey". And, we are wherever we are for long enough for that to matter. In other words, I don't mind that we are living in a permanent state of temporary. But I don't want to live permanently in what looks temporary.

Unfortunately, as any HGTV viewer would know, decorating a home is not cheap. Nor is it entirely practical when you will be leaving most of your decor purchases behind, as was the case for us when we moved home from Italy. So, the question is: how much is reasonable to budget for personalizing/decorating/homifying your space if you are likely going to have to repeat the process one hockey season later?

It could be argued that our being stateside as opposed to overseas has two benefits. First, the pressure to be minimalist is slightly offset by the fact, at the end of this season, we will be driving home with a U-Haul trailer hitched behind us. Second, there is a much greater availability of bargains than we had overseas. (Marshalls, Michaels, coupons, and Craigslist.) In other words, go to town, Sarah! Let loose your inner wannabe interior decorator!

From another, probably more rational standpoint, being stateside should not influence my buying decisions. It’s simply not realistic for us accumulate massive amounts of home goods. Especially at the rate we are acquiring baby items, space to get everything home is likely to be an issue regardless of the UHaul. Plus, I'd prefer to purchase only things that we can use again and can store un-intrusively in our parents’ garages in the meantime. Not to mention the fact that I am hardly qualified in the area of interior design.  Just because I can hit “repin” when I see a space I like doesn’t mean I am knowledgeable enough to re-create it myself!

Which brings me back to square one... What do you really need to make a house look comfortable and lived-in?

It took me nearly a month and a half to answer this question, to overcome the intimidation factor of a blank canvas. (We even have a mantle this year that proved particularly overwhelming. Oh, the possibilities!) Eventually, I settled upon the same three things I always rely on, regardless of my zip code… my minimalist list of must-haves for making a house look like a home:

1. Pictures - Frames can be expensive and difficult to transport, so I only purchased a few and I'm using some Pinterest tricks to display the rest of my photos. (More on that later.) I also framed some music lyrics backed with scrapbook paper for colorful personalization.

2. Scented Candles – There is just something about scented candles that makes a place feel warm and welcoming, so I put my 40%-off Hobby Lobby coupons to good candle-buying use!

3. Plants - This year I got a Pathos plant and an Orchid since they are virtually un-killable. (I promise, mom, that I will leave these with friends from Wichita as opposed to bringing them home to my greenhouse- err- I mean your living room.)

And so, finally, after excruciating contemplation, I have purchased, arranged, and rearranged my little collection of home-making flare. In addition to the furniture supplied by the team, these small elements make the apartment look like a home. Of course, with my husband, baby, and dog in the mix, it feels like one too! And, in the words of my neighbor Dorothy, there’s no place like home…


Post #2: Change is... Change

Change. Yesterday I was reading for my online class about the dynamics of curricular change in schools. The author explores the human response to change, arguing that there is an important connection between psychology and effective implementation of educational reforms. Though his writing is focused in educational contexts, the described psychological effects of change bear significant relevance in all aspects of our lives. He acknowledges that we have an inherent “conservative impulse”, or tendency to seek patterns in new situations. Identifying cause and finding meaning in the effect, he continues, are essential to a person's adaptability. Hence the easily understandable association between change and stress.

About change, he writes:

“Though we exalt it in principle, we oppose it in practice. Most of us resist it whenever it comes upon us. We dislike alterations in even our smallest daily routines, such as a highway improvement detour on our way to work, for example...”

So true, I thought as I was reading. Whether it’s the paint color of a living room or a new job, a change can be intimidating. Just ask my dad. He couldn’t bare it when I removed the carpeted wall-art d├ęcor from the stairwell, where it had been since the mid-1980s. He didn’t deny that it was an outdated piece of artwork, but that fact didn’t matter. What mattered was, for the first time in almost thirty years, as he turned the corner from garage entryway his eyes did not fall upon the textured orange, brown, and beige treescape. Discomfort, disarray, stress…. Even when change is positive, these are inevitably part of the experience.

And so, there I was, nodding in agreement at the author’s words. But then I continued reading…

“Change is neither natural nor normal, constant nor common. On the contrary, when we look at actual social behavior, we find that persistence is far more typical. (Nisbet, 1969, pp. 271). This is not to say that people and patterns never change; they do. But most of these changes are slow, incremental, often barely perceptible; they are rarely rapid, formal, or overt and they are almost never sought. We know that life requires us to adapt, and we sometimes long for a change in our circumstances or in the way others treat us, but for the most part we cling reflexively and tenaciously to things as they are (Evans, pp. 25).”

This is when it hit me. Despite the fact that my life fit into what Evans considers the rare case (normally, constantly, rapidly changing), I was not stressed. With the exception of the flight, there was nothing about the move to Wichita that stressed me out. One minute I was living my life in my hometown, and the next minute I was living almost exactly the same but in central standard time. The transition was flawless… but how?! For someone as traditionally high-stress as myself, how was this all so easy-to-handle?

The only explanation is that, as everything has been changing around me these last few years, I have been changing too. And my changes have been of the "slow, incremental, often barely perceptible" sort. I have learned to “go with the flow”, to accept it when I don’t have complete control. It’s not apathy, it’s adaptation. And thank goodness for adaptation. Without it, I’m not sure how I would be coping with yet another relocation, this time with a baby in tow. But here I am, doing just that. And it feels like nothing extraordinary, nothing to “write home about”. Which probably explains why I haven't been doing any writing... 

Regardless of how this might sound, I'm not bored. I guess I'm just.... comfortable(?). And, quite honestly, comfortable(?) is wonderful! It's not, however, good inspiration for blogging. So I guess I'll have to find my inspiration elsewhere. 

Evans, R. (1996). The Human Side of School Change. San Francisco, CA:Jossey-Bass Inc.


Post #1: Life, Love, and...

After two years in Italy, Kevin’s hockey career is bringing us back “home”. Well, almost “home”. Rather than four thousand miles East over the Atlantic, we are headed 1,500 miles West over America’s heartland. We will be spending the season in quite possibly the last place I ever imagined hockey bringing us… Kansas.

Though arguably a less culturally stimulating destination than Europe, Kansas will give us New Englanders a taste of the Midwest. And while it was exciting to be immersed in a foreign country where we could barely speak the language, I look forward to having some familiar amenities and a simple one-hour time change. There’s also the comfort of being a shorter and cheaper flight away from our loved ones. Which means, much to their delight, they are a shorter and cheaper flight away from the baby.

When we learned we were going to be spending the season stateside, we decided to upsize from Kev’s sedan to an SUV. We had realized during our summer roadtrips that, from a vehicular standpoint, we are actually a five-person family. (Spacewise, the dog and Kevin’s hockey equipment are the equivalent of two human passengers.) We also reasoned that getting the entire family from point A to point B could be best accomplished if we split into two groups. Kevin and the dog would travel by car, and Brayden and I would fly out after they’d settled in. So we packed everything we could cram into our seemingly enormous Toyota Highlander. With a rope fastened to the trunk to ensure it’s overflowing contents wouldn’t force it open mid-trip, Kevin drove off. And without having to stop every two hours for feedings and diaper changes, the first half of my little family finished the trek in only two days. Now, a week later, Brayden and I are getting ready for our flight to meet them…

And so begins our eighth hockey season as a couple, third as husband and wife, and first as parents. With the last mentioned distinction capturing our newest role, it also bears responsibility for the name of this season’s blog. As we make our way to Wichita, I introduce to you to the third edition of our hockey life chronicles: Life, Love, and Diaper Rash. I’m excited to see what awaits us on this next leg of our adventures. Thanks for checking in to come along for the ride!

Getting Ready for the Flight!


Post #33: The Hockey Scoop

“So what’s the scoop with hockey? Where are you guys going to be this season?” The scoop is, ladies and gentlemen, there is no scoop. And believe me, we are just as anxious for there to be a scoop as you are…

As you know, Kevin had a season-ending injury last year that was made all the more frustrating by the fact that it would have been preventable had his original, non-season-threatening injury been properly diagnosed. He is, fortunately, back to 100%, working hard, and feeling great on the ice again. But, as an import goaltender that hasn’t played a game since December, he is, to many teams, a risky investment. That leaves us where we are today… waiting…

It’s tough to see opportunities drying up overseas, but I am staying positive that the right opportunity will come up. My primary concern is that he gets the chance to play a full season and enjoy hockey again. Because the fact of the matter is, from a latitude and longitude perspective, we will be happy no matter where we end up. And as soon as we know where that may be, I'll be sure to let you know...

Post #32: 10 Must-Haves for New Moms

Brayden & Boppy

I have survived what all the baby books consider the most chaotic stage of new mommyhood! Looking back, I recall a few little things that made a big difference in getting me through it all. So that I don’t forget should we ever brave a second baby, and in case it helps any new moms get through it all themselves, I am going to record those things here…

1. A ceiling fan. Forget the cute little safari animal mobile, colorful rattles and crinkly taggie blankets. A regular old household fan is enough to holds a baby’s attention better and longer than any newborn toy I’ve found. (The little mirror on his activity mat comes close). I’d heard of cardboard boxes keeping toddlers busy, but apparently the good ole’ house fan is a newborn’s muse.

2. Sleep Sacks. As it turns out, not all babies like to be swaddled. Mine is and always has been one of them. A sleep sack is a nice alternative to the traditional swaddle-sleepwear. The baby’s legs and body are loosely contained, but his arms are free to flail. Every night, we zipper Brayden into his little sleeping bag, and he seems to love it!

3. A Boppy pillow. I think Brayden’s first true love in life was Boppy. In the early weeks, he wasn’t particularly fond of laying flat on his back which made it really hard to put him down, even if it was just to make myself a sandwich or change my clothes. But Boppy elevated him just enough to make him comfortable, and secured him in place enough to make me comfortable. Now that Brayden came to terms with being on his back, Boppy still offers a comfy perch from which he can look around or practice building his neck strength during Tummy Time. Of course, I wouldn’t leave a baby unsupervised in the cushiony half moon of a pillow (there is a large tag advising against it in case parental instinct doesn’t kick in), but it is a great little device for a baby’s temporary and supervised safe-keeping.

4. Burp cloths. Lots and lots of them so that they can be stationed everywhere from your shoulder to the nightstand and the coffee table in the living room. If you are as lucky as me, you will have a crafty friend that makes adorable ones by garnishing cloth diapers with sewn-on strips of colorful fabric. Who knew that spit-up cloths could be so fashionable? But should you not have a pinterest savvy, artistic-minded pal, any burp cloth will do!

5. A stroller with car seat attachment. I cannot tell you how useful it is to be able to pop baby out of the car and into a stroller when I am running errands. It’s not that it’s hard to take the little guy in and out of his car seat. It’s just that he falls asleep nearly every time we go in the car and I love not having to wake him up. If your stroller doesn’t have a car seat attachment, consider purchasing something like the Graco Snugride stroller. I received mine at my baby shower, and I leave it in my trunk for whenever I am shopping. It’s essentially a stroller frame with wheels specifically built to hold my Graco car seat. It is not suitable for walking on rough surfaces, but it’s a great supplementary stroller to my beloved City Mini by Baby Jogger.

6. An extra set of arms? Evolution has yet to supply new mothers with any additional baby-carrying appendages. And sometimes, no matter how much baby loves his boppy, stroller, car seat, or swing, baby just wants to be held. And baby’s desire for closeness usually strikes when mommy is engaged in a characteristically two-handed activity like eating a steak dinner or straightening her hair for the first time since baby’s birth. That said, should another person not be available to play Pass the Baby, a smart investment for new moms is a sling or front carrier. Baby gets closeness and mommy gets full functionality of her arms. That’s a win-win.

7. Dry Shampoo. Washing your hair becomes less of a priority and styling it a novelty. Thanks to the gods of hairproducts, it’s easier to keep your hair fresh with this blessed innovation!

8. Nursing Paraphernalia. In addition to standard feeding accessories like bottles and a warmer, should you choose to breastfeed, you will need a long list of items you never imagined existing before making the commitment… nursing pads (Nuk Advanced Dry are my favorite), a breast pump, nursing bras (Target has a good selection), a nursing cover, and Lanolin (lots of it). But above all, you will need a little something called Perseverance. For something so natural, breastfeeding can be surprisingly complicated and incredibly uncomfortable in the beginning. Which is why it might also be useful to recruit a Commiseration Comrade, someone who has been there done that to remind you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that it gets worse before it gets better, and that the craziness of it all is actually quite normal.

9. A travel playard. Being such a mobile couple, I don’t know what we would do without our pack and play. It is far from the most souped-up one on the market, but it does have an attachable changing station and bassinette that zippers in to make a sleeping infant easy-to-reach. Personally, I can’t imagine needing more than that. The crib folds up easily and packs nicely into a carrier smaller than a golf bag. It’s, in a word, awesome.

And, last but definitely not least…

10. Someone to share the experience with. Whether it’s a mother, brother, significant other or friend, or any combination of loved ones, recruiting a support system is my most important recommendation to new moms.  I’ve always liked to think that I can do it all. But when it comes to having a baby, I don’t think that it’s realistic. It’s been wonderful having people to enjoy the baby with. And, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a small army vying for the chance to cuddle with the baby so that you can take a nap or a long shower.


Post #31: A Baby Story

Baby Brayden has arrived! And somehow in a blur of feeding, diapering, and simply marveling at every detail of our son’s being, a month has gone by.

On May 21st at 6 in the evening, I was in labor. I was two hours into the pushing phase with an hour left to go. It had been a long 20 hours, but we could see the finish line and the little baby boy that waited there.

I had spent every morning of the previous week in the birthing center monitoring the baby’s heartbeat, and trying to get things moving as naturally as possible with gel inserts aimed to initiate contractions. “Hurry up and wait” was my doctor’s motto for the process. After receiving the gel, I’d wait two hours, walk an hour, and wait one more all under close surveillance. As I paced the halls, I listened to newborn cries and imagined what it would be like to hear my own baby’s little voice. I couldn’t fathom the process of getting from point A, pregnant, to point B, holding my newborn. Seeing all the new mothers on the floor was reassuring as I thought “They made it through the delivery”. But I am sure, from the other side, they were graciously loving their little bundle of joy thinking “That girl has no idea what she’s in for”.

And so my anticipation built… Each day spent in triage I watched other women undergo the same procedure as me, go into labor, and birth their babies all before I had completed my four hours of monitoring and the doctor had concluded that little progress had been made.  It was discouraging that my body wasn’t responding, but the baby was healthy and happy so we couldn’t complain.

Considering the not-so-little one’s size and my conflicting Italian and American due dates, it was decided that the baby had to come out. On Sunday night at 10 pm, we headed to the hospital for a final attempt at induction. It was quite possible that the baby was not positioned appropriately or that his head was simply too large (anyone who knows my husband would understand). Since I barely take Tylenol, the thought of using a drug to induce labor was frightening. But, given my previous response (or lack thereof) to the gels, it was unlikely that it would be effective and highly probable that I would need a C-section on Monday. Whatever the case, we would be leaving the hospital on THIS visit as a three-person, one-dog, family. THAT was a beautiful reality…

Despite my previous immunity to induction, this final attempt took immediate effect. My contractions accelerated from 0 to 10 so quickly and were timed so irregularly that the nurse actually administered a shot to slow them back down. Needless to say, it was a long night. But, again, the baby didn’t show any signs of stress. He was much more of a trooper through it all than his mother!

The following morning came good news. Things had progressed enough that I could move forward with the labor. And, much to everyone’s surprise, I wouldn’t be requiring Pitocin, the second course of drugs typically administered during and induction. More good news soon arrived in the form of an anesthesiologist who would be giving me an epidural…

Fast forward four hours to 3pm. I had taken a much-needed nap during my sensory reprieve from contractions. And while I slept, I had made it to 7 cm. The nurse explained that in a few hours we would be holding our son. She suggested I continue resting so that I could gear up for pushing.

Having spent so much time in the birthing center leading up to this point, I’d had the chance to meet most of the nurses on the unit. All of them were wonderful, and they seemed as excited as I was about what was to come. They had marveled at the size and shape of my belly during previous visits and were anxious to see the baby that was hiding inside. As the clock ticked closer to the 7 pm, several nurses stopped in to see how everything was progressing. By 6:45, no fewer than five nurses had clocked out and stationed themselves in my delivery room. Baby R had his own welcoming committee and I my own personal cheering squad. And finally, only three minutes after the nurses’ official shift change, our 9 pound, 3 ounce and 22 inch baby boy made his way into the world.

Seeing Brayden for the first time feels like a distant memory and simultaneously like it happened yesterday. There’s a dream-like quality to the image of him being placed in my arms, still holding the umbilical cord clamps he’d comedically snatched from the doctor’s grasp in passing. Through tears of relief and joy I took in the beautiful features, cone-head and all, of the baby who’d been in my belly only seconds before. I realized in that moment that there is such a thing as love at first sight. Looking at Kevin, it was clear he felt the same way.

Since taking those first steps into what has already been an incredible journey, I have been blessed from all angles with what can only be described as love. Introducing the baby to family and friends, watching Kevin embrace and flourish in his role as a father, and of course observing Brayden’s daily, if not hourly, growth and development… all of these experiences make me bubble over with the emotion I’d never before credited with being so dynamic, natural and all encompassing. I initially thought it was my being over-tired that turned me into such a butterball. How else could I explain feeling so oversaturated with love that I was mushy as a Hallmark card? But I’ve since decided that it’s not exhaustion… it’s parenthood. And while I am still adjusting to the logistics of it all like how to efficiently pull a onesie over a baby’s head, how to complete all household chores in two hour blocks between baby’s feedings, and how to type or eat one-handed, Kevin and I have the whole love thing covered. I like to think that all else will follow…


Post #30: We're gonna need a bigger boat....

This is an expression that has been aimed in my direction quite a bit lately. Not from monkeys, of course, but from humans that I see in my grocery store excursions, walks about the neighborhood, and my navigation through school hallways. I need a tee-shirt that answers these glances. It could read “no, I’m not the Octo-mom” and “no, my singleton baby is not three months overdue”. To the little kindergartener that I subbed for two months ago and couldn’t stop commenting “That’s a biiiiiiiiiiig belly”, if only you could see me now. Even my husband, who sees me on a daily basis, is not immune to this response when he catches glimpse of me from the side and realizes I exceed the capacity of his peripheral vision.

My belly is huge! Enormous! Of epic proportions! Students are especially candid in their responses to seeing me at work every day. “You’re STILL here, Miss?!” is a common question from my regular batch of students. One young lady was kind enough to program the number for emergency ambulatory services into her speed-dial should it be needed during a lesson. I reassure them that I’m not as big as I look, that almost two weeks remain before my due date. And I am enjoying the work, probably now more than ever. I have been getting lots of assignments in my old stomping grounds of high school math, and it’s fun to be back in the world of SOHCAHTOA and the quadratic formula. Besides, with everything ready for baby at home, I wouldn’t have anything to do but wait if it weren’t for subbing. And the kids are wonderful to me, most likely because of my “condition”. They retrieve erasers that I accidentally bump off the ledge of the whiteboard, knowing that if I bend down myself there is no guarantee that I will be able to get back up. They keep their classmates in check so that I don’t have to deal with traditional behavior issues. I’ve told them that I will need to invest in a fake pregnancy belly before I take on my next sub assignment to ensure I have such a pleasant experience.

As much as I am humored by the students playful concern for my own exponential growth, I can understand where they are coming from. Just when I think my belly  can’t get any bigger, it does. Forget about seeing my blue-polished and pedicured toes, or the line of dry erase marker that forms on my shirts as I write on the board and my underbelly brushes along the marker tray. I feel like every day is a battle against gravity, and a losing one at that. When I stand, my rib muscles strain to support the belly. When I sit, the belly rests uncomfortably in my lap. And, when I lay down, the belly digs a crater into our mattress. (Kevin’s newest duty is essentially that of a car jack, supporting my stomach as I extract myself from bed.)

Looking back on the last 38 weeks, I know that I am blessed to have had such an easy pregnancy.  But, I understand now why mothers at this stage get so excited for the baby to come out. We are ready to meet you, little-big guy, so whenever you are ready….


Post #29: It's Three o'clock Somewhere

36 weeks in, and it’s begun… I’ve entered the uncomfortable stage of pregnancy. It started slowly… a Charlie horse in the calf one night, then some trouble with my sciatica a week later. I graduated from wearing a belly band over my pre-pregnancy work pants to purchasing an actual pair of maternity khakis. My shirts gradually started fitting shorter so that a portion of my belly was exposed to the breeze. Pee breaks increased from 2 to 3 and now 4-6 times a night. Tying my shoes turned from a mild inconvenience to a near impossibility from a standing position. My daily walk turned into a waddle and the hills surrounding my house became more and more of a challenge. My three o’clock naps changed from luxury to necessity, especially on work days. I have a strained muscle in my rib cage that becomes sore from having to support the weight of my ever-growing and consistently-dropping baby belly. I even discovered a new part of my pregnancy body and named it my “underbelly”. It’s section of skin where my stomach overlaps with my waistline. And it just so happens that this underbelly becomes increasingly irritated throughout each day by the waistband of whatever pair of pants, shorts, or pajama bottoms I happen to be wearing.

While the discomforts described undoubtedly interfere with my daily living, I think that they serve an important purpose: they remind me just how close I am to actually having a baby. I have known for nine months about this inevitable conclusion to pregnancy, but it's finally starting to feel real. And these aches and pains are giving me the sense of urgency I needed to finish preparing for the little one’s arrival. So, this week, after a beautiful shower in Massachusetts, I got down to the business of nesting. I made the baby’s bed, organized a diaper bag, packed my hospital bag full of a newly purchased nursing cami with pajama pants and bath robe along with going home outfits for me and the baby. In fact, I packed two outfits for the baby… one newborn onesie should he be of normal-size and another larger onesie should he actually be ten pounds like they estimated he would be back in March. My “nesting” didn’t stop there… I cleaned my car, got a haircut, and had a mani/pedi with blue nail polish just for good measure. Kevin and I even went to a two-hour breastfeeding class since we missed registration for the traditional day-long birthing course and figured it would be the next best thing.

After all of my hard work, there is still more to be done. There are new baby clothes to be washed and still more shower gifts to be assembled. But with Kevin’s help, we can get it all done in just a few more days. After that, I wonder if we’ll be able to say we are officially ready. I mean how can you ever feel ready for something like this? We’re going to have a baby! And, if I forget that for even a second, all I have to do is try unsuccessfully to stand up from a seated position on the couch or try and walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded. Thank you, pregnancy discomforts, for keeping my focus where it belongs. We are in the final stretch, and I can’t lose sight of what awaits at the finish!