Friday, January 28, 2011

Twenty Five Years

My grandmother remembers where she was when Pearl Harbor was attacked. My mother remembers every detail of the day of JFK's assassination. She can tell you all about when schools were desegregated too. We all remember exactly where we were on 9/11/01. In my life there have been a few huge news stories that I'll always remember: Reagan shot, the Berlin Wall tumbling on my 15th birthday, the night the first Gulf War started. And of course the day The Challenger exploded. That was twenty-five years ago today.

I was scared of braces. The week before it had taken the staff of Dr. Hurwitz's office over an hour just to make impressions because I kept gagging and crying. It was torture, but they'd finally gotten a mold of my crooked teeth.

I got to miss school, but of all days. We were supposed to watch The Challenger launch and see the first teacher in space, the most diverse shuttle crew ever who proved to us that in America if you really, truly did want to, you COULD grow up to be an astronaut no matter who you were. I couldn't believe I was going to miss it and I was so disappointed because we never got to watch TV in school.

But luckily there was a TV in the orthodontist's office and you could lean back while they worked in your mouth and take your mind off of things like rubber bands, spacers, bite plates and the dreaded head gear by watching it. As Dr. Hurwitz glued on the brackets and threaded the wires through my mouth, the nurses changed the channel. No one wanted to miss the shuttle launch.

"Hey look, you can watch the takeoff and before you know it, your braces will all be on!" one of the assistants told me. She sounded so excited about it.

I remember how blue the sky looked on the screen. I remember that the orthodontist stopped gluing and put down his pliers and just looked at the screen, forgetting me there in the chair with my mouth jacked open as wide as a python's and I remember how I didn't realize that the clouds, the fireworks were an explosion or that I had witnessed the exact moment of death of seven people. It took everyone a couple seconds to get it. We had watched seven people die. One instant we saw them alive and the next instant they were all no more.

The unthinkable had happened. The space shuttle had exploded. Was that even possible? In my seventh grade, twelve year old world it was not. That wasn't something that could happen. You couldn't see people die on TV in real time. You couldn't watch a national tragedy from an orthodontist's chair. I remember the metallic tang of the dental glue running down my throat and there was nothing I could do to get the taste out of my mouth. I was trapped with my mouth open, full of strange silver and no sound coming out.

I was going to post a picture of the explosion but as I was searching google images for a suitable one, I thought twice. I would be posting more than a picture of flames and smoke. I would be posting the actual deaths of seven people. We have all by now seen hundreds of people at the moments of their deaths on TV, but when the space shuttle blew up that was the first time. We've seen it repeatedly since then and especially since 9/11. We've all watched the footage of the second plane hitting the second tower and then we've all seen the towers fall so many times we've become more desensitized than we'd probably care to admit.

Think about that plane and the Challenger for a moment. As we watched there were people in there, going through the sky, strapped into their seats and we saw them alive. There they go. Alive. Alive. Alive. And then. No longer alive. And we saw that. Repeatedly. We are still watching them die. We will never stop watching them die.

It all becomes very abstract because we didn't see the bodies maybe - just the metal, the explosions, the debris and it isn't flesh so it registers as just news. People on the news that we didn't know. Yes, we are saddened and horrified but we keep watching the people die over and over and over and I just didn't want to post another picture of that. Now, it was so long ago that it may feel even more abstract. I just wanted to remember that there were seven people, real people who died twenty five years ago today as I got braces and that my teeth never fully straightened.
Thursday, January 27, 2011

Enough About Your Baby, How's The Cat?

Here is Canela on her windowsill bed, God bless her. This poor cat. I feel so sorry for her. She can't understand what this hairless, mewling, giant kitten is that we brought home in October and she's terrified of it and wants it to leave.

As a child I read this book called Socks about a cat who feels ousted by his family's new baby. I loved that book and it gave me great empathy for my own cat's situation. Because of this book, I swore I wouldn't make my own cat feel unloved.

I've done my best for her. I made her washcloth beds all over the house in cool places, like this one in the photo which is on the windowsill in my dining room. I also heat towels for her in the dryer so she can sit on them, which she adores. I grew her some cat grass and I try to brush her a few times a week at night after the baby has gone to bed and I'm still up. I'm really trying.

Canela though, has had a lot to entertain herself. For one, we're in the new house with lots of windows and a yard for her to look out at. There are new cats in the new neighborhood and for a while she had two suitors. Canela found herself in the middle of a tragic love affair. I feel terrible for her.

A few doors down lived a family with a large, long haired tabby male named Tiger. Tiger was a people cat and extremely friendly. I met him when I saw him trotting alongside his family as they walked their two dogs. It was the cutest thing ever. Pretty soon Tiger started hanging out in my yard. He'd sit on my front step and sometimes go around to my back patio and look in where he'd rile up Canela. Pretty soon he was there all day and night and before long, he had a rival - a black cat named Clyde who lives across the street.

One night Tiger and Clyde were having a stand off, vowing for Canela's love, in the front yard. They started around eight at night and the next morning at six am they were still there! That has to be some kind of cat standoff staring contest record.

I think Tiger won because Canela liked when he came to visit but would hiss and puff at Clyde. Soon, Tiger was a permanent fixture in our driveway where he'd lay on his back and roll and roll in submission and then, in what has to be the sweetest act of feline romance I've ever witnessed, Tiger began leaving dead lizards on our step as tokens of his affection for his striped lady friend. I was very touched.

But then it happened. Tiger's family were renters. They had problems with the landlord and didn't like their house and a couple days before Christmas they moved out taking Tiger with them. Canela looked out the window and searched for her boyfriend for two weeks. I thought she might settle for Clyde, but he stopped coming around too and now my girl is single and lonely again. Isn't that the saddest thing? I was so disappointed that they moved. I was looking forward to chewed up reptiles each morning when I opened my front door to get the mail.

But no, Canela is fine. She says hello and meow.

**Special Edit** 

I forgot to mention that Canela is nowhere near as sad as my friend's cat Luco, who is going through some sort of terrible existential crisis and has begun a blog to document his journey through depression and feline philosophy. Please visit Luco's blog and cheer him up, or at least enjoy his biting wit and cute cat pictures.
Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Birth Story - Part 3

So when we last met I was on the operating table feeling my surgery and losing my mind. The nurse said "Oh God" and scared me and I have no idea what she was saying that about.

That's when Husband said "She's here!! She's out!" and I became very delirious. My memory is spotty here, though I remember hearing the baby screaming her head off and being very, very relieved. She screamed and screamed and the nurses started talking (I kid you not) about a deal on a cruise that they were thinking about going on.

Then I got nauseous, like the scary nausea when you know puking is non-negotiable, so I panic because I am strapped to a table and can't sit up to be sick. I start yelling that I don't feel good and they hand me a weird blue wand thing and tell me to use it to puke, but I can't figure out what to do with it, so I breathe deeply and blurt out "ZOFRAN!!" to the amusement of the staff. But guess what? The anesthesiologist had it right there and pushed it into my IV and I wasn't nauseated anymore, which was a small miracle.

And speaking of small miracles, my Husband was off doing some kind of gross, ceremonial cord cutting that I couldn't see and FINALLY the anesthesia had kicked in so I could hear the doctor closing me up with a staple gun, but thank God couldn't feel it anymore. It seemed like a long time passed but they finally brought me the baby all wrapped up and with a hat on and I don't remember the moment as well as I wished I did, but I remember being shocked at how nice she looked and that her eyes were open and she was blinking calmly. She didn't look all swollen and smushed like most newborns and I later learned that C-section babies look better in general because they have less trauma. The doctor said she looked like a little ballerina and all the nurses said she was so cute. They probably say this to everyone, but I like to think it's true. I also remember that I talked to her and said I was so happy that she was here and glad she was ok before they took her away and then bizarrely I asked if she had teeth. This I can only attribute to the drugs.

They wheeled me into the recovery room and the nurse Sue pointed at me and said "NO TALKING for one hour" so I lie there and shook violently for an hour while my family came and talked to me and I couldn't respond. They had seen the baby in the nursery and were telling me about how she was very alert and healthy looking.

In an hour I stopped shaking (it's from the anesthesia) and I was wheeled to my room and rolled over onto my bed in a most humiliating fashion, where I was rinsed off, put into horrible, gigantic mesh underwear and given more drugs in an IV. Two nurses, who I'm convinced wanted to kill me by then, pushed forcefully on my abdomen and it was awful. I know this is necessary, but jeez it didn't feel good.

It took about two hours before they finally brought me Baby Lawns and let me hold her. She was all swaddled up and wearing this adorable yellow hat with a pom pom on top that hospital volunteers knit for the new babies and she was just so damned cute! I was sad that it took me two hours to see her. I had read all sorts of things about how those first moments are essential to bonding and how the baby needs to nurse immediately and all that, but she seemed to know me because she started rooting around instantly. It amazed me that she knew to do that and she latched right on and nursed for about ten seconds before falling asleep. The nurse told me then the reason for the emergency C-section.  Baby Lawns was tangled up in her cord and could not descend. She was stuck up high in a sideways position and couldn't put pressure on my cervix to progress the labor. There is no way that the C-section could have been avoided in this case and I am thankful for it, even though it caused me suffering. It really is major surgery and not something to be taken lightly. It's incredibly scary and painful and the recovery is rough. Don't let anyone tell you it's easy.

My hospital stay is a blur, probably because I was so drugged up. I really hated that I was taking oxycontin and it made me sick. I was also on Benadryl for the itching and that messed me up more than anything else. I had to have the baby in the nursery because I was so incoherent from it that it wasn't safe. That made me sad too.

More things made me happy than sad though. Baby Lawns was beautiful and sweet and liked to sleep on my bare skin. She got a little jaundiced but it went away without treatment. I threw up and went nutty from the oxycontin but that went away in about a week. I also had severe anxiety after we took her home about something happening to her. I was terrified that she would stop breathing and to be honest, I still am and I dread the nights because I'm so scared of the times when I'm asleep and can't watch over her, but I'm getting better as time goes on and she gets stronger.

We had a rough couple of weeks because my milk took forever to come and she had sucking issues. She lost too much weight so she had to be supplemented with formula and I was so upset about that, but it's been ten weeks today and things are straightening out. We're into a nice routine and she's become so vibrant and full of life. She loves people and just smiles and smiles now. She started that a couple weeks ago and her smiles get stronger every day. It's as if she smiles with her entire body and I love it. I love waking up with her every morning and seeing her smiling and kicking.

This child is so her father's daughter though. I have a feeling she is going to require a lot of energy from me because she doesn't stop moving and I can just tell she is itching to get big enough to get into things and move around on her own. She loves looking at things and interacting with people (and stupid ceiling fans for some reason). She even smiles at the cat. The child never stops moving, even in her sleep. It was kind of worrying me actually, but she is very happy and rarely cries, so I guess she's ok. I'm trying so hard not to be neurotic about her. I've been told that I'm lucky because she stays up all day and sleeps in intervals at night. When she's up at night she nurses and goes back to sleep without making a fuss.

So much has surprised me about having a baby. Mainly, I'm surprised at how much I love it and how calming and pleasant it is to care for her. Except for obsessing about her breathing, I'm not stressed out. I love being with her and holding her. I even love breastfeeding, which was a huge shock to me. I thought I'd hate it and that it would be terrible, but it really isn't at all. You read so much stuff on the Internet about babies and screaming and poop and stress, but my experience has been so positive. Birth itself is awful, but taking care of a baby is actually pretty nice.

Right after she was born I swore I'd never do it again, but ten weeks in I'm thinking maybe I could give her a sibling one day.

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