Monthly Archives: September 2008

In which Emily comes to realize she cannot give all the children all they need all the time

            My blood type is O positive.  My husband is B positive.  To most of you, this information probably seems unremarkable, sort of like if I were to tell you how many fillings each of us has had.  Some of you – perhaps those with medical training or maybe with the same blood type combination – already know where I am going with this.

            Apparently, if a mother is O positive and her baby is B positive, there is a high probability that the baby will develop severe jaundice.  I already know all about jaundice because Zachary had it due to a subdural hematoma, which is fancy talk for the big bump he had on his head as a result of his futile attempts to force his way out through my pelvis.  As his body broke down that big bump, his bilirubin count became elevated.  Despite what I first thought, bilirubin is not a Jewish baseball player from Cleveland.  It is something yucky in the blood that babies’ little livers are not equipped to handle.  Hence, the jaundice.

            The treatment is light therapy.  The babies are stripped to their diapers and put in these little light boxes.  Only when the bilirubin count falls are they permitted to leave their tanning beds and go home.  To determine how high the count is, the hospital sends in lab technicians every six to twelve hours to stab the child in the heel and collect a blood sample.

            Somehow, we dodged the blood-type bullet with both of our boys.  This little girl, however, was hit.  After a day in the hospital, she started to resemble a carrot.  The doctors ran a blood test, determined that she was jaundiced, and started light therapy.  They also suggested we start supplementing with formula to make her poop, but that is a subject for another post.

            The problem with the light therapy was that, willing though she was to lie under the lights during the day, at night she would wake up three minutes after we put her down and start screaming.  And screaming some more.  I would pick her up, nurse her, and she’d go to sleep.  Gently, I would lay her down under the lights, only to have the process begin all over again.

            It’s not that I have any objections to Ferberizing, but two days old seems a little young to start.

            By Friday, her count was still too high to come home.  They took her off the lights and retested six hours later.  Her heels were starting to look like jullianed carrots. But, the Friday afternoon test indicated her bilirubin levels had flatlined, and we were discharged from the hospital.  I like to think that decision was made for medical reasons only, and not because there was a line of women up in labor and delivery being told to hold those babies in because the maternity ward was all filled up.

            I was relieved to head home because, by all accounts, Benjamin was having a rough time with my absence, as evidenced by the bite marks on one of his classmates.  He was delighted to see me, Zach was happy to have us home, and we spent the weekend bonding as the new family unit we had become.

            Until her Monday morning pediatrician appointment.  The doctor took one look at her and sent us right in for another blood test.  As I waited for the results at the medical center, J was home supervising Zachary’s playdate that it had been too late to cancel.  I sat there, fretting over reports that the playdate was off to a rocky start but glad we had been able to give Zachary what he needed despite the chaos.  And we would be able to give the baby the help she needed. 

            And then I started to cry, because it occurred to me that – not even a week into having three kids – the middle child’s needs were already being squeezed to the margins.  I cried because I was tense and tired, but I also cried for my bewildered two-year-old who would have no idea why Mommy had disappeared yet again.

           Of course, when the results came back, her bilirubin levels had skyrocketed.  And we were readmitted to the hospital, the baby plus me as her food supply.  The doctor insisted that the levels were too high for at-home light therapy, seeming skeptical about my reports that the child will not abide the light box.

          Through trial and error, we discovered that the only way she will remain asleep in the box is if I keep my hand on her.  So here we sit: her in her protective sunglasses under the lights, me typing with one hand while the other remains on the baby.  Across the room is my phone, and soon I will need to take a chance and go retrieve it, because a few miles down the road is a two-year-old in need of some reassurance that Mommy will be home soon.

We have kids because they make us laugh

Thank you to everyone for your warm wishes last week.  We are home from the hospital and doing well.  While I have every intention of posting regularly, I suspect I will not be around to your blogs as often as I would like.  Also, I cannot speak for the quality of the writing around here in the next few weeks or months because I am sore, engorged, tired, and only have time to write between feeding, pumping, and taking care of the other two.  But, I hope you bear with me and keep coming around to see how we fare as we begin to figure out what life as a family of five will look like.

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            Sometimes we think that two-year-old Benjamin’s verbal skills far outstrip his cognitive skills.  He seems able to talk about things he doesn’t understand, and we often get the feeling he has no idea what he is on about.  Sometimes, however, he treats us to a wicked sense of humor as if to remind us he is smarter than we think he is.

            Sitting at the dinner table, swinging his legs, he stubs his toe.  “Uh-oh.  I got a boo-boo.”

            “Where’s the boo-boo, Ben?”

            “It’s down there.  It’s hiding!”

            “Your boo-boo is hiding?”

            “Yeah.  Where’s the boo-boo?”  Then, he pushes from the table, sliding dramatically backwards and swinging his foot into the air.  “There it is!” he giggles proudly.  He has invented the first-ever game of boo-boo peek-a-boo.

Does that come in pink?

            When Zachary was a baby, his favorite color was orange.  Offered a choice of toys, he would inevitably choose the orange one.  He had four stacking cups, but he tossed aside the blue, the red, and the yellow.  Orange was where it was at.

            Soon, however, he discovered pink.  The obsession was fast and it was complete.  If he did not want to wear mittens, all I had to do was buy pink ones, and suddenly he was all into keeping his fingers warm.  In the summer, he wanted pink shorts, no easy item to find in boy-appropriate cuts.

            He stayed in love with pink for two full years, half of his short life.  Part of the interest may be that I like pink and wear it quite a bit.  Or, it may be that pink is a very pretty color.  Or, it may be that he is destined to become a marketer for Disney.  Who the hell knows.

            Recently, however, the pink thing has subsided a little.  He still likes it a lot, but when he needed new crocs, he wanted brown, of all colors.  He loves to wear his pink polo shirts, but he also really likes a Cowboys jersey his grandparents bought him.  Suddenly, he prefers gray shorts.

            Never fear, however; those pink shorts are going to good use.  You see, just as Zachary has left his pink phase behind, Benjamin has begun his.  He wants pink socks, pink balls, and of course, pink Hannah Anderson shorts.  Pinkalicious is one of his favorite books, and should he ever decide to actually poop on the potty, we have a copy of Purplicious waiting in the wings.  It goes without saying he wears pink pajamas.

            If Benjamin’s pink phases lasts as long as Zachary’s, he may just be coming out of it when this baby turns two.  Right on time for her to inherit all the pink crap that is overflowing my house.

            This girl had better be into black. 

Explaining it all

            My husband and I met doing theater in college.  I was a free agent, working on shows with different groups, not to mention dating around the theater community.  I spent a good deal of time with members of the campus Glee Club, which was composed of a group of guys who liked to get on stage and sing hokey songs.

            J, on the other hand, was committed.  He was a member of Mask & Wig, an all-male burlesque group.  Mask & Wig was not just a performing arts group; it was a club.  The crew, cast, business staff and actors all worked together for four years, after undergoing a few initiation rites that involved wearing feather boas around campus for a week.  These guys worked together, partied together, toured together, and generally had very little life outside the demanding rehearsal and performance schedule.  J did a few other shows, which was how we met.

            (I want to clarify for a moment that J was in the crew.  I feel I need this caveat in case you ever meet him in person because, cute though he is, this man was not made to go around in drag.  There were some fantastic drags in Mask & Wig, but J was definitely not one of them.  We’re working on getting him to choose a t-shirt and shorts that don’t clash before we start thinking about allowing him to dress in sparkles and heels.)

            Given the circles we moved in, it probably does not shock you to learn that we have quite a number of gay friends.  Between the Glee Club and Mask & Wig, we managed to assemble a large assortment of gay male friends, not to mention a few straight but very metro men. 

            And yet, there has been some confusion on Zachary’s part. 

            Thinking it would be easier to explain adoption in terms of a gay couple, I brought up some friends he had a great time with on our last trip east.  “Well, think about Ian and Theo.  Can they make babies?”

            “No,” he scoffed.  “They aren’t ladies.”

            “Right,” I said.  “But they are looking for a lady who has a baby in her belly that she cannot take care of.  Then she can give the baby to them and they can be the baby’s daddies.  Do you think they would make good daddies?”

            “No,” he answers again, as though the question is patently absurd. 

            “Why not?”

            “Because they don’t have any toys!”

            OK, so we’ve cleared up the problem.  It is not that two men should not raise children together, but that two men without toys are clearly unfit to be parents. 

Unfortunately, due to a lovely picture book that our nanny brought home from the library, there have been more questions.  (OK, it may also be because the kid is four.)

            You see, we have very few gay friends who he knows who are in relationships.  Our kids love one friend out here, but he’s single.  Most of our old friends, however, are on the East Coast.  So, there are few natural examples, and he has not come to take different kinds of couples as a matter of course.  I always assumed our kids would, but most of what he sees are single people and heterosexual couples.  So, trying to explain And Tango Makes Three was more complicated than I expected.

            “You know how Mommy and Daddy are a couple, right?  Well, that’s because Daddy wanted to be in love with a woman.  But, our friend Oliver wants to be in love with a man.  And when he finds someone to marry, it will be a man.”

            “Why?”  As if I expected any other response.

            “Because he wants to be in love with a man.  Some people want to be in love with women, and some people want to be in love with men.”  Somehow, this answer passed muster, and we were clear.  Until dinner a few nights later.

            Not quite sure how it happened, but I found myself again wading through the there-are-all-different-kinds-of-families conversation.  I tried using a family with two daddies from his school as an example, but Zach doesn’t really know the kids, so that was a dead end.  Then, I explained how Laurie in his class has just a mommy.

            “But how does her mommy take care of her and her brother?” he wanted to know.  I liked that question.  I had an answer to it.

            Leave it to my husband to complicate matters.  “What happened to her daddy?” he wanted to know.  Because, really, he couldn’t wait till we were alone to ask something like that?  Seriously?  You had to know right at that moment, in front of the kids?

            And, THAT is how I ended up explaining sperm donors to a four-year-old.

Don’t stop believing

            Now and then, we take our kids out for ice cream.  Not very often, of course, because we wouldn’t want them to get the idea we like ice cream; but, given that there are four ice cream places a ten minute walk from our house, we feel obligated to every now and then support the local economy.  (Not that we walk anymore, because for me it is a 45 minute walk to any of these places.)

            Zachary used to like Coldstone, but he has switched allegiances to the gelato place three doors down.  “I want the pink one with chocolate,” he declares, pointing out the strawberry drizzled in chocolate.

            “I want pink ice cream!” his brother echoes.

            Served, we all sit at a little square table in the otherwise deserted shop.  “Do you like that one?” two-year-old Benjamin inquires of my flavor.

            “Yes, I do,” I reply, ever wary of his moves on other people’s food.

            “I like this one!” he informs me.

            Zachary somehow manages to keep up a steady course of conversation while eating his gelato.  By this point in the evening, I have already had to explain sperm donors, digestion, and our neighbor’s back gate.  I am tired, yet I know there is another hour and a half of questions to come before bed.  It doesn’t help that Zachary is the world’s most impressive savorer.  He can make a cupcake last for 20 minutes, and he spends three times as long with his ice cream cup as everyone else.

            And then, the background radio station changes songs.  J and I look up at each other and smile.  “You know it’s a good song,” I say, “when it gets you through junior high angst, high school dances, college driving, and then sitting and eating ice cream with your kids.”

            “That’s a blog post,” he tells me.

            We listen for a moment, and then together softly sing two words along with the band: “sweet perfume.”

            Zachary, oblivious to the nostalgia around him, continues to talk.  “Look, there are two A’s in that sign,” as he points to the movie theater across the street.  “That’s matching.”

            We agree, but our attention is on the song, both of us there at the table and somewhere across the country a decade or two ago.

            “It’s a motorcycle,” Benjamin says, pointing to the picture on the wall.

            “It’s a Vespa,” his father corrects, as the radio informs us that some were born to sing the blues.

            As the song goes into its final wind up, I look at my eldest, rendered tender by the music.  I must have some kind of a smile on my face, because, in between nibbles of strawberry gelato, he gazes at me.

            “I love you, Mommy.”

Today …

Today, Emily had her baby. It was a beautiful, healthy baby girl. Mom and Baby are both doing fantastic!

While Emily may be recuperating in the hospital for the next few days, we can all rest easy and stay tuned as she has a number of posts pre-drafted. I will continue to post them daily for her.

– J

To the Class of 1991

            I’ve been thinking a lot about high school lately.  I think it’s because my graduating class has been very active on Facebook, and out of 159 of them, I probably have about 60 “friends,” as defined by Facebook.  Every day or two, I find someone new or someone new finds me. 

            High school was hard for me.  This is, of course, a completely absurd statement to make, because high school was hard for pretty much everyone.  That’s why Molly Ringwald films did so well in the 80s. 

            But, it was especially hard for me.  I did not ever fit in entirely with one group or another, probably because I was an awful lot to take on a consistent basis.  I had friends, but I was not ever fully part of a clique.  So, when a group of friends got together on a Saturday night, they did not often think to invite me.  While at the time it felt like I was deliberately excluded, I suspect it was more that I was not on any one group’s radar screen.

            That, however, is not really why high school was hard for me.  The bare truth of it is that no one loved me, with the possible but only so helpful exception of my sister.  It is a bald statement, and I don’t think I quite grasped it at the time.  I had a house and food and all that, but no one loved me.

            You cannot really blame the difficulties I had in high school on the fact that I am intense.  Plenty of people in my class were intense, and there is no shortage of professors, business people, and doctors in the class of 1991.  But I was needy.  Very, very needy.  And I think it scared people.

            Shit, it would scare me if I met someone like that nowadays.

            I am a naturally social person, so I cared a lot about my peer relationships – probably more than most kids do.  Plus, I was trying to make up for the lack of familial love by strongarming my peers into loving me.  I think many of them were drawn to me for the same reason people are drawn to me today: my great charm, astounding wit, and winning friendliness.  Not to mention my fantastic backside.  But they were also repelled, a little turned off for reasons they could not define.

            And, so, I was lucky.  Much as many of them might now reflect that they were not as good to me as they could have been or as accepting as they would be as adults, the fact is that they did pretty well.  They had their own adolescent bullshit to deal with, and yet they did the best they could to give me their friendship.  A few even tried to help me.  I demanded a lot without being able to give much of my real self in return, and things could have been a hell of a lot worse.

            So, this post is dedicated to the class of 1991.  The people who didn’t realize how damaged I was but forbore to impose more damage, which they very well could have.  There aren’t a lot of teenagers you can say that for.

            I might even post this link on Facebook so they actually know I’ve written it…