March 25, 2009

Family outing!

Ted has lived in the Pasadena area for almost 7 years and during that time, never visited one of the most beautiful fire magnets in Southern California: Eaton Canyon. So we decided to check that off his list and go as a family (that still sounds a little weird to say, so I'll be writing it often to get used to it). We strapped 3-week old Tessa in the Bjorn and hiked along the wide trail that runs parallel to "the wash". It was a popular spot on that particular Saturday; I think most of the large countries of the world were represented. Despite my fatigue, we enjoyed ourselves immensely, and got stopped a couple times for baby-ogling purposes. We totally love that!

Here was a shady spot where we stopped to rest. Tessa was fast asleep and had bad acne at the time, but the two women who passed by didn't care. They cooed and reminisced anyway.

We were stopped again on the trail when another woman saw those cute little legs dangling out of the bottom of the carrier. I think "adorable!" was her comment. I couldn't agree more. Now, at almost 6 weeks, double the age, her thighs are about double the size. I'm getting a little nervous for the 12-week mark.

Eaton Canyon has a VERY shallow brook that runs down the rocks, so it's a popular spot for families with young children, because they can play in the water without fear of drowning. We weren't the only ones that day with a camera. This mom was seen squatting, taking pictures of her little redhead, for a good half hour. Ted and I couldn't stop giggling. I think I even remember him audibly asking me what the moon phase was supposed to be that evening. He's so naughty.

But seriously, how do you NOT know your bum is hanging out THAT much?? Can't you feel the air breezing by? Did she mean to do it? Is she trying to even out her tan lines? I just don't understand. Why not strip down completely? It's not like she's leaving much to the imagination. I'm glad it was clean though.

March 23, 2009

In two hundred and fifty words

As many of you may know I applied to attend law school this Fall. I've heard back from 9 of 12 schools, and most of the response has been positive. I was encouraged to apply to Yale by a handful of people even though I knew I had little to no chance of being accepted, but I guess you never know unless you try! One unique aspect of the Yale Law School application is their request for a 250 word essay on a subject of your choice. It was actually quite a fun exercise, and it alone almost made filling out the application worthwhile. Allison wanted me to post the essay sooner (before Tessa was born), but I didn't want to until they had made a final decision on my application. Now that Yale has officially, but not unexpectedly, rejected my application I guess there's no reason not to post it now. I present my Yale 250:

“Come here! Press it with your finger,” she says, mild concern in her voice. I touch it. Taking my finger away I notice the impression remains. I try again, moving my finger along the surface of her foot leaving a long shallow groove in its wake. Under normal circumstances her skin would have quickly rebounded, hiding any trace of my touch, but we aren’t under normal circumstances. My wife is eight months pregnant, and her body, it seems, is at its tipping point. Her lungs have about as much room now as the ugly stepsisters’ feet in the glass slippers, and what was a slow, yet steady, weight-gain has become…well….not so slow and steady. Water retention is taking its toll, too – hence that groove, still visible, running from her ankle toward her toes.

It’s been fascinating to watch her body change. First, there was just a little extra flesh (perhaps she’d eaten one too many donuts at her faculty meeting), but then there were the unmistakable rumblings of life. She ate a See’s chocolate, and our little daughter, perhaps taking after her parents, started into a fetal dance. Even with these obvious physical signs, though, it all felt a little unreal…until now. I’m assembling a crib. We’re folding itty-bitty onesies and filling dresser drawers with them. I notice the groove on her foot is finally starting to fade a little, but it makes me realize someone is about to leave her own, more permanent, impression on our lives.

March 13, 2009

Reconnecting with the world outside my house

Having a baby has meant having lots of visitors, which Tessa and I have loved. People have come from far and wide to help us celebrate and cope (sometimes in that order, usually in the opposite). So far, the farthest and widest folks (in distance, not stature) were Ted's brother's family, hailing from Boise. They popped in for a long weekend to get away from the cold and to meet their newest family member when she was only a week old. We totally loved having them, though I don't think they got enough sleep while they were here (what nanny-less parents do?)

The highlight of the trip for us (besides 5-yr-old Colin requesting me to feed Tessa so he could see me whip out my hooter) was going to The Huntington together. Ted and I hadn't been there since we were engaged, though it's a mere 15 minutes from our door. It was Tessa's first outing, when she was a wee 8 days old, and she handled all three hours like a pro - fast asleep in her stroller, putting on her best "cute" face for all the passersby, and it was an ideal spot for Colin and 2-yr-old Becca, who are nerds in training. Their parents are both nature-loving doctors.

This post includes an onslaught of pics from the day, with commentary, of course.

I look like a fat idiot in this first picture, goofiest smile in history, so I'm pulling the "just gave birth" card and letting you know that since this day, no pictures have been snapped of anything but my face, and won't be, until I'm down to my svelte size 2 again. I mean, 12. Gee, I always miss that "1"!

I'm only including these for prosperity's sake (because I expect to make a lot of money as a postpartum poster child).

Our first photo as a family that doesn't include any hospital gowns or those fancy disposable shower cap things:

The first of several strippings for Becca. The girl loves to get wet.

Colin was fascinated by the fish. Such joy! And it had only been 5 minutes since we'd entered the park.

After the many wonders of the fountain, it was off to the whimsical and interactive Children's Garden, completely befitting curious minds and playful young bodies. I adored this place, and mentally reprimanded myself for never having gone here before, then shortly forgave myself again, realizing I didn't have a reason to. Who goes to kid-specific stuff when they are kidless?

Ted got a shot of me behind a tree cut into the shape of a cactus. I was going for a "Did I just walk into an oven? 'Cause it is HOT out here!" look, but I basically just pulled off "I'm a dork."

There was a darling vine-covered playhouse complete with itty bitty chairs and a table. I wanted to shrink a couple feet and play here for hours. As it was, I could barely bend over at the time. Stupid stitches.. I kept looking at Marnie wondering, "How does she stand up and sit down so quickly??"

The fountains in this place were so stinking cool. This was one that had tiny arms that vibrated as quickly as a hummingbird's wings to make these tiny waves. The water tickles your hand when you gently touch the surface.

Next layer of clothing came off REAL fast. Marnie was convinced the other patrons were going to think they were white trash with the naked toddler running around. No way. I've seen white trash, and this ain't it. Only plumb cuteness.

Cool fountain #3. The flow was cycloning clockwise down the hole in the middle, so kids tried to change the flow to counter-clockwise, but Colin was fully entertained just putting leaves and rocks into the hole.

Another one of semi-naked Becca. Hey, I'm just happy to know I'm not the only one in the family.

You'll see a bunch of flora pics here. I just love the unusual plants and colors and such. And hey, you'd expect pictures like this from an afternoon at "Huntington Gardens", so bear with my indulgence. I shouldn't have used that word. Now I want some thick chocolate brownies. With skim milk, because I'm watching my weight.

Over in the corner was a huge magnet with a load of iron filings around it. Kids were putting the filings between the two ends of the magnet, and Becca obviously wasn't shy. She should have just kept her shirt off, because she sure got filthy after 10 minutes in this spot. To clean up, she made a trip over to the timed mist-makers. Seriously, I loved this place.

Another shameless shot of the vine-covered playhouse, this time with Tessa and her dad. She was conked out.

They built a gorgeous atrium right next to the Children's Garden that sports some of the coolest stuff for a family of nerds. We had a hard time leaving. Did you guys know that bogs can be up to 20 METERS deep??

There's a simulated rainforest in here, so it's pretty warm and humid. As a result, the collection of orchids was stunning. Since Ted's dad grows them in his greenhouse, he took the camera and went wild with it. So Del, these are for you:

And just to give you an idea of the size of this white and yellow one, we put Tessa's head up to it. She put on her chubby face for the picture, double chin and all. Notice she's still fast asleep despite all the man-handling.

We made our way outside again to dry out our armpits and catch as much as we could before the park closed. Here was a swath of my favorite succulents in the place: the golden barrels.

The Chinese Garden was breath-taking. So much detail everywhere you looked. Unfortunately, we only stayed long enough to feed Tessa. She was STARVING after all that sitting!

A week later, Ted's parents came into town and wanted to go to the Huntington as well. I dropped them off on my way to See's Candy (where I only got 3 pieces of candy instead of 5 - I told you, I'm watching my weight) and when I picked them up later, I saw all of China walking out. I quickly snapped a photo of this guy, trying to make it look like I was taking a picture of something/someone nearby, but unfortunately there was nothing else in a 10-yard radius nearly as noteworthy as...the umbrella hat. He was totally onto me.

March 10, 2009

What would we do, seriously?

I love to watch and participate in playing Jeopardy from my couch. For some reason, I seem to think that if I say it faster than anyone else, that I'm smarter than the actual contestants or anyone else playing with me. This has gone on for years, and my mom has the same habit, although she's much less excitable than I am. We've determined that she has a serious knack for any category that has to do with classical composers and I can usually nail the science and anatomy questions.

As fun as this game show is to me, it's equally frustrating when there's a clue that I KNOW I should be able to get, but because of a brain block, I just can't. This happened last Thursday, and it's now Tuesday, and I can't stop thinking about it. The category was TV Sitcom Theme Songs, and I got every one of the clues (still upset that they didn't have the Facts of Life as one of the 5) except one. "Without Us" was the clue, and it was from Family Ties. AARGH! How could I have missed that?? I used to watch it all the time! "What would we do, baby, without us... What would we do, baby, without us....without us..."

Now maybe that I've blogged about it I can get the damn song out of my brain.

March 9, 2009

Ya Big Baby!

You can all understand why it's been a while since I've posted. I'm now taking advantage of the fact that my daughter loves to stare at herself in the mirror in order to finish this post I began two weeks ago.

Bear in mind that I began this when Tessa was only a week old.

I thought I might take the time to list the instances in which the ol' floodgates that normally keep my crying at bay threw themselves open in the last week, further manifesting that a) I am not as stoic as previously thought, and b) pregnancy hormone effects don't stop once that baby comes.

1. The night before I went into the hospital to be induced, I became overwhelmed with concerns that Ted and I had not sufficiently prepared a spiritual environment in which to foster our little peanut. Whilst he read the latest Newsweek, I laid on my back, wide awake (the last time I can recall that happening for more than 30 seconds), thinking of all the ways I have failed as a future parent. I let out all my thoughts in a torrent and Ted had no idea where it was all coming from. Instead of dwelling on it, however, we came up with a couple more things we could do to step it up, thereby making me feel good enough to fall asleep. Meanwhile, Ted laid awake for a long while, sufficiently freaked out by his loony wife.

2. All was fine and dandy the next day as we arrived for my scheduled induction. Ted and I cheerily chatted in the curtained-off triage area while a very young OB came and ultrasounded all over my belly, taking measurements and saying things like "Hmmm..." and "...big baby.." and "...might pose a problem." The cheeriness didn't last long as this doctor explained to us that since our fetus was weighing in at approximately 9 1/2 pounds (macrosomy, I overheard: loosely translated, it means "large body" in Latin, "total fatty" in Tedspeak) and that her head wasn't "engaged" in my pelvis (when checking my cervix, her head floated back into my womb instead of staying there, ready to be birthed). Combine that with the fact that she was already a week overdue and induction would most likely result in a long, hard labor with a good chance of having a C-section anyway, this doctor told us she would consult with another doctor, but that a C-section was most probable.

Once she left, I couldn't control the tears. I think the emotions behind them were a combination of feeling like my body wasn't working right, the letdown that if I chose to "wait it out", we wouldn't be meeting the little sweetie that day, and cursing all the peanut M&Ms I had eaten in the last couple months, causing her to plump up to such a nice chubby weight.

Ted said a prayer at my hospital bed, then leaned over and whispered that he thought I should just have the C-section, thereby keeping my poor vagina intact (he didn't actually say those words) and ensuring the health of the baby. I cried again because I knew he was right. I'm now realizing I have the words "prayer" and "vagina" in the same sentence, but I'm not changing it.

3-6. I cried about four more times when I had to explain the situation over the phone to my dad and two close friends.

7. When the doctors pulled her out and confirmed she was a girl, I cried with relief. I really didn't want to have to dress a boy in all the pink stuff we got at the shower.

8. Seeing her for the first time, of course.

9. Secretly watching Ted watching her in the baby warmer. He just gently touched her head and cheeks and "packies", and I melted.

10. The following morning, while the morphine effect was wearing off, one of the many hundreds of knocks on my door produced a nurse who was supposed to prick her heel to draw blood. Well, she pricked it, and that was all fine, but then this incompetent bimbo (a kinder b-word than the one I actually want to use) distracted herself so much by telling me which Miss Universe contestant I most looked like that Tessa's heel actually dried up and she had to prick her again, thereby causing unnecessary pain and suffering on both our parts. While this nurse tried to cover up her sin by saying "She's not a bleeder! Oh, it's okay, sweetheart... She's not a bleeder! Oh, it's okay, sweetheart" all in a foreign accent, Tessa just wailed and wailed, looking at me with eyes that could only be saying, "Who ARE you, to let this awful person DO THIS TO MEEEEEE??????" I cried. And I tried to tell her later it wasn't my fault. And I would never let b-words touch her again.

11. Later that night (V-day), I was beside myself with angst because Tessa hadn't eaten more than a half dozen sucks in 24 hours. As her fussing got more and more intense, Ted tried to console her, only to result in all-out screams and shudders. Ted broke down in tears and I got frantic with the nurses because my stupidly-shaped nipples were causing me to starve my baby and WASN'T THERE ANYTHING THEY COULD DO?? They wheeled in a pump for me, I pumped a whopping 13 mL of colostrum (not even half an ounce), and she gulped it down and fell instantly asleep.

12. Seeing this a few hours later:

13. It was my third and last day in the hospital. We were informed Tessa would require yet another blood draw from her already pin-cushioned heel to check her bilirubin count and then do her PKU test. Why they can't just do all these tests in one draw, I don't know. Another heartless lab tech came in and stuck her good. Though she screamed bloody murder, I was proud to see her fiercely kicking against the guy's hand with her other foot, and had half a mind to join her. This incident itself didn't make me tear up, but in tandem with trying to get out of my bed after my vicadin had worn off, then trying to go poo despite searing hot pain in my incision, then watching Tessa get wheeled off for more heel-squeezing to please the PKU gods, then realizing I'd chalked up only a few hours of sleep in the last three days, it all came to a head and I just bawled and bawled. Ted couldn't fathom what on earth was wrong, so I helped him out by telling him I just wanted him lying near me while I sat in the chair next to him. I put on some Debussy in order to calm myself down, but Ted asked me what I needed, and I replied I just wanted to hold my baby - the ultimate fix-all. He jumped out of bed to find out where she was at the moment, saw her being wheeled back into the room, and gently placed her sleeping body in my arms. I cried all over again, but this time, it was all relief and sweetness.

14. Later that night, I decided three and a half days was long enough to go without a shower, so I turned on the hot water and made the mistake of stripping in front of the bathroom mirror. I had seen parts of my naked body since the birth, but nothing (even Sherri's warning) could have prepared me for the sight of the post-partum train wreck staring back at me. I turned away and sobbed. Ted heard me and quickly asked, "What's wrong??" I pointed at me in the mirror and said, "Look at me!! WAAAAAHHHH!!!" at which point he held me close and whispered, "Honey, you look beautiful. You just gave birth to our perfect baby girl and you look beautiful." That made me cry again, at which point I could feel the loose folds of purple-striped stomach skin shake in rhythm to my sobs, making me cry harder.

15. The next night, she woke up hungry, or so I thought. I tried to feed her, but she got more and more unruly. I tried to calm her while she shrieked and writhed for 20+ minutes, so frustrated that I couldn't give her what she needed. Then I remembered my wise mother advising me to get baby gas medicine because she won't be able to get rid of it as easily as her parents can and do (not her words). So with her turning several shades of purple in one arm, I frantically searched for the drops with the other. She sucked down the dose and I cried, hoping this was the solution while I practically patted her bum right off. She eventually got gas coming out of both ends and was happy as a clam while she sucked away at my nip-nip.

16. A day or two later, I was putting our bundle down for a nap. She was calm and cool as a cucumber, but I decided to sing her to sleep anyway (no one was listening but her, so why not?). If you grew up on the church musical My Turn on Earth, you can appreciate the sweet little "Angel Lullaby", which I've had memorized since being a little girl myself. I started singing and could barely get through the first verse:

You came from a land where all is light
To a world half day and a world half night
To guard you by day, you have my love (lost it here)
To guard you by night, your friends above.

Tessa looked at me like "Why the heck are you so weird??" I'm sure I'll see that look countless times during her life, especially when I can't resist the temptation to sing my other favorite song from the same musical, "I Have a Plan." I do a great Satan!

17. Just when I thought I was getting a handle on all these emotions, Sachia came over with dinner one night, and brought our friend Laura W for dessert as a surprise. I was SO happy to see them both, but especially Laura since she skipped town with her husband and cute daughter way too soon. While Sachia was getting a plate of her fabulous dinner ready for me, Laura and I scooped about C-sections (I've discovered it's an elite club). She told me her reason for thinking it preferable to a vaginal delivery, and after experiencing it, I have to agree. Labor can be extremely intensive and painful, as we all know. It can be hours or partial days until you get to see your baby, but often the mom is so wiped out she can't even enjoy it. But with the completely numbing drugs that come with major surgery, and the quick time frame in which it's performed, a C-section allows parents to have these first moments with the baby that are completely serene and pain-free. As a result, Laura and I both had intense spiritual experiences in the first few minutes of our daughters' lives, and we both shed a few tears talking about it.

Now, before anyone gets on a high horse about the superiority of a vaginal delivery, refer to my crying reasons #2-6 and realize that for hours, I had to make lemonade out of what I thought was an entire bushel of lemons being handed to me in "having to have a C-section." At the end of the day, I'm so grateful for modern medicine that allows so many more parents to have a healthy birth experience. If I had to choose, I would have done it the same way all over again because it resulted in one of the hugest blessings in my life.

That blessing is still staring at herself in the mirror.

The Cooling Rack

Baked goods are only half the story...