There's a baby sleep on my chest, and a husband working feverishly (emphasis on the fever) in our office.
We were downed by the flu, and are just now resurfacing. The Lady Lis is quite pissed off at the (understandable) lack of complete attention, full energy, and unwavering devotion from her parents; Vor is frantically behind at the office; I am utterly exhausted as the one person who did not get very sick, and consequently played solo parent/solo parent to sick child/nursemaid to miserable husband/working attorney with insane hearing schedule.
I was four when my brother went off to the United States Air Force Academy. Although I don’t remember much about his decision to go there, I do know that one of his biggest concerns that he expressed to my parents was that I would grow up not knowing him. He and I wouldn’t have a relationship. The logistics were just against it; he would have very little vacation time while in school, and then he would be deployed, frequently, for long periods of time.
He was right.
For years, my brother was the one that would swoop in at holiday times, and I was thrilled to see him, as a little kid. We would travel to the Academy, and then we would travel to where he was stationed. Eventually, I got older, and while I am always his kid sister, I was not his baby sister. It’s harder to know and love and have things in common that way—at least, it was for us. The distance didn’t help, and neither did the fact that we are both phone call avoiders.
That doesn’t mean my heart wasn’t in my throat every time he was deployed to either a war zone, or an undisclosed location. When he was going on a dangerous mission (it sounds all spy like, but it’s an accurate description), we would get a very specific phone call. My younger self did not translate the situation into meaning very well, but I know now that those phone calls were goodbyes, in advance, just in case.
There have been lots of dangerous deployments and close calls over the years, and there have been great moments, moments of real triumph and joy, and thankfully, since he has advanced in rank, he’s had mostly stateside stations, with a “quick” trip here and there to Afghanistan, etc. I know that’s coming to an end. I know he is going to be deployed soon.
It’s much harder now than it was then. I’m older, I know better. We’re both older, and we have a great relationship now. We’re much closer. I understand more. I worry more. I’ve had many friends and classmates go over and come back fine; go over and come back…not quite the same; go over, and never come back. It’s not going to be for at least 6 months yet, I think, but it’s already following me around, like a shadow, where I can see it, out of the corner of my eye.
My nephew, for as long as I can remember, has been fascinated by his uncle (“unk-knu”). When my brother sent him a bomber jacket and “pilot” sunglasses, my nephew wore them until they practically corroded off him. He’s always wanted to be military. He’s always wanted to go an academy.
He did. He’s at Annapolis. At his graduation, they did this thing where each student stood and they announced either what college they were going to, or where they had been accepted. When his was called, and they announced the naval academy, the entire school, all the present parents, everyone in the massive commencement hall stood up for him.
I know, someday, he’ll be deployed and we’ll go through this all over again.
My dad spent 30 years in the Army. He retired at the very end of August 2001. Just a few week later, when September 11 happened, he was agonized that he had gotten out. I know he tried to re-up. I overheard him and my mom discussing it: "This is what I trained for! This is what I was supposed to do! I left two weeks too early." "I know, J. But we have our son out there, and I don’t think I could handle it nearly as well if you were still out there, too."
Given my family background (there are even more in the military), I suppose it’s only natural that in college and law school, I tended to gravitate towards the military people. The way one of my military friends (actually, one from grade school) put it was that I’m a civilian, so I am a nice break from military life, but I’m also military, so I always get it. You’re the best of both worlds, he told me when he came home from the Air Force Academy one summer. Everyone at the academy needs a friend like you. I told that to one of my ROTC friends in college. He laughed, and said you are easy to be around.
That was in 2004. It’s 2013, and he died this past week, in the sand.
Books selected so far: (1) Dreadnought, Robert Massie. I’ve actually started this already. And I loooooove it. (2) Hot Zone, Richard Preston. I already read it, but have a strong desire to re-read it. I also have a bunch of more hard core biology/disease/science books on my list [Did I mention I was only a few classes short of a biology major? No?], but I always like to read a fiction book first to get me amped, and then move on to reality. (3) Path to Power, Robert Caro. Okay, this is going to be a real project, but when Vor read it, I was variously hysterical with laughter at the anecdotes he would read, or apoplectic with rage. That should be a good recipe. (4) The Particle at the End of the Universe, Sean Carroll. Because I am a science junkie, that’s why.
Books I’m looking for: (1) A good historical fiction book, of any era or nationality. (2) A good science fiction book. (3) A good romance book, NOT a trashy one. If it has Fabio on the cover, then it’s not for me.
Books I’m considering: (1) Dune. I’ve read it, but it just doesn’t sit right with me, which is weird—I should love it. I want to re-read and figure out what my (or its) problem is. (2) I’m considering The Green Lion trilogy—not science fiction, but it would be a new fantasy book for me. (3) Lord of the Rings trilogy. I want to re-read it, but I have already read it, and it can be a project, and I already HAVE a project in the form of the Path to Power series.
Lastly, that other thing. The things with many words that’s sitting on my hard drive. That neglected thing. I’ve thought about that book in almost every free moment that I have, and yet, thinking about it isn’t getting anything done. I’ve concluded that since I have a one year old and a full time job, it’s just not happening. The only free time I have is at night, and that’s spent filling up sippy cups and bottles and food containers for daycare the next day, laundry, and then reading a few pages of a book. So, that’s a wish and a dream I just have to acknowledge is not happening right now.
So, let's talk about the time I went in the card aisle at the grocery store to get a birthday card for my turning one year old tomorrow baby (I KNOW) and I started bawling.
The heaving breath, tears everywhere--I'm sure it was not pretty crying. This was no misty eyed, "Oh, my presshus baybee snowflake is turing one SNIFF" moment. This was tears, heaving shoulders, shuddering breath. Another customer and a worker looked at me, concerned, and asked if I was okay. I said it was hard to explain, but I was fine.
I was sad. I was relieved.
There were moments in 2012 that I thought we wouldn't be here. While I mean that in the "oh God how are we going to survive a baby and adjust sense," I also mean that in the literal sense. There were moments I--we--were terrified that we would not be here in 2013, celebrating Lis's birthday. From May until the end of July, when the threat of infection had passed from surgery, there were moments--minutes--hours--many many many nightmares where I had this horrible thought, daydream, conviction, fear, etc that Lis would die during that surgery.
So, as I was picking out a birthday card, well out of the danger zone of any complication from the surgery, it suddenly washed over me that the deepest darkest never spoken fear I had was in the past, and I was crying.
Happy birthday tomorrow, baby girl. You're a survivor, a fighter, a miracle, a rockstar, a blessing, a snuggler, a terror, a delight, a thousand laughs, and you don't even know it.
As I’ve written this whole thing, there have been random thoughts that popped into my head. In no particular order, there are [I will periodically come back to this and add to it]:
The Hotel. We had the excellent luck to have a hotel right by the hospital. Even though we are only about 30-40 minutes away from riley, we got a hotel room that was five minutes walking distance from the hospital. It was a huge benefit. Mama Vor slept there during the night, and Vor and I kept our extra stuff there. I would sleep there during the day, and Vor would take quick naps. We would shower there, and we got good food from their restaurant. If you have the means to have a hotel room, instead of running back and forth between home or staying full time at the hospital, I highly recommend it.
The Feelings, the First Night. Do you remember how you felt when your baby was first born and needed to be fed/changed/dressed/etc? Still somewhat drugged up, no sleep, exhausted from the massive effort of giving birth (or watching your significant other do that?) It feels like that again. Even though I have seven nieces and nephews, when it came time for nurses to hand Lis over to me, I was all, WTF. I don’t know what I’m doing! It is EXACTLY like that again. Except, now with lots of crying and feeling terrified and sad. I wanted to do what I always did for Lis—hold her, feed her, change her, love on her—but I suddenly didn’t know HOW anymore. For example—do we give her food or water right off the bat? Do we wait an hour? Two? How long can we wait? What if she’s hungry? What if she isn’t? What if she throws everything up? Then what? How do I feed her without holding her? What if I hurt her? What if she won’t eat? I was scared to change her because I didn’t want to jostle her and her poor little head, not to mention all the IV’s. In retrospect, I have decided this is all perfectly normal. It’s okay to be baffled, feel inadequate, be terrified, not want to hurt them. The first night and day are like this, then you gradually adjust.
The IV’s. Lis had her arterial monitor in one arm, and an IV in the other arm and each foot. Yes, it seems excessive; no, it’s not excessive. IV lines in babies go bad, fast. It is easier to have the lines in and take them out as they go bad, rather than try to re-insert them. It is kind of miserable when they flush the IV’s—I know it burns, having had it done to me. Lis would get angry for a few minutes, then settle back down. Her IVs all stayed in a few days, then two went bad almost at the same time. We took them out. Eventually, once she was off ICU status and down to floor status, we took out the arterial monitor, and just kept the little bandaid monitor on (you know—the thing the wrap around their finger that looks like a bandaid). So, the last day or two, all we had was one IV. It left us free to unhook it and hold her, take her for a walk, etc. Also, the nurses put little sock type things over the IVs so that it would keep her warm, keep her from picking at them, etc.
Holding Baby For The First Time. Much of what I said about feelings the first night applies here too. I was terrified, and Lis was uncomfortable, and there was much crying until we got it figured out on what worked best. For us, it was a nice fluffy pillow. I preferred to have the pillow in my arms, so that when Lis was in my arms, it was Lis, on the pillow, on me. That way, her bony, sore little head was not pressing up against my arm bone, but instead, was on the nice soft pillow. Vor had this way of holding Lis so that her head was totally off her arm and her neck was on his arm, and he kept the pillow behind his arm, so her head rested on that. If that makes any sense. Whatever the case, I recommend soft pillows. But, they will get dirty. Which leads me to…
The Stains on Your Clothes. And your pillow case, and your blankets, and the car seat, and the sheets, etc. Look, your kid just had major surgery and has a big incision on his or her head with stitches in it. Its ooey and gooey and still a bit bloody. It’s going to get on everything. So, don’t freak out when you look down at your shirt or pillow or whatever and see a few spots of blood. More problematic is the Bacatracin, which is antibiotic Vaseline. Our nurses and doctors had us putting it on Lis’s incision to prevent infection. People, its Vaseline. It gets everywhere, and it’s impossible to get out. We ruined more shirts before we figured out to put a spit up cloth or towel in between the goo and ourselves. Lis’s car seat material is just destroyed from it.
The Hats. I was constantly on the search for hats that fit over her newly enlarged head, but that wouldn’t have elastic that rubbed on her incision. Hats that were skull caps for toddlers and young kid were perfect, because they fit around her ears and were lightweight. I also got lots of the bucket type hats that would rest lightly on her head. Just…lots and lots of hats. No sunshine for that baby’s head, to help the scar. But also, to help deal with the horrified looks you get from people.
The Horrified Looks From People. They suck. At first, people are horrified but almost instantly realize that it was surgery, because it is CLEARLY a surgical incision. But then, things fade and the stitches are gone, and I’ve gotten more than one dirty look or even a “What did you do to your baby!” Screw them. If you want to be nice, answer; if you want to put them in their place where they belong, walk away. In the beginning, when her incision was there and ugly, I would preempt everything by making a joke about “a touch of brain surgery.”
Well. 2012, nice to know you. That was seriously a crazy year, with a new baby and maternity leave and going back to work and changing positions in my job and getting new responsibilities and BRAIN SURGERY OMG and all the crazy that comes with having a small mobile person in your house who brings in germs from daycare.
For the past, oh, say ten years, my New Year's resolution has been the following: "My New Year's resolution is to not make any more resolutions. I have stuck with the resolution for years now."
It still makes me giggle when I say it, but this year, I actually HAVE things I want to see myself do.
Baby weight be gone. It's all still here. None of it went away. So, I joined the Biggest Blogging Loser, and here we go. I am also really, truly, back on the bandwagon of eating what I need to eat--which is no sugar. It makes me sick. I know this. But it tastes so good that I can't stop myself. Better to just not have it at all. Alas. ALAS.
Bookish. I love(d) to read. Then I went to law school and all the joy of reading was suck from my very soul, and honestly, I haven't read to learn for the fun of it since law school. I read brain candy stuff, but nothing fun and educational. So, one book a month it is. Any suggestions on where to start? I like history, though I lean more towards fictionalized accounts of actual history (historical romance, what) and fantasy (obviously) and sic-fi (OBVIOUSLY), with a random smattering of heavy duty science (Making of the Atomic Bomb, anyone?) and weird factual stuff (how to grow your own container garden, or something else equally random but full of information and fun ideas).
The Almighty Internets. I am stepping away from all my devices--my phone, my iPad, my computer, the apple TV, and so on. When I say stepping away, I don't mean not using--it's just that when I'm using it, I want there to be a purpose, not mindless browsing when I could be more efficient at work, or more engaged with Lis and Vor, or actually blogging instead of lurking around on all your blogs (not that I won't still do that). I want to not have the TV playing while I'm home with Lis, just for noise. It distracts both of us, and that's what the glorious Bose radio and our massive library of music is for anyways.
Conversations. There are some conversations I need to have, with myself, with Vor, and with work/family/etc. I need to evaluate where I am with my job, and what I want. Do I want to be the main litigator? Do I want more research? Do I want to do more presentations and get published? Speaking of being published, what do I want to do with that book on my hard drive, and when do I want to work on it? What do we want to do with this house? Financial planning, wills, trusts, etc? Um... the whole second child thing (that deserves a post in its own)? What plans do my parents have? Expectations of me and my siblings for a few years down the road? And so on, and so on.
Simple goals, simply put, yet daunting enough. That sound take up my year quite nicely.
Okay, fine, you can email me at graceandpressure [at] yahoo [dot] com. Don't all flood me with emails at once, you know. If you're emailing about craniosynostosis, put it in the subject, and I'll respond quicker. Deal? Deal.