annie is one.

I started this post over a month ago:

Annie, my sweet baby, is one and on the verge of walking and talking and expressing herself.

It turns out, her past year of docile compliance was just a cover: she has been taking notes, identifying weaknesses and formulating a strategy.

As of this week, she has decided she will NOT stand for being locked up in a baby-safe containment area (or, crate, as I call it) while I work out and shower. Once she is free of the bonds of the minimum security baby containment facility, she immediately bolts for any doors she can find.  Cabinet doors and drawers that are unlocked are unceremoniously opened and slammed shut with deep, unmitigated baby satisfaction.

Annie did run into a minor hiccup with opening standard doors: once the door swings open away from her, she found herself standing unassisted. The first few times, she plunged forward after the swinging door in sheer terror. Now that she figured the tricky doors out, she smirks as she maintains her footing and the door crashes open.

A fan of her sisters, Annie is completely delighted by any attention they pay to her.  Ellie is much more amenable to Annie’s hair pulling and grabbing, while Carrie gets annoyed by these shenanigans rather quickly. Despite Annie’s interest in slapping her sisters silly, the twins adore making Annie laugh and giggle.

Annie says a few words that sound like “Hi!” and “Daddy!” and “MAMAMAMAMA” and so on.  I’m terrible at understanding baby talk. I’m lucky if I understand half of what the twins are hollering at me from the third row of the minivan.  All that to say: Annie may be reciting soliloquies from Shakespeare and I have absolutely no idea.

And now, almost a month later:

Annie is walking! It is unsteady, precarious walking, but it is walking! I am both relieved (my child can walk!) and terrified (my child can walk!). I recall, all too clearly, the poop-storm that ensued with twin toddlers and while Annie is only one child, she is one of three very active girls.

No matter.  We survived the twinpocalypse, I am sure we can make it through one more unstable toddling little one.

In short, Annie is one and is walking without fear, speaking without annunciation and drinking without a bottle.

And so… I think I better hit publish on this post before it’s 2027 and Annie has discovered the Internet (or whatever it will be called then) and realizes that I still haven’t published her first birthday summary!

Congratulations Annie!  YOU ARE ONE! (Or 13…)

We love you!

Kerous-29

showing up

In 2003, for reasons I still don’t understand, we wrote our new family’s first Christmas letter. Frank wasn’t sure why we were writing it at the time and we both thought that this first entry into our family’s public narrative should be sent out for very limited distribution. Our first letter vividly featured our most pressing and passionate marital argument until that point: a debate on the number of pillows allowed on a bed.

My answer? Eleven.

Frank’s answer? Definitely less than 11.

What was funny to us then, and even now, was how many people responded to tell us how much they enjoyed the letter.  And also, to passionately declare their support for either Team Frank or Team Emily.

The important thing, though, is that we felt this surge of connection with the people who commented.

So, we wrote another letter. And another. And another. And we got brave and sent it to everyone on our mailing list. It was exhilarating!

There are only two rules of K-Fam Christmas Letter Writing: 1. Keep it light and 2. No medical drama.

There have been some years when those two rules have been easier to follow than others.

The letter-writing process begins with both a scrubbing of the year’s events as well as a suggestion of a concept.  This year, after spending approximately five minutes with his newest daughter, Frank determined that the letter should be a memorandum from Annie talking about the circus she joined called Our Family.

In the case of this year’s letter, I wrote it, deleted it, wrote it again, sent it to Frank, sent him some changes, he sent me changes, I sent him changes and then we were done. Many years, there is at least one request (from Frank) for a chart/graph representing of some sort of achievement (sometimes this achievement is vomit or diaper-related) and most years, I ask for a few extra pages.  We’ve remedied these requests by occasionally allowing a gratuitous graph to sneak into the letter now and then; I started a blog.

The most important thing that happens, though, is that first step: we scrub the events of the year.  I take out the unnecessary details of the somewhat emergency c-section, the intestinal drama with two toddlers that reside in our home, Frank’s inability to securely screw the top on the orange juice and Annie’s over-the-top cuteness (she’s too young to get into too much trouble right now). Not to put too fine a point on this topic, but Frank, what is up with the OJ? And the Tabasco? And anything else with a lid?

So the events are scrubbed.  Cleaned up. We put a bow on the whole thing and send it out first-class mail.

The other stuff I don’t include is how many times I look at my peers and see how they are being a better mom.  They have better crafts, better playdate ideas, cuter lunches for their kids, etc, etc, etc. And then I see how some people are truly excellent writers and I’m a hack blogger.

I actually almost didn’t write this blog post because, well, it’s not an original topic or theme and others have written about this particular theme better, funnier and betterer.  (That whole sentence is a beautiful mess. I can’t fix it.)

But since this blog exists largely so that my daughters can glimpse inside the brain of their 34 year old mother, I am writing it anyway.

I realize there are two things illustrated with the story about the Christmas letter:

First, that when Frank and I are sharing our story and delighting people and engaging with friends and family – that is when we are the happiest.  We love making people laugh.  We love the idea of people opening their mail and being excited to see another silly letter from those tall people. We love the connection.

Second, nearly every year I think, “meh. I don’t think I can write this letter.” I didn’t do anything remarkable enough.  I made mistakes.  I can’t even tell you how many times Frank wanted to write something fun about my job, and I told him to just chill out – write something generic – write something uninteresting that essentially says, “Don’t worry, Emily still has a job.” I did fun and cool stuff when I worked.  I worked with remarkable leaders and innovators and true public servants. I helped out with projects that were fun and interesting. I just never could say it because I was weirdly worried that someone would write back and say, “Um, yeah, Emily is lame.”

In a nutshell, I have a lot of anxiety about how people perceive me and I hate that about myself. (I am actually working on a post specifically about that anxiety, but I started it a year ago and I’m still not any closer to done.)

I am not the best writer.  I am not the best mom.  I am not the best human. I am not number one, I’m not even in the top 50%. The only immediately remarkable thing about me is my height – and that doesn’t help me on the Internets.

I would really like to use that lack of bestness as a reason not to try.  I want to say, “Well, I don’t have to write that press release or post that information or play tea party with my twins” or WHATEVER – because someone else is doing it better somewhere else.

Wiser people than me have said now-cliche things like “99% of success is showing up” and other such brilliant things. And they are right.

I write all of this to essentially steal borrow other people’s wisdom: show up.

Show up and do your job. Show up and be a parent. Show up and be a friend, daughter, son, sister, brother – whatever. If you don’t have the best words to share, the best dish to pass, the best outfit for the occasion – show up any way.

Be brave. Be courageous. Let your little light shine. Even if that light is just a Christmas letter. Even in the worst years, when your spouse lost their job twice and you moved and you were a little freaked out – show up and write the letter and connect with the people you love.

A lot of people don’t show up. Maybe they are scared, too. Maybe they were worried they couldn’t do the best or most interesting, so they stayed home.

I totally get it: It’s hard. I often don’t want to show up. Sometimes, I don’t show up.

And maybe people don’t know that sometimes all they need to do is show up. Sometimes they are worried about a lot of things, like what if they aren’t enough. Maybe, if you see someone not showing up, maybe you could reach out to them. Show up for them.

Stand firm. Be present.

Grab hold.

Because the other thing I’ve heard a lot is that possession is 9/10ths of the law. (Note: I am not a lawyer or someone who knows anything at all about the law. So, you know, take that possession thing with a grain of salt.)

why I quit

Well, it’s taken me a few months to come out with this, but I quit my day job.

Yup. Quit.

Good-bye.

Donesies.

You should know, first and foremost, I loved my day job.  Yeah, there were crappy days and sometimes crappy seasons, but I love to work.  I’m kind of a junky like that.

Specifically, I loved the people I worked for and with.  Every day was new and fresh and different. That was excellent.

But…

After a night of fitful sleeping (the twins did this sleep regression thing for like, a year, that just about ended me), I would awake to the sweet sound of my alarm clock.  Or, in a wave of terror and panic, I would awake to two eyes staring at me from three inches away from my face. Either way, most work mornings were terrible. Corralling twin two year olds, convincing them to wear the clothes I wanted them to wear (for expediency’s sake), getting them moving in the right direction (towards the door) and also making sure that I was presentable – all by 7 a.m. so that we could run out the door, stop at Starbucks, drop the girls at their sitter and arrive at work on-time – was a fiasco.  Nearly every day someone cried.  Maybe it was the twins. Maybe it was me.  Maybe it was a squall line of stormy tears that ended almost as quickly as it began.  Maybe it was a freaking hurricane that lasted two days (“Mom. Mom. MOMMY. Remember how yesterday SHE wore the pink dress and I didn’t?” Commence tears. For two days.).  But there were almost always tears trying to leave the house.

Oh, and last winter I was very pregnant and it was -20 several mornings.

It was … amazing? Yes. Amazing.  Like, amazing that I didn’t develop some sort of twitch.

Or maybe I did.

Anyway, that was just the mornings.  If I had night meetings, my mom (St. Mary Kay) did pick ups and I arrived home after bedtime, exhausted.  If I didn’t have night meetings, I picked up two tired and hungry two year old toddlers and schlepped them home to try to make something that looked like dinner that, very often, they wouldn’t eat anyway. And then, because hygiene has always been a priority in our house, I’d hose the kids off in a very unfun bath, sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” as fast as I could, and put them to sleep.

I’d like to pause right now and give a big shout out to single parents out there.

SINGLE PARENTS! Holy crap.  How do you do this, ALL THE TIME? Seriously.  Good for you. GOOD FOR YOU.  Single parents do not get enough credit or sleep or time off. While Frank was gone for four days each week, I was by no means a single parent.  I had a safety net that came home and let me sleep and made breakfast and did tuck-ins. And baths.  So, all I’m saying is, I have a strong appreciation for the legit single parents.  You rock.

So, back to me.

I did this three days a week.  On the fourth day, because Jesus is kind and my Mother-In-Law loves her grandchildren (St. Sandy), the kids would get to stay home and paint and color and have fabulous tea parties with GrahSandy.

And THEN, Frank would come home.  Now, while a lot of people do point out that he had the benefit of a full night’s sleep at a hotel and dinners out and so on, WHICH HE TOTALLY DID AND I NEVER FORGOT THAT FOR EVEN ONE MINUTE, the flipside is that he was staying in a hotel with paper-thin walls, in an uncomfortable bed and eating at Chili’s-type restaurants for every.single.meal.  As an aside, I do not actually want to know how his body has been chemically altered by that lifestyle, but if any scientists are curious about the effects of Chipotle-Chili’s-Panda Express-only food pyramid lifestyles, Frank is totally available.

And then he had a terrible commute to and from work.  Thanks to the brilliant Wright Amendment (which ended on 10/13/14 – woot!), Frank could never fly non-stop to Dallas from Midway for work.  He always had to stop. Sometimes he had to change planes.  No matter what, a generally short 2 1/2 hour flight would be dragged out at least an extra hour or so – possibly more.

Once he landed in Chicago, he had another hour to two hour drive home, depending on traffic.  His route often covered four Interstates/Tollways/Expressways, so every time he has to exit/enter a new road, there was a significant opportunity for a back up.

So that was fun for him.

Often he would walk in the door and I would launch the nearest twin in his general direction as a means of saying “hello darling.” He learned to reflexively drop the suitcase in order to catch the child.  He’s spry.

Fortunately I didn’t work on Fridays, so we used Fridays to catch up on stuff like seeing our children. And chores and paperwork.  And moving houses.  We moved houses last year.  I just finished unpacking recently.  So, yeah, we got that going for us.

And laundry.  Do you know how much laundry a family of four generates?  That’s nuts.  Now that there are five of us, we’ve reached epic levels of laundry.

I’m saying all of this to say that the way that our family was operating was unsustainable.

Considering all that we went through in order to have a family, I was realizing more and more that I was going to get to the twins 18th birthday and probably say, “What the crap was THAT?” in reference to their entire childhood.

That’s not cool.

And then we were adding a third child to this situation.

When Annie was born, I found myself looking at her little fingers and her little face and thinking/praying, “Thank you God for sending this baby to save me from myself.”

I don’t think that’s hyperbole; Annie’s birth probably saved our family from the future we were racing toward.

I would’ve kept working if we only had the twins.  I would’ve muscled through it and done the “grin and bear it” routine.  I would’ve missed events at school and stuff at work, feeling inadequate and terrible in both arenas. Frank and I would’ve put our marriage on ice and hoped there was something left when the kids went off to their small liberal arts colleges along the Mississippi River or in Upstate New York (or maybe a Big Ten school, I don’t really know).  We could’ve done it.  I would’ve done it.

It would’ve been a mess.

I wondered while I was pregnant with Annie how it would play out if I kept the crazy cycle going. And always, I just sort of knew, we couldn’t stop the landslide – so we better just sidestep it.

At first, when Frank and I started thinking about this change, we kept looking at our checkbook.  But, in an unspoken way, we kind of knew that God would provide and He seems to open and close doors for us in a weird way. We decided to trust this rhythm we had with God and we had with each other and make this move.

On my last day of work, I was filled with relief and … something else.  Turns out, thanks to an abundance of psychologists in my life, this other feeling was grief.

It was hard to quit. As I said before, I love to work.  I love projects and check lists and people and ideas and all manner of work-y type things.

I just do.  It’s weird, when I think of it, how much I do like to do these things.

So while it was hard to release the death grip I had on working, I did it.

I did it because I love my family. I love my husband and I love my children. I did it because all of those stupid cliches are sometimes true – people on their deathbeds don’t say, “Gee, I wish I worked more.” People dying say, “I wish I had more time with my family.”

I give mad props to the women who work and have families and can do it all.  That is awesome.  I so wanted to be that woman – the one who could work and, like day to evening Barbie, transition effortlessly to caring for my family with organic homemade food and manicured hands. It’s just that, for me, the reality is this: I. Can’t. Do. It.

In some ways I felt like I was a failure because I couldn’t do it all.  I couldn’t sustain all of these fires I had burning without getting burned myself.

Staying at home with the children is work, no doubt. And I went through a hazing week a few weeks ago that caused me to see my hairstylist earlier than normal to touch up my roots. My dear friend, St. Eve, had to increase her data plan due to the insane amount of text messages she received from me, many consisting of things like “Sweet Jesus help me!” and “OMG YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE WHAT JUST HAPPENED.” It got so ugly, she stopped reading my texts while eating.

Enough of that, though. (for now)

When the rays of sunshine are long, stretching across the floor of our office/study/gathering area and the twins are busy drawing a very important picture for me to review and Annie is spreading spit-up across her blanket and the floor; when the sink is happily full of dishes from meals eaten at home; when the girls’ fingers are prunes from long bath times playing; when we have a stack of books to read at bedtime from the library; when we can take our time walking to school in the morning holding hands and saying “hi” to Miss Leslie-the-Crossing-Guard (and Carrie can give her a flower); when our kitchen window is full of pictures and when the five of us are snuggled on a couch – when those moments and days and experiences happen, my heart is full and happy.

And when a whole bunch of other stuff goes down (future blog posts, maybe), I sometimes wish I could be somewhere else. Like at a job. Or hiding in my bathroom with the door locked.

But no matter the situation, this is a pretty awesome gig: this staying-at-home business.

SInce I’ve been at home, I wanted to blog more.  Write about Ellie and Carrie and Annie.  After all, this blog is for them. But no matter the blog posts I was writing in my head, I could never put them down because before I could write all of that, I had to write this.

So here it is. Sort of word vomit. Sort of an explanation.

To my daughters: if you work outside the home and have children, awesome. If you work outside the home and don’t have children, awesome (but get some dogs that I can spoil or travel a bunch so I can bore my friends at The Home with the minutia of your latest adventures). If you stay at home and have children, awesome.  If you stay at home and don’t have children, seriously, what are you doing? Go to work. Or volunteer. Geesh.

’round here…

Just a few diddies, in no particular order…

I had Annie on her floor mat, working on rolling over. Ellie came over, intrigued by what was going on.

“Ellie, want to help me teach Annie how to roll over?” I asked.

“Sure. I got this.  Watch.” And I did watch as Ellie unceremoniously pushed Annie over. “There. Done.”

Annie, because she’s cool as a cucumber, was unfazed.

 

As we pulled into the Peapod Pick Up location, I told the girls to say “hi” to Peapod.

“Hi Peapod! We are here! How are you today?” asked Ellie.

“Oh, I’m OK. I’m just tired and taking a nap,” answered Carrie in a squeaky voice, apparently in-character as the Peapod building.

 

This happens nearly every morning at breakfast: Ellie gulps down her orange juice just as I’ve started feeding Annie her long-awaited, much-deserved cereal and/or bottle.  As I explain to Ellie that I am feeding Annie and cannot get her more juice, she says, “OK, fine, I’ll feed her, you get me some juice, OK?”  Girlfriend is a logistics queen already!

 

Ellie, upon realizing we have a library book that needs to go back, delivered the following monologue.

“Mommy.  OK.  So, we can ONLY keep a library book for SEVERAL days. We cannot keep it forever. We have to return it, OK?” Her little eyebrows went up and she nodded her head. “OK. So, we can go tomorrow, OK Mommy? And when we go there, we can get WHATEVER we want.  First, we can go down the movie aisle. And then we can go down the book aisle, OK, Mommy? OK. Good.  Here, let me show you this book.” At this point she started paging through the book a la Vanna White.  I couldn’t stop giggling.

 

“I want a (fill in the blank).” This question is asked daily in a whiney, plaintive, accusing voice by both of my children.  I hate it. I always correct them.

But they Just. Don’t. Get. It.

So instead, I’ve started responding with, “Well, I want an oompa-loompa!”

At first, that response stopped the whining as they pondered what I requested.

A few days after I started this response, their Auntie Cay-Cay said, “I want a drink of water.”

The twins responded, “Well, our mom wants an oompa-loompa!”

 

A storm came through a week or so ago, resulting in a lot of downed tree branches in my parents’ neighborhood.  We drove through to survey the damage.  Carrie’s eyes became as big as saucers as she took in the scene.

“Wow. This was a LARGE storm!” Then, deftly, Carrie merged the world she saw with her imagination. “Let me look at my phone. Oh wow. Yes, this was a LARGE storm. Mom, do you see the trees? It was a LARGE storm. We should call Grandma Gigi and tell her.  I think there were bad lizards. Mom, can you use your real phone and see if there is another LARGE storm coming? We better tell Grandma Gigi about the bad lizards.

After thinking about what she may have meant when she said, “bad lizards”, I finally deduced that she meant blizzards.

“Honey, do you mean blizzards?” I asked.

“Yes. Bad lizards!” she replied.

“Oh, no, it’s not bad lizards, it’s blizzards. Like lots of snow and wind. That’s a blizzard.”

Carrie was not impressed. I am sure that a bunch of naughty reptiles raining down from the sky seemed a lot more interesting.

 

Carrie, upon eating a Skittle, said,”Mommy, this jelly bean (she knows not what she eats) tastes like an eyeball: sweet and squishy.”

… Um, what?

That is all for now…

it is monday night

It is Monday night. The street lights flickered on a few hours ago, lighting the way home for a few weary travelers.

It is Monday night and the children are asleep… finally. The twins made their last several trips down the stairs to report that they needed water or a song or a snuggle.

The baby, in her easy sweetness, fell asleep with a smile that lingered there even after her heavy lids closed reluctantly.

It is Monday night and the house is humming along with the dishwasher. The lights are dimmed, the counters cleared and the TV silent.

I feel content.

This is a rare feeling for me. I usually have a million things I’m thinking about and working on and wondering on.

But right now, in this moment, I am content.

I’ve felt this contented feeling before and squandered it with worry. This contentment resembles the achy happy tired feeling after a worthwhile day of work in the yard and a much-deserved shower. It feels fresh and exhausted.

Right about now – just as I am about to let out the long sigh of relief and happiness – is exactly when I want to start thinking about the next thing. But I won’t.

Maybe I am getting wiser with age. Maybe I finally learned to live in the moment.

Maybe.

But it doesn’t matter right now – just being here, in this space and in this gentle peace, is enough.

annabel

I’ve wanted to write this post for weeks now, but every time I try to sit down at the “big computer,” I decide to sleep instead. And also it is really hard to type with one hand.

A Birth Story

On May 8, we went to a regularly scheduled OB appointment and discovered that the baby was transverse – lying across the uterus instead of in the preferred “head down” position.  The fact that I had a lot of fluid and a misshapen uterus (thanks to a myomectomy and a twin pregnancy) made it very easy for the baby to swim into whatever position she preferred.  Dr. G had already performed a “version” (changing the baby’s position) in the office at 37 weeks, but the baby happily shifted by the next day. Knowing that the baby moved so quickly, Dr. S suggested that once we achieved 39 weeks gestation, we should schedule another version followed immediately by an induction.  In the meantime, we were advised that I should try hard NOT to go into labor and that if I did go into labor, or my water broke, we should go straight to the hospital due to risk of umbilical cord prolapse.

Thus began my maternity leave.

The first available date for the version and induction was Wednesday, May 14 with Dr. G.  We were signed up for a 7:30 a.m. time slot.

In between the appointment and the induction, I managed to injure my neck, causing me considerable pain and insomnia.  The day before the induction, we visited our friendly neighborhood chiropractor who attempted to mitigate the pain and gave Frank some suggestions for assisting me with pain management during labor and delivery.

We both woke up bright and early on Wednesday morning, ready to meet our third child.  It was an absolutely beautiful morning and a perfect drive to the hospital. I was so happy to walk into Labor and Delivery, instead of being wheeled into L&D in complete terror (as was what happened with the twins). We were set up in our room, I changed and was put on monitors … and then the fun started.

 

Ready to go to the hospital!

Ready to go to the hospital!

Dr. G is sort of a legend in our area.  My mom actually went to his practice many years ago in hopes that he would deliver her third child, my brother Andy, but unfortunately she went into labor on a day that he wasn’t on duty.  He is an older gentleman, with a sweet and kind demeanor.  His old-school training made him more likely to try things like a version, something that only one of his colleagues would also attempt (Dr. S). He was optimistic that he could shift the baby’s position, but he was also realistic.  He’d seen enough versions that should’ve been easy that failed, and other versions that should’ve failed, work. Within minutes of locating the baby on the ultrasound, he began the process of shifting her position.  We watched in awe as her little shape moved into a perfect head-down position.

Once it was confirmed that her head was in the best position possible, Dr. G broke my water and began pitocin.

Hanging out, inducing and stuff...

Hanging out, inducing and stuff…

Everything was pretty uneventful after that.  Frank and I watched a movie, texted, played games, and just sat around waiting to meet our baby. Frank left for breakfast and lunch breaks, and finally by about 2 p.m. we decided to get the epidural.  At that point I was dilated to 2 cm and everything was looking good.

At 5 p.m. Dr. G was leaving for the day and he wanted to see how things were going with me before handing me off to Dr. S.  I was dilated to 3 cm and everything looked fine. After he left, though, my nurse and I both noticed a deceleration with the baby’s heart rate on the next contraction.  I bit my lip nervously as I waited for the heart rate to return to normal.

A few more contractions came and went without decelerations.  The nurses changed shifts and the new nurse wanted to check my cervix.  While she checked, a worried look crossed her face.

“Did the doctor mention anything about feeling facial features when he checked last?” she asked.  I shook my head.

I’m not a doctor, but I knew enough to know that you shouldn’t feel a baby’s facial features during a cervical check. Crap, I thought.

The next contraction, as though the baby knew, involved another heart rate deceleration.  I furrowed my brow. Frank was now pacing next to my hospital bed.  The nurse called the hospitalist (the doctor on duty for the hospital).  The hospitalist arrived quickly.

“Yes, I feel a forehead… and eyes.  What does the OB want you to do?” the hospitalist asked the nurse.

“Turn her on her side and stop the pitocin and call the OB in,” said the nurse, reaching to turn off the pitocin as she said it. The hospitalist nodded. Within 30 minutes, my OB was in the room.

Dr. S was a very professional and still very kind doctor.  She is one of those doctors that instills a sense of authority while still being very compassionate at the same time.  She spent a long time assessing the situation.  During her check, she attempted to move the baby’s chin down in order to shift her head into a better position.  She attempted to push the baby’s head back into the uterus.  Neither effort worked – the baby was fully engaged.  Dr. S could tell that the baby’s head was becoming swollen from the pressure from the contractions.

Dr. S looked at me with sad eyes and I knew before she even said it.  “We have to do a C-Section. I can’t move the baby’s head.  There is a risk that if the baby is allowed to be born this way, she might break her neck,” explained Dr. S.

My heart dropped. My poor baby.  All I could think of was this poor, sweet baby trying to be born into this world and being stuck and injured.  Frank and I took a few minutes to talk and to pray.  I knew I had to do the C-Section, but even though I had tried to mentally prepare for that before we were induced – I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.

I’ve done a lot of difficult things. Not climbing mountains or anything, but I’d had surgery before, been through challenging seasons of my life and so on. I’d created ways to mentally push through those difficult situations by outlining steps in my head.  Just get through this, this and this. Once you do those three things, you will be done.  But being awake for a major surgery? I knew what the steps were and I just couldn’t see my way through. I actually thought, so then they will put your organs back in… sweet heavens to Betsy… my organs will be on the outside… on.the.outside.  I couldn’t see my way through it. I started to panic.

And then I remembered that the last time I had a similar surgery to a C-Section (a myomectomy), I had been horrifically sick.  I threw up for hours by myself in my hospital room after surgery.  I remembered texting Frank and telling him how sick I was. Frank had asked if he should come back to the hospital. For what reason?  I remember thinking.  To watch me puke up jello into a kidney shaped blue bowl while I try not to hurt my already aching stomach muscles?  It was the kind of lonely misery that would not be improved by a spectator.

At the memory of my myomectomy recovery, I became scared of puking on one side of the operating curtain, while my actual stomach was exposed on the other side.  I couldn’t handle it.

I will say, my doctors were amazing.  Upon hearing of my nausea/vomiting fears, they took every step possible to reduce any chance that I would become violently ill while delivering my baby.  Not once during the C-Section did I even think of vomiting.  I was grateful.

Once I signed off on the paperwork for the C-Section, I was prepped and wheeled into the same operating room in which I delivered the twins.  I was moved from the L&D bed onto the narrow operating table.  The anesthesiologist began the spinal through the same port as my epidural and the final work to bring our baby into this world began.

Frank joined me by the head of the table, but he watched the entire surgery, not missing a moment of our baby’s delivery.  The thing about a C-Section is that while you do not feel pain, you feel your insides being moved around.  It’s a totally surreal situation – knowing that on the other side of a thin piece of blue fabric, your insides are on the outside.

But, oh heavens, at the first gurgling cries of sweet Annabel – it was all worth it. At 7:18 pm on May 14, 2014 she made her way into this world.

"Seriously you guys, what took you so long??"

“Seriously you guys, what took you so long??”

 

“It’s a girl! And she’s a big baby!” announced Frank and the doctor, laughing.

They brought a screaming, healthy baby Annie around the curtain so I could see her for the first time.  Frank laughed, “Boy is she angry!” The swelling in her forehead gave her a particularly angry scowl.

They cleaned up Annie and weighed her – 9lbs 3oz and 21 inches long – and brought her over for a more formal introduction.

"Hey, Mom, wassup?"

“Hey, Mom, wassup?”

Frank, Annie and me.

Frank, Annie and me. All of our best angles.

Annie and Frank hung out in the nursery waiting for me to get cleaned up and after two hours of recovery, we were all reunited.

"Mmm... Pain Management rocks!"

“Mmm… Pain Management rocks!”

Annie and I snuggled while Frank tried to forge for food (a nearly impossible task).  In between coos, I hit the button for pain medication every ten minutes. I’ll tell you what, C-Sections are no joke and I am grateful for the excellent pain management (the PC way to say “large quantities of pain killers”) that I was offered at the hospital.

The twins were excited to meet their new sister.  Poor Carrigan, confused and concerned by the logistics of birthing, immediately asked if Annie was going “back in.” We assured her that Annie was here to stay.

Party of 5!

Party of 5!

Annie and I hung out in the hospital for four days and were discharged, happily, on May 18.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

Frank and his girls!

Frank and his girls!

"Let's rock and roll mom and dad!"

“Let’s rock and roll mom and dad!”

Sisters

Sisters

About the Name

Annie’s first trimester was more exciting than we had hoped.  Early on, we were very concerned about some bleeding issues that went on for nearly four weeks.  During that time of worry, I felt peace at church and felt that her middle name would be Ruth.  We knew we wanted an “A” first name, and it was between Abigail and Annabel.  I’ve always loved Annabel and it’s literary history.  We both loved that the name could be shortened to Anna, Ann, Annie, etc.  Annabel is actually a variation on the Scottish name Amabel, meaning loving.  And she definitely is a little lovebug!

Two weeks old, poolside

Two weeks old, poolside

Eight weeks old

Eight weeks old

three things: sociology 101

Frank and I were lying in bed, writing a grocery list and figuring out what needed to be accomplished an afternoon last weekend when he squinted at my (mostly) dark brown hair.  The following conversation was documented on my Facebook page:

Frank: man. You’re going gray.

Me: I know.

Frank: I mean really. Wow. Like remember when I used to count them? Only God can count them now.

Ladies and gentlemen: he’s a keeper.

For the record, our whole conversation made me laugh. I am aging.  Every passing day and passing year is testament to that fact.  Frank, not immune to the effects of time, is also aware of the effects of time’s passage on his own person. Our faces are looser, our bodies are definitely outside of our prime.  We are tired from running after two jobs, two kids (soon to be three! whoa!) and life.

But the laugh lines and smile lines are also taking hold, happily, etching their places at the corners of our eyes and creating parenthesis around our grins.

Life is good.  Even when it hasn’t been, we’ve laughed together and been each other’s best friends.

People who know us, know what I write here is true.

I posted our funny exchange dryly on my Facebook page, smirking while I hit “post.” Before the first responses came back, I was chuckling to myself about my funny husband.

And then… Then I learned three things about people in a small microcosm of social media. To be certain, I am not naive – I have witnessed some of these behaviors in other spaces and places, but it hit a nerve watching the responses unfold in response to an every-day humorous exchange between Frank and me.

Thing one: Domestic Violence Is Not OK.

A friend flippantly commented that I should “slap” Frank for his remark.

For some reason, this seems to be a thing among women: it is OK to make threats about striking men – or even actually hitting a man.

That is ugly to me.  I cringe on the inside.

How can we, as women, say it is NOT OK to hit women, but at the same time say that it IS OK to hit men? While we complain about double standards I think it might be time to examine the double standards that women also use.

I also played through the response as though it was a man telling another man to slap his wife.  Certainly there would be absolute outrage about a comment like that.  But the thought of me hitting my husband was met with silence.

Of course, you could go down a rabbit hole with this one, but that is for smarter people than me. Suffice to say, I do not advocate for any violence against humans. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you and all that.

 

Thing two: Small Rudder, Big Ship.

I am reminded of the childhood playground mantra, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!”

That horse crap mantra never worked. We are humans and at the essence of who we are is that we relate to other people. Words are part of that relationship and words can hurt, deeply.

In the Book of James in the Bible, there is a passage that refers to the tongue as a small rudder that steers a large ship.

That is truth.

When one of the responses called my sweet, funny husband an “ass” and demanded that he get a raise so I can pamper myself monthly, it hurt me and it irritated him.

Something to know about our marriage: we refuse to call each other names. I give Frank the most credit for maintaining this level of decorum in our arguments.  If you know Frank, you know that he is a professional, first and foremost.  He is professional in all facets of his life, even in our marriage.  This doesn’t mean he isn’t wrong at times or that he doesn’t make mistakes or that he hasn’t said things he’s later regretted.  But he does not scream to dominate an argument, he does not resort to name calling to distract from the true issue at hand and he keeps his language generally clean.

So to see those words written out and directed at my husband – my much better half, to be honest – left a bitter taste in my mouth.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve heard or witnessed such behavior from people, sadly. I’ve seen it live and in person. No matter the context, it is always off-putting and upsetting.

Those small words steer a large ship indeed.

 

Thing three: Humor.

Of course, throughout the responses were appropriate responses from people who know us best. One of my friends jokingly commiserated. A few cajoled Frank about his lack of gray hair due to his absolute lack of hair. One said that our humor was the sign that we were the best of friends.

One of the first times that Frank and I went out together, I remember thinking, “I have never laughed with anyone else like this – ever!” Our chemistry has always been punctuated by jokes and games and funny things we do to make the other smile. It is our way. (I documented a few of our quirky “I love you’s” a while ago)

In fairness, I did not include a smiley face or emoticon or other emotional clues to indicate that our conversation was funny.  I simply assumed that others would firstly, know us well enough to know that it was meant as a humorous exchange, and secondly, that even if others did not know us well enough, that they would assume that I would not post a conversation like that out of anger, hurt or some other negative emotion.

Perhaps the conversation may have been sort of a Rorschach test, revealing more about the people responding than it did about the people having the conversation. I don’t know.

I deleted the conversation in its entirety from my Facebook page because it brought out some negativity that I personally didn’t enjoy and, well, it’s my Facebook page and I’ll do what I want to.

Emily, out.