Thank You Babies

This will be my last weekend that I am pregnant.  It is strange to think about, but I will never look down at my stomach and see it moving in the same way again.  I think about how long it took me to get to this point, and how there were so many moments when I was quite sure I would never know what it would feel like to be at this point in time.  I think about how many times I was filled with hopelessness and wanted to give up. I think about how many times I got my hopes up, only to have them come crashing down again. I think about all of the lessons I learned about empathy, kindness, understanding, and withholding judgment along the way. And then I think about all of the ways that I learned to cope and to find beauty and joy amidst those sad days.

Mostly, what helped me make it through all of those days was the fact that I always felt like I had people in my corner who gave me the support and understanding that I needed. David, Melissa, Sarah, my Mom, Dad, and Knightley; I cannot explain how much more my family has come to mean to me in the past few years as they have borne my burdens with me and seen me through those days.  The past few years have taught me even more about what real friendship means, as I have been lucky to have a few great friends who have supported me and listened to me in my darkest hours.  From a spiritual point of view, I have felt what it is like to truly despair and feel the relief that comes from getting the answers that I have sought out for myself, when the blanket “Sunday School answers” were not good enough to relieve my distress.  So, I am thankful for that.

Now, I just want to thank these two little guys still inside of me, but whom I will meet very soon. There were many days that I doubted that we would get to this point. I wasn’t sure that they were strong enough or that I was strong enough, and I felt that my body was failing them in providing them a place where they could grow and be healthy.  I am glad that they showed me that they were stronger than I gave them credit for at times. I am glad they didn’t give up and that my body didn’t fail them.  I am so thankful to them for making me a mother.  I will miss them growing inside of me, but I cannot wait to meet them properly.

David and I have one more weekend to ourselves (or rather, Knightley has one more weekend with us to himself). We plan to celebrate our last DINK date tomorrow night at the Fearrington House. It might be a while before we once again have the chance to have a night to ourselves, but we have so much to look forward to.

Lacrosse Moms and Holiday Lights

Our neighborhood is the kind of place where tasteful outdoor holiday displays of white lights framing front porches and mini-wreaths and candles decorating windows prevail.  It is the kind of place where the neighborhood listserv calls out visiting Jehovah’s Witnesses as potential prowlers “casing” the neighborhood, sees arguments erupt over individuals allegedly failing to pick up their dog poop, and lists endless requests for the names of worthy contractors for all sorts of home improvement projects.  It is the kind of place where everyone waits to buy their Christmas trees until the local high school lacrosse team Christmas tree sale fundraiser, because everyone’s sons plays lacrosse.  This terrifies me, as there are two team sports that I do not want my sons to play: American football (because of the fear of traumatic brain injuries) and lacrosse.  In Durham of all places, I do not understand the enthusiasm that so many people have for their kids to play lacrosse. Those Duke lacrosse players may not have been guilty of rape, but they certainly were guilty of racism, sexism, and just generally appalling behavior. Even at UNC, I was once caught walking through the lacrosse team after practice. In addition to their general post-practice odor, the 30 seconds of conversation that I overheard made me grieve for all of humanity.  No, that lacrosse thing is exactly what I want my kids to avoid. So, it is possible that we might have to move to a different, less lacrosse-friendly neighborhood before my boys get drafted into the neighborhood sport.

But here is the other thing about living in my neighborhood, a perfectly pleasant place to live, it makes me despise many of my neighbors who seem so obsessed with appearances. Now fortunately, I live in the best part of the neighborhood.  In fact, I like all of my immediate neighbors.  They are good people who are kind and always looking for ways to help a neighbor out (and some of them even have sons who play lacrosse and who manage to still be polite and good kids).  But the neighborhood listserv does no favors to my neighbors not in our immediate proximity.  When we were looking for a house to buy, one of my criteria was that the house not be in a neighborhood where I had to sign some restrictive homeowner’s association agreement about how long my grass could be, what kind of car I could drive, what kind of signs I could put in my yard, etc. I don’t sign away my free speech rights when I purchase a house, no thank you. Our neighborhood has a Homeowner’s Association, but it lacks the ability to create restrictions on people’s property, so that was good enough for me.  From time to time, neighbors lament this on the listserv, as they regret that they cannot stop people from doing things they don’t like or don’t like to look at.

It has gotten to the point where this holiday season, I told David, I am sick of the tactful white light holiday displays of conformity. I want to blow it up, literally. Call it the Mississippi white-trash country girl part of me, but I wanted us to buy a giant inflatable Snoopy kayaking with Woodstock for the front yard. I wanted us to get the old giant-sized wooden nativity figures that Ma-Maw and Pa-Paw had in their front yard for Christmas out of storage in the old black house (called that because the house is painted black) on the farm and put them in the front yard. David said no to those requests, as he apparently has more tact than I do. However, he did let me extend our Christmas lights animal menagerie to include a golden elephant standing on a flashing red ball this year (not that he had much choice, as I bought it at Lowe’s with my Dad when David wasn’t around). He agrees with my choice to add a lot more color to our lights display to counteract the blandness of the white lights. I don’t know what it is, but I hate conformity so much, that it brings out the extremist in me.

We still have some purple lights to put up, but here is our current statement to the neighborhood.

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Yes we still have the candles, so I guess we still haven’t broken free from all vestiges of conformity. Our house is so tall, and neither David nor I are going to be climbing ladders to put lights on the roof National Lampoon style, so we need some lights up high that are easier to manage.

More than anything, what this means to me is that David and I need to hurry up and find a house out in the country (before all of the “country” in the Triangle has been suburbanized) and I can stop reacting out of my innate extremism. And there we can display all of the giant inflatable Snoopys that our at least 10 acres will support without the fear of retaliation on the neighborhood listserv.

The Hold Steady

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I have made it past 36 weeks.  I may be reproductively challenged in almost every describable way, but at least my cervix appears to be cut out for this baby holding in thing.  Now, I just have to make it to my scheduled C-section next week.

The picture above was taken before church yesterday. Mostly, I love Knightley’s expression in it.  He is keenly aware that everything is about to change.  Furthermore, he rarely wants to leave my side when I am home.  I think he might be more realistic about how much our lives are going to change than I am at this point.

I can practically admit that I know everything is about to change.  I feel prepped for sleepless nights, at least in part because I haven’t been able to sleep in over two months, and now, with my 50 week uterus, it is just a comical display of me attempting to toss and turn all night to try to get comfortable and it never really happens. In terms of other anticipated life changes, I don’t think that I am going through anything uniquely different from what other soon-to-be mothers do who also care a lot about their careers. I have turned into work crazy person, because I don’t really like the idea of going out of the office for two months and people seeing me as less valuable.  I keep making commitments to my boss about writing articles and chairing search committees while I am out on leave, so maybe that is where the unrealistic part creeps in.  But I need to do those things too.

Maybe it is also that I know that I can do a great job with my work commitments, but I am less sure that I can do a great job with the whole raising two human beings simultaneously thing. Maybe I want to maintain control over my work life, because I am terrified about how these two babies are going to come out of me and all of the potential things that could go wrong that I have no control over. I know it sounds strange after what has been an anxiety inducing pregnancy, but I kind of like how these two guys are inside of me now, and I know that in a week I will never have that experience again (even though I can barely breathe or walk these days). It is going to be weird to look down at my abdomen and not see them moving around.

But I do want to meet them properly and start to figure out what kind of little people that they are and see who they will become. I know that it is probably unrealistic to think I would ever feel adequately prepared. I just don’t want to mess them up too badly.

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#1 Toy

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I think we just made the most important addition to the babies’ room. No, I am not talking about the 8×10 portrait of Knightley, although I do think that is incredibly important as a symbolic reminder that Knightley will always look out for the boys. I am talking about the record/cd/tape/am/fm radio player that David purchased on Black Friday.  When my sisters and I were little girls living on a farm in Monticello, Mississippi, our Fisher Price record player was our most beloved possession.  We really didn’t need much else. I credit that record player with helping us each learn how to read (we had those story books where you followed along with the book to the record), aside from giving us a passion for music and a love for interpretative, creative dance. We could listen to our Disney records for hours.  When I was gifted the Go-Gos Beauty and the Beat album, it was the greatest childhood gift that I received. It was for my 4th birthday.  When we moved to Pensacola, I thought the record got lost in the move and so I begged my mom to by another copy.  She did. Eventually, we found it and I had two copies of Beauty and the Beat that I spun endlessly in the room Melissa and I shared.

I could talk at great length about some of the other records we listened to all the time – the revelation that Mickey Mouse’s Mousercize album was to us in the 1980’s Jazzercise age, how my mom’s folk records opened us up to protest music, our love for dancing to the Nutcracker record on Sunday afternoons, or how we learned about my dad’s love for Olivia Newton John through his record collection.  The point is, music alone kept us entertained and enabled our own creativity.  That is what I am hoping for with the boys. Melissa passed me down some great CDs to introduce kids to music from all over the world, and I am hoping I can convince my mom to bring up some of our favorite childhood records that she still keeps.  Maybe when my kids get older, I can introduce them to the old-fashioned 1990’s concept of the perfect mix tape, through some of the ones I still possess.

The point is, I love remembering what listening to music did to my kid brain, and I hope that it has the same effect on my children’s brains.  It is a small part of my childhood happiness that I want them to possess.

A Traditional Thanksgiving

This year, I knew that I lacked the energy for creating the Thanksgiving feast of years past. Sadly, being almost 35 weeks pregnant meant I couldn’t go down to Mississippi either. The good news is that Sarah lives here and Melissa’s family drove down from Virginia Beach, so except for my missing parents, it almost felt like we got everyone together.  We certainly managed to have some fun, even without the gator rides and bonfires.

To make things easier, we ordered out for the main Thanksgiving day fare and Sarah, Noelle, and Melissa were gracious enough to make a few extra vegetable sides, so there wasn’t much I had to do. A new favorite for this year’s Thanksgiving was Noelle’s Mississippi grandmother’s “red hot jello salad”, which brought a little bit of the Magnolia State to us, since we couldn’t go to it.  Some of us enjoyed our Thanksgiving day feast.

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Others preferred to eat later in the evening when they could avoid the turkey and stuffing and instead consume alternating bites of chips and salsa and pumpkin pie.

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Do you like that camouflage homage to a Mississippi Thanksgiving where the morning is spent on the hunt?

Other Thanksgiving day activities of course included the traditional, setting up the Christmas tree and indoor decorations no sooner than the turkey had digested.

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Finally, there was the traditional Thanksgiving day “Ghostbusters” game.

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Oh wait, you don’t think playing Ghostbusters on Thanksgiving is traditional?  Well, apparently, Knightley didn’t think so either; thus, his determination to take the Ghostbuster out…

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My dog is a traditionalist.

No Complaints, Just Anxiety

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Tomorrow I will have made it to 34 weeks, which isn’t yet the minimum that I wanted to make it to before going into labor (that would be at least 35 weeks, which would be next Saturday), but it is getting pretty close.  Still ask me how much anxiety I feel on a daily basis about the welfare of these two fetuses, and the answer is, that hasn’t diminished at all. If they don’t move around the same way as they did the day before, I assume something must be wrong. Even though I am now having weekly doctor’s appointments, non-stress tests, and more frequent ultrasounds, I still feel like it is an eternity between appointments and I worry all the days in between about things that could be going wrong.

My uterus is measuring 47 weeks pregnant, and I cannot sleep for longer than 1 hour without waking up, but I am okay with being pregnant for the three and a half more weeks until my scheduled C-section date. Yes, I have had to deal with the annoyance of gestational diabetes, but thankfully, it has been regulated by diet.  When I am done and I deliver these babies I plan on going to a good bakery and stepping up to the counter and saying, “I will take one of everything.” People who tell you that your craving for sugar goes away when you don’t eat it for a while are liars!  Despite my large girth, I cannot otherwise complain about being pregnant. Sure, I may have so many stretch mark, but on the plus side one of my scars from my laparoscopy has stretched out to looking like a Harry Potter scar on my belly so that makes me feel like I have conquered Voldemort. I have avoided varicose veins so far, so there is that. My blood pressure has been normal, so that has been great. I haven’t had that swelling problem that lots of other pregnant women have so I can still wear normal shoes and my rings and my ankles look fine. I appreciate how nice my skin and hair look these days.  So really, I cannot complain for myself.  I will only say I don’t have time to be that concerned about my own personal well-being aside from how stressed out I am about how these kids are doing inside of me.  Oh and work, I have got so much I need to get done on that front in the next three weeks too.

Halloween Revisited

I realize that it is more than halfway through the month of November, but I would be remiss if I didn’t share a few pictures of the adorable elephant and dinosaur that came to visit for Halloween. They managed to get some pretty good treats in the neighborhood, but it turns out the dinosaur found much more pleasure in handing out handfuls of candy to the guests that came to the door. He would always end with a friendly, “Happy Halloween! Stay Warm!” after the generous portion of candy had been received by the visitor. Of course, a little honey bee always had to be the official secondary greeter at the door too. Here are some photos of the Halloween gang before heading out in the neighborhood:004
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At Least This Is Ready

I mentioned last week the unexpected purchase of the remainder of the furniture for the babies’ room.  Well, little did I know on Saturday, when they delivered the furniture things would get more dramatic.  We purchased the furniture assembled, but it didn’t come that way, and even worse, Buy Buy Baby forgot to give the hardware for the assembly of the furniture to the delivery company.  After an angry phone call, and an even angrier visit to the store to pick up the hardware (oh yes, I don’t think I can think of a time in my life when I have ever actually yelled at four store employees, but it was cathartic, and they really screwed up my Saturday by their mistakes), we had to spend several hours in the afternoon assembling the furniture. It was not how I intended to spend my Saturday, the one day that I actually can run errands and get things done.  So I curse Buy Buy Baby for taking one of my few remaining free Saturdays away from me. I won’t get that back, and I still have a huge to do list.

Anyway, the babies’ room is more or less done. I am no interior designer, and I had no interest in painting or figuring out window treatments at this point in time, but I like the way it looks. I was afraid the room would feel cramped and small with two cribs, but it actually feels more spacious than it did before. I hope those kids like animals found in South Africa, because that is what all of the pictures are. They are pictures that I took when we were there last.  There are also a few pictures of David and I from that trip too. We also have various puppy items, so there isn’t a pure “wildlife safari” theme.  I cannot keep things entirely consistent.

Speaking of puppies, Knightley isn’t entirely sure about the new room. Sometimes, when we are doing things in there he just hangs out in the hallway outside the door.

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I keep promising him that things will be okay, but he isn’t too convinced yet.

Here are some pictures of the room from different angles.
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Lastly, I decided to use this Moses Basket to put some of the toys and things that they might be interested in first. That is the one thing in the room Knightley shows any interest in because he assumes all things stuffed and squeaky belong to him. I love it because I love where the toys came from. A lot of them are things that Melissa gave to me that Harrison and Phoebe had, some are my own stuffed animals (like my own childhood Curious George), and some are things that we picked up on trips. A couple of things are gifts from other friends. It is a basket of happy.

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Thoughts on Baby Furniture Post Election Day

Yesterday, I had a premonition that I needed to check up on the baby furniture collection that we have chosen for the babies. A couple of months ago, David and I purchased a crib and dresser from Buy Buy Baby in a collection that we liked, but we decided on not purchasing the rest of the furniture – a second crib, a hutch for the dresser, and another tall dresser, until the spring, to save money for other needs right now. The sales assistant in the store told us not to worry, it was a popular collection and it absolutely would be there in the spring. Thankfully, I remained a little more skeptical than that. Yesterday, I checked on both the manufacturer’s and Buy Buy Baby’s website for the furniture collection and could find no mention of it. I frantically called the store and they told me that the manufacturer was having problems and taking a break from producing that particular product line. It turns out, that product line is manufactured in the USA (which is part of the reason why David and I wanted to buy it – we like supporting American manufacturers), and their other lines are produced in overseas facilities. The American-made line is “too costly” for them to produce, so they are restructuring and moving that collection to be produced overseas as well. Last night, David and I made a frantic rush to the store to purchase the remaining items that we need that were in stock, before they sold out. So at least we purchased the last of the American-made products.

Today, I woke up to the news that Republicans had made big scores in virtually all political races. It truly has been a triumph for corporate dark money as Republicans sweep office on campaign promises to roll back health care for the poor, limit regulations on Wall Street, and cut taxes for the wealthy. All of this is a tremendous boon for the top 1% of course, as it is exactly what they want. How the dark money overlords can convince middle class Americans to vote for their paid-for candidates is beyond me. The middle class isn’t just stagnating when it comes to growth, it is disappearing. Don’t believe me? Here are some facts and figures that do not lie. It is just more jobs moving overseas to enhance corporate profits, nothing to see here. It baffles me that so many people want to remain ignorant of this reality.

I will continue to try very hard to spend money in a way that is as responsible as I can. I will try to not just pay lip service to trying to support American workers, but it is becoming harder and harder. As frustrated as I am with the election outcomes, I will try my best to still be an idealist and believe that things can get better, no matter how much cynicism I feel inside of me.