Thursday, February 27, 2014

On Sisters

In one of the most famous moments of my favorite movie, It’s A Wonderful Life, George Bailey’s brother, Harry Bailey the war hero, bursts into his house, surprising his brother in his moment of need. George is stunned as Bert the cop proclaims, “Fool flew all the way up here in a blizzard!”

I am thinking about this silly little exchange as I look at the two feet of snow on the ground and check my phone, obsessively watching the weather channel. We have hardly dug out of the last storm and more snow is rapidly approaching. Caught in the crosshairs of this winter nightmare is my oldest sister, who is trying to fly across the country with her entire family to meet my new baby.

Damn fool is trying to fly all the way up here in a blizzard.

Her plane has mechanical trouble and is delayed and for several hours they are stuck on the tarmac. They arrive, jet lagged, in the middle of the night at JFK. Early the next day they wake up, hastily pack up again and drive 2 hours north to find us and beat the next round of snow. Though they are exhausted they rally with hugs and kisses and plenty of baby snuggles to go around. My little Hope curls up on her shoulder as if she always belonged there, carefully reaching her fingers around her shirt and sleeping peacefully that way for hours. For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, though my baby is more than two weeks old, I only just now feel as though my family is truly complete.

I have two sisters. One who lives just minutes from me and one who lives on the other side of the country. At any moment of any day, my heart is always with both of them. It is a bond built upon shared experiences. It comes from growing up together, from family vacations together, and holidays and knowing that when you shake the box and it doesn’t rattle, it’s probably the night of Hanukkah that means you’re going to be getting pajamas. Or remembering that Grandpa smelled like saw dust and stardust mints. Or that mom always had her nails done in colors like buy-me-a-cameo and blushing bride.

Wherever we are, we speak in shorthand with each other that reminds us that we understand how hard we cried when we left each other for college, how hard we laughed at our bachelorette parties, or the surge of love we felt when we held each other’s babies for the first time. We share a heart. It is a love that is not linear, is relatively boundless, and trumps logic and distance. Which is why it makes sense for her to fly across the country for 3 short days in the middle of three different snowstorms to pour me my first glass of wine in ten months and cuddle my baby. Not even 3,000 miles can stop that. Because that’s what sisters do. Damn fools.

In just a few short days she’ll be gone again. Back to sunny California. I wish she could pack me and the baby up and take us with her, to somewhere where there is warmth that doesn’t make me feel all cold and cracked and dry on the inside and out, the way this winter is starting to make me feel. I push that feeling down and focus on for now.

For now the fire is crackling and the snow is falling outside. The wine is poured. I am snuggled up with my girls – the newest and oldest parts of my heart. Grateful for the siblings I have and the one my new baby will grow into. Much like George Bailey, I really do feel like the richest man in town.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

4 Weeks

Hope is 4 weeks old today.

4 weeks. That seems so hard to believe. In my mind we’ve only just come home from the hospital but really we’re already one month in. Because I am too tired and fried to write more thoughtfully, here are some brief snippets about what I’ve learned so far:

Eating chocolate will not make the baby stop crying. So I really need to stop eating chocolate every time she cries.

That sleep deprivation and waking up every 2 hours does not get any easier the third time around.

That the community of family and friends that we are fortunate to be surrounded by are filled with far more love, kindness and generosity than we will ever be able to repay.

That all of my babies are born inexplicably nocturnal.

That mother in laws can be awesome. Even when the kids are crabby because she’s helping and she’s not their mommy and even when I’m crabby because she’s helping and she’s not my mommy, she just shows up. And folds our laundry. And cooks us dinner. Even when we are all crabby and exhausted and she’s getting sick herself. Awesome.

That pancakes count as a meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

That I can go from feeling like I totally have this mother of 3 thing down to having no idea at all what I’m doing in a span of about 60 seconds.

That I can prepare breakfast for four, cook an entire chicken dinner, eat salad, fold laundry and kiss boo boos and apply band aids, all while cradling the baby in one arm. Will have massive Popeye-esque bicep by 4 months.

That whenever you bring a new baby home, it creates the illusion that your other children have aged like 10 years in the span of 5 days. When the hell did they get so old and mature and big? #missingmyotherbabies.

That whatever you say to your spouse at 2AM should not be held against you during regular normal human time.

That no matter how cranky and crabby and tired she’s making me, when she looks up at me at 4AM with her big eyes and I feel her hot breath on my neck as she curls up against me, she is pure love.

That hot showers and k cups can make almost everything better in the light of day.

That half a beer or glass of wine can make almost everything better at the end of the day.

That nothing is better than hearing the garage come up and the pitter patter of feet running toward daddy. Who is more excited that he is home – me or them?

That for some reason more and more each day I am amazed that this body, which still feels swollen and sore and lumpy and battered gave me these three people. Whether it ever reconfigures itself to fit back into my jeans, I will always be humbled that it was somehow able to safely usher these three ridiculous, insane, loving, wonderful redheads into my life.

That those extremely rare moments when I am not doing something for someone or completing a task amongst the endless list of chores that never get done, when for one 30 minute stretch everyone is sleeping and I am alone with my thoughts and my third cup of coffee for the day; these moments are heaven. They may be brief but they are mighty and restorative.

4 weeks, small steps. Nap time before the next feeding. In my stretchy pants and makeup-less exhausted face, I am fueled by pure love and caffeine. I am the portrait of new motherhood.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Hope Lives Here

We brought Hope home with us on Saturday.

In many ways the day was far from perfect. The kids, who have been remarkably healthy all winter, managed to catch super germs during the exact window of time I was scheduled to give birth. They were a bit tired and cranky and coughing and sniffling. They wanted to hold their new sister and I wanted to be all casual new mom super chic chill about the whole thing, but then I would look at their hacking sickly faces and scream “NO!” and they would run fleeing to the other side of the room. Their longing to want to be close to their new sister was touching, if not impractical.

I, naturally, have caught their super germ. So in addition to sporting the fun post c section glow of having been cut in half, put back together, and still looking approximately 7 months pregnant, I also have a nasty cold. I am tripping on all sorts of weird post-surgery meds and cold medicine and just general newborn lack of sleep which, when you combine the three makes for some wacky dreams. At one point on Saturday night I dreamt I was trying to yell to the children to get back in their beds but they couldn’t hear me because I had one of their Twilight Cloud B Turtles stuck over my head and face. And I just kept yelling “get this turtle off my head!” in my narcotic induced sleep, which really scared the hell out of Hope and Phil who were trying to grab a midnight snack in the rocking chair in the corner of our bedroom. It was a sweet first night home for her, while I yelled strange and nonsensical things at them.

On Sunday morning, Ruby tried to serve us some food from her mock restaurant which includes those solid wood Melissa and Doug donuts. She wanted to give Dylan the chocolate donut which looked like it had a smiley face. This would have been so thoughtful had he not gone to reach for it at the exact moment he went to sneeze. I lunged to move the baby out of the path of his sneeze and nearly popped a stitch doing so. And in the chaos of the moving baby beneath his feet and the unsteady post-surgery mother combined with the general power of his sneeze, shook the wooden donut from his hands, grazing the side of Hope’s head.

It is day 1 of being home. And she’s already taken a donut to the head.

My milk just started to come in this morning but because of a daily medication that I take that is believed to pass through the breast milk, it is unsafe for me to breast feed. So I am bottle feeding, but when your milk comes in and you don’t use it this really hurts. My mother was a huge fan of a strange but oddly useful tradition of stuffing cold raw cabbage leaves against your bare breasts to help relive the swelling. If you don’t normally feel unsexy enough post pregnancy and c section, you should totally try walking around like a bowl of human coleslaw. Which is where I find myself right now. It is my husband's least favorite part, where he tries to reconcile how it makes sense for me to make salad in my bra. I don’t disagree with him.

And I was kind of thinking about all of this and how crazy it’s been and wishing more for her, something else. A different kind of homecoming. But what? A more scripted one? Starring people who are less sickly and are bathed in better lighting and with less narcotic induced sleep swearing and cabbage smelling bras?

All of this made me reflect back on a book I hadn’t thought about in years. It was one that I read back in high school by Barbara Kingsolver, called Animal Dreams. In it, Kingsolver wrote this: “The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”

And so this is the state of things. We are sickly and disheveled. We wear cabbage in our bra and chug Mucinex like Sangria. But there are also toothless smiles and tangled curls, soft snuggles and the kind of truly selfless and unique love that can only come from sweet smelling newborn babies and siblings meeting for the first time. And this? Well, this ridiculous bunch is all I could ever have hoped for. A home made up of honest, noisy, true love. None of us fit anyone’s standard of perfection. It is actually one of my most favorite things about us. We are these odd shaped pieces that fit best, when put together.

Indeed, as Kingsolver describes, this is all I’ve ever hoped for. The most I can do now is live inside this Hope, under her roof. And dream of what is possible, what’s to come.