Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Scientist in the Crib

A.J. turned 11 months on Dec. 5th. It is so much fun watching him grow and develop, discover new things. This week I've been introducing him to how shaped blocks fit into their corresponding holes on the cover of their yellow storage container. The first time I showed him, he acted like he really wasn't interested at all. But I am finding that when I leave his room to give him his alone time, he experiments with all the things I've shown him once he has some privacy. When I came back into his room, he showed me how he was trying to shove a triangle block into a hole in his stand-up toy. "That doesn't fit in there A.J., but that's a great connection you've made. Great connection!" I said. I had been demonstrating for him a few weeks ago how you're supposed to drop a ball into that hole. He doesn't like how the ball disappears, though, and falls out on the unexpected opposite side of where he dropped it. Since he prefers those plastic balls to any of his other toys, I think he thought he could sacrifice the triangle block into the hole. It wouldn't fit, of course. But tonight, I found him sticking his empty hand into the hole. Apparently, he had found a block that would fit in there. The cylindrical one. I had to fish it out for him. It was stuck inside and wasn't going to roll out the other end.

I've also been showing him how his plastic stacking blocks can fit inside one another. Once again, he pretended as if that was not at all anything he would be interested in figuring out. But when I peaked my head in secretly during his alone time, I saw him doing his experiments. In the first few days, he would get frustrated when a larger block wouldn't fit into a smaller block. Tonight, however, he showed me how he had discovered that the yellow plastic box that's supposed to store the shape blocks can fit any of the stacking blocks in it. He's found that when he can't fit a block into another one, he can always stick all of them in the largest block of them all, the yellow storage container.

Tonight, Andrew was away for men's Bible study. I was in A.J.'s room and wasn't rushing him to bed, since Andrew wasn't home. When it was getting to be past his bedtime, though, and I wasn't telling him that it was clean up time, while I showed him how we put things away, A.J. began to put his plastic book in the shelf where I store his toys. Then, he put the shape blocks into the yellow container it belongs in. Next, he began to attempt to put the blue cover on top of it. "A.J., are you trying to tell me it's time for night-night?"

Children are just another example of God's incredible creativity and power. It is really so amazing the capacity that babies have to learn from the day they are born. For instance, I've been reading a book called The Scientist in the Crib. It says that while the previous belief was that children are born a "blank slate," nobody ever found children worth researching back then to really be able to prove that. In the past 30 years, however, as they have been doing experiments to learn about children, they have found that children are already born with a certain amount of knowledge and an incredible capacity to learn. In fact, we develop the most we ever will our entire lives during the first three years. The book was saying how our five senses actually inform us of very little information, while we must infer the rest. For example, when we put a spoon in our mouth, it apparently disappears, but we feel the warmth of the soup on our tongue. We surmise that, in fact, the spoon has not disappeared into thin air, but it is concealed by our mouths. We learn all this very early on. Another example they give is that rather than seeing floating bags of flesh sitting around the dining room table, babies recognize that we are their family. In fact, from the day they're born they understand that humans are just like them, and they prefer the human voice to mere objects that make sounds.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Meeting the Neighbors

Last June we moved into a new town called Lake Stevens, about ten minutes north of where we used to live. We've used every excuse we could to get to know the neighbors. During the 10 day trial period where you can still withdraw your offer if you realize you don't like the area or something is wrong, our realtor encouraged us to knock on doors and talk to people. So we introduced ourselves, explaining what we were doing. They were pretty friendly. One Eastern European lady invited us into her living room to talk for awhile. Anytime I feel awkward about knocking on someone's door, I try to resist my objections. Last time I stopped Andrew from introducing us to some neighbors when we still lived in Snohomish, it turned out to be the Lewises, a family that we absolutely love. Because I was so shy, though, we didn't meet them until last April and we moved two months later. We had lived there for over a year. I was so sad about what we had missed out on. We still visit the Lewises, but we can't say 'hi' on a daily basis like we used to.

The next opportunity to meet people was Halloween. We gave out candy to all the little kids. It was pretty fun, because everyone was out about the same time from 6-6:45pm. Quick, but even better, because there was just a bunch of kids all on our street at once, like a neighborhood party. We dressed A.J. up in a lion outfit, and while there was still a crowd, we took him around to some other houses of neighbors we had not yet met.

A family across the street turned out to be Filipino. They said, "Oh, you're Filipino! We'll have a party, and de only people from da block we'll invite will be you and de other filipino family!"

We then went to the other Filipino family's house. The husband called his wife: "Da neighbors are here. Come meet them."

No response.

"They're Filipino!" he said.

Suddenly his wife appeared.

"Gib them some candy," the husband later said to his daughter."

She reachs for their pot of candy and starts to give some to us (I'm feeling embarrassed holding out our bag that Andrew insisted we bring, considering that A.J. can't even eat candy yet).

"Oh," he throws up his hands, as if 'what was I thinking?' Then, "we'll give dem dis one." He reaches for the secret stash and pours large, whole candy bars into our bag. "They're Filipino."

Another day recently, some little kids came knocking on our door asking if I wanted them to rake our leaves. I asked how much it cost.

"Um...$1 for the front yard." When they finished, I asked them if they wanted to mow our lawn the next day. On second thought, "Have you mowed a lawn before?"

"Yeah, I mow the lawn all the time for my parents," the blond boy said. Since Andrew mowed a lawn for the first time this summer, I figured, how bad could it be? Afterall, he has more experience than Andrew.

The next day 12 year-old Kyle arrived at my door, along with 11 year-old Elaine (a boy), and 9 year-old Rain, a blond little girl. A few minutes later, when I met them out back, twice as many kids were there.

Kyle was mowing the lawn, and Elaine didn't know what to do. "I can rake your leaves for you," Elaine offered, not realizing it had already been done.

As all the kids gathered around me, I thought, This is too fun! For a moment, I wished A.J. was school-aged, so that he could come out and play with them.

Later, I saw little Rain pushing away at the lawn mower, her arms reaching forward and abover her head, because the handles were too tall for her. This is too cute! I ran to get my camera.

"Now it's my turn!" Kyle said to her, as he started nudging her aside. It took them two hours to mow our little lawn and it was kind of uneven, but child labor is cheap and they had fun.

When we first moved in over four months ago, we were pretty eager to get to know everyone around our block, maybe have a neighborhood barbecue or something. But I got pregnant soon after, and the next few months I could barely take care of our family, let alone have much else go on.

Alas, I am finally into my fourth month of pregnancy and have been feeling a lot better and have some energy. Last night we finally had Dan and Moriah, who live across the street, over for dinner. It's so funny how enthusiastic some of the neighbors actually were about our arrival before they even knew us. Moriah often sits at her desk in front of her living room window, and when she saw Andrew and I repeatedly visiting the place last May, she called her husband at work to tell him. She was so excited that a young family with a baby might be moving in. She and Dan have two girls, a four year-old and a 17 month-old.

As we've been meeting them, it seems like a lot of the neighbors really wanted to get to know each other, only they didn't know how, and in American society today, it's considered weird if you're too friendly unless you meet each other in some other setting, like a school, work, or something of the sort, and even then, people are pretty guarded. So a lot of the neighbors seemed really glad that we actually came knocking on their door.

I thought they were older, but Moriah is my age, 25, and Dan is 26. People get married and have children a lot younger up here. They got married five years ago and got pregnant 3 months after they were married, just like us. Only, they have two kids, and we only have one. They were nice, and I'm excited to get to know them better. In fact, when I was leaving this morning, I looked up and Moriah was waving at me from her mail box across the street.

I must admit, once you have kids, you have something to talk about with just about anyone who has or has had them. They love talking about children up here. This is very helpful, because the rural culture is very different from what we're used to, and sometimes we don't have a lot else in common.

As for our next door neighbors, they are Christians, and were the first neighbors we met. We've been getting to know them ever since we first knocked on their door, the first time we visited here.

And the Filipinos diagonally across the street, they invited us over to their "party" this past Saturday, but I was really sick with a cold. Well, next time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

24 Things I Love about Andrew

This is for my husband's 24th birthday that just passed.

1. He loves the Lord
2. He has an insistent and zealous passion for holiness
3. He’s humble
4. He’s teachable
5. He’s inquisitive (Such a rare quality. This also betrays a humble spirit)
6. He’s beautiful. I love his face.
7. He loves our son so much. He is so tender to him.
8. He’s very gracious.
9. I love the way he loves me – so tender, yet raw; so constant. He wants to know me more and more, yet still increases in his love for me!
10. He makes me better. He improves me. And when he knows how to do something and wants me to know how to do it too, he teaches me how to do it.
11. He’s very patient as I stumble through the lessons.
12. We enjoy New Jersey together. We enjoy New York City together. We enjoy the rain and the fall together. We enjoy everything together.
13. We love practicing hospitality together.
14. We love seeing God work in people’s hearts through ministry.
15. He’s open-minded.
16. He’s a diligent worker and loves to work – anything from working in a grocery shop to being an engineer. He excels when he sets his mind to it.
17. He’s very efficient and helps me learn to be more effective too.
18. He’s a servant, always wanting to help others.
19. We have so much fun together and laugh together. We can talk about anything together. I’ve never ever had that with anyone.
20. He’s a great listener.
21. He’s a wonderful spiritual leader and perfectly suited to lead me – able to stand up to and withstand my strong personality, yet gentle and not overbearing. I really respect that.
22. He is careful not to break me, frustrate me, or stifle me. He encourages me and attentively keeps track of my strengths so that he can help me cultivate them. He wants me to be the most enhanced version of what God has made me. How mature and not self-centered for one no more than 24 years old!
23. When he realizes he needs to do something or change something, or realizes something is right, he doesn’t procrastinate but takes care of it right away.
24. He is a picture of the gospel. How gracious and how faithful the Lord has been to Him! How He has transformed him into a new creation!

To sum up, I love Andrew because he’s Andrew. Others may share similar characteristics – although I don’t think I’ve met anyone with all of them – but none of them are Andrew.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Nausea and Cravings

I hate being pregnant. When I was taking the baby through his normal routine this morning, I thought, hey, I actually feel pretty good this morning. Maybe I’ll be able to get done all the things I want to today. But just as the time struck for me to put the baby down for his morning nap, I suddenly felt the nudge of nausea against the bottom of my throat. I felt an urgent sensation that I absolutely must get my body horizontal on a flat surface called my bed. I picked the baby up quickly and placed him in his crib, earnestly hoping that he would please go down without much resistance. Thankfully, he was tired and rested his face against the mattress, while inserting his thumb into his mouth. “I love you, my love,” I said, trying to rush out without neglecting to look at him as I said my farewell.

When I got behind the covers of the bed, I thought, I just need to rest for a few minutes and then maybe I’ll feel fine enough to start on the rest of the things I want to do. I closed my eyes. I just need a little rest, just a little bit.

Then, the baby was calling for me! He was done with his two hour nap and it was time to get him. But I'm not done with my nap! It can't possibly have been two hours. I got the baby and laid back down on my bed while I nursed him.

I had dreamed that we moved into the bottom floor of a mansion and had inherited a homemade fry-maker famous all around for it's french fries. All you had to do was turn on a switch on the wall and it made dozens and dozens of fries from the potatoes sitting next to it. Someone was trying to talk to me in the dream, but in my haste, I had to leave them. I went to the kitchen where the fry-maker was and switched it on. Thick, three foot fries were coming out of it! And I could not help but feast on them, stuffing the freshly fried, hot things into my mouth one at a time.

I awoke desperate for homemade, freshly fried three-foot french fries.

I tend not to have desperate or weird cravings. Rather, I have aversions for anything that is not what I want, which is usually steak. However, today, I needed french fries. Not the McDonald's kind. Not Burger King. Thick, looks homemade, and fried.

When the baby finished nursing, I looked at him. I felt even worse than I did before I fell asleep. It was time to feed him his baby food now. "Do you want to feed yourself, A.J.? Do you want to feed yourself?" I said in my high, mommy voice.

No response. (He can't talk yet).

"No? Are you sure you don't want to? Come on. You can hold a spoon. Maybe you can feed yourself. Boy, you stink. Did you poop?"

After his diaper change, I brought him to the dining room and plopped him into his high chair. "Momma's gotta eat her lunch first, okay little one?" I was craving some angel hair with tomato sauce, no meat added. I wanted to feed him, but I felt it was a situation similar to putting your airmask on yourself before putting it on your child, as they tell you on airplanes in case of an emergency. He stared at me as I shoveled the angel hair - how angelic it was! - down my throat. He sucked on the thick pages of his cardboard book.

I called up Andrew. "Andrew, I never want to be pregnant again," was my greeting.

"Don't worry, babe. After the baby comes, you'll forget all about the pain." From joy over the fruit of her womb, a woman forgets her labors. It was true. The moment I first had A.J. in my arms, I thought, I could totally do nine months of pregnancy and go through labor again! What a small, small price to pay! I want a ton more of these! I was happy that I could not remember the misery of pregnancy in all of its vividness, because I didn't want it to stop me from having more and more like my little A.J.

"That's the problem! I'm going to forget," I said, "and then I'm going to find myself right back here again." I knew I also forgot the true pain of giving birth the moment I saw A.J. It was like sitting in a roller coaster as you look over the top, and it's a steep, steep hill to descend. And all you're thinking is, "That's it, I'd like to get off now. I don't want to go through with this anymore. I'll just get off right here." But it's too late. You can't get off! But then what happens once you get off the ride? You get right back on again and find yourself at the top of the roller coaster thinking the same thing you were last time. Just like pregnancy! After several times I probably will find myself in my first trimester time and again saying, "No more!!! I cannot even imagine ever having to go through this again."

"A.J. is fully sufficient. Two kids will be enough," I said.

Andrew laughed. After he got off the phone with me, he found out one of his meetings was canceled. An hour sooner than I was expecting, he called me from the supermarket and asked me which kind of french fries he should bring home and fry for me.

(To all you ladies out there, don't worry. Many women have easy pregnancies, and hardly notice that they're any different than before. You'll probably be one of them.)

Friday, June 24, 2005

He watches the Grass

I absolutely love being a mom. It feel like the best job in the whole world. This morning, I was walking with A.J. with him wrapped to the front of my chest. The sun was shining warmly down upon us. He tilted himselt to the side and was looking down at the grass as we passed on the sidewalk. "Do you see the grass, precious one? That's grass. It's green. And those are the trees." Sometimes I wish A.J. would stay the same forever, but times like these I'm eager to have lots of little ones a bit older, traipsing alongside me, grabbing my hands, who I can teach all about the world to.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

What's Our Family Like?

Before Andrew and I were married, we had a conversation with an elder at my church. He was in his early 70s. His skin was wrinkled and the sides of his head were lightly sparsed with faded blond bristles. "I was in love with my wife when I married her," he said with wave of his hand in a ho-hum voice. Then, he bent over in his chair, his blue eyes piercing, and with a fierceness that caught me off guard said: "but it wasn't a fraction of the way I love her now."

When Andrew and I started dating, I used to think, "How could anyone possibly be as happy as we are together? Are people even allowed to be this happy? Doesn't this surpass the human happiness capacity?" But what that man said really sobered me. It made my feelings for Andrew seem like only a pebble in comparison to what it would become after a lifetime together. I see for myself, now, what my sister and her husband used to say before we were married: it only gets better and better. We were so incredibly in love when we got married. And now added to that is a depth and a richness that can only come with the commitment of marriage and sharing life experiences together. Andrew and I get to be growing up together. We are one, and it's so wonderful sharing everything, becoming shaped by each other and our shared experiences.

Andrew is like no other person I've ever seen. I once said to him, "Boy, if I could just be a better wife, you would probably love me more." To my surpise, though, he answered no. He shook his head, shrugged his shoulders and with an earnest voice said, "I just love you." He is always so patient and gentle with me, always gives me the benefit of the doubt, always assumes the best. Most of all, his love is unconditional. For instance, it's important to us to talk through our weaknesses. Sometimes, we have an incredible conversation and make some headway, getting at the root of why I react wrongly or inappropriately at times. We start trying to dig and get at the root of uglinesses in me. At the end of our conversation, I find myself wondering why he would ever have wanted to put up with someone like me in the first place. Yet, he always shocks me with what he says instead: "Wow, I feel so much closer to you now. I feel like I know you. And I just love you even more." This is always the last thing I expect him to say.

We also love that we had our baby so early on. Just as my sister and her husband had also said, children enhance your marriage. We love taking A.J. everywhere we go. Last Tuesday, we left A.J. with a sitter and Andrew took me out for dinner for my birthday. We found that our conversations were just as good and in-depth without A.J. as with him. The only difference was that we were missing the joy of our baby's company. We know that when the baby gets a little older that we will need regular times alone. But right now A.J. is the easiest I think he could possibly be. He can't move by himself, he can't even talk, he doesn't cry hardly at all, and he sleeps 10 hours through the night. We love looking into his face and carrying him around wherever we go. We want LOTS of children. More than your American average. By far. So actually, it feels like we even had a late start in terms of how old we are and how many children we hope to have (I just turned 25). Hopefully, the babies will keep coming and quickly. We are already feeling ready for another one. (No, that wasn't a typo).

We don't drive a BMW SUV or live in a big house. But we do have each other, the three of us. And what we want more of, is little ones to run around our home. They are much better than things that mold, rust, and break down. It is our hope that we will never love money, as tempting as we find that desire. We feel we live comfortably (course if you’ve seen our two-bedroom apartment and multifarious furniture, you might beg to differ). Our definition of living comfortably may not fit that of an upper-class American, but by virtue of being Americans, we know that we are actually rich. After seeing what some parts of the world live like, we are certain that we are wealthy. God has provided so much more for us than the necessities and only continues to do so.

Anyway, I'd like to give you a glimpse of how wonderful my husband is, and this is just one tiny, mundane instance of it. Last Thursday, I got my wisdom teeth out. They were extremely impacted, pushed all my teeth forward, and ruined much of the work my wonderful orthodontist did when I was 12 (sorry, Mom). Andrew worked so hard to take care of me after my surgery, the way I imagine he would love to be taken care of if it had been himself. He got out the blender that had been stored away since our wedding and ground up soup and vegetables for me for each meal. He bought me nutrient-rich drinks that were meant as meal supplements, made me drink lots of milk, and bought me milkshakes. It was so important to him not merely that I just have some meals to hold me over for the next few days, but that my meals were as balanced and nutritious as possible. He loved me as his own flesh, just as he determined to do as we prepared to get married. I don't believe this is by any means because I am worthy of it. It is much more a reflection of his own ability to love. Really, it is a supernatural love. A selfless love that human beings of themselves cannot give. Andrew has just spent a lot of time studying God's Word that commands a husband to love his wife just as Christ loves the Church. And so he has spent a year-and-a-half praying to be able to do that and working at it each day. And the Lord has answered and continues to give him the ability to love someone who by no means deserves it.

Finally, I want to say this. As you can see from the above, there is nothing on earth that I cherish more than my husband and son. However, while I was going under as the oral surgeon put me to sleep, I saw A.J.'s face in my mind as a comforting thought. That didn't cut it, though. So, I thought of Andrew. That didn't work either. Finally, I knew the only answer to peace in my heart was thinking on the Lord. And in that moment between consciousness and unconsciousness, I remembered what I knew to be the reality: Andrew and my baby are empty in comparison to knowing the Lord. As the elder in my church said in his ho-hum voice that he was in love with his wife when he married her and said with fierceness how much more he loves her now, I would like to say that my husband and son pale, they fade in comparison to knowing the Lord. And when I know that, when I find my satisfaction completely in who the Lord is, is when I am able to fully enjoy my husband and son.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Our First Trip with our Baby and New Jersey Food

Last night we returned from our 10 day stay in New Jersey. It was quite an exhausting trip between being a bridesmaid in one rather hectic wedding, attending another wedding (each one a practically 3 day affair) the next week, introducing our new son to about a thousand relatives on both sides, and somehow feeding the baby every 2 to 3 hours in the midst of it all. The middle of the week we spent recovering from the first wedding, visiting with a few friends, and trying to store up energy for the next wedding. The baby was so good, though, he made it as easy as I think it possibly could have been. He is so precious and beautiful.

On the way to New Jersey, the baby sat on my chest and then on his dad's chest in his carrier thing for the first half of the plane ride. When it was time to change A.J., Andrew took him to the restroom where there was a changing table. After awhile, I found myself getting bored. Time wore on. I tapped my fingers on the arm rest. I know this is supposed to be a cliche, but...did they fall in? I turned around in my seat to look towards the restrooms. No Andrews. A long line to the bathrooms was stringing further and further into the aisle.

Finally, Andrew returned with the baby. "Where were you guys?" I said.

In the restroom, the baby discovered his reflection in the mirror. He stared at himself, then looked to the reflection of his dad, then back to himself, then back again to his dad. His eyes widened as he moved his hand, and the hand of the mini-person in the mirror moved correspondingly. He opened his mouth wide, making his sweet, toothless smile for the first time at himself.

Now that they were back with me, we put down the tray tables in front of us, unfolded the baby's portable changing pad with the soft side up, and laid the baby onto it. He smiled as we showered kisses, smiles, and soft, happy words upon him. When his awake-time was over, we turned him onto his belly (he won't sleep on his back), and he konked out until it was time to nurse him for the descent.

I can't even remember the baby crying the entire flight. When we arrived, Andrew and I were like: "I think that was the most fun we've ever had on a flight before."

On a separate note, other than finding the location of a good church and a job as the bare essentials for moving to a place, one might also wish to choose where one lives based on the food. Nothing can beat real pizza (No, not New York pizza. When you live in the New York area, it's just called pizza) We stuffed ourselves on pizza as often as we could for lunch or dinner. I think we actually bought pizza four different times while we were there.

And nothing can beat real bagels gooshing with real cream cheese (it's not necessary to toast them, because they're made fresh that morning. and the bread is just so dense!). Not to mention, I tend to prefer the coffee one can only find at those delis. My favorite bagel place is always so inspirational to me. I found myself soliliquizing again as we got into the car and I tried to internalize the experience: "Soh-w aye did sum reeel sow-l sehr-ching, end aye fow-nd that at haht, aye tr-ewly w-aw-nted sum caw-fee." Have you ever noticed that people with New York/North Jersey accents really emphasize their W's? My husband has a subtle New Jeresey accent, so if you listen, you'll notice that he pronounces the W in "Andrew" much more than your average person.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Wanting to Go to Ballet

it's been 11 months since i last took a ballet class. someone from the ballet school that i had visited back then called a few weeks ago to see if i was interested in coming back. andrew told them that i had just had a baby. that must have been surprising to them, considering that i looked totally not pregnant the last time i came. in fact, it was at that ballet school that i had one of my first clues that i was pregnant. i was doing the petite allegro ("little jumps") section, and i was like, "i know i'm out of shape, but it's never felt like this before." i felt like a piece of lead, and i couldn't even finish the combination (the exercise). we had just moved to washington after getting married and traveling for three months, and i was willing to drive the 40 minutes to go to a decent ballet school to get a little bit back into shape.

well, after having been hit by a drunk driver during my 5th month of pregnancy, and then carrying a house on the front side of my body for the subsequent three months (and weekly visits to the chiropractor for the past 6 months as a result of such abuse), i am seriously out of shape and have had serious problems just moving like a normal person. so i've been really looking forward to having my body back, being able to walk down the hall again without having to limp from all the aches and pains, and being able to dance again. it only got my hopes up even higher when just what i had momentarily dreamed happened a few days after i had the baby - a good ballet school opened up down the street. when do things like that ever happen to people?

All week I've been super excited to visit the ballet school that's come under new ownership. it used to look like (as my old ballet teacher used to call them) a dolly-dinkle ballet school. the school's name was printed in pink letters in that dolly dinkle script, and i imagined it only catered to little girls, putting them into pseudo-tutus but not teaching a lot of actual ballet.

Now, however, there are blue signs with a respectable name like, Pacific West Performing Arts. it's funny how with ballet you can totally judge a book by it's cover. the name of the school and what it looks like on the outside is a total giveaway as to how good or bad it might be. when i walked in tonight, and saw the teachers, i thought they must be at least pretty good dancers. you can tell by their surface as well - the way they stand, the way they walk, how they do their eyeliner, how tight their hair is pulled back, and either their muscles and general build are like a ballet dancer with good technique, or they're not.

i was so excited to dance tonight, even if the ballet school hadn't turned out to be so promising. i was so excited even if it just turned out to be a dolly dinkle class. when they told me they didn't have enough people to have the class tonight, disappointment rushed to my eyes, and i found myself having to try not to cry. i smiled and instead of asking all the questions about their school that i wanted to, decided i'd have to do that when i wasn't feeling so silly, and rushed out.

well, we're going to leave for new jersey on thursday, because i'm a bridesmaid in my cousin's wedding, and then the next weekend is andrew's sister's wedding. i'm excited to see my whole family clan again. i haven't seen them or my brother and his family since andrew and i got married over a year ago. maybe by the time i get back they'll have a ballet class i can go to.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Our Baby's Birth

It was just as I had pictured it, just as I had hoped - a bright sunny afternoon, despite how unusual for the Pacific Northwest. I gave birth to our first child at 3:42p.m., January 5, 2005. “It’s a boy,” my husband said smiling, restraining his excitement so as not to sound as if he had a “told-you-so” tone.

Towards the end of my contractions, I had been whimpering. “I just can’t take anymore paaain,” I kept saying. “I won’t be able to push it out if it hurts anymooore.” We had insisted upon being surprised about the gender. Somehow throughout the nine months, the baby had gone from being a “she” to “he” back to “she,” and in the last weeks of baited breath, finally: “it.”

Suddenly, fire was burning. I began screaming. Our baby’s head was crowning. “I can’t do it anymore! I can’t do it anymore!" I screamed. "I just want my mahhhm! I just want to go home now," I cried. "I just wanna go ho-o-me."

No one was letting me leave though.

“You’re doing so well, Grace! You’re doing so well!” my husband said in his sincerely impressed tone. I practically thought I saw that with the arm that wasn’t pushing against my right foot for me as I pushed the baby out, he had his left fist raised, arm outstretched as if UCLA had just scored three touch-downs simultaneously. But the fire was still there, and I had no idea how many more hours it might persist.

But then, before I even know it: “You’re doing so well!” Pause. Then, “It’s a-" (restrain the joy a bit) “boy.” The nurses and doctor begin saying in a round, “He’s beautiful.” "He's beautiful," I'm hearing, "He's beautiful." Who's beautiful? What just happened?

One minute I’m screaming in agony, next, everyone is smiling saying happy things rather than “Push!” “You can do it!” or “You’re doing great!” He's beautiful? But newborns aren't supposed to be beautiful. The one on the video in our birthing class came out grey and looked like an alien.

They placed the baby on my chest. I pulled my neck back as he squirmed on me still covered with wet gunk. I held his hot body on his ribs so he wouldn’t slide off me. A nurse quickly wiped his back. “This is so unreal.” I said. “This is so unreal.” I wanted someone to remove him from me before he wriggled off me or his delicate, little ribs cracked under my grip.

Finally, they took him and placed him under the heat lamp on his shallow, square "bassinet" a few feet away. Its sides were transparent so that I could still see him. I watched, still shocked, not only that he wasn’t a girl, but that he was a real baby and he actually came out of me. How in the world did that even fit inside me?

“It’s like getting married,” I said as if bestowing some new insight upon the other women, though they probably were all mothers themselves, in the room. I was remembering when I was walking down the aisle with a smile on my face, while the yellow church lights shone down on me like the lights on a movie set or a stage. I felt dazed and unsure if it was really me walking down it and not someone else in a movie. It was only one year before that I had walked down that aisle.  In fact, our one year anniversary was coming up in five days.  The nurse paused in the midst of her scurrying through her duties, her gaze turning into one of confusion, unsure of how there could be any correlation between giving birth to a baby and getting married. I, of course, was not paying enough attention to stop talking and continued in my soliloquizing.

“Wow,” I said staring at the baby under the lamp. “This is so much better than anything else a human could make. And it only took nine months!”

I hated being pregnant. By the time the severe fatigue returned my third trimester, I had practically been traumatized by the first four months of pregnancy. Despite constant sleep deprivation in college, I realized I had no concept of fatigue until pregnancy. Plus, there was the ceaseless nausea for three months straight. And even with the incredible lethargy – and the depression that seems to accompany it – I could not sleep at night due to (we eventually found out after not listening to the first opinion of it just being pregnancy) being allergic to every green thing in the green state of Washington. As my belly grew and became visible nearing my third trimester, though, it made real to me the fact that there really was a real, live human baby growing inside me. In my excitement, I learned to become content barely functioning at 5% of my optimum level. After all, I decided, though I may not get many things done on my daily to-do list, what could be more productive than making a human being? And what could be more “efficient” than making an additional person to you to accomplish things and impact the world?

A few moments later, they gave my baby back to me, all clean now and swaddled in a blue receiving blanket. He was surprisingly more alert than I expected a newborn to be. He looked at me with wide open eyes and I stared back as we appraised each other. I was confused. I did not recognize my (?) baby. He had my husband’s large, almond eyes, my husband’s sister’s cheeks, the flat nose that the ultrasound reviewed as: “could not see a nasal bone,” my husband’s father’s chin, and finally a mouth that their whole family shared. When he closed his eyes they became slits. And with his full set of black hair on his egg-shaped head, he looked like any of Andrew’s Chinese uncles. Yes. This was a Chinese little man. Does he bear any resemblance to me? I know he never left the room, but are you sure he’s mine? Could my husband have made him purely of himself?

Within the hour, they brought the baby to me to nurse for the first time. With each nursing period, we bonded more and more as I stared into his little face and held him against me. By the time we drove home Friday afternoon, I was full-on in love with this little man.