“Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but . . . life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” ~ Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

“Mother Playing with Child” (ca 1897)
Mary Cassatt

                   

“Human lives are not pieces of string that can be separated out from a knot of others and laid out straight.  Families are webs.  Impossible to touch one part of it without setting the rest vibrating.  Impossible to understand one part without having a sense of the whole.”  ~ Diane Setterfield, from The Thirteenth Tale

Friday afternoon. High 90’s, heat index over 100.

Sitting here in the labor and delivery with Alexis, Mike, and Corey. My mother has wandered off to find some food. So far, we’re going on 25 hours. Lex and Mike got her around 2 yesterday afternoon, and Corey and I came around 4:30 after picking up Brett from campus.

I know that I predicted the 8th, but this is good too. Actually, for a while, she had her doctor, who was on call. Now, the next doctor is on call. So this is what’s going on so far: Her water broke around 10 yesterday morning, but she wasn’t sure if that was what was happening, so she called her friend Katie (who has two daughters), and Katie came over, confirmed the broken water, and helped to calm her enough to focus on getting ready for the hospital.

I told Lex that she had time to take a shower and pack her bag. The same thing happened when I was pregnant with her—my water broke at 11 at night, but I didn’t start having real contractions until 7 in the morning.

Anyway, she wasn’t really progressing, so the decision was made to give her pitocin early this morning to try to get things moving.

“It’s a secondhand world we’re born into. What is novel to us is only so because we’re newborn, and what we cannot see, that has come before—what our parents have seen and been and done—are the hand-me-downs we begin to wear as swaddling clothes, even as we ourselves are naked. The flaw runs through us, implicating us in its imperfection even as it separates us, delivers us onto opposite sides of a chasm. It is both terribly beautiful and terribly sad, but it is, finally, the fault in the universe that gives birth to us all.” ~ Katherine Min, from Secondhand World

I had planned to spend the night here so that I wouldn’t have to get up in the middle of the night and drive should the need arise, but I found out (after Corey had left for home) that only one person can spend the night in the room with the patient, and the waiting room chairs were impossible to get into any comfortable position.

I called Corey (my ever-patient, every-accommodating spouse), and asked him to come and get me around 1:30 a.m.. I didn’t realize how tired I was until I fell sound asleep in the car on the short ride home. Got home and crawled into bed without washing my face or anything. Got up at 6 a.m. and hit McD’s on the way back to the hospital.

When I walked into the room, I could tell that Alexis was definitely feeling worse, so I suggested that she ask for her epidural, but when the nurse asked her what her pain level was, Lex replied about a 3 or 4. I knew that she wasn’t sure how to gauge her pain level, so she looked at the smiley-face chart, and realized that she was at a level 6, at least.

Okee dokee. Time for that epidural.

“One great question underlies our experience, whether we think about it or not: what is the purpose of life? From the moment of birth every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering. Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affects this. From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment. Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness” ~ The Dalai Lama

I know that she was a bit apprehensive about someone sticking something in her spinal column (who wouldn’t be?), but the nurse anesthetist was really good, and the epidural was inserted without any problems.

She began to feel much better, and her contractions were coming about two minutes apart. Then they stopped the pitocin . . . not so good. Contractions decreased to a snail’s crawl, and progress halted.

On and off there were naps. Mike went home this morning, and Lex and I tried to nap, but my mother called and woke me up just as I was drifting off. So much for sleep for me.

Anyway, the last few hours have crawled by. Lex’s friend Jennifer dropped in to say hello (she had been in the ER for some unexplained pain), and then my mother showed up. I had kept her at bay for as long as I could, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold her off forever. Since everything has slowed down again, I’m trying to convince mom to go home and rest while Mike and Lex take naps. So far, it’s not working . . .

“There is divine beauty in learning . . . To learn means to accept the postulate that life did not begin at my birth.  Others have been here before me, and I walk in their footsteps.  The books I have read were composed by generations of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, teachers and disciples.  I am the sum total of their experiences, their quests.  And so are you.” ~ Elie Wiesel

So here we all sit. I’m on Mike’s laptop. I just had a little cleaning spree in the room, getting everything into place, organizing the few things that I can organize.

Actually, after the 4th of July, I should have suspected that Alexis might go into labor. We both spent the day doing lots of things: laundry, making lists, working on the Rodeo (that would be Mike there), and other stuff. Lots of nesting going on.

I really felt bad because I had thought that I had everything all set for the work on the Rodeo. I had ordered all of the parts, had them in a box, and told Mike that he could do as little or as much as he wanted to do on the Rodeo. Turns out, I had bought rear shocks but not front shocks. I bought the wrong kind of brakes for the rear. And I ordered spark plug wires for a vehicle that does not use wires but uses some exorbitantly pricey tube thingies (the precise term escapes me at the moment as my mother is talking to me while eating Fritos as I try to type).

Anyway, Mike ended up working over eight hours on the Rodeo, with breaks in between while Corey switched the parts for the right parts, bought new brake cylinders to replace the ones that blew when Mike put on the new pads . . . of course, would expect nothing less.

“We gaze continually at the world and it grows dull in our perceptions. Yet seen from the another’s vantage point. As if new, it may still take our breath away. Come . . . dry your eyes. For you are life, rarer than a quark and unpredictable beyond the dreams of Heisenberg; the clay in which the forces that shape all things leave their fingerprints most clearly.” ~ Alan Moore, from Watchmen

So, here we are. Last check, Alexis is ready to go—doctor says she should be ready to push soon. So waiting, but productive waiting. I managed to get mom to go home for a couple of hours, and the atmosphere in the room calmed. It’s probably mostly me and how she sets me off without even trying.

Sorry. I try, really I do, but it just never works.

We’re as ready as we’re going to be, all of us. Corey and I took the cradle over yesterday and put it in the apartment. Mike has the car seat in Alexis’s car. I brought a cotton robe that Lex’s grandmother made for me when I was in the hospital with Brett. I thought that she might want to wear it post partum while she’s in the hospital (which will only be about 24 hours after delivery).

The puppy is having a sleep over at Aunt Ann’s with all of her dogs and cats and various other animals. Mike went out and bought a beautiful baby book today, and Alexis and I made some notes about the last 24 hours to add to the book later, better now while everything was still fresh in our minds.

Like I said, as ready as we’ll ever be.

I know that today’s quotes are quite long, but I thought that they were appropriate, and I liked them, and didn’t really want to shorten them.

I’ll report tomorrow on how this evening goes. Keep a good thought.

More later. Peace.

*Sorry. No poem today and only one image. We’re connected to the hospital Internet, and it doesn’t like visits to image sites, might be cruising for porn or something.

Music by Ben Harper, “Happily Ever After In Your Eyes,” the lullaby that he wrote especially for Heath Ledger’s daughter:

                   

Late addition:

Training

I’m thinking of living forever.
I think that way I might finally
get my gig straight and solve the crosswords.
I’m considering outlasting everyone
although I know I’d have a hard time
explaining not having read Ulysses
past the first chapter.
I don’t care if death smells like nutmeg.
I don’t buy the plotline on eternal rest.
By staying alive someday
I might manage to hail a taxi,
and fulfill my father’s wish
of reaching town without a red light.
I couldn’t expect to avoid anger or brooding
or to make the journey with my beasts appeased.
But I might walk vast expanses
of earth and always be beginning
and I love beginning
or could learn
to love it.

~ Sarah J. Sloat

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“Insanity is hereditary—you get it from your kids.” ~ Sam Levenson

"Bathe in me mother and child" by Warwick Goble

“Bathe in me mother and child,” by Warwick Goble

 

“Well, everybody hurts, sometimes” ~ From “Everybody Hurts” by REM

“Stop trying to perfect your child, but keep trying to perfect your relationship with him.” ~ Dr. Henker

Migraine Brain
Migraine Brain

I’ve been wiped out for over 24 hours now with a killer migraine. I had to stop taking my migraine prevention medicine cold turkey (instead of the usual method of backing down gradually) because I had developed a rash on my upper body that had blisters. I know—too much information, but I just wanted to explain my absence. I actually spent most of today lying on the bed in the fetal position with cold packs on my head. Even walking into the brighter living room and kitchen caused me pain. Just have to say how much this sucks in case you couldn’t tell how not happy I am.

Mother’s Day is in two days, and I’m also feeling sorry for myself about this. Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with eldest son. This time it’s my daughter. She’s been getting progressively aloof in the last four months. Corey and I have been trying to figure out what’s going on. But when I ask her about it, she says that nothing is wrong. This is kind of her normal reaction when confronted: denial.

“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Stock Photo of Two Little Girls, Sisters Or Friends, Sitting OnI should say that Alexis has always gone through these phases. I remember when she was in school, she and her best friend would suddenly not be speaking, and when I would ask what was wrong, Alexis would say “nothing.” I mean, she and her best friend would be like sisters one day, and then a complete rift would arise the next day. I always found that odd, but I knew that it was none of my business.

I’m not even sure that she realizes that she does this, but she did the same thing at the beginning of last year. She just began to withdraw from our lives, and when I asked about it, she assured me that nothing was wrong. And just as suddenly as she withdrew, she was back, and everything was fine.

This time, her displeasure seems to be aimed at Corey, but we aren’t sure why. Their relationship has been close ever since Corey and I got married, and when her boyfriend got a new job that causes him to be out of town sometimes, it has always been Corey who she calls when she needs something: clogged toilet . . . mouse in a trap . . .  broken coffee table  . . . whatever. Corey would drop everything to help her, even if he was in the middle of something here.

Now, she doesn’t call him at all. He has tried to find out what is wrong, as have I, but the only response we get is that nothing is wrong. She’s busy. I’ve had the same thing happen to me, so I can empathize with what Corey is feeling: frustrated from the lack of information and the ways in which his attempts at reconciliation have been ignored.

“Young girl…violins…center of her own attention” ~ “Daughter,” by Pearl Jam

mary-cassatt-summertime
"Summertime," by Mary Cassatt

As far as friendships are concerned, Alexis is actually a lot like her father and eldest brother in believing in the idea that the whole world revolves around them. Don’t get me wrong. Alexis is a wonderful, generous friend. Always there to help her friends when they need it, and most of the time, always there for her family. Her father was like that; if one of his friends called and asked him to help chop down a tree, he was there. In the meantime, things around the house that needed repairing were never attended to.

Friendships for all three of them are very important. I, too, believe that friends are important, that if a friend needs me, I should be there. However, the big difference is that I put family first. This inability to put family first was a big bone of contention between my ex and myself. It was also what caused Alexis to leave home after she graduated. She was absolutely clueless or perhaps indifferent as to how her actions were adversely affecting her family. We finally had to draw a line, and she chose to leave.

“If you have never been hated by your child you have never been a parent.” ~ Bette Davis

edmond-francois-aman-jean-portrait-of-a-young-woman
"Portrait of a Young Woman," by Francois Edmond

I remember so many sleepless nights during that period, worrying about whether or not she was alive and safe. I wanted to call the police but didn’t. Instead, I would sometimes drive through the neighborhood to see if her car was parked by one of her friends’ houses. In that way, I knew where she was and could take some small comfort in the knowledge that she had found some place to stay.

Oddly enough, our reconciliation occurred on a Mother’s Day when I came home to find a card from her and a long letter apologizing for her behavior. I called her immediately and asked her to come home, and she did. From that point, things were very good, until she began to go into these phases of isolation again.

“In spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything.  You just need a lot of love and luck—and, of course, courage.” ~ Bill Cosby, Fatherhood, 1986

mary-cassatt-young-woman-reading
"Young Woman Reading," by Mary Cassatt (detail)

When you are a parent, it’s so hard to know if you are making the right choices, if you have made the right choices, if you could have done something differently that might have resulted in a better outcome. I have learned that parenting is one of those on-the-job training situations. You can never be fully prepared, no matter how many books and articles you read. 

There is no other job in the world that can make you feel so completely insufficient and that can cause so much self-doubt. It is a job filled with regret over words spoken in anger and frustration and actions taken in an attempt to reign in unruly offspring. Parenting can make you feel completely unqualified, whether you are raising sons or daughters or both.

“To understand your parents’ love you must raise children yourself.” ~ Chinese Proverb

Mother With Children Klimt
"Mother with Children," by Gustave Klimt

And then there is the “mother curse” that comes back to haunt you: “I hope you grow up and have children exactly like you.” And you do. Your children may not be exactly like you, but they test you in the same ways that you tested your own parents. They push the boundaries and break your heart just as you did the same to your own mother and father. In this way, history does repeat itself.

A friend of mine, in responding to my recent post on Eamonn, had this wonderful analogy: “Raising a teenager is like nailing Jello to the wall.” Oh how true. Except that I would change the word teenager to children, because no mater how young or old they are, your children still retain that ability to make you feel as if you are somehow wanting, unfit, and unreasonable, even when you are certain that you are not.

“Your children will become what you are; so be what you want them to be.” ~ David Bly

pablo-picasso-mother-and-child
"Mother and Chld," by Pablo Picasso

In my heart, I have no doubts that Alexis loves me and loves her family. I also know that the very aspects of her personality that grate on me so much are those aspects that are similar to my own disposition: her moodiness, her mercurial swings, her absolute fierceness in her devotion to her friends. So I do keep these things in mind.

Another thing that I know is that I still have the ability to hurt my own mother and she me, even when we don’t intend to do so, which only shows that regardless of age, the relationships between mothers and daughters are fraught with landmines.

The risk diminishes with age and maturity as both parties reach a point at which they understand each other more than they don’t understand each other. But the need to step carefully never completely goes away.

So in the end, I will wait out this current estrangement, try to be patient, knowing that this pulling away is a necessary part of her growing up. And I will try to remind myself not to be hurt, even when I am . . . in spite of the fact that my daughter, who lives in the same city as I, mailed my mother’s day card.

More later. Peace.