It has occurred to me more than once this summer that simplicity as an option in our lives quietly slipped out the door one day in May. Most recently, it popped into my head (along with a few other choice words) when I had made it all the way down into the car, late for one appointment or another, only to realize something crucial had been left tucked up in our place. What was once a simple two-minute bound upstairs, suffice it to say is now a twelve-step juggling act. Not that it’s bad, it just used to be a simple thing – leaving the house – though that’s so cliché to say. These expeditions require much more forethought these days. We haven’t let that deter us too far off our typical track yet, we’re just learning to plan ahead, and fortunately most of the time he’s up for coming along for the ride.
This concept though has echoes, in such a literal way. The sheer new volume of things. The space and roots our visions of the future now seem to require. The logistics of traveling. Of even staying put. Of attending a wedding. Of planning how we’ll get through the days come Fall.
Come September, the ability to get up and go to work is no longer an independent act, nor some easy thing to be taken for granted. The idea of work trips on the horizon (for both of us) – once a near weekly, eyes-closed its so familiar part of my routine – is now a genuinely complex logistical equation for us to solve. The sheer effort and expense that has gone into our eighteen different child care plans, which have all fallen through like dominos in turn this month, is absolutely absurd. How is it this hard? And why, seriously, why? It wasn’t until we finally found a nanny we’re excited about this past weekend – a trilingual law grad, working on being a stand up comic by night, and clearly the new smartest person in our house – that things seemed like they might possibly reach a workable equilibrium, though it’s definitely a tenuous balance at that.
I find it hilarious in a way though, the instant doubling of our fleet. It’s as if we went from two to three and then suddenly we require an entire team to keep this little household afloat. One tiny human, that’s all it took to tip the scales. It’s amusing, really. My bank account begs to differ of course, but let’s try not to think about that…
Clearly, I knew, in theory, all this was headed our way. And that’s not to say it’s all that hard, or even unwelcome really (he is so worth anything). But the level of coordination our lives now require really feels a bit wild (and this is just with one!).
So, simplicity walked calmly out the door. And then did an about-face.
At the same time, ironically this boy has also reduced us to the bare essentials; and honestly, what a beautiful intervention it has been. For the last two and a half months our focus has been on little more than each other. And the fundamentals of survival: eating, sleeping, and the like. It’s pretty remarkable the amount of energy I expend these days just getting everything back to neutral. Resetting the coffee maker, doing the dishes, feeding the baby, getting dressed, picking things up so we have a clean slate to destroy again tomorrow. But in between are tiny eyes staring intently at us, baby baths and newly minted skills and smiles, long walks outside, hand-spun milkshakes and so much family time. For the first time in forever (truthfully, I can’t think of another spell like this), there’s no work stress in my life: no emails, no calls to return, no impending trips, no one wanting anything from me but to keep this little person happy and alive. My sole job right now is to be present here. And that feels, well… amazing. I’ve released myself for the time being from all the pressure and expectation of deadlines and drafts, and also from thinking too much about their inevitable return with my return to work. And I can’t tell you how good it feels. All the important things will be there when I get back (I trust the house will not burn down; it rarely does…) and nothing out there right now is as important as our little man in here. I don’t think I even knew how much I needed this sabbatical, this kind of re-centering…this simplification of focus, oddly enough.
I measure my success these days in micro achievements and macro maintenance of the status quo. We made it to the grocery store! / It’s 9pm and everyone is still alive! Instead of decisions and decks and the normal markers of productivity, I’m relishing not watching the clock nor setting my alarm for once. We’re filling the days temporarily instead with naps, letting him sleep soundly on our chests for as long as we like (or rather, as long as he will allow), getting outside when the weather’s nice, exploring this city of ours with new eyes, learning about a whole new realm (child development is seriously fascinating), reading a bit every day (both his little books and mine) and watching every single sport that’s on TV (I kid you not, literally the entire World Cup and Tour de France, but still, football season can’t come soon enough).
It’s a strong, welcome dose of togetherness, and David and I are learning how to be teammates like never before. We’re waving the white flag of order and just embracing the chaos that comes with this territory of becoming a new family around here. Because genuinely, I don’t think we’ve ever been happier or had more fun. For all the complications this new chapter entails, the amazing truth is we also have this brief moment in time this summer, where the outside noise is quieted and it’s just the three of us. And I’m savoring the simplicity of that.
You came easily, without a fight. Ready only when you were, as these things tend to go. We thought about rushing you onward my love, taking up the doctor’s thought to see you earlier here, but decided instead that you would come in your own time, and you proved us right. It was not long into Wednesday morning, just past Memorial Day, you took quick, decisive action, like someone else I know…
I woke to you stirring around 1:30 a.m., but wouldn’t trust it truly until your father found me writhing in bed around 3:00 and actually got up to start packing. The hours passed quickly through the early morning before light, tracked in intervals of one minute to the next, as I gripped my way, white-knuckled through each wave of tense and release. It felt different than I expected, less clear, and more intense, but by mid-morning it was unmistakable that you were on your way. Around 5 a.m. we arrived at the hospital and they wheeled me in, exactly the scene you would expect. You sir, decided you were ready to arrive just over twelve hours and six pushes in. Calmly, in the dim light, with a whimper. Arms open wide. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but there you were: healthy and perfect and right on time. Everything having gone mercifully so much better than expected.
They held you up to the light and laid you hastily on my chest as your father called it out. A boy! It wasn’t as much the dramatic punctuation I’d expected as it was a blurry haze. It took full minutes for it to sink in, and for me to believe it, in the shock of having so many questions pondered over for months suddenly answered at once. Here you are. Squinty eyes and furrowed brow, blinking slowly into the light. For all the time we spent together it was still such a strange thing, meeting you for the first time. It was as if it took awhile to recognize you love, bloody and bewildered, limbs splayed and so frail, and believe we finally knew. You were weighed and prodded, cleaned and bundled, and you took it all so well. Seeing you on the outside, so long and substantial, it was hard to imagine how you ever, in any contortion, fit inside. I expected that moment of lightning striking – he looks like a… – but it never came, so your father and I just looked at each other for awhile and then spoke your name. We kept you to ourselves for nearly an hour before sharing the news, soaking in the newness of you, of us, of your little face finally revealed. I heard my mother’s scream at the proclamation of your arrival in the hall when your father went out to share the news.
Exhaustion like the end of a marathon arrived in the evening. The nurses wrapped you in blanket upon blanket and that classic little hat until all that was showing was your small face. The slits of your eyes, wide cheeks, pointy chin, trembling jaw, full lips, broad nose, faint eyebrows and stork bites on each lid. You looked like a little boy in the face from the start, everyone said. They laid you in the bassinet and we kept you with us as we woke and slept lightly through the night, stirring at every noise you’d make, alert and bewildered at what we were to do with you.
You creaked like the floorboards of an old house with every breath, a pattern I found amusing to no end but which kept me awake that whole first night, newly aware of the extent of your dependency lying right there next to my bed. That first night your father did everything though, springing into action at every cry. I laid there immobilized, watching with heavy eyes open at how wonderfully capable, what a natural he was with you from the start.
You and I took to each other slowly at first and then somewhere in the early morning hours of that second night, I fell in love with you, steeply, in the way that people always describe it to be. Something in those hours of just you and me awake in the dark, quietly stroking the down of your tiny shoulder with my forefinger while you ate, broke me open and swallowed me whole. As if a door had been opened by a hurricane: you were mine. I marveled at the small parts of you, and your whole size newly freed, seeming so minute and yet so large somehow at the same time. You, peering back at me double swaddled with half-opened navy eyes. I drank in the smell of you, hungry and close, the sound of your breathing, the small noises that became the harbinger of your needs, the trademark of your company. I underestimated how much it would feel like falling in love – a version instead so concentrated and consuming, it dropped you off the precipice in minutes rather than months – it felt as if my heart might physically fail.
Those days in the hospital were a blur of activity: feedings and medicine, sleeping and waking to new nurses and rushed lessons. I was amazed by your instincts to breathe, to eat without coaxing or instruction. And also by how hands off the hospital was, trusting you with us, as if we knew at all what to do. And yet, we managed, as people seem to do. So intoxicated was I by your sweet face and velvet skin, I couldn’t look at you without crying for some time, my heart was just so full. On the second full day, nervous as we were to leave that haven of people-who-knew-what-to-do, we loaded you in to the car wailing, and drove you carefully home.
The first few days at home no one ever put you down. The only way you’d sleep at night was milk drunk and on my chest and in the daylight we danced to keep you from crying in the brief spells when you were awake. The trauma of transition from inside to out felt remarkably real. And we clung to one another as neither of us had any idea what was going on or what to do.
The day you were born, love, marked the end of not marking time. The hours picked up speed, with you growing rounder and more awake by the day. The passing weeks arrived in turn with a new sense of consciousness for time. The lot of us surviving on coffee and watermelon and all-too-brief afternoon naps.
When you sleep they say I should sleep, but most of the time I cannot find a good enough reason to put you down. So I am existing exhausted, and literally nothing at all is getting done, but I’ve resolved myself to that. These moments to hold you so compact, quietly purring in my arms and trace your full lips, little bruised eyes, the curvature of your shoulder and tiny knuckles, miniature finger nails and narrow pin-prick of a heel, to follow your eyelashes pressed between heavy lids and faint eyebrows, I already know they are fleeting and nothing seems important enough to stop staring down.
So we go on trading yawns and watching you change, grow, thrive, come alive. Watching you mesmerized by the art on the walls, and strong and sturdy already trying to stand. Already you are changing, growing much too fast for me. Already you have changed us in the best ways it seems. More patient, more loving, more generous with one another. I’d call it content, little boy, you’re a bearer of good things.
Baby’s first lesson is going to be "make do with what you’ve got," I’m afraid. In case you haven’t heard, San Francisco (well, the whole Bay Area honestly) is going through
a bit of an insane housing boom lately. So when we started to look around at 2 bedroom apartments this winter (forget houses anywhere within a 1.5 hour radius…) the sticker shock was let’s just say, palpable. The truth of the matter is we love where we live right now and not being ready to literally double our current rent plus take on the cost of child care (seriously, how?), meant it was time to get creative with where exactly to put this baby…
There was really only one option - the hall closet. Big enough to walk into but not big enough for much, it housed all the remnants of our life: vacuums and skis and winter coats and such.
After months of diligent purging, careful re-organizing, major nesting, a few trips to our new storage unit for the larger things - not to mention an onslaught of packages from showers and some very generous family & friends - the hall closet was not only cleared out but literally transformed.
It’s amazing how much a little rug can make a closet suddenly feel like a room.
The good thing about a small space is there’s not much furniture to buy. And honestly how much do they need right away anyway? A little bookcase from IKEA and the world’s best crib for urban living (aka the only crib that would fit in our closet) did the trick. The changing pad is propped by our dresser and we bought a big comfy love seat for the family room. I think we’re all set.
A bit of homemade bunting, a little collection of blankets and the softest grey elephant from baby C’s aunts-to-be made it feel a bit more cozy.
A few canvas bins from Pottery Barn Kids helped make up for non-existent storage too. And David cleared out one drawer of our dresser for the baby’s tiny clothes, the way he cleared out half a closet to make room for me nearly seven years ago now. We also of course made use of the built in shelving that was there to start…
The rest was just details…
It’s not perfect, but for the first several months at least I think it will do the trick. From what I hear it will probably live in that moses basket on the floor of our room for quite awhile anyway. All I can say is good thing they start small!
I started this space nearly 5 years ago now, at first to write, quietly, just for myself; later to do that still, and then of course to connect with all of you. In fact, you all were the happy surprise I didn’t really foresee. It started as such a personal pursuit that growing an audience was never really the intent. But you all have made writing interactive and constructive and collective and fun, and I honestly can’t believe how many of you have been hanging out with me here for so long. And so patient this past year while I’ve been fairly quiet too. I’m still blown away by that (thank you!).
That seems like a long time though, doesn’t it? 5 years. So much has happened in that span of time. We’ve lived in 4 different cities and 7 different homes. New jobs, promotions, pregnancy…same husband, same family, old friends, and new friends and friends that have become like family. And while you all have known me as “quarter life coe” for all that time, that’s a name that’s felt less and less like it fit with each passing year. You see, in the span of those years I’ve stopped asking quite so many questions and started living more peacefully in answers (even if temporarily), a place I never really thought I’d reach. I stopped distrusting decisions and started feeling more content. I stopped caring about perception and found a new plane of confidence. On the whole, it’s been a healthy trade up. Also, to be fair, labeling anything quarter-life these days is no longer really the truth…
This summer marks a whole new chapter. (very) soon there’ll be a baby. New role, new responsibilities. On the 4th of July, I turn 30, a new decade entirely. So it’s been a long time coming, but recently “adventures en route” has seemed like a better fit for this space, as that’s all we ever really do anyway and a destination doesn’t seem likely on the horizon anytime soon.
Hopefully the internet kind of moving is the most moving I’ll be doing for awhile yet, or at least that’s the plan for now. You know us though, it’s always a bit up in the air…
October 23, 2013
You made your presence known almost immediately. The unending sense of off that just did not sit right. A protracted feeling for days of sick and tired and urgently, direly, rapaciously hungry. The kind that gave no warning, and could not possibly wait. The halted walks to put my hand against the wall and wait to feel the desire to heave to pass, and yet I brushed it off. It seems senseless now. You were quiet, yes, but you were unmistakable. Yet mistake you I did. Two tests on a Sunday and after all that I was looking at the wrong faint line. Not sure how that is achievable, but somehow I managed it. Convinced as I was, just as quickly the knowledge wavered. So I put the idea of you away, for a week or so. Waited for my body to tell me otherwise. I took a third test on a Tuesday at 6am, first thing. And I stared at the box harder this time. It was pretty clear after all. There you were. The feeling I felt first was not shock; it was validation. I was right.
I lived with the news on my own for a day. Quietly knowing. Waiting for your father to get home, to get off that plane – from Seattle or LA. I bought an impossibly small pair of shoes and waited to inform him that his wife did not know how to read a pregnancy test apparently, but she had learned. His first reaction was disbelief. Then joy. Then that we needed more life insurance. In that order. How about that? He marveled at the fact that I had known in my bones ahead of confirmation, but it did not surprise me really. I had never felt that way before.
I became an excellent liar. Or so I thought. Something that is not actually my strong suit in reality. I invented excuses not to partake when everyone else was ordering wine. Out of character for sure and feeling like that was a dead give away all the time, I fooled exactly no one. And yet on the days I had to bottle up the truth I started to almost convince myself of the reasons other than you, wondering if you were in fact real or something I had just conjured in my mind. This strange double life…
That changed when we saw you. The abstract made vivid and so real in an instant. Black on white, a hazy relief. Your father came with me to the doctor for evidence, for proof, neither one of us willing to risk believing this too fiercely until it was official, that is to say until it was confirmed by someone other than myself and a finicky piece of plastic. Yet there you were, tiny bean already with a heart that fluttered and fluttered at a voracious pace. Now, I have never had an out of body experience, but that moment truly felt like this must be happening to someone else. To be in that room watching that screen was like a scene stolen from a film. Such a strange role to assume. These milestone moments, materializing as they are beforehand in our minds.
I was silent watching you. Crying. Your father was shocked, and quiet, and amazed.
Now I can picture you. That is a welcome change.
A week later we went across the country and down to Atlanta. At the wedding I learned what it meant to be the only sober person in the room and it was funny until it was not, finally, around 2am. My exhaustion is utterly palpable these days. And yet your father, lover of crowds that he is would not be pried away from the dance floor so easily. Still, I hope I can remember later when we are tired and you have swallowed us whole, the way he kept marveling that night – excited and inebriated – at how there were three of us there, actually, this secret between us whispered over and over in my ear, as I bargained to leave in three more songs.
You could not have come at a better time. And yet, you have accelerated everything. Your nomad parents are for once thinking longer term. About planting somewhere potentially. Yet that place still feels like it could be anywhere. No doubt we’ll need to move now (again), an unwelcome realization that quickly followed the news, unless that is you are literally to sleep in the closet, which I suppose is ok for awhile, if not ideal.
But that is a decision for later on and meanwhile I am in love with the process of quietly telling our friends and family the secret of you, one by one. I love the moment of reaction on their faces – like ‘what, now, how?’ as we confirm that it is in fact true. I am savoring it, and spreading it thinly.
March 20, 2014
I feel you rolling inside now. You are all elbows and knees and shudders and shakes. I feel you rolling inside, and these signs of life, they sustain me day to day. They feed my curiosity endlessly. I cannot help wondering who you will be. What face will greet us. What will become of you eventually.
I am told that you can dream now. And I try to envision you there on the inside, hiccupping so often, catching your breath, practicing how to breathe. I marveled in the early weeks at how you were stitched together so precisely, a tiny figurine. Straightening spine and growing bones, eyelashes and fingernails, vocal cords, teeth buds, fingers and toes.
Your father has accomplished the impossible, convincing me to wait the duration to know who you are, which may just be his greatest sales job to date. Patience is not my strong suit and yet, I am surprising myself. We are rounding the bases, and after what for so long seemed like an endless ramp up, we are counting down now. There is a real part of me that is living in the future, and another that cannot even picture it yet. Still, lately it’s hard not to notice, the weeks are markedly picking up speed.
I find myself imagining you here, 3 years from now, palming the same clementines that I’ve been eating by the dozen these past months. Asking for ice cream. I dream of you small and walking. And yet I cannot quite envision the idea of holding you, so light and dependent in a matter of days. I almost think it might surprise me. This disconnect between seen and unseen suddenly materializing.
Everyone I meet thinks that you are a boy, overwhelmingly, so if you are not I’m sorry to have thought so, love, but I cannot deny that is my guess. I practice one name and then another to see how it feels. I trace it on my tongue and imagine a lifetime of repetition rolling through my lips and wonder if there are any that will quite fit. A moniker seems so monumental a choice to choose for you. But we will be doing more of that yet…
It’s these choices really that are daunting. I severely underestimated this bit. Fundamental things like where we will live and how you will be raised. The great east / west (coast) / midwest debate continues, stronger these days. Even things that once seemed clear, suddenly I am stunned by the sheer cascade of gray. Choosing for you feels different than choosing for us, it was such a crisp process by comparison every other time. The stakes are higher now and there is not much to orient ourselves around. Only judgment calls on the horizon, and more beyond that, so I get the feeling we’re just going to have to work on replacing the best decision with the best we can do somehow in our minds. It hardly feels like an ample trade.
Still, I cannot shake the feeling that you have just a few months of safety left inside and from there on out, there is so much less I can prevent. It’s surreal this process of bend and shift our usual life, and bulge and surrender my old body, and just how much we are in this together these days. How much it’s just you and me right now. How no one else could know you this way. It is incredible and petrifying and also satisfying in a way I cannot quite articulate.
I feel you shift and tumble to the side when I sleep and fall forward when I rise. I feel you knocking. Just hang on till May.
April 14, 2014
Two things I know about you so far: you either love or hate to fly (for that is when I felt you first and so clearly on the take off to Switzerland, and on nearly every aerial trek after that). And you are a glutton for fruit and ice cream. I think this is a good enough start.
There are several things our middle-aged neighbor with the rampant red hair, whom I have had approximately four passing conversations with in our entire tenure here, thinks she knows about you. First of all, that you are a boy. Secondly, that you are coming two weeks early. That, or on the 22nd of the month. It’s a bit imprecise. Thirdly, that you will be a swimmer, and a strong one at that. Fourth, that you will be artistic – a singer, dancer, poet is what she said. And finally, that you will be a team player with us. It’s funny the visions we create for you and how long they’ll take to prove false or true.
I think of that often when I think about choosing your name, how a name is really like a hope. For what kind of life you’ll lead, of the kind of pursuits you’ll have, the kind of person you’ll be. Or a hope that you will be like someone else who shares the same syllables really. It’s hard not to test the options against a certain vision. And each one conjures up something distinct.
You should know, we are so looking forward to you. There’s no other way to say it really. Your presence has become enormous now, in our conversations, in our one-bedroom apartment (which in fact we are not leaving just yet after all, the hall closet having been transformed into the ‘baby closet’ and whatnot lately), of course, physically. And it’s not just me that thinks so. Your cousin here, Austin, a wonder at age 3, likes to remark in his small voice, “I cannot believe how huge the baby is!” when he sees me ambling down the street and honestly Austin, I have to agree. Every week I think I can’t get any bigger, and yet you continue to grow, stealing shreds of my mobility. I shock myself in the mirror, still. 6 weeks to go and it’s all feeling very upon us. Heaven help us, we’re in the red zone now. Get here soon, but please don’t rush.
May 9, 2014
We are two weeks away and the one thing people keep asking me is how I feel. It’s the question I can’t quite find an answer to despite the fact that overall, all is fortunately well. The word I keep finding though, for lack of a better one, is encumbered. But I also feel… you, protruding, farther than seems possible and in a way that is still shocking when I turn to the side. I feel elbows. Elbows and feet and sometimes even a well-defined leg under layers of skin, sharply they extend. Often I can press that small part of you between two fingers in a way that’s almost like touching you before, gun-shy, you move away. I feel claustrophobic, for you that is. No, but literally. The diagrams that illustrate your size and shape these days, the new capabilities you’re forming, I can’t look at for too long, it makes me so uncomfortable on your behalf. I can’t imagine how cramped you are in there, doubling in size in a matter of weeks with nowhere new to go it seems. I feel impatient, to see your face and know who you are, and also supremely out of control. There is no predicting the timing of you or planning ahead as I’m used to, only the rushed but gradual checking off of a to-do list that is slowly dwindling down. But more and more, I feel…ready, in a way. The excitement and ease of the first several months has decidedly given way to this new phase, where the discomfort of every day starts to outweigh the fear of delivery. It’s begun to matter more that this process ends rather than how exactly. I’ve read what books I can, I’ve got a general idea, I’m holding it loosely. One way or another, in the next few weeks little one you’ll actually be here.And that will be a welcome change.