Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Letter To My Baby


I want you to know happiness. Happiness so big and full that your chest fills up like helium into a balloon and there is water in your eyes like before a sneeze – happiness like a revelation.

I want you to have happiness always. Not just after the promotion or on the vacation or when you unwrap the gift you were hoping for. I want you to have happiness in the thick hug of your blankets and the crisp air outside of them. Happiness in sublime moments and boring ones.

But also.

I want you to be sad.

I want you to know how it feels to cry so hard that you stop caring how loud you are crying and you wail at the top of your lungs wondering if the sound of it will heal you, and somehow, it does.

You can’t understand the value of happy until you have been this sad.

You don’t know how deep a bucket can plunge into the well of your heart until you have heard your grieving voice echoing from it.

Sweetheart, your well is deep.


I want you do be sorry.

I want you to fuck up, and know it, and I want you to feel wretched and small and like a coward in the face of blame.

Because I want you to learn the redemption of forgiveness.

The relief of being forgiven and forgiving and even just forgiving yourself. Like popping out of the ocean into the warm sun and taking a breath.

Sweetheart, you will float.


I want you to be angry.

 Angry until you shake. Bitter crushing angry like a lemon in a fist. Anger that will eat you up like battery acid if you don’t smash something innocent and fragile. Smash something.

If you want to learn something about yourself, look at your reflection when you’re angry.

Anger is the ankle-biting puppy of passion. It’s the bitter little seed you water until you have grown a garden of strength, and resolve, and personal values.

Sweetheart, tend that garden.

I've picked a thousand shards of my broken heart off the ground terrified I would never put it back together the same and sweetheart, I was right.

But the new shape is better, and stronger, and holds more.

I have cried and cried and I am so glad that I have cried because I know how deep my well is so I can lower you all the way down.

I have hurt and I have been hurt and I am glad for the hurt because I have sank so deep that now I float in my shoes.

I have screamed and smashed, a thousand times, and I am glad that I have because now I have a garden of passion lush around me.

To feel a feeling that isn't happy is to learn and grow and become acquainted with your humanity. And this is where that true happiness comes from. Not the gift kind or the vacation kind. The helium balloon kind that grabs a hold when you are walking down the street minding your own business.

I love you .

Monday, June 23, 2014

On being "BAD"

Imagine you woke up tomorrow in a strange land. You didn't speak the language and NO ONE spoke English. The customs were totally strange to you. Waving "hello" is seen as offensive. You are supposed to put your socks on over your shoes. Almost everything you try to do goes wrong.

You pick up the language as quick as you can, but because your speech is choppy or missing words, everyone treats you like you are stupid. People talk down to you. No one ever asks your opinion. People talk about you when you are in the room as if you are not there.

Every day is challenging and frustrating and tiring. A lot of times you feel invisible or ignored, and often the attention you do get is negative. People are frustrated at how long it is taking you to learn the customs. They lose their tempers and shout at you when you make a mistake.

In this new land, you have very little control over your life. Other people decide what and when you eat, what you wear, what you do during the day, when you sleep & more. If you act out in frustration or try to stand up for yourself, you are punished.

Now, imagine that everyone is at least twice as tall as you. Yep. Be nice to babies & toddlers & little kids. We joke that they have it easy with the naps and the toys and the no-jobs. But would you want that life? I wouldn't.


I am as guilty as any parent of getting frustrated with my child, losing my temper, etc. Sometimes I think for me, I know Cash is so smart and so capable, and he KNOWS right from wrong so I do get angry with him when he "strays the course" so to speak. And, aside from being a parent, when you live with someone, anyone, they start to annoy you. That's life. Jack & Cash & I all love each other to the ends of the earth, but it would be a lie if I said we didn't all drive each other crazy sometimes. I think wanting someone in your life who drives you crazy is at least partially the definition of love. Or should be?

So I am not perfect, not even close... lost my temper with him today when he asked me for a snack (15 minutes after lunch) while I was trying to watch a movie with my grandma. Okay actually it was the 17th time he asked in a two minute span (16 "no"s & he was undeterred...) that I snapped... snatched him up, took him to the other room, flopped him on the couch. He tried to squirm away so I held his face and said something like "YOU NEED TO CHILL OUT YOU ARE DRIVING ME NUTS NO YOU CAN NOT HAVE A SNACK RIGHT NOW IF YOU ASK ME AGAIN YOU ARE GOING TO BED BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY YOU ARE NOT IN YOUR RIGHT MIND" and he said "mama you're hurting me, you're hurting my cheeks." And I immediately felt horrible & guilty, though I know his cheeks are fine, because I probably was giving them a good squeeze. For no good reason.

AND... so much and... this is not my way of saying let kids run free like wild animals. We run a very tight ship around here, and while I NEVER "discipline" my child with physical harm or threat of physical harm, we have a whole lot of rules & boundaries and we hold Cash accountable for his actions. We expect him to conduct himself like a little gentleman in training, so far as can be expected from a three year old. I think that is way too important of a life lesson to miss out on.

All of this to say. I am not the worlds best mom. And I do think children need rules & boundaries. BUT. I am going to try to have a little more empathy. I look in Cash's eyes and see how frustrated (not crazy, not bad - FRUSTRATED) he is when I don't understand what he is trying to say. When he wants a toy to work but it won't. When he can't get his shoe off but he does not want my help. When he wants to do one thing and I want him to do another. When he just wants a freaking snack dammit why is that so much to ask.


Full disclosure is that Cash has been having some issues with hitting at school. Not his classmates (whew) but his teachers. And I just DO NOT GET IT. He loves his teachers. Seriously loves them, only has nice things to say when I ask. You know Cash, hes... Cash. Hes a sweet heart. Hes a lover. He is the one who tells me not to honk at other drivers because driving is hard... who tells me not to laugh at the people on Americas Funniest Home Videos. Because he thought they were doing a good job singing.

We have done everything. Bribed him. Punished him. We have sat him down and had heart to heart chats about it. We have had pep talks in the car on the way to school. Some times it helps, a little. He has more good days than bad now, but he is still having bad days and it sucks. This is my current mommy crisis. The one I will surely be looking back on soon, like the Speech Delay Crisis and the Potty Training Crisis. Someday it will be nothing, but right now its frustrating and sometimes I just need to collapse in my bed and cry about it because I don't know what else to do. Maybe you don't understand that.

Maybe I don't always understand why sometimes Cash needs to collapse on the floor and cry when the puzzle piece won't fit or the cup he wants isn't clean or I put the laundry into the dryer without asking for his help. But dammit that's frustrating, and he just doesn't know what else to do.

This frustration, it seems, can also manifest itself as taking a few good swings at someone. Which isn't right, and isn't okay, and isn't something that will ever be allowed. But is it "BAD"? Is he "BAD"? Are we "BAD" parents because its happening? Or is there just some communication link that's lost here?


Having reflected on it for some time, I just think being three is no cake walk. None of us have it easy. That's why we need each other.

Monday, June 16, 2014

More Lunch Boxing

More on the topic of packing lunches -

You know I *try* to stay away from processed stuff (not perfect by any means, just getting better!) and this extends to the lunch box. It gets hard though. We know the granola bars and mini bags of cheez-its are not the best for our kids health, but they are so damn convenient. Plus kids like stuff like that. Little things they can open & unwrap that are just their size.

So what do you do?

Well, I have two approaches. Tactic one (which I will just touch on briefly because it kind of speaks for itself) is prepping. Last post I talked about a pasta salad I prep for Cash's lunch. You can also do things like cut celery into bite size pieces, put a handful of pretzels or grapes into a few containers, etc. The upside to prepping is 1) its cheaper than buying the little individually portioned stuff and 2) less waste. The downside is well, you have to actually do the prepping. I am totally aware that working part time from home / being a stay at home mom to one measly kid gives me time to do this that other people might not have. Hell, sometimes I still don't have the time. Which brings me to tactic two:

Non-horrible lunch box stuff. Believe it or not there ARE options out there, that are just as convenient as granola bars & cheez-its. Here are some that go over well around here:

1. Emerald 100 Calorie Pack Almonds

These come with 7 little bags of almonds - they are the perfect size for tossing in a lunch box. Almonds are super healthy & protein-y, plus yummy & crunchy. The best part of these is if you read the ingredients they say "Ingredients: Almonds". No added salt, sugar, anything. I LOVE that. I actually brought these as a snack to one of Cash's soccer games, and I wasn't sure how they would go over (is this something only my little hippie child will want to eat, I wondered). They were a HIT.

2. Clementines

I've yet to meet a kid who didn't freaking love these. Its like a mini kid size orange. And like bananas, they come in their own "packaging" so all you have to do is toss it right into the lunch box. 

3. Squeeze Pouches

Or squeezies as they are known around here. There are a million kinds and flavors, just make sure you read the ingredients. For the vegetable averse, there are lots that have veggies in them but a prominent fruity taste. There are lots of healthy and organic options if you look. Personally I really like the Motts Natural Apple Sauce. Motts is a "common" brand so they aren't too expensive and there are sales/coupons for them pretty often. Just make SURE you get the ones that say natural (they are just apples & water plus ascorbic acid for freshness). Otherwise you are probably getting corn syrup.


4. Pickles & Olives

Cash loves pickles & olives. I know a lot of kids do, some don't. They make fun little lunch box packs of these now too. I have bought him the "Pearls Olives to Go" and he loved them. I don't *love* the fact that they have Ferrous Gluconate added (most canned black olives do, it makes them blacker), but by comparison, its not the worst thing. I saw online that they sell green & kalamata in the To Go packs now too, which I would LOVE to get my hands on. But they have not popped up at my Kroger yet. :(

I also tried the Mt. Olive pickle packs once too because I had a coupon. They disappeared fast.

5. Carrots

They make cute little carrot snack packs now too. I have seen a few different brands doing this, actually. And they aren't just regular baby carrots, they are super small mini carrots that are really easy for small kids to munch on. Cassius freaking loves these with or without dip.

6. Hummus

Hummus is the ultimate kid food. Its creamy and mild and savory, all kids love dip, and its super healthy. If you're a millionaire, Sabra makes these awesome little snack packs that come with pretzels & hummus. Cash loves them and we will treat him to one on occasion at the coffee shop. However, I could never afford to do them as a regular lunch thing because they cost like $2.50 each which is only about $0.50 less than an actual full sized tub of hummus thank-you-very-much. I actually like to buy a box of pretzels & a tub of hummus & prep home made versions of this for his lunch. There is a brand called Cedars that makes a smaller (more snack than entree sized) version that are only about $1.25 each, which is better, but I haven't seen them where I shop. Option B though, is they do make just the little hummus packs (sans pretzels) which are much cheaper and can be paired with anything you want (like baby carrots!) see below:

7. Salsa & Guacamole
On the topic of dip, they have been making cute snack packs of these classics too. Just remember to read ingredients! Some brands are definitely better than others. Wholly Guacamole & Chi Chi's salsa actually have pretty good ingredients.

8. Lara Bars
I will forever be singing the praises of Lara Bars. They certainly are not sugar-less, but they are waaaaaayyy minimally processed compared to a regular granola bar. For example, for Cash's favorite flavor "Cashew Cookie" this is the ingredients list: "Cashews, Dates". Like, that's it. They have no added sugars, nothing. And they come in a zillion flavors of which your child will surely find a few they like. At $1 each they're not crazy cheap, but its not something a kid needs every day either. I usually buy 3-4 for a week, and Cash will often eat half of one and finish it the next day.

Well, that's all of our favorites off the top of my head. I would love to know some of your favorites! Oh and last thing, if you have the time/energy to do a little prepping, these are the perfect size for whipping up some "snack packs" of your own. I will be making some "beet" ones for Cash, because he is awesome/loony and loves them.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Lunch Box Pasta Salad

Now that Casho is in preschool, I am officially a lunch packer. I am sure this is news to no one, but packing a lunch day in and day out... its kinda challenging. Especially because as you know I try to avoid processed stuff when I can. That's not to say that the kid never gets crackers or a lara bar, but I try. And you know I am not a morning person.

Anyway here is our latest recipe (yes I say OUR because this is a collaborative effort between Cash and I). Its pathetically easy to make, and this recipe is for a whole batch you can keep in the fridge and plop in the lunch box all week.

This recipe is also super flexible... I will explain what we put in and why, but you can substitute to your hearts content. Making this more of an inspiration than a recipe I suppose... anyway...

1. Boil Pasta, drain, rinse with cold water until cool, drain.

You can literally use ANY pasta here. I like short noodles like rotini or penne because they make good finger food (I would like to note that my three year old does in fact know how to use a fork. Unfortunately "ability" and "desire" are not one in the same). If this was purely my recipe I probably would have chosen whole wheat but, Cash chose "rainbow noodles" because, duh.

2. In large bowl, add a can of chickpeas, about 1/4 cup chopped olives, and about 1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half.

Or you know, whatever. I put the chickpeas in for a protein boost. Who doesn't love chickpeas? Plus, all you have to do is drain them and dump. So fantastically lazy. The olives go in for some healthy fat, and because they are tasty. Cassius LOVES olives of all sorts, but kalamatas are his fave so that's what I used here. I know olives can be hit-or-miss with kids... chopped up pickle might be a good flavorful replacement. Avocado would be a good healthy-fat swap, but wouldn't keep as long, unfortunately. If your child eats dairy, a handful of cheese cubes is another idea.

 As for the tomatoes Cash likes them and they add a little bit of veggie-ness. Steamed broccoli or chopped cucumber would be great options too. Again, if this were all me, I would have stuck with red tomatoes. Yellow tomatoes weird me out. Cash however thought they were THE COOLEST thing he had ever seen and was completely inflexible about their inclusion.

Well anyway, stir it up, and that's it! I don't include a dressing of any kind because the olives and tomatoes add enough flavor and since I know he is going to eat this will his fingers, I figure I will spare his preschool teachers the mess (you're welcome).

I stick that in his lunch box with maybe an apple, and sometimes something else exciting he picked from the store (this week he wanted those mini cans of V8).

Happy Lunching!!!

*PS this works for grown ups too you know - I had this in the fridge for Cash and caught Jack making himself a bowl & sprinkling some feta on top*

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Love was such an easy game to play

Have you ever traveled so far, that you feel like your past is not your own? I am uncomfortable visiting some of my own memories. Like a stranger intruding on someone else's life. I don't belong there.

I'm not welcome.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cash's Birth Story Part 2

Are you ready for an even more difficult to follow, emotionally scattered ride?

Going into all of this, Jack and I (both pretty squeamish) agreed that we did not want to see anything bloody or guts-y. He was adamantly anti-cord cutting. We had some kind of plan of staring into each others eyes, or something equally stupid, that got thrown out the window as soon as I went into shock and delivered a baby in total bad-ass delirium. Apparently at some point, as a form of encouragement, a nurse offered me a mirror and I shouted "god, no!" or something like that. So I held up my end of the bargain. Jack however succumbed to curiosity and told me it was the most insanely awesome thing he had ever seen, like a star exploding in space or something. He even said he would have cut the cord, had Cash not been strangled by it, making it an emergency procedure that had to be done by the doctor.

Due to the cord being wrapped around his neck, they didn't lay Cassius on my chest like a nurse had suggested during the morphine fiasco. They whisked him instantly away, after that brief peek. So I didn't see his face, and I didn't see his fingers or toes. Just a baby. A person. A freaking HUMAN BEING. Like. With eyeballs, and a central nervous system, and thought patterns and a conscience and a respiratory system holy crap. I did that.


Because this is what becoming a mother does to you, or, did to me, I am going to go totally into la-la-land here and you can follow me down the rabbit hole if you please. Do you ever think about how incredible life is? I don't mean each of our lives independently necessarily but, like, life itself. I am not a religious person but I get why people believe in a higher power because you get this sense of life being this totally fluid continuous experience that you are only a speck of, but also a channel of, and you realize it doesn't start with being born and it doesn't end with dying.

I think about how every breath we take, we are inhaling these particles. These microscopic pieces of history. Of everyone and everything that has ever lived or died. Some hero of the civil war could have died on the battlefield, clutching a romantic love letter (this is of course how I picture it) and then later, much much later, someone plants potatoes in that field. And those get made into potato chips. Which my mother enjoys on a warm, late summer evening, a few days before she finds out she is pregnant with me.

We are all here on this planet just getting recycled and reborn and I am all for believing what ever you want but you don't even have to "believe" this I mean, it is science and it is real and its happening and its incredible.

While I laid there in the bed, thinking about all of this and also about how freaking tired I was, Jack was having an experience of his own. He followed Cash as the team of doctors and nurses whisked him away. He held his hand. When Cassius cried, Jack would talk softly to him, and Cash would stop, his bleary eyes searching for the familiar voice.

Its been said that a woman becomes a mother once she becomes pregnant and a man becomes a father once his child is born. I am never a fan of time-honored generalizations, but in this case, Jack says for him it was pretty true. Jack was incredible throughout my entire pregnancy. He waited on me hand and foot, was there with me at every possible check up, even the boring ones he didn't really need to attend. He kept the house stocked with my latest cravings and nearly assaulted a Taco Bell employee who made my cry by putting sour cream on my burrito. All of that he says, for me. Where I stayed up reading What To Expect When You're Expecting for Cassius, he stayed up reading it for me. In the hospital room, I had sweaty palms when Cash's heart monitor would drop, Jack had sweaty palms when I threw up 16 ounces of cranberry juice like a low budget reenactment of The Exorcist.

Cassius was a stranger, until the moment he wasn't. Until the exact second the universe exploded and Jack saw his son for the first time. And all the emotions I had gradually worked my way up to over the course of nine months got dumped on Jacks head like a bucket of cold water.

Finally, after a round of hurried tests confirmed that Cassius was healthy and thriving and no worse for his mildly traumatic birth, they brought him to me. And the funny thing is, my first thought was, hey, I know you! And he looked at me, and he looked at Jack, with this look as if to say, oh, you guys!

He was his regular, chill self from the very beginning. As long as he was in my arms, and had a hold of Jack's hand, he was cool with whatever.

All of the grandparents got to oooh and ahhh over him.

And I am eternally grateful to whoever took the photo above ^. Because it is the only picture I got of that day that has Jack in it (since he was the camera man) and I can't even explain how perfectly it captures who he was that day. Can't be bothered to look at the camera. Look at what is right here! I've said before, the thing I love MOST about Jack, is something I didn't even know about him until that day. Something I think he didn't even know about himself.

Oh and. Remember how I talked about hilarious sitcom style events, and how there were a few? Can't forget this one.

So Cash was born at 2:02 am. Lots of rejoicing and baby passing and photo taking followed. I am not sure what time I FINALLY got to fall asleep (the absolute most needed, and earned, sleep of my life) but I was NOT prepared to wake up at 6am. To the sound of banging and grunting.

My mom and Jack were in the room with me, and my newest of newborn babies. We were all sleeping, and then awakened by a maintenance worker having a very loud and apparently arduous experience in the bathroom. He comes shuffling out, and says to me, I swear to god, FOUR HOURS after giving birth "So what did you flush down the toilet!?" Considering that I had been catheterized for the past 12 hours and hadn't eaten in nearly 36, I hadn't personally even seen the inside of that bathroom.

We assure him we have no idea what he is talking about. He scoffs and leaves, and then returns with more tools. Hooray! Suddenly from the bathroom comes the most outrageous, unbelievable grunting I have ever heard. If I were to describe the sounds he was making it would be completely NSFW so suffice to say it was absolutely hilarious. Until he shouted an obscenity. And then water started pouring out into my hospital room.

The really sad news is that the solution to this problem was to move me out of the sweet corner room with the great views and tempurpedic bed to a new room. It was smaller. It had one window, about three inches from which was a brick wall. Oh and my new bed felt like an inflatable rubber pool raft.

But, I had this guy to keep me company:

So it was alright.


Before I had Cassius, I thought, motherhood won't change me. How silly when women say becoming mothers totally transformed their lives. That isn't going to change who I am.

All of this thought, in the most condescending way possible, by someone who didn't know who in the hell she was. By someone who looked in the mirror (at her very young and fantastically lovely body) and saw a thousand flaws stitched together in the shape of a human being.

And then, at 2:02 am on a Saturday in January, I was struck by lightning, and instead of seeing my flaws in the mirror, I saw my incredible, unfathomable power in the shape of a 7 pound baby boy. The nurse held him up for me, just for a flash, for a second. The longest shortest moment of my entire life.

I am a badass. I am the hand of mother nature. It is true that motherhood did not change me. It did not make me these things. But it did give me the eyes to see it. I am the same. But I am new. I have no fear when it comes to advocating for my child. I have a new depth of understanding for nature. I have a new humility for both the power and fragility of human life. Pregnancy was something I never really wanted to experience, but in my case, I am glad I did. I needed it. Now, when I go bathing suit shopping with my new mom-body, which according to a magazine editor is probably much less great than it was previously, all I see is awesomeness. Look at those childbearing hips! I am a goddess! Basically this:

Yes. That is a man blowing into a conch shell in my honor.

I often joke that childbirth made me a feminist. Which is kind of a joke but also kind of not even a big enough word. There were a lot of reasons I didn't love being pregnant, but its hard not to feel important when there is a human being growing inside of your body. Just populating the earth over here! Continuing the human race, no big deal! Magic, cosmic stuff your mortal brain can't comprehend happenin' in my abdomen, don't worry about it! Make that bagel amazing, because I will be using it to create a human mind and personality, no stress! Its no wonder that in ages before people decided to start referring to god as "he", giving men an embarrassing superiority complex that makes no sense in the natural world, dudes spent their days mindlessly whittling Beyonce-esqe lady figures and sketching boobs on cave walls. "I should probably go hunting/gathering right now, but all I can think about is how awesome women are." 


But then again, guys are okay too.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cash's Birth Story

Going back to my goal of writing all about Cash's life up to age 2, here is his birth story. I know I am telling all of these stories out of order, but hey. I want to write it down before I forget any more than I already probably have. So this is painfully long, and probably mostly boring, but I am writing it for me and Jack and maybe someday for Cash. And if you want to read it, I hope you enjoy it too. Personally I LOVE reading birth stories because they are all unique and incredible and life changing and emotionally charged like nothing else that can be experienced.

So, to set the scene, I looked like this:

(Basically I was what grapefruits told stories about to scare each other around the campfire.)

Up through month eight I was still rocking the charming "swallowed a basketball" look, but now I had officially reached "beached whale" status. It was Friday morning, and I was a week overdue with a baby everyone had cruelly predicted would come early. This was my first baby. I knew nothing. I believed them.

Of course at this point, I didn't actually believe I would be having a baby at all. Personally I think they should get rid of "due dates" and give you a "due range". Like, "You are due around the end of December, or beginning of January!" "Oh, okay!" I would say. But they don't do that. They say "You are due January first!". And you fixate on that day unhealthily. You think about it. You say it a thousand times to every person who asks. And when, day after day your baby doesn't come "early" as predicted, you focus on it more and more. (By "you", of course, I mean "me"). It becomes the light at the end of the tunnel. January first. January first. January first.

And when that day comes and goes, you feel a little like I imagine the doomsday people must feel, when after selling all of their worldly possessions and taking to the streets with signs to warn the general populace of the impending end of the world, the day comes and goes without being sucked up to heaven, or whatever it is that's supposed to happen. I felt confused and bewildered, let down, disenchanted, disappointed, distraught, and a little like maybe this means I will just be pregnant forever and ever and never have this baby ever at all. A sane person would say, well this must just means I will be having the baby a in a few days. But a severely pregnant woman is not a sane person. And so I gave up hope of ever being not-pregnant again.

Here is a Facebook post from Jan 4:

Long walk, check. JalapeƱo chips, check. Assorted other random old wives tales, done and done. Unpleasant scrapey procedure at docs today - done. CHILD I HAVE GIVEN YOU EVERY OPPORTUNITY. I am glad my uterus is comfortable, but seriously - I carried you around and drank virgin daquieries for 9+ months, you come out now and repay me with cuteness.

Out of pity (I am assuming) my sweet doctor arranged for me to be induced on Saturday, January 8th. A tiny new light began to flicker at the end of the tunnel. Getting induced wasn't my first choice of course, but by now it was sounding pretty appealing since obviously this baby was not coming out on his own. Or so I was thinking the late morning of Friday, January 7th, when I started to feel a little cramp in my side.

Jack and I were discussing biscuits and gravy. Which you may or may not know is his favorite food on the planet. His parents had invited us over for brunch, and we were ready to go, keys in hand, when I felt another little cramp. We decided to wait and do some timing, and things were pretty all over the place, 15 minutes, 9 minutes, 13 minutes.

"I don't know..." I said, "Maybe we should wait here for a little bit."
"But, its biscuits and gravy! You'll be fine."
"We are five minutes away from the hospital, if we go to your parents we will be 45 minutes away from the hospital. Do you think that's really a good idea?"
"I can make it in 30"
"I dont know."
"Ohh, there's another one."
"You know you aren't having the baby today. You are having him tomorrow, at the scheduled time."
"Yeah you're right. Let's go."
"But call the doctor first."

The doctor said, come in when the contractions have been no more than five minutes apart for an hour. Well, wouldn't you know, Cash must have been listening because I didn't have another single contraction less than five minutes apart. It was five minutes or less from the time Jack hung up the phone. And they were starting to hurt! And worse than they were starting to hurt, my back was really starting to hurt. This is about the time I think that things shifted from "biscuits and gravy mode" to "holy crap mode". Of course we hadn't packed our hospital bag. I know most mothers have these prepped weeks in advance but I am a professional procrastinator and I KNEW I wasn't going to need it until the next day. While I groaned and whimpered, Jack rushed around the house keystone cops style throwing random things, many of which would prove to be useless, into the hospital bag. Then, running out to the car with it, he fell down the stairs. No I am not kidding.

Here is what I put on Facebook:

I'm having strong contractions and Jack just fell down the stairs. Do they make double-wide ambulances? (Just kidding, he landed on his butt, hes ok)

At this point it felt like a very heavy person was sitting on my back, so Jack filled up the tub with nice hot water and kindly obliged my constant "How much longer until we can go to hospital!?" badgering. Finally the pain was so bad, and the contractions felt so often, I said "GET UP WE ARE GOING TO THE HOSPITAL" and he said "Well honey, you are doing so good, its been 45 minutes so you only have to wait 15 more" and I said "CALL THEM AND TELL THEM WE ARE COMING RIGHT NOW" and he wisely said "Okay" and called them and told them we were coming right now.

The car ride was 5 minutes, if Jack tells the story 3, but to me it felt long and meandering and bumpy and I started to cry. It was the dead of winter. Wet hair from the tub was crystallizing to my head before the cars heater had a chance to kick on. I was in pain and scared and most of all pretty overwhelmed that this was all happening so fast and unexpected, long after I had given up on either fast OR unexpected.

A nurse from UofM rolled me through the doors and down the halls in a wheel chair, passing me off to Jack once we arrived at the intake desk of the labor area, which is where the first of several hilarious universe skits would take place. Those moments where you feel like you are living in a scripted sitcom, and you have nothing left to do but laugh. Here I am, a wet, swollen, crying mess in a wheelchair, being pushed by a man limping from having fallen down the stairs. Standing at the desk  in front of me is a woman who looks like she just arrived for the cover shoot of Pregnancy magazine. Her hair was done. Her makeup was done. She had beautiful matching luggage. She was standing at the desk chatting with the intake ladies, holding hands with her husband and sneaking loving glances at him. It looked like two people checking into their honeymoon suite.

Anyway, thanks for the laugh, universe.

Fast forward to the room where you put the paper gown on and pee in the cup. The nurse did a quick ultrasound and determined the cause of my horrible back pain - back labor! If you don't know what that means (I didn't) it means your baby is backwards. Not upside down like breech, but turned 180 so his head was facing the same direction as mine. The good news is that unlike breech, it typically doesn't complicate birth, but the bad news is it causes the baby's spine to grind against yours every time you have a contraction and it hurts like hell.

Prior to this moment, I had been on the fence about pain meds. I was hoping for a natural birth, but, like always, prepared to go with the flow and do whatever felt right at the moment. At this moment, not feeling like my spine was going to snap in half anymore felt the most "right" and the nurse assured me she would send someone to my room with an epidural.

My room was actually pretty nice. It was a big corner room with a window on each of the outside walls, both of which had beautiful views. The bed itself felt like tempurpedic memory foam, and I remember remarking to Jack that it was more comfortable than our mattress at home. I got hooked up to all the fun monitors that show your contractions and the baby's heart beat and distracted myself by watching them while I waited for the epidural. At this point, it was about 4 o'clock. Jack had called our parents already. We were waiting.

A nurse walked in to inform me that only one person in the hospital at that moment could do an epidural, and he was occupied. "We can give you morphine for the time being if you would like" she said.

I think I said something along the lines of "YES".

Around this time our parents started arriving, all with harrowing tales of rushing in the dark, in a snowstorm (I guess one had started) through the slippery winding one way streets of Ann Arbor.

The morphine didn't work as great as I had hoped, but it took the edge off enough that I suddenly realized I was starving. I hadn't eaten anything since dinner the night before (thanks to the whole biscuits and gravy fiasco) and it was almost dinner time again. Pregnant ladies do NOT forget to eat, so this really is the truest proof of how much pain I had been in. You have to have clear fluids once you are officially "In Labor" so dinner was a styrofoam cup of vegetable broth which, thanks to the morphine, I promptly threw up all over the place. After that, I was still very hungry, but as you can imagine not really in the mood for more vegetable broth, so I opted for cranberry juice which sadly also ended up spending more time in a bucket than in my stomach. After that I gave up. Which was fine because that was about the time Ryan Gosling came riding into my room on the back of a unicorn.

Hey Girl. Heard you needed an epidural.

After that, life was sunshine and roses and I even fell asleep for a while. All the parents took turns filtering in and chatting with me. My only real complaint at this point is that I felt (hilariously) like I was stuck in the labor room, missing out on all the "fun" in the waiting room, where Jack kept slipping off to. Of course everyone out there was bored and anxious and desperate to know what was going on with me, but that isn't how it felt at the time. I pictured them all laughing and smoking cigars or something. I don't know.

Somewhere around midnight, we noticed on the monitors that when I would have a contraction, Cash's heart rate would drop. It didn't seem very much at first, but slowly got worse and worse. I would panic and send Jack out into the hallway. He would return saying the nurses were watching it and they say everything is fine. But in his eyes I could see he was terrified, and I was terrified, and we would make choppy conversation for as long as we could until I would beg him to go again.

One o'clock rounded the corner. To distract myself from Cash's heart-rate monitor, I would watch my contractions. These same contractions that were choking the breath out of me a few hours before, were now nothing more than a blip on a monitor. And then I felt one. Just a little bit. I thought it was weird, but not worth mentioning. Until I felt the next one. And then the one after that actually hurt. And then the one after that HURT. "Get the doctor, tell them I need more medicine!" I shouted at Jack. And suddenly, out of the blue, like a snap, I was in the worst pain of my life. I gasped and rolled onto my knees and it literally felt like someone was reaching into my back and trying to pull out my spine. I thought my back was going to break and I am telling you, that is not an exaggeration. I felt like I was trying to call for help but the words wouldn't come out.

I waited what felt like an agonizingly long time for the doctor to arrive. Jack swears it was less than two minutes. I guess I believe him.

I heard Jack say "She needs more medicine."

I heard the doctor day "Sorry. She's dilated to 10cm. Its baby time."

That is where my memory, as in, the clear, concise memory of the following events, ends. I felt like the lights were flickering. Everything I remember after that is like a dream, or, an out-of-body experience. My own voice was talking to me, loudly, in my head. So loud I couldn't really hear anything else. And I was telling me to breathe, and stay calm, and do not pass out. Which is all I really wanted to do.

Suddenly all the lights seemed really bright and I wasn't sure where exactly I was or who was around me. They put an oxygen mask over my face. I looked up and I saw Jack. Everything else was fuzzy and I can't really remember what else I saw, but I remember I kept looking up at Jack, who was holding my hand. He was my bearing. He was my north star. I was lost and he was there, reminding me where I was. I can't really remember anything I heard besides my own voice in my head. I don't even remember the pain anymore after that either. It was like a dream. There was no time or space, and no real narrative. Just choppy bits of other faces and voices scattered around my own thoughts.

I remember thinking, what if I can't? What if I can't? What if I can't have a baby? What if I am not strong enough or smart enough? What happens then? What if I just can't do it? What is Plan B? Is it too late to back out of this whole thing?

It was like that moment when you change your mind and decide actually you would NOT like to ride the roller coaster, except you are already on it and it has already started moving. It was like that except times a hundred thousand.

And then, I heard one of the only other voices I remember hearing during that time. It was the doctor. He said:

"The cord is around his neck. You are too far along for a C-section. He needs to come out now."

I will never forget that moment. The first moment I was no longer Angel, and instead I was The Grizzly Bear. I forgot about being afraid. I forgot about being insecure. I forgot about self doubt. I forgot about being human.

I was a Bear. I was a Mountain. I was a Hurricane. I was Rage. I was Strength. I was The Wind. I was A Storm on the ocean. I was Mother Earth.

"Look!" Cried a grinning nurse. Her voice pierced the haze around me, and instantly, it was as if I woke up. My vision sharpened, and I saw her. 

And she was holding my son.

*To Be Continued*