Monday, February 29, 2016

Kipling Daniel

Note: I started this entry around 2 weeks postpartum, wrote a little more at 4 weeks postpartum, and now, staring down the barrel of his 2-month birthday, I'm going to see this thing through. WARNING: There is a picture of the placenta and amniotic sac. It's entirely too amazing not to share. 


Not having written anything of the pregnancy or the finding-out on this blog, it does seem a little strange to open the book mid-story, so to speak, and start there. However, time is precious these days, so jump in mid-story I shall. The chapters we will be skipping today will include The Day We Found Out He Was a Boy, How We Chose His Name, and My Pregnancies Were Actually Pretty Similar Except That I Wasn't Completely Swollen and Ginormous This Time. 

And so we begin. 

After the experience of having Piper 4 days before her due date and my water spontaneously breaking at home in the middle of the night the day before, I certainly had some expectations in the days and weeks before Kipling was born. People had been saying things to me like "you make small babies" and "your babies come early", based solely on my experience with Piper, and despite common sense which says ah, but every pregnancy and delivery is different, I began to believe what they were saying. I had been experiencing excruciating, sometimes crippling hip and pelvic pain since the end of the first trimester, and the farther along I was, the more convinced I was that my body would simply decide that it had had enough and our son would come early - maybe even on Christmas Day. I had been given 12/27 as my due date, and as my belly had measured exactly on track at every appointment, I had no reason to think that the date was in any way incorrect or that I might go a little later with this baby than I did with my first. (ha, ha.

Going into December, I staunchly maintained that as long as I was able to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters on opening weekend with Peter, I didn't mind when our son decided to make his journey earthside. Given that Piper was early and that we now had her to consider as we made ourselves and our home ready, far more planning and packing was done ahead of time than was done as we approached her due date. Beginning somewhere around week 37, I began living out of my 'go bag' and started doing the same little load of laundry every day, just to make sure that we wouldn't be leaving any loose ends when the time came and that we would have access to all of our clothes if needed. I had all of Piper's little gifts wrapped in advance, packed up in a large bag so that she could still have Christmas even if it wasn't at home, whether that was at our friends' house or in the hospital room with us. As time wore on, however, the novelty and excitement of seeing the bags by the door each night quickly faded and the days began to feel somewhat like the movie Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray finds himself re-living the same day and set of circumstances over, and over, and over. And over. We made it to Star Wars, twice actually in my case, and...nothing. There was a massive snow and ice storm, and...nothing. Every night I did the tiny laundry load, re-packed our bags, and went to bed feeling like an eager child on Christmas Eve. How will I ever sleep? I bet tonight is the night! Each of the 3-4 times I would wake up to use the bathroom, my brain would spring to life and I would take stock from head to toe - am I having any cramping? Contractions? Did my water break? - only to quickly realize that I was still Very Pregnant and Very Uncomfortable. 

Lather, rinse, repeat.

The week of Christmas came and I began to feel really excited, absolutely convinced that we would have a holiday baby. (While some view that as the Worst Thing Ever, I actually didn't mind it and had several ideas in place for how to keep Christmas and our son's birthday separate, so as to make both events feel fully special in their own right.) The doctor I saw that week for my regular appointment - not my OB but another one of the practice's doctors - offered to help "stir things up" for me (a polite euphemism for performing a membrane sweep and cervical stretch), since I was mere days away from my due date. I had no concept of what that entailed other than the quick and gentle boop! there, you're all set that the phrase "membrane sweep" brings to mind, so I said sure, why not. After all, my body had already been gearing up for the big day and at that point I was 3cm dilated on my own, with baby's head at -2 station. As you might recall, I never really dilated without the help of the epidural with Piper's delivery, so in my mind, I felt like it was a checked box under the column of This Baby Is Certainly Going to Be Early. 

I began to regret my decision to have the stretch and sweep performed as soon as it began - "it" being a 4-5 minute ordeal of this unfamiliar doctor doing what felt like enthusiastic jazz hands up in my birthing business. "Most women use labor breathing to get through this," he airily said as he focused his gaze on the ceiling. Between pinched breaths and white-knuckle discomfort, I managed to eke out "Um, so if this works, when can I expect labor to start?" He informed me that I would be seeing some promising signs within the next day or two if what he was doing was effective. When the appointment concluded, I hobbled out to the car, now feeling quite uncomfortable and very crampy, and drove straight home, convinced that labor was near. Despite cramping the rest of the day and experiencing some symptoms that typically herald an impending delivery, I didn't have a single contraction and by nightfall was feeling completely normal again. Ugh. In the end, at 41 weeks and a day, I found myself hooked up to some fetal monitors at the hospital for a non-stress test (NST) to make sure that our son was moving as he should be - just a routine test that is performed after a pregnancy has reached post-term status. 

It should be noted that I had been feeling my son's physical presence as early as 13 weeks along - little twinges at first and then, for more than half of the pregnancy, BIG and sometimes uncomfortable movements on a near-constant basis - so there were no real concerns about movements or lack thereof. He was always so responsive to the usual measures to encourage movement after the odd period of prolonged rest on his part, so the NST was less of an "is he still moving okay in there?" as much as it was "yep, he's still perfectly happy inside". However, at that point in the pregnancy, my mind had been running rampant with fears like his cord is too short and that's why he hasn't come out yet, or the cord is probably wrapped around his neck and it's too dangerous for him to come out on his own and that's why he hasn't come out yet, and the worst, I've made it this far...something terrible will probably happen and I will lose him before delivery or shortly after. Just really dark and difficult stuff. Those fears, coupled with the excruciating and invasive pain I was living with daily at that point, prompted me to push my doctor for an induction. She's usually more hands-off (an aspect of her care that I so appreciate) and was planning to hold off on induction until I had reached 42 weeks of pregnancy... but let's be honest. I had fought the good fight, as it were, and was just plain DONE. 

I was scheduled to arrive at the hospital's Labor and Delivery floor at 6:30am the following morning, with my beloved OB meeting me there to break my water. Knowing she would be there, having missed her with Piper's delivery and holding my breath over the holiday season knowing that she could very well be out of town when I went into labor - brought so much peace. She was the one who cried with me in the hospital prior to doing the D&C that my body needed to heal from our miscarriage in 2012, she was the one who spent her time with me and gave me a hug after every routine prenatal appointment through both pregnancies, and she was the one I would see in the morning on the day that I would be meeting our son. What a tremendous gift.    

And so we came to find ourselves, for the third time in our lives, driving in the dark early morning to the hospital, feeling 100% physically normal, yet on our way to have a baby. It is such a surreal feeling to calmly pack the car, buckle up and head down the road, knowing we were headed to meet our child but not having any idea as to what the experience would entail. (Of course, for the D&C, we were unable to 'meet' or see our baby, but in retrospect it felt surprisingly similar to our other experiences). This third early-morning trip to Oaklawn Hospital carried with it the weight of leaving Piper behind for her first-ever full day and overnight away from us. We both felt the separation from her immediately, a feeling that intensified for us both throughout the day until Peter very nearly left to take her home for a night in her own bed in our own home, less for her sense of stability but more for his sense of missing his girl. (Aww!) 

So anyway - after some routine in-processing and an unfortunate experience with the just-in-case heparin-locked hand IV (once again a vein was blown in the attempt to place it - and I have ridiculously visible veins! How hard can it be, nurses?!), I was clad in the hideous tent that is a hospital gown and waiting to have my labor started for me. Once again, Peter pulled up the clip from The Office where Dwight and Michael use a watermelon to simulate the birth of a baby, and we laughed as Dwight said awkward things like "my cervix is ripening!" and "when the baby emerges, mark it secretly in a kind of a mark that only you could recognize and no baby snatcher could ever copy". (Seriously, that scene - that series - is solid gold!) 

How hard can it be? Look how she locked it down once it was in, though. That thing isn't going anywhere. Also, my nose was bigger at the end of this pregnancy, just as it was with Piper. What a strange phenomenon, and thank God it shrunk back down.

When my doctor finally entered the room around 8:30, she brought with her an excitement and joy that matched ours. I cannot being to describe the overwhelming sense of gratitude and friendship I felt at the sight of her familiar face! She explained that the procedure would be quick and uncomfortable at most, that I would be left to labor on my own for a bit, assuming labor began on its own without the assistance of pitocin. After declaring me to be dilated at that point 5cm - that's halfway to holy cow, here comes the baby for those of you not in the known - she used something that looked like a plastic crochet hook and with very little discomfort at all, a small pop! was felt and a warm little river of amniotic fluid followed. Dr. Rulewicz immediately informed us that there was some meconium in the water, but not much, and that because of this, coupled with me being post-term, they would be suctioning him out as soon as his head was delivered. Meconium aspiration is no small thing, and while meconium-stained fluid is fairly normal, it can easily become an emergency situation if the baby poops again during the delivery. For those of you who are as clueless about meconium as Peter and I were before having Piper, it has the color and consistency of tar, and there is LOTS of it in the first handful of hours and days after a baby is born. Gross, right? At any rate, a nurse in the room casually set out the needed equipment so it would be ready, and the sight of it in the corner of the room gave some gravity to what was otherwise shaping up to be a light-hearted, laughter-filled day. Dr. Rulewicz let us know that she was headed into the Battle Creek office to see patients, but that as soon as I was determined to be close to pushing time, she would head back to Marshall and would hopefully be there to coach and catch when the time came.  

I didn't have an immediate onset of pain or pressure once my water had been broken, and so Peter and I took to the halls - the same halls we futilely lapped as we waited on Piper - to see if we could kickstart labor. The first long stretch of walking didn't seem to do anything, so we made our way back to the room for a snack, a few bathroom breaks, and some bouncing on the labor ball. As Peter scanned Reddit and I rotated my hips around, and around, and around on the birthing ball, I began to feel pretty uncomfortable. No major pain, no intense contractions, but a lot of loooooow pressure on my cervix and in my lower back. "Oooh," I exclaimed, "this is super uncomfortable! Let's go for another walk!" I tossed on my jersey-knit bathrobe (side note, SO glad I brought one this time, and a new one at that!), slipped into my squeaky Mary Jane style mom-Crocs, and we determinedly marched out into the hallway. Maybe 5 minutes into our walk, I grabbed the handrail along the wall - hmm, I wonder why that's there - and had to take a few deep breaths to offset the pain that had suddenly descended across my lower abdomen. 2-3 minutes later, I had to stop again. Each time I tried to focus intently on what I was feeling and what my breathing was doing, and as soon as I sensed the wave of discomfort lessening, we would resume walking. After 5 or so such episodes inside of a 15 minute window, we made our way back to the room to update the nurse, who verified after a brief period of monitoring that YES! I was feeling normal contractions, and some pretty decent ones, too. YES!! Not having ever, ever felt a normal contraction with Piper, I was elated to be in so much discomfort. Now I know for next time, I remember thinking. (A fear of mine headed into Baby #2 was that I wouldn't know or recognize what a contraction felt like, not having had any before, and I am pleased to report that what everyone says is true - when it's the real thing, you know.) 

At this point I was asked by my nurse, Lori, whether or not I wanted an epidural. As we had been reviewing our few hard-and-fasts regarding labor/delivery earlier in the day, prior to my water being broken, I had let her know that this time I wasn't heading into labor dead-set against getting one. I told her how I had needed one with Piper, how it's what enabled me to dilate past 1cm so that I could go on to have the vaginal delivery I had wanted, and that this time I was far more open-minded and less out to prove anything to anyone, myself included. I didn't have a birth plan written up, since my desires were few and easy to name, and having had such a positive experience in this hospital two short years before, I didn't have a single worry as to being disrespected or ignored in my preferences. And so I had laid it out: We want uninterrupted skin to skin for as long as possible after delivery, provided he's breathing well on his own and there aren't any complications. I'm not sure about the epidural, but I'm open to it, so ask me when you think it's time. We don't want him to have the erithromycin eye ointment, but the vitamin K shot is fine. Hep B vaccine will be delayed until his first round of shots at 2 months. He will not be circumcised. I don't want to push on my back this time - if I get the epidural, I would like to push on my side and Peter is ready to help with that. Nothing earth-shattering, nothing difficult or too detailed - just the nuts and bolts that mattered to us. 

Lori checked me for progress and, eyeing the monitor, said "you're between 7 and 8 centimeters dilated. Now is a great time to get that epidural if you wanted one". I am notoriously indecisive, but the same peace I felt as soon as I requested an induction was replicated as I squeezed Peter's hand and told her to hook up my IV to the necessary bag of fluids prior to getting an epidural. As she connected it, Lori let me know that I should use the bathroom once the bag was more than 3/4 empty to help me avoid needing a catheter - um, yes please to that! - and she left with a promise to send the order up for the epidural. As I laid in the bed, eyeing the bag, doubt crept in. Where did the contractions go? The pain wasn't that bad, I scolded myself. Epidurals can delay or stall labor...this is too soon! What if you made a mistake? After 20 or so minutes of watching the bag slowly empty (and feeling a disappointingly small number of not-that-bad contractions, I decided it was time to use the toilet. Peter helped me disconnect from the monitors and had the IV pole ready to follow me into the bathroom, just a few short steps away. 

The second - the second! my feet hit the floor, whoooooa mama. My body was absolutely besieged by the most intense pain and pressure I have ever, ever felt. I shakily sat down on the toilet and could hardly focus enough to use it, let alone think straight. I managed to tell Peter that the pain was scaring me, but any other verbal communication past that seemed entirely out of reach. "Help?" I gasped out, followed by "No, stop!" as Peter nervously stepped back. A wave of nausea crept up my throat, a hallmark of my labor with Piper. After another puke-free pregnancy, I was desperate to avoid the vomit-fest that was my labor with Piper, and I sent up a fragmented prayer that the epidural would arrive soon. In that moment I had zero regrets for asking for it when I did, and zero desire to see labor through without one - my sole focus was getting back up on the bed and moaning through the contractions. At that point, I was having more painful moments than pain-free ones and felt incapable of timing anything or noticing patterns; it was just crashing wave after crashing wave of intense, intense cramping and pain. Lori returned just in time to help Peter assist me from the bathroom to the bed, smiling and calm as I bellowed out the low kinds of noises one expects to hear in a cow pasture. She beamed as she said "I know those sounds! You're doing great, and the anesthesiologist should be here soon...". No sooner had she finished that sentence and in walked a short, older man with a salt-and-pepper goatee. His breath smelled strongly like mothballs to me and it made for an especially difficult time of sitting still as he hovered around me, getting my lower back prepped for the needle. 

The position I had to sit in - very still, hunched somewhat forward - was excruciating due to the pelvic misalignment that plagued me all pregnancy, and told him as much. "I understand," said this grandfatherly man, as he patted my leg. Despite my condition, I remember wrinkling my nose and asking "Do you? Really?" in an incredulous tone. He laughed a nervous little laugh and backpedaled to add something about sympathizing and "so I've heard...". Peter and Lori both donned white surgical masks - something that wasn't done with my prior epidural, thereby surprising me to hazily register that Peter's face was mostly obscured from me as I sat there - and within the next minute, the epidural was successfully placed. Through intense pelvic pain I rotated my hips as best as I could, to distribute the epidural evenly, and within the next 2-3 minutes I was completely pain free. As the numbing sensation crept up my torso, I felt a momentary crushing weight of sadness. I will never, ever feel him move inside of me again. He had been my constant, active companion these many months - for the better part of an entire year - and it felt like I was saying goodbye in a way. The sadness I felt surprised me, but was soon replaced by a giddy sense of excitement. Peter and I began placing bets as to when we thought we would be meeting our son, and I decided to try and sleep in the meantime (something I wish I had done after getting the epidural with Piper). 

The room was silent except for the steady sound of the heartbeat on the fetal monitor. The shades were drawn, Peter was lying on the couch in the room, and I texted a few friends to let them know where I was in the process. In telling my friend Erin Smith that I had decided to get the epidural, I sent her a picture of old-school Han Solo with his classic line "don't be a hero". (Reading over the texts I sent during labor, by the way, is a fantastic way to bring me back to the nuances of that experience!) About twenty or so minutes of texting, watching as the computer registered the contractions I couldn't feel, and intermittently closing my eyes, I became aware that there was an odd cadence to the heartbeat - specifically, that it was momentarily irregular and then gone altogether for the space of about 10 seconds. Any thought of resting fled my mind and I pushed myself up into a sitting position, asking Peter what was going on. Lori appeared less than a minute later, having been alerted over the computer out in the nurse's station, and, brows drawn, began looking at the data on the screen and making sure the monitors were in the correct place. By then, the heart rate was once again steady and consistent, registering the same beats per minute that it had all along. I asked her if he was okay, and she said that he may have been struggling because it's possible that I was in transition (close to pushing) at that point, but that she wouldn't know for sure until she checked me. The moment she moved the sheet and the hospital gown aside, her eyes grew wide and she said, "Yep, that was it, you're very close to pushing time - I need to go call Dr. Rulewicz immediately!" The next 15 minutes were a blur of Lori and another nurse, Stephanie, bustling in and out, getting the room prepared for delivery. My phone sat on the side table, forgotten, and Peter and I were swept up into the intense sense of excitement and anticipation. 

Dr. Rulewicz arrived with the biggest smile on her face. "I hear you're ready to push," she said, and I felt like my face was going to split in half from the enormous smile that refused to leave my face. Easing myself up on my elbows, I told her I wanted to push on my side this time, not on my back as I had with Piper. Pushing her out had taken 3 long hours and I broke several blood vessels in and around my eyes, and I was desperate to avoid replicating that experience. Dr. Rulewicz lifted the sheet, pushed the gown to the side, and laughed. "Well, normally I would say that's fine, but...I can see his head, and I'm not even touching you! Let's get this baby out!" Peter, the nurses, and I all laughed at how quickly things were happening. At this point we were just under 5 hours past when my water had been broken, and to have the top of his head visible? God bless epidurals. At the most, all I felt was pressure - at times intense pressure - but nothing worse. The nurses stood by my feet on either side as my heels were placed in the stirrups - "she did this pedicure herself just yesterday, can you believe it?" Lori said to the others - and my beloved Dr. Rulewicz set up shop in the middle, ready to catch. 

Fifteen minutes of pushing is all it took. Fifteen minutes - fifteen minutes punctuated by excited, distracted small talk as we waited for the next wave of contractions. We commented on the extremely-tacky cloud poster on the ceiling immediately above the bed, we joked with each other, and Peter and I exchanged many, many eager grins. This was happening. And then, just like that, it happened. His head was born. I was asked to hold off on any more pushing as the nurses expertly intubated our son and began to suction. I heard one of them murmur something about it looking clear, and I held my breath. Please, please let him breathe easily. Please let him be okay. Watching them work was amazing and reminiscent of the pit crew during a high-stakes racing event. I was locked onto Peter at that point, watching his face as it told me the story of our son's birth. The look in his eyes, the joy that overtook his features as more and more of our son's body exited mine - I don't ever want to forget. His eyes widened as more and more of him emerged - burly shoulders, a barrel chest - and Dr. Rulewicz and both nurses began to say things like "Whoa, Erin. Umm, wow. This is one BIG baby! Uh...whoa. Wow. Wooooow." I laughed, tears starting to gather at the corners of my eyes. A BIG baby? Me?! Me, who grew a petite little girl who arrived and lingered in the 3rd percentile for several months? Me, a small baby myself, once upon a time, and a fairly petite person? Me. Me! I nervously asked if I was going to tear, once again fearing that I was going to suffer some extreme damage. Dr. Rulewicz brightly said that it looked as though I was going to re-tear in the exact same place I tore with Piper, right along the scar, and that it likely wouldn't be any worse than that. (And she was right, on all counts! Hallelujah!) 

With one last great effort, I delivered my son at 1:26pm. I read the absolute JOY on my doctor's face as she scooped my howling little man-cub up and placed him on my belly, laughing and rejoicing with me in my own delirious joy. I looked down and the first thing I saw was a huge and dimpled hand. "He's so big!" I laugh-cried over and over. I placed kisses upon kisses on that blood-streaked little head as Peter and I exclaimed over his size. I noticed right away that he didn't have much vernix left on him, a telltale sign that he was indeed very late in getting here. I noticed a little birthmark on his ankle, the dimpled skin all over his warm, beautiful little body, the peeling skin on his feet especially. Stephanie murmured something about him not 'pinking up' as fast as she wanted to see, furiously rubbing his body with receiving blankets. Thankfully, he quickly began to turn a ruddy color, his lungs lusty as he cried out his displeasure and confusion. "Kipling! Sweet Kipling," was the song in my heart. Loving little words poured out of my mouth as I clutched him to my chest, goop and all. 

Dr. Rulewicz showed me the placenta once it was delivered, at my request, and I'm so glad I asked to see it this time! She's a self-proclaimed nerd when it comes to this aspect of pregnancy and delivery, and the impersonal doctor who had delivered Piper didn't say a thing about it except that it was out and she could begin stitching me up. Any uneasiness I usually feel regarding blood or the sight of internal organs evaporated as she held up the remnants of Kipling's former home. She showed me how thick and meaty his cord was (so much thicker than Piper's), commenting that if I wanted to wait for it to stop pulsing before cutting it, we'd be there for quite a while. Using gloved hands, she held up the sac that had been his home for 9 months, pointing out where the placenta was attached to the wall of my uterus. As her fingers held it open, I couldn't help but feel incredible awe at the entire process. I've gone through it twice now, from start to finish, and I'm still not entirely sure just how it all works. Pregnancy and childbirth is a true miracle, and I feel deeply blessed to have experienced it twice now. 

This was Kipling's HOME! 

The next two hours were a blur. I recall the nurses' good-natured impatience as they peeked in from time to time, asking "can we weigh him yet?" I remember the moment he latched on for that first time, the familiar tugging sensation of nursing, bolstered by the experience of nursing Piper successfully from start to finish, 20 months in all. He pooped, and pooped, and pooped on me - we blew through so many receiving blankets! I'm so grateful that he was doing that on the outside. I examined the details of his little face with quiet reverence. At one point Peter was standing to the side of the bed, over my shoulder, and Kipp unlatched and wrenched his head around, eyes searching for his daddy. Incredible! 

After two hours of nursing, skin to skin, and just basking in the moment, I reluctantly handed him over to be weighed and measured - any of the perfunctory checks that couldn't have been done when he was on my belly or in my arms. I thanked Lori as she took him from me, letting her know how much it meant to me to have that uninterrupted time. I know that I could have had that with Piper, too, but after a marathon affair on more than 24 hours without sleep, I was confused and unsure and passed her off a mere 10 minutes after delivery. This time, instead of feeling as though I was watching myself give birth and hold my newborn, I felt actively engaged. I felt in control. I felt confident! Lori told me that when she first started working at Oaklawn (a smaller hospital than her previous place of employment) it was an initial struggle for her to step back. She was used to showing the new parents the baby, getting the information she needed, and then handing the parents a clean and swaddled newborn 10-20 minutes later. "Nurses have a job to do, so waiting can be hard," she said, "but that will never be able to replicate it or get it back. I'm glad you had that with your son." (Cue the first of many tears over the deep sense of appreciation and love I felt for my nurses, for my doctor, for the entire experience!). We all held our breath as she placed him on the scale, and laughter erupted as the numbers appeared - 9 pounds, 11 ounces. He measured 21.5" long, the only thing about him that I had correctly guessed based on what I felt from the outside, and his head and chest were both measured to be 14" in diameter. Yeah...I did that.   


Now that we've gone through labor and delivery again, Peter and I have both acknowledged that Piper's labor and delivery were traumatic for us both, for different reasons. No, there weren't any complications with Piper's birth, but there were so many factors that made it an incredibly difficult experience for us both, and one that haunted us in ways we didn't realize until we experienced labor and delivery again, but in such a different way. To have had such a shorter experience this time from start to finish - to have avoided pitocin, nursed successfully right away with no concern, to have known what we could expect from the hospital and ourselves under the circumstances, to have been back in our own home 24 hours later - apples to oranges. Indeed, these first two months with Kipling have been vastly different from our first two months with Piper, but that is a topic for another day. 

As I prepare to hit publish and launch Kipling's story out into the world, my heart is just brimming with thankfulness for the little family that I now have. Forget years and years from now, when they've grown into their personalities and become the people they'll be for the rest of their lives; right now, this very day, this very minute, Piper Kate and Kipling Daniel are critically necessary members of our family. They have roles that they fill even now (and I'm not just talking about filling diapers!), and we are madly in love with them both, just as they seem to be madly in love with each other. 

Looking back over his birth, re-living it again and again in my mind as I have every day since the day he was born, I can honestly say that I love it all. I don't regret a thing, I am so, SO fiercely proud of myself, and I will never be able to separate in my mind the joy and laughter that was experienced in the 5 hours between my water breaking and my son being delivered into my arms. He's my "joy boy", my Kipling Dumpling, my Bobbert (so named for the bobbing motion he does at my breast when it's time to nurse) beautiful boy.  

his first-ever picture

Sunday, January 17, 2016

One Year + One Baby Later...

It's a little insane to me that it's been just a little over a year that I sat down and blogged out some thoughts here. I'm not even sure that blogging is a 'thing' anymore, not the way that it was; life seems so rushed and condensed these days with people now sharing themselves in bursts of 140 characters or less or in 15 second video clips, and the art of sitting down and dedicating some earnest time to the processing-through of things, however long or short, is going the way of [insert your choice of now-obsolete social medium here]. I can blame all kinds of things on the lack of writing - most obviously my now-2-year-old ray of sunshine, Piper Kate and the social life one acquires with a toddler - but at the end of the day, it really boils down to lack of discipline and lack of feeling as though I have anything worthwhile to say to an audience larger than my husband and a few others. I don't even seem to make the time write decent e-mails anymore, it seems; I haven't become a hermit, but I do see myself as becoming less forthcoming and a little more reserved as I age. I wonder why this is and I wonder if it's not that bad of a thing.    

This year, in just a few days' time, actually, I will be turning 30. Thirty. I know what I would like this year and even this next decade to look like, and I have a pretty good idea of how to get there (a post for another time, maybe?), and it does include more writing - here and elsewhere. Having enjoyed a small taste of what it feels like to be published last year, when an essay of mine was accepted and published in a collection of essays and reflections on miscarriage and infertility, I do desire to go out more on a limb and put myself out there more as a writer (a desire borne of more than the everlasting shame of being yet another former English major that has yet to 'use' my degree). 

In addition to being accepted for publication last year, Peter and I discovered that we were expecting again - surprise! - and nearly 10 months later, our beautiful boy was born on January 5th, 2016. I wanted to sit down and write his birth story today as his arrival is nearly two full weeks behind us, but it didn't feel right to have a year of silence and then boop! out of the blue, a birth story. So here's this post, holding space between the last time I wrote at the end of 2014 and now. Maybe I'll fill in the blank with a post or two, and maybe I'll just start fresh with this year (though 2015 had plenty of good material in its own right). Either way, I do hope to be back and active here, if for no other reason than to document my life and the way that it looks and feels as it is right now, because I have learned that it's such an important way to mark the passing of time and track personal growth.    

Friday, December 19, 2014

In the stillness

I really wanted to come here tonight and write a beautiful and moving entry about a beautiful and moving moment that I experienced last week involving a choral piece about the birth of Christ, its significance to me, personally, and the way in which it undid me as I listened once again. I had this idea in my mind that I would sit down on the couch in the quiet of this settled-in night house, with Piper put peacefully to bed and Peter already asleep; I would sit down and the words would come and I would be able to effortlessly weave last week's experience into a compelling narrative, maybe even tying it in with two or three other meaningful pieces of Christmas music and the emotional responses evoked. 

Instead, I sit here by the glow of our tree - somehow this year's better than any other - and by the glow of the scattered tea lights and the white lights that frame our picture window, and I feel at a complete loss. Not only was the moment an incredibly profound one, but this past week for our little family of 3 has been one marked by a debilitating flu-like virus, rendering my soul somewhat listless and quite out of steam. Although I (first to fall) am closest to recovery, I just feel so threadbare and worn out from caring for a healthy and rambunctious (now 14-month-old!) Piper Kate in the worst of my illness as well as from the anxieties of last night as I stayed up with her and her high fever, hearing her congested cough and confused little cries. All she wants to do is nurse - no water, no electrolyte solution, no cow's milk - and though my brain has nothing to do with that aspect of caring for her, it still belongs to the body that is just so exhausted and over-touched and done. Even so, I'm grateful to still be providing that comfort and necessary nutrition, amazed that even in illness, my body has something very valuable to her growth and health on reserve. Peter is sick now, too, having taken time off at the beginning of the week to care for Piper and prepare meals. We are all three run absolutely ragged.

Regardless of how this entry did not go as planned (and indeed, this very week), the truth of the matter is that it is almost Christmas, and there remains to this day a great mystery: the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. And the piece that moved me so as I listened to it in the solitude of my errands-running, to the point of tears and the feeling that I could not catch my breath, captures for me the absolute wonder, awe, and amazement of that event. 

I wish I could walk you through the parts, a guide of sorts who can tell you where the tenors will absolutely slay you or where I, as a college junior, found myself brimming with tears every time our young and hopeful voices came together in rehearsal and performance of this piece, but I will just leave the music for you to discover all on your own. I had thought of posting the words and their English translation, but this piece can communicate so sweetly without them. I would encourage you to listen to this as loud as your ears can stand, to close your eyes, to breathe in deep. As the music rises and swells and explores the intense and beautiful mystery of the Incarnation, crescendoing into a loud alleluia! then reverent, softer alleluia, alleluia, alleluia - allow your own heart to echo the alleluia, the mystery, the amazement. God is with us: Emmanuel. And He shall save the people from their sins.  

     O Magnum Mysterium (Lauridsen)

**Note that the YouTube video does not appear in this post when viewing on Apple devices because the embedded link uses Flash. If you want to listen to the song I wrote about, you can look it up on YouTube under O Magnum Mysterium - Morten Lauridsen (or just click that link, and YouTube will open). The specific one to which I linked was Kings College, but the other choirs do it beautifully as well. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Therapeautic Post

After a particularly hard Monday and the general stress of things mounting until I felt as though I was in grave danger of losing my mind altogether, I write this post after being banished to Starbucks by a kind and confident husband. I set a timer so that, should Piper have some separation anxiety while I'm away, I won't be gone too terribly long. It'll be 35 minutes or less away from home, all told, but the small bit of mental and physical space will doubtless prove therapeautic. 

It's embarrassing to admit, but sometimes I have a huge problem with anger. It manifests itself in impatience, frustration and irritability, and when things pile up and I've not had enough sleep (so, a lot lately), I find myself on the verge of (or in the middle of) tears. One of the worst feelings for me is lack of control over how I feel and how I'm handling those feelings. (I know, I know, "Man up, ya great Nancy!") I had reached that point today, with seeing one of the dogs rolling in the mud outside at the same moment that I heard one of the cats puking up bits of plastic bag on my freshly-mopped floor, having anything and everything I touched (save Piper, thankfully) falling and clattering loudly, feeling suffocated by the sudden heat and humidity of the summer that apparently leapfrogged right over springtime, and then of course the ever-present tally my brain has going in regards to our trying-to-make-do financial situation... It was just all too much. 

Peter, bless his heart, took the set of frustrations that he faced in his own day away from us at the office and pushed them to the side when he got home when he saw that I wasn't rallying as easily as normal (or, at all). Taking an uncharacteristically-crabby Piper Kate out of my sweaty, tired arms, he handed me the keys and the debit card and told me to leave the house for half an hour or so, to go sit in the A/C at Starbucks with an overpriced
 and bad-for-me frappuccino with the ipad and just decompress. It took me about twenty 
minutes before taking the plunge and doing it, but now that I'm here, I'm so glad I listened to him and even gladder that I went solo. I think this might just be the first time that I felt the need for space away from Piper, and while part of me is heartbroken that this moment is hitting around so many other big milestones in our growing girl's life, I'm also grateful to have recognized the wisdom in Peter's plan and to have acted on it. It felt strange to drive with an empty car seat, and I was about a mile down the road before I realized the cd from Piper's music class (a voice-only recording of her teacher singing or chanting the routines, very few of which have words and are along the lines of Chinese water torture when played ad nauseum outside of the joy of the class) was still playing. I turned it off and turned my music up louder than I've had it in months (nearly 7, to be exact), and the harmonies in the bridge of Coldplay's Fix You (always applicable, if you ask me) had me breathing a easier by the time I pulled into the parking lot. I savored the buttery bits of gritty caramel sprinkled on the whipped cream of my Caramel Ribbon Crunch, decided to write about this little time away and have been grinning like a fool with every text and photo sent from Peter ("We're trying more banana!" "We read four books!" "We're watching Daniel Tiger!" And, my personal favorite, "Take your time, babe - she's out cold!") 

This isn't my first time away from her - I've run quick errands during her naps and twice attempted worship rehearsal without her in tow - but today was my first day in my still-new career as mama where I finally felt that yes, not only was I ready for a little bit of space, but I NEEDED it. For me, for Piper, for Peter. In a few minutes I'll pack up and head back home - the longer, non-highway way - and I'll gather her into my arms and smell her head as if it's the first time and kiss her to make up for the time away. I'll hug Peter tightly and chat his ear off, I'll make plans for our future, and I'll tackle a project (just not the laundry - I'll need more than caramel crunch bits and loud music for the gumption required!). Best of all, I'm going to head home feeling much more like myself. Thanks, Babe. You and your confidence as Piper's daddy have given me a gift today.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Confidence in the Kitchen

I've been feeling a lot like Frauline Maria in The Sound of Music lately - the I HAVE CONFIDENCE part of her, anyway.  (She can keep the pageboy hair cut and the clothes the poor didn't want!)  Where do I have confidence, you ask?  The kitchen!  Yes, me!  Gaining confidence in the kitchen.  Learning to cook is something I've always wanted to do, but when it came down to it, prior to staying home with Piper, I just didn't have the gumption.  I'd fiddle about with recipes, or try to put on a brave face when company came over ("I made the dessert!"...Peter made the everything else, though"), but the embarrassing truth remained that I just didn't know what I was doing in the kitchen.  There was a brief stint when I studied abroad for a semester, when I was a participating member in a dinner group and made a few smash-hit replicas of my mom's best meals, but prior to and since then I just didn't have the wherewithal, the chutzpah, the cajones, the whatever-it-is that one needs to become a successful (heck, even moderately palatable) cook.  

By saying I have confidence, I am by no means saying I'm the next Julie Powell from Julie and Julia who can bone ducks and boil lobsters.  And let's not even pretend I'm anywhere near the Kitchen Goddess status of my college friend Courtney, over at Neighbor Food.  I just mean that I'm not afraid anymore.  It doesn't take me twenty times as long as the recipe says it should take to produce a delicious meal - now, it only takes five times as long!  I don't shy away from recipes that exceed the bounds of normalcy for me - my cupboards now contain sexy things like Chinese Five Spice Powder, Barley, Sesame Oil, Paprika, Garam Masala.  My refrigerator has played hostess to edgy foods such as Parsnip, Ginger and (yum) Kale.  And so far, with the exception of one or two "eh, let's not make that for a while...or ever again" dishes, I haven't really made any grievous errors or produced any bad meals.  To the contrary, I feel that I'm creating my very own Food Legacy for our little family.  I'm incorporating things that I loved from my childhood, like Lemon Chicken - bite-sized pieces of lemon-marinated chicken that have been coated in flour and fried up in a bit of oil, served over rice and drizzled with a tangy sweet/sour sauce - but by and large, we're figuring out what we like, from recipes that I am picking out and trying, and slowly but surely we're making an identity for ourselves and our table.  

One of my favorite things to cook with is ground turkey.  It's ridiculously cheap, and if you can get past the fact that it comes in little frozen one-pound logs (well, and everything else that all the fad diets would diss about it), it's delicious and versatile and crazy do-able for people like us who are feeling pinched and poor.  I've used it in place of ground beef in recipes like spaghetti sauce, tacos, casseroles, meatloaf, and stroganoff, but I've also scoured the internet for recipes specifically for ground turkey and have crafted meals such as bubble-up enchiladas, curried ground turkey and veggies, and turkey barley vegetable soup.  It's fantastic!  What isn't fantastic is when you realize that the next 2-week meal plan will need a bit more ground turkey than usual and Meijer is completely sold out, when every other time the bin has been positively overflowing and you snubbed it for 'real' meat like chicken or pork or beef - but we discovered that Aldi sells it as well, with a barely discernible difference in price.  Phew!  Of the ground turkey recipes I've tried, I'd say that my current favorite is the curried ground turkey and vegetables.  It contains fresh ginger, curry, garam masala, peas, roma tomatoes (the sudden burst of sweetness!) and mmmmmmm, now I wish it was dinnertime again.  

Tonight I felt so proud of myself.  I had planned on making quick stove-top chili (oo, sexy ingredient alert! cannelini beans, blended in a blender!) with cornbread, but Peter was quick to point out the solitary, rogue chicken breast that was hours away from being unusable.  It was so lonely sitting there on the shelf in the fridge, and although I was tempted to pretend I didn't see it (even though wasting food is foolish) so I didn't have to figure out how to make a lonely piece of boneless chicken into a filling meal for 2 (plus leftovers, for Peter's lunch), I shelved the turkey plan and consulted Google.  
-----> Side note.  I know that women my mother's age and older likely cluck at women like me who weren't born wearing an apron or who didn't learn how to cook quietly without making a giant deal - or blog post - about it, but really: HOW did women ever survive without Google?  Cookbooks are great and all, but it was really the internet that helped me conquer my initial fears.  The internet has video tutorials if I'm perplexed as to how to cut raw chicken or prepare parsnip.  The internet isn't limited to whatever recipes are in the cookbooks you're lucky enough to own.  And the internet knows exactly what to do with just one chicken breast - wouldn't you know it?  It was none other than every housewife's best friend, Ms. Betty Crocker herself, who helped me out.  Some things never change... although, now that I think about it, I imagine that the website version of her still wears horn-rimmed glasses, but now they're more for ironic hipsterdom than necessity. 
What did I end up making, you ask?  Chicken Vegetable Orzo Soup.  ORZO!  I love orzo.  Thank you Panera Bread for de-weirding it for me and making me have a little box of it in my cupboard for months untold, for "just in case".  Peter has been known to mumble about "babyfood soup" and "side-dish soup" - in other words, soup that isn't hearty or filling enough to be a meal all on its own - so I was sure to add in extra carrots, celery and orzo.  And oh my.  It was so delicious.  It could have had a little more spice variety to it, but the dash of pepper I gave it and the eyeballed sprinkling of garlic powder did liven it up to a warm, deeply comforting dish.  (ME, putting in a dash of pepper!  I never used to use pepper, let alone eyeball things.  Progress, people!!)  

Sunday I was brave enough to try a gourmet cookie recipe I'd stumbled across online and bookmarked on my phone's internet browser for later reference - success!  Friday I mustered up the conviction to (largely from memory/scratch) make a shepherd's pie type dish to take to someone's house and share - and I wasn't a bundle of nerves!  I even had someone over at a moment's (well, 4 hours') notice and calmly modified a new-classic crock pot recipe (Chicken and Dumplings) so that it would be ready in time - and it was delicious.  That evening made me feel like a tried-and-true grown up; I invited someone over last-minute, I grocery-shopped with Piper strapped to me and didn't feel like an anxious mess in the store, the house was already mostly-clean and Peter helped get the little loose ends settled (as well as giant things like mop the downstairs and do the mountain of dishes)...  and when they came, even though the upstairs wasn't vacuumed and I ran out of time to put a headband in my messy, busy-day, new-mom hair, I was confident that they would enjoy their time in my cozy, clean home, that they would savor the comforting food and appreciate the background music, that Peter and I were Pulling It Off.  It felt great.  

Having Piper has been wonderful for me in that it has taught me how to be brave with new things, and not be afraid of failure.  From the moment it hit me at 37 weeks along that labor and delivery weren't some obtuse concept but rather a very physical event - this child will have to exit my body somehow; fetuses can't take college correspondence courses! - to the moment I allowed myself to run out of disposable diapers so that I would have to start cloth diapering, as I intended to once she was finally big enough for them, it's been a lot like a mommy bird shoving her fledgling out of the nest to teach it how to fly.  Either I'd have Piper the old-fashioned way, or she would be surgically taken from my womb.  Either I would figure out how to use the small stash of cloth diapers that I had amassed before she was born, or she (and I, and our blankets, and our home) would need to be washed each time she peed or pooed.  It's the now-or-never moment, and with each successful tie of the Moby wrap without consulting YouTube and that smug stick-thin-at-just-3-weeks-post-partum mommy who chirped, "If you have lots of extra fabric left, like I do, just wrap it around and around yourself until you can tie it!" (UGH), I feel that much more capable.  That much more able.  Am I still plagued with near-crippling internal insecurity over making a mistake or failing?  Absolutely I am.  But it's nowhere near the level that it was, and I am nowhere near the girl I used to be.  I'm a regular Holly Housewife, I have a drying rack chock-full of drying pocket diapers that I know how to use, there are left-overs in my fridge singing of both my bravery and Betty Crocker's wisdom, and I am quite proud of myself.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Thoughts and General Musings

It truly feels like spring today.  Spring.  Didn't I just have a baby when the leaves were at their boldest, in October?  Where did the dark winter days go, the weeks upon weeks of snow unlike anything Peter or I have ever seen for the years we've lived in this city?  I've heard it again and again in these early months of parenting: The days are long but the years are short.  We're already just about half a year in - something I marveled aloud at as I changed Piper before her nap.  She kicked her legs vigorously, as she now likes to do, and as she arched her back and thrust her little belly into the air, I said aloud, "And I am 28."  I'm 28.  I am?!  I am.  I so vividly remember looking into the mirror when I was little, wondering what I would look like as a grown-up, and here I am today, catching my reflection in the hallway mirror as I pass by it again and again, and suddenly it's my beautiful baby girl in my arms, wrapped in the blanket my grandma made for me, and not a cloth doll or stuffed animal.  

Time is an incredible thing.  As Peter and I enjoyed a nature walk with Piper on Sunday, at one of the two expansive preserves within a few miles of our home, we walked by the very place where we released the glowing paper lantern on the day that our first baby was due last year.  It's almost been a year.  Our first due date is coming up - less than a month away, now, on May 4th.  I asked Peter the other day if he wanted to release another lantern this year.  "I don't see why not," he said, gently.  My arms tight around Piper, I asked him how long he thought we should do it, how many years down the road, and whether or not we should include Piper and any other future children in the small memorial act.  "As bad as this might sound, let's do it until we forget" was his reply.  I thought about it, and I like that very much.  It's not that we will ever forget that we lost our first baby; that is an unseen weight that we will both feel the rest of our lives.  And honestly, I don't find the concept of forgetting the date 'bad' at all.  If/when that happens, it will likely be years down the road, and rather than indicating a lack of care or remembrance on our part, it will mean that the heaviness of grief has lifted, replacing itself with a day-to-day peace about what happened.  

I've been thinking about our miscarried baby a lot lately.  For one, every time I look at Piper, I see an incredible gift that wouldn't be here had our first survived the first trimester.  It's not lost on me at all, and I never want to take Piper for granted or to forget what it took to have her here with us.   As I set about writing a submission for a collection of essays written by Christians who have suffered either infertility, miscarriage or both (see this site for more information from the publisher), I've been re-reading through the entries I wrote just after the miscarriage and I've been holding Piper that much closer.  I don't think I'll soon forget how it felt to go through that, from the first moment of discovery to the quiet early-morning ride to the hospital for the D&C, the confusion and fog of the month or so after the loss to the spark of hope at conceiving again... it's part of who I am.  It has shaped me and changed me because I have allowed it to, and it has softened my heart to a degree I didn't think possible.  For us, it was all about perspective.  We could have blamed God, or we could have seen that first pregnancy as something good that came from Him, because He is a giver of good things and every good and perfect gift comes from Him (Psalm 84:11, James 1:17).  Although it will doubtless prove a bruising endeavor to really go back and re-live the darkest parts of the last year and a half, I am eager to share our story in the hopes that it will 1) be included in this collection and 2) help someone else who doesn't yet have the words to say that is how this feels or I am not alone.  I told Peter that I would be beside-myself excited if I were to have something published in a real book - it would certainly be a start!           

Neither Peter nor I can imagine life without Piper - she is incredibly sweet-spirited, just filled with joy, and although there are the normal moments of fussiness, crabby refusals to nap normally (thank you, teething and growth spurts), or general inconveniences of having a baby, time and again we are struck by how happy she seems to be.  Although the initial fear of breaking or damaging her somehow is still there, the absolute panic I felt when Peter went back to work has melted away, leaving in its stead a sense of awe that I was chosen to be Piper's mommy, and that she was chosen to be our daughter.  We dedicated her in church a few weeks ago, publicly declaring our promise to her and to God that we will raise her in church, teach her about God and what He has done for her through the gift of His Son, pray for her and with her and model Godly character for her within the walls of our home.  It was a way for us to ask for accountability but also to recognize Piper's true identity as a child who was given to us as a gift to nurture, cherish, protect and teach.  It's a monumental task that we face as her parents, and not a day goes by that I don't think about the bulk of her life out of our home.  Childhood is so fleetingly short, and adolescence, though painful and quirky and unbearably awkward at times, is even shorter.  The truth is that Piper will be an adult out on her own in the world for (Lord willing) far more years than she will be under our roof, and we want to be mindful of that as we invest ourselves into her spiritual, physical and emotional well-being.

Ah, well.  Before she wakes up from her nap, there is laundry to turn over, a closet-project to either finish-for-now or finish-in-earnest, and dishes to wash before Peter comes home from work.  There is birdsong to accompany my thoughts, a crisp clean breeze to lighten my step, and almost-warm sunshine beaming through the windows on the south wall of our home.  I am so thankful for all of these things, but today, most of all, I am thankful for sweet Piper Kate.             

Friday, April 4, 2014

Let's Hear It For The Boy

Today, I want to tell you about my husband.  The day I met him, he looked like this:

It was my first-ever day of high school.  September 2000.  I spotted Peter immediately in the gym as the students filed in for morning assembly; for one, he was in the corner assigned to the freshmen, and as my grade had less than 10 kids in it the year before, he stuck out just about as much as his ears did back then, clearly the new kid in town.  For my part, I really don't remember bounding up to him to introduce myself.  To hear Peter tell it, though, he was minding his own business when a short girl hurtled towards him and eagerly said, "I'm Erin Joy Snowball.  What's your name?"  

His freshman photo hangs on our fridge to this day, encased in a plastic magnetic frame.  He calls me a creep or a perv for saying this, but I can't help myself - I see that photo, and my heart beats a little faster.  I remember how it felt to sit at the table near him at lunch, to feign exasperation as he and another classmate would hide my zippered pencil pouch under someone else's desk just before class started.  One of my favorite memories from that year was when he asked why my hands were hidden in my sleeves all the time, and, upon discovering that they were covered with plantar warts, took both of them into his hands and told me that it didn't bother him in the least.  I don't know if it was that moment exactly or a slow-dawning realization, but (and this will sound crazy), I knew sometime during our freshman year in high school that we would be married one day.  It wasn't a lights-from-heaven moment or a TA-DA, HERE'S YOUR FUTURE SPOUSE kind of a thing.  It was a settled-in, comforting sort of a feeling, along the lines of You don't have to wonder any more.  This is he.  Let me tell you right now that I felt sick to my stomach when, years later, I saw Peter's family portrait in a display for the photographer's gallery at a mall in the town where I went to college, as I held the hand of my then-boyfriend, who clearly wasn't The One but I felt like maybe he could be.  There was a pause in my spirit and I remember thinking, This isn't right!  I'm supposed to marry Peter!  He, at the time, was newly-enlisted in the United States Air Force and, if I remember correctly, would have been on his first deployment to Iraq.  And there I stood, holding the hand of a guy about whom I had all kinds of doubt, as Peter and his family smiled back at me from the glass case where their portrait was stored.  That was awkward.

I still have the notes that he wrote to me in those early years of friendship and camaraderie, either during school or sent home with my brother the week I was laid up with a flu bug.  He continued sending me letters - bonafide, legitimate, stamps-on-envelope letters - from his home across town after he stopped attending my school.  His handwriting was - and still is - a bit hard to decipher, so for the longest time I thought his middle name was David, when in reality it's Daniel.  (I carried this notion over to our first date, when we were in our early 20s, and he discovered the error upon seeing how I had his "name" written out in a visitor log at a State Historical Site we were visiting in Indiana.  Whoops.)  Sometimes his name looks like Deter when he writes it out, on official documents or on purchase receipts.  I've told him this for years, and so the moment was one of sweet success when a cashier once scrutinized his writing and brightened up, saying "Hey, I knew a guy named Deter once."  (HA!)  One of the reasons that his guest post yesterday meant as much to me as it did is because, being married to each other for the past 5 and a half years, there's very little cause (let alone time) to sit down and write like that any more.  When I was working full-time, we would send each other e-mails during the day, but even then - it wasn't quite the same as sitting down to a table or a desk (or, in the case of when he was deployed the second time, a laptop) and truly, truly connect.  It's like the natural progression of passionate make-out sessions at every opportunity to a breeze-by kiss.  Sad, maybe, but natural and brought about by growing more and more settled-in and used to each other.  

One of the things I love most about Peter is his quiet know-how for so many different things.  He used the word "sublimation" the other day when pulling out a steaming freezer bag full of frozen chili.  A few weeks ago he was expertly navigating his way around an educational circuitboard-type learning toy with our pastor's son.  When our washing machine stopped spinning last month, he spent all of 10 minutes on Google and YouTube before forming his own (ultimately correct) theories as to what had happened and how to fix it.  A few years back, when our friends' dishwasher broke, he brought over a few tools and in the time it took my friend to bake an apple pie, Peter isolated the problem, re-arranged the wiring and safely had it working properly again.  I knew that he was a science nerd buff when we were first married, but I had no clue that he was able to apply his knowledge in helpful and practical ways.  I was treated to a front row seat to his abilities when, about a month into our marriage, the on/off floor switch for our paper-lantern shade lamp stopped working.  It was a wedding gift (one of my favorite ones!) and I was distraught.  Peter casually said "I'll take a look at that when I get home from class tonight."  "Greaaaaat," I half-heartedly enthused.  Internally, a monologue was running.  How does a wife show support for a husband who wants to try to fix things that can't be fixed?  Is there a way to let him down gently?  Maybe I can leave work early today and take it back to the store and pretend it works again.  I don't want to crush his spirit or let on that I don't think he knows what he's doing...but he doesn't know what he's doing.  Later that night, I came home from work to an apartment that smelled of burning electrical wires and a husband who was stretched out on the floor, smoking soldering gun in hand, working on the lamp cord.  The internal monologue struck up again. He's going to burn down the apartment!  We don't have renter's insurance.  How do I react when the lamp doesn't work?  Is a hug appropriate?  Is saying Oh well, you tried demeaning?  WHAT'S A WIFE TO DO?  Will our home be littered the rest of my life with half-done attempts at fixing things and a string of broken appliances??  When I got a little closer, I saw that the foot pedal switch had been bypassed altogether, leaving a near-seamless cord in its place.  He looked up at me from his position on the carpet with a boyish grin.  "All you have to do now is plug it in, like you would anything else, and it will work," he said, matter-of-factly.  "Then, when you're done using it, just unplug it."  Still unsure that this lamp wouldn't be the death knell for my dream of a life untouched by fire, I watched as he finished up his work and then, amazed, saw the light return to the lamp as he plugged it back in.  And wouldn't you know it, no flames engulfed the lamp, my husband, or our apartment.  I saw him differently after that, and over the years as I've seen him tackle project after project, and after rolling over in bed one night to find him sitting up, playing with a circuit board for fun (yes, really), I understand both more and less of how his mind works.  It's so very different from mine, but that in no way means that the things for which he uses it aren't worth accomplishing.  To the contrary, he has impressed me time and again and blessed others with his know-how and fearlessness.  

I wanted to write also about his new job, and how he was pretty much told to apply by those twice and thrice removed up the ladder from him at work, based on his hard-earned reputation alone.  I wanted to tell the story of the night Piper was born, how he ran up the road to Denny's to get pancakes for himself and for me, returning at 4am saying he couldn't stop grinning like an idiot the entire time he was placing the order and waiting for the food.  I had hoped to talk about my perspective as I walked down the aisle toward him on our wedding day, my eyes never faltering from his face, to share about our shared love for walking outdoors together with our dogs, his unexpected tenderness for cats, his selfless way of putting my needs above his, the fact that he was approached with an invitation to join an advisory board at church...  but the nature of our lives right now is so interrupted.  There simply isn't enough time in my day as Piper's mommy - and indeed, especially not today, which has been marked by a near-complete lack of naps (again?!) and half-begun cleaning projects.  I feel that I've done him justice, though, at least for now.  I look forward to writing more about him as the years roll on, because this is forever.  It's not always easy, and there have been the moments of Oh no, am I sure that I heard correctly when I knew he was The One? but at the end of the day, I snuggle in next to a taller, older version of the boy I met in September 2000.  His eyes are still the most beautiful brown I've ever seen, and the most kind.  His hands are still gentle with the parts of me I'm not proud of.  He's still far quieter than I, but still eager to listen (even thanking me when I sit and just talk to him for long stretches of time).  Our lives are different now that we're parents, but I like to think that what made us a great match way back in the beginning is what will keep us that way until the very end.