Monday, May 14, 2012

A way with words

The message inside my Mother's Day card, as dictated by 2-year-old Mia:

Dear mommy,
Please come over to your party. Dear Mia. Mermaid. Dad. Grandma. Alex and Chickens. Pooh and Baby Mia. Dad. Barn. Happily ever after.

Paints quite a picture, doesn't she?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Like mother, like daughter

Ten things I do because my mom did them:

- Make a mean fried-egg sandwich.
- Wake my daughter to see something cool in the night sky.
- Experiment in the kitchen.
- Run from bees.
- Bring food to neighbors. Especially new ones and sick ones.
- Tell my kids every night to "dream about angels."
- Dig up a good joke to lighten a bad situation.
- Yearn to see new places.
- Worship my crock pot during winter.
- Teach my kids to wave at airplanes. (Which, if you look closely, totally wave back.)

Three generations at the bathroom mirror

Monday, April 30, 2012

Dancing queen

On Saturday night we took the kids to a gala at an art museum. Not the kind of event where you typically see a lot of babies, but the folks who invited us are awesome and happen to be quite open-minded about toddlers at cocktail parties. Mia has been going to these things since she was practically a newborn, and while it's harder now with two, we try to leap at those opportunities when we can.

This particular event was Hawaiian-themed, which made it even cooler for Mia, starting with the lei they placed around her neck when we arrived. During dinner the crowd was entertained by beautiful hula dancers, and Mia was entranced. After sitting there watching a few songs, she got up, walked up to them and began dancing, too.

My friend send me a picture with this sadly accurate comment: "Scary to think that eventually she will be self-conscious and that uninhibited part of her life will end." So tonight as I tucked Mia into bed, I asked if she would please just stay my little girl forever. She said yes!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Snap, snap

I know an excellent photo when I see it, but I have always wanted the ability to TAKE one, too. I feel like I have to snap 500 lame shots just to get a single great picture.

Turns out that's how it goes even for the pros, something I learned in an online photography class I'm taking from Superhero Photo. I haven't been able to participate in the class as much as I'd like, but what I have learned through the daily emails alone has been worth the (extremely reasonable) price. I had hoped this course would unlock the mysteries of my camera, all those intimidating little abbreviations and dials and buttons. But so far the two best lessons have been pretty simple: 1) Play with your camera. 2) Relax. This is fun.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bouncing baby boy

Last night I was talking to my mom on my drive home from work, and I was telling her what a good little boy Alex has been lately. "Soon I may even love him as much as I love Mia!" I said.

I was joking, mostly. Alex has not been the easiest of babies, which is a whole other blog post all by itself. Or maybe 10 posts. But my mom just laughed and said, "Oh, but you already do. If something were to happen to him, you'd realize that."

She was right. This morning I put Alex on my bed while I got dressed for work, and then I walked over to the closet to get some shoes. When I turned around, I saw Mia climbing up onto the bed and Alex reaching out to touch her face. And then, right before my eyes, he tumbled off. It happened in a flash, but I processed it in slo-mo, lunging toward him with a scream as I watched him land on the floor, on his head.

On his HEAD. Like, if I held him by his ankles and let go, that is how he fell. I was hysterical. I scooped him up without thinking, and he wailed in my arms as I held him and watched his body for movement. He fell at just such a grotesquely bad angle – his head bounced on the floor like the end of a pogo stick – that I was quite convinced his neck was broken and I was going to have a little Christopher Reeve baby for the rest of my life and it was all my fault.

Now, for the record, 10 minutes later he was giggling in his high chair and eating a waffle. So clearly the kid is fine. But how stupid I felt. It haunted me all day long – the vision of his little body crashing into the floor replayed in my head a thousand times. I should never have walked so far away. He is too fast and mobile right now, and I KNOW that. I was just distracted, rushed, exhausted ... three ever-present traits of a working mom. Terrible excuses, though. This was entirely my fault, and I felt horrible.

And all day long other moms comforted me with stories that were as bad (or worse) than mine. So this is obviously one of those parenthood moments where right now, today, it seems like The Worst Thing That Ever Happened, but at some point I will be one of those seasoned moms who hears another's story, nods wisely and goes "Oh, yes! That. We've done that." I remember fretting over the possibility of a C-section when Alex was breech at 8 months, and a friend told me, "Well ... then that's just another square you'll get on the Bingo card of life." Today I got my Bingo square where I turn my kid into an ACTUAL EXAMPLE of the punchline "Yo momma dropped you on yo head."

p.s. I really, really miss writing here. It's just that I am a terribly slow writer, and after I take forever to write something, I then edit the hell out of it for a few more hours. Not a process that's easy to fit in along with two kids, a husband, a job, a house, a crippled dog (yep, still crippled!) etc. But I have decided that crappy, unedited posts are better than no posts at all. So ... here's to (hopefully) freestyling it for now.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Labor and delivery: The sequel

Sure didn't mean to wait three months to write this! But I think I can recall most of the details. Nobody forgets that kind of pain, do they, GIGANTIC BABY ALEX?

You might remember that I wanted a drug-free birth with Mia, and that is what I got. (You can read about that here and here.) It was an amazing experience. When asked how I tolerated the pain without medication, I was one of those moms who would smile serenely and explain that the beauty of the natural birthing experience far outweighed any discomfort I may have felt.

That's not quite the answer I would give now.

But I don't want to get ahead of myself. So my due date came and went with no sign of baby. I grew a bit anxious since my OB was starting to talk about an induction, and I wanted no part of that. We spent week 40 doing the whole spicy-food, long-walks thing. And on Friday, July 1, when I was five days overdue, I had labor-inducing acupuncture.

And then Friday night, Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, they all passed without a single sign that a baby was on the way.

This timing was unfortunate. If we had the baby anywhere near the due date of June 25, we would have been free and clear of one of the worst times of the year in the Pizarro household: the Fourth of July. Every year, for the better part of a week, we have to console a terrified Chickenbone all night as neighborhood idiots send bottle rockets and firecrackers whizzing through the sky. We give Chickens sedatives, but they barely take the edge off. And of course, with Independence Day landing on a Monday this year, the fun began on Thursday and continued for five nights.

I prayed that I'd go into labor at a nice, early daytime hour so that at least Sal could be home by nightfall to take care of Chickens. The only way to keep him from barking and waking up Mia was to snuggle him beneath a mountain of blankets to muffle the sound, hugging him tightly at every pop and whistle. But, of course, I felt the first contraction at precisely 10 p.m. on Saturday night, when the pyrotechnics were in full swing.

I waited an hour before calling my doula, Kathy. The contractions were still 7 minutes apart, so she suggested that I try to get some sleep (ha!) and call her when they were 5 minutes apart. I worried about Sal going into all this with no rest, so I sent him to the couch for a nap. Then I laid down with Chickens in our bed, hoping the white noise of the fan in our bedroom would soothe him.

For the next hour I laid in the darkness with Chickens, clutching Sal's Timex in my hand and using the blue Indiglo light to time my contractions. When the pain was really bad, I closed my eyes and clung to Chickens and stroked his fur. I focused on his soft little ears to keep my mind off the increasingly intense pain. I'm sure he was in heaven. At least somebody was!

It was nearly midnight when we decided to leave for the hospital. My mother-in-law came to stay with Mia, and she brought grandpa to take over Chickens duty. We crept around the house very, very, very quietly, gathering our things and pausing for contractions. Which I got through very, very, very quietly. One of my biggest fears was Mia waking up to the commotion and getting scared. I didn't want to leave her crying. I have some experience with this: When we left for the hospital in a rather noisy fashion in October 2009, Chickens was whining and pacing with worry. I absolutely hated leaving him like that. But luckily the handoff to my in-laws went smoothly, and we were off to have a baby.

The rest happened so fast that it's hard to put together the play-by-play. We arrived at Kaiser Santa Clara just before 1:30 a.m. I remember a very long walk from the parking lot to the ER - this was Sal's fault, as for the second consecutive birth, he forgot there was expectant mother parking just steps away from the ER entrance. I kept having to stop for contractions. They were very intense and took my breath away, and I leaned on Sal to get through them. When we got to Labor and Delivery, despite the fact that I could barely stand and could not even speak through the contractions, they put me in observation to "make sure" I was ready for a room. Which I got promptly when they found out I was already dilated to 6 centimeters.

At this point, after 2 a.m., I truly believed getting out of the stuffy, horrible observation room would help. I thought the spacious L&D room with the rocking chair and my birthing ball would help. I thought my breathing and my husband and my doula would help. But none of it did.

And what especially didn't help was my nurse. This woman enraged me. She kept asking me questions and touching me and bugging me to lay down so she could put monitors on my stomach. When my water broke as I stood over the bed heaving through a contraction, she raced over with towels to clean me up. I roared at her to leave me alone. I could not stand the feel of those towels on the back of my legs. I couldn't stand for ANYTHING to touch my body.

What I really wanted was to get into the damn shower. That's where I spent a lot of my labor with Mia, and I figured that there I'd be able get on top of this excruciating pain. Before the nurse would let me go, though, she wanted to give me an IV. I declined, she was irritated, and we compromised on a hep-loc. As I leaned over the hospital bed groaning and straining through one contraction after another, I stuck my arm out and she jabbed the needle into the back of my hand and taped it to my skin. She didn't want it to get wet in the shower, so she unwrapped some gauze and began to wrap it around my hand. Then she unspooled some blue tape and wrapped my wrist. Then some more gauze. Then some more tape. Gauze. Tape. Gauze. Tape. Gauze. Tape. It felt like every time I raised my sweaty head from the sheets to look at her, she was calmly unwrapping more freaking gauze and tape. By the time she was through, she had fashioned this fat blue mitt that covered my entire hand and wrist. Right there in front of the nurse, I held up my clubbed hand, turned to my doula and spat, "Is she f---ing kidding with this?" I am not a very nice person when I am in labor.

(Side note: By the time the baby was born, the mitt and the needle were gone. I have no idea what happened to them, but I felt triumphant nonetheless.)

Unfortunately, the shower didn't work. Things were moving too fast for me to relax beneath the water. And sitting on the ball was excruciating. Literally the only position I could bear was to stand up and lean on things - Sal, my doula, the bed, the wall. And when the contractions piled up one right after another, when I knew I could not possibly bear another moment of this terrifying pain, I began to feel some hope. Because I knew I was in "transition" - the very worst part of labor - and that pushing, and the end, would come soon.

I have a very vivid memory from Mia's birth of transition fading away, of returning to my normal self again. I was able to talk and even smile during pushing. Later I even described it as "fun" - all those people cheering me on, the knowledge that my baby was just minutes away. So I was absolutely stunned when this didn't happen with Alex. Things just got worse.

I started to push before anybody was ready - again, my body just did the pushing all on its own. I was powerless to stop it. My doula talked me into laying down so they could check me, and sure enough I was 10 centimeters. Then the commotion began. The doctor rushed in. The lights came on and they dropped the end of the table down. And everyone started telling me it's time. It's here. Pushpushpushpush.

Except the problem was that the pain of transition had NOT faded away. In fact, it became more terrible than anything I have ever felt in my life. I felt like I was being split in two, and I was panicked and petrified. I tried so hard to do what everyone was telling me to do. To curl my body up into a C. To stay silent so that the energy would all go toward pushing, not howling. To bear down and push with all my might to get the baby out. But it felt like I was failing. My brain was trying to do things, but to me it seemed like nothing with my body was changing. When I pushed, it was agony. When I didn't, it was agony. The pain washed over me.

They told me the end was close, but I didn't believe them. That's how crazed I was from pain - I remember looking at all those faces telling me excitedly that the baby was coming out right now and thinking "Liars! Oh my god, why are you f---ers LYING to me?!?" (There were a lot of F-words shooting through my brain that night.) It actually crossed my mind that I may spend the rest of my life with that baby stuck right there in the chute because I wasn't strong enough to push it out.

And very suddenly, oh dear sweet Jesus, the relief! I felt a sort of pop, and then the most indescribable sensation of things ... pain, warmth, fluids, A PERSON ... came tumbling out of my body. I collapsed back on the bed, closed my eyes and laughed. That's how good it feels when the most horrific pain you have ever felt vanishes into thin air. I saw them lift the baby up and thought "Oh my god, is that balls?!" And then Sal looked at me, grinned and told me we had a boy.

A boy! A BOY?! I know it is dumb for any mom to be shocked at giving birth to either gender - there aren't exactly a ton of possibilities. But shocked I was. Alex was born at 3:39 a.m., and they let me hold him for over an hour before taking him to get weighed and cleaned. As I sat there telling my doula what a nightmare this birth was compared to Mia, the scaled flashed 9 pounds, 2 ounces, which pretty much explains everything. It was all Alex's fault! I have since forgiven him and we have agreed to live happily ever after.

Despite the trauma of this experience - the memory of the pain haunted me for days - I'm happy I didn't have drugs. If it was that hard to push Alex out while I could feel everything and had full control of my muscles and my senses, I can't imagine how I could have done it if anything had been muffled by an epidural. I'm convinced I would have ended up with an emergency C-section. But as it was, in no time at all I was walking around, wolfing down a plate of food and taking a blissfully hot shower. One nurse even asked me if I was certain I'd had a baby that morning.

Later Sal told me that mere minutes after the birth I turned to him and said "NEVER. AGAIN." All these many weeks later, I do still feel that way. Not because I'm afraid of going through all that again, but because Alex has made our family feel complete.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A tribute

Since my dad passed away in March there has been precisely one time that I thought of him and smiled. It happened when I opened up an email from my friend Craig Lancaster, who included my father in the dedication of his new book. Reading about this honor blew away all the grief and pain of missing him for a few moments as I sat back and thought, "God, dad would get a kick out of this."

As Craig explains in this blog post, he and my father never met. But dad was a big fan of Lanky (as some of his San Jose friends know him) long before he became a published author. I suspect my neon green 2002 Volkswagen Beetle had a lot to do with that.

Not long after I moved to San Jose, my pretty blue Saturn crapped out on me in a major way. And as a young, single female living paycheck to paycheck in a very expensive place, the idea of going out by myself to buy a new car was daunting. When I explained the situation to Craig, my new friend and colleague at the San Jose Mercury News, he kindly offered to climb into the ring with me and the scary, slick car salesmen. He relished the idea of beating those guys into submission, and beat them he did! As I watched in mostly silent awe, Craig spent an entire afternoon waving his fists, sputtering demands, poking holes in their sketchy math and stomping right out of the dealership until we got a gorgeous new car at the right price. He even got them to throw in a six-disk CD changer. It was a thing of beauty.

That evening I called my dad to tell him how the whole thing went down. Dad was always concerned about me and my transportation. He liked to remind me about oil changes and brake checks, and "How's the car doing?" was a question he asked regularly. But dad was a thousand miles away when my Saturn died, and he could do little to help me. So when he learned how Craig swooped in and saved the day, I could hear the relief in his voice. Dads appreciate when people do that sort of thing for their daughters.

Over the years, every now and then, dad would ask about Craig. Dad was an avid reader - books were something we bonded over my entire life - and he got so excited when I told him that Craig wrote a novel. Dad loved both "600 Hours of Edward" and Craig's second book, "The Summer Son." When Craig found out my dad was sick, he asked me for his email address. Late that evening, I got a text message from dad that said "Lanky sent me an email!!!" He felt so honored to hear directly from THE Craig Lancaster. Craig also mailed my dad signed copies of the books just days before he died, and as I opened up the package, dad warned me from his hospital bed to "be careful with those."

How I wish they could have met, and yet in my heart it somehow feels as though they were great old friends. Lanky, what a wonderful gift you have given me and all who loved my father - a joyful memory of him even after his death. If I close my eyes I can just picture the grin on his face if he could see this. He'd find it cool as hell.

p.s. I am bursting - just bursting! - with blog posts about my kids. But here's the big difference between having one and two: Now if I have a chance to sleep when the babies sleep, I freaking TAKE IT. But Alex, the little sleepless tyrant, appears to maybe be easing up a bit on the nighttime wakings, so maybe I'll be less exhausted soon. Maybe I'll even find more time for things like, you know, taking showers. Going to the bathroom. And blogging! In the meantime, here's a picture I took at breakfast a few weeks ago, Alex chilling on dad's shoulder while Mia devours her waffle.