An Ode to Beauty

Good Morning!

I received a delightful phonecall from my sister last night, and I thought I might share the fruits of our convo. Peface: Jen is WAAAAY into Twilight. Seriously. In a bigtime way. She's totally following the second-to-second developments of the newest in-production movie in the series, New Moon. And before I go further, I have two confessions: Confession #1: I've read them all, and love them. I'm not as addicted, but I'll admit I've seen Twilight at least four times. Confession #2: I've forced Marcus to watch it with me twice.

OK, continuing. So I answer the phone and she's breathing kind of heavy (yes, in that way) and says, "Nat. The new pictures of the Wolf Pack are up. You need to go onto TwiCrackaddict." I decide to shirk KP and hop online.

As soon as the photos popped up, my speech abilities vanished and I was unable to articulate a complete sentence. The following is what I saw:


As I was chatting and blubbering with my sis, Marcus got hungry. So as I started nursing him, I kind of had this moral dilemma: Was it really bad to be nursing my newborn baby while being totally attracted to a photo of a pack of men, none of whom are my husband? And aren't mothers supposed to be "bonding" with their babies while nursing? Why was I online?

Judge me. I don't care.

Well, I'll deal with those moral quandries later. Until then, I'll just take in the view.


A Few Thoughts on Getting Behind

I'll start by admitting that I realized Tax Day was approaching on April
13. While this year has been eventful, and that's a fairly grand understatement, I'd felt like I'd done a pretty good job of staying organized in the midst of the big events. I'd been punctual (with the exception of Easter), I'd finished my task lists, and we'd run out of milk only once since the baby was born. I was "on it."

Then, as Dave was leaving for his business trip on Monday, I asked what date he was going to return. He said, "I'll be back the 19th."

A buzzer went off in my head. It was April, and the fifteenth was coming.
"Have we filed our taxes yet?"

"No. We'll just file an extension."

Whoa. Money isn't a subject we discuss that much in our house, generally because we don't have that much of it. When we do discuss it, we're usually debating whether to attempt to refinance or lamenting over why we thought buying a house was a better option than renting. Sometimes, we're laughing because we're poor as church mice. Other times, we're stressed because we're poor as church mice.

Personally, I like to file taxes early, around February. Apparently, filing taxes was pretty low on our priority list this year, and we simply forgot about it.

Forgetting about this important day scared me, and it got me thinking. Sure, we're broke. We're like a lot of Americans this year. We're grateful to have jobs. We're scrambling to forgo forclosure, because the benefits of ownership outweigh the costs. We've got big medical bills coming. We have a child about to enter preschool. We have a baby. We're overextended. The day-to-day of our survival consumes us so completely that the future, no matter how hopeful, dim, carefree, or responsibity-laden, exists outside of our consciousness. We don't have room for it. We can't contemplate what may be because we can barely handle what actually is.

I could ask myself how I got like this, how my once simple life turned into this frazzled mess. Perhaps I could pin down a triggering event, but that's pointless. It won't help solve the problem.

Instead, when Dave left on Tuesday, I put the kids down for their naps and started in. I felt like I was taking a stand. I refused to file an extension. I hate procrastinating. Taxes would still need to be filed in the midst of everything else, so I made time and made it happen. I was finished by the end of naptime the next day. Happily, we got a sizeable return which will end up eliminating another committment. Our credit card with the highest interest rate will be paid in full, never to be dealt with again.

Upon finishing, I still had two children to mother, a house to straighten, food to cook, and errands to run. I suddenly pondered the plight of single motherhood. Sometimes I imagine myself as a single mother when Dave is away on business. In many ways I am. I wake kids up and put them to bed, and do everything in between. Every decision is mine. The difference, however, is that I have the luxury of the second income and at the end of the day, I have Dave's support, even if it's over the phone. When he's home, I do not pay bills. I do not send the car in for repairs. I do not fix glitches on the computer. The single mother claims responsibility for everything.

Here's my point. Life happens, and sometimes, a lot of it happens all at once. But that's no excuse to let responsibilities slip. There are two of us. We can do it. We simply need to do the things that need to get done. That's it. Somehow, the single mother does it, and she probably files her taxes on time.


The story begins...

April 2, 2009

Well, I guess the story starts now. It’s as good a point as any.

I intended to start writing my story as it happens, the story of a mother of two beautiful children, a girl and a boy. The story of a wife to the hardest working, most loyal man I know. It’s the story of a woman trying to carve her way through the world as a fair-weather entrepreneur, student, athlete, and artist. And writer.

Indeed, that story will unfold on these scrolls.

The story for today is the story of the mother and wife.

We awoke to Marcus, our almost 1 month-old, uncomfortable in his swaddle and breathing heavily. He couldn’t seem to relax enough to sleep. I brought him into bed with me around 4 am. Alexandria, the 2 ½ year-old, woke up at 5 am complaining that she couldn’t find her pillow. Fantastic. Dave and I suddenly turned into the Pitt-Jolie family and welcomed both of our kids into our bed, creating the nightmarish and wildly dysfunctional “co-sleeping” arrangement that we vowed never to embrace. So there we were, the boy breathing heavily, the mother worried and exhausted, the girl slightly disoriented and sleepy, the husband grumpy and tired.

Marcus continued to breathe heavily and couldn’t keep food down. So, we made the call around 9 that I’d take him to the doctor’s office. Now, let me introduce myself as a non-interventionist. For the most part, I believe that sickness will pass. I don’t frequent the pediatrician’s office. I am usually right in my assessment of the situation (Dave, kids get sick. It’s their job. It’s what they do. You’re making me crazy.) (Dave, I’m not worried about her not pooping for 7 days. I’m not calling. I talked to Bree, and it happened to Sophie. Alexandria is not uncomfortable. You’re making me crazy.) So my concern was in the heavy breathing, but more so in the lack of appetite. Babies eat, and he wasn’t. So my mother-in-law (Saint Ya-Ya) picked up Alexandria, and Marcus and I trekked off to the doctor. Dr. Paul listened to Marcus’s breathing and his heart. For a long time. Like, a really long time.

Then the nurse listened to his heart for a long time.

And then the doctor again. It was scary.

Then the doctor said, “OK, we’re going to send him up to Cottage Hospital, and you’ll check into the emergency room, and he’ll be admitted into the Pediatric ICU. His heart is sort of galloping along, and I’d like the cardiologist to take a look. So, I’d like you to go up in an ambulance.”

I began to cry. It’s terribly scary to hold an 8 pound life force in your hands and picture the tubes and wires and discomfort and pain, and then think about all the awful ways it might turn out.
I insisted on driving rather than taking the ambulance, and then the moment I got in the car I began second-guessing my decision. I made phone calls. I couldn’t stand not seeing his face. I held his hand for nearly the entire 30 minute drive. I slowed at all the speed traps. It’s a drive I know well.

I arrived at the hospital composed, got admitted, and suddenly there were 10 people asking me questions while simultaneously assessing my son. My son. My boy. I touched his face and rubbed his feet. I held his hand as the nurse punctured his tiny arm once, twice, three times, trying to find a vein to administer an I.V. He began to turn blue. He breathed harder. His tiny heart beat at 220 beats per minute. Heart failure. His body was shutting down. His liver began to swell. They restarted his heart by “suffocating” him with an icepack on his face. A social worker came in to talk to me. She seemed as helpless as I felt. Neither of us knew what to say.

Within 10 minutes, a bed was ready, and off my little guy went to the Pediatric ICU. I waited. Dave arrived. We waited.

…to be continued

April 6, 2009

About an hour later, we were escorted through the double doors into the ICU, and there Marcus lay. The moment we caught sight of him, Dave squeezed my hand so tight, and we nearly started crying. He was in room 3, the high priority room, directly in front of the nurse’s station. Stripped down and warming under a heat lamp, he was attached to 6 separate tubes and wires, and it was awful. I could see where there had been 4 attempts at an IV on one arm (I would find two more on the other arm). He looked small and peaceful, but very much alive. His heart and lungs were still on overdrive, yet he was (dare I say it?) stable. We began our vigil.

The day passed and time meant nothing. Good news came when his heart gradually slowed. Better news came when we learned his heart was structurally intact. Best news came when we learned that he had a “condition,” and it was common and manageable. We learned late in the evening, or perhaps early the next morning, that his condition was triggered by the Flu virus. I slept by his side the first night.

The next day Marcus was on the mend, and we were cleared to leave the ICU and head up to general pediatrics. But there were no beds available, so we stayed. He grew stronger and stronger, and ate more and more throughout the day. By late afternoon, his eyes brightened and he looked around. Our little guy was back!

Dave slept by his side the next night. At midnight, he was taken off oxygen. By 9:30 the next morning, we were cleared for discharge.

Unbelievable! We could go home.

We spent the day at Dave’s parent’s house and began our own recovery. We arrived home late that night, and slept peacefully, except for 3 am feeding.

I awoke at 9 am, nursed Marcus, and then slept again until 12. I nursed Marcus, ate some breakfast, and then slept again until 4. The adrenaline was gone, and I was exhausted. My eyes fluttered with the strain of trying to stay open.

I putzed around the house the next day, too, still considering the “might have been” of the previous 72 hours.

Today, we’re alive! The might-have-been’s never happened. Considering them is wasteful and imagining them insults God's handy work. We’re all here again and life conquered.