Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Eviction of the First Son: Chapter Two

Once at the hospital, we take the elevator to the maternity ward on the sixth floor. A phalanx of blue-clad nurses greets us from behind a desk; we are checked in and shown to a room almost immediately. It’s nice to go through this process without a speck of pain. Other items missed from the checklist: the old question of when to head to the hospital, the anguish of potholes.

A nurse opens a cupboard and chooses a gown for me, from among a collection of well-washed garments with strings at the neck still knotted tight. We find a knot that she can pick apart with her fingernails. I am told to take everything off. I slip on the gown, my abdomen still swollen and taut (or, as my mother has deemed it, “rather bulgy”). I have now become hospital fodder; the extensive collection of loose and comfortable clothes that I brought (for some ambitious reason) will remain unworn—at least until I leave. The nurse bids me lie in bed and expertly hooks me up to a fetal heart and contract-o-meter. In almost the same smooth movement she flicks on the television and adjusts the volume.

Within the next 15 minutes, a parade of people enter the room one after another: an eyeglassed administrator to collect my insurance card and address, a nurse waggling a flat, disposable thermometer, another nurse to insert a heparin lock in the back of my left hand, yet another to fuss with the monitor, several others who enter and exit without immediate purpose, and one or two more random vitals-checkers. (In fact, my vitals will be taken throughout the next 48 hours as if someone’s fortune rode on the minute fluctuations of my temperature.)

I’m lying on the bed. I recall the Space Mountain ride at Disneyworld: once the car passes the entrance, it drops precipitously into darkness. I inspect the heparin lock on the back of my hand. The vein bulges grossly, pinioned under clear tape.
A young blonde doctor enters and introduces herself as Doctor H. She’s carrying a small blue pill case and inside it are two small pills intended to jumpstart my labor. The drug my doctor has ordered is Misoprostrol, otherwise known as Cytotec. It’s a drug intended for stomach ulcers, not labor. A drug I am leery of, but that I will try despite my reservations.

Doctor Hayley pokes the pill high up into my cervix (oofh!) and there deposits it. Now there is no going back. She tells me I need to lie still for one hour, at which point I’ll be released from the constant monitor and free to move about. A show about the Wright Brothers is on Channel 13 and we watch it, but I remember barely anything about it now. I think it may have had something to do with flight.

By 10:00 p.m. no one has come to release me from the monitor. I’m on my back and I expect some pain might be around the bend. I don’t wish to be on my back with pain around the bend; it makes me nervous and cranky. Nurse number 686 in the long procession of unknown nurses enters. She fails to introduce herself. I note immediately the serious cast to her face. Her lips purse when I ask her to remove the monitor.

“You need to lie there for two hours,” she informs me.
“The doctor said one.”
“I’m afraid it’s two.”
“Well then, it’s been almost two.”
“Has it?” she says. “Well, if you wish to ambulate, I can unhook you. Once you are done ambulating and you lie down to rest, you will need to be on the monitor.”
Ambulate? I just want to use the bathroom, maybe sit in a chair! But I’ll play her game.
“I’d like to ambulate, yes.”

If the past is any judge, this new nurse will quietly disappear and will be replaced with strange nurse number 687 shortly. So it’s likely I won’t need to obey her anyway.

She washes her hands at the sink and I take one last stab at arguing. “By the way, my doctor said that I wouldn’t need to be hooked up to the monitor while lying down. Only for half an hour, she said.”

“No,” says the nurse, expressionless. “Unless you are ambulating, you need to be hooked up to a monitor at all times. This is an induction. It’s a medical procedure. We need to make sure the baby is okay. At all times.”

This is exactly the reason why I wanted to avoid an induction in the first place. This nurse is clearly evil. Regardless, she releases me around 10:15 and I proceed to “ambulate” until she leaves the room. Then I sit down on the vinyl couch with husband. We are both silent, depressed. There’s something about this place that reminds me of a stark college dorm room at the lower end of the housing lottery; the kind of room where you spend a lonely year reading and writing bad poetry. The city outside is dark, and the fluorescent lights over the bed are dim. It’s terribly silent.

Doctor H will be back around 12:30 to check my progress. We wait. Eventually, husband pulls out the side of the couch to assemble a type of bed, albeit one for a stumpy-legged gnome. He fashions a pillow out of a pair of sweaters and curls up unhappily. I wait and read, alert to any subtle pains. There’s something there underneath the familiar Braxton Hicks tightenings, like a disturbance under the water, more sensed than felt. The sensation grows to a tangible cramping. And then to a point where I can say “this doesn’t feel good.” But it’s not too bad, either.

Evil Nurse returns, accompanied soon after by Doctor H.

“Progress!” the doctor announces re: the cervix. “It’s working; the miso has thinned it out quite a bit.”

Of course, I had hoped for a painless dilation to seven, but who can complain after three weeks at one centimeter? The doctor says she wants to monitor the contractions for a while. Evil Nurse is pleased; she rewards me with a supercilious little smile that says, “I am in charge here.”

They affix the stretchy bands that hold the monitor in place around my abdomen. Evil Nurse asks if I would like any pain medication. This surprises me; these pains are quite manageable. It gives me that pitifully optimistic stab of hope that all those crying women throughout history were wimps. If this is what requires pain medication, then my tolerance is greater than I had ever imagined! I refuse the pain medication and she duly notes it on my chart (I sneak a look later, after she’s gone).

Then they leave me. Husband drifts back to sleep on his makeshift bed. The pain starts to arrive, piece by piece. I had often asked others “what do labor pains feel like?” and the perennial and frustrating answer was either “you can’t miss them” or “you will know,” statements always punctuated with multiple screamers (!!!) when seen in print. I persisted. No really, what do they feel like? Like really bad menstrual cramps, people would say. Okay, there’s a start. Like menstrual cramps times forty, one person offers. But how much does that hurt? The mathematics do not seem to help. I’ve been determined all along to describe them and I knew that I, too, would forget. I would become a “you will know” veteran. So in the midst of it, I pull out my journal and write the following:

“Hospital. 2:56 a.m. Pain is god’s blood pressure cuff, tightening into knots at the top, then a flare, a bloom, an apron of pain along the bottom. Was thinking in paired words: moonstone sea, ocean bayberry, wound wrathmot. At first could float like a golden leaf upon Allagash Lake wave. Then tried fixating my attention on the ceiling. I walked. A ribbon of wet blood ran down my leg into my sock. I thought: I am a king. I am a warrior. I thought: I walk in the shadowed lands without fear; this cannot hold me. But words don’t make any sense, in the end. They are so much metallic clatter.”

That’s what I wrote and it’s not much good either. Pain means the loss of pronouns, a staccato rhythm, compressed verbiage. Maybe pain is poetry. This is the last thing I wrote before I died. (Because, it seems, this pain walks too finely close to death. But that is not such a bad thing. Memento mori; you are alive. You were a long shot. A strange chance brought you here.)

I will say this: There is a certain inherent rhythm underneath the anguish, as if women are tuned to intangible metronomes. I know this because I can hear another laboring woman crying out along the hall in exactly the same tempo. One-two-three-four-five and on, slow and steady, like something rising up and cascading over the top of a dark wall. The noise is more like the crying of a dumb animal than anything else.

In the room is a wooden rocker-glider. It is the best and most magnificent thing in the history of human invention. It tops automobiles, telephones, air conditioners, radio towers, pacemakers, penicillin. I rock, rest, rock, rest. Sometimes the rests descend into a valley of blessed normalcy, and other times they sink only slightly below the level of true badness. I deem this quite unfair.

I listen to music through headphones: “Two steps around the room, once around the block, I’ll be your future boy.” At some point I remember to pinch the nodules taped inside my ears. They have absolutely no effect. I begin to suspect that I was duped. Ever optimistic, I leave the beads in place. Maybe when the pain gets really bad, they’ll work. That’s bloody likely.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Villanelle for My Baby

My Baby Shrieks, and Then Goes Poo

My boy he grunts and squirms anew
His arms pinwheel, his legs a riot
My baby shrieks, and then goes poo

A toot, a squeak, a grin for you
He howls and all the world goes quiet
My boy he grunts and squirms anew

What is this world, but made of doo?
He drums his ribs, and gives himself a fright
My baby shrieks, and then goes poo

From his tiny sphincter, out it flew
Mustard yellow, such delight
My boy he grunts and squirms anew

He burps, his colon gives a moo
The diaper holds a charming sight
My baby shrieks, and then goes poo

Out the back his onesie blew
His countenance it holds no spite
My boy he grunts and squirms anew
My baby shrieks, and then goes poo

Saturday, July 5, 2008


People often ask me where we found our current nanny. An agency? Word of mouth? I tell them the truth: I met her in kickboxing class at the NYSC. Then people ask: "Can I borrow her?"

She is British, and falls into that category of caregiver known as the Supernanny. I'm sure you've seen the show: A trim and tidy British nanny shows up to a household where all hell is breaking loose--the children are usually beating the parents and each other senseless with sharp objects while the mom threatens half-hearted time-outs that never really materialize. Usually, the children are quite feral, with glimmering eyes and sharp fangs. The parents are on the verge of divorce because they never get a decent cocktail hour, thanks to the fact that the little mites go to bed around midnight.

Our boys were not so horrid, but they were wild enough. It's hard to put a kid in repeated time-outs when you are desperately trying to find a shoe and a comb just so you can make it to the 8:29 express. Not only that, bedtime was a misery of trying to stuff wriggling bodies into jammies and enforce "full body pinning" toothbrushing sessions.

On our very first day with Supernanny, our youngest child immediately threw his half-grapefruit on the floor. "I don't wike it!" he screamed.

"Pick it up,"said Supernanny. "That's bad manners!"

"I won't!"

"Then you'll sit in this chair until you do."

The husband and I had to leave for work, and we chortled all the way to the train. That little bugger had met his match! in the end she won, and the grapefruit was picked up. Boy, was he sore about it.

Charts went up, and the boys earned stickers for potty, making their beds, getting dressed, good manners, and brushing their teeth. If enough stickers are earned they get "specials day," which often involves a treat out at a diner on Supernanny's own tab (her choice). I never imagined a two-year-old could make a bed, but there he was fluffing his pillow and tossing out the blanket on the floor prior to folding it. Admittedly, the end result is poor and would not be fit for a photo shoot, but that's not the point. Now we sometimes see them working together to fold: "Corner to corner, and then meet in the middle!"

They are not perfect by any stretch. Despite all efforts, the little one poos most ferociously in his pull-up as many as three times per day. It's quite ghastly. But as Supernanny says, "I don't think he gets much warning." The child eats like a linebacker. The elder child still insists on several time-outs a day as part of his regular routine, just because he can.

But, when bedtime comes, one can actually say to them: "Go upstairs and put your pajamas on and brush your teeth." And, by crikey, they'll do it! Sometimes. Most of the time.

Table manners are another thing. Grandma came over and did a double-take the other day when the little boys got up from the table and carried their plates and cutlery to the sink. I smiled proudly, as if I'd had a thing to do with it. "Please may I have some more?" is the question of the day, as is "Please pass the butter." Sure, they are fully capable of singing "poo songs" and flinging their forks at each other at the table, but we are talking about savage little boys here, and perfection is a mirage.

After a while, I noticed an alteration in their vocabulary. "That make me quite giddy!" said my elder son, spinning around on his own axis. "We are all out of potty towels [toilet paper]," he pointed out one day. They have not yet started to use the word "bloody," but I expect that will come, in time.

Sadly, Supernanny departs for her fair isle come September 10th. In late July and August (due to the fact that we will soon have no home), she may be available for assignations at your home. Write to me here if you would like to access her prodigious skills!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day

In years past we have always watched the 4th of July fireworks from our very own front porch. And every year, just like this year, I raise the spectre of having our boys stay up way too late and watch the show. Occasionally, I even suggest that we stroller it down to Five Islands to get a better view. And every year, my darling husband says this is a Very Bad Idea.

Our nanny, who happens to be a British Supernanny, says she sides with him in this matter. Fortunately, cooler heads have prevailed and we are out in the rain (live blogging from the scene!) while we hear a few distant booms. The boys are safe in their beds. We are not actually sitting in the rain, for that would be foolish: We are on the porch. Ah, soon to be no longer our porch, and we'll miss it sorely! And this is a true thing.

According to a few soreheads who read the Loop, where our favorite Editrix has posted a fair number of my rantings and ravings, I am a racist, elitist, mannequin-mocker who also happens to hate women with breast cancer. See this link for the firestorm rivaling any Independence Day spectacle New Ro can put on! (Fire fed by myself and my husband, of course, as nasty naughties who call me bad names cannot escape unscathed and must be driven weeping into the ocean.) When I first read the post of the anonymous troll known as "Another Reader" (I suspect a woman's touch, but maybe that labels me as a "sexist," too!) I was in the park with my seven-week-old infant and older son and felt keenly wounded. Ouch. Was I to be run out of town on a rail, bullied back to the borough of Brooklyn for the crime of having a sense of humor? Gosh, peeps, I was just having a bit of fun and happened to have a camera in my beaten-up old-lady non-elitist purse.

Me, a racist? I remember most vividly our very first Fourth of July in this house, when we had three couples over for a barbeque. Two of the couples happened to be black. Our neighbors' four fat sisters, floating like offal in their above-ground pool, glared at us over the fence with pointed rancor. We later planted four fat trees in that spot.

Lest another reader tracks me down here and says the "Gee, I have black friends, too!" defense won't wash, I'll mention that one of my dear pals from New Rochelle (black) was the very one who suggested I stay the hell outta this neighborhood because the school system wasn't so good. Horrid elitist that she is! We didn't listen, because I tend to think standardized test scores are a crock, especially when the majority of the school population is ESL. And I do think the school is a very decent school, with very good people working there. I'm not a fan of the garbage in the playground, but hey, there's garbage in Turtle Park, too.

When I started this blog I think approximately three people read it. I like them and they like me, and what they thought wasn't going to stop my opinionated, snarky, and occasionally heartfelt and even sad musings. Nothing has changed. Long live the free journalistic spirit, and kick-ass free spirits like the Loop's Polly!

Where are my fireworks? What are my very, very low taxes paying for, anyway?

Wait. Oh yes, indeed. They have begun. And they are quite fine!

"We Tried to Cross Swords"

Time: 6:36 a.m.
Place: Upstairs bathroom
Incident: An almost 3-year-old was standing before the potty, with his pull-up half down and his pajamas soaked in urine. His 4 ½ year old brother stood nearby, looking sheepish. When the authorities questioned what had happened, the younger child confessed that "we tried to cross swords." After a period of intense questioning no further information could be divulged and the offending articles of clothing were removed.

Time: 6:42 a.m.
Place: Master bedroom
Incident: Two young children stormed into the room, whereupon they removed articles of clothing and “mooned” and “flashed” passersby in the area.

“What’s under here?” the smaller one yelled, before pulling up his shirt and revealing his penis. “It is mein winky!”

“I have a surprise for you,” said the older child, and exhibited his naked buttocks. “Now I’m gonna poo on you!” The children were subsequently removed from the room. The shocked victims of the incident refused further discussion and the case was closed.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Same 10 Questions I Always Ask Myself, Part the Fifth

1. What are you wearing?
Shorts in a size I don't wanna be. And a shirt that narrowly escaped the latest Reflux Rage of the Incredible Spittling Infant.

2. What's the nature of today's hypochondria?
Sleep deprivation will lead to foolish errors in judgement which will imperil my life.

3. What was today's workout?
At least 7,000 paces through the Bronx Zoo.

4. How do you do what you do and stay so sweet?
You, dear reader, are all that stands between me and a bout of the nasties.

5. What's that burning smell?
The neighbors who never invite us over not for any reason not that we want to consort with them anyway are grilling something tasty again. Grrr.

6. If you were an animal, what kind would you be?
A maniacal kookaburra with a squirrel monkey for a pet.

7. What are you drinking, and why?
Shiraz from Australia. I tried Maker's Mark but it offended.

8. In what ways hast thou offended?
I dissed my home city of New Ro and for that I am sorely repentant. I started a big tire fire of controversy filled with slutty accessories and dollar store items!

9. What's the next big thing?
That's "things" plural, and the answer is my big boobies. They are bigger than you!

10. Music selection?
The Fix is in. Great soundtrack to a movie that doesn't exist yet!