A scene from a moment ago:
I am sitting in the armchair with my legs propped up, watching the news on TV.
Kacie crawls onto my lap and asks, "Where did Baby go?," patting my breasts questioningly. I redirect her hand to my big tummy and say, "Baby's right here." Kacie smiles and pulls my shirt up. "Me see Baby!" she says, and pokes a finger into my belly button. I tell her to say hello to the baby. "Oh, BA-BEE!" she growls, in her best "monster" voice. She looks at me quizzically. "Baby's crying?" she asks. "Baby's sleeping," I say. "Oh, Baby's CRYING!" she says, and hops off my lap to go play with her "people" ...
April 21, 1986
Frankly, Journal, I am amazed to find myself sitting here this morning, in my kitchen, drinking ONE cup of coffee and planning housework just like I do every Monday morning. I genuinely believed I would be in the hospital by now!! And indeed, if I could have induced labor by sheer force of will, that's where I'd be. I spent the whole weekend in a state of preparedness. Bags packed, house as neat as a pin, hair washed and curled. I even had two small overnight bags packed for Jamie and Kacie. I told Ray and the girls, "Don't be surprised if we go tonight!" and I barked at them to not mess up the house, pick up those toys, keep that bedroom CLEAN! It was like living in a state of emergency for two days: I had everyone primed and ready for a dash to the hospital that never came.
Wishing tonight would be the night. I am restless, bored and impatient.
Obviously, last night wasn't the night. Today I am making a superhuman effort to keep my expectations low. I keep hearing this dumb cliché in my head ...
"A watched pot never boils ... a watched pot never boils ..."
In spite of my good intentions - I've got to say it!! - today might be the day!! (A watched pot ... a watched pot ...)
I'm lumbering around the house, huge as a refrigerator, and something inside my heart is whispering "Today! Today!" I want to ignore the voice, in case it's setting me up for another disappointment, but what can I say? Today might be the day.
April 24, 1984
I am STILL SITTING HERE. I'm starting to think I may never have this child. The doctor says this isn't a "large" baby, but to me it feels like a bowling ball.
OK folks, my due date has arrived. Baby, when are you going to get here?? Maybe Dr. Bell will be able to tell me more when I see him this afternoon.
A few minutes ago I was dancing around the living room with Jamie and Kacie (The Bangles, "Manic Monday") ... at one point I even picked Kacie up and waltzed her around the kitchen ... it dawned on me afterwards that I'm pretty darned limber for a woman who is four hundred months pregnant. I'll bet I could jog around the block.
Well, everything has changed, as of two days ago: Dr. Bell has ordered me to stay in bed all weekend. My blood pressure is too high, and my ankles and fingers are swollen - possible signs of toxemia, I guess. The only time I'm allowed up is to go to the bathroom. All I've done this weekend is read magazines, watch TV, eat (a little) and sleep. Unmitigated blobbery. Ray, bless him, has been my knight in shining armor. Yesterday he ran the house and took care of Kacie (Jamie has gone to spend a few days at Peg and Don's) while I rested. I had to thank him about a billion times before he would go to sleep last night. Today I expect he'll be about half as cheerful and compliant as he was yesterday: some of the novelty of being Mr. Mom will have worn off. By the end of the week he should be a total frazzled mess ... my normal mental state.
As for me. I'm feeling OK - a little constipated, and Baby is kicking like mad (an unfortunate combination, to say the least), but otherwise it's OK. I'm so far past impatience, it's ridiculous: I have accepted the fact that I will be pregnant with this child for the rest of eternity.
April 28, 1986
OK, OK, technically I'm still supposed to be in bed, but Ray's at work and somebody has to keep an eye on Kacie. (Jamie, thankfully, is still at the folks'.) So I'm sitting up in the armchair, enjoying one cup of forbidden coffee and thinking. Kacie is sitting at the kitchen table, chewing her beloved piece of gum. I watch her and smile. She thoroughly enjoyed having Ray and I all to herself this weekend! Once in a while she mentioned Jamie, but never with any real concern ...
Last night Ray took Kacie and I out to dinner at Denny's ... Kacie called it "Dendy's." I'd been in bed all weekend so it felt weird being on my feet, but a restaurant meal was a treat I wasn't about to pass up. I had a small steak, a baked potato and corn; Kacie had fried chicken; Ray had steak and shrimp and two Bloody Marys. (The food was "fair," he said, and he complained incessantly about the waitress.) After dinner I used the pay phone and called Jamie at her grandparents' house. "Who is dis?" she chirped, over and over again, in that funny little Minnie Mouse voice of hers. Talking on the phone made me miss her. This is the longest we've ever been separated, and I miss my Puss.
This morning I feel surer than ever that this will be the big day. I don't even care if I sound like a broken record. This day already has a unique, surreal quality to it ... half of me wants to run round and clean house like mad, even though it really doesn't need it ... the other half of me has this primal urge to find a nice dark closet and crawl in and have a litter of kittens ...
I'm sitting here in the deathly-quiet living room, listening to my own pounding heart, the refrigerator running, the wind blowing in the trees outside, the walls creaking, cars passing by. The skies have turned an opaque gray: a storm is in the air.
It is zero hour in my heart.
April 28, 1986 (still)
Well ... what can I say? I was wrong again. No baby. "Go home and go back to bed," is basically all Dr. Bell had to say this afternoon. I left his office in tears. All the waiting and worrying and sleepless nights have run me down, and I simply wasn't prepared for another disappointment.
My mother-in-law was nice. She tried to cheer me up with horror stories about her own childbirth experiences (Ray was ten days late, Barbara was four weeks late!) In an odd way it did make me feel a little better. After she brought me home from my doctor's appointment, she picked up some more clothes for Jamie and has taken her back to their house for an extra night or two.
April 29, 1986
The waiting is driving me absolutely batty, but I guess I'll survive. I'm trying to console myself with the fact that every day that passes does bring the baby a little closer. I'm also trying to convince myself that someday I'll laugh about this. Besides: this is probably the last period of real peace and quiet I'll have for years. I should try and enjoy it.
So what shall I do with my overly-pregnant self today? I can't stay on the sofa again all day today ... I just can't. On the other hand, I'm too uncomfortable to move around much, which automatically rules out most of my favorite time-killers ... vacuuming, furniture rearranging, random wall-scrubbing. I feel like an overly ripe piece of fruit, soft and swollen and bruised.
April 30, 1986
THIS IS GETTING RIDICULOUS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I have neglected to mention that Dr. Bell has tentatively scheduled me for a c-section on Monday, May 5th ... provided I don't go into labor before then. (Yeah, right.) So there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It's only five days away, for Pete's sake ... five days does not an eternity make. But of course I'm hoping my labor does start before then. "Scheduled" childbirth? Gee whiz. That's so pat and predictable: pack the suitcase and go. I think I'd like a little more excitement, a little more spontaneity ... a bit of drama this last time out. Maybe some 2 a.m. contractions, a few middle-of-the-night phone calls ... a bit of hysteria and confusion, thrown in for good measure. Let's make this a night to remember!
After Jamie spent a week at her grandparents:
Ray got home last night around 7:30, carrying a huge pizza. He didn't know Jamie was home, so she ran and hid. I said to Ray, "I have a surprise for you!" He said, "Oh yeah? What is it?" Out jumped Jamie! And, to my complete astonishment, Ray burst into tears! He grabbed her and squeezed her so tight I thought he might snap her in half. "This is the best surprise in the world!" he said, all snuffly and emotional. Even Jamie was dazed by the intensity of his reaction. I'm sure that in years to come I'll pull that moment out of the file box of memory, to remind myself how very much Ray adores his girls.
May 1, 1986
Just forced myself to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk. It tasted like cardboard, but my stomach was rumbling and I needed to eat something. I feel a little better now. Baby is flopping around heavily inside of me. I've decided that this child must be a boy: only a man would keep me waiting like this ...
May 5, 1986
Monday afternoon in the hospital
I have a son ... a tiny, lovely little son named Kyle Christopher P., and I love him very, VERY much!
Right now he's sleeping four feet away from me in his isolette. I have just woken from my own afternoon nap, feeling refreshed (if not exactly energetic) and ready to write all about his birth. My heart is so filled with joy: I'd like to preserve it forever on these pages. Kyle's birth was every bit as momentous and special as I could possibly have hoped for. I feel like I'm walking on air!
Saturday night was when it finally began. I was feeling pretty good, but I was tired ... I'd done a lot of housework that day (somewhat against doctors' orders), including laundry and vacuuming. When Ray got home at 6:30 he offered to make dinner. He barbecued some huge T-bone steaks on the grill, with baked potatoes and a salad. I only ate a little bit, though, because I was starting to feel a little "funny" and I didn't want to stuff myself. The Braxton-Hicks contractions had been stronger than usual all day, and by evening I knew Baby was going to arrive before Monday's scheduled surgery. I didn't say anything to Ray - I knew he'd scoff at me! - I kept my suspicions to myself and quietly monitored the infrequent pains and flutters. We ate dinner at 8:30 and then got ready for bed. Everybody was tired so we went to bed earlier than usual. Ray and I lay in bed and talked quietly for a while ... he rubbed my back, we joked about this and that ... it was nice. A few minutes later he dropped off to sleep, and I rolled over on my side, tucking some pillows around my fat tummy, and attempted to follow suit. The instant Ray let out his first snore, it hit: my first real contraction. It was very mild, like strong hands gripping my pelvis and squeezing. When another one hit a while later, I decided to get up. I tiptoed out to the living room: it was 10:45 p.m. I watched the late news, a music-videos show, an old horror movie. While I watched TV I monitored the contractions, and soon they'd established a regular pattern, coming six or seven minutes apart and lasting about a minute apiece. They were mildly painful, but not intolerable. I was euphoric! At long last, the baby was finally coming!
I was also a little nervous ... I didn't know what to expect, delivery-wise. Twelve hours of labor and a nice epidural? A middle of the night c-section? The uncertainty was scary. I felt like I was walking into the unknown.
The contractions continued at regular intervals. Once or twice an especially painful one caught me off guard, but the rest of the time it was no big deal at all. I started to worry maybe I was mistaken: maybe this wasn't labor, after all. I didn't want to drag Ray and the girls out of bed and get things all stirred up if this was just a "drill" ... Ray would murder me. But I thought about Dr. Bell's warning, the day before: "If you even think you might be going into labor, call the hospital," he said. My toxemia made me high-risk, and if I sat around and waited for the contractions to come harder and faster, who knows what might happen? It was a risk I didn't want to take.
So there I was on Saturday night/early Sunday morning, nestled in my armchair with a pen in one hand and my journal in my lap, timing my pains. The neighborhood was completely dark: our house was the only one with lights blazing. At 1 a.m. I decided to try and wake Ray. I could hear him snoring all the way out in the living room; it was going to take a miracle to wake him up. The first time I tried the gentle approach. "Ray?" I said, softly, until he opened his eyes and looked at me. "I'm in labor. You've got to drive me to a phone booth." He nodded sleepily, rolled over and went back to sleep! I tried again a few minutes later, much less gently this time. "I'm having contractions. Get up," I said firmly. This time he looked right through me, like a man having hallucinations. Exasperated, I shook him and said, "LISTEN TO ME! I'M IN LABOR!!" "Lay down and go back to sleep," he mumbled.
I finally managed to get him out of bed, and we both got dressed in a hurry. I was giggly and nervous, Ray was stoic. We drove to the phone booth by Big O Tire, where I made a series of quick phone calls ... to Dr. Bell, then to Peg, then to my mother. Ray drifted off to sleep while he waited in the car, and I impatiently pounded on the hood to wake him up. Peg said she would drive over right away, so we came home to wait for her. Ray slipped back into bed, and I watched an old "Popeye" cartoon on TV. The baby rolled around inside of me, heavily, slowly. I patted my fat stomach and said "Hang in there, kiddo - it won't be long now!" It occurred to me then that these were probably my final moments of pregnancy, ever. The realization made me a little sad. This pregnancy hadn't been smooth sailing, especially the last month, but I was sorry that an important part of my life was ending. I sat with my hands pressed against my tummy and enjoyed the final thumps and bumps from within.
Peg and Barbara showed up at 2:30 a.m., sleepy but cheerful. We got Jamie and Kacie out of bed, put ski jackets on over their p.j.'s and bundled them up in afghans before putting them in the back seat of Peg's car. At first they were too groggy to understand what was going on, but when they heard the words "hospital" and "baby" they sprang to life! By the time we got to the hospital (Ray and I went in our car; the girls rode with Grandma and Aunt Barbara) they were wide awake, chattering a mile a minute, and inordinately pleased to be included in the big adventure!
The girls watched while I was put into a wheelchair and admitted at the front desk. Then it was time for me to go upstairs, so I kissed them both goodbye and told them that very soon they'd have a new baby brother or sister.
While I was having the baby, Jamie and Kacie stayed in the waiting room with Peg and Barbara. From time to time Ray went downstairs and checked on them. Each time, the report was the same: the girls were playing with the waiting room toys, drinking pop from the vending machine, enjoying the novelty of being in a hospital in the middle of the night.
In the meantime, the ordeal was just beginning for me. I put on a lovely hospital nightgown and was hooked up to my old pal, the fetal monitor. My contractions were still steady, regular and surprisingly endurable. They hurt, but they just didn't hurt that much. I was given a brief pelvic exam -- no dilation yet -- my blood pressure was checked, a blood sample taken. Dr. Bell was called, and he told the nurses to continue monitoring me: if everything went OK I could try and deliver vaginally. He would be coming into the hospital soon, and then we'd decide together what sort of delivery I wanted to try.
The two things that proved to be the worst ordeals of the entire birthing process were the Vistaril injection I got in my rear (note: that sucker still hurt two months later) and being hooked up to the I-V. Five different nurses and technicians tried to find a decent vein in my arm, and all five failed. My veins are so delicate they're hard to "thread." The nurses were all getting frustrated, and I was in tears. It hurt! Each attempt was worse than the one before. Much later the anesthesiologist came in and finally managed to get an I-V going in my right wrist. This wasn't an ideal spot, as the slightest movement threatened to yank the needle out, but it would have to do.
After a few hours of contractions but no real progress, I was given a choice: continue laboring for as long as it took and attempt a vaginal delivery, or go in right now and have a c-section. I suppose I knew all along I'd end up having a c-section. I didn't think I could handle hours and hours of contractions. Ray was anxious, the kids were waiting downstairs, Dr. Bell thought a cesarean was a good idea because of the toxemia, I'd been down this road before so I knew what to expect. It was an easy decision. "Let's go with the c-section," I said, and with that the wheels were set in motion. It was 5 a.m. when I made the decision; the surgery was scheduled for 6:15 a.m. One endless hour to wait.
Ray had been hovering nearby, sometimes in the hallway outside my room, sometimes downstairs with the kids. Sometimes he came in and sat with me, but never for very long: he was too restless and nervous to sit still. When he heard the news about the c-section he went downstairs to tell Peg and the girls.
I was hooked up to a catheter - another painful procedure - and my tummy was shaved. Then there was nothing to do but wait for 45 minutes. I lay there and watched the seconds ticking by, slow as molasses. To pass the time I talked to the Baby. "Just a few more minutes to go, Sweetheart!" I informed my mountainous belly. "Just wait until you see the family you're being born into!"
Dr. Bell arrived and came in to chat with me. His tone was friendly and reassuring, and that helped put me at ease. I was given some forms to sign. Time passed, slowly ... the final moments of the final pregnancy ... I was nervous, elated, tired, wired, up, down, every which way at once. I kept thinking "This is it, this is the moment ... try and remember everything!" The furniture in the room, the tiles on the ceiling, the color of the nurse's hair ... for some reason it seemed critically important to remember it all. And then it was 6 a.m., time to go to the operating room.
We lost Ray temporarily, when he went to change into his surgical clothes. A nurse had to go and find him. The actual surgery took less than hour: for me it lasted forever. The walls of the operating room were an awful Gatorade green; the room teemed with activity as the doctors and nurses bustled around, making preparations. I was given the spinal right away. "Roll over on your side and draw your knees up to your chin," the anesthesiologist instructed me, and a moment later I felt her needle jab into my spine. Soon a warm, heavy numbness spread through my legs and my back and I was paralyzed from the waist down. An oxygen mask was strapped to my face and I was forced to breathe the sickly sweet air. The nurses "painted" my tummy with something thick and yellow. And then the baby's birth began.
I could hear Dr. Bell and his associate, Dr. Pheifer (ironically, the same Dr. Pheifer who was my o.b. when I was pregnant with Jamie ... the one I didn't get along with) chatting amiably as they began performing surgery on me. I could feel different kinds of pressure and pulling as they worked, and a little nausea from the spinal, but no pain. Part of me was saying, "Enjoy this! This is the last time!" But it's hard to enjoy much of anything when you're being operated on. Ray sat beside me, to my left, and held my hand. From time to time he squeezed my fingers. I sensed he was as anxious for the whole business to be over with as I was.
After what seemed like hours and hours, I heard somebody say "Here's the head. This baby's got a lot of hair!" If I'd been more comfortable I might have giggled at that. Then suddenly they were lifting the baby out, and the anesthesiologist standing just to my right leaned down to me and said, "It's a little boy baby." At 6:45 a.m., May 4, 1986, Kyle Christopher P. made his entrance into the world. A son! I couldn't believe it. Ray and I had a son!
Kyle was whisked off to the back of the operating room (I had to twist my head around to get a glimpse of him) and cleaned up. He started to cry, a healthy, lusty cry. A nurse wrapped him in a blue receiving blanket and put a tiny stocking hat on his head, and then they handed him to Ray. Ray stood there grinning from ear to ear. He had a son! While I was being repaired, Ray and Kyle had a few minutes to bond. Then the nurse brought the baby over to me and laid him on my chest. His nose was runny, and he made funny little "snuffling" sounds. I kissed him and said, "Hello Sweetie, I'm your Mama."
When I was all stitched up I was wheeled to the recovery room to begin the arduous process of letting the spinal wear off. Not being able to move my legs for hours was agonizing. By noon I'd been taken to my hospital room, and I was definitely feeling better. I was enjoying that lovely postpartum "high" you get right after giving birth: a feeling of invincibility, specialness, radiance. I made a few phone calls, joked with the nurses, and -- best of all -- got to feed my new baby son for the very first time.
As for my son. What can I say about him that hasn't already been said by every first time mother of sons since time began? He is purely a miracle. He is beautiful, healthy, unique, precious, sweet as sugar, good as gold ... he is everything I could possibly have wished for and more. Right after he was born was so dark and wrinkled that he looked like a little gnome, but over the past few days his coloring has evened out and he is now quite the handsome young man. I think he resembles Ray -- and Kacie -- but sometimes when he's feeding he is the spitting image of Jamie at that age. And he also seems to have my fine, straight hair. So there are bits and pieces of all of us in him: he is definitely a P..
Of course I'm probably imagining things, but it seems like he knows me already. This morning when I was feeding him, he opened his eyes wide and looked right at me, and his expression was one of friendly interest ... and love! I swear, it looked like he recognized me. My heart just melted. My son. My sweet, perfect little son. I hold his tiny body in my arms, and he leans his head against my shoulder and sighs, and I feel that impossible blind leap into love beginning all over again.
May 11, 1986
Mother's Day ... my fifth! Last week when I was in the hospital, Mom gave me a pretty flowered mug that says "Mother is another word for love." I'm using it to drink my coffee this morning as I sit here on the sofa, watching my three beautiful children ... Kacie, dreamily slurping spoonsful of Cocoa Krispies and watching Sesame Street ... Kyle, asleep in his white basket, tummy full of milk, one tiny hand curled into a fist ... and Jamie, sitting as close to the baby's basket as she can possibly manage, keeping one eye on Sesame Street and the other eye on her sleeping brother. "That little baby is fast asleep!" she says.
There is a newborn in the house again, and it is delightful, inconvenient, marvelous, scary, special, exhausting ...
Kyle is a marvel. At age ten days he is already so firmly planted in my heart, I think he's taken root. Right now he's sleeping in his infant seat on the floor at my feet ... one hand folded across his chest, the other hand held up against his ear, fingers curled. Soft, fuzzy hair shining red in the sunlight ... pug nose, puckered mouth, slow easing breathing. My tiny son. I love him so much. When I'm feeding him, he fastens those sky-blue eyes on mine and I'm utterly lost. Kylie. The little boy I was so afraid I might not be able to love, who is now at the center of my universe. All the good things I feel in my life spring directly from my children, and now Kyle adds a new source and dimension of joy. I adore him, as I adore Jamie and Kacie, and I thank God for them every day.
Song I sang to Kyle this afternoon:
"I want to sing you a love song
I want to rock you in my arms all night long.
I want to get to know you
I want to show you the peaceful feeling in my heart."
Jamie: (gazing at Kyle) "Do babies have dreams?"
Mom: "Mmm-hmmm ..."
Jamie: "I think he's dreamin' about milk."
Kacie: "I wanna SEE my baby brudder." (Grabs his fist, uncurls his fingers.) "Oh, cute hands. I wanna go back outside."
Mom: "Henry!" (my new nickname for the baby) "Henry P.! Your pants are falling up!"
Kyle Christopher P.: "Growf."
Rainy morning. The world outside is dark and clouded over ... inside our home, things are warm and cozy. I sit, Indian-style, pajama clad, nestled in a corner of the sofa drinking coffee from my new "Mother" mug. The house is very warm. In one corner of the living room, tucked into the big white basket, the baby sleeps peacefully, oblivious to his sisters' bickering. ("Kacie, we share! Share!") Laundry tumbles endlessly in the dryer; Sesame Street, as always, is on the tube. Very typical morning in progress.
Young Mr. P. surprised me last night. I've been smugly bragging to everybody about his "wonderfully regular" schedule ... how he wakes up to be fed at the same time every night (11 p.m., 3 a.m., 6:30 a.m.) I even told Ray you could "set your watch" by our son. So of course last night he juggled everything around. I was up at 1:30 a.m., and again at 5 a.m. ... torture. I guess he just wanted to show me who the boss is around here. Luckily I did manage to coax him back to sleep this morning, and we got up finally at 8 a.m. ( I was wakened by this ominous warning from Jamie to Kacie - "Put that back in him's room or Mama's gonna be ANGRY!" I never did figure out what they were talking about.)
I've been up now for ninety minutes, and this is what I've accomplished so far: changed Kyle, fed him two small bottles, put him down for a nap. Fixed breakfast for the girls and I (Sugar Frosted Flakes with bananas), made a pot of coffee. Put a load of clean wet laundry into the dryer, set some cloth diapers to soak, dressed Kacie, put bottles and nipples to soak in the sink and had two cups of coffee. Whew. Now only thirteen or fourteen hours to kill until bedtime ...
I've been sporadically awful to the girls the past few days. It's like I'm being pulled in a hundred different directions at once. I finally get settled into the armchair with a ravenous, screaming Kyle and a warm bottle of formula, after ten minutes of frantic scurrying and hurrying to accommodate him ... and just at that moment, Jamie approaches me and plaintively requests help with the button on her pants. Then Kacie begins hopping up and down, screaming for an orange. Or else they innocently request a story or a cookie or a minute of my attention, but they catch me at an impossible moment: when I'm up to my elbows in dishwater, or heading off for a quick shower. Then I have to say, "Not now, honey" or "Maybe later." They're not used to being put off so frequently, and my explanations ("The baby just keeps me so darned busy right now!") or my attempts at reassurance ("It won't be like this forever") don't do a lot of good. All they know is that their Mama, once so approachable and available, is now too busy for them.
I find myself screeching at them over the most trivial things, and then Jamie is devastated and Kacie is hysterical and I feel like dirt. I always apologize right away, but by then the damage is done and the words are already out. I wish I could make them understand that my love for them hasn't diminished, even if I don't have as much time (or patience) right now as usual. Kyle's arrival hasn't taken away anything: it has enhanced the love I feel for my whole family. I'm just not sure the girls know that. All they get from me is a steady stream of dictums and denials ... "Quit running in the house while the baby is sleeping!" "No, you can't paint right now." "Pick up those Legos and quit jumping on the furniture!" "Don't touch the baby's bottle!" I open my mouth and this stuff just seems to pop out all by itself. Then the ugly words hang there in the air, echoing hatefully, and I wish I could take them back. But I can't. Words aren't retractable. The girls stare at me with huge, hurt eyes, and I then I think That's it, I've ruined them. Scarred their fragile little psyches beyond repair. As a mother I rank somewhere between Joan Crawford and The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe ...
I hold Kyle against my chest and kiss his soft-as-silk cheek, and I smell that sweet/sour/milky "baby smell," and I'm flooded with memories. I remember when I was Jamie in my arms like this, or Kacie. All of a sudden I love all three of my babies so much, it hurts.
May 21, 1986
Good grief - it's 1 p.m. and I'm still in my bathrobe. The house is an incredible mess, the girls haven't had their hair brushed in two days, Kyle's unwashed bottles are strewn all over the place ... all I've done since I got out of bed at 8:00 this morning is feed and dress the kids, cuddle the baby and drink coffee. I haven't even had a shower. Now Kylie is down for his "long" afternoon nap (which usually runs about three hours, thank God), but instead of grabbing the opportunity and running with it, I'm sitting here in a total fog, eating Ritz crackers out of the box because I'm too tired to fix myself a real lunch, and wondering if I'll even be dressed by the time Ray gets home tonight ...
I'm still crabbier with the girls than I mean to me, but the rational part of me realizes this is temporary ... more a result of sleep deprivation and postpartum blues than anything else.
The other night I was sitting on the sofa, giving Kyle his bottle and listening to music on my new Walkman (with the headphones on). As Kylie happily sucked away, Pink Floyd's "Mother" started to play. I've always liked this song, but I'd never really listened to the words before. All of a sudden, sitting there holding my tiny baby son - his eyes fastened to mine - the lyrics pierced my heart like a bullet.
Mother, do you think they'll drop the bomb?
Mother, do you think they'll like this song?
Mother, will they put me in the firing line?
Mother, is it just a waste of time?
By the time the song was over, I was in tears. I stood by the living room window, rocking Kyle in my arms and sobbing uncontrollably. It was an indescribably poignant, private, touching moment. It was as though I'd just realized, for the first time, that I'm the mother of a son, and that someday he will grow up to be a man, and that I am responsible for getting him there in one piece.
While the song was playing I thought about all the women through the ages who have lost sons in war. Dear Lord, how do they ever survive the loss? I thought about all the pain that lies ahead for my son, and for me. It's terrifying. It is so much responsibility. Can I handle it? Will Kyle be OK? Or will I "put all my fears into him," as the song says? Lord, please help me be a strong, responsible, good mother to this baby. He is so small, and so dependent on me. Don't let me mess him up.
There is an interesting and special "connection" already between Kyle and Jamie. When she's near him, he is especially alert: he stops everything to look at her.
The feeling is mutual; Jamie is tenderly protective and affectionate towards her baby brother. "Can I hold him?" she asks me several times a day. She puts a pillow on her lap and I lay the baby on top of the pillow. She coos and tickles him, while he stares at her and waves his hands around in the air, making little noises in his throat and catching strands of her long hair in his fingers.
Kacie's love for Kyle is noisier, bumpier, less gentle but no less ardent. She grabs his head suddenly and plants a huge wet kiss on his mouth, leaving him startled and gasping for air. "I wanna hold him TOO!" she shouts, and runs to my bedroom to get a pillow off my bed. When I put the baby on her lap, she gives him a look of pleasure and curiosity and slight distaste (especially if he has formula all over his mouth). "Oh, cute fingers?" she says. "Cute hands?"
Kyle is getting so cute! The little red bumps ("stork bites") and the peeling on his face are clearing up; his left eye (which has been watery since birth) is also clearing. His eyes are now enormous, blue and pretty. And this morning the little "stump" finally fell off his belly button. He is such an alert baby, so interested in faces and voices ... it's fun to hold him and watch him reacting to things.
When he looks at me, I hold my breath: will this be the day he smiles at me? I can hardly wait.
May 27, 1986
Kyle had his first attack of colic last night. He cried from 7:30 until 10:30, off and on, and would not be comforted. I swaddled him, rocked him, burped him, offered him endless bottles, sang to him ... nothing worked. Ray held him for five minutes while I wolfed down a quick hot dog, but then he started to wail again so it was back to Mama. I was calm throughout most of this, but it bothered me to see him so unhappy. He's been such a content baby until now. Finally, right around 10:30, he pooped his pants and gave a couple of massive burps, and that seemed to be the end of the problem. I cleaned him up and tucked him into his crib, and he slept for six straight heavenly hours.
At 4:30 a.m. he woke up again. Jamie heard the commotion, and she wandered out to the living room where I was feeding him. She had skipped dinner the night before and now she was hungry, so while I gave Kyle his bottle she sat next to me on the sofa, munching Ritz crackers and sipping Hi-C. We watched the sun come up together. Ray got up and left for work, kissed the three of us goodbye. When Kylie was finished, I put him back to bed, and then Jamie and I hopped into my bed, where we slept until 9 a.m.
Kacie has appointed herself my official "powder girl." Whenever I'm changing Kyle's diapers, Kacie automatically appears at my side, ready to sprinkle the powder on her little brother's butt. And woe upon anyone who dares try and usurp her position! Jamie innocently asked if she could have a turn being the "powder girl" and Kacie almost took her head off. I think Kacie is trying to resolve some of her resentment of the new baby by doing something "important" for him, something NO ONE ELSE can do. At first I made a big deal out of what a GOOD HELPER she is, and how much "Kyle" and I appreciate her help, blah blah blah. But Kacie seems to instinctively back off from that kind of gratuitous, overblown praise. So now I'm very low-key about the whole thing. She sprinkles the powder on his bottom, and I say "Good job," and she walks away beaming.