To My Daughters

1999 08 05 before cropOff the top of my head tonight … Having a baby is work. It really, really hurts. Can’t nobody push that baby out but you. But it is doable. Women have been doing it for thousands of years. And, we often have more than one. But there are some things I thought I’d mention.

Your anesthesiologist (you know, the doctor they want you to pre-pay) won’t show up until you’re an 8. (That’s out of 10, my young ones.) He’ll saunter in in his cowboy boots and southern boy drawl and say “Sorry ma’am; couldn’t get here sooner…” just as your doctor decides you’re having a c-section and you can’t have drugs until they get you to the operating room. Oh hang on. That’s Caleb’s story from Oklahoma.

Today, we’re going on about Gwyn. I was going back through our photos circa 1999. A good year in many ways. My last pregnancy and by far the worst, as counted in pure pain. Six blood transfusions, three of those in-utero. (Which also hurts. Looking at the needle hurts. And for some reason I always turned down the Valium. I’m not sure why.)

I had an otherwise healthy pregnancy. Take a look, I think I look happy, 1999 08 05 before 2maybe even glowing a little. I always enjoyed being pregnant. I never complained about being “fat.” It’s a special time in your life, don’t ruin it by being miserable.

I have a few things I want to mention. One, your father is a doctor but does not do well in the delivery room with me. Thank God he never actually serves as my doctor. It’s bad enough having him on the sidelines.

With Gwyneth, he said utterly inane things like:

“Epidurals don’t just fall out.”

“I just delivered a seventeen year old without meds and she wasn’t crying.”

I’ve got two words for you. Real. Doctor.

No, make that five: I want a real doctor.

The epidural had fallen out, never took completely anyway, and I had that thing we optimistically call back labor.1 Four babies, and only one was turned the wrong way, thank you God. Had she been first, she’d been last. If you think having babies is painful, twist that baby the wrong way and see nine months of good memories fade to black as every contraction slams the little urchin against your back . Get her out; reach in there and get her out.

Minutes before they wheel me to the OR, my anesthesiologist rushes in, takes one look, and says (God love her): Her epidural fell out. She flipped me over and gave me a spinal block and within thirty seconds I was in love. (The next time I saw her was on the elevator. I hugged her.)

The next thing I want to mention is that you can go into the hospital looking fairly chipper. You will leave looking larger. There is a reason: to add insult to injury during labor, they pump you full of fluid. Nice. You’ve got this new baby and want photos but you look pale. And tired. And swollen. Pushing is hard work.

It bears repeating.

1999 08 07 gwyn

Let’s compare and contrast with the above. This photo is totally embarrassing, but illustrative. Two days after birth and I look like death warmed over. And notice. I’m in a nightgown and hospital robe. I know you think I’m some place private. Oh no. I just didn’t care. We’re at “How to be a good sibling” class. With other people present. No idea how I got down there in this state of undress.

Gwyneth was a very sick baby. I smile when people tell me, “My baby 1999 08 09 gywnwas jaundiced too.” No, not jaundiced. Rh blood disease. Dying. They let me stay in the hospital in a vacant room. Every day, every two hours, 24/7 I would go down to the NICU and feed her and speak with her and stroke her face. It was hell. When you have a baby, you’re supposed to get to bring them home.

Your father and I alternated emotions. I was in the throes of despair. He was trying to keep it together. Then one morning, he came through the door of my room, sat down with his head in his hands and said, “I think this is it. We’re losing her,” or some variation thereof. But just that morning, I felt this was the day it all turned around.

Six days, three blood transfusions, a consult with a French doctor, and several helpings of polar bear gall bladder extracted medicine, and our baby was coming home. It was an almost instantaneous reversal after that medicine. Amazing.

And yeah. I’d do it again. But I’d demand a real doctor.

1 Nothing can prepare a mother for the severe unremitting pain that accompanies labor when the baby is in a posterior position. Now you know.


A friend has a part of your heart and history. Someone you can’t imagine not talking to and laughing with as often as humanly possible. Who doesn’t complain “You’re never home” but rather exclaims, “It’s been way too long; man, I’ve missed you!”

Today I sat down and made the time to call my God-friend. This little 4’10” friend of mine is pure Louisiana Jambalaya girl. I first saw her standing in the Misawa Inn with her five little kids. I had an instantaneous, odd thought: “I’m going to be friends with her.” I walked past with a smile. We’d both just arrived on base in Japan. Jet lag. No one was up to talking.

The next time I remember running into her she was opening a huge box outside the post office and pulling out her children’s winter coats. It was September. It was mighty cold. Household goods take forever to arrive via ship from America. We were shipped over in August. Our goods — October. We had left Oklahoma City where September will still be hot. September in northern Japan is not so hot. Our sandal-ed feet were chilly.

I remarked, “How smart! I didn’t even know you could *do* that! Mail stuff to yourself, that is.” She straightened up (my favorite joke on her: Stand up when you talk to grown-folks, girl!”) and said, “Oh sure. They’ll even pay for it.” Thus began our friendship. It wasn’t exactly smooth. Octavia is a pastor’s wife and she was beat down, life-weary due to circumstances prior to arriving in Japan. Not only that, but as a pastor’s wife, she is beset by women who just want her shoulder on which to lean. Exhausting really, for a homeschooling mom of five.

I called her and invited her over. She canceled the first time. She was cautious. Tired sounding. I called again. When she sounded as if she were going to cancel the second time, I interrupted with: “Octavia. I know you’re tired. I know that friends always want something out of you. I don’t. I have no problems that require counseling. Let’s just talk. I’m remarkably whole,” smiling all the while.

And we understood each other. Now truly we both did have normal life issues to complain to each other about but that wasn’t therapy, that was friendship. Together we became addicted to Marché’s corn soup and crêpe cake. We had lattes at the Mokuteki late at night. We’re both total hounds for shopping in Hawaii. (get me off this rock with its one grocery and BX.)

It’s been too long since I’ve spoken with her. Today when I called we were immediately back in the rhythm of “You are the funniest person I know. I love spending time with you.” It seems we both were having the [redacted] from hell at the same time last year and getting drug over the coals by a rank amateur. How two grown women can laugh so hard over:

She used strip wax. STRIP WAX, did you hear me?!? If that boy wants that done again, he can drive me to Virginia Beach.

We both agreed it was worth a 14 hour drive to our known Australian aesthetician rather than risk unspecified harm at the hands of unknown overpaid sadists.

She told me she loved my new house. That I’d done the entirely wrong thing to change the colors in the dining room and kitchen and I should watch more HGTV. That she will use her frequent flier miles to arrive and help me paint that house right and unpack it. All I have to do is drive her to Chicago for Pappadeaux’s.

I told her I was going to visit family alone down South. She paused. “Are you there? Are you sick? Girl. Are you pregnant?” She knows. She’d go with me if I asked her to come.

We confided that we were done with school for the year. No one knows it but we no longer care about the children’s education this semester. She wants to sell houses. I want to go to law school. We agree that the kids could probably learn to school themselves.

I don’t remember the last time a day felt this right.

Eight Things

Miss AHS 1989 I like a couple of things about memes, namely that I’ve been dying to pull out my late-80s-hair Miss AHS photo for quite some time. *Grin* Who let us outta the house with this much makeup?

Thanks for the tag, Kitchen Madonna.

Here are the rules: Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed.

At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

1. I am a Sanguine Choleric. That means I talk a lot but get annoyed when you do.2 It also means I don’t follow rules particularly well; tag 8 people . . . right.

2. My parenting style is best summed up (by me, of course) as:

Stockholm Syndrome Parenting. I love these people, I just don’t let them know it. I mean, really. I miss them when I go to the freakin’ grocery store but the minute I get back home I think, “What was that all about? I need outta here.” Usual SSP M.O.: I tell them that if I see them, they’re cleaning something.

3. [Redacted]

4. I’m addicted to fountain Diet Coke. It is an expensive habit, you rightly point out. Kevin tells me he’d rather I buy a $.99 two liter at the store, take one sip and pour the rest out than buy one (or two, er…) fountain drinks a day at $1.69 (McD’s) or $1.05 (local 7-11) a pop. Economics, sheesh.

5. I coined the phrase “Scary Friends.” This is a friend that you know would turn on you in a New York Minute if you did something they didn’t like. They must have the power in the relationship — must be the smarter and funnier one, (can’t handle the truth usually, too) etc. — and so you give it. (which, really, means they don’t have the power oddly enough…)

I refuse to have more than one Scary Friend in my life at a time. I let the previous one go before taking out an ad for the next. Scary Friends aside, I am a very loyal friend.

6. Animals love me. All animals. I’ve been fawned over by a horse, for cryin’ out loud. Cats? All over me. Why? Because animals like a challenge. I can take them or leave them. That bothers even the most apathetic of cats.

7. I take frighteningly hot showers.

8. I really dislike cooking. I want to like it and think, shouldn’t a mom like to cook? But no. So what I do to compensate is collect, what else?, cookbooks and aprons. Yeah. Total sense. The other day I made frozen chicken and tator tots and the little hostages, I mean children, threw their arms around me in total adoration: You cooked!3

Lunch today was pizza. I said, “See what happens when I cook?”

Hostage #3 said, “Well next time you cook, ask for extra garlic sauce.”


Stress? What stress? It’s just a move from Japan to Idaho in one year and then turn around 11 months later and move from Idaho to the other side of the country.

2 I am actually a very good listener. Ask anyone except my Scary Friend.

3 See? It works. Stockholm Syndrome Parenting. Look for the book late ’08.