Monday, August 27, 2012

...and Exhale

We did it. I'm writing from the new house in New York.

I ran out of fingers on which to count the number of times I looked at a scene from my life this past week and thought, "Yeah. Ought to get a picture of that." Then I didn't get a picture because I was trapped under a newborn or I couldn't find my camera or my camera was in a "safe place" that I couldn't get to without moving something heavy. I have a few blog posts started but not yet finished as that requires time to think and time to write. There are even more really great lines that came and went only in my head - I didn't write them down at the moment of inspiration because I either couldn't find a pen or paper or was trapped under a newborn baby.


It's a beautiful burden, being trapped under a newborn.


The flight from CA to NY was just over a week ago. My little buddy, as I now refer to him after our extended period of uninterrupted time together, did great. Better than great even. He was a trooper, sleeping and nursing the whole way without complaint. He managed to charm some ladies and even bought me some sympathy. Nobody made a comment when, in the last 10 minutes of the flight, Beta, our one-eyed cat, screamed incessantly and ultimately pooped in her carrier. The worst was getting all of the luggage by myself and trying to find Tim in the mass of cars outside of LaGuardia.

We weren't on the air mattress in the empty house for long. The movers came on Monday (exactly a week ago). My friend Mary hooked me up with a neighbors daughter who came and played with Ada all day. My biggest fear was that something heavy would get dropped on her head or she would get under foot with curiosity and send one of the movers head-over-tail down the stairs. So they played in a 3.5 x 7 room all day while I checked off a list of our belongings directing, "upstairs, master bedroom. Basement. Children's alcove," for over 6 hours.

It was an early birthday present. I turned 40 the next day (Tuesday, Aug 21). Tim and I agreed to celebrate on Sept. 21 instead since everything is in total upheaval and we have no money. He brought me beautiful flowers but the day went largely unacknowledged otherwise. I'm still conflicted about if that's good or not. I'll have more to say about turning 40 later on. Maybe on my fake birthday in September I'll write up something about it. It's all good, I promise.

The week was spent unpacking. Box after box after never ends. I've been at it a full week now and it still continues. On a macroscopic level we're almost there. If you look a little more closely (like open a drawer or closet) you can see that I have so much work to do yet...

The opportunity comes like little sips of air. The only long stretch of time I've had is one night when I couldn't take the way the kitchen was anymore and stayed up until 2 am to unpack it. Afterwards I could hardly get out of bed. Tim was kind and took the baby for the morning so I could sleep. Then he committed a sin of the phone camera:


Otherwise, there's a sippy cup here, breast feeding there, boo boos to soothe and bottles to wash. The babe gives me about 2 hours in the Moby so I have to use that time wisely - unpacking or reading with Ada. I'd like to be that mom who gleefully ignores the mess surrounding her completely to spend focused time with her children. It's just not me. I'm too Type A to leave the family wandering through a labyrinth of boxes crying out "Marco!" waiting for a response so they can find their way from one room to another.


Ingram is totally used to being held ALL of the time. This was our routine when I was at my dad's so the lack of holding and cuddling now is really harshing his baby mellow.


The real news here is that Ada is adapting beautifully. Especially when we are in the house she does great. Discovering her toys all over again with each box we open, it's like perpetual Christmas for her. All my concerns that she would somehow link all of the moving and separation to her baby brother, and hate him for it, turn out to be completely unfounded. Rather, she loves him. She wants to take care of him and is endlessly sweet.


He's a lucky guy, I think. I can't wait to see the differences in development between the two of them as he'll have her to encourage him the whole way. All mothers tell me their second, third, fourth child progressively did everything earlier at either the insistence of the older children or by sheer desperation to keep up.

That's another thing: I keep referring to them as "the children" like I'm all Little House on the Prarie now.


For now, he's mostly a blob of eating and pooping and being cute. She is like the Tasmanian devil, a whirlwind of activity leaving a trail of spent toys and Cheerios in her wake.


Tim is aching for structure. I am looking toward the next phase of our lives with great anticipation. I think we're going to like it here. I can tell that much of the stress has changed or been dropped entirely. Despite the chaos surrounding us we have laughed more in the past week than we did in the entire past year. Like a huge emotional exhale, it's quite a relief.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Getting to Know You

The morning after we moved out of our apartment I waved goodbye with a giant fake smile on my face. I watched Ada trot into the airport and into oblivion dragging Judy's pink suitcase behind her. When she was out of sight I sat in the Departures lane with the car in park and I cried until security waved me on. I sobbed the whole way back to the hotel where I climbed back into bed with Ingram for the next three hours. Just before check-out I wiped my tears, re-packed my bags and took a deep breath to prepare for the coming day.

Since she's been staying with grandma she has decided to start using the potty and now eats carrots, cucumber, asparagus and cherries. Well, alrighty then.

Since then I've been at my dad's house. I have exactly two things to do now: one, feed the baby and two, read books. I'm not one for sitting around doing nothing all day but I keep reminding myself that if I I still had a home and a husband in town this is exactly what I would be doing and would have been doing since I came home with the baby. It's a long overdue break.

While I'm missing my first-born babe like crazy I am taking full advantage of this amazing opportunity to get to know my newborn without distraction. He's a mellow little man. Good thing too, I don't think I would have survived the first two weeks of his life otherwise.


Gram barely cries at all, only when he's hungry. Otherwise he squeaks these tiny squeaks like a velvety little mouse.

He's strong, lifting his head to look at me but, like a newborn, swinging it wildly when he's rooting.


He likes to sleep on his right side - keeping him on his back is a challenge.

Ada still places her dollhouse stuff around the house in the appropriate places. In fact, she's doing this at her grandmas house. Apparently the coffee table is FL, the end table is CA and NY is on the arm chair. She's got it all sorted out in her own way. In this case, the mom with the baby is offered to her baby brother. Later, a stuffed lamb and a pair of sunglasses were placed on him too.

His feet...Oh, help me, his feet drive me wild. Nothing holds a candle to newborn feet with those perfect nail beds and curly toes and tiny soft heels.


Second to baby feet are baby hands. I love how they are always moving. Always. The fingers all slpayed out and directionless just practicing for their future as little lint collection devices.


He assumes the same froggy position he must have known for so long in utero. How else could he have fit in there? I looked down at him once when he had fallen asleep nursing. I could see exactly how he fit inside me. Incredible. And possibly an explanation for why, so unlike his sister, he does not enjoy being swaddled.

Baby butt. After baby feet and hands the butt is the cutest. Oh, and check out his spikey hair. His dad claims he'll get a mohawk when he's 5 years old. Apparently, this kid is going to totally rock that look. 

His first bath done up old-style in the kitchen sink. I had to ask his grandmother to do it because I didn't know how to do it without the giant white tub I've always relied on.

Our present routine is that after dinner I hand the baby over to Rob. Gram is snuggled and held for the rest of the night. He usually sleeps peacefully through it and she gets to relax. Win-win. 

I miss my family unit a lot. I think this is just a good indication that Tim and I have built something really good. On Friday our family will be reunited and I am so excited for that day. Meanwhile, these first sweet days are not being wasted. Gram is my little buddy and what a joy to establish that. For sure, when I look back on this time I will be even more able to appreciate what a gift it is.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

We Don't Live There Anymore

Soon this whole moving thing will fade into little more than a backstory that we tell. It will fold into a description of ourselves with a simple line of "we lived in San Francisco for 5 years before relocating to New York". We will laugh one day or maybe we will look at the ground, speechless, and shake our heads instead when the subject of this move comes up.


Moving day was this past Tuesday. It feels like it was a week ago but really it was only 4 days ago. That morning Judy lightly touched my arm to wake me up. It was showtime and the haze for me wasn't lifting fast enough. I was so busy not falling asleep while feeding the baby all night that it didn't even sink in that it was my last night in our place. One good thing about the timing is that I haven't really had time to get too sentimental, all things being relative.

After two pots of coffee brewed all over the counter, dripping down the cabinet fronts and tragically pooling on the floor, the third was successful. Soon Judy and I were caffeinated, running into each other and, like a scene out of a sit-com, throwing things completely at random into boxes. We ended up moving wet towels and dirty dishes. I didn't mean for it to be like that but I'm willing to go easy on myself this one time. I did just deliver into this world ten pounds of pure perfection 11 days earlier.

Ada kept busy by drawing stick figures on all of the boxes. There is unlikely to be confusion as to which boxes belong to the Shepherd family. Every single one of ours has been doodled on by my three year old. I do like her stick figures. This one happens to be daddy. Centipede daddy.


The guys arrived a little after 10 and moved like locusts through the rooms of my house until by 4:00 there was nothing left but a fur-covered cat tree and a torn leather dining room chair. Surreal at best.


I spent part of the time on the futon with Ingram watching other people do my heavy lifting.


The other part of the time was spent on Ada's crib mattress in the closet nursing the baby. Speaking of, when she arrived home from her final date with the nanny, Ada was upset to find her bed was gone. It was merely the preamble to a long, restless night.
Speaking of restless, Beta, who is normally pretty mellow, was so freaked out that I hit her with a half a mg of alprazolam. Apparently that dose will be good for travel. She sat in Ada's room, unable to control her hind legs, and looked at me suspiciously. Today when I went back to clean up the apartment a bit she hid behind the stove. Poor thing.


Once the movers had gone I looked through the rooms of our house. There was nothing in them anymore. Even though my eyes could see plainly that there was nothing left my mind couldn't make the leap. When I looked around I could still see it full of our stuff and our life. I even moved through the rooms as if all the furniture was still in place. The empty closets and echos make it clear that the party is over.


I was driving in the city the next day and passed by a favorite place of mine. Briefly I thought, "Oh, bummer. We'll never go there again." Then I realized that while I may go there again, it will be different. It will be different because we don't live here anymore.

I have to say it again to make it real:

We don't live here anymore.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Quickly Now

The movers will be here in less than 24 hours.

I have a newborn baby blissfully pressed to my chest by a long swath of fabric.

My first-born is spending way too much time with the iPad. In 2 days she will be off to Florida with her grandparents and I won't see her for over a week. Crushing.

We are cramming boxes full of stuff that, until now, I deemed we couldn't do without. With small children, routine is everything.

As I move through this space, the one that has welcomed both of our children and held our lives for the past 5 years, I unexpectedly find myself treading water  while memory after memory is rediscovered just as misplaced items are rediscovered with a victorious, "here it is!" Today there have been many moments when tears well and my breath leaves me. I bite my lip and my throat burns to not cry.

I can't believe this is finally happening. Medical school, internship, residency and fellowship are over. He's done. He's part of a faculty now rather than being at the mercy of a faculty. At last we are allowed to live and to plan as if no deadline exists because for once, no deadline exists. On the precipice of 40 years old I feel like I can finally live as an adult and not a student, a mini personal revolution of sorts.

Even as the sentimental moments roll in and out like a steady tide, I am stricken by two things:

I am damn happy!
And so thankful...for everything.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Just Born

Tim, Ada and I are thrilled to announce the arrival of

Ingram Joseph Shepherd
July 27, 2012 8:30 am
22 inches long
9 pounds, 14 ounces

We call him Gram. 

Even though my big boy was in no hurry to initiate the process of getting himself born the induction was a success. Ten hours (nearly 3 of which were spent pushing) after we started the process Gram made his way into the world all face up and screaming mad but completely perfect!

I don't need CPS at my door for exposing my newborns parts. Shame I even have to think of it!

There were a lot of relieved and happy tears from the grown-ups in the room with me as the leader. Giving birth, both times, remains the most emotionally powerful, transformational experience of my life. As far inside yourself as you must go when in labor the rush of emotion the moment the baby comes out is a consuming release. Once that particular wave of emotion is exhausted the aftermath is calm and peaceful and dream-like. It's the fast track to falling in love.

Blissed out.

On our long, long list of tasks and goals that have driven the cross-country move to New York the headliner was making sure that Tim was here when his son was born. He is a tender, loving father and a natural with babies. Watching him interact with our children has been a joy and a privilege from day one.
Well, mission accomplished. He left on a red-eye to New York on Sunday night, just 62 hours after Gram was born. We knew this was going to happen and neither of us looked forward to it. We're not one of those attached-at-the-hip couples or anything and we've done long distances but this time feels different. Our family will  disperse across the country before we can look forward to being back together again. It's a necessity and we will all survive but it still sucks. I really miss having him here right now.


Knowing that Tim would be gone shortly after Gram was born, we put into place a support system. Then a family emergency caused it to fall through at the last minute. I sent out the bat call and lo, I had more support than I could use. People talk about their safety net of friends, their community. Sometimes I'm a bit envious of their stories mostly because everyone seems to be in one place. I've moved around a fair bit due to educational pursuits either on my part or Tim's. What I find as I grow older is that establishing that safety net in a new place gets a little harder with the passing years. You can drop me in any of the 50 states, Puerto Rico or most of the EU countries and I will have a friend there who can help me out. That's pretty cool but it's also nice to have a support network in your own backyard for times like these. I have learned a few things over the past week. One, I'm capable of so much more than I thought possible (yes, I apparently must learn that lesson over and over again) and two, my safety net is small and diverse but strong and reliable.

Ada at a play date with Erika's kids. I got a few pics emailed through the day starting with "yogurt monsters". Ada had a blast!

Giving birth is pretty messy business even under the most favorable circumstances. Now, I can crow all day long about having a pelvis that allows me to push an almost 10 pound baby through it. Truth is, this does not come without consequences. I'll even go so far as to say that  I don't care who you are, if you say that you gave birth and were totally back to yourself  the next day you are a liar. Point is, I'm recovering. It's slow but I'm getting there. If you want details about this sort of thing you can head on over to Pregnant Chicken cause she makes damn near anything funny. I will throw out this morsel though - it's a game I play with all my newborns called "how many chins does mommy have?" Lucky me, someone always gets it on film.

Three, mom. I count at least three chins today.

Ada. Oh, my darling girl. Mama is on her way back to being herself. Thank God shitty mommy is getting farther and farther from the picture. My temper is still shorter than I want it to be but for the most part she seems to not notice. Mostly, she just wants me. I picked her up from a play date and the dad in the house remarked on how well-behaved my first-born is and how she really loves me. That's nice to hear given that I haven't always given her a reason over the past couple of months.

I sent a picture of her to Tim last night, our new ritual - lots and lots of phone pictures. He wrote back that he missed her. I wrote back, "FWIW, I miss her too and I'm right here." My poor daughters world is turning upside down over and over again and we aren't even done here yet. She is clinging to me for comfort, to make sense of it for her and to to be the stability she needs. As much as I want to and try to be her rock the reality is that my attention is divided. I wish I could cut myself in half, the most common complaint of moms who are new to having two babes. It's heartbreaking to send her on playdates when she's begging to stay home to stay with me. I'm trying to make sure she is always getting something from me but it's hard to hold the starving baby, arrange the breast pump or SNS AND read Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus all at one time. It's a blessing and a curse: the love has grown exponentially just as I thought it would. Learning how to make sure that love adequately reaches the little people who matter the most is a riddle.


Still, my girl IS strong and resilient. She is also caring and compassionate as evidenced by how she interacts with her baby brother in general. She is captivated by him and does adorable things like pointing out that, "Baby brother is crying. He wants his mommy." She also loves to give him a pacifier, sing Twinkle, Twinkle little star, hug him, kiss him and calls him "awww, sweetie". She is the best big sister.


We're finding our way under some particularly whacked-out circumstances. I'll be deeply immersed in the world of bringing in my milk. This involves a process that lasts about an hour and a half and has to be repeated every three hours from the start of the last feeding. Translated: I get 1.5 hours of non-feeding time at a stretch. Dang, I wish breastfeeding was easier for me. Love it that I can grow a 9-10 pound baby in my uterus and push it our successfully but I can't feed the baby to keep it alive. If I were an indigenous people somewhere my lineage would die out is all I'm saying. Alrighty, me and my new BFF, the breast pump, have a hot date.


Welcome to the Shepherd family, Widget!