Monday, September 29, 2014

Reality Show

40 Weeks

About thirty minutes ago I woke with a pain on the left side of my stomach that made me sit up and reach out to stop whomever it was from stabbing me again. I couldn't speak. Something instinctual told me to take a deep breath. I started panting and felt like I was going to throw up. The cramp slowly went away and I realized Greg was awake next to me and asking if I was all right.

It is the early morning of September 29, 2014. The day our little guy is due. Greg is now in the shower just in case he doesn't get to shower again in the next 48 hours. I'm now Googling about contractions that start on one side and if that means anything. I find message boards where women type in questions like, "I'm at 39 weeks and have a pain on my right side every five minutes. Do you think I have appendicitis?" I'm no doctor but I'm going with: YOU'RE HAVING A BABY.  I get it though. I haven't previously felt the same agony that woke me just now so of course there is a part of me wondering if one of my major organs is failing. It is amazing how our minds can get in the way of our bodies and rationalize things pretty irrationally.

My parents are here, staying at a local B&B. We've all been sitting around staring at my belly for two days. My aunt and uncle are arriving today. As soon as I go into real labor Greg's parents and aunt will drive up and find a motel near by. At some point, Greg's brother and wife will show with our niece in tow and another on the way—she's due in February. We will text our close friends and colleagues as we head to the hospital and then, I guess, the show begins...

So when will the house open? When does the pre-show music start? As chaotic and flighty as the acting profession appears on most, there is a lot of precision at play. You all have to show up on time and you better be prepared or you'll bomb before you even begin.

I don't even know what piece we're performing. Where am I supposed to be and when? What are my lines? There is absolutely no way to prepare for what is about to be.

That's entertainment.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

We Could Be Heroes

39 Weeks
"Honey. You're in pain and you haven't slept. You don't have to do that."

"YES I do! This is a WEEKLY thing! EVERY week! It's all about THIS! HIM!"

"Why are you crying?"


"Honey, just take it easy today..."

"I AM! I'm just— I have to wrap some stuff up at work— I'll just— it's close now. I mean something is happening. I don't think— I mean— the midwife said this could go on for days."

"I'll call out from work tomorrow."

"No! Not yet. We could use the money. And I'll do some packing tomorrow..."



"We're having a baby."

[Lots of crying.]

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nesting for Flying Cuckcoos

38 Weeks

I'm pretty much just a babbling idiot these days.
I hear it only gets worse.
I have NO room for any thoughts in my head except day-dreaming about this extra life that is inside of me, coming out of me, and being in front of me.
I'm not even my usual Preparation Polly.
I have star charts and tutorials, treasure maps and magic spells to hand over to the temp filling in for me at work, but I'm having a really difficult time passing them on coherently.
A month ago I was freaking out about letting my understudy go on and today I'm barely checking my climbing ring before I wave goodbye to her as I jump backwards off the cliff.
I'm overwhelmingly calm.
I think it's the intense lack of sleep and the fact I have lost 90% of the feeling in my hands.
Plus, I'm so huge and swollen no matter what I'm doing, people are treating me like I will literally explode if I'm shaken and stirred.
As if they will be rushing me to the hospital within the hour, every hour.
It's funny.
I'm a walking bio time bomb.
When I was 11, my mother gave birth to my brother.
I talk to her now and she graciously tells me all about her pregnancy and the weeks after he arrived.
It is fun to listen to now.
She'll say things like, "He cried all night unless we rubbed his pinky toes. You remember that."
But I don't.
My 11 year old perspective was not that I was curious or responsible for him but rather it was like we had this hyper intelligent new pet.
I didn't start feeling that intense sibling blood-tie until my twenties.
But nothing compares to being a mom.
I know this now and I haven't even started.
All conversations with my mother include reminiscing about my childhood or my brother's.
They always have.
It feels nice to be so loved but also, I never thought it was a very interesting subject.
"Oh? Yeah. Huh. That moment when you first discovered I didn't enjoy okra I made a face and then stuck out my tongue. That's a good story."
Now I get it.
EVERYTHING about this kid I carry around inside is so FASCINATING to me annnnd... only me.
Greg cares too, of course, but I think it is more obsessively different for the female side.
Not even our own son will think twice when I tell him two weeks before he was born I kept feeling his little butt pressed up against the bottom of my ribcage on the left side.
Who cares?
Moms do.
That's a nice thing when you think about it.
That mother's are the glue of the world.
They are the first groupies.
Thank you, Mom, for making me feel important.
Thanks to all moms for perpetuating the human race.
Thanks Dads too, of course.
Thanks trees.
For the oxygen.
Thank you Internet for holding my thoughts.
Thank you— I'm about to break into an Alanis Morissette song...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Join the Club

37 Weeks

"Has he dropped? He looks like he's dropped?"

"Are you tired? You look tired."

"Are you swelling? You're hands look swollen."

"How's the house? Did you get the house?"

I'm starting to feel a little guilty that these are my favorite conversation starters. I haven't slept because my hands are now dead fish stuck to my elbows. I'm uncertain if the little one has really "dropped" because at this point, gravity makes my earlobes feel heavy. The house... well... that is happening. We close in two days and everything I understand about a closing is that, much like a beheading, it is a monumental moment in time where a group of strangers gather around to watch the protagonist and antagonist hold their breath until that moment is complete. The moment being many signatures on many pieces of paper. Lots of milestones that feel as large as my thighs, but all life-events that billions of people have experienced. It's like a first kiss. Which, technically, is the catalyst that lead up to this point in Jennifer and Greg Skura's Shared Life.

During my pregnancy, I've been in touch with several pregnant women—friends old and new. We've enjoyed comparing notes about our journeys and three of them have recently given birth. Of course, their lives are now consumed by their recent, amazing lot. I'm thrilled for them and fantasize about how many diapers they've gone through at certain times of the day. It is strange not to talk to them. Dead air out there. If they continued chatting with me I'd be disturbed, but it's funny how slightly lost I feel now that they've reached THE goal and I haven't—waiting my turn to jump off the same airplane. No one can do it for you. I wish I could follow next to them and conduct an interview on the way down—goggles squeezed over my eyes, forceful wind flapping my cheeks, pad and pen in hand,  "WHEN DID YOUR WATER BREAK? HOW LONG WAS THE CROWNING? HOW QUICKLY DID THE PLACENTA COME OUT? WHAT WAS THE FIRST FEEDING LIKE? WERE YOU SCARED? ARE YOU SCARED? DID YOU CHECK YOUR PARACHUTE FOR HOLES BEFORE YOOOOOOUUUUU JUUUUUUUUMPED?????"

Greg often works out of town and like me, is planning to work as much as he can until the first contraction. Purposely, all of his gigs this month are only a two hour commute away in New York City. It's close enough that he can stop, drop, and roll if I call in need and it's also far enough away that he's living with a daily concern that he'll miss something. Not easy being the partner. I'm the one who's guaranteed to be here when things happen. 


"Congratulations honey!!!!!"

"Hello? Je... Jennifer? Why... WHY ARE YOU SAYING THAT?!!"

Yesterday, we received an email saying the house closing was set. I called Greg in the middle of his work day to share in our excitement and telephonically celebrate all of the effort it took to get there. I have to remember to be more specific when he answers my calls these days. Poor guy. I almost heard him make a silhouetted cartoon dash through the wall of a skyscraper. We should get him a parachute too.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Signs of the Times

36 Weeks

"Careful you don't fall through, Dad."

"How about this?"


"You want THIS?"

"Wow. I haven't seen that in... wow..."

I'm standing at the bottom of a ladder under the attic opening inside the house where Greg grew up. Mom sent Greg up there to see if we could use anything for the baby. Greg went hunting thinking he'd find old Star Wars treasure. Dad went up to prove what he kept telling his wife, "there's nothing up there but dirt and old stuff." We came home with a few rusty toy cars and Greg's first stuffed animal: a late 60's brown and yellow teddy bear named "Teddy Bear", so loved and worn the Velveteen Rabbit would have screamed with jealousy.

"F*&K. YOU."

"It's hard to text like this. Please answer your phone."

"You just want to control me...
     F*&K. OFF."

"You called me first! Please stop hanging up! I just want to help. We all do. No strings attached.
          They have money for you...

"How much?"

"Enough to rent a room if you find one and some for a little food...
     Where should I send it?
               I hope you are OK. Please don't leave the hospital yet. Let them help you.
                          Good luck...
                                I love you."

My brother is in trouble. Real trouble. It's difficult to know—the little bits that I'm privy to every few months or so. For years I've seen the worst coming, but no one can predict the path of a comet. You pray that rare personality he was blessed with ends up a beautiful galactic event rather than one of the billions of dead stars, burnt out quickly before his or her time. He was born a ball of uncontrollable fire and hasn't let up since. Tough to maintain in one human vessel. In the past four years, I'm the only family member he'll connect with and those rare connections quickly evolved into poorly masked pleas for help. I feel it's an honor. I do whatever I can but I'm a useless joke compared to what he needs and he knows it. It's a burden loving someone so much. I selfishly wish I didn't sometimes and my complaints here are NOTHING to compare with what he goes through on a daily basis. He's had to fight to keep his comet lit since he first opened his eyes. One-on-one battles with the evilest of fear and isolation. In many ways he's a hero, but it's taking it's toll now.

After getting Greg's first stuffed animal washed and stitched, I decided "Teddy Bear" should meet my first stuffed animal, a psychedelic black and purple monkey named "Purple Monkey". Perhaps they'd be cute together in our new little guy's nursery. So I asked Greg to go down to the basement and help me open a couple of boxes wrapped in plastic that contained some precious books of Greg's and the contents of my childhood memories. He went to lift one and it mushed together like a bag full of lead dough. The basement flood. It happened over a month ago. We've been down in there almost every day since things were cleaned up—taking care of garbage, recycling, lawn equipment, laundry. We've walked past unwanted furniture and crooked picture frames not caring they were water damaged—we were going to throw them out anyway.  But those boxes...

Greg peeled apart a few layers from the dough. Everything was ruined—a hole in the plastic on the underside of the box and the flood got to it after all. A package of flashbacks just sautéing for days on end, in the wet and heat of a country basement. I got choked up when I found what looked like my ancient art portfolio melted beyond salvation between two pieces of leather. Old ribbons and letters and keepsakes. A note from my best friend, Stephanie, on the back of a sign language chart. We loved to try and sign messages across classrooms to each other. Greg's books and my memories looked like a bag of lumpy oatmeal covered in a few trophies and mold. Science. Neat. I found a stack of 30 year old pictures molded together. Mush. And then another stack with some that looked salvageable. A vintage image of my newly born, baby brother right on top. It was so bizarrely appropriate for everything in my little world right now. Loss and ending chapters and the start of new and exciting ones. Couldn't have been more obvious a statement of transitioning times than if I'd dreamt it on Freud's own couch. I stood there in the basement and sobbed for the first time in a long time. Greg held me and then pushed my shoulders back and gleefully looked me in the eye, "None of this matters. Look around. We are making amazing memories right now."

I am such a lucky woman.

Teddy Bear and Purple Monkey are going to have adorably weird babies.