Tuesday, January 27, 2015

One. Singular Sensation.

15 Weeks, 3 Days

My mother-in-law laughs at me because I say I miss Ren when he takes naps. "That'll change!" I chuckle along with her trying to appear like I understand. His existence makes every cell in my body perk up. I'm a Ren junkie. Luckily, I'm wise enough to respect that he doesn't feel the same way. If he did, we'd have a Greek tragedy on our hands come high school prom.

This week, Ren's 108th day outside of my body, I am back at my desk. Thrilled to see my colleagues, finding myself captivated by the staff meeting, and utilizing my new perspectives. I didn't even inundate folks with photos of Ren. I compartmentalized. I was Work Jennifer. A new Work Jennifer. Refreshed Work Jennifer. Excited about processing gift receipts Work Jennifer.

Once upon a time a good friend expressed her annoyance at my compartmentalizations. The hats I wear—one at a time. "Why can't you just be a capital-W-woman that does all of these things rather than wear all of these different labels at different times? Wife. Pregnant lady. Artist. Aren't you all of those?" I remember feeling hurt by this because her approval meant something to me. And I didn't understand why she thought my life-long process wasn't a good one. I thought it served me well. It's how I became homecoming queen with a mother in the hospital and a stepfather behaving like a creep at home. It's what every acting class teaches you from day one. "Whatever is going on in your life—leave it outside the door." Focus on THIS and leave THAT for later. It's how I survive.

But I'd rather live than survive. And this week, I almost didn't make it. First world problems.

In one fell swoop the walls between the mommy department, wife department, home owner, working woman, artist, teacher, sister, daughter, friend departments came crashing down. I had to leave the janitor keys behind. It takes too much time to lock and unlock each door to every room. I'd even taken my compartmentalizing to a whole other level—I had closets in each of those rooms—filled with costumes. I'd change my clothes every time I went in there. "See? I have a suit on. Now I'm Professional Jennifer." Actors. Sheesh.

I went back to work on a Tuesday morning. I was on my hands and knees with my head in the toilet by Thursday night. My body simply can't waste time unlocking doors and changing clothes between every ball tossed in the air. Look Emy. You were right. I'm a Woman, a Person, who does many things. I'm not a paper doll. A year later it's clicked.

Unfortunately for me, and most importantly, Ren, I'd set aside eating and sleeping in order to manage all of the Jennifers, one at a time. I got so dehydrated from all of the FIRSTS of the week I made myself ridiculously sick. FIRST day I went back to work; FIRST day Ren was with a sitter—Greg was back on the road; FIRST day using an electronic leech-I-mean-breast-pump; Greg and I fought so hard I slept in another room; FIRST time the car got stuck in the ice in our driveway; FIRST time I listened to another of my brother's ranting messages and realized he's truly not long for this world; FIRST time back in the director's chair for a staged reading; FIRST time I had ever had to parent, work, create, partner without hesitation. Choose and move. And then found myself having to defend my parenting, my job, my commitment to my husband, my art, and my life choices ALL AT ONCE. The first time I've ever had such a tangible and immediate example of the age-old adage: yourself first, others second. If I'm not healthy, then Ren isn't healthy. For now, I'm Ren's food source. This was a tough week. For all of us. Greg had similar challenges. Started Tuesday morning with a burst blood vessel in his eye. He looked like we all felt—beaten before we'd begun. Thank goodness for caring partners and friends. They saw us crash and helped us on our feet. Even promised to hand us water along the next leg of the marathon.

I knew there was Trouble in Triage on Thursday afternoon. Calm before the storm. All day my feet were hurting. I cursed my Texas insecurities and the society gods. "Heels." Sigh. "Don't get me started on the dichotomy of their necessity." I cursed my pregnancy and mother nature. "Heels." Sigh. "I guess my shoe size changed after all." I cursed the copy machine for being down the hall. "Heels." Sigh. "Butt in. Head tall. Don't blow out your knee over a fax." It was two o'clock. Deciding to let myself unlock the basic necessity compartment, I retreated to the bathroom for the first time since I woke at five forty-five that morning. I closed my eyes and released. A lot. "Do I have the flu?" I ignore this and look down at my favorite pair of Work Shoes and realize they hadn't seen my toes since before I became a human pea-pod. They look different. They look awkward. They look... wrong. And they were. They were on the wrong feet. HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE? That morning I had pushed on my shoes, ran out the door, down the porch stairs, across yards of ice that is our lawn and driveway, drove, crossed a parking lot, ran around from office to office, meeting to meeting for over EIGHT HOURS without realizing each shoe was on the wrong foot. I somehow created a worm hole in the Ginger Rogers metaphor. Fred Astair was great but she did everything backwards and in heels... ON THE WRONG FEET?!?! For that alone I make my case for my first fabulous Mother's Day gift.

Many lessons learned and thankfully, with little ripple effect for Ren. He's cool. He's Fonzie. I don't want my issues to wave out to Ren and make him Mr. Roper. I am woman, hear me roar. That's it. Just one thing now. Skeleton keys for me.

15 Weeks

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

One Size Fits All-most

14 Weeks

"Are your family members tall?"

"My mother is 5'8" and my father is 6'. Greg is 6' and—"

"He's going to be tall. He's— Wow. Yeah. He's going to be tall."

At Ren's three month doctor visit he was 14 lbs and 26" long. He is in the '12-24' sock size and has outgrown most of his footie pajamas that are for the 6 month olds. He can't sit on his own but he's started pulling up to a full stance. He balances under our grasp, locks his little legs, and looks all around the room as if he's preparing to view it from the ceiling in the very near future. When he's on his back he puts his toes in his mouth. When he's on his front—he now rolls over from back to front—he grunts and yells while he swims in the air. Like he's daring the atmosphere to turn to water so he can start training for the Olympics. Ren's bones seem to stretch in the night, so, naturally he must need to use the new muscles that go along with them. He's like watching The Incredible Hulk in slow motion. When I lift him out of his crib, I'm amazed his shoulders haven't torn through his onesies.

Do they have a Big And Tall store for babies?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Now, I've had the time of my life...

13 Weeks

Many folks ask about Ren's name. I tell them it came from Greg and there are several ways to explain the meaning. My elevator pitch is more like an escalator ride on China's Great Wall. The name Ren translates to many beautiful ideas in a variety of traditions and basically they all lead back to the same principle: compassion. 'Ren' also happens to be Japanese for Lotus as well as Kevin Bacon's most famous role and NWA's favorite MC.

Compassion. I have always thought it a human's greatest and most important trait—no pressure, kid—and I obsessively look for ways to incorporate it and appreciate it throughout my days, when I am not wallowing in the other side of being human. Not sure where I developed this passion. Perhaps because I hail from the U.S. belt of 'turn the other cheek' and I've a spotted history of creating a tornado's road of emotional damage. My past guilt-laden victimization forced me to change to a new view or face a life of bad television and anti-depressants. I have learned there is a dark side and I don't see the point in dwelling there. Pain, forgiveness, redemption, and move on.

Compassion. "You're going to be great parents," one of our favorite labor nurses says as she lets me take a teary picture and hug her shoulder. Within the four days of Ren's labor, birth, and recovery at The Neugarten Family Birth Center there were probably 20 to 25 other babies born within the same range of time. Somehow the administration, technicians, nurses, midwives, and doctors (all women except for the anesthetist) welcomed our family like we were being absorbed into another one. The earthy sisterhood was palpable and still polished professional. I was sure I'd end up best friends with everyone I met in that place... and yet, except for a couple of short, utilitarian check ups a few weeks after, the event, and relationship, is over. I replay it in my head often and were I to see any of those people again on the street, I'd probably jump to them like Jennifer Grey on Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing. That's how they and Greg made me feel throughout the birthing process—like I could fly (not like I was starring in a Hollywood template).

Compassion. Each staff member at the Neugarten and MKMG doctor's offices are walking metaphors for the word. They are all 'Rens'. We had doctor's appointments where we discussed our strategies for packing for our new house as a PART of our birth experience. One moment in my labor, a nurse held me like an infant and later after Ren was born, she bathed me like one too. All of them were an empathic, integral part of what it means to bring a life into the world by way of pure love and they treated Greg and I like we were heroes for doing a thing they see every day. They didn't even blink when we asked how to change a diaper. The women of Neugarten are nurturing chameleons. They make you feel like they are blissfully laboring right along with you. Truly the stuff of life and death. Every. Day. TWELVE hour shifts. The Neugarten staff are direct descendants of Florence Nightingale.

Compassion. Thank you for sharing your skill, talent, and heart Kris, Elise, Maureen, Barbara, Bridget, Margi, Marsha, Wendy, Simone, and more... Watch your back. I'll be hopping into your arms the next time I see you.