Thursday, July 29, 2010

Money and Family

My grandfather had money, and he lived in north-central Alabama. One hot July when I was fourteen, we went to his big, classy house. The epitome of new money, it sprawled, a brick fortress set on a hill. It had four bedrooms and three bathrooms in the upper level. Granny Jean had a carpeted kitchen, a living room with a glass wall that looked out on a patio, a living room with a silver and blue Christmas theme, including a fake, silver tree decorated in blue. Grandpa had a little office off the side of his carpeted garage where he kept his jewels. He poured a bag of sapphires onto his desktop, and I watched them catch the thin fluorescent light from the little lamp on his desk, and I used all my teenage self-control to stifle the urge to tell him I wanted a sapphire ring, not emerald.

"Grandpa's nervous," Mama explained to me when we arrived. "If he gets mad at you, don't think anything of it." I couldn't understand why he would be nervous. He owned the place. Why should he be nervous?
The master bedroom had a bathroom the size of my parents' bedroom in our trailer home in Laurel. Granny Jean showed me into a closet the size of my bedroom where she let me try on her Levi jeans. She even gave me a pair of button-fly jeans, the only pair I've ever owned. By the time I made enough money to buy my own, Levi's didn't make them in my size. A glass wall in their bedroom opened onto a sprawling, wooden deck raised out of the hillside, and from the deck we could traverse two flights of stairs to their Olympic-sized swimming pool. It had a yellow slide that, in my memory anyway, climbed as high as the wooden deck outside the master bedroom.

When nobody paid attention, Granny Jean and I would sneak out to the second, detached garage where we would get on her little motorcycle (really only a ramped-up moped, but it was red and would go 40 mph) and ride the length of their long, serpentine driveway. Up and down the hill, back and forth, until Granny announced she had to make dinner, do a load of laundry, or get a drink. Or all three.

From the pool, a sliding glass door led into the lower level of the house. It was an open area about the size of the front of my house now. It contained a second kitchen, a bedroom the size of our living room and kitchen combined in Mississippi, a full bathroom, and another closet the size of my bedroom back home. The internal stairs to the upper floor marched along the top of the triangular wall, the entirety of which had been painted in a floor-to-ceiling mural of a number of dogs dressed in suits, 30s-style, smoking cigars and playing poker.

I fell in love. The carpet in the garage, the extra kitchen, the glass walls all sang the siren song of luxury. I drank it up, listened with abandon, and loosed a teenage girl's exuberance upon the house. I half-ran down the main hallway of the upper level, impatient to be in the pool, my mind completely occupied with trying to calculate whether it would be faster to run down the stairs and out the glass door of the lower-level apartment or through the master bedroom and down the deck stairs. My left hip bumped into half-circle hallway table, and a curio fell over.

My heart leapt into my throat, and I grabbed the curio to save it, right it, put it in its place. An iron fist closed on my upper arm, and Grandpa stood in my face, screaming, asking where I'd learned manners and how to behave. He had a smell, one I didn't recognize at first. Not beer; that was a smell I knew. It reminded me of the whiskey-and-peppermint "cough syrup" Mama used at home when I got sick. "Never run in a house; what's wrong with you? Try to move like a lady for God's sake; you should be ashamed of yourself." I stammered apologies, tried to shutter my face; I knew instinctively not to cry, but the tears came anyway. I felt ashamed, such a horrible disappointment. He shook me, "Stop sniveling. You're too old to be a crybaby."

Mama appeared and took me away, telling Grandpa she'd deal with me. We went downstairs, and she surprised me with a hug, told me everything would be okay. "It's okay baby, you didn't do anything wrong. You just bumped into a table," she spoke in a rhythm, a cadence. A chanted lullaby. "You didn't do anything wrong. I promise. Grandpa's the one who has the problem. He's nervous, and he doesn't know how to handle having people around. It's okay. It's okay. It's okay." I began to understand that when Mama said nervous, she meant afraid of people. Maybe territorial.

A few years would pass before I realized that the dogs-playing-poker picture was ubiquitous and not the invention of my rich, alcoholic grandfather's twisted imagination. Even more time passed before I learned it was tacky. To this day, my gut association with that picture is New Money. Dirty, oozing, filthy rich new money.

Ten years later, he knelt by the wall-to-wall brick hearth in the living room, put his pistol muzzle against the bottom of his chin, and pulled the trigger. Granny Jean called Mama, and by the time Mama drove from Mississippi to Alabama, Granny Jean was dead drunk. Unable to function. Mama called me in Texas where I lived with my four-year-old daughter and told me the news. I took my company's bereavement leave, three days, and relished the time off to catch up on laundry and dishes. I played games and went swimming with Burgundy.

Mama said she cleaned it up. Wiped the blood and flesh from the hearth and scrubbed it from the carpet and the walls. Granny Jean drank.

He never met Burgundy; Mama feared he wouldn't be able to handle the shock of knowing his oldest grandchild had failed at chastity. That probably was for the best, but I always wondered how in the world I could have lived without her. How could anyone look into the eyes of my daughter and wish I'd been chaste?

Granny Jean never met her either. She had photos after Grandpa died, and she lives in a home somewhere in Alabama. They sold the magnificent house. I never saw it after the summer of 1989. I've never seen her again, either. I just realized it's been 21 years. I send her a Christmas letter, but I've never heard back from her.

Grandpa left a tape recording. In it, he addressed how he wanted his money doled out. He didn't exactly say goodbye or try to tie bows on the packages of relationships. It was a settling of accounts. He left each of his three children the same amount. He made sure to deduct the amount of a loan that he'd made to my Uncle from his inheritance. He told Granny Jean that although they'd had a lot of fun for a number of years drinking together, it was time for her to grow up and fly straight. No more drinking.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Der Behbeh - Un Update

What a full weekend! Friday morning, Mark, Burgundy and I drove to an office in Pearland where we would have our ultrasound done. My mom met us there, and I have to tell you, regardless of what you think of interventions, there's something miraculous about seeing your bitty baby right in front of you, kicking, waving, and heart whumping away. Mark stood under the monitor completely mesmerized by our child. Burgundy stood next to me yelling, "WOW" and "OH MY GOD, THAT'S A FOOT!" every couple of images. My mom stood behind Burgundy, just as enthusiastic but oozing sentimental tears the whole time.

He's beautiful, by the way, in that black-and-white, grainy way that ultrasound babies are. He weighs 289 grams, about 10.2 ounces. The ultrasound showed my date almost spot on to our calculations based on last menstrual period, and yes, he gave us every view we needed.

Meanwhile, I feel a little bit of something every couple of days. I had a lot of trouble sleeping Sunday and Monday nights, but last night I slept until 3:30, barely made it to the toilet, then slept soundly again until 7. Mind, I'm supposed to be at work at 7. Thanks God my start time isn't critical.

We've been throwing around names. Mark suggested Gallifrey, and much as we love the Dear Old Doctor, Burgundy and I both vociferously denounced the idea. That led to a round of who-can-come-up-with-the-worst-sci-fi name. So far the best contenders are Gandalf, Frodo, Bilbo, Adversary-Destroyer of Kings-Angel of the Bottomless Pit-Great Beast That is Called Dragon-Prince of this World-Father of Lies-Spawn of Satan-and-Lord of Darkness (the real name of Adam Young in the link), and Aragorn. We've encountered surprisingly little resistance to Aragorn, perhaps because I named my first child Burgundy and people simply are relieved that we aren't seriously considering Gallifrey (hands-down top contender for worst sci-fi name, by the way). I think either way we're going to have to call the little guy Strider just to honor this laborious process we've undertaken.

Serious naming contenders: Lucas (general acceptance), James (Burgundy's on the fence as it's her name as well), Darcy (Burgundy has decided the child should be called Darcy James), Tristan, Colin, London, Phoenix and Bob. Well, not really Bob, but you know. I think I really like Tristan Lucas, Colin, Darcy James, and something with Phoenix. But Phoenix is a little too close to trendy for my money.

This weekend, I pick up Burgundy from horse camp Friday evening in Conroe. We'll spend the night in a cheap motel and get up super-early Saturday morning to pick blueberries from Moorhead's Blueberry Farm. Saturday evening, several friends are coming over, and we'll all make blueberry-lime jam together. Very excited about that.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Midwife Visit, 18 Weeks!

I went to the midwife yesterday for my second visit. I've gained 5-3/4 pounds rather than the 8 I thought I'd gained. Turns out I'm a bit math-challenged, having somehow calculated the difference between 200 and 196 as 6. Now the whole internet can figure out how much I weigh. Oh NOES!

The baby's heart raced loud and strong. Whumpwhumpwhumpwhump. My measurements show a 16.5 cm increase over my last visit. Jackie said, "Whoa, big growth! I'm surprised you haven't gained more weight."

It would help a lot if I could eat. Without heartburn, nausea, or insurmountable fatigue.

We're at ~18 weeks now, and Jackie ordered an ultrasound. Of course I want to run out and do it tomorrow; I can't wait to see him. However, I really want both Burgundy and Mark to be there, and Burgundy will be at Girl Scout camp next week. So we'll probably do it either Friday of this week or sometime week after next.

I brought a number of questions this time. We talked about her backup doctor. She seems really to like him and said that if he's working when I need him (IF I need him), he will take the time to assess my condition and labor carefully, to treat me with respect. Basically, the other hospitals in the area all will automatically perform a C-section if I come in during labor having attempted a home birth. We think that the best thing, assuming the need to transport without the presence of an emergency, will be first to go to her backup hospital IF her backup doctor is available. Barring that, we'll go to LBJ Hospital, which she recommended as also being staffed by respectful doctors and nursing who will take the time to address me personally, figure out my history, and then decide how best to treat me.

The most ironic thing for me is that her backup hospital is Bayshore Medical Center where I gave birth to my daughter. The experience was so bad that I swore I'd rather eat my own toe cheese than set foot in the place again.

Of course, if we have an emergency, all bets are off. We'll go to the nearest hospital, the same one in which Mark was born over 36 years ago!
The conversation left me with a bit of a to-learn list.
  • I've read a number of ads on cord blood collection, donation and storage, and after talking with Jackie about it, I think I need to do real reading. Big con: in order to collect the cord blood, we can't allow the cord to finish pulsing. I sort of had a "duh" moment when she explained it to me. I don't like the idea of the baby not getting all his (or her) blood.
  • In addition, while I didn't talk to her about immunizations, we need to learn more (a great deal more) and decide which ones we'll give the baby and which ones we won't.
  • Need to learn a little more about waterbirth and decide whether we'll go that route.
I better end this missive on that note because I am tired, cranky, and ready to take the afternoon for a nap.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bad Dream

I dreamed terrible things last night.

I think I was at a picnic. I know I was somewhere outdoors. I began to bleed. Because I'm past 17 weeks now, I didn't worry at first, but then I began to cramp. I felt dread creeping in, and I shoved it down and ignored it. After the third bout of finding blood with worsening cramps, I admitted that something was dreadfully wrong, and I called my midwife, Jackie.

Suddenly, Jackie was there at the picnic with me, and she told me that she needed to examine me right away. She wanted to check for a heartbeat. She told me that her backup physician's office was closer to us than her birthing center, so we began to go there. I think we walked. On the way, she asked me questions.

"When's the last time you felt the baby move?" I haven't felt the baby move at all, and in my dream, I realized that this should have worried me. I should have been worried long before now not to have felt the baby. In real life, this would not be cause to worry. Just so you know.

"When's the last time you had caffeine?"

"This morning," I told her. Her expression changed to alarm and shock, and I began defending myself. "But I only had like half a cup," I pleaded, "And I never have more than one cup in a day." I felt a knowledge that the caffeine had poisoned my baby. Jackie's disapproval and judgment confirmed it. I slipped into a denial and began shouting the facts that I know: Nobody knows how much caffeine is too much, and most experts agree that a cup a day or less should not hurt the baby. Jackie just watched me, then disappeared. I was at the doctor's office.

I went in and explained to the doctor who I was. He led me into a glass-walled exam room, put me on the table and in stirrups, and two interns came in. They looked like rednecks, hard day laborers, rather than physician interns. The doctor told them they should leave. He explained to me that we'd need to wait for Jackie so she could examine me. The interns protested, so I sat up, looked the beefy one in the eye, and said, "I don't want you in my room for this exam. Get. Out." The doctor looked smug and justified, and the interns left, all dejected.

I removed myself from the bed and stirrups while I waited for Jackie, and people began pouring into the room. The doctor and all the visitors were watching a Discovery Channel show about flowers. I wanted them to get out. By the time Jackie arrived, 20 or 30 people lined the couches, chairs, floors and walls, and more poured in by the minute.

Jackie looked at me and said, "I think the baby stopped growing. You should be showing more by now."

"But I AM showing," I yelled, "Look at this," and I pulled up my shirt. "The fat is covering my baby, but I'm showing, I swear." And then we sat on the couch and talked, and I woke up never knowing whether I'd killed my baby with coffee or whether my baby was dead at all.

I woke Mark and said, "I had a horrible nightmare. I dreamed I was bleeding, and I think the baby was dead."

He rolled over and opened his arms and said, "Come here, Baby," and he cradled me until I fell asleep again.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Underwear, Spinach, and Sausage Gravy

We leave this morning for a long drive to Mississippi. I'm frankly dreading it. Once we get there, we'll have a lovely time with my sister, her children (including the wee niece I haven't met yet), my father and stepmother, and all my father's family. They're a delight, let me tell you.

We spent most of yesterday and last night getting ready. I think I washed, dried, folded, and put away (or packed) at least five loads of laundry. That's six loads more than I really wanted to do. I also ran out to the maternity store because certain of my few remaining non-maternity clothes felt rather uncomfortable. Turns out that my, um, girls have grown about 4 sizes. The store doesn't carry anything close to my band size in the appropriate cup size, so we had to go up TWO band sizes and buy the largest cup in that size, then fasten it on the tightest clip. We're barely hanging in here. Now I understand why I've felt so uncomfortable.

I also bought a pair of maternity spanx. I don't know what they're actually called, but whatever. I have a couple of really cute maternity dresses, but wearing any dress or skirt without shorts or something underneath is for the birds. And I bought a couple of belly bands (some of the maternity pants are too big, and none of my non-maternity jeans are comfortable) and an adorable navy blue sweater dress with a white color.

The upside is that compared to the same bunch of purchases in a normal store, maternity clothes are pretty cheap. Bra was half what I expected, dress was $15, belly bands were less than half-price; only the spanx really cost what I expected.

Anyway, yesterday ended on a very productive note. I slept like the dead for once, truly exhausted, and woke as usual at 4:30 this morning cursing my body for waking me.

And a story to underscore that I am definitely pregnant:

This morning, my tummy started rumbling, so I walked down to the cafeteria to grab a bite to eat to tide me over. The table of offering looked less than thrilling, so I ordered a sausage biscuit with gravy. The man served it to me in the to-go container, but before passing it over the counter to me, asked, "Anything else?"

I said, "Well, only if you have some spinach."

"No," he laughed, "Well, actually, I do have some in the back. Do you want some?"

"Is it cooked?" I asked, because cooked spinach is re. volt. ing.

It must have shown on my face, because he said it was raw and ran off to fetch what turned out to be about a half-pound of spinach leaves.

Thus I find myself at my desk this morning facing a styrofoam tray of spinach, gravy, and a biscuit with sausage. I don't want to like the spinach; I really don’t. But I want it.