Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Peace with Americana

             It’s the 4th of July.  Well, almost.  This time of year always brings me back to my father.  Back story for those of you who don’t know me.  My Dad died when I was three and half.  He was working with the volunteer fire company to set of our town’s annual fireworks display.  I believe the annual display was postponed at the last minute due to rain.  Then when the day came for the display, a homemade cannon was set off to let everyone know that it was about to start.  He was across the lake.  I was at Edgemere.  I remember that.  The cannon exploded and sent shrapnel through my father’s body that would eventually kill him within the week. 

                I remember spending my early days making sure that things like the Fourth of July and fireworks didn’t bother me.  These were things that kids were supposed to enjoy and I think I wanted badly to have time where I felt like a normal kid.  It was a relief to go to friends’ houses with sparklers and little ground explosions and just try to enjoy them, not thinking about the emotional toll it may have on my family.  I remember being at Walt Disney World, heading home after the parade on the monorail to a big fireworks display and seeing my mother cry.  I felt sad both for her and for me, that we could just enjoy this American joy.

                Now, my Mom has worked very hard on making us not feel this way; really this is not her shit.  She is cut and dry.  Reality based.  I used to tell her she was a pessimist and she would look and me and say, “No, I’m a realist.”  I see this as a good way to be.  Not for me, I could never do it.  I’m way to emotional, dramatic, living loud and hard on a daily basis to let realism cloud my world.  She never said anything to remind us we shouldn’t be enjoying a holiday or a season or a date because we had a loss.  She wanted us to enjoy life.   I wish I could be her.  I can’t.  We are of a different make up, even though she is where I come from.    But, I know that some of this has rubbed off on me.  I get annoyed with the woman who gets depressed and goes to be the psych unit every year because her 90 year old father died on this date 13 years ago.  This is life. 

                This year I had an odd experience that shook me.  And this I get from my rock of a mother, things don’t shake me easily.  I had a patient on Monday, Fourth of July week, come in to complain about a burn on his foot.  It was his inner toe.  It was minor without infection.  He denied pain.  He was just worried because he wore boots all day and didn’t want an infection.  So, then he begins to tell me how he sustained his injury.  He is a welder by trade, but this didn’t occur at work.  He told me how excited he was because he was building cannon.  He told me about this pond, and everyone works to make the best cannon with the loudest boom.  

                This was not something I was expecting.  I never thought much about homemade cannons, and never thought I would have to treat a patient with an injury sustained in the making, especially not so close to the anniversary of my father’s death.  I didn’t do much.  Basic burn first aid education while being mildly distracted by being sideswiped with unexpected emotions.  And then later that day I started to wonder why he was there.  And here I get a little mythical and magical.  Shit.  Was I supposed to warn this guy to be careful?   Why did he transfer care from his providers up the road?   This just feels a little weird.  And I don’t have answers on this one.  I just know it has brought my father’s death to the forefront.  And my father’s role in my life now, which is where I’m really going here.

                I experienced a group psychic reading with a bunch of great friend s in the summer of 2009.  She was amazing.  She named by name without prompting, the name of the person that killed a good friend’s father.  She told me that she saw two people, one older than the other, and both had the same name.  Both my father and my deceased brother were named David.  And then she told me that my Dad was sick of gripping the dashboard and I needed to slow down.  She was so right on.

                And now I’ve been working in a job that can be stressful at times.  There are nights when I have to dash into the hospital, and I’m usually, at least on some level, scared.   Those nights, in my little car without any fancy back support seats, I can feel what I can only describe as kicking from the backseat, much like when David, my son, sits behind me and becomes inpatient.  The more stressed about the situation, the more I feel it.  And I feel it is my Dad with me.  And this is a great thing. 

                This is not to be confused with a story of sadness.  This is about having more and more realization that my Dad is with me when I need him.  And I’m ok with that now.  I don’t need to pretend that the Fourth isn’t sad.  I don’t need to pretend it didn’t happen and that fireworks don’t make me flinch.  This is who I am.  This made me who I am.  I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all.   

Friday, June 15, 2012

Content?  Exploring the unknown??

I’ve had an odd an unknown feeling following me around the last several weeks.  I think it’s something along the lines of contentedness.   I’m not longing or searching for too much more right, and that is unfamiliar territory.  Where is the unsettled need that often erupts on the topic of children?  What has happened?  It feels significant enough to write again. 

                For the two of you who follow my blog and the other five of your who read and it and know me, this part won’t be anything new.  In my late teens and early twenties I was ambivalent about wanting kids.  Then, I got engaged, got pregnant and had a miscarriage.  We got married  and started striving for what I didn’t have.  Eventually, after two miscarriages, I carried a beautiful red headed baby named David to term.  And he has been a blessing.  And then we wanted another.  And I had another miscarriage.  And then got pregnant with the beautiful Cecelia.  She is now two and a half.

                Over the past year we have the fever again.    And we’ve been successful in trying.  I got pregnant in early February, only to learn early about its lack of viability.  The next month I had a slight different period, and found out I was pregnant again, and had another early loss.  Then we tried a few more months with disappointment. 

                And all of the sudden I feel content and lost the fever.   This is a whole new feeling for me.  I think it’s a good feeling.  I count my stats and see I’m not successful.  I’ve now had seven pregnancies with two children to show.  I’m not craving for once but enjoying what I have.  So, why the pang of guilt?  There is a part of me that has been trying to overcome the sadness and anger associated with so many failed pregnancies.  There is also me knowing that I’ve always wanted a four child family.  And this shift is taking me by surprise.  I would like more children, but I don’t about wanting them right now.  But, I’m not young.   Having a child for us takes years.  So the struggle emerges:  do I be content with now or not?  What if I decide not to push the issue and in 10 years I hate the choice I made.  And always a fear for me:  what if something happens to my kids?  I lived this and I want my kids to have siblings to help them steer through the world.  Adulthood isn’t easy.  Decisions are big.

                And I’m also aware of the nagging part of me that asks about m selfishness.  I’ve learned the joy of vacations lately.  I see the ease of two kids in a good routine right on that horizon.  I wonder if I can do it again, with my more demanding job, make enough milk every day to avoid formula, and make the great homemade food on the weekend again.   This is mainly bathed in fear, which I don’t like to tolerate.  I know at any given time I will be given the grace that I need.   Anticipation generally creates much more anxiety than the moment. 

                This is an odd writing for me because it’s not a looking back, oh see how much I learned, and see what works out, kind of reflection.  This is a shit in the middle of it, fuck, big decisions, where do I go next kind of reflection.  And it is blathering and lacking direction, which may be all together appropriate.  I have often stated that my reproductive issues have taught me that I’m not in charge.  Perhaps I need that refresher course. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Motherhood Part I

I was finally entering into the home stretch. In eight more months, I would be a physician assistant and finally done with school. It was a cozy winter and I remember enjoying the Christmas break snuggled up at home with my boyfriend, surrounded by family. And then it got better. On our 7th anniversary, New Year’s Eve, we were engaged. We, or more precisely I, started to feverishly plan my dream wedding. September 25th. The color would be red. We would travel from the church to the reception in a hay wagon, decked out with corn stalks and pumpkins, drinking Lager, celebrating the day.

I soon departed back to Wilkes-Barre and started my Ob-Gyn rotation at Geisinger Wyoming Valley. This rotation proved to be a favorite of mine. I quickly fell in love with women’s health, pregnancy, and caring for newborns. I got to deliver babies! What an amazing experience to be the first person to hold a baby as it enters the world. It was starting to click and I could see the shape of my career beginning to be molded. And then my period didn’t come. It was never “normal” and I figured that all of the varying hormones levels I was being exposed to on a daily basis at both my clinical rotation and my house full of five women were the culprits. But finally, the distraction was becoming too much to bear. I could think of nothing more while trying to study for tests and writing papers.

So I took a test so I could just get on with it already. I’d been there before; usually the day after I test and get a negative, the period begins. But this time was different and it hit me in the gut like a punch. The first test was verified with a second. I vaguely remember telling my roommate about it, but remember happiness from my friend and a trip to McDonald’s to help ease the freak-out. I clearly remember making the phone call to my mother. I was scared to death. I sat cross-legged in the center of my bed, atop my purple sheets, and could see it all play out in the mirror across the room. I was so dreading the tone of disappointment that would be felt through the line. I took a deep breath, spilled it, and braced myself for the second blow to the gut of the evening. This came on more like a sideswipe that I never saw coming. Joy. Excitement. Did she not remember that this was an unplanned pregnancy from her unwed daughter? Looking back now, I’m unsure how I could have so incorrectly characterized my mother, but I had.

My fiancée’ beamed excitement. And my sister…..this may just be in my head, but I really think she may have been jumping up and down the first time I walked in her house after she heard the news. I said to her that I wasn’t quite there yet, but didn’t go into detail about how the nearly two hour trip from Wilkes-Barre to Williamsport was spent sobbing. Talking irrationally to no one. Praying to God. Like a petulant child, mourning the loss of my dream wedding gala drunk fest that was to follow. My due date was October 2nd, one week after our proposed wedding day.

It didn’t take long to put those ideas aside and refocus. Reorganizing plans, shuffling dates, and spending hours on chat rooms in various baby community websites. Eventually I joined the ranks of those around me. I was finally excited, too. My Ob-Gyn rotation came to an end. I stepped aside on the remaining deliveries in my final two weeks. It was instantly a little too real. Soon I packed off and headed to Bridgeport, Connecticut for my surgical rotation. I left the chorus of excited friends and ventured hours away to quiet where no one knew me.

It was a lonely six weeks with much time spent on the road. I had to divulge my secret on day 1 of my rotation when the big radiation emitting C-arms came rolling into the OR for my case on the new rotation. People I met were as supportive and kind as strangers could be. But I was lonely. It was a low time.

I somehow trudged through 5 weeks there, thankfully distracted my wedding planning with a new and fast approaching wedding day, May 1st, set in the books. I researched pregnancy and checked in on my websites everyday to see what the baby was doing each day. I passed the twelve week mark and took a big sigh. This was going to happen. This is my new reality. I couldn’t wait.

The Tuesday morning of my last week in Connecticut, while rounding on surgical patients, I snuck for a brief bathroom break in a tiny bathroom resembling something I’d seen in movies about hospitals and asylums in the 1950’s. Something looked off, was that blood? This started a day long debate involving my online resources my doctors back in Pennsylvania and my own level of denial. Eventually, I came upon the reality that I was losing this baby. My kind and somewhat scared preceptor told me I had fulfilled my rotation and should go home.

Off I went back to PA. That was a long car ride in the old Mustang. I was scared, fearful that “this would turn south on me” as I was warned by my Doctor’s nurse over the phone. What did that mean? Would I start spewing blood while high above the Hudson on the Tappan Zee bridge? I was holding on to a smidge of false hope despite what my gut had told me. Nothing was confirmed, there could still be a chance. I felt guilty. Did this baby die of loneliness? Was it afraid that it was going to be born to a mother that was mute and only listened to the first 3 seasons of Friends over and over and over again? Did it fear it would be named Chandler? Did it die of sadness?

I made it back home without a bloodbath anywhere in my travels and had an ultrasound that confirmed what I knew. I went home that night with the plan to return in the morning for a D&C. I was awakened with cramping sometime in the very early morning hours and made multiple trips back and forth to the bathroom. Luckily, my eventual husband was my comforter there in bed with me each time I returned. Eventually, my mother left the house to get an early start down to Williamsport to help my sister with her child, preparing to be my supporters for the day ahead.

Things got worse. I banged on walls, screamed and cried to house empty other than me, my love, and my pain. I was relieved that my mother did not have to witness the distress, again, underestimating her character and her strength. My water broke, and it emerged. I fished it out of the toilet and held it for few minutes in the palm of my hand. This would be the only time in my life that I got to be the first person in the world to hold my baby. I showed my fiancée, but just as I had been earlier, he wasn’t there yet. My medical training had taught me many words to use to describe what I held and gazed upon: products of conception, fetus, not viable, but these were not the word that came to mind. My heart penned the description much more accurately: baby, first born, the one who shaped my destiny. On this day, a mother was born.

Friday, September 3, 2010


I didn’t know what I would find peering into my next decade of life. Really, I never thought about the thirties much at all. I’ve heard many friends describe it as their best decade. But considered what it may be like for me? Oh no. I’m still 24, aren’t I?

The realization has just started to set in. My thirties. A whole new decade. I remember heralding in my 20’s at a little college bar in Scranton. I told everyone I was turning 21, never got carded, and people bought me shots all night. I probably can’t pull that off looking at 30. I’m struggling to accept that the above mentioned behavior may be socially unacceptable in the new decade. Really?? Streaking through vineyards is a thing of the past? No more benders and bar crawls? I’ve heard Buffett sing “A pirate looks at 40” then read about “A pirate looks at 50” but what about 30. Does that mean that it just shouldn’t be any kind of big deal then? Can I just live the 20’s for another 10?

When I look around, it’s starting to look like a pretty good deal. I’m amazed and awed by what I see my friends and acquaintances doing in this great decade of the 30’s. It feels like a modern day renaissance to me. I have friends running 5 k’s 10 k’s, half marathons. Knocking off p90x. Learning to Kayak. Losing gobs of weight. Writing beautiful pieces on their blogs. Remodeling homes. Starting businesses. Growing up? Is this the 30 that I’ve heard raves about but never explored? Am I ready for this ride?

I think I’m most surprised about my trepidation into my fourth decade because most of my friends are older than I am. I’ve seen them hit this mark. I’ve always thought they were young at this age. Why not grant myself the same favor? Do I enjoy being the “baby” of both my family and my friendships? Am I somehow hung up on youth and didn’t even know it? Perhaps I am realizing that it is time for my own rebirth.

What can you learn from a set of knives?

I had the feeling for the first time when I was about 9 or 10. While Kristin, my best friend since forever, and I were skipping church and lounging around in front of the TV on a Sunday morning, I saw it. My first infomercial. Miracle blades. Look how easily you could cut a tomato. Need an aluminum can cut in half? No problem. Done. And the price is unbeatable. A 99 dollar value, for 19.99?? Seriously, its practically like they are giving us money. Oh wait, an extra knife is you promise to give it to a friend to share the beauty of effortless chopping and dicing. Too good to be true? Not in my vocabulary, not then, not now. It was that idea, that thought, that feeling that this product, this thing, would make everything better. Easier. No more sad days, the Miracle Blade is in the mail.

I was lucky enough to be blessed with a Mom that would play along. The miracle blades were ordered. I gave the free bonus knife to Kristin as promised. I do believe that you could still find that knife somewhere in her parent’s kitchen. We cut some tomatoes, sawed an aluminum can in half….and bought into the next hot product that caught our eye.

The Jet Air Hair Styling system. Kristin and I caught this infomercial in the middle of the night. One time only. And then it disappeared. Gave us a flash of the two of us, showing in sixth grade, working the model hair, in ONLY 15 MINUTES A DAY! We kept staying up late, waiting for a rebroadcast. But no. The jet air was elusive, only adding hunger pains to our puffy haired selves. See, Kristin had developed a “curly spot” in her hair at the time. One single, small patch of curly hair in the back of her head. Hard to hide, hard to tame. And me? Narcissism set in early, and I was fairly confident that I would be looking like the models on TV in minutes. If I only had a Jet Air….

Think back if you can. Remember when…..there was no internet. No google, no yahoo, no ipod, pad, phone, etc. The freaky little in the sprint commercial that ended by flashing, had not yet sparked our curiosity. So, we called information and was given a number for “Jet air”. Unfortunately, this company manufactured Jet engines. No, thanks. I’m not sure how, perhaps my Mom caught the infomercial some night, but the number was found after a several month search. Two Jet Airs were ordered. We were on our way. Curly spot didn’t stand a chance. I would be gracing the cover of YM magazine in no time. This , this, is it. This is the product that will make our lives easier. We will be forever changed.

It was ok. No big thing. We gave my Aunt Lila a makeover once, and that was fun. I still use the basic hairclips as a way to section off my hair each morning for the flat iron treatment. The end of Jet air.

But, not the end of the great, “it will fix everything” attitude. The products have gotten bigger. The payments have exceeded 19.99 a month. A big wedding. A new car, then again, and again, and again, until we hit 6. A new house. New furniture. New jobs. New wardrobe. New baby. Despite all of this, all of the times I’ve had it, the same feeling remains. Excitement. The answer. What I’ve been searching for. An easier life. A happier life. I never lose that. I’ve yet to become jaded.

Friends and I have had conversations about the longing, the searching. Why are we dissatisfied in our lives? Why is it so hard to just be content in our lives with what we have. We do have a lot, and far more than just what we need. Clearly an area in need of some work. A spiritual shortcoming for sure.

But then, an epiphany. As I was driving to our new house in the oldest of the new cars, thinking about my two babies, and the new thirty-one products I had ordered with hopes of organizing my life (including my disaster of a car, my make up drawer, and my desk which has become mildly famous), I get it. These products do contain the things that change my life. Make my life easier. Make me happier. My feelings on these products explain who I am, my worldview, my beliefs, my heart.

The first jewel hiding in these products is optimism. A belief that these smiley, happy, overly excited TV pitchmen would never lie. There is honesty in the world. Why would I be skeptical? He says that it is true. The in studio audience and random people on the street are ecstatic. It must really be something special.

Something my yearning says about myself: I am aware of my shortcomings and accept that I need help. I admit my desk is a disaster and it’s not just because my sister in law cringes every time she walks in my office. I know my makeup drawer is just crying for help. The blue and green eye shadows do need to go. I know that. It’s not practical to haul a family of four in a compact car. But, I am in need of the tools to help me reach that goal.

In embracing even the idea of these products, my hope shines through. There is a better way to cut tomatoes, do your hair, organize your life, and haul the kiddos around town. I believe there will be more blissful cries heard as more children take their first breath. More smiles from a baby and more laughs from a toddler. I do think things will get better. And saying this does not mean that things are bad now. It’s my nature to strive for more. I think it’s time to stop fighting that.

So I will not change. I will not see this as an area in need of improvement, but instead as a deeply disguised strength that I hold. A faith that I have. I will not feel guilty about looking for the next great thing, or the next great kid. It is not a lack of contentedness. It is just me. And I can finally see there was value in that set of knives which didn’t really cut that great or make my whole life better and easier. They, or the idea of them, helped to shape who I am today.

Or, perhaps, I just may be a little impulsive.