Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ireland's Gift to My Family

My Grandma Kirk used to call me "pet" when I was a little boy. The memory warms my heart. If something made me cry like my brother breathing on my side of the back seat, she might say, "What is it pet?" in a sweet voice that still hinted of her Dublin roots. Obviously, I wasn't the only pet of her seven grandchildren, but I relish that I was first.

Grandma's wit often escaped me as a child such as when she'd say "You're in the will!" after I did something to amuse her. I always thought it was some kind of Irish saying that meant "Good job!"

Even as a 20 year-old, Grandma's humor flew over my head. We were on a vacation together (known as "Kirkfests") when I was off socializing with some ladies. At some point later, I rejoined our family and Grandma asked innocently "Chasing the birds, Denny?" My literal interpretation of her comment must have been apparent in my facial expression because she politely explained that she wasn't talking about the birds that fly.

Grandma and Grandpa never miss a birthday, a Christmas, or any other important event without at least a card and a gift. Never. Ask Grandma if she's ever attended any of her grandchildren's graduations and she could probably lead the band in "Pomp and Circumstance."

Recently, my aunt relayed a story to me that she and Grandma were at the beauty salon when a conversation arose about whether she had any great grandchildren. If I remember correctly, her lighthearted response was something like "Why do you think I've been holding on?"

A few hours after Greta Jane was born, I called Grandma to tell her that her new title was official: she was a great grandmother. She gleefully exclaimed that our little Gigi would have to call her "G.G." It was a special and private moment for me.

Pauline Cullen Kirk passed away peacefully yesterday in the warm company and thoughts of her loved ones. My grandmother's warmth, wit, thoughtfulness, and generosity are only a few of the indelible impressions she left on me just by being herself. I will miss her dearly. But rather than dwell on the sadness accompanying her departure, I choose instead to focus on the happiness of her presence.

Two weeks ago, we shared our last special moment when I introduced Grandma to her great granddaughter. On any given day, the situation may not have been particularly significant from the perspective of a passerby: an elderly woman holding a newborn child. But in those precious few minutes, I didn't care about anything else in the world. And for that, I am so grateful to G.G. that she waited to see us before she moved on. We love you Grandma. Rest in peace.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Part III: The End Is Just The Beginning

Like all new parents, you can imagine how we breathed a sigh of relief when the doctors confirmed that Greta was not a hermaphrodite. What? Other parents don't normally have that fear? Sorry - moving on. (The Discovery Channel is normally great television, except when you catch an episode about sexual reassignment surgeries a few weeks before your first child's birth date.)

Friday Night Lights was kind of lame this week. The family lives of Buddy Garrity and Jason Street just don't interest me. Thus, in lieu of FNL, Michelle will torture me with an episode of the brutally painful Brothers and Sisters. Looks like I'll skip directly to the writing and wear my iPod - but don't worry, I'll tell you when the Walkers have their family cookout to conveniently solve all of the episode's problems and everyone hugs.

Our crash courses in parenthood kicked off hours into our baby's first day of life. Greta baptised me with a golden shower during our first diaper change. What a sense of humor! Anyway, I was actually psyched to experience firsthand that meconium really doesn't smell. I was convinced that any spawn of my loins would be incapable to taking anything but smelly dumps. I pondered this miracle of odorless poo for about 3 seconds until Gigi turned on the fountains.

Breast feeding for the first time was also a blast. My understanding had always been that when the boob comes out, I kick back. Not according to our first nurse, though. She instructed me to massage the mammary glands and assist with the flow of colostrum as she jammed Greta's mouth open and clamped it onto Michelle's areola. Normally, I wouldn't hesitate at the opportunity to massage a breast but it wasn't exactly fun when this nurse was hovering over my shoulder explaining how I was doing it wrong. Hey lady, I don't need you to add a new level to my performance anxiety okay?

(Michelle is crying for the first time during Brothers & Sisters. That must mean we're only 20 minutes into the episode.)

One last thing that no one warned me about before going into the hospital - all of the unsolicited and conflicting advice that nurses and other armchair quarterbacks volunteer that may disturb the new parent's already fragile psyche. For example, our decision to supplement breast milk with formula was met with a disdainful look by one of our nurses. We apparently weren't trying hard enough with the breast feeding.

Even pacifiers proved divisive! Naysayers predicted doom, gloom, and nipple confusion. Fortunately, these incidents were isolated as we encountered only a few rotten apples. Plus, the joy that we experienced in the simplest of moments with our new daughter (listening to her quick breaths as she slept peacefully, smelling that unmistakably beautiful scent of a baby, those tiny toes and fingers! - the list goes on) was invigorating.

Meanwhile, my patience waned with every day of our stay. Nurses, doctors, lactation consultants, administrators, and baby paraphernalia peddlers barged into the room incessantly. All of my meals for a week came from a vending machine or the food court next door. Plus, the hospital quietly dares any partner to complain about the ridiculously uncomfortable pull-out chairs used for their sleeping.

Okay, I admit that these inconveniences were nothing compared to ejecting an 8-plus pound baby through mom's vajayjay but I just wanted to get home. We finally escaped from the hospital four days after Greta was born. I may have been the first new dad to neutral drop his family truckster and burn rubber pulling out of the parking lot instead of driving 7 m.p.h. all the way home.

Speaking of vaginas, Michelle has announced that she is pleased to have her flower intact. While the c-section scar may have prematurely ended her swimsuit modeling career, she was at least able to avoid an episiotomy. Hold on a second, I hear Coldplay blasting from the TV. Brothers & Sisters must be climaxing-

(Michelle is now bawling. Apparently, Rob Lowe's character had a heart attack. I don't know what's scarier - that the original Dean Youngblood is now portraying characters old enough to be susceptible to cardiac arrest or that you would think his character was somehow related to Michelle. I wonder if he'll make it.)

Fast forward three-plus weeks later at home, our life consists of diaper changing, burping, bouncing, breast feeding, swaddling, and assembling every baby-related gadget in the house. Somehow, we're still intact.

The sleep deprivation has yielded behavior that we may have previously thought unusual but now find totally normal. For instance, Michelle currently enjoys strolling topless throughout our condo to air dry her nipples. I easily forget about dirty diapers in my pocket and spit up on the shoulders of my t-shirts. We also occasionally find ourselves debating seriously about hot button issues like whether Pampers or Huggies is better. (Pampers clearly.) Fortunately, these events are examples of our daily life becoming more - dare I say it - routine, which is fine by me.

So, just in case you were worried, Rob Lowe's character survived the heart attack. Now he and Ally McBeal can begin raising their new adopted child together. I think we're going to make it, too. On that note, I gotta go change a diaper.