Friday, January 27, 2012

Completing the Trilogy

Matilda Carol Teravainen. It’s taking some getting used to when writing her name. Tilly arrived today, the 27th of January, at 12:44 p.m. 7 pounds, 6 ounces. 19½ inches long.

During the last few weeks leading up to today, there was so much I intended to accomplish. Thank you notes from Christmas. Finish preparing our taxes. Complete our mortgage refinance application. Open a twitter account to tweet updates throughout the day today. Finally wrap up a play I’ve been writing. Post a blog.

Unfortunately, the job has been really busy lately so I’ve been putting in a lot of hours there. Over the last few weeks in particular, by the time I made the commute, ate dinner with the fam, finished baths, dressed the kids in PJs, read books, sang our songs, said goodnight, cleaned the kitchen, took care of our fourth child [See Sidebar] and tidied up the rest of the house, it would be 9 o’clock. By then I didn’t want to do anything except sit on the couch and watch something awful on television (hence the new interest in The Bachelor.) I’d go to bed and wake up early the next day, and the whole routine would start over again. Meanwhile, all of the “to do’s” remained unfinished.

At the same time I was procrastinating with these minimally important side projects, I was putting off serious thought about the much more significant event of Tilly’s impending birth. Anytime I pictured the big day, I basically just tried to forget about it as soon as possible. There was too much to stress about, which was totally beyond any control. So why think about it?

Of course, adding a third kid to the mix and the big picture considerations (another mouth to feed, another who will plead for outfits that all the other cool kids have, another college tuition, another wedding, etc) were cause for nominal concern. But lurking below the superficial layer of “concern” was a deeper more genuine fear that haunted me. My inner psychiatrist-slash-Jillian Michaels offered the following psychoanalysis: my efforts to ignore January 27 was a simple coping technique to protect myself from the triggers of emotional trauma following Gus’ birth that I had otherwise buried and locked away in a place I don’t like to revisit. (Damn, I should’ve gone to med school.)

To be clear, I wasn’t scarred emotionally because of the potential for Tilly to have Down syndrome. (The odds are only about 1 percent higher for an expecting couple who has one child with DS already.) If anything unforeseen during pregnancy was to be discovered upon birth, I figured it would be more like a hermaphrodite situation, a missing hand, or maybe even blindness.

The real fear that scared me was simply a repeat of expecting everything to be typical and conventional instead of life altering and traumatic. Specifically, I think of the pediatrician’s face when she entered the room to deliver the news about Gus. Me knowing what she was already going to say in my heart of hearts. Gus turning blue in my arms 30 seconds after we learned of his diagnosis. Going to Children’s. Waiting for heart surgery any hour. You get my drift.

But of course, as THE READERS know, Gus’ story has been a happy one. We have come a long way over the last 18 months. Knowing that Gus and we as a family were able to handle all that chaos reaffirmed that we were capable of adapting to whatever adversity comes from the accompanying medical baggage of a new child. But I still hoped and prayed that Tilly’s arrival would be less tumultuous. Specifically, no drama.

As today’s date approached, a few signs of encouragement manifested unexpectedly. In an audiobook about Dante’s Divine Comedy, the narrator talked about how Dante was greeted in the first layer of Paradise by a beautiful woman named Matilda. “Hmmm,” I thought, that’s encouraging. A few weeks later in a different audio book about the history of Ancient Greece, the narrator talked about a poet who declared that the 27th day of the month is the best day of the month to untap a cask of wine. “Uh-huh, I like where this is going.” (Apparently, today’s date is a holiday for a Greek saint involving feasts and celebration.) Then, this morning, the clock radio woke us up with “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” How do any of these signs and Cyndi Lauper relate to the birth of our third child? I have no idea. But I decided to interpret them self-servingly as positive reinforcement that all would be well.

Fast forward to our arrival at the hospital. Taxes, thank you notes, and the other side projects remained incomplete. It was finally time to power through two situations that I had been privately dreading.

Moment of Dread 1: when they take THE WIFE away to do her spinal before the operation begins. The “delivery partner” has about twenty minutes of solitude to put on scrubs and reflect silently until someone comes to get him or her. It’s a lonely calm before the storm. Fortunately today, instead of pacing and imagining every worst case scenario that could occur, I decided to sit calmly in a chair with my leg crossed. Cool. As a cucumber. Like the Fonze. When a nurse came for me, I snapped to attention. Bring it on.

Moment of Dread 2: the operating room experience as a bystander. I think I’m okay with seeing blood and guts. Just not THE WIFE’s blood and guts. I steered my head clear of any view of her internal organs and took my seat in the chair next to her head. The sheet was up and I couldn’t see anything. THE WIFE and I held hands and chit chat to pass the time.

“Hi.” “Hi.” (a few moments pass) “Did you set the DVR for Top Chef?” “Yeah.” “Cool.” (a few more moments pass) “How you feeling?” “Good.” “Want to have a baby?” “Okay.”

Meanwhile, my inner monologue was almost chanting to no one but my cranial auditorium “Please just be healthy. Please just be healthy. Please just be healthy. Don’t freak out. THE WIFE will see it on your face. Oh wait, there’s a mask over your face. Nevermind. Please just be healthy.” And so on.

Finally, the last part that I hate came. The tugging, pulling, tweaking, and moving that the doctors are doing to tug the baby out. The sheet was still in the way but I could tell that this was the yank part. THE WIFE squeezed my hand.

At last! Our powerful battler was here. And she was letting everyone in the room know that she’s not that psyched about it. A newborn cry never sounded so great. I realized that Led Zep’s “Whole Lotta Love” has been playing on the radio. Another great sign.

When I finally got to see Matilda up close for the first time, my untrained eye scans her for any unusual signs. No penis. (Phew.) Ten fingers, ten toes. (Sweet.) Greta wanted to call her sister Purpleicious after she was born (apparently Boya was only an in utero name) and at this moment, Matilda really is purple. But the color looks like normal-because-she-was-born-two-minutes-ago purple. The pediatrician from NICU arrived. Clean bill of health. I could finally exhale. I needed a sandwich.


It’s been several hours since Tilly was born. Other than the obvious excitement and relief of her arrival, the day progressed in relative peace and quiet. THE WIFE and I have basically just taken turns cuddling with our little lady, in between the occasional phone call. This is what we used to assume happened for everyone. But now we realize this is what you appreciate and hope for everyone to experience.

Thanks to everybody for all the good thoughts and vibes. And to all of you who asked if we needed anything, I just thought of something: are you free to babysit three kids under three years old next week? I’ve got taxes to do…

Sunday, January 22, 2012

And Then There Were (Almost) Five

No I haven’t retired the blog. I could bore you with excuses but it really comes down to me just being lame.

Baby Boya arrives this Friday. Number three’s true name remains confidential so as to preserve some excitement for the big day. We’ve also had to prepare Greta mentally for the reality that the baby’s name will not actually be Boya but she can call her new little sister whatever she likes. And, no, the baby’s name will not begin with a G despite Vegas laying the odds at 2:1 for “Guinevere” or “Gertrude.”

Come this Friday – assuming Boya waits that long – Greta will be two weeks shy of her third birthday and Gus will have just turned 18 months old. Apparently, there’s some kind of unintentional 18-month symmetry going on between the three mini Ts. This is probably a good moment to take a quick snapshot for the family chronicles. We’ll start with the eldest.

As of a few weeks ago, Greta decided that she wants to pee on the potty all the time. Finally. After bribes with candy, toys, pee pee charts, fancy underwear, cash, a convertible, and a declined offer that we pay her college tuition, Gigi is batting about .900 since she took the plunge.

The only remaining challenge now appears to be aim. I’m not much of a coach in that department. I’ve been trying to help when pressed into duty, but the geometries of her stream and body positioning is still a work in progress for me to process. For the first time in my life, I understand why gals do the whole squat thing.

Poop is a different story. Basically, Gigi requests a diaper when she feels a movement coming on, which is fine by me. THE WIFE and I are just relieved that Gigi’s not intimidated by a toilet anymore. Now if only we could get rid of the bed time binkies. Speaking of which, of all the ridiculous products out there that parents waist money on, I can’t believe there isn’t a patch/gum/methadone-like gismo to wean a kid off a pacifier. Wait, I think I’m on to something. Get me Gerber’s research department on the phone, stat. Forget we had this conversation.

Before we move on to her brother, two new and frequent mannerisms that merit recording are: 1) her hands on the hip and 2) the run-on sentence using “because.” In either or both cases, Greta is usually in the midst of an animated lecture about an important event from her day’s activities. Here’s the scene:

DAD enters the house after getting home from work. GRETA comes running to the door to greet him.

DAD: Hi everybody. (closing the door)

GRETA: Daddy!! (wiping her hair from her face)

DAD: Hey! How was your day?

GRETA: (placing one hand on her hip and moving the other as she speaks) Good. Augey took my dolly because he was being fresh because … because … we were with Mommy and then we had cheerios because I ate them because we were watching a show because… Daddy, do you want a sticker? Here is a princess sticker. But you can’t have it because I need it because we sang songs today -

And so on. Overnight, she’s morphed into this totally entertaining little girl. She owns me and I think she knows it already. Now onto her brother.

August is equally entertaining and impressive. He adds a new skill to his repertoire almost every day it seems. He isn’t walking just yet, but he can stand and shuffle along the edge of a couch or ottoman with skillful ease. We just started to practice using a walker from P.T., which has been a hit.

Of course it may not be quite as important as walking, but G-man’s dance moves are already off the charts. Whether he’s sitting or standing, the shoulder shimmy is textbook perfect form. Give him a beat, and he’ll start grooving. Doesn’t matter if it’s the Final Jeopardy theme, Jam’n 94.5, or if we’re practicing Happy Birthday at the dinner table. As soon as Gus hears a song, he starts boppin’ around and the dance-off is on.

As for talking, Gus practices his words and uses sign language with pretty good success. Ask what a lion, pig, or cow says, and he will probably give you an endearing roar, snort, or moo. Or he might ignore the request. Or he may just motor boat an inviting bosom. You never know.

Naturally, the little guy isn’t a total angel. Gus never resists an opportunity to yank Greta’s hair. On any given night at dinner, he may eat like the glutton from 7even or he could react like Tom Colicchio eating parsnips. My biggest gripe about the G-man, though, is his total disdain for being dressed. Every time I put clothes on his body, he thrashes, spins, ducks, weaves, and gripes about it to the bitter end. The one analogy that always comes to mind is a rodeo cowboy lassoing a runaway calf.

At the end of the day, though, we hug it out and patch things up by bed time. Around 8:30 p.m., I carry Gus up the stairs to his room while he blows kisses or blinks pretty eyes to THE WIFE with his legs wrapped around my waist like a little monkey. Too cute.

And that’s that. THE WIFE is ready to burst. She stopped picking things up off the floor about three weeks ago. My close calls with death due to tripping over unseen hazards are off the charts. Most recently, a middle of the night leak brought me into unexpected contact with Uggs on the bathroom floor and what would have been a sure concussion and ACL tear if not for my Jedi-like reflex to curse and stumble into the towel rack. I said nothing, of course, lest I endure an exaggerated eye roll, a loud and dramatic sigh, hands on the hip (I wonder where Gigi gets that one,) and the “You don’t even care that I’m pregnant” comeback that ends any disagreement.

Now I’m second guessing whether to leave that last paragraph in or not. Eh, screw it. We’re in the home stretch.

Seriously, though, THE WIFE has been a trooper. Once she gets to the point when the bottom of her shirt starts to ride up on the belly, I know delivery day is close and THE WIFE’s been through the ringer. Between the heart burn, the waddle walk, the sleep “hots,” the post-salty dinner cankles, and not having seen her toes while standing in a while, the poor thing’s ready.

Bottom line, Boya needs to get here. We’re all waiting for you, young lady, you hear me? See you on Friday!