Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Final Countdown

It was an hour into our newborn basics class, and the scene looked like a case for Child Protective Services. The dad-to-be held the lifelike rubber baby doll by the foot, its head dangling about 6 inches above the table, while he grasped around for a diaper with the other hand. He dropped the baby on top of the diaper, pancaking it. His own head swiveled back and forth as he considered his next move. His eyes darted sideways to his wife, who, if the previous hour had been any indication, wanted to murder him in front of the entire class.

“Not like that,” she spat, snatching the doll from his hands.

I looked to my other side at JT, who also was watching the World’s Happiest Couple in action. Our own baby doll sat safely diapered on the table in front of him. There was no question he’d won the Daddy Diaper Derby, but based on Angry Wife’s wrath, there was no way we’d be pointing that out to our teacher who was on the other side of the room, helping another dad-in-training with his own diaper disaster.

“Remind me again why you said you have no idea what you’re doing when it comes to babies?” I whispered to JT.

He just shook his head and picked up a pamphlet on swaddling.

We’re just weeks away from Baby LaBar making her debut, and while I thought we’d both feel totally insane and overwhelmed by this point, I think we’re actually, dare I say it, doing OK? Neither of us has had any kind of meltdown, least of all attempted homicide in the middle of a parenting class. No one’s stormed out of Babies R Us in a frantic rage (and I shopped there TWICE during the holiday season). We’re getting along, getting things done, making decisions and, at this point, just really excited to meet our daughter.

(Note how I didn’t say the word “ready.” I know “ready” doesn’t exist in the world of preparing for a new baby. I don’t care if the nursery is stocked with enough clothes/diapers/wipes/boogie suckers to get her to her third birthday. “Ready” is a myth.)

The class was money well spent and included three hours of learning about everything from safe sleeping techniques to what to expect in the hospital. This was the only time JT got a little iffy. It was all the vernix talk that did him in, I think. When the teacher tossed in some umbilical cord chatter, he turned a shade whiter than the diaper he’d just put on the doll. I can’t blame him. I genuinely believe he has a phobia of anything related to hospitals, health care and general gross human body stuff. I’ve watched him nearly keel over when my ER nurse mom told a story about a patient with a necrotic toe who woke up to find it missing. The only logical explanation was that the man’s dog had mistaken it for a Snausage. Granted, Mum probably shouldn’t have told us that particular tale over dinner, but JT about passed out in his salad. So basically, labor should be fun for both of us!

Other than worrying that my husband will require more medical attention than me during the birth, I feel pretty good. Getting and staying comfortable is definitely more difficult than it was sans bowling ball strapped to my midsection, but I manage. Work is where I’m least comfortable, when hours of sitting with all that extra weight take their toll on my hips. I try to get up and walk around as much as possible, but when the baby starts moving around, the only thing that helps is getting my body as close to horizontal as possible. I lean so far back in my chair, it would be easier to balance my keyboard on my bump.

In all honestly, at this stage, there’s rarely a time when all my basic needs feel fully met. I’m either tired or hungry or have to pee or feel like I can’t breathe or have to pee or thirsty or have to pee. My mom friends tell me this is just to prepare me for the baby, who will feel pretty much the same way for the first few months of her life. I’ll try to remember to be sympathetic, but for now, I’m really excited for the day when I can go for a long run or even a brisk walk or up a flight of stairs or from the couch to the kitchen without needing to rest immediately afterward.  

But enough complaining. Right now, I'm all about focusing on all the joy happening in my life, and one of my Top Five Favorite Pregnancy Moments happened the other day. I was visiting Mum who was watching my two nieces. Raina, who’s 4, was snuggled up next to me on the couch when I felt the baby kick. Raina jumped back, her eyes wide. 

“Did you feel that?” I asked, and she nodded.

“That was your cousin,” I said. “She must have wanted to get your attention.”

Raina smiled and went back to snuggling, her tiny hand resting on my bump while Mum ran to grab the camera.

It was the sweetest moment and one I’ll never forget. I know so many more are on the way and honestly, at this point, I just can’t wait. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Best Gift Ever

It was a Christmas morning long after I’d stop believing in Santa, but that year my excitement was as high as if I still thought the man himself had been by my house. I had asked my parents for just one thing - a silver-plated, open hole flute.

(Pause for you to mock my dorkiness. No, really, I’m well aware I was doing myself no favors back in those days. In my defense, marching band was considered kind of cool in my high school. If by “cool” you mean “the football team liked us so the truly popular kids didn’t pick on us that much.” Oh whatever. The drummers were hot. Get off my back.)

I jolted out of bed, rushed downstairs and stopped in front of the tree. I surveyed the stacks of presents my parents had set out the night prior. My eyes landed on The One: a gift-wrapped rectangle the exact size of the busted old flute case I’d been lugging around for the last few years. My heart fluttered as I thought about how great it would be to tear into that paper, open the case and see my new prized possession. Taking that thing to school instead of the dented, tarnished old instrument I’d had since fourth grade was going to be the highlight of my year. (Again, mock away. I’ll allow it.)

“Parents!” I called, as I heard my brother padding down the stairs.

Kip came in from the garage while Mum appeared from around the corner sipping a cup of tea.

“Merry Christmas!” she exclaimed.

“Merry Christmas!” I matched her enthusiasm. “Let’s do gifts!”

“Someone’s excited,” Kip with a smile, as everyone settled into their spots around the tree.

In retrospect, this should have been my first clue that something was up. Kip smiling at anything other than another person’s misfortune is wildly out of the ordinary.

I lunged for the box but Mum stopped me.

“Save that one for last!” she screamed as she fumbled with the camera case. “The camera’s not ready yet.”

Temporarily deflated, I reached for another one instead. For the next twenty minutes, I watched the rest of my family open all their gifts while tearing open the occasional one myself - some clothes, some candy, a few books. All lovely, but nothing compared to what I knew my last gift contained.

Finally, the box labeled for me was the last remaining under the tree. 

“Go ahead,” Mum said, as she turned the camera on me. I grabbed it, feeling the familiar weight of its contents and smiling. I tore into the paper and saw the signature shiny black of the case. I liberated it from the rest of the wrapping and set it on the floor in front of me. I looked up at  my parents with an appreciative smile.

“Well,” Mum said, seemingly as excited as I was. “Open it!”

I took a deep breath, clicked the case’s two fasteners open, and there, amid the lush blue velvet padding, sat…...a pepperoni stick.

“Wha?” I stammered, beyond confused. I looked up and saw each member of my family rolling on their sides, laughing their heads off.

“What...how...why?” I asked, still not quite processing what had happened. Where was my flute? What the hell was with the pepperoni? Why did my parents hate me?

"We got you!" Kip said through tears as Mum continued snapping shots of my perplexed face. 

"You got me?" I asked incredulous. "You got me what, exactly? Lunch meat???"

Then, looking down again at the pepperoni stick stuffed so perfectly into the spot where the flute should have been, I couldn't help but laugh too. I had to give them credit. It was a well played prank. Granted, I'd prefer to be playing my new flute, but hey, what could you do? 

Turned out, I need not worry about that, as Mum reached behind the couch and pulled out my old case. She opened it, and nestled inside was the exact flute I'd asked for. 

I loved that thing, but in all honesty, I haven't played it once since high school. It sits on a shelf in my old bedroom at my parents' house. The story, however, has been told countless times since that Christmas so long ago, and not one year goes by that I don't think of it and laugh. (My parents never let me forget it either - a couple years after the flute incident, I made the mistake of asking for an umbrella. You can imagine what I found in its place under the tree. Some years, they just flat-out gave me pepperoni sticks as presents, not in place of something else. Whatever. Every family has their thing, right?)

I guess some gifts aren't really the kind we can open, but rather the things that stay with us for the rest of our lives. I know, I know. How's that for some holiday cheese? 

Luckily, I have just the thing to go with it.