weights. waits.

It was a rainy day in Osaka. Not extraordinary, for most of my days in Osaka were of the wet variety. The sun was at base camp, preparing for that long journey to its zenith. I had just escaped 12 hours in the tomb which housed Japan’s own nuclear accelerator, watching a screen show the track of lithiums mercilessly bombarding silicons. Discovering the secrets of the universe is painfully dull at times.

The fresh air, the rain, and the morning light cleansed my stale skin, refreshed my exhausted soul. My eyes wanted to be open, and my body wanted to move. Suffering jetlag and back to back shifts, I was past exhaustion and craving life, so I made myself lively. I set out on a run through campus, in and out of neighborhoods, up hills and down them again. Past children on their way to school, clad in sweet uniforms with brightly colored rucksacks and caps I raced; pacing garbage trucks making their Wednesday rounds and paper boys flinging their stories into the gardens of wilderness tamed in poetic miniature. My legs burned, my lungs screamed, and I was lost and alone and free. I was wholly myself.

I came to a park with a path. I followed the path to what seemed a rec center. The doors were unlocked, and I entered on tiptoe. To my right was the entrance to a 25 meter pool. Empty but pristine. To my left, three basketball courts with floors as reflecting as the water to my right. In front of me were stacked plates of different colors. Iron bars hung on the wall. I continued on my way, puzzled at the immaculate vacancy and the mysterious multicolored weights.

It was four years before I learned the utility of those plates and bars. When I discovered their magic, I fell into addiction. I was spellbound by Olympic lifts, infatuated with strength and power and the potential of well-trained muscle. I enjoyed a brief period of undivided commitment. My love for being fast, for flying down metropolitan avenues and prancing through wooded trails, was replaced by a love for lifting cleanly, heavily, weighted barbells from the ground to overhead. I craved the strength. I craved the technique. I craved the weightlessness that comes in that split second the bar is between the ground and its destination.

There was nothing to stop me from chasing it. I was my own person, and I decided to do what I wanted, when I wanted.

My life is unrecognizable from what it was fifteen weeks ago. Though pregnant, I still moved on my own time, I still worked to exhaustion and I even outdid my non-pregnant self in power lifts. Predicting life with bean in the outside world, in my naïveté I entertained visions of hours dedicated to becoming an athlete: mobile, fast, strong, with impeccable technique and an undying engine. I was sure my will would take me there.

My reality unfolds in stark relief. I am slow, I am weak, I am sloppy in my half-hearted attempts and I give up more often than not. Sometimes I give up before I’ve even started. It’s true, I am tired. My days are filled with the penultimate gift of drawing smiles from my baby’s sweet mouth. I have no excuse. Women, mothers, much busier than I balance their lives to incorporate training or whatever their specific goals might be.

My weariness brings me to tears sometimes. In Japan I used it to fuel me on a run I’ll forever remember as one of my best, one which coincidentally gave me a glimpse into an entire aspect of my life yet undiscovered. Now my lassitude does its due, allowing me to feed and clean and laugh at my babe and not much else. Those allowances are blessings; they’ve brought me closer to God, they’ve brought me a love I’ve never known, they’ve made me a relational person I am proud to be.

My relational identity of “mother” is, at the moment, my full identity. It leaves room for hardly anything else. But soon, very soon for my boy is growing at remarkable speed, I must recoup some individuality. The knowledge gnaws at me, for my attempts to turn fact into action are so poor. I yawn during my workouts, I rub my eyes after the simple act of chalking my hands, and I run too quickly to the little bean even when he’s safe in someone else’s arms.

Worse than my ennui is my disappointment. I suffer comparisons and should-haves and even should-bes. I look at weights once easy and shrink away. I cannot even move an empty bar with grace. I’ve almost quit in the middle of workouts. My mile time stands at 10 and a half minutes. It was under 6.

But I cannot fall apart, and I cannot give up. What example would I be setting for my son? I know that I must be the best I can be, I know that I must always strive to be better; then he can have a simpler time learning to do this same.

So, even though I might need to wait for my dear baby boy to be a bit more independent (he is growing faster than my heart can handle, so I know I won’t have to wait long), even though I might need to wait for my body to accept it’s current lack of sleep (for which it seems I’ll have to wait an eternity, even though that perception is manifestly warped), I must carry on with what I can do.

I am in a small way. I squatted 145×20 yesterday. Four weeks ago I couldn’t get through 115 so I know I am getting stronger. I might not be fast right now but I was also the slowest kid in school when I was in seventh grade. And it was a PreK-12 school. I changed that. I can touch my toes, finally. And I can stand on one foot. So things are looking up.

After all, it’s all about balance.IMG_4530

p.s. I know, I know, bad form.

the brave little boy

last night, he fell asleep simply holding my hand. i didn’t rock his eyes closed, i didn’t nurse sweetness into his dreams; he didn’t need my songs or the rise and fall of my chest as i breathe i love you i love you i love you. he gave me a sleepy smile and took himself to his never neverland.

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this baby has traversed fire and ice in his twelve short weeks. his first two were marked by hunger. his second two, by pain.

In the beginning of his third week, we brought him to the surgeon. He suffered a water laser which severed his severe ties, one under his tongue, and one on each lip. We weren’t with him to hold him, to keep him safe, to stave the terror of that blistering pain. We tiptoed into the procedure room afterward, aghast at our distraught babe. “It hurts less than an ear piercing” hey said. “Do it now” they said. “Go away” they said. And we believed and we did and we went. We watched as they took “after” pictures of his gaping wounds, bright red and bleeding fresh blood. “No blood” they had said. But his ties were strong ones.

Finally I was allowed to hold my sweet boy. I brought his wailing face to my breast and he latched on, sucking a soft suck so gentle, unrecognizable from the one that, only an hour before, drew blood and bruises. And we sighed.

Maybe we did right by him. Maybe we did good.

Doubts returned, seven times a day, for two weeks. We “exercised” his mouth, putting our fingers into those gaping angry holes, preventing the natural healing mechanism of retying. He endured such pain.

It seems a distant memory now. He smiles beautifully, he eats fantastically, he sleeps soundly more often than not; he poops explosively (in our toilet no less!) This sweet boy is incredible.

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As he approaches three months of life, his little personhood is becoming a doozy. We have a morning child, a woodsy little man who laughs in the sunshine and is amazed by blank walls and books alike. He puffs off his big sister boomer, who likes to jump all over him and lick his feet. He protests being wrapped then melts into the folds of the fabric as I tote him about during the day. He screams when I put him on the toilet then begrudgingly shoots out pee and poo so forcefully, more gets on the wall than on the toilet. He dances on his mat. He coos and caws and screams. He takes every opportunity to build up his legs, pushing into standing position.

He reads along to Dr. Seuss.

He likes what he likes, he hates what he hates, and he is who he is.

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I can’t believe I get to be his momma.

He’s growing so quickly. His life speeds up as mine slows down.

quick thoughts on a life changed

well hello there interwebzzz

IMG_3932While doing banded squats and singing Raffi to my sweet six-week-old boy in an attempt to ward off his hysterical cries, I realize how entirely silly my life had been prior to bean’s arrival.

This…this exhausting, consuming, vexing, bewildering love…this is real.

All those resume-able ambitions and material pursuits seem wasted time, years spent looking in the mud for diamonds while the sunshine gleamed rainbows from above. My guilt over my failures and derelictions is squalor, buds of thought squandered on barren land.

Not that my life was completely absent of joy. I found it in the ocean, glinting off the waves as I learned their shape and song. I played with it when I sang and danced on stage, when I practiced piano day and night and night and day, when music was my philosophy and religion. I walked it on those early Oxford mornings, trekking the city parks and cobblestones from sunrise to church to class to sunset. I wrote it as I composed my thesis, as I scratched out mistake after mistake in optics and topology, as I was trapped in that paradoxical quantum-mechanical box. I exalt in it when I am weighed down by ever-heavier weights, feeling lighter with every extra kilo on that iron bar.

I feel joy in my dad’s smile, in my mom’s persistence, in my big brother’s hugs, in my sister’s wit, in my little brother’s unflappable innocence. I feel joy in my husband’s touch, in his glance, in those moments he listens and in the chances he takes, in the way he makes me laugh. I feel joy when I watch him read, when I watch his happiness, when I watch him be a great poppa, when I watch him live.

I have had a joyful life, but I focused on the wrong things and was dissatisfied. This little bean has replaced my lenses, and the world has become a Kandinsky of color and whimsy. The joyous times, though of short span in my young life, are in relief. Suddenly my life is beautiful.

I deemed this year my year of living: what life bean has brought to my life! These days, so unassuming, inscrutable from one to the next, are filled with such love and confusion it seems that I am wholly these. Love, my action; confusion, my state.

I know I cannot begin to imagine the brilliance of my future. I can hardly believe the magic of my present.

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bean’s first week

Bean came out gurgling and cooing, and I tore. These minor setbacks snowballed us into the most terrifying week of my life thus far.

Bean’s gurgling did not morph into that lusty scream so characteristic of babies just born. They suctioned his mouth with that blue balloon, then they stuck a tube down his windpipe and drew of 30 ccs of amniotic fluid. Poor bean, drowning before he’d even had a chance to take a full breath. But they drained him and finally he wailed a beautiful cry.

They placed him on my breast, and there he lay, not quite ready to nurse. I stared at him, this helpless, perfect child, trying to help him along but proving just as clumsy. We fumbled for a few minutes but we didn’t have the luxury of time: my placenta was stuck and I was bleeding heavily.  I passed him to A and they shot me with Pitocin.

There came the placenta, then it was time for stitches. By the time everything was done with me, the bean and I had lost our golden hours.

Those fleeting golden hours: the one to two hours after birth in which babies have the innate ability to nurse: no problems, no questions, just plain old eating. After that short time, it becomes a complicated dance of placement, positioning, latching, and sucking.

We tried again after I was fixed up, but both of us were clueless. I did not know what breastfeeding felt like to know that he was eating, he didn’t know what fullness felt like to know that he was hungry. So, after the weighing and the measuring and the welcoming and the visiting and the flowers and the long nap of recovery began that harrowing week.

I was in the dark, only suspecting something was wrong, until his pediatrician’s appointment on Monday. He’d lost 10 oz, a significant amount for a baby born to a mom who hadn’t had an IV and who’d weighed only 6 pounds 4 oz. They gave me formula. I stubbornly ignored it, expressing colostrum into his mouth and forcing him to my breast. On my breast he sat, comfortable but unsure of what to do. I pumped in between these “nursing” sessions in which he did not drink. With a syringe, we fed him whatever came out of me.

We were playing with fire. Here I was, adamant that he would not have a bottle, stubbornly refusing formula, stupidly believing that we could do it and not wanting any part in those things that might prevent good breastfeeding, all without having any clue of how to breastfeed. And so we fumbled for five days, sometimes successful (sometimes he latched) but more often than not dismally failing. Bean, so lethargic for days 0 to 3, expended what little energy he had by screaming when I offered him my breast. The milk did not flow out so easily from me as it did from the syringe, and it frustrated him.

On Thursday I withheld the syringe and nursed him day and night and day and night until Saturday. Each attempt was preceded by up to an hour of fighting and screaming. I just wanted my small son to be healthy, to be safe, to grow. I just wanted to be able to feed him. It was a study in survival. No time to doubt. No room for fear.

Saturday, the start of his second week, we visited a board-certified lactation consultant. She helped him and I latch and he has been breastfeeding, almost with content, since then. I am not yet past the trauma of those early days, that heart-breaking first week. I’ll never know if what I did was right, or good. Did I compromise the well-being of my son to blindly follow a standard of health; did I risk his life for the potential that he might thrive?

They say all’s well that ends well, but the problem is I don’t know if it has ended well. I worry, I worry, I worry so much. If bean’s first week was a story of survival, this second is a story of terror. Fear overwhelms me. When he cries with hunger after two hours worth of feeding, when he’s on my breast constantly but not sucking and swallowing, when my nipple hurts so much tears fall down my face and saltily land on his, I question whether I am fit to be a mother. I question whether I am fit to be his mother.

Without A, I don’t know where I’d be right now. His unending support, his unconditional love: with these he shoulders my doubts when I am too weak to carry them. I don’t know what I’ll do when he goes back to work. And sweet boom: her calm, her curiosity, it touches me in a tender way, soothing the wounds I bear from the tumultuous love I have for bean. This love, it seems to drown me.

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And I realize, being a mom is fighting for each breath, living through the fear. Being a mom is being scared every moment of every long, unending day and every eternal night. Being a mom is refusing to succumb to the doubts, to these most powerful anxieties. Being a mom is stumbling over and over again, and asking for help when strength fails and hope flees. Being a mom is being both the weakest and the strongest I have ever been. Being a mom is being so much more than me.

bean’s birth

Bean came into this world cooing and gurgling on Saturday 03 may 2014 at 1410. Weighing in at 6 lbs 4 oz, measuring 20 inches long, he had ten fingers and ten toes, a head full of dark hair, and a sweet face I love completely, hopelessly, entirely: so much so that my very soul aches.

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Signs of bean’s coming began early Friday morning: I felt the distinct and demanding desire to poo.

Kicking A off the can, I sat and strained and finally admitted I was empty. Pondering, I realized I’d misinterpreted my discomfort: having eliminated the urge to poo as it’s source, I vaguely remembered the sensation from times long ago. Indeed it was a uterine cramp. (I had the same discomfort when I first began menstruating, the feelings so strong that I would become dizzy and throw up from the pain. Fun times for a young girl.) I excitedly explained to A that this may be the beginning of the end of our long journey. It was.

We went about our days: I off to school, A off to work, boom curled up on the couch for her post-breakfast nap. The hours progressed ordinarily, but in technicolor filters. I’ll always remember our car ride to fair oaks and our stop at the gas station, the Izze blackberry soda A ordered for me, our anticipation as we laid down for the night, excitedly squeezing hands.

My contractions continued into the night and by the wee hours of Saturday I was in active labor. The first hours seemed endless. We’d prepared for bean’s arrival by attending courses in husband-coached childbirth, and I knew how important it was for A to have his rest for the tough hours we faced. So I cuddled to boom as each contraction passed, imagining myself paddling like hell to catch each wave and letting myself free fall in he pressure until it subsided. Those hours held my greatest moments of doubt: I should have gone to the hospital. It hurts. I’m not ready. I can’t do this.

At 0217 I woke A, asking for his strength. With each contraction he drove his fist, his elbow, his head into the small of my back, providing a counter-pressure that helped me greet dawn. 0600: we called the midwife. Bidding boom adieu, we slowly made our way to the car, A supporting my full weight as the next contraction overwhelmed me. 0715: we arrived at the birth center.

Here my memories are wispy. The morning hours passed, and the terror I felt at home was superseded by excitement, then determination. I’ve never had such a purpose, such a mission, such a life worth fighting for.

Because bean sat low, I felt the urge to push from the very beginning. My cervix had other thoughts, and dilation occurred quickly enough but oh so slowly. I lived by the clock, willing myself one more hour, one more song inside my head, one more labored breath. Soon my groans turned to animalistic grunts, savage and throaty. They brought me to the water, wherein my own water broke. It felt like a balloon had burst and all of a sudden the intensity heightened and I truly began to push, cervix be damned. I focused on A. I held steady on his presence. I tried to tell him I was strong, that he needn’t fear; I tried to be fearless; it was not too hard, for there was little room for fear amidst the storm of pressure and pain and buffeting love. When I could feel the top of bean’s head just an inch away, they had me move back to the bedroom.

My path was through a never ending hallway that was less than forty feet long. I collapsed into a squat with every step: bean wanted to greet the wide world and he did not want to wait to do it in the bedroom. Soon we were halfway there; then, five steps from the door. I squatted and in the mirror the midwives held I saw black hair. Then I saw blood…I’d torn.

Suddenly the midwife was serious. She told me to stop pushing, to just stop. A dragged me the rest of the way and carried me into the bed, where I got on all fours. I was given permission to push again and so I did, and the bean’s sweet face emerged. One more push. He was born.

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actively procrastinating

Writing daily is working out really well. (Not.)

In any case, the bean’s due date has come and gone and he is still sitting pretty in this ol’ belly belly of mine. If my body is any indication, bebeh is growing big (at least up to a respectable 6 pounds.) This is great news as throughout these past ten months (yes, ten!) most people exclaim how unpregnant I look (6 months? I look like that after a big meal. 9 months? I wouldn’t have guessed five.) In any case that’s all in the past and April has been one long waiting game. We’re happy he’s growing but we sure would like to meet him.

It’s funny how perspectives, and wishes, change. Four months ago, when bean was still tiny as an eggplant, I wished and wished he would stay inside for a long time. He feels safe in here, I can protect him in here, he needs to grow big and strong while there’s nothing to get him. I know how to be pregnant. I don’t really know how to be a mom.

I’ll find out how it goes soon, and now it seems I can’t find out soon enough. My days are a waiting game which I try to fill with finishing up this first and last semester. Oh, yes, it’s been decided: I’ll take a leave of absence next year. Funding did not pan out. I’ll use the break to get my life in order, make a little dough, apply to other schools where scholarships are guaranteed, build my body into a diesel machine, be creative and open in all my aspirations, and get a stay-at-home-job. Most most most importantly, most most most excitingly, I’ll get to know my sweet son. Goodness I can’t wait.

But first I must complete this semester: final paper for Bioinstrumentation, final project for Pattern Recognition, final project for Advanced Biomechanics, final exam for Engineering Math, final exam for Physiology.  I’ve been putting it off: I applied to three jobs, got my heart rate up for the first time in a week (goodness gracious my displaced pelvis has been giving me some trouble), am writing here, and putter around thinking about the bean and trying to go into labor (pineapple, anyone?) Now, the boom is begging to go outside and I’ll keep putting it off until I get back. I plan to finish the paper and the work for my pattern recognition project tonight. I’ll get to biomechanics as soon as he actually assigns it. And then, the studying begins. Math should be a breeze but physiology requires work, persistence, diligence, and a tenfold increase in my pregger-brain’s ability to memorize. Sounds like a challenge if ever I saw one.

Perhaps the sweet bean is staying in here until I’m finished with all these things. If that’s the case, then I better get hustling. I’m glad to be writing here. I’m glad to have updated this space. I’m frightened, exhilarated, at the openness of my life. The uncertainty is profound.

by Mary Oliver.

 

KT

out

getting back on that (dead) horse

in the new year of 2013, i blogged once per day, every day. my original intent was threefold: to regain a sense of purpose in my daily routine, to form wispy thoughts into elegant phrases with growing ease, and to remember my days as worthwhile (whether naturally or cast in brannan lighting.) as the new year faded into the old year, my writings became scattered, rushed, whiny, with posts few and far between of which i was proud.

this year i shrugged off my obligatory tasks: daily writings, steady paychecks, clean food, consistent fitness, being nice for nice-ness’ sake… and what of it?

not writing everyday means it is much more difficult to write when i want to (see the last few posts: stilted, jaded, failing to capture that wide range of emotions that wring my heart.) not writing means i have more trouble remembering: my joy at the bean’s little kicks; the precise moment A convinced me, once again, that he loved me; our elation when we heard that sweet emerson is slowly making his way into this wide world, already at the +1 station (only 4 more to go); my belief that somehow boomer will know before we do when he’ll be born and my resultant insistence on monitoring her every leap and cuddle and aggressive growl. not writing everyday means my future self loses its chance of pouring over records of her past. she’s free to remember as she will. and with that freedom, as with any freedom, comes great responsibility. will she remember the happy times? will she forgive the sad? will she simply live in her present?

i cannot see the future; i am no sage. but extrapolating from this present KT, i believe the daily writings are beneficial. i must simply forgive myself when they are bollocks or crass or juvenile or trash, holding firmly to the belief that i will improve.

that loss of a steady paycheck: it symbolized everything i desired for three long years. i believed it would bring with it freedom. instead i experience fear and a deep sense of shame. i believed i would finally spend my days living. i find i spend my days much as i always did. i believed i would crow in elation at filling my seconds as i so chose, and i believed i would devote these to bettering myself. i feel stagnant, gripped by terror, desperately trying to keep breathing in the torrent of uncertainty surrounding me. is this a reflection of reality or my perception of it? was i so naive? i am being dramatic; there are certainly times i am incandescently happy. the question is: was the great sacrifice necessary?

it is made, so the only thing left to do is to make the most of it.

clean food, consistent exercise: i am brimming with excuses for my pregger state. i eat cereals and sugars because if i don’t, i fear i won’t eat anything at all. i tell myself i don’t have a strict pullup because i’m carrying a small child.  in fact it feels more as though i’m lazy and full of bs. all i want is bean’s health, and i know to get that i must maintain mine. sure it is difficult as the cravings and aversions rage, as my body begins to feel foreign; but it is never impossible. guilt weighs heavy: is he so small because of something i’ve done?

being nice for niceness’ sake made me feel like a good person, a person with whom noone should have any reason to quarrel. it never did work, and i always wondered: why? now that i’ve thrown it to the wind, i feel less a fake. but what is left? a person whom i don’t particularly like. a person who voices her petty opinions more often than not. a person who thinks to much of people, who thinks too much of what people think of her. a person who acts the hypocrite, though she stopped her feigned niceties to be exactly the opposite. a person in whom rages the war between the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi and the philosophies of Ayn Rand. most of all, what is left is a person who is looking for a new shield against this world; a person who wonders whether it is better to stand naked a she came.

i suppose, in the end, everything has its good and its bad. everything is some mutable shade of gray, shifting in the changing light. everything is nonsense, and everything is truth.

KT

out

birthdays and deathdays and lifedays

Five days ago, I celebrated 26 years of life. They were 26 years of living and trying to live; 26 years of laughing and raging; 26 years of quiet and tears. 26 years which brought me to a day full of ordinary blessings, of liquid sunshine, of great love from so many for who I am and who I was and who I will be.

This 26th year brings with it so many unknowns, so many surprises, so many windows just waiting for me to fling open. It will bring our son. I know all my imaginings prove pale to how this little bean will change our lives.

A different Son is risen today. Three days after His death day, He is back to life. A life which I hope lives in me. A life which I want to live in me.

I have a life in me. A life which will soon be born from me. He will be unleashed into this world, capable of breathing, learning, growing, living all on his own. He will take with him my heart, scattering it about on his adventures through his sweet unknowable life. I hope so much for him.

When will be his birthday? The doctors say it will be April 29th, nine short days from this gorgeous Easter Sunday (which is also my little sistwer’s birthday.) Some think May 1st, some April 27th. One is even banking on May 9th. I believed he was coming today, given the slight contractions and increased pressure. But these have calmed and we are left with an unfulfilled anticipation, a question, a hope, a wish, a prayer, a please please please please please come soon we just can’t wait to meet you.

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a story

our evenings together have been spent in an orgy of Vikings. the battles, the politics, the faiths, the cultures: enchanting. but the story is what keeps us watching past the witching hours.

in the show, lagertha often says that life is a story.

dfw1what is my story? what will i make of it? i build stories around my life, trying to make sense of it. i look back at the tragedies and connect them to the joys and the surprises and the wonder. i sit amidst my tears and worry if i’m too damaged to cultivate love: in myself, in others. was the happiness i felt untrue? it was so fleeting. have i diminished its existence because i forget what it is to be warm from within? in this desolate isolation, who is for me? are you there God? it’s me…

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where am i going? where am i now?

sweet bean, where are you? where are your kicks and your somersaults and your dear hiccups? you are sleeping, i hope. sleeping as i wish i could sleep. sweetly. untroubled by terrors. a slumber unmarred by harrowing discoveries. i hope you are rocked by my breaths; they rack me so but within they must be no worse than a three foot swell. i hope you are lulled by the gentle sounds of my heart, which beats on however much it breaks.

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frankly, i sometimes think it would be much easier to die. but i suppose that is the problem of writers and live-ers: the story is the living, yet it never turns out quite right. the discrepancy can drive one mad. quitting would be goddamn blissful.

another impossible bliss: sleep. it escapes me. how i wish i could fall into that darkness, joining my sweet babes, boom and bean.

alas, it is a David Foster Wallace kind of night.

dfwdawn approaches. perhaps it will bring some peace in living. and with it, i hope, a happy chapter.

i love you bean. i love you boom.

KT

out