Thursday, September 6, 2012

...and I'm living a b-grade gothic sitcom. Part II.

[Sorry about the delay. If you're looking for part I of this story, click here.]

Okay, a confession:

In my last post, I concealed vital information.  This enhanced the cliffhanger for dramatic effect.

In reality, slightly before leaving the Loderups, (around 10 p.m.), I finally found a reliable report that the Moonglow fire was 70% contained. Thirteen homes had burned.

While we were driving to the Latham’s house for the night, I got a call from a neighbor saying police were allowing families back into our neighborhood.

We decided to continue to the Latham’s, since: (1) we had already explained The Plan to the kids and didn’t want to stretch the limits of Eric’s flexibility; (2) “70% contained” did not sound like “100% controlled” or “guaranteed you won’t have to evacuate again if the winds worsen” or “you’re certain to have power tonight”; (3) we were almost to our destination while home was in the opposite direction; and (4) we had no idea how smoky the air would be and most of us have asthma (plus I can’t breathe when I’m eight months pregnant, even under the best of circumstances).

This does mean that when I collapsed wearily into bed that night, I was only slightly worried about my house.

See? The original ending, where I fall asleep without any information on the fate of my library, was much more dramatic.

Are you going to let an obsession with accuracy get in the way of a good yarn? The story was true, just not the facts.

I now return you to my dramatic slumber, already in progress…

I slept about four hours. I remember that stretch of sleep fondly, since it was the last such block I got for the next many months.

Sometime after 3 a.m. I woke up needing to use the bathroom. A very common occurrence in late pregnancy, one which had already interrupted my sleep a great deal. Each pregnancy, I threaten to break down and buy adult diapers rather than deal with hourly migrations, and each pregnancy I never – quite – do it.

Now, I wish to be delicate about this. Let’s just say I had some minor, ah, digestive upset, which I first imputed to stress, but which did not ease over time. I alternated between sitting on the toilet and lying in bed, but at one point I noticed a little spotting of blood and thought to consult my watch. After about twenty minutes, a preliminary data set indicated a pattern of variable discomfort, of strong but imperfect correlation, clustered around nodes occurring approximately every five minutes.

In other words, I was having contractions. Minor at first, but getting stronger. Lasting about thirty seconds, and spaced approximately five minutes apart.

I did not want to be an alarmist. Jon was exhausted, too, and I hated to wake him up if it turned out to be nothing. Still, given my experience with Daniel, I decided not to take chances.

I woke up Jon.

He was incoherent at first, but I finally got through to him. It’s a testament to his tuckered-out state that the words “contractions,” “labor,” and “hospital” did not send him leaping out of bed like flustered, flummoxed flea.

Next I hobbled down the hall to alert the Lathams. I felt guilty for repaying their hospitality by waking them up around 4 a.m. and saying “I’m foisting my kids off on you. They’ll wake up in a few hours, hungry, cranky, and disoriented, all of which will rapidly grow worse when they discover their parents have abandoned them to relative strangers. Sammy has some separation anxiety…oh, and did I mention that Eric is autistic?”

On the other hand, everyone agreed that just about any plan was better than my giving birth in their living room. (“Ouch! Owww.”)

The Lathams were so gracious about everything. I’m grateful that we left the kids in the hands of experienced parents who rose to the occasion beautifully. Thanks! There’s always room for honorary adopted grandparents in the family. If our faith tradition included the role, we would have asked them to be godparents.

Jon only missed a few turns on the way to the hospital. In his defense, he had reviewed the route from home and work, but not from an unfamiliar neighborhood. Labor rolled right along, but not with the breath-snatching speed I had feared. (This means I was only saying “OUCH!!! OWWWWW” by the time we arrived.)

We had some trouble breaking into the maternity ward. (Really poor signage. If I hadn’t been in labor, I’d have volunteered my technical writing skills to the problem.) After we finally figured out which button to push, I got to talk to an actual nurse. Filled out some paperwork. (No, I hadn’t filled it out in advance. Yes, I probably have ADD. Yes, I got excellent grades in school, but that’s because I’m apparently more terrified of a teacher’s disapproval than I am chary of natural childbirth. No, that doesn’t make any sense at all. Quit nagging. You’re distracting me from my breathing exercises.)

For a wonder, the nurse actually believed I was in labor. I was placed promptly in a room, examined, and treated. I emphasized, at five-minute intervals, how much I wanted an epidural. I was explicit on this point. (See? Good technical writing skills pay off.) OWWWWWCH!!!!! [Grunt]

Despite my continual reminders, it took a while. They had to set things up, start an IV, give me a dose of antibiotics (which took forever to drip and longer to diagnose—turned out I was sitting on the tubing, grrr), etc., etc.  Still, though I was progressing rapidly, it wasn’t the lightning-fast experience I had with Daniel. (For REAL delivery drama, read this post and scroll down to "Daniel.")

The nurse was doubtful I’d make it. I awaited the worst. When the anesthesiologist finally arrived, the nurse asked if I thought there was any point, since I was minutes away from pushing.

Again, I refer you to the Daniel Drama, referenced two paragraphs prior.

I don’t know why some women think that natural childbirth confers positive karma.  It’s like they think that unnecessary suffering is spiritually uplifting. Or it somehow “proves” their love for the baby.

Perhaps I am without natural affection. Certainly I am “without remorse or conscience.”

I took the drugs. Aaaaaah.

It slowed labor down, but I was “past feeling.”

 “It must be so pleasant to be the anesthesiologist,” I remarked to the angelic assuager of agony. “Everyone is always delighted to see you.”

The nurse pouted humorously.

After that, it was textbook.  Baby Boy Berry, still unnamed, arrived around midmorning. We alerted siblings and grandparents. Daniel asked, “Do I still have to go to school today?” We all answered “Absolutely not!” (For a post on his subsequent absence excuse note, click here.) I posted a picture on facebook.

Photo: Behold! My latest adorable baby! It's okay to be jealous. I understand.
Posted on Facebook, September 6th, 2011

Once I was in a regular room, I flipped through channels for news of the fire. Most reports were still focused on the Bastrop blaze, but I got snatches about what was now being called “the Moon Glow fire.” Apparently four teens had been seen fleeing the site of the outbreak. Vague descriptions were posted, but to my knowledge, no one was ever caught.

My theory is some fourteen-year-old borderline delinquent kids decided to experiment with smoking .  The police suspected arson. Does gross stupidity count?

I also noted, wryly, that the heat broke that day. After months of three-digit temperatures, the weather and my water broke at the same time. The high on September 6th was in the mid-nineties.

Apparently control over the weather runs in the family. I'll send baby Geoffrey to his Aunt Carolyn for instruction.

The next few days—well, actually, the next three months—are rather blurry.

Betty Latham graciously volunteered to watch the children the next day. Best babysitter ever! She took them to a park, to Chick-fil-A, and even helped them pick out a lovely bouquet for me. Awwwwww. Melissa Farnsley took over all my carpool duties for weeks. (Thanks—and just as well, since I would have been a disaster driving. As it was, I was still a menace when I did resume.) Lots of ladies brought meals and gifts. It’s so nice belonging to a church with a good support group.

A lovely bouquet from
Betty and the boys

So, there you have it. Drought, hurricane, and fire. Hideous heat. Juvenile delinquents. Inevitable plot points. Labor, not at the worst possible time, but the second-to-worst inconvenient moment, three weeks early. Epidural uncertainty. Homes destroyed. (Just, blessedly, not mine.)

Drama, delivered.

Geoffrey’s birthday was today.

I celebrated by trying to burn my house down.

No, really. See, our oven is broken. (Yes, I have called the repair guy. It only took me a week. I'm not that ADD.) Daniel desperately wanted some kind of cake on Jeff's actual birthday. I would have preferred simply to wait, but I was cajoled into trying a gruesome experiment. We took cake batter and divided it. One-third we ate straight. Another third we cooked on the stove. The last third I put in a bowl and nuked.

Yes, I checked it at frequent intervals. Who knew it followed such a steep exponential curve? It took only a few seconds to go from "I think it's about done" to "Aaaagh! We need ventilation!"

Naturally, Jon walked in at the worst possible moment. But I managed to get the charred confection out of the microwave and onto the back deck without setting off the smoke alarm.

This was a deliberate piece of performance art. That's my story, and I defy you to prove otherwise.

A year and a day ago, I was collapsing wearily into a strange bed, worried about my home.

I spent the next several months worrying about sleep and sanity.

Now, a year later, as I sniff the delicate carcinogens still wafting through the downstairs, I look back and smile. My home is fine. My family is beautiful.

Even if our house hadn’t survived, our family would still be beautiful.

The day Jon and I got married, lots of things went wrong. I lost the marriage license. He got lost on the way to the temple. I risked life and limb rushing down the interstate at 90 miles per hour in the rain.

The stress was terrible. But, eventually, we all got to the temple. Changed clothes. Walked into the sealing room.

As I knelt across the altar from Jon, I calmed down. “This,” I thought, “Is what really matters. Despite everything that has gone wrong today. Even if everything after this is a disaster, even if the wedding reception flops…this is the moment of true eternal significance.” I smiled peacefully.

(That is, I smiled peacefully until I had to kiss him in public. But that’s a different story.)

I love my house, my library, my piano, and all the appurtenances pertaining thereto. But they are temporary.

People are eternal. Family is forever.

Happy birthday, Jeff.


Krenn said...

baby minions!

Anonymous said...

I well remember these events. As grandparents in Indiana, too far away to help, we had watched the wildfires in Austin with great concern.

No one here was surprised when you went into labor the night of the fire. I must say, though, that getting a new grandson out of the deal was the best part of the story.

Happy Birthday, Jeff, from your Grandma Homer

Carolyn said...

I"m more than happy to commence weather control training at any point. Would you like to send me either sam or geoffrey for indoctrination?

Brian Thomas said...

I tried making cookies on the stovetop once. It worked as long as I flipped them.

Jon said...

And when you didn't, Brian?...

Jon said...

You cheated!!! You left me hanging all this time wondering if our house survived!!

I would like to point out for the record that (1) Eric was doing remarkably well, but I didn't want to push it, either; (2) power was out most/all of the night for our neighborhood, as we found out later; (3) I really wasn't feeling much like returning several miles to our house only to be guaranteed rejection by the police/firemen on scene (Murphy guarantees that this would have happened); The house had a strong odor of "campfire #2" (I just wish we could have bottled it for sale in a luxury department store) when I finally did return.

You commented on me being so tired that I was dragging around the house while we got ready to rush to the hospital. You forgot to mention that I fell asleep at the hospital once you had your drugs and things slowed down for a while. I was tired.

Those were some funky colors in the picture of us at the hospital. It's funny what lack of sleep does to your perception.

Hurricane? You need to elaborate on that.

You were worried about sleep and sanity??? Just let them both go and everything's wonderful. You should try it sometime.