Saturday, November 13

Birth Journey

I started this about two three months ago in anticipation of my son's first birthday. I almost didn't post it. Not because it contains some may say inappropriate detail, but because I haven't really wanted to share anything personal for a while. Also because I know that all women are sensitive about the subject of birthing. In my experience it's because we feel so vulnerable in the experience. I enjoy the romantic idea that the growing of babies is something that unifies all women, and even all people. I even feel closer to my mammal friends in the idea that we go through much the same thing in the act of giving birth.  But there are undeniable and unfortunate expectations that are placed on a woman when she starts to compare notes with other women about the whole pregnancy experience. And in an era of information, when there are so many tools available to us, it is too easy to feel like you don't measure up or like you are suppose to do it a certain way. I know I felt like that after my first birth. But, as I try always to do, I pushed social or cultural expectations out of my mind and tried to just be and know what it was that I wanted. The labor of bringing life out of life is one of Love and beautiful in all of it's forms, as is the sharing of each birth story. I Love Traditions. They give us more reasons for living and tools for sharing this life with each other. The sharing of birth stories is a tradition that I've wanted to participate in for as long as I've been reading them. But before reading, be reminded that all of us are born. It really shouldn't be a big deal to think about how it transpires, but I won't be offended if you are offended. And then there was this:

Birth; not something that just happens, not a simple occurrence or even a situation, but a journey; a pilgrimage in the body of a woman. It starts not when a membrane is ruptured or a rhythmic throbbing begins, but long long before. When first the idea is formed and goes from the thought to the imagination and finally the reality is conceived in a woman's mind that this will end with a life being brought out of her vessel and into her arms.

I first considered the birth of my son when I was birthing my daughter; preparing mentally (unsuccessfully, I might add) for an anesthesiologist to numb my body from my lower back down. From the moment I entered my sterile hospital room, I told the nurse that I wanted to birth 'naturally'. It was the first time I would bring a life out of my own. I was naive and unprepared, but I knew what I wanted. A few hours later, two strange women came into my hospital room and very actively tried to convince me that after spending all day with my water broken, contracting, a natural birth would be extremely difficult for me. One thing kept me from being angry at these two strangers, who were, though well reasoned in their suggestions, more concerned for my labor interrupting their routine than actually helping me to relax and bring my daughter safely out of the womb. I didn't want anger in that room. I wanted it to be a hallowed place, a sanctuary where I would meet this special soul for the first time. I was also afraid of what was happening in my body and of how long it was taking. I remember clearly the nurse telling me that maybe with my next pregnancy my body would be a little better prepared and I would be able to do it naturally. That thought stuck in my head. As soon as the epidural took effect I was able to sleep for a couple hours and during those two hours, my relaxed body dilated from barely a two to a 9 1/2. After the birth I wasn't able to move my legs for at least 3 hours afterward and felt them too weak to walk around for a couple days. I was relieved not to be carrying around the weight anymore, speaking purely physically. But in every way, physical and emotional, I felt completely at the mercy of my husband and that sweet innocent baby girl. As far as everything else, my first born was healthy and beautiful. And we got to know each other through the exhaustion as I imagine most women experience. When I found out nine months later that I was expecting another child, I remembered the words of my nurse and thought 'maybe this time'. As the thought of the pain of labor and the helpless feelings afterward became a reality over the first few days, the maybe dissolved. I knew that I needed to prepare myself better this time. With my first pregnancy, I thought romantically of how labor was something that tied me to every other woman that has ever become a mother. I was only interested in appreciating the experience as all mothers have over the course of many millennium. I thought that this connection was enough. Billions of women have had babies with out the aid of modern medicine and I chose to believe that I couldn't be so different from all of them. But that line of simplistic thinking had put me in a very vulnerable situation and I knew that I didn't want to find myself again, in a place where I was forced to base a decision on whether or not my nurse was sympathetic to my choice of birthing styles. So, along with making sure I could actually pay for having another baby, I went in search of myself and what it was that I really wanted to do with this birth. My journey was underway. I asked a few Mothers who I knew had birthed naturally how they had prepared and I realized that the first thing I needed to do was get some worthy reading material. Previously, I had as my manual, one solitary book. It had a patchwork quilt cover and a drawing of a bulging bellied woman in a rocking chair. It's all encompassing title told me that I would have in it, all of the keys that I needed to appreciate the experience of bringing a child into the world. Did I mention that I was naive? So I found some books. Some were helpful and others not as much. I started some underwater aerobics classes and started walking as often as I could.

I am a visually motivated person. I learn visually, I plan visually. One thing that really helped me was to make birthing art; a visual interpretation of the way I think of birth or labor. Birthing art is like a free-write. My very favorite English teacher in middle school assigned us free-writes every single day. It got our imaginations flowing and could not be right or wrong, it simply was. Through them I learned about who I was at that moment in time and was able to learn about what I wanted to do with myself (Thank You Gordon Cotrel). I've heard some mothers explain contractions as a series of waves coming up on a beach. One in particular repeated in her mind "the wave always hits the shore". It always confused me a little, this idea of having a phrase to repeat, almost like a chant. I didn't understand how this could help. The powerful idea of this is the inevitability. I remember my first birth, between contractions thinking that no matter what I do in the next few seconds of lesser pain, I could not avoid that the next contraction would come and I feared it in ever cell in every micro molecule. I believe that this was the most important part of the birth of my still-new little boy. It was what I needed to change. I realized that what was coming was inevitable. And I had to learn to accept that I was going to feel pain, and even welcome it. My birthing drawing is like that chant, a visual representation of the power that is in my body. I made this for myself and not as a framed piece of art to be shared. It is essentially a waterfall in the body of a woman. The trees above and below, and the calm pool at the end of the fall, all represented to me the parts of labor, all connected by a rushing unstoppable force of water...

It also represents something that is as natural as snow melting off a mountain. I have never lived near the ocean and don't feel a strong connection to it, as did my friend who used the ocean waves as an image in her birth. But this, to me is powerful. About 7 months along in my pregnancy, my husband and I, with our one year old daughter, went camping to Grand Tetons National Park. We hiked around Jenny Lake to Hidden falls, a cascade of about 200 feet with such power that anything in the way of the water would be powerless against it and immediately overpowered and swept away. I watched that series of short bursts of water and saw in it my fear. That's how I felt in my first birth; fighting against each wave of my body, powerless to do anything and powerless to cope. As my labor started with my second child, two months after our camping trip, that image stayed in my head, not the one in this simple drawing but the one it stems from.

The contractions started to be steady at about One o'clock in the afternoon. I timed the first one as I got back in my car after buying a few things to make sure the family would be alright while I was tending to the new baby, whenever he came. I was two days past my due date and waiting...the way only a past-due pregnant woman waits. It was Wednesday and I knew that if I wanted my doctor to deliver, today would have to be the day. I didn't want my doctors partner to aid in my delivery as he was a little too comfortable with the scalpel in my last labor as my daughter crowned.  I had a few birthing projects planned. I was attempting to paint the fence next to my patio as well as tile my small entry-way. I drove home continuing to time each contraction, about 8 minute apart and getting more painful. A bitter sweet part of labor. I was filled with the fear of what was to come, but relieved that I might not have to wait anymore. If this was just the beginning, how bad were they going to get? When I got home it was fluctuating between 8 minutes and 5. I called my Mom as she would need to make the hour and a half drive from Logan before we could go to the hospital, unless we wanted to take Ada with us. I wanted to labor at home as much as possible and so, continued preparing my fence to be painted, trying to pass the time. At this point the contractions were painful but I could still hold a conversation and think about what was transpiring.  Fortunately my daughter was enjoying a lengthy nap and Ariel called in to work to tell them he wouldn't be in. I ate grapes and wandered around picking things up and moving them menially between contractions. Picking things up helped a lot as I found that the most comfortable position for me was to be crouched on the ground.
Looking back, it's comical, but it probably helped a lot. I remember feeling like everything was just fine and I'd just wait it out until it got really hard. I knew that this was against the doctors orders, but wasn't really concerned. The contractions were every 5 minutes when my Mom came and Ada was still asleep. I couldn't have timed it better if I had planned it. I remember just eating grapes and talking until another wave of contractions would hit, until my Mom finally told us that we REALLY needed to go. By this time it was 6 pm. Suddenly I felt an urgency and rushed to get everything in the car. We drove to IMC (the hospital) and the contractions worsened as we drove. Pulling into the hospital, they were coming about every 2-3 minutes. We got checked into a labor room and after the nurse checked my dilation and put in an IV line for the antibiotics, for step-b, I got right in the tub. I was dilated to 6 cm. Contractions after contraction, Ariel poured warm water over my belly sticking out of the water. I can't say that the tub was the most comfortable place to labor but the water was so nice. There was no time to put in any music to help me focus or for Ariel to massage my feet or any of the other things I thought might help me along the way. I just focused on breathing and tried not to get annoyed at interruptions. Ariel was so wonderful and just took my cues that a contraction was coming and to shut up, let me concentrate and continue pouring water on my belly. This went on for about an hour. When we heard that the doctor had arrived I got out of the tub. Still the most comfortable position during a contraction was squatting on the floor, as they got longer and harder I crouched lower and lower. Ariel put pressure on my lower back, which helped a lot. The worst part was when the doctor came. While I was relieved to see him, he told me that I needed to get up on the bed. In all of my reading I understood that laying on your back was the worst was to labor and I didn't feel like I had it in me to getup there anyway. But I knew that he at least needed to check my dilation and I didn't have the will power to ask him to come down to the floor, so I got up on the bed. He immediately said I was dilated to a 9 1/2 and asked if I was ready to push. Everyone started running around grabbing things, taking the bed apart and calling other nurses. I can't remember exactly at what point I started pushing but it was only a couple minutes. My doctor talked to me in the few seconds between one contraction and the next and told me that I needed to listen to every thing he said and when he told me that I needed to NOT push, I had to do what he said. I was VERY hesitant to agree, but I did. I suddenly felt a HUGE urge to push. He told me to push, I pushed. Then all of the sudden in the middle of the most intense sensation, when everything in my body was telling me to push that baby out, my doctor told me STOP PUSHING. The hardest thing I have ever had to do, was not push in those few seconds. It felt like I might explode, because Pushing felt like the most wonderful thing and I WANTED to. The pain was virtually nonexistent. I've read descriptions of women having what they termed as orgasms during labor and never could I imagine that there could be any validity in that. But that pushing gave me a pretty good idea. However, I was NOT pushing. A few seconds later my baby came sliding out of me, and suddenly I knew why I wasn't pushing, or at least I felt it. The sensation of release, all of the pressure in my body that has been building for 9 some months, all of the water that was cushioning the pain, and of course, the beautiful baby boy came slithering out. And It Felt SO GOOD. I remember too well to say that it was orgasmic, but close enough that I can appreciate the sentiment.
And there he was, all covered in a fuzz of black hair. I brought him up on my belly and instantly he latched on to my breast. We were both cold, as I had gotten out of the tub only 20 minutes earlier and he was still covered in fluids and vernix, but I took off the blanket that separated us and held him close to my body. It was instantaneous; some loves come easier than others and some we have to suffer for. I believe the latter influenced the former because I can't imagine any other reason why my connection with my son was so much stronger sooner than with my daughter, born just 18 months earlier.

The reason I needed and felt relieved to not push when I felt the urge, was that I pushed a ten pound (o.k. really only 9 lb 14 oz.) baby boy out with out tearing my perineum. When I compare that with my daughter, who was 9 lb 9 oz and with whom my doctor wouldn't even tell me how many stitches I had, I recognize that the difference was in the doctor. He knew what he was doing instinctively. As hard as it is for ME to trust people that I don't know very well, he made me feel comfortable enough to take the risk and do what he said; and I am SO glad that I did.  The other big difference was that not ten minutes later, I walked across the room to where my little boy was being weighed and tested and didn't lie down again for a couple of hours afterward. That alone was worth any amount of pain to be able to get him out without an epidural. And there you have it, the whole story. After THAT I know that I can do ANYTHING. Running a marathon seems like an easy feat. I know I make it sound like it was simple. But the reality is that I was incredibly blessed AND I had the right tools. I am so Thankful for that little bundle of cuddly mama's boy. Looking back, I don't have many complaints, which is more than I can say of my first hospital/labor experience. My nurse was so supportive and actually seemed re leaved when I told her that I was going to try to have the baby naturally. But even with such a positive experience, my birthing journey is not over, as I'd like 3 more babies, give or take. I hope next time to have the means to do it in my home and I'll probably being living in a third world country when I do. But that's another birth story.  

Friday, November 12

Even Good Dragons Make Stormclouds.

If your are only mildly stimulated by a girl pouring her heart out and have found yourself on this page, consider yourself in luck: It's a double feature today. True to redneck style, I found this small tale at my local thrift store. On some level, conscious or unconscious, it speaks to me of my life right now and all that is therein. I only hope that someone on this small planet of ours can identify with some part of my ramblings.

Emma's Dragon Hunt
Story and Pictures by Catherine Stock

Close the Door
Over the last few months I've composed numerous blog entries. All of which sit on my list of posts, unpublished. I know that there are relatively few people who actually take the time to read my blog. It is somewhat of an internal struggle for me that I don't know who. You see, I suffer from a condition that keeps me from posting. It's called:  a general mistrust of the human race. I believe, generally speaking, that people who don't trust others are themselves untrustworthy. Maybe I am, ask friends who've needed my listening ear, they'll be the best judge. Its not that I don't trust people to be honest, its more that I don't trust them with my emotions, with what's really going on in my life. I don't believe that they care. Though I am easy on the listening end, I have always had a hard time sharing things of myself with others. 

Too often, the things that are buried in my head come out only in writing. I consider that I don't really deal with an issue in my life until I have delved into it on paper. And I am willing to wait until it comes out on its own to really get it out of my head. The only problem with this is that it is usually only to myself.

I have, on blessed occasion, found confidences in others in letters or e-mails. The first of those was my brother Mark. I write not his name but in reverence, because writing is the only way in which I feel I could possibly communicate with him now. Though I haven't yet. There is a part of my psyche that doesn't understand how to make the words flow, yet. And so I wait for it.

Through these exchanges I have often learned about myself what I wouldn't otherwise. Of others I've learned to trust a little more with each strand of words on a page. I am much more an observer than a partaker. And I feel that through peoples written words I have observed more honesty in other human kind and in myself than in simple social interaction. But those places of language have been sparse in life (before blogging). And so I find myself in a general lack of trust. 

 My metaphor for what I have just described is this: There is a part of my brain or my heart where a very small box holds a key to a lock on a door with roughly carved letters that read "Do Not Open". Behind that door are all of my insecurities and all of my reasons for being. 

Throughout my life that key has taken the form of correspondence with some few who have helped me open the door little at a time until one day I created a blog and actually wanted to share things of myself to a public that was completely unknown to me. To this audience I flaunted my insecurities as if I were proud of them, because in a way, I am. They were miniature mosaics in words about what I think of myself, how I live and relate to the world.  A few months ago, a storm cloud hit. When the thunder quieted, I shut my door, locked it, and stuffed the key-holding-box deep inside a closet that holds all of my other favorite junk.

Some people are naturally accident prone. My family is naturally tragedy prone. Particularly in the years of 2005 and 2006. Though the tragedies themselves are for other blog posts and not this one, it is enough to say that every oh-crap handle was challenged. Every "well at least we still have..." or "well, at least...hasn't happened" was defied. Life was one hollow bellied hail storm, with no calm after it. 

We are all, as a family and as individuals, left scarred from the downpour of those years. I didn't think I would ever see a time in my life or my family that challenged that one. But in the words of a French pigeon atop lady liberty, "Never Say Never". 

Throw away the Key

This year does not yet beat 2006, but it rivals in close second. The effects are a bundle of words that won't write themselves on a page. And that door was effectively closed. I have tried on numerous occasions to sit down and write it all out, everything that I feel. And for some reason I've even tried blogging about it.  Maybe because on a level not too under the surface I want very badly to express what I feel to those in my family who have created this storm cloud. However strange it may sound, a public forum feels like the only forum that won't create deeper rifts, wounds, reopen closed scars, or strengthen the animosity that divides our family.  There is no other effective communication. And I don't believe that we are so special; that our tragedy's are worse or our inspirations more real than those of the rest of God's creations, including each other.

The door is shut. I didn't close it on purpose, but too dear to my heart are those stormy dragons to flaunt or even express the ways in which I feel injured. It is simple betrayal to me. However I know that if I don't share something and soon, that door will remain shut forever. I have no intention of alienating my family. I don't actually intend on telling a story about our joint trauma from my perspective. But I am just too damn tired of tragedy to let myself simmer this way. I want light and air and song to penetrate that door and so I write this. It's the second night in a row in the middle of the night, trying to force the door ajar,even if I can't find the key under all that junk. 

Break the Door Open

The topper on the cake is that I really do believe that as humans and as God's creations, whether you believe in that or not, we are capable of lifting one another more than tearing each other down. I write this message to the world, not as a public display of the tragedy that has touched my life, but because I believe that every life has been touched by tragedy and trauma. Every heart has small tears, and I am on a quest in search of people who, like me, want to sew them up. I tire of the idea that everything is suppose to be o.k. I tire of the expectation that all people should be the same. And I tire of expecting the worst in humanity. I rejoice in the act of celebrating our differences. Intolerance is the rotten core of a very old fruit. So, to any dragons reading this, I wish there was some distant star that could sweep away all those storm clouds. It just isn't really worth the pelting we're all taking from those ripped open clouds. But I take comfort in the idea that a friendly dragon is just under the hill waiting for the sun to go down.

Saturday, August 28

You're probably not curious, but I am.

I've been wondering to myself for some time, about something that I already know the answer to, mostly. It's a question about myself and why I do things the way I do. A question about where I came from, who I am, and where I am going. The question is: Why am I a redneck? More specifically, What makes me a redneck? and Why am I proud to be a redneck? So I've decided to devote a portion of my diaper changing, potty training, love-food making, self each week to answering a portion of this self proposed question. I'd like to laugh with you, at myself  while I do it. This weeks red neck moment was, if you're like me, not so silly. But if you happen to be like my husband, pretty ridiculous. Sometimes that is my mark for when I am being a redneck, whatever my husband (and my neighbors) thinks is ridiculous.

Trimming the hedge with scissors.

To start out, I might explain that I have very green heart. My brain doesn't always work perfectly in that way, because I don't really put forth the time and energy to educate myself on everything I might do better, to be green. But it is instinctual to do whatever is most natural in any given decision. I am also a process oriented person. Much of the time, this also means that I will only begrudgingly pay someone else to do something for me, that I can possibly do for myself and usually I'd rather spend an afternoon doing something by hand than use a machine to do, even if it's easier or saves a lot of time.

My poor husband, comes from a place where water falls from the sky every other day. (That's why we dream every day and night of moving back. I am addicted to rain.) But as such, he has never given a second thought to leaving water running accept to avoid the annoying sound of a drip, drip, dripping faucet or using up the entire tank of hot water before it can be reheated.  I have two pet peeves: the biggest being when people, living in a desert mind you, water their driveway or the street with their sprinklers. The other (what would talk of rednecks be without mention of one's neighbors) is when my well intentioned friend Mike, comes over with his spray can of Round-up or his huge, heavy, riding lawn mower and tries to aid me in my lawn endeavors. I can count for you the number of times that it has killed the grass seedlings I have patiently and diligently watered and watched inch by inch spring forth from the ground only to have him kill them off in five minutes. I can only imagine that more than one of my neighbors is peeved at my sometimes called grass, being always overgrown and patched with brown spots and rotating areas of weeds because I insist on three things; watering without hitting the fence, pulling the nasty buggers by hand as a opposed to spraying some chemical based fertilizer or weed killer and my favorite tool is an aluminum push mower that is badly in need of a sharpening. And this concludes the introduction portion of our blog post...las (laugh-at-self)

But what I was really getting at was this:

To solve my neighbor trying to save the day with his mower I started a little home improvement project. I dug a very small ditch in my front yard separating it into two zones one side where next year I will plant a waterwise bed of rocks and perennials etc. the other side I will plant a tree and keep green grass. The green grass has been a success for the first time in my grass growing life!

The other day my smallest little nanite gave Ariel and I a healthy nap and we used it to therapeutically get some stuff done outside that normally isn't possible. And I did what my neighbors have been waiting for all summer, I cut my grass. Yes, I used my push mower. And then afterward, I realized what most suburbanites realize on a regular basis, my edges were a bit shabby. And not having an edger? I went for the kitchen sheers.


With my husband scoffing at me in the background, I cut the thick grass-like stalks down to show what is my beautiful shabby redneck border, enjoying myself immensely in the therapeutic process. Seriously. And I think that this redneck business must be contagious because after that my handsome husband invented a way to use the water that drips pesteringly from our faucet to water the beets that grow near bye, using a large broken ceramic jar I made in college. And thus, a tragic end to a piece of hard earned clay turns serendipidously to save us all from wasting our precious water.

I Love stuff like this! And that, my friends, is why I am a redneck. Lest I forget, our larger, more independant nanite helped too. She is very talented in the art of gathering weeds and putting them in a pile. She does this for me every time we go out and pull weeds from the grass. She loves to make piles. Her favorite kind of pile is a pile of blankets. Here she is in the act:

Friday, August 20

Duck, Duck, Goose.

More than Once I've sat down to write this post because a blog about my life wouldn't be real without something important that goes on in my life. That's what it is, right? Real people connecting over distances to share a little piece of life and hopefully connect in some real way? I keep feeling like I need to get something particular out of me, like ants in my pants, only, on my brain. And this is just a start.
I consider my family to be a very odd bunch. Odd in a good way. I really don't think I'm exaggerating on this one. Most of the things that I've wanted to write about and haven't, have to do with this very odd and varied and beautiful conglomeration of people. And the things I have to say about them are at the moment far beyond my comprehension, therefore I won't try until I have a little more. But I do comprehend a little. There is one person who is slightly less odd, though no less precious, than all of the other beautiful souls in my life.  That would be the individual I am proud to call my sister, Kristin. As children I tried to convince her that pink was a very bad color and that if she liked bows, then we couldn't be friends. She responded by picking up a nasty habit for the backstreet boys, for which she was scoffed and ridiculed to no end until she tor the wretched posters from her wall. Since then, it's been mostly upward for her and I believe that the gap in our creative differences has mostly closed. In other words, I still think she's prettier with out make up.
She taught herself to play the piano. I don't know of anyone in my family who started out taking piano lessons successfully. Most taught themselves to play, but none so voraciously as Kristin. There was a (thankfully brief) period of time at the very beginning of my married life when I Lived with my new husband at the home of my parents in Helena, Montana. I vaguely remember anyone or anything alive accept for myself and my new husband from that period of time, but I remember Kristin at the Piano, moving up the scale and down the scale with not-so-smooth movements.  It seems that the sound of the piano never ceased during those months as Kristin practiced every single day for hours.

After we left Montana, I remember, upon returning, how the random pauses in the middle of verses grew fewer and less dragging and things started to flow in her music. She had so much drive to conquer that part of herself. She did the same thing with her voice, paying for lessons through working, giving piano lessons while she was in high school. As long as I can remember, Kristin has worked hard to make her way and master herself.

Every summer since high school has been spent working 16 hour days so she can pay for college. I, on the other hand, exclusively played most summers and as a result have a healthy amount of unpaid student loans and an unfinished degree. More than once, I doubted her priorities as she was never able to make it to family events because she was always busy working. As if she couldn't take a couple days off in the whole summer to spend with her family, I thought. But now, looking back I admire her dedication and sacrifice.

This summer, Kristin and I have been able to reconnect on levels emotional, and spiritual. These are the connections that I find form the strongest of bonds between two souls. Kristin has been living with my family for the last 2 1/2 months. It seems like I've had one or two of my siblings living with me at least once or twice a year since I've been married. It's actually alot less than that, but I've learned the value of one particular Spanish phrase: "Casado, Casa Quiere" which basically means to me, that a family unit ideally exists independantly, without other families in the same dwelling. Simply because we have different ideas about what the qualities of a home and family should be. The balance of having more than one strong relationship under the same roof alone is hard to strike. It's simple that having Kristin in my home, where I am trying to raise two small children and support my husband emotionally while he supports us all financially and goes to school, has been the easiest balance to strike that I have ever experienced. Kristin has been a babysitter, a dishwasher, and a friend on a daily basis. She has the ability to find  Joy in simplicity even when all of the signs of this life tell her she should be cynical and miserable. She has the grace of being able to Love when any sane person would feel only hurt. The capacity to reach out when she has been cut off from all that was once comfort and constance. I've come to realize, over the last few months, that Kristin's desire to master herself is not limited to the instrument in front of her. I've watched as she jots down notes every day in her little flip book. Questions she is actively looking for answers to about herself, her family, and the walls that place themselves before her. She takes every part of her life and puts it under a microscope, looking for a more profound perspective in becoming the person she wants to be. I hope that some day I can learn the discipline and oneness that she has in her life. She is truly a person with integrity. Being able to laugh at the oddity of our family and cry at it too, will linger in my home for a long while. I am left with the feeling that things will get better little by little and (don't tell) a big chunk of her light is being left here with me to give me strength.

And somehow it hasn't gotten in the way of me living my life. I feel comfortable to be my stinky, sloppy self at all hours of the day and night. Accept for the need to wear more clothing than usual, I think that the whole family feels the same way. For the first time I haven't felt like I couldn't tell her to turn the bathroom light off or please close the front door, or even when I tell her she's wearing too much makeup, she takes it like a champion. And though we have very differing personalities, we are able to share ideas and disagree without discord. I know, this sounds like it should be simple for two mature adults. But I've found that this quality is a fleeting and rare one. Kristin will be leaving again for school next week. Even with all that I see of good and strength, I am a little surprised. Suprised to find that after so long, we are still able to be honest in the nitty gritty of things. And I am grateful that Kristin and I have had the opportunity to seal our relationship after a long pause of distance. For the first time ever, having family live with me, we are parting with a sense of peace between us and an understanding that every needful thing will be taken care of in time, things temporal, emotional and spiritual. This post is mostly to Thank her for the experience and affirmation that most people are real people just trying to live life and stay afloat and find happiness in their own way. I wish her peace as she goes and my Love for her will only continue to grow as I watch the ways in which she continues her very real happiness.

Sunday, August 1

From Doggedly to Dogless part II

Before I bore any of you to tears, I have to say that there is a purpose in this tale. I did not sit down to ramble on and on aimlessly about my dog. It might possibly be nothing more than a therapy session for myself, but if it helps then it is purpose enough for me. The second half of my tale is a little more personal.
I didn't always know that I wanted to be a Mother. I wasn't born understanding how to entertain children or even how to take care of them. I was not a babysitting prodigy as seems expected where I come from. But when I finally did, I became all too familiar with what is commonly termed "baby hungry". Most women have felt that thumping in their uterus. I have heard it described as a turning over of your bowels and after going through the labor and delivery process I think that's probably pretty close to what it is. But this blog post has less to do with having babies than it does losing them. Ariel and I tried to have a baby for three long years. I won't go into all the details because that's too personal even for me. But I have never known jealousy like I did during those three years. I've never doubted myself so much. I struggled every time I saw a young girl with that pronounced bump or a young couple with three or four younglings scrambling at their feet. We took temperatures and timed things and took pills and were poked and prodded by acupuncturists. But nothing worked and no one could tell us why we weren't able to have babies. And so finally after 2 1/2 years of 'trying', we stopped. But the idea of not 'trying' to conceive didn't ease the pain of not conceiving. I still felt that thumping in my belly. It still pained me to see a small child. I felt it on a daily basis. I needed something to nurture, other than my adorable and adoring husband. And thus, we come to the subject of our epic tale. I searched for him for weeks. Many afternoons I'd take an hour before I went to pick Ariel up from work and go to the Humane Society. People are never so lucky as to pick and choose through potential offspring as I did my first child. Ariel wanted something not too big and I wanted something that wasn't too hyper. I found a handsome sheepdog, but he would probably shed. There was a well mannered pit bull, cringe if you will, but she was adorable; and it turned out that our landlord wouldn't give the OK.  Then after a few weeks I wandered into the puppy room and there he was, a fat pawed, mask faced, black and tan long haired pup, quivering in his kennel. I grabbed a leash from the person at the front desk and opened his kennel door. He took my heart right out of my chest. He snuggle his long bearded snout into the crook of my arm and it stayed there as we went outside and I tried playing with him on the lawn, unsuccessfully. He just wanted to be close to a warm body. He didn't seem scared, he was just a baby pup who needed a mama. On the ride home and for weeks, he wouldn't sit anywhere but in my lap. Try driving on the freeway with a puppy head in the way when you want to shift into 5th. Obnoxious, but endearing.

And here Jaime(Hi-may) came into our family. For the first year or so, he went EVERYWHERE with us. He Loved to be with people. I had to be careful with my 80 year old grandmother, but otherwise he was gentle enough and obedient. Our favorite thing to do was go walking. For the first few months he would follow us wherever we went. He had no interest in what was going on around us as we walked through the Avenues to Memory Grove, a leash free park, in downtown Salt Lake. He just stayed with us, without even the need for a leash. Of course later he learned a bit more independence and was a healthy curious sniffer. We Loved our daily walk to Memorial Grove. As other dog walkers and runners passed us he sniffed around and made friends but as soon as I got 5 feet away he clued into the signal that we were leaving and followed.

It's painful to write about the wonderful things about Jaime. It isn't like Hatchu where I wasn't living there at the time and I know there was a happy end to the story. Jaime was a good, good dog. It was impossible to stay away from him when you came by our home or met us on the street. He just wanted so badly to be loved and feel secure. But the reason that I am writing this out is quite simply because we had to let that dear little dog go yesterday.

I am not writing this to share a sob story. I have too many sob stories and reserve this week alone in the year to let them all out. However, I am writing this to share the things that I have learned about being a pet owner. As may be apparent we did eventually conceive a child. but before we did, we had two long glorious and therapeutic years with Jaime. We brought him home in February of 2006 He slept at the foot of our bed until long past when we brought our daughter home in February of 2008. In those two years he was my handkerchief when I lost my brother, he was my companion through long walks and thunderstorms. He was a safe place that knew no wrong. Some dogs have a sixth sense for people who mean harm. Jaime knows nothing but Love. He doesn't understand that some people or some dogs aren't safe. he wants your love and he wants to give you his. He Loves to swim and chase birds and cats. He loves to eat vegetables. But most of all, he Loves ME. he listens to ME. He wanted nothing more than to be mine.

When our daughter was born, we were very careful to acclimate Jaime to her. and her to him, we didn't want her to be allergic and gave them each healthy doses of each other daily. He never slept a night outside. He never missed his bed even for a night. And when he finally slept out in the hall instead at the foot of our bed it was completely natural for him. But I can't say that he didn't suffer. I never would have thought that I would have a limited supply of affection. But suddenly when Ada was born, I was annoyed at his hair. I was annoyed at his eyes watching me everywhere I went. I just wanted him to be a dog, and just a dog. Someone I could give affection to when I felt like it. Someone I could feed when I felt like it. He was always around and I thought that if I just gave him attention or threw the ball for him when I went outside or when I passed him going up the stairs, it would be enough. He handled it well, but he demanded more when other people came to visit. Which also bothered me. I know, you're thinking I'm a horrible person. I am dammit. I want to scratch his belly and take him on the same long walks we use to go on. But I just don't have enough in me to go around that far. It took a long time for me to understand myself and stop feeling guilty. Today all of those feelings are very much present. But I don't know honestly if my reaction to having a child could have been avoided. I feel it was hormonal, primal, a part of me so deeply ingrained that I couldn't control it. In order to help Jaime deal better with the changes I tried to think of him more like a pack animal, as I realize now I should have all along. Really, that's what he is. But in a pack there is ranking. Jaime had a happy and free life before our daughter came around. And I don't think, no matter what memories are like for dogs, whether they are smells or colors or images, I don't think he would ever forget that he was first. That was our first mistake. I brought Jaime home for a selfish need of my own. To fulfill my innate need to nurture. I didn't think enough about what would happen if and when I had a child. I couldn't have known, but I didn't consider it either.

When my daughter was a little over one year old Jaime was still a happy dog. With less attention, less affection. But he still got exercise and food and Love and freedom. He was never put on a chain or in a kennel unless we had to leave him (which was not very often) or someone was around that his strong swishy tail might knock over. Our daughter was learning how to love him too. Though her way of loving him was by poking his eyes or pulling on his ears. She lay on him and leaned on him and though he's always been a weak and sensitive dog, he always took it like a champ. One day though, we found his breaking point. It wasn't with Ada pestering him but in a plate of food. He had already eaten that morning. And I, cleaning out the fridge with Ada crawling on the floor, gave him a tupperware of macaroni and cheese. Another Red Neck trait: I can't stand to see anything go to waste. I had barely turned my back when I heard a snarl and a low bark. I turned to see Jaime jumping away from Ada. My protective Mother-Bear instinct of the moment made sure that Jaime was down the stairs and locked in my room before I looked at Ada to see what had happened. When I came back up, she was balled up on the floor covering her face. She didn't even start crying until I pulled her hands away from her face and picked her up. Which is when I saw blood and started to panic. He had scathed her sweet, round, perfect little nose. With Jaime crying in my bedroom and Ada crying in my arms I didn't know what to do. Ariel was in class and not being able to think straight about what to do, I put a band aid over Ada's nose and put her in the car to go in search of Papa. We startled him as he was leaving his class and he was smart enough (my sexy smart nurse) to realize that we needed to take her to the hospital. 12 hours, two emergency rooms and a very drugged little girl later we were home from plastic surgery at Primary Children's Hospital.
After that it was a different story with Jaime. I realized, after the initial shock wore off, that he had not intended to hurt her, actually he had been very careful, but alas he is an animal. He's a big dog, with a big mouth. If it hadn't been on her sweet little nose, we wouldn't have even taken her to the hospital or called animal control (by law). Looking back it just wasn't a very big deal.

But after that, every time I saw he and Ada together I panicked. Crazy images would float through my brain, of Jaime growling and lunging. I only thought about what he could have done to her and what I was afraid at any moment would happen to her. I was expecting our second child at that point and felt very nervous at the thought of having Jaime alone with my child. Now, please understand, I must have had some crazy nesting hormones in me, because Jaime is the most docile dog you've ever seen. My daughter is bitten on a daily basis by a chihuahua because of her constant badgering. And it doesn't bother me, I know that she deserves it and the chihuahua can't do anything to really hurt her. But Jaime is a dog that, were it not for his sad pouty expression would demand respect by his simple size. For the last year and a half I have felt nervous every minute that I know that they might be alone. I never allow them to be alone for more than a couple minutes at a time, even if they aren't even playing together. I've thought for some reason that if I were there, Jaime wouldn't really do anything to hurt her. Over the last year and a half, Jaime and I have learned a dance. One where I watch everything he does and he watches me to see if I am watching him. It has shown me two things. First, that the leader of the pack is always the leader of the pack. As hard as I've tried to introduce Ada as a pack leader by reinforcing good behavior in response to her and allowing her to feed him or take him on 'walks' where it appeared that she was leading him and not me (for the record, he never believed it for a second), he will always respond to me more than to her. And he will never accept that she, who he has seen grow from non-existent to obnoxious little girl, is alpha over him. Then yesterday morning, I was given another little shock of what the nature of the beast could do to my daughter. We were all outside getting ready to drink some much needed mate' with breakfast. Jaime and Ada were on the grass and I don't know what either was doing. I do know that he had been irritable the day before, but I'm not sure why. Suddenly I heard that dreaded sound, a swift growl to a low bark. We turned to see Jaime in Ada's face and retreating. I ran to her and this time checked her before the dog. She was fine. No skin broken and I don't really know what happened accept that Ada was covering her face and scared. Ariel swiftly sent Jaime to his kennel, to which he went obediently. But I knew immediately that this time was the last. I had been thinking for a few days, as I often did for short spells, about how I hated feeling anxious all the time and acting and treating him out of fear for what he could do, not necessarily for something he had done. But ultimately, I didn't know how to retrain myself. From the very beginning of our relationship with that beautiful animal we had made some crucial mistakes. The first was getting a dog without knowing what our future circumstances were. This proved to be the most unforeseeable dilemma as I was trying very hard not to rely on the idea of having children in the future. Second, we included him in every part of our lives. He didn't eat at the table with us, but he ate right next to us and though we tried not to, we weren't diligent enough in not giving him table scraps. I'm not a dog trainer, but I understand that this taught him that he was our equal. I was forced yesterday to decide definitively that the safety of my offspring is a balance that is much more important and delicate than that of a my beautiful sweet and docile dog. I am first and foremost a mother of human children. I have had to remind myself of this hourly for the last two days, because every time I think of Jaime in that small dogrun all day long, just waiting for me to come and take him home, it makes me cry. It is all too easy for us to toss animals around like they are just an element of entertainment but those sad eyes taught me alot about the nature of animal emotions. I know that the very best thing to do would have been to find a suitable owner for him myself through the classifieds, but that last growl instilled in me a feeling of urgency. We were obviously already familiar with the Humane Society and after reading that they have a 100% adoption rate in the last year for all adoptable dogs, we were convinced that it would be a better place for Jaime than at our home right now. I was assured that Jaime is 100% adoptable by the woman who helped us to receive him into the shelter. But to give Jaime a better chance of finding a suitable family I'll be posting a link to this blog post on KSL and Craigslist. I checked online about an hour ago to see if I could see his profile. I don't know why I did it. His name is now Himay, this is to help whoever wants him, like one mans junk, to pronounce his Spanish name correctly. This is what his photo-free description says:

My name is HIMAY. I am a neutered male, black and tan Irish Wolfhound mix. I am about 4 years old. I am available for adoption.
It should also say:

Do Not Adopt me if you have small children, but if otherwise, please know that I am the best $60 you will ever pay to a non-profit organization in turn for a lifetime of servitude and worship-fullness from a beautiful animal.

If you know of anyone who could use a dog like Jaime (Hi-may), you know where to send them. His ID # is A035065. He's located at the West Jordan Kennel. Call (801) 261-2919 for more information.