As you can imagine, I haven’t had a great deal of time to sit down and write much for this post. I’ve been recovering from labor, we’ve had family and friends visiting, and we’re getting the hang of our new sleep “routine” — all thanks to this truly sweet baby boy that arrived exactly one week late on the afternoon of November 18th weighing in at a healthy 8 pounds 15 ounces. We named our son Oliver Stephen Schick (we simply liked the name Oliver, and Stephen is my Dad’s name) and for the first week or so after bringing him home, I couldn’t look at any of the photos our doula took without being truly overwhelmed with emotion. I think it’ll still take some time to process that day and the experience of labor, how incredibly supportive Sam was, and how incredibly hard it all was. I can look back at photos now and find myself doing so during Oliver’s late night feedings or when I have a spare moment to lie down on the couch. I can tell he’s changing already — his cheeks and arms not quite as chubby — and we’re spending lots of time snuggling and rocking him, and trying to notice it all.
The things people tell you when you’re pregnant about not being able to prepare for labor are, as it turns out, true. I still gave it a real go, packing a hospital bag with everything from a heating pad and ginger candies to birth books and energy bars. The day we were heading home and I was getting things ready for Sam to bring to the car, I chuckled as I stared into the bag — the thought of me taking a pause from pushing to consult some of my notes from birth class made me smile. I didn’t touch a thing in that bag, choosing instead to wear the ill-fitting hospital gown for our entire stay, and eating cottage cheese and breakfast burritos from the hospital cafeteria. Oh and that ice cold apple juice! But everyone was right: there is no way to tell what you’ll need, how you’ll feel, and how it will all turn out. I think I probably knew that deep down, but having those ginger candies and birth books made me feel as if I was doing something right.
Arriving home with Oliver for the first time was surprisingly emotional for me. The house wasn’t how we normally leave it, and staring at the living room brought back memories of the hours of painful contractions and moving furniture around to find a comfortable place to labor (it turns out I did a lot of the hard work at home, arriving to the hospital already 8 centimeters dilated). Once we unloaded the car and got settled in, Sam helped bring some order to things around the house and his sister Christa brought us over a hot dinner. We wanted to crack open a bottle of champagne but I think both realized we wouldn’t make much of a dent in it, so we made tea and cranked up the heat instead.
We all slept in our bedroom that night and woke early the next day (after many wakings that night), the first full day as a new family in our own house. I wish I could remember what we did that day, but time all seems to mash together into one long chunk peppered with meals from friends, Sam’s scrambled eggs, many cups of tea, hot showers, a trusty white noise machine, short naps, eggnog, and records in the living room. Sam is already a natural Dad — as I knew he would be. He’s been reading Phillip Larkin and The Odyssey to Oliver, singing him elaborate made up songs, and soothing him like a pro. I look at him and feel so lucky to be doing this together, and I look at Oliver realizing that right now he has no idea what a selfless, cool Dad he has.
When I said earlier that there’s really no way to prepare for labor or the experience of having your first child, that’s certainly true. So all you can do, really, is trust in yourself and the things you’ve put into place. I guess that’s all we can ever do with new endeavors or adventures, isn’t it? And once you do that, you settle into it, hope for the best, and try to envision it all. For Thanksgiving this year, we joined a big group of friends and all sat at a long, communal table sharing dishes we each contributed and turkey that our friend Natalie worked hard on. There was a true abundance of food, two other babies there besides Oliver, warmth and good conversation. I had a hard time eating my meal as I kept thinking about the occasion and what it meant: coming together and giving thanks. We had talked so much about baby Sprout for almost a year … and here he was. Here was Oliver. Here we were. We couldn’t have prepared for any of it, but we’d hoped so hard for it all.
Something funny happens when you live with someone instead of dating them from afar. You learn little nuances about each other's behavior, see the bottom-of-the-barrel sweaters, take out the trash, and buy underwear and shampoo together. Sam calls my beloved furry slippers old lady slippers and, to be fair, they kind of are. And I've become well acquainted with his holey "sick sweater," his eagerness to retrieve the mail in the early afternoon, and his uncanny ability to drink more tea than anyone I've ever known. Also, I'm learning things about myself. Like the fact that, apparently, most people don't eat a whole grapefruit when they sit down for breakfast. According to Sam, they stop at a half.
Waffles. I don't make them often enough and I'm not sure why. Oh, wait: I am sure why. Because they always seem like kind of a slow, slumbery, Sunday thing to make and I rarely have those kind of mornings--even on Sundays. But I found a recipe I've fallen pretty hard for. It's an old-fashioned waffle recipe and you make the yeasted batter in advance, put it in the fridge for 12-24 hours, and it's ready to go in the morning. I've actually kept the batter in my fridge for a few days and just pull it out, put a scoop on the waffle iron, and have a warm waffle to take in the car on the way to work. Beats a granola bar or banana any day.
The early morning view from our hotel Hi from Shanghai! I'm sitting here stealing a bit of Internet on the 32nd floor of our hotel all too early in the morning. The sun's gleaming in through the curtains, horns are starting to honk below, and I'm clutching a steaming cup of strong coffee that Walter has so kindly prepared for me. Walter's the dining room attendant and, for the lone souls who can't seem to sleep much in Shanghai (I being one of them), he'll make you one mean cup of coffee at sunrise. I have so much to share with you: photos & stories. The World Expo was really incredible, the food's been amazing, the streets are lush with leafy trees and wide-open city parks. I've discovered dragon fruit and boiled peanuts, and learned that scooters and bicyclysits don't adhere to traffic laws. We've finally figured out how to say common phrases like "thank you" properly and are logging some serious miles in our Converse.
I am officially on maternity leave and it feels stranger than I'd imagined. I thought it'd be all about catching up on novels, leisurely baking and maybe sewing a little something for Sprout. Going on lots of walks with friends and out to lunch. The reality is that most people are working during the week and can't just sneak away for lunch dates, and sitting around the house aimlessly reading seems to make me antsy. Instead, I find myself deciding that certain tasks have immense and immediate purpose (when they never seemed to before): repotting our house plants, researching new insurance plans, and planning a new product line for Marge for 2016. In the midst of all of this though, I've found some time to catch up on Netflix movies (any recommendations?), went out to Lebanese food with Sam, and finally made it to a cafe on Capital Hill I've been wanting to try for quite some time. It's gotten a bit chilly in Seattle this week so I've been making lots of cider and chai in the afternoons for an energy boost, and there certainly doesn't seem to be a shortage of soup-making or baking -- which brings me to these not-too-sweet, protein-packed blondies that I've taken quite a liking to.
There are some things you don't question or plan for. They're the things that just happen, that unfold throughout the day or week or month. The things we don't always document or discuss because they don't really seem important enough, but that -- all the same -- so often bring us together in one way or another. Patterns or obsessions or phases. Late-night online shoe shopping. Permission to nap at odd hours. Spontaneous cell-phone photo exchanges. Maybe you can relate. Maybe lately you've been doing something similar. As you do. As we do.