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Eva’s Birth – Part 3

Read Part 1 here
Read Part 2 here

It was approximately 6 p.m. I’d been laboring about five hours, but it didn’t feel like it. Time didn’t exist. I was aware that it had gotten dark outside, but it didn’t matter. I labored on my knees on the bed. I labored on the yoga ball. I labored while slow dancing across the delivery room in Mike’s arms, moving to the sound of my own groans, gushing blood-tinged amniotic fluid all over the floor. I thought I should care about the mess I was making but I didn’t. I wanted to push. I felt like a wild animal. With each contraction I took a deep cleansing breath and groaned, growled, screeched, sometimes I laughed maniacally, uncontrollably. The contractions tickled some foreign part of my brain. I thought it was hilarious. I was in a trance, this was labor-land.

“Release your shoulders, breathe, relax into the contraction.”

“I can’t relax!”

“Yes you can. Breath. Release your shoulders.”

I noticed that when I listened to Mike and Brenda and released my shoulders, flowed with the contraction instead of against it, it was manageable, tolerable, and over fast. Only when I fought against it did it become unbearable. In between I could hear Brenda’s voice, “How do you feel right now?”

“Good, I feel good.”

“You’re always going to come back here. Remember that. You’ll always come back to this place where you feel good and you can rest, okay?”

“I’m having another contraction…”

“Deep breath, relax your shoulders, breathe…”

Bethany was back. The nurse from the night before. I was glad. Catherine was great, but Bethany was a soul sister. She stayed beside us, comforting, helping. I heard her voice, “You’re breathing so well, Trish. You’re doing great.” And Mike, telling me how strong I was, how proud he was of me. “Each contraction brings us closer to our baby girl. You’re almost there. You’re so strong.” And Brenda, constantly reassuring and reminding me, soothing me.

Brenda asked if she could call my parents, let them know how I was doing. I nodded. She brushed my hair, Mike rubbed my back, I labored on. I heard her telling someone (my parents, over the phone) that my contractions were right on top of each other, but it didn’t make sense. There was so much space between them. I could rest, sleep a little. She told me later that there was maybe a minute between, maybe less. But in the moment those forty to sixty seconds felt like room to breathe, to recuperate. I labored on.

Soon I was feeling the contractions in my vagina, not in my belly. I guess they’d slowly been moving down for hours, but I hadn’t really noticed. I wanted to push. Was begging to push. Brenda took me by the shoulders, snapped her fingers in front of my face and told me to get out of the trance, come back to Earth, she needed me to come back. She said later that she was concerned that the Cytotec was making me feel like I was further along than I was and she wanted to buy me some time. She heated up the shower and told Mike to get in with me. I’d packed him swim trunks in case we labored in the shower, but he didn’t bother with them. I loved that.

Mike and I climbed in together, naked, and I thought I shouldn’t get my hair wet, I’d just had it cut and blown out the day before, but then I didn’t care. Like so many other things, it slipped away. I wrapped my arms around his neck and let my head fall back into the stream of hot water, let it pour over my face and my hair, run down my back. The contractions were bringing me to my knees now, literally. I was a tiger in her den, yowling, shrieking, growling.

We stayed like that until I was so pruney I couldn’t stand it. Mike helped me out of the shower, helped my dry off, put my bra back on, I collapsed to the floor in a contraction, he helped me through it, got himself dressed while I made my way back to the labor-bed.

“I want to push!” I was belching like crazy, I felt completely out of control. Each contraction felt like something else taking over my body. I was an exhausted passenger. I could hear Brenda telling Bethany that she thought I was in transition, that we ought to have the midwife come in and check me. But the midwife, Pat, was busy delivering another baby so we’d have to wait. I labored on.

Finally, I don’t know how much later, Pat came in. She had to wait to check me, I wouldn’t let her touch me while I was contracting. “This is so much harder than I thought it would be,” I groaned between contractions.

Brenda answered, “No, it isn’t. You’re doing amazing work. Keep breathing.”

I was on my back, writhing against a contraction when Pat declared I was at 10 centimeters. The relief that flooded me must have been palpable. I’d been thinking, as she checked me, that if I wasn’t fully dilated I was DONE. I was over this. Completely. I needed a hamburger, rare, and a good night’s sleep. But I’d been given the green light, I was almost at the finish line. I was so happy I wanted to cry. Instead I started telling anyone who would listen that I was STARVING and I couldn’t WAIT TO EAT. I was suddenly so hungry I thought I’d die.

Brenda talked to me about how I was going to push, we were going to be slow and careful. The room had come alive with women rushing around, getting things ready. I asked what the carts with all the instruments were for and Bethany assured me they were getting ready for anything, taking precautions, I had nothing to worry about. I pushed on all fours, it felt incredible, I was finally participating in this crazy thing that my body was doing, but the baby didn’t move down. I wanted to move to a squat, so Bethany set up the squat bar and I pushed like that, pushing the baby down, down, down. In between contractions I’d try to sit back on the edge of the bed, but it was like sitting on a softball – her head was right there. Bethany called Pat back in to see my progress, the baby would be here any minute. I wanted to cry when Pat said, “No, she’s not ready yet. I’m leaving.”

Bethany stopped her: “Watch her labia when she pushes. She’s ready, don’t go anywhere.”

Pat told me to get on my back and fold my knees up to my sides, hold my ankles. I wanted to stay off my back so I felt defeated. Put my head in my hands and tried to collect myself. Mike and Brenda whispered reassuring things to me, encouraged me, reminded me we were almost done. I lay back and grabbed my ankles, pushed, pushed, pushed.

“I can see her head! Reach down, Trish, feel her head!”

Oh hell no, I thought. And then, I did it. I reached down and felt the top of my daughter’s head as it came from my body, soft and warm. I kept pushing.

“Push! Push! What you’re feeling is the ring of fire – you’re stretching to make room for the baby, you’re almost there!”

This was the part I’d been afraid of, the only part that scared me. But I didn’t feel anything except relief to be pushing and an incredible craving for a rare hamburger, still. God I was so hungry. Make that a bacon cheeseburger.

“I see her forehead! Keep pushing!”

“There are her eyes! I see a nose! Keep pushing! There’s her mouth! Her head is out!”

I fell back, exhausted, trying to catch my breath. The cord was wrapped loosely around her neck, Pat unwound it and then yelled at me, “PUSH!” As I pushed she pulled and suddenly she was out. In that second I was slammed back into reality, could practically hear the brakes squealing as my dream-like state came to a crashing close.

“Look! Look! Look!”

“I can’t see anything without my glasses!”

Someone handed me my glasses and there she was, wet and squalling, slimy and pink.

It felt like forever (Mike said later it was less than a minute), but they finally put our daughter on my chest. It was the most surreal moment of my life. There she was, hot, sticky, covered in blood and vernix, and then she pooped on my belly and we were both covered in so much goo it was remarkable. She cried and cried while I tried to catch my breath, comfort her. I rubbed her back, tried to get a good look at her face. I could hear Bethany directing Pat, “Don’t clamp the cord until it stops pulsing! She said no cord traction, no Pitocin…” Bless her.

Pat showed us the cord, which had stopped pulsing. It was tied in three knots. Three knots. “Your baby is a miracle. We only see this in still births.” I held the tiny squirming child closer to my chest. My miracle.  Pat clamped the cord and Mike cut it.

They told me to push again and I birthed the placenta. It felt good. Everyone admired it but I didn’t see it. I didn’t care about anything but the child on my chest. I had a one degree tear which Pat stitched up in no time while Mike and I marveled at the creature who had already found my nipple and was having her first meal outside my body. A nurse washed me and brought me a tuna fish sandwich, which Mike fed me in bites. It was no bacon cheeseburger, but it was delicious.

No one bothered us again for about two hours. Brenda kissed us goodbye. Michelle snuck in to take photos but only stayed a moment. The labor room was dim and quiet, warm and lovely. It was just the three of us, a new family, our eyes wet with happy tears, our hearts brimming with love.

 

 

 

Eva’s Birth – Part 2

Read Part 1 here

My contractions kicked in again, almost immediately after the enema, within an hour of the first dose of Cytotec. Pat, the midwife, had given us two hours before I needed to get back on the baby monitor, so we were going to make the most of it. Up, up, up, up, up five flights of stairs. Down, down, down, down, down. Again. Again. Again. I was contracting every second or third flight and I needed to stop, hang off the stair railing in a squat, breathe, Mike putting counter-pressure on my lower back where the contractions reached around and took hold. We took a detour outside for some fresh air, but it was too warm for me. I found a dead bird and declared it a good sign, borrowed Brenda’s iPhone so I could take photographs of the sweet little thing, ants crawling all over it, making it their afternoon meal. Back inside and up, up, up, contraction, squat, breathe, up, up. Down, contraction, squat, breathe, down, down, down, contraction, squat, breathe. After every contraction either Brenda or Mike offered me water, working to keep me hydrated to avoid an IV later on. I must have swallowed fifteen liters of water that day.

“This is great!” I grinned. “I love this! I could do this all day. I want the contractions to get stronger! Let’s get this party started!” I patted my belly and encouraged Niblet to move down, get out, eviction notice has been posted! Up, up, contract, squat, breathe, up, up, contract, squat, breathe, up, down, down, and so it went. The three of us laughing and joking and visiting, contraction, squat, breathe. I couldn’t talk through the contractions anymore but they were good and strong and I loved them. “I really could do this all day! This is awesome! I want them to get stronger! Come on Niblet! Get a move on!”

“I’m going to remind you later that you said that,” Brenda said, grinning back at me.

Two hours passed like nothing and it was time to get back on the baby monitor. I was ready to stop climbing stairs and try something different – the yoga ball sounded awesome. The day nurse, Catherine, got me all hooked up while I sat on the yoga ball, opening my hips, contracting, breathing. She needed me to stay on the monitor for at least twenty minutes so she could get a solid read on the baby. I couldn’t do it. I needed to poop. RIGHT NOW. I made Mike come with me into the bathroom because my contractions were strong enough that I needed his support through them. This was the moment when all modesty and vanity flew out the window. Before this, I’d been trying to maintain some modicum of decency, keeping my lady-parts covered, the bathroom door closed while I pottied, that sort of thing. Suddenly I didn’t care, not one little bit.

Mike kneeled on the floor in front of me while I contracted and pooped for the next half hour. My arms wrapped around his shoulders, I breathed deeply into his neck through each contraction, shitting my guts out, gushing amniotic fluid.

“I’m just going to reach behind you to flush the toilet –”

“Nooooooo! I’m having a contraction!”

“Ok, I know, breathe, deep breaths, I’m not going anywhere, you’re doing great, I’m just going to reach right here and flush –”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

“Ok love. Deep breaths. You’re so strong. Now I’m just going to give it one little flush –”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! I’M CONTRACTING!!!!!!!!”

Poor Mike. I couldn’t verbalize it, but I didn’t want toilet water splashing back up on my behind.  He just wanted a courtesy flush. I won.

This is where my memory starts to get fuzzy and the whole experience takes on a dream-like quality. My memories are fragmented, but Brenda and Mike have helped me fill in the blanks.

The nurse, Catherine, was hovering. She was concerned because she wasn’t getting a read on the baby and worried that I was trying to push on the toilet. I wasn’t, I was just pooping. A lot. Mike asked if I thought I was done in the bathroom and I wasn’t sure, but I was willing to get back on the monitor just to make her leave us alone for awhile. At some point I’d ditched my skirt, annoyed at the lengths of fabric tangling between my legs. I remember pulling off my shirt because I was sweating. Mike spread one of the big square hospital pads, the ones they put on the bed to protect it from fluids, over the yoga ball so I could sit on it bare-bottom. Brenda raised the bed so I could labor on the ball, leaning forward on the bed with the baby monitor around my belly.

Catherine said she needed to put the hep-lock in now and I complained. I was worried it would drive me crazy, that I wouldn’t be able to think about anything but this thing sticking out of my arm. Mike stroked my hair and told me she had to do it, it was better than an IV, I wouldn’t even notice it after a while. Brenda coached me in my breathing, the contractions were coming harder and faster now. I wanted off the ball, I wasn’t comfortable at all anymore.

“I’m afraid I’m gonna shit myself!” I cried. “No, I’m gonna throw up, I think I’m gonna throw up…” Brenda and Mike were an excellent team, coaching me, comforting me, feeding me water, brushing my hair, rubbing my back. I remember moving from the ball to the bed, which had it’s back up so it was more like a big chair than a bed. I was on my knees with my arms draped over the head of the bed, Catherine trying to get the hep-lock in my arm while I cried, suddenly overwhelmed with happiness and love.

“Mike, I love you so much. I don’t know why I’m so emotional! I’m just so happy, so so happy right now. I can’t wait to meet our little girl. I’m so in love with you!” I was in active labor now, but I didn’t know it. I didn’t know anything but the love and happiness that engulfed me. And the contractions, intense and all-consuming.

I remember laboring on the bed like that for a little while, Brenda brushing my hair, Mike putting counter-pressure on my back. I started making noises, high-pitched groans. Brenda suggested lower, deeper tones and they felt better, so much better. With each new contraction I took a deep, cleansing breath and then groaned, deep in my throat, a low, rumbling ohhhhhhhhhh sound.

At some point Catherine came in and said we were moving from triage to the delivery room, just across the hall. Somewhere in my head I remembered that this meant I was really in labor, things were really happening, the hospital staff was finally taking this seriously. I remember worrying, barely, about all of our things spread all over the triage room, but knowing I had to let it go and trust Brenda and Mike to collect everything. Someone, I think it was Mike, helped me walk across the hall, past the nurses station, to the delivery room. The lights were low and in the back of my mind I remembered this was the exact delivery room I saw on the labor & delivery tour I had taken so long ago. I was glad – it was familiar. I asked Mike and Brenda to do an idiot-check in the triage room, to be sure they’d gotten everything. I got up on the bed to labor on my knees, my arms draped over the back of the bed. There was a blanket over me because I was sweating and freezing at the same time. I still thought I might vomit or shit myself and I was vaguely aware that with every contraction there was a rush of amniotic fluid pouring out of me.

This was right about the time my dad and one of my brothers wandered into the delivery room. I was ass-up on the bed, naked except for a nursing bra and a blanket.

“Hi! How are you!”

“Oh my god you guys….” I whined.

“We miss you! How is it going?” My brother sounded worried.

“PLEASE LEAVE. I DON’T WANT YOU TO SEE MY VAGINA.”

My father burst into tears. Brenda ushered them out, explaining that I was in active labor, that I was doing great, but that this was not a good time to visit. She promised to call them soon and let them know what was happening. I found out later that my brother texted my other brother, who was en route to the hospital, “DON’T GO TO THE HOSPITAL.” Good call, bro.

To be continued…

He’s Probably Right

Me:  I have to be out of here at 7:30 tomorrow morning. I have my first therapy session at 8:00 a.m.

Him:  That’s right! With the cognitive behavioral specialist?

Me:  Well, it’s the “assessment”. They have to decide if that’s what I need or if I need some different kind of therapy.

Him:  So… you might not be back.

Me:  …

Him:  I mean, one look at you and it’s off to the psych ward.

Me:  I’m blogging that.

 

The cat on the table and the child in my head

I’m chopping vegetables when she starts crying, a plaintive meowing. She paces across the kitchen table, coat gleaming, belly hanging, begging for my attention. “I’m sorry, Cat. I’m fixing dinner. I’ve got nothing for you.”

In my head she’s a little girl. Three or four. Her eyes wide and pleading, “Mama, play with me!”

“I’m sorry, Baby. I’m fixing dinner. Papa will be home soon and I’m hungry! Would you like to help?”

She peels the garlic and breaks heads off brocoli stalks. “They look like tiny trees!” She is gleeful. I’m in awe of her strong little hands and the pleasure she takes in such simple tasks.

And then I chide myself for being so stupid. Getting lost in childish imaginings. Children are not in the picture. Not now, not for years, maybe never. Maybe because you never know and maybe because it just seems impossible. The other day I asked Michael, “How will we know?”

“When I have a job and we have health care and we’re ready to buy a house and we’re not worried about paying bills every month. Maybe then.”

Maybe we’ll wait until we’re in our forties and adopt. I can see myself, like all those women I watched in Manhattan with long silver hair and ethnic children. I could love any child I held in my arms, I know that.

By now I’ve peeled and chopped a whole garlic bulb, but I don’t care. I sprinkle it over the vegetables, slide it into the oven, set the timer. I over-season everything. Fresh cracked pepper makes raw chicken black. Kosher salt, onion flakes, garlic powder, oregano, basil, sage smells like pee but I sprinkle on three-times the amount you would anyway. The chicken will come out of the oven crunchy for spices but I don’t care. I like it that way. Just like I like my food burned crisp. Everything tasting like it came out of a campfire. Smoky.

I reach for another beer. Dinner is in the oven but Mike won’t be home for three hours at least. I’ll eat alone while I balance the budget. Wait up for him. Reheat a plate for him. Press my face into his neck while he eats. Breathe. So glad he’s home.

This is my second installment of Just Write, an exercise in free writing your ordinary and extraordinary moments, begun by Heather of the EO. You should totally join in.

My husband fixed the icemaker

There is something incredible about a man who can take apart a freezer-door icemaker, look at it’s insides, put it back together, and suddenly the icemaker that’s been broken for six months works perfectly.

I would marry him all over again.

work space

Mike in his impromptu balcony woodshop, June 18, 2011

(Not) The Garden Center, 2

Picking up from where I left off yesterday…

We turned around and started trekking back through the waist-high thorny weeds towards home. And then I started crying. Really quietly, because I didn’t want him to know I was crying. After all, what kind of wimp starts crying because of some thorny weeds? This kind of wimp, apparently.

I trekked along, quietly crying, a litany of reasons why I’m horrible and hiking is horrible and all of this is horribly running on a loop through my head when suddenly the stickers poking into my socks, tag-alongs (care of the weeds) I’d been collecting for the last hour, became intolerable. I stopped, trekking poles tucked under one arm, right foot propped on left knee yoga-style, lost my balance. Squatted slightly and started picking at the stickers that stabbed at my ankles. But they were horrible things, twisted and curled through the sock, through the silk sock-liner, scratching into my bare skin. And then I noticed that the tongue of my boot formed a cup against my foot and that cup was brimming with weedy stickery things so I tried to pick them out but then I thought, what if there is a bug in there? Or a spider? Or a tick? WHAT IF THERE IS A TICK?

And then I really started crying. By now Mike was a few hundred feet away (I have no idea how many feet. Maybe it was forty, I have no concept of distance) and so I had to call attention to my plight by shouting, “I need to stop! I have to take my shoes off!” Mike stopped and turned, stunned I was so far behind him. I stared at the ground, tears dripping off the end of my nose while I grit my teeth and tried to stop f***ing crying.

When he got to me I was a snotty, sweaty, blubbering mess. You think you know ugly crying? You have never seen ugly crying.

“I f***ing hate this! I f***ing hate this! This is horrible! Why do people do this?!?”
“Ok, can I help you take your shoes off? There you go. I’ll pick the stickers out of your shoe while you do your sock.”
(Sniffling) “Thank you. This is horrible. I hate this. You married the wrong girl if you wanted someone you could do this with.”
“That’s ridiculous. Just stop.”
We were both quiet for a minute. We picked the stickers out of my footwear.
“What do you hate?” he asked.
“This! It’s horrible! The weeds and the foliage in my face and bugs smacking into my head. It’s horrible!”
“This has sucked. This is not what Bolivia is going to be like.”
“YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT BOLIVIA IS GOING TO BE LIKE. YOU’VE NEVER BEEN TO BOLIVIA.”
“We’re going to the highlands. This is not the highlands. This is the valley.”
He looked at me. I swiped at my tears and sniffled. “You don’t know.”
“We’re going to be hiking Inca roads, not fields of weeds.”
“But I don’t want to spend every weekend for the next two months doing this.”
“We don’t have to.”
“But we have to train!”
“We have to train, but we don’t have to do this ever again. This was a bad hike.”
“But I hate it!”
He heaved a sigh, but even I was getting tired.
“If you hate it next weekend, you don’t have to go. Ok? Honestly. I thought you would enjoy this but if you really don’t enjoy it you have a free pass to stay home. No hard feelings.”
“Really?”
“Of course! There’s no point in forcing yourself to do something that makes you miserable. You wouldn’t be doing anyone any favors. But, I don’t think you’ll hate it. I just think this was a bad hike. How are your feet?”
“Good. Thanks for helping me pick the stickers out.”
“Anytime.”

I don’t know why on earth he puts up with me, but I’m super glad he does. It helps that he has magical skillz when it comes to talking me off ledges. It is one of the reasons I married him. That and he’s really handsome. But I digress.

But wait! There’s more! (For tomorrow…)

(Not) The Garden Center

apricot

Taken Sunday, May 15, at the Garden Center.
(You guys. It’s a baby apricot!)

We love the Garden Center. It’s our favorite place to spend a Sunday afternoon. We love it so much we spent the morning of our fifth wedding anniversary at the Garden Center, then we spent the afternoon planting our treasures and tending our little balcony garden. It was the happiest day of the year.

We try to spend at least an hour together, every Sunday, working in the garden. This often involves a trip to the Garden Center for a bag of soil or something and it’s wonderful because it’s garden + shopping = love, you know? But this Sunday we didn’t get to go to the Garden Center. We didn’t even get to work on the balcony. No, no. Instead we spent four hours stomping around in waist-high grasses carrying twenty-five pound packs on our backs.

It’s not that the backpack was heavy. Because actually, my backpack felt great. The weight is evenly distributed across my hips so that I’m literally lifting with my legs. Last weekend I had burns and pale bruises from the hip straps after only two hours, but this weekend, after four hours, my hips were fine. Plus, I am totally working out butt muscles I didn’t even know I had, which is awesome.

And it’s not that my feet hurt, because my feet felt fantastic. Mike had a couple of hotspots, but he didn’t get any blisters, and I didn’t even have hotspots. My hiking boots are like giant blocks of oddly comfortable wood. They are awkward as anything in day-to-day life but on the trail they are the best thing I have going for me.

I didn’t even mind when we were hiking uphill for fifteen minutes through a field of wildflowers so full of bees the air was vibrating. (I am horribly, awfully, terribly, very, very badly phobic of bees.) But I wasn’t thinking about the bees because I was distracted by the sweat pouring down my face, into my contact lenses, rendering me nearly blind. (I think it was the polyester shirt that made me sweat, because Mike wasn’t sweating at all in the sixty-five degree breezes.)

The part that did it for me was the part where we were hiking through knee-high stickery weeds for thirty minutes, followed by waist-high thorny weeds for another ten, until we came to the over-Mike’s-head stickery thorny bushes. That was when Mike finally stopped and said, “This sucks. We’re turning around.” Up until then he’d been stopping every ten minutes or so to say something like, “Look at that view!” Or “Do you think that’s a rabbit den?” To which I would roll my eyes and grumble, “Hmph.” Or “Whatever,” like a moody teen.

Why did I have to act like that? Because if one more branch of Goldfish-knows-what whacked me in the face I was going to f***ing kill someone. That’s why I acted like that. Not that it’s a good excuse, but still.

I’ll tell you the rest tomorrow…

Love = Him

Homemade Sushi

Last Friday he made us sushi for dinner. As in made. With his hands. And all fresh ingredients. And it was awesome.

This Saturday we celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary. Five years! (I have to find something made of wood to give him.)

I love you, Michael. You’re all of my everything.

The Crap in His Pockets

I mentioned in this post that our mattress-less futon was still sitting in two pieces in the family room because we’d lost the pins that hold the thing together during our move, but what I didn’t say was how certain I was that Michael had lost them. I was sure it was all his fault. I just knew it. After all, I’d watched him take the futon apart in Harlem, watched the various screws and bolts and pins roll across the hardwood floors. I’d scrambled to pick up the errant hardware and I’d put it all together in one of our nightstand drawers and then taped it shut, all the while fearing I’d missed something, irritated that he’d left the hardware to roll into oblivion, certain we’d come up short in LA. So when we unpacked everything and, in fact, two integral pieces of hardware were missing, I knew he was the one to blame.

Meanwhile, he was adamant that he had not lost the pins, he’d put them in a safe place, they were around here somewhere.

“Are you sure you haven’t seen two L-shaped metal pins somewhere?”
“I’m positive.”
“Because I know they are around here somewhere. I know it.”
“Haven’t seen them. Pretty sure you lost them.”
“I didn’t lose them. They’re here somewhere.”

Then I’d watch, shaking my head, while he tore through boxes and rummaged through tools, muttering to himself that he knew he had them, he knew he saw them after we unloaded the truck in Los Angeles, they’ve got to be around here somewhere.

When I wash Mike’s laundry I find the strangest things in his pockets – bottle caps, drill bits, rubber washers, half-chewed dog biscuits. These items end up in my own pockets, and then they find their way into various drawers and baskets and sometimes, my jewelry box. Why don’t I just put them with his tools? Normally I would, but for the four months we lived with my parents, I didn’t know where his tools were, so whenever I’d empty his pockets, or clean off the top of his nightstand, I’d put the random odds and ends in my jewelry box. (Not the bottle caps and half-chewed dog biscuits, mind you. Just the drill bits and rubber washers.) This weekend I was cleaning up the bedroom, putting away some of the jewelry I’d worn during the week. I opened my jewelry box and rolled my eyes because there amongst the baubles were two allen wrenches. Clearly from Michael’s pockets. And then it hit me. Like a slow-motion scene in a movie, the memory came flooding back.  It’s August. I’m cleaning the guest room we’re living in at my parent’s house. There are two L-shaped pins on the night table and I put them in my jewelry box because I don’t know where else to put them and I figure they’re probably important. Flash forward to this conversation, had as I’m digging through my jewelry box deciding which earrings to pair with that day’s outfit:

“Are you sure you haven’t seen two L-shaped metal pins somewhere?”
“I’m positive.”
“Because I know they are around here somewhere. I know it.”
“Haven’t seen them. Pretty sure you lost them.”
“I didn’t lose them. They’re here somewhere.”

You guys. He didn’t lose them. I’ve been looking at those damn pins nearly every day for six months, all the while rolling my eyes and tsk-tsk-tsk-ing because Michael lost the pins that hold our futon together. So I snapped a picture of the pins with my BlackBerry and emailed it to Michael with a note that read, “Do you need these? Can I toss them?”

futon pins

Perfectly Perfect Perfect

When we moved from Hells Kitchen to Harlem I was working eleven hours a week and Mike was unemployed and on Spring break from school. We were able to spend the better part of every day cleaning, unpacking, decorating, nesting, and we were all settled in a matter of weeks. It was fantastic. But this time I’ve been at work every day and Mike’s had to do most of the heavy lifting without me.  Me, who likes to do everything myself because I want everything to be perfectly perfect perfect.

This has been the source of several very high energy moments in the past couple of weeks. Mike is very patient and very laid back, and I am the Tazmanian Devil. We signed our lease on a Monday but by Tuesday I’d spent four days decorating the apartment in my mind and making long lists of everything that needed to be cleaned.

One morning as Mike was driving me to the office, we had a huge fight.  Except it wasn’t really a fight. Calling it a fight implies yelling and screaming, and that’s not our style.  Anyway, immediately after lecturing Michael on how I won’t be able to live in the apartment until the bathrooms have been scrubbed inside and out, I started telling him that I thought it would be fabulous to decorate said bathrooms with all gold vintage decor.  He made a face at me and said he thought that was the most horrible idea I’d ever come up with ever.

Except not really. What he said was, “That will look really tacky,” but what I heard was, “That is the most horrible idea you’ve ever come up with ever. Also, you are fat and ugly.”

When he dropped me at work I was nearly in tears. I was also on my way to being late for work, so I couldn’t sit in the car and talk about how I was feeling. Instead I had to sit in my office and stew about it.  And stew I did, for a nice long while. Then I texted him:

“I love you. I want for this to be a fun and happy time for us.  I want to feel like you accept me and like my ideas. It’s crushing when you think my ideas are stupid. You’re my best friend and when you think my ideas are stupid it’s really painful. So far you’ve hated every idea I have and I’m starting to feel like this is your apartment, not ours.”

Don’t you love how dramatic I am? It’s so awful it’s funny, right? “So far you’ve hated every idea I have…” Straight out of Days of Our Lives, the generic suburban version.

He texted back:

“All I’m doing is cleaning. I understand how you feel. I’m sorry. I don’t want to feel the same – like you want to make this your apartment, and all I do is scrubbing and hauling. The good news is that we are not in a huge hurry. I want us to work together to make a home. I respect your ideas, and I know we can make this work.”

I took a deep breath. Why was I so angry? I mean, seriously. Sixties gold décor in the eighties-era bathroom with the clamshell sink. It wouldn’t have worked at all. So I called my mother and my girlfriends, some of the most brilliant and wonderful women I know. “What should I doooooo?????” I whined. They all three said the same thing. They pointed out that we both had valid points and we’d both expressed a desire to work through the situation.  They said we were ahead of the game. They offered help, advice, encouragement, and comfort.  They made me laugh. And Kim gave me complete instructions for how to wash out my filthy dishwasher, something I otherwise would not, for the life of me, have known how to do.

I wasn’t angry that Mike didn’t like my ideas. I was angry because he was doing it all without me. I felt like I was missing out on everything.  All the cleaning, all the moving, all the furniture-arranging.  He thought he was getting a big chore out of the way, but I felt like I was being cheated of an opportunity to nest – something I’d been aching to do since August. Meanwhile, here he is, spending his days scrubbing and hauling while I yammer on about curtains and throw pillows and give lectures on how to clean the toilet. No wonder he didn’t have the patience to talk about gold vintage décor.

When we finally got another chance to talk, we realized that we were both aiming for the same thing – a fabulous little home we’ll love for the next two to five years, depending on how long it takes us to save up for a house.  Once we figured that out, we were able to talk about all of the things that needed to get done, his priorities and mine, and I realized that moving comes before decorating and maybe my evenings were better spent scrubbing the filthy toilet instead of shopping online. Which, of course, was what I really wanted to be doing anyway.  After all, there is nothing in the world like a freshly scrubbed toilet.