Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Miracle of Birth: My Goddaughter is Born!

A good friend of mine, Ruth (whom you may have seen comment here from time to time) was pregnant. A few months ago, she asked if I would be present at the birth, and without hesitation, I said yes.

Sunday night I had a lot of problems with pain, and ended up being awake all night. I checked my email around 11 PM and read one from Ruth: bad back pain which didn't ebb a bit with back massages by the baby's father. I immediately emailed her back, telling her to hang on there and to keep a close eye out, as back pain like that is often a precursor to labor.

5:30 Monday morning, I was still awake when Ruth's mom called me. Ruth had been having contractions since midnight, and was now in the hospital being examined. No one was sure whether or not these were actual contractions or Braxton-Hicks, or even whether or not she'd be sent home. I was told to be on "stand-by." I packed my purse full of meds, money, my digital camera and other necessities and got dressed.

At 7:30, I got the call: she was being admitted, and it was go time! I called a cab and was on my way.

Ruth had a pretty hard time of it, with back labor and an epidural that would not take. I've heard of that happening before, but it's the first time I've ever actually SEEN it. The irony was that the anasthesiologist who administered the epidural was the same one I'd used two years ago during Eden's birth, and the same one Ruth's sister had used four years ago during her son's birth! I felt so bad for her, not getting any pain relief. I had back labor during Wren's birth, so I know how badly it hurts. It's not comparable to "regular" labor at all, and to have a first birth like that? Wowsa.

I must say, though, that I was unendlessly impressed with how Ruth handled the pain. Her Lamaze breathing was perfect, impeccable. She could teach a class, she was that good. I did everything I could to help her. It was my first experience at a birth in which I was not one of the principal players involved. I understood now my husband's feeling of helplessness in the face of the pain. You want to try to help, but there really isn't all that much you CAN do, except just be there and be supportive.

At 12:45 Tuesday morning, Ruth had been in labor for over 24 hours, and had the very strong urge to push. I ran (ok, I hobbled with my cane) and got the nurse. She was fully dialated, and it was time to give birth. The doctor was called, and all that remained was to wait for his appearance. I was the only person not related to the baby by blood who was permitted to attend the birth. I felt so overwhelmingly honored.

A little after 1PM, the doctor arrived. In four pushes, Ruth's daughter was born. I had never seen another human being give birth before. I've seen on television many times, and in my childbirth classes years ago during my pregnancy with Wren, but never right there, witnessing it in person. I cannot adequetly describe the feelings I had at that moment. It was indescribably incredible.

As Ruth held her baby girl (8 pounds, 7.7 ounces and 19 inches long), the baby's nurse asked everyone who they were in relation to the baby. When she pointed at me, I said "honorary aunt." Ruth looked up at me and said, "I was thinking more along the lines of godmother." I was so honored, I began to cry. Of course, I accepted.

Soon, other family members came into the room to see the new baby. I began to sing "Happy Birthday," and the others joined in. When we got to "Happy Birthday dear---" we paused, looking meaningfully at Ruth. She'd earlier decided to wait until the baby was born to decide between three names she loved (Violet, Madeline
and Justice). Now the verdict was in, and the song could now properly be finished: her name is Justice.

She is an absolutely beautiful baby. Lovely blue eyes, and a full head of blonde hair which looks like it might be curly when it gets dry and a tad longer. I was the designated photographer, and I had a blast taking tons of pictures: baby meeting Mommy, baby meeting Daddy, baby's first diaper, baby's first weigh-in. I even had Ruth's mom take a photo of me holding my new goddaughter (and I loathe having my photograph taken). I could hardly wait to get home and edit the photos and put them on disc for Ruth.

Thank you, Ruth, for this wonderful opportunity...and for naming me as godmother. I am thrilled beyond words.



May the good lord be with you
Down every road you roam
And may sunshine and happiness
Surround you when you're far from home
And may you grow to be proud
Dignified and true
And do unto others
As you'd have done to you
Be courageous and be brave
And in my heart you'll always stay
Forever young

May good fortune be with you
May your guiding light be strong
Build a stairway to heaven
With a prince or a vagabond

And may you never love in vain
And in my heart you will remain
Forever young

And when you finally fly away
I'll be hoping that I served you well
For all the wisdom of a lifetime
No one can ever tell

But whatever road you choose
I'm right behind you, win or lose
Forever young

---Bob Dylan

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Am I Blue?

A message to my father: remember when I first dyed my hair purple, and you freaked out, and told me that someday, I too would have a teenager and, like you, I'd freak out if they ever did something "that awful" to their hair?


Yesterday, I helped my 13-year-old son Phoenix dye his mohawk bright green. I, in turn, dyed my forelocks a dark blue. We had so much fun! He wanted a darker, more forest green color, but alas it ended up more day-glo than forest. Despite that, he actually likes the color and is thrilled by the new hairdo. He couldn't wait to call his best friend and tell her all about it.

I reminded him before he went to bed last night that not all parents would let him do that.

His response?

"Yeah, but you're a COOL mom."

Well, I'm blessed with a pretty cool kid. So I guess we both lucked out.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Remembering Micah

Soon is the eleventh anniversary of the day when the world lost a truly unique and gifted soul. I was going to write something new, but a few days ago, I recieved an email from a complete stranger, one of Micah's many friends, telling me that they'd found last year's entry on an Internet search and was greatly moved by it. That's when I decided simply to re-post that entry:

Remembering Micah

Ten years ago, the world lost a unique soul. His name was Micah Bennett.

It's hard to explain to people who weren't there, who didn't know him, how special Micah was. It was apparent, right from the start. He had an aura about him, that made people want to know him, made people want to be his friend. Loyalty was a foregone conclusion; to betray Micah was unthinkable. It was as if existed to be adored.

And then there was his talent, his gift: music. Micah, to the best of my knowledge, had never had a formal music lesson...and yet, when he put his hands to the keyboard of a was magic. He could play all day, intent in and content with his music. I can still hear the songs he wrote, and would play for us at the Canal Street Tavern. Sometimes, late at night, I can hear his song "The Rose" in my mind. I can remember the night he debuted it, how I sat at a table in the corner with his brother
(my former boyfriend) and his father, eyes closed, enveloped in the sound. I remember the shock, when he would stop playing, of the feeling of reality rushing back in. Listening to Micah play was like being transformed.

There had been, after his death, an almost martyrdom of him right away. To hear some people tell it
(and usually, these were people who didn't know him well, or at all), he was faultless. I think it was a way of dealing with the grief, to make him out to be some sort of saint. I think he would have laughed at that! For Micah was, alas, not perfect. He could be very jealous, often stubborn and was an accomplished shoplifter (he even once stole golf clubs, just to prove it could be done). He could be quite controlling, particularly where his brothers (with whom he was very, very close) were concerned. The spotlight was his, and although he was willing to share it...he wasn't willing to be anything but the center. And as I know all too well, when he became angry, he was a force to be reckoned with.

Those things hardly mattered when he was alive, and surely, they matter not at all now.

When I think of him, the warm memories flood back, overwhelming me: sharing a house with him and his cousin one we would sit up and talk for hours, how open and sincere and unafraid to be himself he could be; how much of a gentleman he was, when I'd been dumped on Valentine's Day at Rocky front of the entire world
(or at least, that's how it felt at the time); helping comfort and console me when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Micah was always there, unquestionably, for his friends. He may have demanded loyalty...but he gave it back, unabashedly, tenfold over.

But most of all, I remember how Micah was with my son. He came to see me at my home, after I had given birth. He was sick from chemotherapy, weak and shaky, but still he came. I was heartbroken, watching him stroke my sleeping infant's head, the look of pain in his eyes as he came to grips with the fact that he himself would never be a father, never have a chance to have sons he'd name after his brothers as he had planned. I recall how, when he was in the hospital that final time, he'd pulled my son onto his hospital bed and let him play with the controls. He was so happy to have Phoenix near him; it was almost as if Phoenix had become his surrogate son in some small way. I only wish Phoenix could remember him, too.

Micah died of cancer, on June 26, 1995. He was only 23.

My friend is gone...but not forgotten. Micah could never be that.

He would never stand for it.

Dear friend...I miss you and hold you close in my heart, always...

I went all the way to Paris to forget your face
Captured in stained glass, young lives long since passed
Statues of lovers every place
I went all across the continent to relieve this restless love
I walked through the ruins, icons of glory
Smashed by the bombs from above

So we must love while these moments are still called today
Take part in the pain of this passion play
Stretching our youth as we must, until we are ashes to dust
Until time makes history of us

Jeu de Paume's full of faces knowing peace, knowing strife
Leisure and toil, still it's canvas and oil
There's just no medium for life
In the midst of the rubble
I felt a sense of rebirth
In a dusty cathedral the living God called
And I prayed for my life here on earth

So we must love while these moments are still called today
Take part in the pain of this passion play
Stretching our youth as we must, until we are ashes to dust
Until time makes history of us

There are mountains in Switzerland, brilliant cold as they stand
From my hotel room, watching the half-moon
Bleeding its light like a lamb
And the town is illumined, its tiny figures are fast asleep
And it dawns on me the time is upon me
To return to the flock I must keep

So we must love while these moments are still called today
Take part in the pain of this passion play
Stretching our youth as we must, until we are ashes to dust
Until time makes history of us

"History of Us"--Indigo Girls

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all. I hope it was a great day!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Mystic Dwarves and Jurisprudence

Just when you think you've heard or seen it all, comes....

Mystic Dwarves Did Not Warn Judge He Would Be Fired

MANILA (May 3) - A Philippine judge who claimed he could see into the future and admitted consulting imaginary mystic dwarfs has asked for his job back after being fired by the country's Supreme Court.

"They should not have dismissed me for what I believed," Florentino Floro, a trial judge in the capital's Malabon northern suburb, told reporters after filing his appeal.

Floro was sacked last month and fined $780 after a three-year investigation found he was incompetent, had shown bias in a case he was trying and had criticized court procedure, a ruling showed.

He told investigators that three mystic dwarfs -- Armand, Luis and Angel -- helped him carry out healing sessions during breaks in his chambers.

The Supreme Court said it was not within its expertise to conclude that Floro was insane, but agreed with the court clinic's finding that he was suffering from psychosis.
Gee, you think?


Thursday, May 11, 2006

I Know, I Know.... blogging lately has been kind of eratic. I do have a pretty good excuse, though: I am actually getting some sleep, for the first time in nearly a year. The pain has broken (for now), and I'm taking advantage of it by getting some much-needed crap done around the house and sleeping, sleeping, sleeping. It feels so unbelievably good to sleep in the absence of pain.

But never fear....I will get caught up on sleep sooner or later and be blogging like crazy again. Until then, I'm for a hot chocolate and good nap....


Friday, May 05, 2006

My Baby Becomes a Teenager

Tomorrow, my oldest child, my son Phoenix, will be 13 years old.

I'm still trying to come to terms with that: 13. A teenager. This is the same little boy that used to run around the room during the stampede scene on his "Lion King" video. The same little boy who made me macaroni art Mother's Day cards in preschool. The very same child who sat, rigid with excitement, for three hours of "Barney Live!"

My little guy, who wore a Barney jean jacket to that spectacle and a little Barney hat on his blonde little crew-cut hair, is now a guitar-playing, mohawk-sporting, Green Day fan who would rather poke his eyeballs out than watch an hour of "Sesame Street." The same little guy who ate nothing but peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for a year now wants shrimp scampi for his birthday dinner.

I look fondly at his second birthday party photos. He had a Barney cake. We gave him a tricycle. Today, my husband picks up Phoenix's X-Men cake and his PS2.

Time flies when you're raising a terrific kid.

(Warning: what follows is a birth story. If you don't like to read those, go no further.)

I was only a few months away from being 19 when I gave birth to Phoenix. I was scared silly. I was young, and had no close friends with children.

The day of my due date, I woke up in horrible pain. I could not move. I was living with my mother at the time, and yelling for her to come help me caused such pain, it was unbelievable. My entire right side was rigid. I began to vomit uncontrollably. My mother rushed in, and immediately I could tell by the look on her face that something was very, very wrong. I was rushed to the hospital. By the time we arrived, I was throwing up stomach bile, there being nothing else left in there to come up. The pain was getting worse. I was not even able to dress myself.

The verdict came quickly: kidney stones. BIG ones. I was given a shot of Demerol and Phenergan (my first ever, little did I know how many I'd take in the years to come). The pain and vomitting stopped, and I was relieved...but scared. How would this affect my baby? Could I pass the stones while pregnant? The doctors were unsure. My OB (who looked for all the world like Tasha Yar from "Star Trek: The Next Generation") was concerned. I was admitted to the hospital's maternity ward, and given medication to help the pain and the passing of the stones.

A week later, and no stones. The pain was getting worse, and I was having difficulty urinating. The decision: induction. It's a great irony, isn't it? I was put into labor to STOP my pain.

Pitocin was put in my IV, and the bag of waters was broken. A few minutes later, I hear a woman scream "NO MORE! NO MORE! I CAN'T TAKE THE FUCKING PAIN!!!!" My mother shut the door. I began to get even more scared.

The contractions started almost immediately, but were not painful. They felt more like intense menstrual cramps. Uncomfortable, but not unbearable by any means. After about an hour, the doctor asked if I would like to take a nap, to conserve my strength for the birth. I was reminded that a first birth could take 12 hours or more. I didn't want any pain meds, so I was given a sedative, and drifted off to sleep.

I was very suddenly awakened. Drowsy, I couldn't understand what the nurses were trying to tell me. Monitors were going off, and someone put an oxygen mask on my face. I was suddenly completely awake, and terrified. My mother then broke the news: I was completely dialated. I didn't believe her. The contractions still did not hurt badly. Where was the awful pain of labor? Where were the hours and hours of terrible contractions? Why was this happening so fast, and why were those monitors going off?

The doctor came in, and filled me in on the rest of the problem: the baby had not turned, and his head was facing the side. I could not deliver him that way. To make matters worse, it seems the cord was wrapped around his neck and his heartrate was becoming erratic. Now I was REALLY scared.

I had two options: an emergency C-section (which means I would not be awake for the birth), or they could try to turn the baby. I opted to have him turned. Several nurses and a male orderely came in, and held me down (so I would not rear up and break my pelvis). They turned him quickly, but the pain was unreal. I blacked out for a moment. When I came to, a squatting bar was in front of me. I sat up, held on to the bar, and pushed against it. After 20 minutes, my son was born.

He was blue. My mother said he looked like a little Smurf. He began to cry, loudly. The doctor and my mother sighed in relief. We waited for the Apgar: a 9. He'd had a bit of trouble in the labor, but was perfectly healthy.

I'd been in labor a grand total of six hours. I slept through four of them.

After a short trip to the nursery for blood tests and so on, I was nursing my son for the first time. I was completely in love. Never before had I felt the way I did, at that moment in time. My life was changed forever. I was now a Mommy.

And tomorrow, I'll be a Mommy to a teenaged boy.

Like I said, time flies when you're raising a terrific kid...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

More Kudos for Portland

Two food-related shout-outs for the Rose City:

The first, in the Best Burgers category:

1. All-American Drive-In -- Long Island, N.Y.
A famous and delicious "double double" for only $2.10? Fantastic!

2. Chris Madrid's -- San Antonio
Try the "Tostada Burger" with refried beans, chips, cheddar and salsa.

3. CityGrille -- Denver
Go high-end with a Steakburger, or local with a Buffaloburger.

4. Dick's Drive-In -- Seattle
It's all about their famous special sauce with zingy bits of pickle.

5. Goldyburgers -- Chicago
Serving 'em up hot, huge and cheesy since 1926

6. In-N-Out Burger -- Los Angeles
The perennial favorite also won in Vegas, OC and San Diego.

7. Jack's Old Fashion Hamburger -- South Florida
Hand-shaped, charbroiled perfection served up your way

8. O'Connell's Pub -- St. Louis
Juicy, charbroiled nine-ounce burgers for more than 40 years

9. Peter Luger -- New York
Prime dry-aged beef and signature steak sauce from a famed steak house

10. Roaring Fork -- Phoenix
Try the "Big-Ass Burger" stacked high with green chiles.

11. Stanich's -- Portland, Ore.
Try the amazing "Special" topped with a fried egg, ham, bacon and cheese.

12. Tessaro's -- Pittsburgh
Fresh meat ground daily in-house and flame-broiled on a hardwood grill

13. Thurman Cafe -- Columbus, Ohio
Thurman Burger = a 3/4 lb patty, ham, mozzarella and American Cheese

14. Val's Burgers -- San Francisco
You think you can handle the One-Pound Behemoth at Val's?

15. 96th St. Steakburgers -- Indianapolis
Perfection with ground steak cuts and buns grilled with mustard

And the second, in the Best Pancakes category:

1. Flying Biscuit Cafe -- Atlanta
Dreamy-good organic oatmeal 'cakes here may qualify as health food.

2. Camille's Restaurant -- Key West, Fla.
Pancakes drizzled with Godiva white chocolate sauce or tropical fruit

3. Briarpatch Restaurant -- Winter Park, Fla.
Think Hawaiian 'cakes with coconut, macadamia nuts and pineapple.

4. Griddle Cafe -- West Hollywood, Calif.
Catch young celebs ordering Kahlua buttermilk pancakes.

5. T.C. Eggington's -- Mesa, Ariz.
Go for the Brit-style 'Girdle Cakes' with extra-whipped honey butter.

6. Cameo Cafe West -- Portland, Ore.
Their ''full-acre'' blueberry pancakes spill off the rim of the plate.

7. Beach Grass Cafe -- South Solana Beach, Calif.
Dessert meets breakfast with a pineapple upside-down pancake.

8. Dottie's True Blue Cafe -- San Francisco
Get the house favorite: luscious blueberry cornmeal pancakes.

9. Norma's -- New York
Banana-macadamia nut flap jacks with banana-brown sugar butter

10. Pamela's -- Pittsburgh
Hubcap-sized strawberry flapjacks? Irresistible.

11. PJ's Pancake House -- Princeton, N.J.
Serving celebs like Brooke Shields and Harry Hamlin for four decades.

12. Sorella's -- Boston
Ginger's blueberry-hazelnut pancakes are worth the hour wait.

13. Magnolia Pancake Haus -- San Antonio
Pfannekuchen proves Germans (even those from Texas) know pancakes.

14. Melange -- St. Louis
Dutch Baby: Egg-rich batter + fresh berries = oven-puffed perfection.

15. Al's Breakfast -- Minneapolis
Legendary 'cakes with sour cream, served up in a 12-seat diner.