Archive | May, 2011

Pivot

16 May

If you’re looking for tips on anything baby-related, whatever you do, do not consult Tips On Triplets.  Some very intelligent and fair-minded folks keep this blog’s comment boxes humming, but, let me assure you, the administrator of this site is a jackass who really doesn’t understand anything about anything.  And I should know, I’m him.

Example:

The wife and I were at a party over the weekend.  Now that we’re chugging full steam into Baby Country, fellow expectant parents and a number of already-parents are beginning to welcome us into their fold.  The party was one of those beginning-of-summer barbecue deals and it’s safe to say there were almost as many kids in attendance as adults.

Babies and toddlers were crawling and wobbling everywhere.  Camera phones were out, the beer was icy-delish and an under-ten whiffle ball game resolved with someone knocking a homer into the pasta salad.  Everyone was feeling good and having a great time.

A couple of friends who we haven’t seen in years arrived with their little one in tow and I have to tell you, he’s a sweet little guy.  I’m sure he’s a baby like any other baby, but this kid always seemed to be wearing a smile.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m really not a baby-scooping kind of guy, but I couldn’t help grabbing the little fellow up once or twice because, you know, he had a sort of affable, easy way about him.

Let me pause for a second to assign a few aliases.  For all I know, the parties in question read this blog and will recognize themselves immediately anyhow, but I’m living in hope:

The affable baby: “Benny Wrench”
The baby’s dad: “Gordy Wrench”
The baby’s mom: “Ruby Wrench”
A friend of mine from way back: “Slam Bridle”

The evening was winding down and a few of the attendees were beginning to disappear.  Toddlers were getting cranky, the hosts were starting to clean up, it was That Time.  I’d spent the last 10 or 15 talking with my old friend Slam, a funny guy with a story to tell, two young boys of his own and a baby on the way.  He was giving me the low down on all things infant, which I appreciated.  Advice from a truly wise and sincere friend like Slam is always welcome.

We were standing in the host’s kitchen, near a doorway to the outside and it wasn’t long before little Benny Wrench began crawling our way.  Slam was doing a pretty admirable job of blocking the exit to keep Benny from escaping and tumbling out into the driveway.  The kid’s parents, Gordy and Ruby, were nearby, keeping an occasional eye on things.   Not obsessive, but occasional.  Most of the adults there were parents, so the unspoken contract was a sort of Takes A Village-style childcare.  Everyone was looking out for everyone’s kids.

All at once, Benny decided to abandon his plans of escape and he scooted himself over to a trashcan that I happened to be standing next to.  He grabbed hold of it and raised himself up, eyeing a recliner a couple of feet away.  And, careful as careful could be, Benny weeble-wobbled over to it.

I looked at Slam: “Did we just witness this kid’s first steps?”

He shrugged.  “I think we might’ve.”

I looked over at Ruby and Gordy, who were involved in their own conversations.  “Hey, Ruby,” I called out, “is Benny walking yet?”

“No, why?”

So here’s the part where sanity and intelligence might’ve taken over.  Any reasonable human being would smile and shrug and say, “oh, I don’t know.  He looks pretty strong.  Could be any day now, I bet!”  It’s the mini-rubicon between sensitivity and douchery.  Between Well Done, Jer! and What The Hell Were You Thinking?  In my defense, I’m not technically a parent yet, so I… y’know, that’s no defense.  I’m an ignoramus.

Instead:

“I think Slam and I just saw his first steps!”

I’m not exactly sure what I was hoping for.  Hugs?  Applause?  “What a great friend you are, to have caught what we’ve been anticipating since our son’s birth!  Good eye!”  The only real way I can describe Ruby’s expression was “dumbfounded.”  She turned to her husband:

“Gordy!  Did you see Benny take his first steps?”

“Hunh?”

“Jeremy and Slam are saying they saw it.  Were you watching?”

“Wh?  No!  They’re lying!”

I looked at Slam, who refused to return the favor.  He didn’t say a word, but his body language told the whole story: Abort, you asshat.  ABORT.

Ruby glared at us.  It was a Catch 22.  She wanted the truth, but the truth was going to be heartbreaking.  She held up a fist, the way girls do when they want to be taken seriously, but they’re out of options: “Guys, are you messing with me?”

I wriggled.

“Y’know, it may not have been ‘walking’.  It was more of a kind of… he, ok, he wobbled, is what he did.  I mean, technically, were there ‘steps’ taken?  I mean, sure.  Maybe probably.  I don’t know!  Put it this way, if he was ‘walking’, he wasn’t very good at it.  Ha ha…”

I looked up to take the room’s temperature.  Ice cold.  The moms assembled in particular were wearing expressions that seemed to signify that I’d just doused myself in kerosene and was holding a lit match.  Like a fool, I continued.

“All right, the best thing to compare it to?  What Benny did?  It was kind of like a pivot.  Like in basketball!  That’s not walking, that’s pivoting.  He used his pivot foot to, like, swing over to the chair.  That’s no way for a walking person to get around, you ask me.  I mean–”

Ruby waved off the rambling.  “Okay, if Benny were playing basketball, would he be considered traveling?”

I looked at Slam, who was shaking his head.  “Traveling,” I said.  “That’s a good sort of measure.  I like that.  Yeah.  Uh, I don’t know.  But probably not.  I want to say it was a pivot.  A definite, probable pivot.  I mean, for human beings, y’know, how many steps is considered walking? It’s a subjective–”

“TWO.  TWO STEPS OR MORE WITHOUT FALLING!  STEP-STEP!”

“Ah.”

“DID HE STEP-STEP?”

“Ah…”

Ruby grabbed Benny and went to confer with her husband.  I searched the room for a friend.  Somebody.  Anybody.  Even my wife wouldn’t look my way.  I turned to Slam:

“Man, I don’t know what I saw!  Was that kid walking or what??  I’m drowning here!”

He gave me the Take It Easy hand.  I’ve been here, he seemed to say.  Hush.  I got this one.

Ruby returned, none too pleased.  “Look, I just need to know if he walked, because if he walked I need to go home and write it down in The Book.  So what happened?”

“Jeremy and I conferred on it,” said Slam, finally, thank god.  “We made a ruling: he wasn’t walking.”

And that was that.

I mean, sure, I came out of it looking like a Grade A dildo who delights in screwing with unsuspecting moms and dads.  But I guess that’s better than being the guy who steals major life moments from unsuspecting moms and dads.  And anyway, who cares how I feel about it?

Later on, Slam’s wife told me she’d watched the whole thing go down and was trying to send me mental messages: “I thought, ‘if you really did see that kid take his first steps, dude, you’d better LIE.'”

I still don’t really know whether the kid walked or not.  I’m content to go with Slam’s ruling, though.  Little Benny’ll be bopping around any day now and I’ll be nowhere near him when his folks capture the whole thing on video.  And that’s as it should be.

So, Tips On Triplets #1: Do as I say, not as I do.

In fact, scratch that.  Just do neither.

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35

12 May

Just a quick one before I head off to bed:

Today I turned 35.  I”m not entirely sure when “mid-life” begins, but, for me, I hope it’s not yet because I’ve way too much to do and way too much to look forward to.  It was a good day, which I was able to spend surrounded by good friends and a wife I clearly don’t deserve.

I’ve received a few nice gifts and a few fun birthday wishes from various loved ones, but I’d be remiss if I failed to mention my very favorite gift of all: three little nameless someones who I’m eager to meet later this year.

Thanks for reading.   If you follow this spot regularly, I deeply appreciate your indulging my rants and rambles and I’m grateful you’re taking this hugely weird journey with my wife and me.

“Mid-life”?  Psh.

Baby, I’m just getting started.

– Jeremy, 2011

Review: The Business of Being Born DVD

10 May

My wife and I purchased The Business of Being Born, a documentary about the decisions expectant couples (particularly American mothers) make concerning the delivery of their new children, shortly after she discovered her pregnancy and shortly before we discovered we were having triplets.

We were in a strange sort of multiples-limbo when we watched the DVD.  It was our Dark Weekend, just after our OB had told us she saw multiples, but it wasn’t yet confirmed that we had 3 (our fingers were crossed that the scans would confirm twins, but no such luck).

We settled into our viewing of TBoBB, having only read a few comments online and watched the trailer.  Carey had heard great things.

The trailer:

In general, the film’s advertising is a little misleading.  It’s billed as a sort of blow-the-conspiracy-wide-open piece of investigative journalism about the shady practices of hospitals and their care (or lack thereof) of women in labor.  Those elements are certainly present in the film, but I suppose I was a bit unprepared for what turned out to be a 90 minute commercial for midwives.

Make no mistake, they make a compelling case.  You walk away sufficiently terrified of American hospitals and 90% of American doctors.  The statistics and history presented are sobering: from the “scientific” emphasis on birthing in the first half of the 20th century (leading to absolutely horrific, concentration-camp-style scenarios for women in labor), to the Thalidomide crisis, to the contemporary overuse of the dreaded labor-inducing drug Pitocin.  It paints a picture of American doctors as a lazy and distracted group who often can’t be bothered.  Or, what may be worse, a medical community beholden to insurance company bottom lines and hospital room turnover rates.

Not surprisingly, much of the film focuses on Ricki Lake, the “star power” of this particular documentary.  She compares the cold, clinical experience of having her first child within The System with the warm, soothing, all-natural experience of having her most recent child in a home-birth scenario, with the help of a midwife.  To hear Ricki, it’s the difference between torture and paradise and, in a moment not for the squeamish, we see the woman herself giving birth in her home bathtub, uncut and uncensored. (Of course, by that point in the doc, we’ve already been exposed to plenty of footage of other home births, so we’ve had some opportunity to ease into the, er, guts of the matter.)

We follow a midwife around, going about her midwifery and along the way we pick up lots of useful information about how things are done outside of the United States, where midwives are used much more frequently (resulting in far better infant mortality statistics).  You get the sense that it’s not just a run-and-gun sort of job, that midwives sincerely do put their heart into their craft.  You see the relationships between mothers and midwives and you’re left with the impression that these people genuinely do know more about baby birthing than their competition, doctors and nurses.

The final act of the film concentrates on the pregnancy and birth experience of Abby Epstein, the director herself.  As the DVD extras confirm, this wasn’t exactly a planned story arc… Epstein had already gotten fully underway with her doc when she discovered her own pregnancy.  But we as viewers enjoy the benefits of this happy accident, watching her take her own pregnancy on through the birthing process.  (Spoiler alert: not everything goes according to plan.)

Overall, there’s no shortage of midwife-focused information, with plenty of genuinely exciting and heart-filled moments mixed in.  It’s a decidedly biased take on the business of birthing, with a perspective sitting squarely in the home-birth camp and it’s helpful to know that going in.

I can’t fault the film for having precious little information about multiples pregnancies.  After all, it’s really not the subject of the documentary.  But it would have been nice to at least a mention a few instances, like ours, where home-births aren’t necessarily the best idea.  After watching this, my poor wife has been trying to figure out a way to work out a natural, vaginal, midwife-assisted home birth for our triplets, but the experts continue to tell her No Dice.

As soon-to-be parents via C-section, it is, in retrospect, unsettling to recall the section dedicated to the horrors of C-sections.  From botched attempts to the lack of proper hormone-release, mother-to-child, the film makes it clear: TRUST US, YOU DON’T WANT A C-SECTION.  I can appreciate that it should be more of a weapon of last resort rather than a part of the baby-and-a-tummy-tuck assembly line that’s become fashionable in recent years for pregnant celebs and ladies of means.  But for those of us who are doing it out of genuine necessity, it’s fairly disheartening.

Anyhow, as a documentary, it works pretty well and it clearly has an agenda, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call it required viewing for anyone expecting children, but it certainly couldn’t hurt, particularly if your mind isn’t made up about how to handle labor and delivery.

TIPS ON TRIPLETS REVIEW: 3.5 HEADS

Stroller Derby

9 May


It’s the Peg Perego Triplette stroller.  Comes standard with 3 removable toddler seats, collapsible suspension, storage tray, and a steering wheel for extra handling around tight corners.  Not pictured: 3 infant car seats with modular Primo Viaggio bases.  Total retail is over $1,500, but my bargain-sniffing wife tracked down a used one in Long Beach for, er, a lot less than that.

The mind reels that this contraption exists in the world.  Seats are in-line because focus groups confirmed that other people don’t always feel like giving up their sidewalks to triplet strollers.  Leave it to the Italians to crack the code.

Last week, Carey and I made our way over to the seller’s house to check it out.  A triplet mom’s little ones had recently outgrown their Peg Perego Triplette (let’s call it the “PPT”) and they’d fortunately done an admirable job of keeping it in near-mint condition.

But on our way there, it occurred to us that it was highly likely we’d catch a glimpse of the triplets themselves and I was hit with the reality all at once:

I’ve never actually met any triplets, live and in person.

All of a sudden, what was a response to a Craig’s listing was transforming into an audition.  Or maybe an interview.  Or maybe “Jeremy & Carey, This Is Your Life: Crystal Ball Edition”.

The triplet mom came out to greet us, the PPT already displayed neatly on the porch.  I’ll call her Francine (not her real name.  I’m not changing it because I have anything disparaging to say about her, but rather because there’s aren’t exactly loads of triplet moms in Long Beach and she may or may not want to associate herself with miscreants like us).

At six-foot-something, Francine’s a mighty oak of a woman. Enthusiastic eyes and the sort of manic energy raising scads of kids requires.  She appeared with her oldest daughter, a pre-adolescent with more metabolism than any six people I’ve ever met.  They burst onto the scene with mile-a-minute information and instructions on the stroller’s components and how to store it and how to collapse it and what it’s like to carry triplets for 36 weeks and OhMyGodDidYouSayYoursAreSpontaneousGetOutOfDODGE!

Francine thought it might be good to give us a demonstration, so she called for her triplets, which were promptly delivered by the family’s at-home-caregiver/babysitter.

And there they were: two boys and a girl, all fraternal, nearly 3 years old.  I’m not exactly sure what I expected.  I suppose I’d envisioned some weird triplety energy emanating from their foreheads or something.  Or maybe they were supposed to be floating a couple of feet off the ground, speaking in rhymed couplets, in perfect telepathic commune with one another.  But it wasn’t that at all.

It was two little boys and a little girl.  Different heights and hair colors.  Varying degrees of hyper, amused, restless and tired.  They laughed, played, fell down, cried and got back up.  They hung from the PPT like a mini jungle jim (which took the abuse without a problem) and they announced to us and each other why whatever they happened to be doing at any particular moment was The Best.

I can’t lie, it was a very noisy house.  Someone was always running or spinning or plotting an escape.  If your age was anywhere in the single digits, clothing was clearly optional.

I think, though, if I’d seen all this a month or two earlier, I might have lost it a little.  Because, you know, I’m not ready for this.  Neither of us are.  But I looked at those three children and I only knew that they were triplets because somebody told us they were triplets.  And I guess that makes them sort of, what do you call it, erm… “special”?  But otherwise, they were just three kids.  And, when all is said and done, they really seemed to be nice people.

I suppose that’s the trick.  Raising “triplets” seems big and strange and there aren’t very many guidebooks for it.  But raising three kids?  People do that all the time, right?

It’ll be all right.  It has to be.

Whup: Carey just texted me.  She worked it out with Francine, so it looks like the Peg Perego Triplette is going to be ours.  Which means I’ll need to go pick it up.

Which means, g-gulp, the triplets and I will meet again.

Moms

8 May

The Classic

Go ahead and ask my mom, she’ll tell you: I was a strange child.

She’ll swear I wasn’t so bad, but don’t believe it.  At the tender age of 20, she had a brand spanking new baby boy and a heart full of straight-outta-the-70s enthusiasm.  Of all the possibilities she’d tried her best to prepare herself for, she likely didn’t know what to make of what she got: a self-conscious, insecure crybaby son who made a regular habit of forsaking his baseball mitt for boxes of colored pencils and traded BMX biking for supporting roles in school plays and talent shows.

There’s a lot to appreciate about my mom and I can’t begin to get into all of it now, but the thing I’ve been thinking about the most lately was something that I don’t imagine my mother recognized about herself until she was well into parenting.  Maybe it was there all along, waiting to come out, or maybe it took the refining fires of three children in three years to flip the switch, but Mom is a truly creative soul.

Well, you’d have to be, if you’re trying to do right by a basket case like me.  Standard Operating Procedure wasn’t going to get the job done; Mom had to improvise.  Sure, she became my cheerleader and biggest fan, but more importantly, she cultivated a weirdness in her already weird son.

I have to think there was a temptation to reign things in from time to time, to nudge me in the direction that would get me the most friends and her the smoothest parent-teacher conferences.  But she didn’t do that.  It’s almost as if she only knew how to see the very best version of me, the very best possible outcome for my strange little life… and dedicated herself to clearing the path for me to crash and spin my way toward it.

Anyway, you should see this lady in action, I mean it.  To this day, she has an offbeat, creative approach to every decision, every relationship.  Somehow, she’s the best at everything.  And, at the top of her game, she moves on to something new.  It really is astonishing.

As adults, my sisters and I phone each other up and shrug, saying things like, “so, Mom decided she’s going to ride motorcycles now.”  “Mom sent me a book of Buddhist poetry, apparently she’s been reading a lot of it.”  “Mom finished her nursing degree and is getting nervous about what to say in her Valedictory speech to the other graduates.”  “Ohio.com sent me an email the other day, asking for a bio on Mom.  I guess she’s been nominated by the Ohio Women’s History Project as Woman of the Year.”

No, I’m not kidding.

Just like Mom, I get to parent three children of my own very soon and of course I’m scared.  But I have the unique privilege of learning from the best.

Adversity?  Hah.  Mom could tell you stories.  But she’ll be the first to let you know: you’ll be fine.  Wing it.  Improvise.  Work hard.  Listen.

Be creative.

I know you know this, Mom, but I’m about to have a trio of eager boys on my hands and I have no idea what I’m doing.  But, then, I have every advantage and you to thank for it.

The New Model

There was a period of time where it was looking like Carey wasn’t going to get the chance to be a mother.  It’s safe to blame me, but the truth is, my apprehensions about parenting aside, it always bummed me out a little bit.

Fact is, I always knew she was born to be a mom.

You know those activist types that are willing to die for their cause?  They stand in the picket lines, screaming in your face, spitting bile and righteous indignation?  They know they’re right and you’re wrong because MEAT IS MURDER, MAN!  ABORTION STOPS A BEATING HEART!  IT’S ADAM AND EVE, NOT ADAM AND STEVE!  LISTEN UP, ASSHOLE!

Now picture the exact opposite of that.

That’s my wife.

Oh, trust me, she’s an activist through and through.  You’ll see her on the picket line and, make no mistake, she’ll tell you what she believes.  But she’ll probably whisper.  And she’ll smile apologetically.  And she’ll ask you what you think.

And she’ll listen.

For all her conviction and her lifestyle decisions, she’s, at heart, a peaceful person.  Inside, she might be praying you’ll reconsider your position on a couple of things, particularly if your position hurts others.  But when you get to the bottom of it, she wants to know you.  She sees the thing that most people miss: change doesn’t start with clever slogans or policy changes or media coverage.

It starts with relationships.

Like Mom, Carey is also a creative soul. When we first met, she surprised me with poetry and, in one way or another, she’s continued ever since.

She paints.  And she designs spaces.  She plays the saxophone and she’s good.  She writes and she expresses herself better than most anyone I know.

It would be hard to find my mother’s equal when it comes to mothering.  And I can’t say I was really even looking for it.  But the qualities that were the most important to me about my mother… her creativity, her conviction, her passion and her willingness to cultivate something in her children that goes beyond the norm…

If there’s anyone who I think has the potential to stand with my mom in the Great Moms Hall of Fame, it’s my wife.

Care, we were trying for none and got three.  Somebody seems to think we should be doing this.

When we first found out, we cried a whole lot and you said, “can’t we just do one single thing like normal people?”  I suppose, at this point, we both know the answer.

And frankly, you’re going to be great.  Let’s agree to never let the world infect our three little lunatics with the Normal Virus.

I can’t wait to watch you do your thing.

Au revoir, youth!

5 May

My wife has worn a belly button ring for, I don’t know, probably almost a decade now.  Every so often, over the years, I’ve asked her if she’d ever take it out.

“Maybe,” she’d say, “if I were pregnant or something.  I’ve seen post-pregnancy belly button ring scars.  Not pretty.”

And a few days ago, as news of Osama Bin Laden’s timely demise barked from the TV, Carey was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, deciding to remove it.  It was getting pretty uncomfortable, see.  Time to go.


So, my counter-culture, hippy-trippy, vegan activist wife is surrendering herself over to motherhood, moment by moment and bit by bit.  I’m not sure why, but seeing her pop that thing out was a surprisingly momentous picture for me and I’m not entirely sure why.

See you later, childhood.  Next stop: Who Knows Where.

Ultrasound Avalanche 2: The Reckoning

3 May

Last Thursday’s anatomy scan at Magella means a whole new busload of ultrasound pics.  So, friends, because you demanded it, behold!  The fellas are progressing nicely.

(Oh, and if you’re the sort of person who wants to compare the progress from a month and a half ago, refer back to Ultrasound Avalanche v.1.)

Thanks for visiting!

Baby A:

Baby B:

Baby C: