Archive | May, 2011

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:

Pre-Babies Bucket List

2 May

“Get it in now.”

That’s what Carey and I are hearing all the time, several times a week at least from loved ones who truly mean well.  They’re usually talking about sleep, but they also mention the other frills no-kids-couples take for granted: eating out, catching a movie, blowing disposable income on a spur-of-the-moment-whatever-it-is.  Because the time is coming, and that right soon, that even a trip to Subway is going to be A MAJOR FRICKIN’ ORDEAL.

A little about me, because you’re dying to know: I’m an illustrator and an advertising art director.  I do an awful lot of storyboard art and a fair amount of cartooning.  I’ve worked on video game covers, children’s books, character design, the odd comic book here and there.  I keep a blog of original comic strips I give away as gifts and, when I’m not doing any of the above, I do a lot of drawing for fun.  A few years ago, I did a kind of wild-guess calculation and estimated that I probably produce somewhere in the neighborhood of nearly 1,000 drawings a year.  I looked it up and that officially qualifies me as an “artist” but, then, so’s the guy who runs naked through Times Square with clothespins on his nipples.

No surprise, nearly all of my big ambitions are creative in nature, most of them publishing-related.  A handful of my dreams have come true and some have yet to.  It’s usually a little anticlimactic, but it still feels pretty good to check off something major.

So Carey and I have been looking at each other and asking each other if there’s anything big we want to get out of the way while it’s still just the two of us and we’ve more or less come to the conclusion that, sure, of course there is, but we don’t really have the time or energy, particularly if we need to rearrange everything in our lives over the course of the next 12-16 weeks.

But for some reason, I was looking through a few old blog entries recently and I came across a post from 2006.  Besides being amazed by how insanely long my blog posts used to be, I was struck by my list of “69 Weird Things About Me” (I know, I know).  Particularly item #45:

One day I will meet the artist Kevin Maguire and I will tell him that his work decided my career path. I don’t know how it will happen (mainly because I have no idea where he lives) and as the years go by, I get more and more nervous about it, but it will happen.


Kevin Maguire was and is a comic book artist and his artwork made me want to do what I do for a living.  I could go on (but I also discovered  I already did).  I suppose it’s more than a little geeky and possibly even creepy, but I’ve always wanted to meet the man himself and let him know that his work helped me decide who I wanted to be.

And as it turns out, Maguire was a special guest at a comics convention in Anaheim over the weekend.  He was autographing prints of his latest comics creation.  So I went:

A photo of Kevin Maguire, taken by me.

A photo of me, taken by Kevin Maguire. (Sorry, kids, his recent work's a little on the saucy side.)

We chatted for a minute or two about his work and what he’s enjoying about it and etc. etc.  I fought through embarrassment and gave him a hyper-abbreviated version of the speech I’ve been rehearsing for about 20 years and he accepted it graciously.  I told him he was the reason I went into art as a career and he said, “oh, so you’re blaming me?”  Of all the things I was expecting, the thing I’d least prepared for was what happened: my art-hero turned out to be a good-tempered, funny guy.

So, item #whoknowswhat on my personal Pre-Babies Bucket List: check.

Listen, I know this really has almost nothing to do with our triplets, but I thought I’d mention it here anyhow.  I suppose it’s sort of a post about following your dreams and doing what you need to do to realize them, and that’s what I want for my kids.

Or maybe it’s a post about rounding up the dangling plot threads from this chapter, clearing the stage for the next one.

Or I suppose it could be one of those stories I’ll bore the hell out of my boys with one day.

Whatever the case, I’d like to be somebody’s else’s Kevin Maguire.  You never know, could happen.  Inspiring people:  it’s what an artist should do.

Or a dad.

A Better World

1 May

Carey has wanted to have a child for several years and I’ll admit openly here that I was the holdout. I had grand ideas about the ethics of bringing children into this world, contributing to the imbalance of wealth and resources. Maybe I’ll get into more of that in a later post, but suffice it to say, I felt burdened about whether or not having children of our own was the “right” thing to do.

And, of course, I had serious doubts about my own parenting abilities.  I’ve already talked about that a good bit and I’m sure there’ll be loads of posts to come on the topic.

But the third big reason for hesitating was pretty straightforward and, let’s face it, as common as crabgrass: I looked at the world around me and thought, “do I really want to throw an innocent child into this mess?”

Less than an hour ago, I read the news and listened to our President give an address: Osama Bin Laden is dead.

Does it mean a better world, a safer world?  I don’t know.  Probably not.  It’s not the sort of thing I understand as well as I should, so it would be silly for me to offer too many opinions on it.  As a rule, I avoid most political discussions because, while my feelings on political matters are fairly strong, I usually regret spouting off about them.

But I will say this: Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden are dead.  And that makes me feel a little better about bringing our three boys into this world.

I’m proud of my country and I’m happy and grateful to be an American citizen.  I know it’s not hip to say something like that and there’s nothing more out-of-style than patriotism in these troubled times, but I can’t help it.  I do love the United States and, at this moment, I’m proud of our military for employing the skill, courage and intelligence to do what they did today.  One day I’ll tell my sons what happened when they were still in their mommy’s tummy and how fortunate they are to be defended by such brave men and women.

And to those in power, particularly those responsible for today: thank you.  On behalf of my family, it means an awful lot that you take our safety so seriously, that you would pursue so doggedly those who want to put an end to us.  There’s a lot we agree on and a lot we don’t, but today I appreciate your wisdom.

God bless.