I head into a day like today deluding myself that I'm going to feel awesome when it is all over and I've checked off so many items on my to-do list. Then at the end of such a day the reality hits me like a brick: IT IS NOT TRUE.
So, I'm naming some of the feelings I am cycling through at the close of today: guilt, more guilt, greater guilt, stressed, tired, overwhelmed.
That completed to-do list is an ephemeral, pie-in-the-sky fantasy of a weak mind. Yet, I can't let go of its shiny promise and squeaky-clean virtue. And thus I set myself up for such a day as follows:
6:23AM Roll out of bed twenty minutes after alarm. Groggy.
Shower, breakfast, dress, hair, make-up, make bed, load dishwasher, pack lunch, dinner, snacks and water for the day, pack school bag, food bag, temple bag.
7:45AM Carry too-many bags to car and realize this is why my friend calls me "the bag lady."
7:55AM Get to oil change shop and am first in line just like I planned; Try to decide which of the many bags I take into the shop with me to keep occupied while waiting. Hope I can get out of there in under 40 minutes.
8:30AM Oil change, emissions inspection, headlight changed, back window washer part fixed; so elated at the fast timing and all the work done, that I pay the bill and leave the shop forgetting my school bag in the waiting room.
8:45AM Head to doctor's appointment in Alpine. Fill up the car with gas. Realize I'm missing my school bag. Call the oil change shop and have them hold on to it for me until I can get back to that part of town later in the day. Now all that schoolwork I was going to do while waiting at the doctor's office? Won't happen.
9:00AM Stop by chiropractor's office on way to doctor's appointment. They are both 20-30 minutes away from my house so I congratulate myself on dovetailing these two appointments. Plus, my back has really been hurting again.
9:15AM Sit in massage chair after adjustment and try to keep my moans of pleasure to a minimum as I spend ten delicious minutes in that particular heaven.
9:50AM Arrive at doctor's appointment 10 minutes early.
10:30AM Finally get my name called. They take my stats: blood pressure, pulse, temperature and my all-time favorite one: weight.
11:00AM Spend twenty minutes with doctor. Reminds me why I like her. She and I are on the same page philosophically about health. Love that. Read my favorite natural health magazine while waiting. (Would have done it anyway--school bag or no school bag. Just have a hard time admitting that beforehand).
11:45AM Stop at grocery store on way back to town because I'm completely out of toilet paper. Qualifies as emergency in my house.
12:05PM Pick up school bag at oil change shop. Not my most effective use of time that day.
12:30PM Stop at sister's house on my way back to work to drop off some meds I had picked up for her at the doctor's office. She has a house full of sick kids and a new baby. Spend two blissful minutes cuddling newborn.
1:00PM Land back at my desk at work. Feeling upbeat, energetic; Scarf down lunch.
1:15PM First inkling that something is not right in our little web division. One student programmer huffy, the other proposing solutions. Have to get a press release out and no time to sort through particulars.
1:59PM Leave last step on press release for assistant. Head to class. Late for the third time this week. I HATE walking into class late.
2:55PM Arrive back at desk with Halloween candy. Hoping to get everybody back on their feet and sort through the huffy brewing emotional slew from earlier.
3:15PM No time to sort. One problem with website, next problem, another problem, more problems. It is turning into one of those days where chunks of website are malfunctioning. We all move into emergency mode. Must get on top of the current rash of malfunctions.
4:30PM Between the four of us, major issues are resolved. Two students head home. The other--the one I will call Grumpy--appears in my office to unload his story of website woe. I spend the next hour cajoling, wheedling, comforting and putting him back together so he can put our website back together.
6:00PM Finally, peace and quiet for the first time.
6:02PM Time to sort my own emergency issues for the work day and handle most important items.
7:20PM Stop. Remember that I owed my part of a group project earlier that day. Hurry and wrap up my part and email it to my group. Scarf down dinner.
7:50PM Turn off the lights at work.
7:55PM Walk in to temple. Just in time to make the last session.
10:05PM Driving home. Awash in guilt. Too-busy day.
Did you learn anything from my day? My takeaway: Too-stuffed days leave me in a puddle of feelings which I must spend the next hour analyzing--thus messing up my need to go to bed so I can get up the next day and start another day all over again.
Last week I had the chance to attend the birth of my little nephew. Let's call him Baby Mac.
My sister asked me several months ago to be her birth partner or doula through this experience. I was thrilled with the chance to do so. I had talked to her over the phone through the labor of her 2nd child and I had been invited to be her birth partner on baby #3. Now, she was up to baby #4 and I was invited again.
Her hubby, of course, was present and active during the delivery as her number one support. I was there specifically to assist her as she was birthing unmedicated. I know there is a whole realm of discussion about natural childbirth or medicated childbirth. My view of the whole discussion comes down to "As long as mama and baby are healthy and well then it is a win-win situation whichever way you go." I respect every woman's choice for her own birth experience. That said, I definitely am fascinated by natural/unmedicated childbirth and I've been lucky enough to get to participate with my sister through her own experiences with this kind of childbirth.
What my job was during the birth was to have toolbox of ideas and techniques to help Meg through the birth. Her whole focus--obviously--was centered on baby and getting him here. My job was to do whatever I could to make her as comfortable and supported through that process. We had discussed her desires for the birth, any interventions, and the baby's aftercare. I was there to make sure that those wishes were carried out when Meg was occupied with the all-encompassing process of birthing baby. More importantly though, I was there to tune in to Meg. What did she need? What did she want? What part of her body ached? Was she tensing up? What words would encourage her? Were the lights down low? Was soothing music playing? Was she hot? Was she cold? Tired? Hungry? Thirsty? Did she need to move? Change positions? Get in the tub? Go to the bathroom? Go for a walk?
My focus was to anticipate her needs and carry them out.
Here are a few things that I did during the birth:
Foot massages--Meg really likes these and they help her whole body to calm down and relax.
Light touch massage--think of someone lightly tickling your back or arms. Makes me want to fall asleep usually.
Brushed my teeth & popped breath mints throughout time there because I kept leaning over and whispering in her ear or talking close to her face and I didn't want my possible bad breath to distract her focus.
Applied cold washcloths to her forehead and back of neck when she suddenly got really hot during part of her labor.
Wrapped her in blankets when her teeth chattered and she was shivering
Spoke encouraging words often
Walked with her
Vocalized with her
Helped back and forth to bathroom and in and out of the tub
Communicated with nurses and midwife for her
Suggested new positions for her try
Used acupressure to help her during harder contractions
Constantly offered her water to make sure she stayed hydrated
Made sure she ate yogurt, juice, crackers immediately after birth to help her blood sugar
When she hit the "I can't do this" moment, made sure that we got in different positions and moved and did anything we could to help her through that moment
Now looking over that list I know that it was a small contribution compared to the true work that Meg was doing. But certainly it was more than just holding her hand or standing helplessly by as she went through the birth alone. I hope it eased her way somewhat.
While Baby Mac's birth story is not my story to share, I did have a few thoughts and impressions from my own viewpoint of that day.
Childbirth is simply an astounding process. That a child can be breathing fluids one moment and air the next moment, that a woman's body can manage to expel an 8-pound human being out of tiny crevice in her own body, that no conscious thought went into the creation of a ten tiny fingers and toes, two functioning lungs, a full skeletal frame, two bright eyes, and a brain that is so delicate and magnificent at the same moment that we as humans haven't even begun to understand it---this is a breathtaking experience.
I like it when my normally mild sister gets a little feisty. Favorite feisty moment had to be when she was tired and beleaguered after a prolonged pushing phase and the nurse suggested a bit too sugar sweetly that Meg just pick a goal (like 15 minutes) and shoot for that goal. Meg's response: "I don't want a goal!" which could have been translated "And anyone who suggests such idiocy again can get a razor-sharp dagger and plunge it in her eye, thank you very much!" Don't mess with the mama bear in labor.
When my sister cries--either out of pain or joy--I cry too.
I suspect there is nothing quite as heroic and tender as watching a man hold his wife close as she endures the pangs of life-giving labor.
The unbridled relief that washes through the room when baby finally arrives and is pronounced whole and well and is delivered immediately to his mama's waiting arms. Those first, brief moments of mother-love are priceless.
I've spent the last week stealing over to Meg's house as often as possible to snuggle, cuddle, and just look at Baby Mac. Why are new babies so fascinating? Why can I can spend so much time just looking at him and memorizing his features and his toes and his eyes? Why is there nothing on earth quite as delicious as a new baby? The chubby cheeks, the soft skin, that new baby smell?
Just a brief rundown of life as I know it, right now.
Awesome birthday this weekend. Did a lot of cooking with my sister and went on a hike. Watched a Jane Austen movie and ate chocolate with friends. It was LOVELY.
Got a great cookbook and made a chocolate, gluten-free cake from it that everyone ate this weekend at family dinner.
Launched a new website at work and somehow survived.
Made an apple crisp that I ate for breakfast this morning too. Yummy.
Primary program in two weeks. Forty children must be on their marks right on time and sing angelically. I will remember to breathe after the program is over.
Didn't exercise a lick last week. Except for the hike. Got to get back on that bandwagon.
Studying. Studying. Studying.
And most important and very most exciting. Waiting for baby #4 to show up for my sister. I'm excited for her for this event and excited for another sweet new baby. My brother Brock and his wife, Julie, had sweet baby Cole Dallen last week, so with Meg's new arrival we will have two little cousins who are just a few weeks apart in age. I love watching these babies grow up together.
In the meantime, keep praying for Meg as we await the arrival of this new little munchkin. I'm excited she wants me in the delivery room and I'm thrilled to get to witness once again this miracle called birth.
This event needs to be noted for posterity--or just for me. Miracles do occur, my friends and this is one of them.
I needed to make an early morning stats lab today and I had to be on campus before 8AM if I was going to make it.
So, I got up at 5AM, went to the gym, came home and showered, had breakfast, loaded the dishwasher, threw in a load of laundry, studied scriptures, then did the full hair and makeup routine, packed a bag with lunch and dinner and made it out the door by 7:30AM. I stopped for gas, got on campus, parked and made it to the lab at 7:50AM--a entire ten minutes before I was due.
And then I sat there, literally, stunned. Have I ever been on campus before 8AM in full hair and makeup, well-rested from a full night's sleep, having exercised and studied scriptures and with a bag packed with meals for a full day?
I do not think so. My usual state that early would have been groggy from lack of sleep or dressed haphazardly with hair pulled back in a ponytail and no makeup. I certainly would not have exercised and studied scriptures. And to arrive ten minutes early as well? The universe was smiling on me today.
Like I said, just wanted to note this for posterity sake.
Okay, and maybe acknowledge that every once in a while, I get it right. So right, that it seems aliens have inhabited my body.