Holy shit. Did that happen?

I imagined the moment in my mind: a hotter than usual spring day at work, watching live feeds and twitter streams, waiting for news about the Supreme Court’s decision in Someone vs. The State that would change my life. I imagined the agonizing wait between the decision in some other state and the inevitable consequence in Virginia – the day we, too, would get the right to be married.

I did not imagine that I would wake up on a completely unremarkable Monday in October with a slight cold and by 11am I’d be rushing to the Courthouse. I was married on Monday. MARRIED. To my gorgeous wife. Married.

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Civil rights. Civil fucking rights. They deserve their own moment. It’s all their own moment. But today is to tell you about my wedding.

In that almost-wedding-moment in August, I bought a dress that was too plum-colored and too heavy for summer. Independently, my wife’s best person helped her pick out a tie that matched perfectly. We threw them on and rushed to the courthouse to stand in line for marriage license. I guess you can’t leave rights out, after all. The room slowly filled with other couples and members of the press. The tiny space was chaotic and filled with happy families waiting for that very moment when it would be legal to sign the first license.

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We couldn’t have planned it better – the press followed the first family out to the courthouse steps and in the silence, Debra and I committed to each other, again, in front of the Clerk of the Court.

The community started there, with the hugs and the handshakes from our fellow brides and grooms and the enthusiastic embrace from the Clerk. It followed us to the steps of the courthouse where we settled in to watch the string of ceremonies, listened to the happy honking from passing cars, and began to panic, a little, about everything going right.

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Before we got there, we called our local families and our best friends and planned on a 3:30 ceremony. Yes, we’d have to wait two hours, but the license was in hand and we were likely to make it before the Supreme Court could take it away. There’s that rights thing, popping up again. A co-worker arrived with a veil, her own balsa-wood bouquet, and a tiny champagne bottle with paper cups. Friends left their offices. Their children walked over with picked wildflowers for RR. My parents brought RR and we slipped her into a new dress. And then it happened.

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We were married. We are MARRIED. In the state that we live in. Married.

I could talk your ear off. About the press and our fellow newlyweds. About the tremendous outpouring of support from our community. About the gifts our friends gave us – their presence, a serenade from the steps, their joy in this victory. We’re married. You can share our moment here and here and here. I’m not promising this is the last you’ll hear about this. I’m still overwhelmed and a little tongue-tied. But I wanted to tell you, because you are always here to listen, that I am filled with joy and amazement and a sense of gratification.

Married.

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Nerves

I have more than my fair share of nerves today.  I’m nervous about visiting my family in Wyoming next week and the travel and lunacy that comes with that trip.  I’m nervous about staying home alone with my child this weekend while my wife goes to be a rockstar.  Not pretend y’all, she really sings.  And rocks.  And is the most awesome role model.  And is leaving us so people can gaze at her for a night and tell her how amazing her voice is and how much they love her music.  So excited for her.  Nervous for me and the babe.  Also, I’m taking on some of her nervousness (though I doubt she’s getting any relief) about playing out post-baby (though she sounds terrific).  And then there are the less concrete things.  Nervous about RR teething (and will she and when and how), about her skillz (mad, maybe, if I could ever see them) and how one day she’ll be going to college.

See? This is where it all goes terribly wrong.  The other night I lay awake wondering about my plan of escape when the zombie apocalypse happened, what size drill bit we’d need to screw boards over the windows and whether we’d remember to uncrate the dog.  Internet, I was  up all night deciding it would be better to let us all  be eaten than to have see my dog cower in front of a pack of brains crazed zombies and wondering what time the Lowe’s opened so I could pick up that special hammer drill.

I’m not the sane one in the family.

I hope it stays that way, with RR having inherited her mother’s stability (and willingness to overlook my instability).  I even have a host of mental health professionals in my phone contacts…and, you’ll be pleased to know, my appointment calendar.  Well, not a host.  But enough, people.  One of them said to me recently that things out of the ordinary, good or bad, cause stress to some degree.  “It’s sort of like seeing a tiger in the woods,” she said.  “Do you fight or flee?”  She laughed at herself for thinking of a tiger of all things, but I’ve used it as a touchstone since she said it.  Spilled coffee?  Just a tiger.  Late for a meeting?  Tiger.  Staying home alone with little tiny baby while hot wife drives far away to sing without me?  Tiger. Tiger!  Zombies?  TIGER. Thinking about tigers distracts me a bit, partly cause I can’t leave well enough alone.  Small tiger?  Big TIGER?  Dark orange? How do the stripes go?  And so forth.  And then it’s all tigers all the time which is okay, because then when I am starving (tiger) and running late (tiger) and insisting that I do not want to put my baby at the mercy of my brother-in-law’s snow driving skills (TIGER!) it all seems a little less threatening.

Also, if you have tigers, it helps to think about this:

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We’ve had RR for 130 days.

Lots of things can happen in 130 days according to the internet.  You can get totally built, if you believe what Andy Jeziorski says (and dude, we don’t need to see your package in your pictures).  It’s how long it will take before the dollar falls (well, as of June 09, for what that’s worth).  It’s the rental period for college textbooks (without the add-on 30 day early bird bonus).  It’s above and beyond what reservists should serve but often do.  It’s the number of games Virginia Tech has played in 130 days and they have video to prove it.  And, it’s how long an Italian interior decorator lived in a sealed cave in 1989.

It’s pretty amazing then that in 130 days I haven’t managed to make mom friends.  Given the vast number of new moms we know of (and, in one case, live next door to), you’d think I’d have managed one play date.  I try to tell myself that she’s too little for play dates and that the time will come, but the reality is that I’m probably going to be odd one out for a while.

I’m not home with RR during the day.  I get emails from parenting listservs in town about fun sounding play groups, music or story time groups, new moms groups, and so forth.  I get so excited!  Hurrah!  And then I see the time.  11am on a Tuesday.  3:30 on Fridays.  Every Monday and Wednesday from 9-10am.  No baby yoga for us then.  But before I can get too down on the situation, I remind myself that even if there were offerings on the weekend or in the evenings, I probably wouldn’t go.  Things interfere – bedtime mostly (mine not hers).  I’m glad there are daytime events to enrich kids and parents and I wish I could be a part of them but we’re getting enriched via daycare (I hope) and through passingly rushed conversations with our child’s classmates’ parents (Mr.and Mrs. Liam, Mr. and Mrs. Ava, Mr. and Mrs. Hudson and mostly Mrs. Augustine)

And then there are my personal hang-ups.  I’m already socially terrified, the last thing I want to do is walk into a room of moms and not only negotiate the hurdle of being one of two mothers, but also of not being the birth mother.  It’s not that I think I’ll be stoned in the marketplace, it’s more that I feel like a bit like a land mine: everything looks just like you’d expect and then, wow, it’s really not anything you can cope with.  I’m probably both projecting and maligning the gentle parents in this relatively open-minded place, but I can’t help but die imagining that they will immediately dislike me and, more importantly, my daughter, because I’m not straight and because I didn’t spring her from my loins.  Loins.  Say it with me.  It’s the only thing not angsty about this post.

What I need is a queer parenting group.  Of under one-year-olds.  And while we’re making wishes, I’d also like it to be an established group that meets on weekend mornings filled with super nice folks.  While you’re cooking that up, I’m going to be working with what I have: cultivating our relationship with our neighbors, focusing on RR and D, smiling at the misters and missuses as we pass like ships each day and slowly warming RR up to friends with grown kids who like us as much as we like them, no judgement included.

Now that you’ve put up with all that, let’s get back to where we really like to be, shall we?  Loins.

I Feel like Making…Noise

This baby can sleep like the dead.  When she wants to.  Frankly, I could bang pots and pans – do, actually – outside her door and she’ll sleep blissfully through.  Dog barking?  Pshaw!  She’s in the Land of Nod.  Gunfire?  Helicopters?  Avalanches (yes, we live in a dangerous and unpredictable state of mind neighborhood)?  Cloud nine.  Eleven even.  Then there are the times when she doesn’t want to.  The time when a quiet knock on the door of the neighboring house will result in blasting screams from her crib.  Not to mention the sound of our screen door opening, the dog woofing, the cat purring, the wings of angels silently fluttering.  She’ll let you know how she feels about that racket and she doesn’t like it, NO SIR.

Ever the risk takers, we’ve been sleeping with her in our room since she was born.  I did have to shun her to the other side of the bed at the beginning – not because I was waking her but because she was waking me.  Now she sleeps over there, blissfully unfazed by my sleep talking, sleep scolding, sleep walking and other general sleep antics.  I’m a fun one, hoo boy.  But I’m not here to talk about sleep shenanigans.  At least, not my own.  The point is, she sleeps soundly for the first half of the night and she does that in our room.  The other thing happening in our room is…us.  Our sex drives have slipped back into sync.  Well, it happened for a fleeting moment.  And, during those moments, we’ve had a very nice time.  A not totally quiet time.  And that baby, bless her heart, SLEPT RIGHT THROUGH IT.

And that’s great.  Cause I don’t intend to slip back into marital complacency.  But what if we wanted to make noise?  You know, actually sudden sounds?  Sounds that are less like ooh baby right there and more like…something else?  Some of you must have been through this and have excellent tips to share.  Certainly, we’ll banish her to her room.  But we’re talking about a brick house with wooden floors and the unfortunate ability to transmit noise like a whispering gallery from rafter corners to basement cobwebs.  My only solution so far is to sidle up next to the HVAC system and have at it while the thing blows full blast.  And you know that’s incredibly hot.  I mean, just read that s sentence again.  I used the word HVAC.  Don’t you want to get down RIGHT NOW?

In an effort to protect your eyes (my own don’t need it, I assure you) I switched the comments for this post over so you can post anonymously and so that I can see them before/if they post.   I’ll pretend you don’t know me and you pretend I don’t know you.  Please tell me if you have any suggestions shy of getting a sitter.  We’re not that into threesomes.  😉

Blown Up

I’m going into work tomorrow again and, not surprisingly, I’m wide awake at four in the morning.  I’d understand if it were the baby causing the early morning antics.  Though, all things considered, she’s well-behaved at night and lets us sleep through the worst hours.  Nope, I think I can blame this purely on stress.

Unlike before, I know I can’t be awake like this.  I can’t afford to be tired or headachy when I get home from work.  There’s no going to bed early or sleeping late on the weekends (though, saint that she is, my wife has let me get an extra hour on more than one Saturday).  Eventually, we’re going to have to start cooking again.  Cooking things that don’t require a box.  Or, are green.  For me, that takes some level of alertness.  As does staying patient during the fussy times, waking up in the middle of the night with the babe and smiling at my wife.

So even knowing that it’s my own happiness on the line if I stay up, it’s not like I can just scoot on back to bed.  With work looming, my head hurts more, I’m gritting my teeth, and once I’m awake, it’s near impossible to get back to sleep.  And I’m not even back to work full-time!

It seems like having a child magnifies everything.  On the downside, the tiniest stress seems insurmountable and the littlest aches are painful.  You’d think that knowing I need to be less tightly wound would help me start getting there, but it isn’t working that way.  Apparently, that unflattering personality quirk is magnified, too.  On the upside, I had no idea I could love my wife this much or be this happy day-to-day.  That makes up for feeling frustrated that I’m wide awake instead of happily sleeping.

Waking Up

I have no idea how people do this.  This morning, I dragged myself out of bed at 8:00 but only after stripping off my pajamas so that I would get chilly enough that I had to get up.  I’m mostly a morning person.  I do not usually require nudity to get me out of bed.

I don’t even think we’re sleeping all that badly.  Sure, it isn’t uninterrupted, but RR sleeps in three-hour stretches punctuated by a snack and a diaper change.  There aren’t tantrums or prolonged periods of obnoxiousness.  I know it’s coming, probably tonight, but as of last night, she was still an A plus baby.  We’re each getting up once with her, although she occasionally, like this morning, stretches her 4am hello into a 430 and beyond GOOD MORNING, DAY!!!

But dragging myself out of bed at 8:00 and a 3:00-4:00 pm nap is not going to successfully get me to work.  Fortunately, I negotiated a very reduced schedule through mid-August, but come next Friday, I actually have to get up, dress, be at work by 830 and begin productively working until 500ish.  Holy shit, I’m in trouble.

How does anyone do this?  I’m not even all that distressed about leaving my infant since she’ll still be in my wife’s capable hands but who will wash the bottles?  Who will mix the formula?  Who will kiss her at her diaper changes and curse when she inopportunely pees, again?  Who will make sure she eventually passes out so my wife can sleep?  Who will keep me awake in meetings?  Who will pack my lunch?  Furthermore, who will go to the grocery store?  And, most importantly, will get me out of bed?

I’m a little concerned that we’re going to have to manage all this together when RR goes to daycare at the end of the summer.  Right now, I can’t even imagine manipulating this child into waking up any sooner or eating any later than she plans to.  She may not cry much but she has very firm opinions about what should happen when and she’s never heard of a workday.  We’re in trouble.  I’m in trouble.

A Different Birth Story

Labor was awesome.

I can say that, because I’m not the one who experienced an incision, uncontrollable contractions or constant invasive procedures and monitoring.  This is not to say I wasn’t involved mind and soul in a different sort of trial.  The average birth story is about the labor and the beautiful babe at the end.  You can read that over here.  For both of us, the beautiful babe part is the best part.  But here’s what I didn’t learn in childbirth class:

Pain (hers): She hurt everywhere and I couldn’t help her.  Sure, I was prepared for contractions, but not for pain at the IV site, a blood pressure cuff stuck at too tight too many times, blinding lights in her eyes, uncomfortable mattresses, muscle fatigue from c-section shaking or the unending back and hip pain when it all was done.

Pain (mine): Labor left me with bruises on both knees from kneeling next to her and from wedging my legs against the bed to hold onto her during contractions, see also crushed fingers, eyeball stabbed by hair and sticky blood between my toes (hers).  But I’ll tell you, when those contractions are happening, you’re sure as hell not moving.

Diaper Rash (mine): Those vinyl chairs they stock the delivery room with?  Not meant for sleeping/sitting in over the course of two days.  Not even a sheet could spare my tender nether regions from a vinyl-induced tragedy.

When You’re not Having a Baby, Other Things Still Matter: The dog at home in a thunderstorm.  My grandmother hovering around death (though recovered now).  The blinding can lights in the delivery room bringing on a migraine.  No toothbrush.  Parked illegally.  My mother: crazy.

The Nursing Staff: We’d considered a doula, knowing that we might want to be shielded from shenanigans.  We opted not to hire one because we didn’t feel certain the doula wouldn’t add to the shenanigans.  And there were shenanigans.  I didn’t realize that I would need to be constantly vigilant to make sure her comfort emotionally and physically was a priority.  Fortunately, we had excellent care, however that excellent care came with a certain amount of bullying (on their part).  I tried to temper that, see…

Be on Your Best Behavior: Friends of ours recommended bringing brownies (or something) to the staff.  We opted not to (and wouldn’t have had time, or enough chocolate to feed 2,700 shift changes), but I still felt a little uneasy that we might become “Room 5” or “those people” because we didn’t bring a bribe early thanks.  When it came down to it, being nice worked.  Remembering names worked.  Getting our own ice chips instead of ringing the call bell worked.  Smiling worked.  And, most importantly, recognizing that when the bullying meant to optimize care sometimes unintentionally forgot the patient that genuine conversation, explanation and ground rules cloaked in graciousness did the trick.

Ground Rules and Communication: The only rule that mattered was making labor as easy on her as possible.  While I knew that, had been told that, and it seemed so easy, what was easiest on her changed, sometimes within seconds.  I had to be constantly vigilant, especially when she couldn’t articulate the problem.  There were also decision points I never expected.  For example, I could see on a monitor the contractions mounting and descending but she couldn’t.  I wasn’t sure if she wanted to know or not.  It turns out she did and that it might have helped if I’d asked earlier on.

And Speaking of Shift Changes: They happen.  I knew that, intellectually, but I didn’t realize the approach to our care during labor would change so drastically from doctor to doctor and nurse to nurse.  I also never expected to be there long enough to learn that.

Yes, it’s 2010, Yes, We Still Needed a Calling Card: You all are certainly smarter than me.  You probably have one stashed somewhere.  And we should have listened to you.  But seriously, two cell phones and excellent reception at the hospital, why wouldn’t they work?  And how many times per year can this normally quiet city have a storm that knocks out more than the power? No cell phones for 24 hours.  No way to update family on labor and delivery.  No way to announce our baby girl.  No support.  No support. And that calling plan I do have, memorized since 1995?  The number and pin were completely gone from my mind.  I can’t believe I didn’t write it down before being under such incredible stress.

Friends Help, You Idiot (me): We’d been told over and over not to refuse any offers to help.  And we didn’t.  We had lots of offers from our neighbors, “Let us know if we can do anything!” but we never got their phone numbers (or gave them a key, which would have been really useful).  Our families don’t live nearby.  We had no planned rotation for visits or help and couldn’t call for any (see: storm).  We never said no to any offers but we didn’t ASK for help either.  We should have even though it seemed like we wouldn’t need or want it.

Things They Weren’t Kidding About: The c-section room is really cold.  When the spinal block makes her shake, it’s going to look like a 20 minute seizure. Constant fetal heart rate monitoring sucks.  Ask for pain medication.  Bring your toothbrush, even if you don’t think you’ll need it, see…

The Most Valuable Things I Had And Why it Doesn’t Matter to You: A change of clothes AND a pair of sweats.  Close-toed shoes.  No, seriously.  Both cell phone chargers.  A laptop.  The ability to assume the best intentions of anyone.  Snacks.  Face cleansing wipes.  Mouthwash.  Gum.  But, it turns out, all of those things were important for this labor, for us.  You might not labor so long your partner will need sweats.  You might not spatter blood, etc. on the floor making your partner silently say thanks for hot, uncomfortable close-toed shoes.  The wireless internet might be your lifesaver in lieu of other means of communication even if you do have to take your eyes off of her for one second.  And apparently, her sense of smell might be more acute while delivering than expected.  Thanks, Orbit.

The Cat Litter Was the Least of My Worries: It doesn’t stop when the baby gets here.  Before the baby was conceived, my wife took care of me.  Took care of the heavy things.  The stinky things.  When Vegas Ruby Reed was on the way, I mowed the lawn, scooped the cat box, heaved the dog food, ran the errands, took care of the heavy, the stinky, the gross.  C-section plus baby means I’m doing all that plus some, see…

Sense of Self: It’s no surprise that delivering a baby changed us and that we both feel maternal.  But I’m also grieving the loss of my wife.  I do expect her back but I imagine she’ll be different when she gets here.  I miss the way she cuddled me after a bad day.  The way she opened doors.  The attention.  The sex.  The surprise gifts, see…

“Push Gift”: Prior to the birth, we talked about the concept of a thanks-for-having-my-baby gift.  Based on those conversations, I had mostly decided against it, though I still wasn’t certain when we went in.  I’m not a flowers girl.  I never seem to remember the little things.  But I did get flowers when all the power came back on.  I bought every bouquet that looked beautiful and arranged them in a big vase and brought them to her in the morning.  She tells me it was the best decision I made.

The Oregon Trail is Underrated: I don’t live anywhere near my family and I love it.  I’m independent and my family is crazy.  My mother craves attention (see catastrophic knee injury during D’s labor and subsequent miraculous recovery), my sisters are overwhelmed with their own lives, my father is better with mechanics than people, my grandmothers are crumbling (not surprisingly as they are in their late 90s) and most of my friends are scattered to the four corners of the earth.  I needed support then and now.

Childbirth Class Wasn’t That Bad: I didn’t take much from Redneck Childbirthin’ that could be used in the moment.  I did get two completely unexpected benefits.

A) The man who made the “c-sections are just like guttin’ a deer” remark prepared me for that operating room more than he could have imagined.  He lent a sense of the humorous and the macabre, surprisingly important in that bright, scary operating room, and;

B) Next to us, laboring for the entire 36 hours and then some that we did, was the youngest couple from our class.  Although we never really connected in class, we felt an affinity for them because they looked as if they might not be so set in their ways that they would automatically discriminate.  I held on to the idea of them like a life-preserver as things got increasingly harder.  They were right there, next door, going through this too.  And the support I needed so desperately?  Came in the form of a sideways hat, jeans  around his knees, white t-shirt wearing, toothpick on his lip boy/man who was as exhausted and as overwhelmed and as suddenly complete as I was, see…

Found – Missing Piece: Over and over we heard that having a child would change everything.  Of course it does.  The surprising part was how satisfied I felt once she got here.  I didn’t even know my life was missing something.  But it was.  It absolutely was.  She’s it.