⪧ We left our life in New York City to make a new one in Provence ⪦

March 30, 2013

A morning walk with John.



The wonders of Cape Cod.



March 28, 2013

Entertainment of the finest variety.



Xavier put together this video of little lady, in which she is featured (with a very fine post-bed 'do) popping up and and down performing peek-a-boo, gazing dreamily into her own eyes and yours - if you watch, and clapping/ranting as a finale. I was just discussing with my co-workers and explaining that we do not have a television. Who needs a television when you have Colette?

March 27, 2013

Cantaloupe?



First, Miss Colette separated out our chosen items from the shopper behind us. When the conveyer belt moved underneath her, she would get slightly distracted from her job.



Once she passed through the scanner, she slid down to get bagged. This did not phase our check-out lady, who was pretty confused in general. She would lift one bag of produce items after another and name the wrong fruit or vegetable. A bag of avocados: "apples?" she would ask us, clearly puzzled. At first, I thought she just hadn't run into avocados or tangerines or pears much maybe - or something (strange given her profession). But when she lifted the bag of kiwis and said, "cantaloupe?" I understood the problem was more serious. It was almost a case like The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (a fascinating read if you haven't). She was very jolly about the whole thing too - once her chosen name of fruit/vegetable was contradicted or confirmed (sometimes she got it right, but would always ask), she would nod her head and repeat while typing in the code. Odd. So when Colette slid past her with the other groceries, she almost didn't think twice. I half expected her to pick up Colette and query, "grapefruit?" while referencing the long list of possibilities on her produce chart.



March 22, 2013

Cake.





Someone is delighted to have her grandparents (and so many other fans) here for her birthday.

March 21, 2013

Colette. One year.



The end of a pregnancy makes you feel like you smell bad. People offer you their seat in the metro, but they are frightened by your body. They scoot away - they avoid eye contact, especially in the city. You are no longer regarded as a woman; you become the thing you are carrying. At work, it was: "What are you still doing here?", even though I took almost a full month off before my delivery. In yoga classes, the spaces next to me were the last remaining unoccupied zones. I was a brewing peril.

Part of the alienation is self-imposed. I was so hyper-focused on what I was becoming, the unstoppable brunt of the thing inside of me, I was hard to relate to. I was dominated by it, particularly since Miss Colette stayed on days after her due date passed. I wore down the days of waiting by waiting and I couldn't do otherwise. After false labor on two different nights the waiting grew thick with uncertainty and insecurity.

And then it began. I heard pause in her voice when we called the midwife to let her know I had progressed to the point of coming to the hospital. She said she didn't have space for me where I had enrolled to have a natural delivery – in the birthing center of the hospital. Xavier and I seriously shrank what those words would mean for us. I ended up laboring in the chaos of triage a total of 8 hours because there wasn’t room in the birthing center. At some point, my midwife appeared. She was otherwise like a chimera about whose existence I increasingly had doubts. Her voice was soothing, but the narrative belied the tone:

“Triage has a policy. 2 hours maximum. You are way past that. There is still not room for you in the birthing center. I want you to have that experience. [Heavy pause]. You could go to Lincoln Center – there are nice public bathrooms there. Or you could go to a hotel for a few hours. You have to leave though, or else we will have to admit you to a standard birthing room and the birthing center is out.”

“Lincoln Center?!” cried Xavier, the Frenchman. Total outrage. “A hotel?! Barbarism.”

I was halfway dilated. The trip to the hotel felt like I was being quartered. The trip back was an impossibility. Finally a room had opened up in the birthing center, but the midwife was still astray (she helped birth 3 other babies that shift). At 9 centimeters – hours later, vomiting port colored blood, I ended up with an epidural and in it, found my cognizance again. The room went from being totally blurred to a blinding clarity. The rest of the story is too recognizable – struggling with three doctors, each a specialist in something – vacuum, forceps, cesarean sections – to insist (and hear Xavier repeatedly insist) on them letting me try to push without any intervention. The contractions that had ripped through me were suddenly invisible. Now I needed them to know when to push. I searched Xavier, the midwife and the three doctors’ eyes fiercely to understand when. With all of my force that seemed to evaporate into the numbness of my body, I pushed. 15 minutes passed and then her head appeared, soon her eyes – closed like a listless doll, her hair – curly and white with wax, and then her little body slithered out.

I wasn't remade by her until we went home. Then, it was all her.

It was painful when people visited the first couple of weeks – even my dear friends. They brought with them a wonted world, of which I was no longer a part. That world felt injurious. I was so tender – we were so tender. Words felt like they made dents in my skin. I would close the door behind them and travel back to the land of Colette – my baby, fold myself inside and wish for nothing else, completely fulfilled by simply nuzzling my nose softly against her neck. She seemed to me the most tragic being. Just looking at her made my stomach fall. A walk outside felt treacherous and made my mind race with all the clouds of menace in the world.

About a month after Colette was born a blessed friend came over to do a ‘body talk’ session with me. She hovered her hands above the injured parts of my body – not the literally affected parts, but those emotional portals to the soul – my abdomen, my eyes, my skull, my sternum, my mouth, my hands. She forced me to revisit each of the biting elements of the birth experience. My head and body throbbed. She traced circles above my line of sight to follow and work through the memories ocularly. I cowered in the face of the trauma I still felt after the birth and I asked myself, why? I had been so insistent on a natural birth, on the power of my body to birth a baby, on my strength. The trauma stemmed from my perception of failure and the magnitude of how little control I felt. It is only now, one year after the birth, I can think about it without crying.

I have a new range of view. Now I see babies everywhere. On the orange and yellow squared seats of the A train: babies. They are wrinkled, wearing mustaches and glasses, converse all-stars – they are long-haired and sweaty, but they are all babies. I stare up at skyscrapers and am in awe of their ballast; I stand open-mouthed that babies have built it all.

I think for me, the act of birth and the pain I experienced was the dawn of a new form of emotional intelligence, one where history is now a story of babies and the empathy I feel makes me an altered human. Colette’s birth was my entryway to the oldest and most epic of love stories.

This is the story I didn't want to tell for a year. Lying on that table was precisely the less-than-ideal circumstance that I described when struggling to find the right care provider for the birth (when I went back and read my writing, I cringed at its prescience). So, I am still not sure what to do with it and am dumbfounded when considering what kind of care choices I might make the next time around. Where I was convinced and assertive (and full of hubris) about the question of birth before it happened, I am left stunned and unsure.

I’ve thought a lot about why people want to have children since Colette was born. Yes, I wanted a baby before she came – but I didn’t even know what a baby was. I read this paper recently: “What Mary can’t expect when she is expecting” – on decision theory and choosing parenthood. It describes what happens to a person when they become a parent brilliantly: Mary is in a black and white room and it is only when she leaves and is exposed to red can she “know” what the color is. Her epistemic position is transformed. So motherhood or fatherhood is: completely transformative.

Most importantly: Happy birthday, Miss Baby.

She is - to me - love incarnated in the most bewitching form.


(Shell shocked with 1-day old Colette)

March 19, 2013

Un bon public.



She claps every time someone plays the piano (personally or puts a roll in and 'plays' the player piano).

March 18, 2013

Papamobile.



The other day we were talking and Xavier mentioned very casually a "Papamobile." This is the term in French for the vehicle in which the Pope gets wheeled around. Maybe it is because I grew up Mormon, but I had no idea there was such a vehicle - a vehicle designed solemnly for the people of the world to view and wave at the Pope. I didn't believe Xavier until I finally googled the term and got these photos (do it, there are many more). Ridiculous. So laughable. There are many models and maybe even a leggo rendering of the thing. (As much as I respect various creeds and beliefs, the Catholic church is one organization that seems rotten from its core right now).



March 17, 2013

To the land of Stephen.



Colette loves coming here. Turns round and round and at every turn she is awash by curiosities that all live together in such accord. If I have felt isolated since having miss baby, Stephen certainly turns down that dial - delighting in little lady's evolution. He loves alluring/startling her with his taxidermied friends. She reached out to touch Mr. Antelope here and then recoiled her hand just as it reached his nose, unsure.



March 16, 2013

Big sister.



Marguerite flew back to Paris with Papa yesterday. How we will miss big sister - and such a big sister she is. Helped with everything Colette and laughed and made Colette laugh at every turn. Really beautiful to watch their relationship blossom. Colette is waving every time we enter a new room, thinking and hoping Miss Marguerite will be there waiting for her.

March 14, 2013

Happy?

I’ve been thinking about being happy. Xavier and I recently watched a documentary about the subject. It was called, “Happy.” (On Netflix Instant Play)

One of its lessons was so old, but so true: money cannot make you happy. I worked for someone for a few years who was enormously wealthy – a billionaire. I was surprised by one thing – how much he was ultimately possessed by what he owned. The things he bought controlled his life. I guess the same principle applies to all of us. The documentary was interesting because it outlined how there is no real measurable increase in happiness between someone making $50,000 and someone making $5 million or $5 billion a year (money seems to have a relationship with happiness only for those who don’t make enough to survive. Interesting concept behind this: hedonic adaptation). So that is one thing.

Another good distinction the documentary made was between intrinsic and extrinsic sources of motivation – extrinsic focuses: status, money, image | intrinsic focuses: compassion, relationships, personal growth. People who source motivation externally are less happy.

Relationships were key. Close, loving relationships were a common point across all happy people.

Gratitude. Happiness is literally sourced from gratitude. I thank my parents for being people who appreciate – who are thankful. The makers of this film insisted that happy people are people who practice gratitude – they actively seek to name the things they are grateful for (things we all have).

And then, Flow. Flow is interesting. It is essentially when people are present. Activities where we are fully engaged – motivated. Enraptured by a task - where all of our emotions are harnessed around doing it. These are the moments where you lose yourself in the thing you are doing – the task absorbs you. Writing, sports, photography, drawing, so many things - different things for different people. It is often tied to physical activity. Flow could even be moments spent with a baby. People who are happy consistently experience flow and know how to access it.

My happiness baseline, if you will, has always been pretty high. I laugh easily. I look for the sunshine - for a good angle, one that will highlight beauty. I walk around pretty much OK with the world and the people around me. Lately, I've felt sad though. Having a baby is part of it. The impact of a little human is enormous - it sort of undoes the world you lived in and rejiggers all of the elements. I've felt isolated by a landscape that shifted fundamentally for me, but did not necessarily for a lot of my favorite people. Strangely, though, nothing has ever made me happier than Colette. So, I've been looking to understand my happiness. The way that documentary framed happiness was so basic, so blatant, but also so useful in exploring where I source happiness in a moment when it doesn't necessarily come easily.

March 11, 2013

Subway.



Colette got a little haircut. Xavier wanted the "playmobile figurine" look. I think we got it. Miss helmet.





Kisses on the subway platform.



Colette notices things on the subway. People - definitely people. Still waving and blowing kisses all over the underground world. Still pointing at her person before waving or blowing the kiss: choosing them first.



Still hanging upside down like a bat to snack (still in disbelief that her French father allowed her to snack on a piece of bread in a public place outside of snack/meal time), to see the bench across the car, the people. Just a different angle, you know.



Yesterday, she found a red light. It illuminated when the subway doors opened at stops; it went off when they closed. She kept insistently pointing with her little finger and finally we realized that she had caught sight of that red light down at the very end of the car we were in.

March 9, 2013

Grand Central Station.



I love Grand Central. Even though I work just down the street, it always feels like such a destination - like a real outing. Sometimes I leave work just to go stand and look at the ceiling. Then I go back and sit at my desk quite galvanized. It is pretty nerdy. The station just turned 100 years old and recently underwent an extensive renovation - so it is gleaming and showing its best self.





Also, did you know:


March 8, 2013

It is coming.


Sweet baby iris, the first of the bulb blooms. Tomorrow will be sunny and bright and warm enough to melt all of this away. And the babies will keep rising.

They were great silhouettes. His, the trees, the window frame in the lobby of my building, St. Bartholomew's in the background. All framing the snow. I went downstairs to find a tiny bit of inspiration and it was on hand.

March 7, 2013

Stamping.



Leave it to John to pull out the perfect revelry for a certain 7-year old: an antique stamp collection. Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, cowboys, Indians, Eskimos: the American works. Marguerite was totally absorbed.



Colette kept popping up from behind the couch and tables performing her best peek-a-boos. Skip was especially appreciative - he kept sighing his relief that she was gone, only to find her pop right back up again. (He was also delighted by Colette's advances and attempts to charm him. Sweet cat - he usually just closes his eyes and relents to Colette's clumsy pawing).



March 6, 2013

Just taking a break.

Admiration.


Little sister watches big sister with glorification in her little eyes. Somehow, all of Marguerite's movements are so much more relatable to Colette. She is so focused on watching her that when she has to get dressed and you pull a shirt over her head, she screams while Marguerite's movements are out of sight. Colette must know that Marguerite's state is attainable - that she will become like that. We adults must just be like another breed entirely to her.

March 2, 2013

Marguerite.



Marguerite has arrived. Colette was asleep when she first got here, but the next morning, we all crept into Colette's room together when she woke up. She saw Marguerite and sort of looked astonished. Since then it has been smiles all the time for her big sister. Marguerite makes faces at the dinner table and Colette is in stitches. Cross-eyed Marguerite makes Colette pound on her high chair with applause. Basically anything Marguerite = jubilation.





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