January 29, 2014

Hamilton Heights.

I like our neighborhood. When we first moved to Harlem, I was circumspect - worried about commuting a bit further, being in a neighborhood that is changing rapidly (but still isn't loaded with the shops, conveniences that are well-established in other Manhattan neighborhoods), etc. But Hamilton Heights has proven to be such a gem. Not only was it the neighborhood in Manhattan with the greatest rise in real estate prices/value last year (nice investment work, Xavier), it is also the stewart of all sorts of architectural plums.

Now that I am less scared of splitting open now (a strange feeling to be sure) I have been exploring the neighborhood on long walks, camera in hand. I wrap little baby Romy in up to 6 blankets, creating what looks like an enormous papoose strapped to my front.

Harlem isn't like the rest of the city. People talk to you. I stood outside of the recently restored Bailey Mansion at 150th and St. Nicholas (featured here) and I heard a voice not far, "That is a brand new person, isn't it?" It was a sweet voice, subdued, and I loved the way she phrased the idea of a baby. I turned and confirmed and spoke to a woman who lived in transitional housing there next to the Bailey Mansion. Standing in the January sun with her hands on the railing of the house like a confident speaker at a pulpit she said, "I prayed to the Lord to bring me home and that is what he did. Sometimes you get what you need." She was a good spirit. There are people all over this neighborhood like that. Their pace is often different from the rest of the people in this city and when you have the time to soak it in, it is really refreshing.

January 27, 2014


We are staying inside. These below freezing temperatures are killing me. The views out the window are icy and lovely though and Romy keeps getting better and better in here.

January 22, 2014


It is an Xavier ritual - lining up shoes for shining. This time, Colette got in on it. She loves jobs. She sat there brushing each shoe carefully, delighted and taking the whole thing very serioulsy.

January 15, 2014

Small moments.

These small moments are strenuous. Or rather, the ability to appreciate them is hard-won. I've been foraging for gratitude after this birth. In watching the little sleeping soul I hardly know yet, in fighting Colette's tantrums (there is a lot of humor to be found there), in being surrounded by so many people I love in this. And yet, it is really difficult. I feel lonely and tethered. When I look back over the past two years though, it really is in the very small moments of story reading and little tiny fingers and toes sunk in bath water and slow walks in our neighborhood that I find myself wistful and smiling about the dissolved time.

Here is our Galette des Rois this year - with our lovely queen. (If you are in New York and looking for a bakery who makes them Maison Kayser is one place).

And Romy grows into herself every day. She looks like someone new each time we wake up.

January 7, 2014


I read an article on cesarean sections as I lay forever awake in the hospital - roused by endless beeping, wails from the nursery, checkers of my vital-signs, the whir of the IV pump, the tubes coming and going in and out of me. It stated that cesarean section mothers are less responsive to their newborns than mothers who give birth vaginally - because of the lack of oxytocin experienced in labor and delivery. I was fascinated - not offended. I remembered the rush of love that swamped me when Colette was born. I was literally overcome. I couldn't read news articles or talk to people for about three weeks without crying about it. So, here I was 24 hours after a cesarean wondering how this little Romy lady and I were going to fare without that oxytocin.

I had just been through a science fiction birth. I walked into a blinding room - metal and sharp edges and cold instruments and eyes peering out of blue bands (the only human part was Xavier's big brown eyes and eyelashes hovering over my head, every blink a salve for my increasing disquiet) - and 10 minutes later a baby was wailing like a tiger and my midsection was being pulled and rolled over by a bulldozer (without any pain) and suddenly a charming woman in glasses came over looking for a formal introduction (a pediatrician, I guess) and then Xavier was allowed to present small baby to me and I could gaze at her sideways while wanting to scream: "stop tugging!" Romy: I apologize, our initial introduction was not up to the occasion.

No, a cesarean is not something I will ever understand, having provided both passages out.

That time that I threw up violently at work about a month ago - that was when Romy flipped head up in my belly. Or so we think. Had we been more thorough in checking baby's position, we most certainly could have "turned" her at 36 weeks, but by 39 weeks, impossible. Perhaps I was leaking amniotic fluid - there was close to none left. No chance to turn her and no chance to get her out any other way than the sci fi version. Alas, I had wanted a simplified birth version to uproot the other one in my mind and body, but instead I got the non-birth, the tech version of the tale - leaving me feeling raw and resentful. At least it was a clean incision.

Back to Romy. When she drinks I can see dimples in her cheeks like her papa and her little furry head makes me think I am sleeping with a woodland creature on my chest - who whimpers and purrs and charms through her endless dream routine. She is divine. Now that we are about a week into the whole thing, I must disagree with the findings of that article. I am totally in love. I am only less responsive because it takes me so long to sit up or do anything really. Plenty of oxytocin running through these veins.

My mom has swooped in and has taken Colette in her arms to bestow all the "holdings", story-book readings, piggy back rides, baths and full on love I wanted to pour all over her while I was in the hospital and since I've been a bit bed focused at home. And with Marguerite, my mom has encircled her in every element of getting to know baby Romy and the games and fun she has with Colette. This is something she has always done for this little French girl. The care my mom gives is incredible because she considers what you need, not what she thinks you need and she fulfills it that way. And Stephen, my dream of a brother, is here almost every day bringing treats and Uncle John and endless rounds of hide and seek for the girls. I feel sorry for myself for a few minutes and then decide against it understanding that this is an ideal recovery situation.

Colette. When she walked into the hospital to visit and meet Romy for the first time I just sobbed. She had transformed into a toddler girl - there was no trace of baby left. I was bowled over and so sad that my baby Colette had disappeared and I hadn't properly said goodbye, thinking she would still be there on the other side. It was like the passing of a love affair - I had so forcefully loved that baby. The Colette who stood on that hospital bed, wholeheartedly ignoring baby Romy, was an independent girl. Independent girl + the entrance of baby + a debilitated mom = a thousand times more "no" (although she has been saying a very tight and firm, "no thanks" - a funny and amiable version) and much more generally unrecognizable other forms of bad behavior. This is not Colette. Or it is a very new, very oafish version of my little love. A transition was inevitable. Just tricker when you can't pick up the monster for a little "hold-you".

January 6, 2014


So glad to be home.

January 3, 2014


Miss Romy came yesterday. Another beautiful little lady.
6 lb 8 oz. Divine.

January 1, 2014

Chin up.

She is not going to turn. We went to a lauded New York OBGYN yesterday, known for his 80% success rate for the external version process, hoping that we would be in the right hands...and that those magical hands would compel little darling to put her head where it should be. The feeling was so odd - definitely painful, but also so concrete - her head, her butt shifting with his guidance through the skin of my belly. He turned her some and then she put up resistance. She did not like the somersault she was being asked to do. Her heart rate went down and she signified a firm no. Of course we wish we had known earlier. Babies at 36 or 37 weeks are much more eager and they live in a looser environment for things like flips.

I was so disappointed. Even this doctor isn't willing to deliver the baby vaginally and recommended a cesarean before the weekend. To be honest, I don't even think I would elect for a vaginal breech birth. I don't have the assurance in birth I think would be necessary for such a feat. I think I was hoping for some healing in this birth after the difficulty I had with Colette - a different (maybe even reparative) version of a bad tale. Instead, it feels like a substitute upheaval - just something new to poorly process. I guess that means I will have to process it better.

Xavier and I sat in a restaurant at Grand Central looking out over the gaggle of people and talked for a long time afterward. Just behind us, there was a mama and a little baby who must have been one week old. I think they were planted there for me. Floppy head and alien fingers, tender body - oh yes, bring us something like that. During the lunch Xavier convinced me that we should flip a coin to decide whose name choice should win out. He has a great sense of humor. Even though it was heads and he won, I don't think we have come to a resolution on that front. (Wish a baby were so easy to flip and land on her head).

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