The Story of Spanky (amazing birth story) May 2005

“Oh forget about it! They’re over!” I was fed up with stupid contractions. Jeff was trying to count them and time them and figure out when this baby was going to relieve us both of the agony that is the 9th month of pregnancy. I had been having contractions for a whole week—Monday to Monday and my nerves were wearing very thin. Every day I thought, “today is the day” “today is going to be your birthday, little Spanky” “these contractions are 8 minutes apart, you are coming now.” And everyday I had been wrong. Everyday I also got crankier, but you’ll have to ask Jeff about that!

“That was a good one, huh?” Jeff wasn’t giving up.
“Yeah, it was pretty hard. But they are slowing down again. I’m going to sleep.” I took out my contacts out and put them by the bed. I didn’t even bring my phone upstairs to bed because I knew that, like every other night for the past week, I wouldn’t need it.
So Jeff read his fly fishing book and I closed my eyes…

Have you ever heard a story about a brave man who jumped on top of a grenade to save his buddies in the war? Well, I can tell you exactly what that man must have felt in his final moments because that is exactly what happened inside my belly once the contacts were out and I rolled over in bed around 1131. A grenade exploded in my uterus! I heard a “pop” and involuntarily curled my 157 pounds up in a ball and let out a loud, guttural moan which Jeff immediately recognized as the sound of hard labor.

They say you forget the pain of labor, but that particular sensation was so surreal and so unexpected that I can assure you I will be bribing you, poor boy with the memory of it until I die. “WHAT, you want to ride a WHAT kind of motorcycle? You are going to get hurt, and let me tell you, Mister, I KNOW about hurt…”

Jeff jumped right into action. All of that boloney about comforting your partner in labor—well, he was too busy trying to find his keys. He was on the phone before that first contraction passed enough for me to uncurl on the bed calleing his sister, Auntie Jen, to come stay with Darla while we went to the hospital. I could hear him throwing open doors and grabbing things downstairs. Then I heard Darla crying in her crib. This baby was due in two days, why he hadn’t bothered to pack yet is still a mystery. He says to Jen, “We need you here NOW.” Click.
Next call: Dr Bohn. Meanwhile I’m upstairs yelling, “Jeff can you bring me a bucket? I’m going to hurl!” To which he lovingly replied, “Can’t you make it to the toilet?”

My handy husband had installed a toilet upstairs (where I was in our new bedroom) just 3 days earlier. I crawled pitifully toward it, hunched over thinking, I will just throw up and then I can get myself downstairs and into the car when BLAAAAMMMO here comes contraction number two. All of a sudden I feel two familiar feelings–not cozy familiar, but hang-nail familiar. The first feeling was that, yes, I was about to die. There was no way I could continue to labor and deliver the baby because I was going to keel over and die from the pain at any moment. The second feeling was the urge to push.

Jeff was upstairs again still on the phone with our Doctor. “Tell her I feel like pushing.” I snapped.


He said into the phone, “Well, we’ll try. But I don’t know if we are going to make it.”
He hung up and I moaned, “I have to push RIGHT now!”
“Do you want me to call 9-1-1?”

Ah HA!

I hadn’t even THOUGHT of that! Here we had a beautiful solution: I didn’t have to crawl downstairs at all, and we could just have the baby right here.
“uh huh” I managed to whimper.

I crawled again, to get away from the toilet. Even if it was newly remodeled, I didn’t want my baby born in a bathroom. What a way to start your life!

I got myself off of the brand new bathroom tile and onto the hardwood floor. Feeling some primal urge to make a nest, right there beside the ShopVac and the buckets of tools still lingering from the remodel, I knelt and gathered scraps of cloth as Jeff called the paramedics.

They instructed him to “undress her from the waist down” which turned out not to be as easy as it used to be.

And about a nano-second after this underwear ordeal I had my third contraction during which Jeff told the operator he could see the baby’s head. “I knew it!” I thought, “now I can push”.

I had that last contraction while Jeff held the phone in the crook of his neck holding the (not freshly  laundered) sheet that had been on our bed to catch the baby. Next thing I knew Jeff was saying on the phone, “yeah, yeah… Well, the baby is here. …Yes, the baby is here.”

You were born!

We have since received a tape of the 9-1-1 call Jeff made. It’s about ten minutes long and reveals a couple of things: First, Jeff had to convince the operator that we needed paramedics (hello!) which stressed him out a bit. Once he was reassured they were on their way he calmed down considerably and remained calm for the rest of the night. Second, I was in shock and acting like a lunatic, which… it seems to me is forgivable.

Once you were out I grabbed the phone from Jeff and said, “OK, it’s me! Tell me what to do! Tell me what to do!” and proceeded to repeat, in a very frantic tone, every word the paramedic on the phone said.
“Now keep the baby warm.”
“Now keep the baby warm!”
“Now tie the cord approximately 8 inches from the baby.”
“Now tie the cord approximately 8 inches from the baby!”
and on and on.

Once the cord was tied off with Jeff’s shoelace the operator told us to “Put Baby on Mommy’s chest”. “PUT BABY ON MOM’S CHEST.”

Well, I got my hands on you and I don’t remember much else. Evidently there was a siren outside and Jeff went to show the firemen where we were. On the tape you hear me cooing, “Well hello, little guy.” And the phone went back to Jeff. But I remember none of that. I was all about my new son crying your little cry and looking around at the lights.

The paramedic on the phone kept congratulating Jeff, “You delivered your own baby. That is pretty exciting, Sir.”

Auntie Jen got to our house the same time as the paramedics and hung out with Darla for the next 20 hours or so at our house. She cleaned everything and was generally the Super Auntie every kid should have.
On to the important details of the story! There were six firemen. And sure, they were late, but that must have been because the station was waiting to dispatch the cute ones for me! Holy hunks, Batman. These guys could be in movies. They were so nice and even happy to be there. They guessed you weighed 6-7 pounds, gave you a 10 on the Apgar scale and took everyone’s blood pressure, vital signs, things like that.
“How long before we got here was he born?”
“about three minutes”
“ok, we’ll say 1143 is when he was born, Ok?”

My strapping, muscular firemen helped Jeff put you in the car seat wrapped in our bathroom towel. Never one to neglect handsome men, I put on my cutest maternity outfit and hugged the nice boys goodbye.

We stayed at the hospital for a grand total of about 16 hours during which time all the nurses and doctors treated Jeff like visiting royalty. He was like one of them now–delivering babies all willy nilly.

We won’t tell him it was you and me who did all the work.

right there on the floor

right there on the floor

...8 years later

…8 years later


Dishes and Laundry: Where is the Type A love?

dirty dishesNo matter how much you eat out and no matter how many items you send to the dry-cleaners, there will never, ever be a shortage of dishes and laundry.

Some people can find a little smidge of joy in washing the dishes or clothes.  Some people can find a sense of order in putting them away.  But, seldom do you find the homemaker who exclaims, “I love laundry.”  Or “I love doing dishes!”

I’m not trying to love the chores. But, I’ve been thinking of ways to find some joy in the processes since, face it, the processes are going to be with me until I die.  My man is never going to stay on top of the laundry or the dishes up to my standards. Sure, they will eventually get done if he is left in charge.  But, I will yell and throw things because of the back log.  And that isn’t pretty.  I’d rather wash the piles myself.  And that, believe it or not, is where the joy starts.

Once I realize that I am doing to laundry because I, Nonnahs, don’t want the pile-up and I’m doing the dishes because I can’t stand to wake up to a sink of filth and stinky, crusty plates, then I can at least let go of the anger toward the task. Instead of feeling frustrated that someone else isn’t doing this for me, I feel productive that I am making my house feel more comfortable– for ME. This is something nice I am doing for myself.

(There are those of you reading this who could give a wooden nickel if your sink is clean.  To you, I apologize.  I know there are motivating factors that someone could point out to help you get through the daily cleaning grind. That would be a different article altogether. This entry is for people who lean toward order and probably fold their towels. And their napkins. And maybe even their underwear.)

Another thing for Type A people to keep in mind when trying to enjoy our menial household chores is that they don’t have to be done before we play. I am so guilty of this Work Before Play mentality. Are you? It is a specifically American phenomenon and it is very detrimental to one’s happiness. If I can’t change my bad attitude, then I would be better served to change activities. A clutter-free bedroom is not worth spraying my roommate with venom!

More joyful ideas: The chemicals in dish soap and laundry detergent often smell yummy. Take a minute to smell them.  Buy a flavor you really like. When the sheets come out of the dryer, take a minute to pretend you are in a commercial and rub their softness on your cheek.  It’s stupid enough to be funny. But once you smile, your attitude –POOF–has improved.

Put on some good music, a book, or podcast while you are folding, scrubbing, or loading.  That is simple but very effective.

And of course, the best cure in the world for overcoming the washing blues is to enlist a helper. It can’t be just any helper though. It must be a willing helper with whom you could chat while working. A resentful helper is poisonous and should be fired immediately.

Once you can find joy in doing the dishes, you have arrived my friend.  The Buddhist monks got nothin’ on you!  Once you can smile while you fold laundry, why then you are ready to tackle changing a poopy diaper in public with grace.  (And for that you may need to actually talk to a monk, because I am not your girl.)

Organized within an inch of its life

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Multi-tasking is a bad idea. Really.

Thank you, God, for allowing me to break my hand.

Lessons learned from a broken hand:

My 7 year-old son can make his own food and drinks JUST FINEorganizing with my left

My husband does know how to clean the kitchen

I do too many things every single day

It’s really hard to floss left-handed

I need to do fewer things every single day

I love working with an assistant

My daughter could run the house on her own, for sure

I have an unnaturally strong aversion to medical professionals

Taking things at half speed is often more productive

Taking things at half speed is sometimes maddening

When I don’t exercise regularly the depression cycle sets in quickly

My hand is on the mend now and the splint is off so I can type (normally) and write again which I missed sorely!

I’m pretty sure breaking my right hand is one of the only things that would slow me down and I was going too fast, obviously. So, I see it as a necessary part of the journey I am taking.

What would it take to slow you down? Or, if you are pretty slow, what would it take to speed you up?

baby visit!

Today I visited a friend with a brand new baby. Is there anything better in the whole word than the little bundle of smoosh that is a newborn? Oh! I love them. They don’t talk back. They don’t get in my stuff. They don’t torture their sister. They are just so! cute!

Lelah was so calm and so comfortable with herself and her baby it was a joy to witness. I’ve seen mothers like this before. But, honestly never a first-timer. I was a bit of a neurotic basket case with both of my newborns, I’m embarrassed to admit.

Lelah was present to soak up the wonders of infancy, and especially the wonders of an infant that has come from your own body. If you let yourself, couldn’t you sit for hours staring at every cell of their body, finding in them your grandmother’s hands, your mother’s temperament, your father-in-law’s financial prowess, and your sister’s creativity? You could dream away the days, lost in what this creature could become.

But, most of us don’t. We think of it for a minute. And then we check the facebook. Or, more typically in my case, we pick up the baby book to read about What is Coming Next? Or How to Get Baby to Sleep. Oy! The baby books!

I have read so many books on child-rearing I should be my own wikipedia page.

Lelah isn’t reading any! And I truly think she is on to something. I believe the parent-child bond is a very innate, natural thing. If we relax and believe in ourselves enough to trust it, it will never steer us wrong.

Even with these beliefs in my heart, I’ve had a rough couple of days with my son having strep throat and being tired and super-humanly stubborn in general. I have been beating myself up for parental mistakes I perceive myself to be making at every turn. Books I have read have counselled me to try many different approaches with him. It’s wearing me out.

Lelah said in that even in the hospital (!) she got conflicting advice from the nurses attending her. Instead of totally freaking out about this nerve-wracking reality—even the NURSES don’t know how to take care of a newborn! She and her husband took the variety of opinions to mean whatever you decide to do will work.

Whatever you decide to do will work.

With babies and with life–Whatever you decide to do will work.

As long as I love my children and I stay present, as much as I can each day with them, it will work.

Thank you so much, Lelah and Truman, for a beautiful day and a lovely mantra for my life.

On red: Loosen up already!

Pasadena organizerMost elementary schools I know of have that god-awful color chart for behavior wherein the kids’ missteps are publicly displayed for their peers in rainbow form. Lovely! If my life were set up this way I would be in the nurse’s office non-stop from stress.

My girlfriend, Nona, is the same way. We love perfection. We follow rules. We are on green. And we happen to care what people think.

So, when our kids landed on red a couple of times it gave us a start. We bemoaned the blight on our families’ names for a while. And then I said to Nona, “On the other hand, how much would I love to be able to be in an official(ish) situation and just BE ON RED. Just forget it–I’m on red!

“To hell with perfection!

“But I can’t. And you can’t. We are too uptight and conditioned to please. So, we have to embrace our children’s red-ness. Enjoy the fact that they don’t give as much of a damn.

“Good for them–fewer ulcers and better parties!”

If you like pina coladas: Organizing through a divorce

Jeff and I are always trying to keep our lines of communication open.  We talk about cheating.  We talk about our differences in parenting styles.  We talk a lot about a lot of things and, for extra-credit, we have both been in therapy many times.  So, when we watched a movie about two couples having affairs (“Last Night”) the other night it was no surprise the discussion afterward lasted as long as the film.   During this discussion it came to our attention once more that the thrill of an awesome, new relationship is intoxicating and in all honestly, very hard to beat.  After this discussion I’ve started calling this phenomenon the 100-day relationship.  For some people this feeling of falling in love is addictive and destructive.  These people are called serial monogamists and two of them, brothers, live across the street from us.  Every couple of years a new lady moves in.  It is quite entertaining for me, and for them the 100-day phase is the best part of their lives.  One in particular is transparent in his joie de vivre whenever he has a new little lady in his life.

On the other hand, marriage is hard work and not quite as intoxicating quite as often.  Ahem.  Anyone who says otherwise is single.   That any marriage outlasts the temptation to go out and find a new partner is no small miracle, such is the pull of the 100-day relationship high.

Today I spent a few hours working with a woman in the middle of a divorce.  This is the second such experience for me in the past three weeks.  In both cases the marriages were approaching twenty years when the couple separated.  Twen-ty.  Twenty, people!

So here comes me bouncing in for some organizing fun, so full of pride in my long-term marriage that I’m already planning our next anniversary celebration, only to find that my clients are as surprised as I am by the ending of their marriages which they thought were bullet-proof sometime after year eleven.  And now, they really need some help getting their affairs in order–especially their financial affairs.  All of that talk about money and hate and the children is really not fun.

Not the most cheerful organizing sessions I’ve worked through.  Still, I’m so lucky to be able to help people in practical ways through major life changes.  And in these cases I come home very thankful for Jeff and for our communication patterns.  I also come home more aware that there is no silver bullet.  There is no guarantee that my marriage will not spiral down a dark hole due to unforeseen events or bad decisions.  This knowledge hasn’t made me depressed and it hasn’t made me chipper either.  It has made me pensive—about life insurance and retirement plans.  And I am also more aware of little ways I could take better care of myself and be more considerate to my man.  And right about now, you can color me inspired to move those straight to the top of my to-do list.

Fighting off a cold, Part II

You remember the post I wrote a couple months ago about fighting off a cold? Of course you do because you follow my blog. (Click “Follow” in the upper left of this screen.)

In said post I talk about drinking large bottles of honey/lemon water to fight off a cold. It really worked! For a few days I didn’t have any alcohol, any dessert, and I got a lot of sleep and it worked!

I was so impressed with myself I wrote a blog post about it.

And so it is only fair that now I let you know I have gotten sick in earnest.

So disappointing! I saw people around me dropping like flies thinking to myself, Humpf! It’s a good thing I drink vegetable juice and go jogging!

The new year brings many, MANY resolutions to get organized. My phone has been ringing off the hook. And so thrilled am I with this surge of new clients I have neglected to exercise or plan time for myself all week. No time!

Well, Little Ms. Time Management, who’s sorry now?

Yesterday I felt like a truck had hit me. And still had to go act perky and organized for 6 hours.

Also, let it be noted that last night I got into bed at 9 with the Costco-sized tub of Nutella and a spoon. Health kick be damned! I feel bad and want my comfort food! I’m writing this while my huge pot full of Martha’s mac-n-cheese bakes. And while this sounds impressive and show-off-y it is really the opposite. I should be in a horizontal position with a vaporizer hooked directly to my nose via shop-vac tube.

Next time you read a post of mine and think to yourself, Nonnahs is so annoying in her self-righteous perfection. Remember this: Even cowgirls get the blues and Even a time-management guru/health nut makes a lot of poor decisions every now and then. Usually on Tuesdays.