Due to Extenuating Circumstances

Adventures in Unplanned Parenthood

Archive for the month “July, 2015”

Christmas Eve

The night we bring him Hotel (home wasn’t in the cards for now) there were some hiccups getting him in and out of the truck. The car seat is, in theory, not that hard to use. We think. There’s a handle you use to carry the seat, and then a base, and a red thing you lift up to put the seat in the base…but do you lift the red thing before putting it in the base? Is the red handle supposed to click into place without lifting it? What if there’s no click at all? If there is a click, and seat doesn’t move, and the base doesn’t move, and you put the handle back towards the top of the carrier, and the baby is buckled in the five-point restraint snuggly in appropriate clothing for the weather but NOT a snowsuit because that’s too appropriate/puffy/you didn’t bring one even though it’s December then is this the part where you sing FIVE GOLD-EN RIIIIIIIIIIINGS?

In a halo of lightly falling snow we drive the two blocks to our hotel and count the hours until we show off The Miracle to our entire family.

Then The Miracle becomes less of an idea and more of an actual human being with needs and a tiny, piercing wail.

Right. Down to business. First of all, food. My husband kicks into a previously unseen Primitive Hunter Mode and goes to track down and kill some sandwiches (“where?” “I don’t know, I’ve never been here.” “But what have we seen?” “The inside of a hospital.” “What else?” “I DON’T KNOW, EVERY FIBER OF BEING HAS FRIED WITH HAPPINESS AND SHOCK AND WOMANLYNESS AND USE THE DAMN GOOGLE MACHINE.”).

Now I need to organize a place for Baby to sleep, a place to make his food, to bathe him, change him, and…this is a hotel room. Those are all the same place. Right. Nesting has taken place in far less favorable circumstances than this, so I shall remain very Earth Mother and Zen and just let motherhood….be. Or something.

Nope, can’t do it. Type A takes over and tells Earth Mother to stuff it; we absolutely cannot have the baby formula stored near the diapers. There is literally a saying about not shitting where you eat. Therefore, the formula, nipples, burp cloths and the like must live on one side of the TV. New clothes, the blankets from the hospital, and anything we don’t yet understand will go under the TV. Diaper changes will happen on a towel on the coffee bar. We won’t bathe him because that is unquestionably Grandma’s Advice Territory.

My husband does kill some sandwiches, and then we eat them on the bed with Baby in the middle as a centerpiece we admire from all angles. It’s then time for the playpen farce, where the instructions insist the playpen will unfold easily if you touch the red button in the center and pull the walls up. These instructions were written by the same people responsible for the car seat, and if I wasn’t a Zen-Earth Mother-Christmas Baby Miracle recipient right now I’d push the red button in the center and pull the walls up inside their rectum.

My husband eventually did get it open, the old-fashioned way. He used the Google machine to find a video on YouTube explaining how to do it. Please don’t tell my husband this, but after he fell asleep I picked up the baby out of the playpen and held him all night. It was blissful. And I don’t trust anything that collapses with the push of a single red button, like playpens or nuclear weapon treaties.

The next morning we drove to the hotel that was as close as we could possibly be to Nebraska. It was in Council Bluffs, which a Facebook friend told me is often called Council-tucky. Well, I’ll tell you this: I don’t know what part of town she was thinking of, but we lived in a very nice casino hotel. It was close to a dilapidated mall, horrifying sculptures of metal that shot into the air like Viking warning arrows (see visual aid) and strip malls located within gas stations, but I’m sure that’s not all Council-tucky, er- Bluffs– has to offer.

OK, see? Viking warning shots. It’s obvious. Credit to bloximages for the demonstration that I’m not making this up, and that artist Albert Paley has a lot to answer for:

File photo - Visitors to CultureNOW can view Council Bluffs art online, including works by internationally known artists Jonathan Borofsky, Ed Carpenter, Jun Kaneko, William King, Deborah Masuoka, Albert Paley (pictured) and Brower Hatcher.

File photo – Visitors to CultureNOW can view Council Bluffs art online, including works by internationally known artists Jonathan Borofsky, Ed Carpenter, Jun Kaneko, William King, Deborah Masuoka, Albert Paley (pictured) and Brower Hatcher.

So now we get to the good part, the part where my family meets the baby. By “meet” I mean “I rush into the hotel lobby and say “Mom, this is my son” and then we cry, touch foreheads, and hug so much we look like a commercial for feminine itching. All of Christmas has transported from Nebraska to Iowa because if Baby leaves Iowa it will be Very Many Scary Things. The social worker used the phrase “kidnapping and custodial interference” and the non-adult part of my brain imagined a custodian trying to cockblock my husband while he changes a diaper.

My sister and her family arrive. My four old nephew announces that if the baby can’t talk, then “he’ll be playing by himself.” You can’t blame the poor kid for being less than impressed. The way all the adults were freaking out and carrying on, you’d think Aunt Sarah was bringing the Flash over for Christmas.

My sister and her husband are excited. We’re excited. The baby is expertly swaddled (by whom? Our attempts still require duct tape) and excited. I’d say my mom is excited, but she can’t stop vibrating with joy long enough to really talk. My dad seems pretty pleased that, statistically speaking, we have doubled the chances of someone playing for the Chicago Cubs that will get him good seats.

We all go out for Christmas Eve dinner. This is rare for us, Mom usually cooks it. While we’re at dinner we learn that the birth parents have signed the 72 hour consent form, meaning the last papers they will need to sign, the “no take-back clauses,” will be signed the 27th. We raise a glass in their honor. All funny aside, I know Christmas 2014 was dramatically different for the two sets of people on those papers, and only one set gets to think of it as the best Christmas they have ever had, or will ever have. I won’t forget that.

We trundle back to the casino and find mom has packed Christmas Eve for us. I mean it. All the presents, cookies, cakes, stockings, the only reason there’s not a tree is because my father would have to lift it. We give Santa the night off in the Imes Borden casino/hotel room and wish a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

I’m kidding. They go to bed and we get up every time the baby moves, snores, whimpers, cries out, farts or has an adorable look on his face.

Join us next time for a Guide to Living with Newborns in a Casino over New Year’s Eve.

We Meet the Baby

You surely must remember what you were doing the day we met our baby, henceforth called The Baby. You would have noticed all time stood still, the Western sky took on a rosy glow at sunset, the air smelled of warm cookies even if you live in New Jersey. Christmas angels trumpeted a herald (heralded a trumpet? I don’t know from Christmas angels). There was a moment of utter, divine peace on earth for all humankind. That’s how I remember it, anyway.

So, there was crying. A lot of crying. Plus examining him, re-examining him, checking angles, constant uttering of the word “perfect.” I know every parent says their new baby is perfect. I also know every new parent says “I know every new parent says that!” The difference here is that I am empirically correct.

The nurses tuck him in for the night and tell us to come back in the morning to spend time with him. We leave in a state of glassy-eyed euphoria that’s hard to find outside of Colorado or Washington State. We also leave with a list of things that we need to buy at Walmart, the only store open in [TOWN REDACTED. MAN, THAT REALLY IS FUN. THIS IS SOME COLD WAR SPY MOSCOW KGB TELL-ALL SHIT].

If you haven’t been to a Walmart at midnight on December 22nd, let me set the scene for you: imagine a war-ravaged landscape where desperate people push carts full of screaming toddlers, generic soda and stocking stuffers. Shoppers are hauling toys that probably don’t meet the essential requirements of the FDA, CDC, OSHA or any government agency with letters in it. Then they fight Gladiator-style for the right to stand in line at one of two working cash registers. Each line can accommodate up to five people, but it’s mandated that those five people don’t speak the language of the cashier. The credit card machines will be down, nobody will remember how to count change back because cash is so 1997, or if they do remember how they’ll be sneaking a ten minute break because at Walmart if they don’t sneak breaks their hourly wage comes out 47 cents plus whatever discarded junk they find in changing rooms. Oh– and Christmas music is playing.

The baby section was baffling. There really weren’t very many things there so we do our best to navigate the essentials. First up: a place for the baby to sleep. We considered a laundry basket, but they said we could be here a few days. We end up with a playpen thing that has a bed on top of it. When my husband asks about blankets I calmly explain to him very loudly in a harsh tone that he has a lot to learn about SIDS. He also picks out a monster outfit with a hat for the baby. The hat has little monster horns. It is not possible to convey with words how amazing this hat is. So he’s forgiven for my controlled, placid explanation of SIDS that happened to contain a few frenetic hand gestures and possibly spittle.

By the time we get to the clothing I realize we can’t find anything we need because everything has been picked over for Christmas. That’s OK, there is a cute onesie (literally, a onesie that says “cute”) that is perfect for Baby to leave the hospital in! All we need now are diapers. And bottles. And formula. And something to wash the bottles. And wipes. Oh god, we’re sinking fast.


S.O.S., dammit!!!

This is when the Christmas Angel appeared. It turns out they do not herald trumpets, they are great-grandmothers that work at Walmart and offer to go through the aisles with you, picking out what you need. Her advice was invaluable. “Don’t get Walmart brand wipes, they suck.” “Don’t get those diapers, they suck.” “Get one of those, you’ll need it. By the time you need it, you’ll know what it’s for.”

We haul everything back to the hotel. The next morning I am up at an hour I have never been excited to see before and we spend the whole day with our son. I say “our son” an insufferable number of times. My husband says he’s waiting until he’s legally ours. That fear that adoptive parents talk about? It’s more real than biological parents could ever possible know.

Our social worker comes in. She’s probably another Christmas angel, I don’t know how she would have pulled the timing off, otherwise. We sign so many legal papers that we’re wanted in three logging states for genocide. The hospital is unbelievably generous and gives us the Complete New Parent experience. We get booties and a hat to bring him home in, a blanket, a silver spoon. Someone has thoughtfully included a “My First John Deere Tractor Book.” Yep, I’ll provide evidence that exists.

They even give me a little questionnaire to fill out on concerns I may have about taking the baby home. 30 of the 40 questions have to do with C-section care, breastfeeding, sex after giving birth, when to expect my period. Bless their hearts. I haven’t had a period since 2010. I’m just so touched they give me the whole thing, like any other new mom.

The final part of the questionnaire asks if we know how to change a newborn’s diaper. Oh, Lord. It turns out that in nearly 40 years on this planet I have never actually touched a human being fresh out of the package. Neither of us knows. The first time we try it takes both of us ten minutes to find the little sticky tabs, place it under the baby, fold it, work with the little notch cut out for the cord, do it up, then re-swaddle him. The re-swaddling alone took 5 minutes. It wasn’t until the nurse pointed out it’s just like making a burrito that we felt even remotely sure how to fold and tuck the blanket.  He HATED to keep his hands in the swaddle. Hated it. Hands by the ears at all times, or no deal.

Now. Here is a little piece of advice from me to you: should you ever encounter two parents who are very lovingly swaddling their non-white child, and should that child insist on bringing his hands to his ears, the one and only thing you are absolutely FORBIDDEN to do is shout

“Hands up! Don’t shoot!”

It turns out this phrase causes a violently protective reaction on the part of both new parents, who are now suddenly overwhelmed with the idea that their son, their non-white son, is being born into an America where we still need hashtags like #blacklivesmatter. Instead of sinking into despair that we know nothing about what the life of a non-white person in the US is going to be like, every time someone starts that phrase we shout over them. “Hands up!” “SO CUTE!”

This is the defense of two blissfully happy parents who now know real fear.

It’s time to take him out of the hospital. I realize way too late that the “cute” onesie has short sleeves. I’m already an insecure mom who can’t change diapers and swaddle, what the hell. He can wear short sleeves under his blanket. We go through the farce of the nurse handing him over to our social worker, who has to be the one to officially take custody. Two minutes later we’re in the truck. We are under a huge spruce, lit up for Christmas, and I swear to you, dear reader, at that exact moment it began to snow. That actually happened.

And we drove to the hotel. Then to a place they call Council-tucky to live in a casino. But that’s another story.


The secondary Extenuating Circumstances

Attention! Due to extenuating circumstances, the following things must occur within three hours, so as to drive to another state and become parents immediately: verify there really is a baby and not husband playing the most ill-advised practical joke of the millennium, get fingerprinted for the third time this calendar year, call everyone we know and freak the hell out, ask sister what babies need to survive in a hotel room, throw up. Also, someone should probably do something about the cat.

Nope. Husband not suddenly evil, he is stating the real truth. A baby has been born in [STATE REDACTED BECAUSE PRIVACY AND IT SEEMS LIKE WE’RE IN A REAL-LIFE SPY NOVEL WHICH IS COOL]. It’s a little boy, and he….what? What is he? You remember having the conversation but don’t remember any of the contents? No, you were freaked out. I totally understand. We need to be in the car in three hours. Oh God, I have to call the entire world. I mean, just family. But anyhow.

Tears. Tears and tears and more tears as we explain the good new and sudden departure. My sister screams “I’m leaving work! I’m in the parking lot right now! I’m going to Target!” This is definitely good news, as the sum of our baby equipment is defined thusly: we have a teething ring my nephew used twice in 2012. Naturally we didn’t stockpile a cradle, bottles, anything like that. First of all, we were told that people are chosen while the birth mom is still pregnant. Secondly, imagine the thing you want most in the world. Now imagine everybody else has it. An Oscar, a Super Bowl ring, a flat stomach, whatever. The entire population of your town has one, and there you sit with your Super Bowl-ringless thumb up your nose. Would you keep a room full of footballs or a full-length red carpet gown laying around? You would not. Or maybe you would. I don’t know how you live your life. I wouldn’t, is the salient point.

We run to get fingerprinted. We return to find our brother-in-law installing a car seat. Where did he come from? He has a job. He doesn’t have an extra car seat just hanging out in the trunk in case of emergencies. Yet there he is! Brilliant. Sister shows up with a bag of things babies need. I recognize half of them. Swaddling blankets? Uh, ok. I thought you basically did that once, when the baby is presented to you, and then that’s pretty much over. A variety of things you stick in orifices (the baby’s, not mine) and then we bolt down the world’s quickest lunch before leaving. On my way out the door, I hear my sister on the phone saying “oh God! Yeah, sorry. I should have mentioned I’m not coming back to work today.”

Drive. Pumping for more information about the baby. My husband keeps saying he can’t remember, but with some prodding it turns out he knows at least a little. It’s a boy! He’s healthy! He’s Mexican-American! He has a height and weight but no idea what they are! He’s at a hospital we can’t remember the name of! Everything gets an exclamation point because holy shit we’re going to be parents!!!!!!!!!!

It is the world’s longest/shortest drive. I throw up twice I’m so nervous. I realize I never called anyone at work, or cancelled appointments, or anything of consequence in the real world. I could not, on a literal rather than metaphoric level, care less. We arrive at the hospital and wait for the social worker.

Things happened. People were met. The wishes of the birth family were respected as far as possible in terms of contact, things of that sort. I try harder than I ever have in my entire life to do things exactly as another woman wishes. If her wish was for the adoptive family to receive the baby in a gold-plated canoe while a brass band plays national anthem of Azerbaijan then by God, it would be so.

But it wasn’t. It was me, and my husband, standing in a hospital room with our social worker, as they wheeled in a 7 lb, 2 oz baby boy. There were probably nurses, or workers, or somebody else in there as well. Hell, maybe there was a brass band. I honestly don’t remember. There were two crying cynics who never dared to believe this was happening, and they were holding the world’s single most wanted child.

Other things may have happened, but frankly, they just weren’t very fucking important.

Tune in next time for custodial farce, Wal-Mart at midnight two days before Christmas, and how it takes two people who teach for a living to diaper an infant.

The Initial Extenuating Circumstances

In 2011, my husband (henceforth known as “my husband”) and I decided to adopt a child. That’s the short version. The slightly longer version is that the decision was made by a variety of my reproductive organs when they formed a rogue nation and attacked what was once a peaceful, if somewhat untoned, body.

Why a baby? We weren’t ruling out adopting an older child later but we figured we’d like to do one from the ground up.

So. That was 2011. In 2012 we found an agency, killed several trees filling out paperwork, cleaned our house on a molecular level, then invited a social worker in to judge every aspect of our lives. We also got fingerprinted, background checked, letters of recommendation, proof of income…all the things you do when you want to get Top Secret government clearance, or a baby.

It was so damn fun that we did it again in 2013. The much-hoped-for baby didn’t come. And didn’t come. We changed agencies. Spread the word on Facebook. Scoured the internet in case there was a country that we had missed that might let us adopt. We hadn’t. Lest you think we were somehow too picky, let me make this clear. Our requirements for a baby were as follows:

1. Human

And still, the baby obstinately persisted in its absence. Things were quite desperate by now. The nursery we had cleared out had things in it again (an empty room was too depressing). The savings account we had made for the adoption went back to being the “household emergency” account (untouched dream money was too depressing). We began to shy away from family events like First Birthdays and baby showers (a guest sobbing uncontrollably in the bathroom is, I have been told, too depressing).

In 2014 we filed again, although my husband said he was “going through the motions.” The social worker flat-out told us my husband was “too old” and some people were put off by the fact that I couldn’t have children. That’s turning people away from the buffet because they’re starving, but short of putting all that on a bumper sticker I’m not sure how I would get that word out. The worst, though, was the paperwork asking me to fill out (I am not making this up) my height, weight and “build.” Somewhere out there, a birth parent was judging if I was right to raise a child based on the same criteria as choosing Miss USA. If I have to make it past the swimsuit parade to get to the interview portion, I’m fucked.

By the holidays of 2014 we are dreading every single family/baby/present/party cliche. We bury ourselves in our work. We put up holiday decorations in a haphazard, nihilist kind of pattern. We greet each friend’s new baby with the Happiness Credit Card; we tell them we are happy for them now, trusting someday there will be happiness in the emotional bank and that statement will then be true. And so we march to the end of 2014.

On December 22, 2014, my husband wakes me up with these words:

“Wanna go to Iowa to get a baby for Christmas?”

And thus begins a series of most extraordinary Extenuating Circumstances.

Extenuating Circumstances

Thank you to everyone who has laughed at me, with me and sometimes for me. This blog is for you.

Attention! Due to extenuating circumstances, non-baby related tasks will be categorized as follows: if we have time, we won’t have time but we say we will, we won’t have time but we’ll fob it off on someone else who lies about having time, ain’t nobody got time for that, and who are we fucking kidding. Thank you.

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