Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Looking Forward, Looking Back

Taken that first year at the campout...

Three years ago I got off a plane, slept a few hours and ventured off to a camping trip with Curtis’s future coworkers. There was a lot of rain, a lot of dogs and a lot of people whose names needed to be learned. I left the next morning overwhelmed and covered in smoke, and spent the next two months finding a job, buying a condo, and relocating every week or two to housesit at a new location. It was exhausting but it was the next step: first undergrad, then medical school, now residency.

This was the last step.

Three years later, I watched as a new class of interns awkwardly conversed around the campfire, learning names and pecking orders, while spouses and significant others discussed job options and housing. It turns out that the graduating class had perhaps the most in common with the incoming interns, discussing future jobs and moves to new houses in the city or outside the state. The end of June is a time of transition, for both the new and the old.


Today is moving day at our house, and a team of men armed with loads of paper, black Sharpe markers, numbered neon green stickers and cardboard boxes showed up to pack all our belongings and ship them off to the island where Curtis will be working for the next few years. We were grateful to have people to pack us, as nervous as it makes me and my controlling tendencies. Having a baby has changed a lot in my life, and my ability to let go is perhaps one of the largest shifts. It has not been an easy transition, but it certainly has been necessary.

The sound of tape tearing and cardboard being manipulated echoed as music played from meager phone speakers. Everything from sweaters to applesauce to well-played board games and unused paper towels were put into boxes while we watched. When the baby was awake she alternated between playing on the floor and taking it all in while we peaked in on the workers, winning smiles with her eager eyes. When she got tired she slept in a bed we made on the floor of our bathroom, tucked away from the chaos that was surely exhausting her.

At the end of the day we had a hike with friends planned, a good way to let off stress and enjoy the amazing weather that we have continued to have this month. There is much we will miss about this place where we live, but the people we are leaving behind definitely top the list.

Tomorrow we will begin our lives as they exist in suitcases and duffels, a nomadic existence that will last for several weeks until we find a place to settle once again. And by that point I’m sure our itch to get away, relax and visit with friends and family will be satisfied, and we will be ready to have a place of our own once again.

Here’s to the journey: enjoying each step for the lessons and joys, embracing the times of rest as much as the times of labor, appreciating all we have and that will come in the future.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

On Eyes and Change

I realized today that my daughter’s eyes are almost the same color as my carpet, a grayish blue that brightens in sunlight. We spend a lot of time on the carpet these days: talking, rolling, arching, smiling and scooting around. She likes movement; she likes activity.

She always has.

People often notice her eyes because of her alertness; she is nothing if not aware. My first look at her after she was born found me looking into open eyes, and in the hours following her birth she was awake—defying the nurses as they talked about the sleepy newborn period that seems to happen the first 24 hours.


“You don’t have to like them the first two months; most people don’t.” This nugget of truth was relayed to us by Curtis’s coworker, who was told it by her pediatrician when she had her first child. “I thought I knew what tired was because of residency; having a child brought me to a whole new level.”

It’s interesting to begin looking back on the progress we have made in fifteen weeks. It is even more interesting to enter the world of parents who rejoice over arched backs and eye contact, who take note of head control and head shape, who think that sleeping until 6am is worth celebrating.

Yesterday she started to play with toys. She grasps her tiny fingers around edges and moves them to make noise. I am not sure if she truly grasps the cause and effect of the experience, but she is intentional all the same. She thinks. She acts. She is a little human that has already grown out of stack of clothes, infant swaddles and the smallest notch for the seatbelt in her car seat.

So much has already changed, and yet her eyes remain the same: piercing, focused, aware.

Curtis and I often wonder how the characteristics she possesses now will play out as she gets older: will she always resist sleep? Will she crave activity? Will she always be so aware and alert and observant? There is one thing we can count on: whatever stability seems to become predictable will surely change. For now we rest in what seems to be her normal. Tomorrow? I guess we will see when we get there. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Work and Play

Denali was out in all her splendor Sunday, seemingly glowing in the heat with a pinkish hue that was out of place in midday sun. We’ve had two weeks of glorious temperatures in this state: 70’s (and sometimes 80’s) with full sun. I keep waiting for a rainy day to accomplish mundane indoor tasks, but the forecast still is not cooperating.

And so this week, ready or not, I need to get down to business.

We have reached the end of this journey in medical education: twelve years post-high school of training and hoop-jumping. In two weeks Curtis will be finished, and we’ll be moving on to our next post: a real job in a small town where “everybody knows your name”. It should be interesting.

In the mean time we’re packing up shop here in the city, cleaning out drawers and cupboards and organizing bags of clothes for hot weather and cold—because by the time we unpack the whole summer might be over.

Thankfully, despite the details to sort through during the week, the weekend proved a nice respite: hot temperatures, long bike rides, and refreshing swims in the lake. As I squinted against the reflections of the sun on the water, I realized I haven’t swam outdoors in Alaska since high school. Even then, most of those swims were dares, or feats one participated in because you weren’t going to be the wuss that stayed on shore because it was “too cold”—even though it clearly was. Yesterday I swam because the sun was hot and the water was perfectly refreshing. I paddled around in my parents’ canoe, tipping it multiple times with Curtis and my brother, climbing in and out as we drifted with the current provided by nearby boats and jet skis, forgetting for the time being the responsibilities left on shore.

This, Curtis and I decided later, is the nonsense we don’t always get to partake in as adults; this is the frivolousness we miss when life gets too serious.

For now, adult tasks and decision making prevails. Packing, checking duties off the list, before taking a few weeks off to mark the breaking point before we enter yet another phase of life where Curtis is no longer a student. Hopefully all this growing up has no correlation to our involvement in good-old-fashioned fun. Because this weekend reminded us both how much we love it.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Breaking Free

When I was a child I would challenge my siblings to tie me up, after which I would try to escape. I enjoyed the challenge, a physical brain-teaser of sorts that gave me much satisfaction when conquered. It would appear that my daughter has the same propensity for a challenge. Different types of swaddles, different sizes—she slithers out of every one. She may not have the strength to break through the Velcro, but she wriggles until her hands and arms are free and near her face—where she has always liked them best.

She has always liked to have her freedom to move, getting frustrated when she is restricted. While many babies like to cuddle close, she likes to face outward. While some newborns love to be rocked, she quickly tires of sitting in one location. She rolled over at five weeks, a feat that left me a bit concerned—after all, an immobile baby is easier to keep track of. And after three months my mom has commented on several occasions how much she reminds her of me—a child (and adult) that has rarely been content to sit, and really prefers to move.

Part of me looks forward to her gaining mobility, as much as it will turn my world upside down. I wonder if she will get less frustrated when she is not so restricted. Regardless of my theories, she’ll grow and mature and move sooner or later. She’ll outgrow her swaddle and then her crib and slowly but surely develop her independence.

Yet, as she grows, I gain a little more independence as well, leaving her for an hour or two with Curtis or one of my sisters so I can go out for a run, a bike ride, or anywhere by myself. Perhaps my desire to break free is one I haven’t out-grown. While I love my baby dearly, and wish at times she were more content to just cuddle close, I am glad she likes to get out and about—because at the end of the day, I do too.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Underworlds and Unknowns: Life After Three Months

The men of the family taking a dip in the lake...note the ice floating off shore...

Summer has arrived, with daylight and light jackets and a baby that occasionally sleeps through the night. My sister-in-law once remarked that the first three months of babyhood happen in a fog. While I tried to convince myself that I was perfectly lucid while existing on two hour naps between feedings and crying spells that come and go for seemingly no reason at all, the reality is that I don’t remember plenty.

It is hard to believe that three months has passed. At the same time, life-before-baby seems like a lifetime ago.

I ran a race this past week, a few miles I pounded out faster than I have in months, a half hour reminiscent of life before. These days I am in awe of the human body: the way mine has changed so drastically, and slowly returns to normal; the way my baby has doubled in weight in a few months time, never to return to the less than six pound miniature being she was when I met her.


Lately an underworld has emerged before my eyes: groups and facebook pages and conversation topics that unite this group that I have become a part of—mother of young child(ren).  I spend my days filling my time intentionally: going on walks, wandering grocery store aisles, circling the kitchen table with a crying a baby in my arms, cooing over the changing table while the freshly diapered gal grins with a smile that seems to cover half her face. Sometimes the kitchen gets cleaned; sometimes the laundry is put away. A lot of times clothing and dishes are strewn about until a well-timed nap coincides with me becoming fed up with the mess. Sometimes I hardly recognize the person I have turned into.

Yet there is solace in this underworld, confessions of failed expectations shared on wooded trails behind strollers. I could talk for hours about schedules, sleep patterns, eating habits, and developmental milestones. I have learned a whole new language that I didn’t even realize existed.

Three months. She smiles, and gurgles, and follows me with her eyes as I walk away. She calms when I hold her, and sucks on her fist so loudly I can hear it across our condo—even when the door to her bedroom is closed.

It’s hard to beat the way her eyes light up when she spots me—near or far. Attached, yes. But I’m doing my best to appreciate it; after all, it won’t last forever.