Monday, May 28, 2012
What’s in a Name?
Celia just gave birth to a son, whom she cradled as Rob leaned over and embraced them both.
“Don’t call our moms in yet,” Celia said. “I want it to be just the three of us for another few minutes.”
“I’m so proud of you, Cele,” Rob said. “Look what you did!”
Celia, looking at their son, began to tear up.
They gazed together at their son, whose eyes were open wide and gazing back at Celia, as if putting together the face with the voice he had been listening to for months. “So what do we name him?” Celia said. They had talked about names early on, but life had gotten crazy with Celia’s mother moving in with them, deciding to buy a house and the move. It seemed like a long time since they had talked about it.
“Well, we have dad names and grandfather names,” Rob said.
“You have a name, too,” Celia said. “I like Robert.”
“Too confusing,” Rob said. “But maybe for its middle name. I mean, for his middle name.”
“OK. So maybe ‘something Robert.’”
“Pssst,” they heard. Rob looked up at the doorway to see Celia’s mother sticking her head in. “The nurse said it’s here,” she said. “What is it?”
Rob looked at Celia for permission to reveal and she nodded. “It’s a boy!”
“Can we come in?” Rob’s mother said, peeking around Celia’s mother.
“Let’s get him named first,” Celia said, quietly.
“Give us five, Mom,” Rob said. “We’ll let you know.”
What do Rob and Celia name their son?
Monday, May 21, 2012
It’s a Boy
Celia is in labor.
Here she was, pushing, on the verge of giving birth, and all Celia could think about was that the birthing classes had been no help at all. The epidural, however, had been a godsend, both relieving pain and helping her to maintain her sense of humor. So she could laugh when Rob’s boss texted that the office had voted and wanted a girl, and when Rob kept getting the on-off wrong when he tried using the new camera his parents had given them. They had lots of footage of the floor.
“OK, Celia, you can rest a minute,” the doctor said.
“Are our mothers still here?” she asked Rob as she lay back.
“Yeah. I don’t think they would leave if we paid them to,” he responded quietly. His strong, firm voice grounded her. They had decided ahead of time to keep everyone else out of the delivery room. Celia didn’t want her mother, who would be no help, and she didn’t feel like she knew Rob’s well enough to keep her around when she was this vulnerable.
“OK, get ready,” the doctor said, watching the monitor. “Push.”
As Rob bent down to put his head next to her, Celia crunched and pushed.
“And there’s the head,” the doctor said. “One more push”—
“And here’s your son!” the doctor said. “Rob, come cut the cord.”
Celia tried to watch Rob cut the cord but she was too tired. A moment later, the doctor put her son, wrapped in a towel, on her chest.
Rob leaned over and put his arm around Celia and the baby, so they could look at him together.
“Hello, handsome boy,” Celia said. “We’re so glad you’re here!”
“I’m going to go tell our moms to come in,” Rob said, standing up.
“Wait,” Celia said.
What does she say next?
Monday, May 14, 2012
Rob and Celia have just moved into their new house, two weeks before their baby is due.
Finally, finally, finally, Rob thought. Not only was the most massive item on the pre-baby to-do list completed, but Rob was also experiencing a bigger, primal sense of accomplishment. It engulfed him now as he watched Celia, dozing on the sofa in the middle of the living room, and listened to their mothers set up housekeeping; Celia’s mother upstairs in her own room, since she was living with them now, and Rob’s mother in the kitchen putting away the first grocery store run of their new life.
Rob identified the feeling: I am an adult. It was hard to believe. Rob and his friends had graduated college right before the economic downturn, and he was one of the few to have hung onto to his first job. He was the only one to have gotten married and he was certainly the first to be on the verge of having a baby. Some of his friends had boomeranged back to living with parents and others were in doubled-up roommate situations, and here Rob was, standing in the living room of his own house.
Of course, the down payment had come from Celia’s mother selling her house, and heaven knows he still had his reservations about living with the inclined-to-be-flaky ding-dong who had birthed his wife. But the arrangement killed several birds with one stone when Celia’s mother lost her job and they suddenly needed both childcare and a bigger place to live. Rob had been raised to be financially conservative and owning a home represented a key piece of being responsible.
In the back of his mind, Rob tried to figure out how to put money away to buy his mother-in-law out of her interest in the house someday. God willing, his income would outpace inflation and the value of their home would rise and maybe someday he could do so with a home equity loan…
But he had to wait to cross that bridge when he got there. He thought about Celia’s words in response to his control-freak insensitivity right before they had left the apartment for the last time. “You’re going to make yourself crazy, Rob. You’re only as alone as you make yourself with your incredibly unrealistic expectations of—everything. You can’t expect us to work to your perfect script.”
“I get it, Celia, but it will still drive me crazy,” he had said as he kissed her.
His life now seemed to be comprised of a relatively solid foundation, with a structure of pure chaos built upon it. Well, maybe not pure chaos, but there was much that was unpredictable, and Rob did not like unpredictability.
But Celia did OK with predictibility. Between the two of them, maybe they could manage a live-in mother, a baby, two jobs and a mortgage.
Suddenly, Celia sat up her eyes confused. “Rob?”
He smiled at her, feeling good.
“I think my water just broke!” she said.
What happens next?
Monday, April 30, 2012
Did I say that?
Rob and Celia are in the midst of moving to their new house, with help from Rob’s mother June, Celia’s mother Mary, and Lucy’s boyfriend Rocco. Rob just suggested that Celia start cleaning the apartment from which they are moving with his mother while he and the rest of the moving party go to the new house in the van, but Celia reminded him that she is on bed rest for the final weeks of her pregnancy. “Cleaning” is one of the things she specifically should not be doing.
Rob doubted the day would ever end, coming as it was at the end of a very long week. He had worked his regular job every day but Friday, painted the nursery, master bedroom and kitchen of the new house in the evenings (figuring the rest could wait until they moved in), and endured being overfed by not just one but two mothers. He worried constantly about Celia and the baby, making himself crazy by willing her NOT to go into labor too early, which was entirely out of his control of course, but he could not stop perseverating on it. Trying to move on the cheap – entirely on their own, with the help of their mothers and friends – might have been more than Rob could handle at this point.
His brain was so wound up, trying to manage every detail efficiently, that he found he simply could not tolerate Celia reclining on the sofa. Granted, she had lists and the phone and she had coordinated everything about the move that could be done either by email or phone, such as getting the utilities turned on at the new place and changing their address for the mail. I need Celia’s help, but she can’t help, he kept thinking. I need Celia’s help, but she can’t help. To have been reminded that Celia can’t even clean only reinforced how alone Rob felt, like Atlas with the world on his shoulders.
“Then just lay there on the sofa and tell my mother what to do,” Rob said to Celia.
Celia just looked at Rob for a long moment, as if replaying what he said to make sure she heard it right. “I can’t believe you just said that,” she said. Her eyes filled with tears and she got up as quickly as an eight-months-pregnant woman on bed rest could, heading into the bathroom and closing the door.
Rob glanced at their friend Rocco, waiting nearby to help Rob move the sofa on which Celia rested.
“Might want to backpedal on that comment, bro,” Rocco said. As big and scary looking as Rocco could be, there was nothing about him that was threatening. Rob knew he was right. “Listen,” Rocco continued. “First things first. You need to lighten up before you pop a blood vessel. It’s all going to get done.”
“I know, I know,” Rob said. He sighed, walked over to the bathroom door and knocked.
What does Rob say to Celia through the door?
Monday, April 16, 2012
Cry for help
Celia has been put on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy, despite that the move to their new house is only one week away.
Rob sent his mother-in-law to the grocery store, as much as to get food as to get her out of the way. “And bring empty boxes, too!” he called after as she left. As stunned as he had been at the hospital, reality had set in and he was now focused and energetic.
Then he gave away his last three Starbucks shifts to other workers, so although he officially had one more week he would in fact be finished with his moonlighting gig. Finally he sat down on the coffee table facing Celia, who was resting on the sofa, just as she got off the phone with her principal. She had her laptop open on her lap and a notebook and pen nearby.
Celia looked at him and sighed. “I don’t want you to have to take vacation time now. But I don’t know what else to do. I can make lists until my hand falls off but unless there is someone here besides my mother doing them, there won’t be enough hours in the day.”
“I’ve been working two jobs anyway,” Rob said. “I can spend evenings this week getting things ready here”—
“Things are almost ready here,” Celia said. “The issue on this end is cleaning the apartment after we’ve moved so we get the whole deposit back. That’s going to be the new crib and changing table.”
“It won’t be that big a deal,” Rob said. “I’ll”—
“Rob, we need you at the house, and unfortunately I don’t trust Mom to clean well enough that we get our money back. I don’t trust Mom to shop economically. Mostly, I just don’t trust her to not create more work for us”—
“I can take vacation next week so the house is ready before we move in and right afterwards to get us unpacked,” he said. “Thankfully, we don’t have that much stuff.”
“What needs to be done on the house?” Celia flipped through her lists. “Maybe we can scale this back somehow”—
Rob took the list from her and looked at the various repair and upgrade tasks they had detailed. “As long as the nursery and the kitchen are good to go, we can do the rest as we go along.”
“I just want you to be able to be home with us after the baby is born and NOT to be working on the house. So we three can be a family.” Celia shook her head. “I’m so sorry, Rob.”
“Please don’t apologize. You and our baby come first and everything else is way down on the list. I’ve got it covered.”
Rob kissed Celia, asked her if he could get her anything, and telling her he needed to get something from the car, left the apartment. As soon as he closed the front door he dialed his mother.
“Mom,” he said when she answered. “I need your help.” He explained the situation as briefly as he could.
“Of course I’ll help, Rob. Poor Celia. I’m glad you called. What do you need?”
How does this plan work out?
Monday, April 09, 2012
Handling the Unexpected
Celia may be in early labor.
Celia was more than a little freaked out that though Mom drove her to the emergency room, she was taken immediately to labor and delivery.
“But I’m only seven months along,” she kept saying, to clerical staff, nurses, orderlies, and anyone else who was within earshot. She still had occasional pangs of pressure around her middle but she had not experienced anything as strong as the pain she had felt while kneeling on the floor in the kitchen earlier. She wondered if she had imagined it.
“Don’t worry,” her mother said. “You won’t have this baby before it’s ready to come out.”
By the time the labor nurse had examined her, spoken to her doctor, and assured her that there would be no way the baby would be arriving today, Celia was relaxing in a comfortable bed. This was good, because shortly thereafter Rob arrived, frantic and sweating, followed by his cubicle-mate Lucy. Celia had met Lucy once, about a year ago, when she and Rob had joined Lucy and her boyfriend Rocco to watch basketball at a sports bar.
Rob walked in and kissed Celia. He opened his mouth to speak but it did not appear that words were going to come out.
“Rob couldn’t wait to get here,” Lucy said in her deep, throaty voice, and as if to reinforce her words Rob took Celia’s hand and sat on the side of the bed. Lucy introduced herself to Celia’s mother Mary, who filled Rob and Lucy in on Celia’s condition. Lucy asked intelligent questions and Mary answered, explaining about the medication Celia had received to stop what had indeed been early labor. Celia watched while her mother and Rob’s friend carried on the conversation she supposed they ought having with one another, as if by proxy. But the information was being shared in any case.
“Celia will be released as soon as the doctor sees her,” Mary said.
“Are you OK?” Celia said to Rob, as quietly as she could.
“Mary, why don’t we go down to the cafeteria,” Lucy said. “Rob, I’ll bring you a nice cold ice tea.”
Celia was grateful to Lucy for taking charge and waved to them as they left. Once they had some privacy she looked at Rob expectantly.
Rob appeared to still be speechless, but he finally sputtered out, “Honestly, I think I’m in shock.”
“Don’t worry,” Celia said. “As soon as the doctor comes I’ll be released and it’ll be like I scraped my knee. No big deal.”
No sooner had Celia spoken than her doctor walked in briskly and shook Rob’s hand. “OK,” she said, looking at the chart. “I don’t think there’s anything to worry about here. We want to make sure we get you to about the third week of May, but that’s nothing a few weeks of bed rest won’t take care of.”
“Bed rest?” Rob and Celia said simultaneously.
“I’ll make sure my office faxes a letter to your school,” the doctor continued. “Looks like your school year’s over, Celia.
What happens next?
Monday, April 02, 2012
State of Shock
Rob and Celia are preparing for the move to their new house.
Only one more week of working two jobs, Rob thought while sugaring his coffee in the break room. He had taken the second job as a Starbucks barista for financial reasons right before Celia finally found a teaching job last September. As a result, the money he had been earning since, instead of paying their bills, had been put into savings. That pleased him, because they had discovered that Celia was pregnant – unexpectedly – right after she had started her new job. So while on one hand Rob was exhausted from working both jobs, on the other he slept better for the few hours he was in bed for the knowledge that he was building financial security.
He was sorry to see the job go. But Celia needed more support than expected as they approached their move and the birth of their baby within a month of each other. She was tired and fragile, and it meant a lot to Rob that she relied on him. He wanted to come through for her. The job had been good discipline, which could not hurt. Everyone he knew warned him that babies were so much work.
He returned to his cubicle and sat down. “Your cell phone rang,” his cubicle-mate Lucy told him. Just as he picked it up to check, his desk phone beeped.
“Rob Benton,” he answered, noticing that Celia had called on his cell.
“Thank goodness,” Celia said. “Mom’s driving me to the hospital. It’s way too early, but I think I might be in labor.”
Rob stood right back up. She can’t have the baby, he thought ridiculously, because we haven’t moved yet.
“Rob? Are you there?” Celia said. Rob realized he hadn’t said anything yet and was about to speak up when he heard Celia gasp in pain. His adrenalin surged but it only seemed to immobilize him further; he listened to a scuffle on the other end of the line.
“Robbie?” he heard his mother-in-law say. “You need to meet us at the hospital.”
Rob still hadn’t spoken. He turned and looked at Lucy, who was watching him, partly curious and partly aghast, presumably at his immobility.
Lucy stood up and grabbed the phone away from him. “What hospital?” she said. “OK. I’ll make sure Rob gets there as soon as possible.” She hung up and looked at Rob. “Rob. Are you there?”
He was, but he was busy panicking that if they had the baby now they wouldn’t get to move to the new house at all. He knew it didn’t make sense but he couldn’t get out of that groove. He looked at Lucy but wasn’t sure what he saw.
What happens next?
Monday, March 26, 2012
Rob has given notice to quit his second job. Celia, now seven months pregnant, fears that between the fatigue of pregnancy and the ongoing stress of living with her mother (not to mention keeping up with her teaching job), she will be too overwhelmed to manage the move to their new house.
Thank God for spring break. Celia and Rob lived simply in their one-bedroom apartment, and since the house purchase she had been systematically packing her non-maternity clothing. But managing her mother continued to take more time than she had planned and she was starting to feel the pressure. Mom, characteristically, was complicating things with her efforts to be helpful. Case in point: she bought dozens of new hangers that had to be stored now and moved later, congratulating herself that they had been on sale and that she had saved fifty cents per box. Celia had given up on trying to change this sort of thing.
“Good thinking, Mom,” she said instead of fighting it head on. “We’ll definitely need more hangers when we move.” This approach was healthier for everyone and required much less energy to play mother to her mother.
She knelt on the kitchen floor, trying to bend far enough over her belly to reach the unopened toaster in the back, to pack it. But she couldn’t reach it. She sat up, took a deep breath, and indulged in a brief fantasy: what might it be like to have a mother who was actually helpful? There was much to be grateful for: the sale of Mom’s house provided the downpayment for the house they would share. Celia would be able to work and not have to worry about daycare with Mom there to take care of their baby.
She knew that her mother had not been great at child rearing the first time around. But Celia did not want to dwell on the implications of Mom taking care of her child while she was at work… she would cross that bridge when she got there.
Meanwhile, there was moving in April, and of course giving birth in May.
Celia heard the front door open. “I’m home, honey,” Mom said.
“Hi Mom.” Celia reached up to the counter to pull herself up, and as she did so she was seized by pain around her middle, like something was pushing down on her—
She sucked in her breath and put her hands on the floor. In about thirty seconds, the pain passed.
Mom put her head in the kitchen to see Celia on all fours. “What’s wrong, honey?”
“I need to call the doctor right now,” Celia said. “Something’s not right.”
What happens next?
Monday, March 12, 2012
Whose side are you on anyway?
After inadvertently forgetting to put the car in PARK, thus causing both AAA and Rob to come to her rescue at a turnpike rest stop when the car wouldn’t start, Rob is driving Celia home. Her mother, who had been with Celia, is driving Celia’s car home behind them.
Celia could not recall the last time she had been so enraged. It was bad enough that her mother had made fun of her for her mistake, stupid and ridiculous though it may have been. But when Celia burst into tears at her thoughtless comment, Rob had added insult to injury with, “So how long do you plan on being such a flake?” He probably didn’t mean anything by it, but for Celia, already exhausted after a weekend of packing up her mother’s house and entering another new tired phase of pregnancy, it was the last straw.
She sat weeping in the passenger seat, unable to stop and silently cursing the hormones that seemed to rule her emotions.
“I should have finished the drive alone,” she said. “You and Mom could drive together and continue to have a good time at my expense.” She fumbled in her purse for tissues but could not find any.
“Celia, I’m sorry,” Rob said. “You don’t have much of a sense of humor right now.”
Celia felt cornered, stuck in the car and for the rest of her life with a man she momentarily loathed; stuck in an arrangement in which her most unhelpful mother might be living with permanently. She was enraged now at herself; she must have been out of her mind to agree to any of this.
“No, I don’t have much of a sense of humor,” she said. “I left it at home, in our bedroom, because this baby is taking up all the space I have.” Rob had gotten her pregnant, too (her anger reminded her), even as the remaining rational parts of her mind knew that there had been two of them in the bed.
At the moment she could not imagine how she was going to coordinate getting their new house ready and planning a move; she was utterly overwhelmed.
“I’m sorry you had to drive out here on your day off. You deserve a day off and I am being a flake.” She was still crying and it was hard to get the words out. “But I need you to be on my side. I don’t have any energy left to defend myself against you, too.”
“I told you I’m sorry I said that,” Rob said. “But I don’t have a lot of energy to spare myself right now.”
What happens next?
Monday, February 27, 2012
Damsel in Distress
Celia, six months pregnant, and her mother are stranded at a truck stop with car trouble.
Celia was not sure why she called Rob first. Rob was an hour away in Columbus and she had AAA to take care of her car. Maybe it was because she was worn out, and not only from the work she and her mother had done all weekend on the house. Being with her mother was exhausting, too. But as her pregnancy progressed, things that might previously have been merely inconvenient could nearly send Celia over the edge.
“Call AAA and I’ll leave now to pick you up,” Rob had said immediately.
Today was Rob’s first day off in weeks and that he had been looking forward to watching basketball and taking a long nap, but he had not betrayed one hint of frustration at her interruption.
Now, as she waited for AAA and Rob, she counted her blessings.
“I’m going to go inside to shop while we wait,” Mom said. “Want anything?”
Celia shook her head and as her mother closed the car door and left Celia alone, she added another gratitude to the list: she could have a few minutes peace from her mother’s relentless chatter while she waited, even though it was cold in the car. Only her mother could turn a truck stop shop into a genuine shopping excursion. She thought to call after her, to tell her not to buy any junk since they were getting ready to move, but could not summon the willpower.
There was nothing romantic about being a damsel in distress, especially one in maternity jeans. She felt like her brain was starting to go, too, but she had been warned by her fellow teachers to be ready for that. Household items began to show up in strange places, such as the shiny green canister of Parmesan cheese that kept appearing under the sink next to the shiny green canister of Comet cleanser, thanks to some neurological crossed wire.
She thought she might doze a bit, and she redirected her thoughts to dream of the new house they would move into in less than two months. Usually she could lull herself to sleep on this reverie but today she was too drained to go there… Good. There was the AAA truck.
Celia got out and flagged down the driver, waving her AAA card for good measure.
The driver parked the truck, got out, and greeted Celia. He took the key from her and got into the drivers’ seat. Within ten seconds, he had started the engine.
“Oh, my gosh,” Celia said, astonished. “How did you do that?”
“You left it in DRIVE,” he said. “Has to be in PARK to start it.”
Just then Celia saw Rob pull into the rest stop parking lot.
What happens next?
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