Saturday, March 31, 2012

Blessed by the Assignment Gods

I am feeling truly fortunate and thankful these days. Our daughter, Clementine, two weeks, caught the boys' cold. Everyone in Brasilia is sick, our boys, our daughter, me for a short while, our empregada and our gardener. It is the only place we know of where everyone gets sick between the change of seasons.

Yes, the dry season is approaching. Earlier than I remember. The occasion is a sad one. Last year, I looked forward to the dry season, believing it would bring great running weather. While it is cooler in June and July, by August and September, humidity dips down into the single digits and the temperature starts to climb again as spring returns. All I know is I see a return to lap swimming this dry season, because, though I can run in almost anything, running in the driest part of the dry season was pure hell on earth.

And, of course, I will miss the rain. No one should have to go 100 days without seeing a cloud or experiencing a rain shower.

But, thankfully, Clementine is on the mend. Her tiny coughs slowly dissapating, no small cause for concern when it is your two-week old doing the coughing.

We also recently learned that after having to say goodbye to Brazil (though I seriously doubt it is goodbye, but will be more like, see you later) we will be saying hello to India. What the what?! India!? It is all a little surreal. India? India!! India. It sounds far. It feels far. I see pictures on blogs and website and can't picture a place where cows and elephants sleep in the road on your morning commute. I can't wait.

I recently admitted my only reluctance to Elise. I had never lived anyplace where I wasn't sure I could just go outside and run with abandon. I knew when I took this job that, sooner or later, it might come to that...that we would be assigned to a large, busy, hot city with no parks or sidewalks, but I have not given up all hope that I will not be able to run in Chennai (there is a Chennai running club, so they have to run somewhere, right?). I don't think I am quite ready to become a slave to the treadmill. Though running on a treadmill is better than not running at all. I am cautiously optimistic that at 4:30 a.m. I might be able to beat the rickshaws and motos, cows and elephants, stifling heat and humidity, and packs of roving wild dogs to tear through India in the pre-dawn. We'll see.

That being said, I feel very blessed. Everything that we had read when bidding on Chennai and everything we have read since seems to corroborate our suspicions that it would be a great family post. Much like Brasilia.

We have already started thinking about India and planning our time in Washington. It is impossible not to. But I also need to remind myself to enjoy every last minute in Brazil, too. Which will be easy to do with Sam, Peter and Clementine keeping us attenuated to the present, the here and now. We bought corn ice cream yesterday, and I asked Elise to pick me up a Guarana when she ran into the store. She didn't, but did come back with banana-acai juice. These are the days when I will channel my inner Brazilian.

When playing on the playground at work after Sam's swim lesson this morning, Sam said, "I want to go to Chennai someday. Chennai sounds like a nice place."

It was ridiculous of me to think that he had not been listening in to all of our excited conversations. We haven't said anything to him yet. I'm not sure when we will. Surely, not before our second mini flag day flag arrives in the mail. But, of course, he's been listening to every word we've said.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Flag Day: Part Two

Chennai, India!

Morning Jog

Sunday Afternoon Conversation with Nanny

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Clementine: The Birth Story as told by Daddy

It was Wednesday, March 14, 2012. Elise was a week and a day past her due date. I had set up a full-day of meetings for a visitor from Washington, D.C., never actually planning on being present for any of them.

After a lackluster two and a half mile run at lunch, I left the office for the first of two late afternoon meetings in Asa Sul. The plan was Elise was to pick me up at 5:15 following the second meeting, at the Secretariat for Human Rights, across from Parque da Cidade.

Time was running short. If we couldn’t encourage Clementine to emerge into the world soon, we would begin to bump up against the two-week mark, at which point our designs for a natural birth at home would be overtaken by the medical reality of getting Clementine out by the 42-week mark by whichever means at the doctor’s disposal. Though at that point, Elise could and may have still been induced, it was more likely, given the propensity for Caesarians in Brazil, the doctor would recommend a C-section, something we wanted to avoid. It was neither of our intents for me to hold my daughter for the first time behind a surgeon’s mask and scrubs.

The plan? Acupuncture. After an afternoon reading literature online, I dare say Elise had grown increasingly skeptical, but desperate times called for desperate measures, so she strapped Sam and Pete into their respective car seats and picked me up in front of the office building under a light drizzle. Motos swished by on the wet pavement as I shielded my work papers from the precipitation (I had surrendered my umbrella to my out-of-town visitor).

The boys ate mini-chicken, fries and broccoli from bento box-like Tupperware containers. Elise pulled off the road and parked illegally in front of Fogo do Chão while I sprinted down the sidewalk in the rain to pick up shwarma to-go from this amazing shwarma place across the street from the Melia, tucked into the side of a gas station. A half dozen old men drank frozen 600 ml bottles of Antarctica from tiny glasses and watched soccer on the TV over the counter. I couldn’t tell if they were Arabic or Brazilian or both. Probably both. 20 reais later, I had two shwarmas to-go, though we could have probably polished off eight between the two of us. Despite her lack of enthusiasm for warm lettuce, Elise was content.

The acupuncturist’s office was at the extreme tip of Asa Norte, in the same building as Pete’s dreaded dentist, so at least familiar. We entered the smallest waiting room in the world a half hour early for our 6:30 appointment. Sam and Pete flipped through magazines while we waited. After a short interview in which we described the nature of our visit, Elise left us.

Before departing, she slipped her iPhone in my suit pocket, and the boys and I returned to the waiting room to settle in and watch a movie or cartoon. The procedure would take about thirty minutes, we were told. I turned the iPhone on and left Sam in charge, but after the boys had flipped through three cartoons, unable to settle on one, I confiscated the device, much to their astonishment and dismay.

Both in tears, I whisked them from the doctor’s office by the elbows and down the hall. I propped them up against a wall in the hall, both wailing in front of the elevators. Three women waiting for who-knows-what…test results? An appointment? A man in a black suit tugging at two screeching toddlers? Smiled knowingly as I not-so-kindly encouraged them to straighten up and fly right. Pete wailed, “Mom…mom!!” over and over again. I firmly told him to, “Pull yourself together.” It’s seems unkind, but it is amazing how well this phrase works on Peter, and he immediately stopped, reduced to shuddering sniffles.

When we returned to the waiting room, I put myself in charge of the iPhone. We settled on an old stand-by. Thomas and the Tank Engine. Which they have seen a hundred times and can recite by heart. A few minutes later, Elise emerged. I was anxious to hear how it went. I paid for the session, but told the doctor I could pick up the nota fiscal tomorrow. We wouldn’t come back to pick it up.

According to Elise (and maybe there will be her own blog post on this someday) she began to experience contractions as soon as the needles penetrated her skin. The doctor then attached electrodes to the needles and sent a current racing through them. It was difficult for her to hold still (which I would think important in acupuncture, but wouldn’t know for sure, never having experienced it firsthand). The doctor had told us that the acupuncture would have the same effect on her body as the chemical Pitocin which is commonly used to induce labor in hospitals. The treatment would release chemicals within her body four to six hours after the session. He asked her what she would be doing in four to six hours. Elise responded, “Sleeping.” He encouraged her to get up and walk around to augment the effects of the treatment, but full induction would only be possible after several successive sessions (his hook, I presume, if Elise had felt nothing after the first, or even second or subsequent, sessions).

Elise continued to have contractions as we drove home, got the boys and ourselves ready for bed. I settled into a comic I had recently bought for myself on eBay, a rare, but much needed, diversion from the latest issue of The Economist or Foreign Affairs. Elise didn’t settle into anything at all.

She began to suspect the contractions were strengthening, but never having experienced natural labor, she wasn’t sure. Was this the real deal? Should we call the mid-wife?

Knowing Elise, I sensed this was it. I roused the boys who had only been asleep a few hours. It was close to 10:00. I carried them one at time in the pjs to the car and strapped them into their car seats, blankies, pacies and all.

As we drove to a friend’s house where Pete and Sam would spend the night, I explained to them that Mom’s baby was coming tonight and that I would come back for them in the morning. They both stared forward, speechless, staring through bleary eyes and the windshield at the empty streets bathed in bright orange light at a future we have talked much about but, still, largely unknown. Young men sat on the curbs in front of gas station, some sipping from bottles esconced in brown bags, as if they, too, had been waiting.

When we arrived, I carried them both inside and upstairs. Their beds had already been made. Sam would sleep on a mattress on the floor in one room. Peter would sleep in a pack-n-play in the other. I tucked Sam in and told him again that I would be back for him in the morning. I tried laying Peter down in the pack-n-play, but as soon as I let go, he started crying. I picked him up. Sam appeared in the doorway, “I want to sleep in the same room as Petey.” We moved kids around, Sam settling into a bed next to the pack-n-play. I gave Peter to Elise’s friend. He was still crying though she held him close. I gave him one last kiss and pulled myself away, reminding myself that in such situations that it was worse to linger. Easier to make a quick break. Say goodbye and go. Plus, I couldn’t delay. Elise would need me at home.

It was after 11 by the time I made it back to the house. Racing through Lago Sul, only slowing for the omnipresent traffic cameras that, unlike the rest of Brasilia, never slept, I found Elise in our bedroom, unpacking sheets from the basket of supplies she had gathered. I helped her make the bed. We had already inflated the birthing tub, but decided at the last minute against using it. The only way to control the temperature in the birthing tub was with two raw heating coils which sounded unnecessarily dangerous to me. I had visions of electrocuting Elise and my unborn daughter running through my head, so I convinced Elise it would be easier to control the temperature of the water in our tub. Thus, the birthing tub remained in the guest room, unused. I kept it hidden, nonetheless, lest the boys, upon their return, got it in their heads to use it as a kiddie pool.

Elise and I stripped the bed through contractions. She asked me how the boys were. Did they cry? I lied. I told her they both rolled back over and went to sleep. We layered plastic sheets, shower curtains and old linens. Gradually, the contractions grew stronger and at some point she made the command decision to move to the bathtub, hoping the warm water would help the pain. Soon after, Elise had me call the mid-wife and doula again. Every five minutes for a half hour, I received text messages that the doula was either almost there or five minutes away. The labor grew more painful.

I propped Elise’s head on rolled up towels and kneeled on the bath mat next to the tub, stroking her hair and holding her hand. We put an iPhone on the edge of the tub playing music quietly. I lowered the lights. The doula and mid-wife finally arrived, and I helped Paloma empty her car of its contents. For some reason, though I had been briefed on everything she would do, I was surprised by how much stuff she had. She even had an oxygen tank. Oxygen tank? What was that for?

Toward the end, Elise changed positions, moving from her back to her knees. With gravity on her side, the end was near. A mighty roar ripped through the heavens. I looked down. Underwater, I could see Clementine’s head, her dark eyes looking up at us through the water. Elise leaned back in the tub and brought her to her chest. If Clementine cried at all it was only for an instant. I climbed onto the edge of the tub and perched on an impossibly narrow corner and squatted like a gargoyle to get a glance at my daughter’s face. All the months spent wondering what she would look like, wondering who she would look like, came to end in two short hours.




Clementine Eve Hanna was born at 12:41 a.m. on Thursday, March 15th in Brasilia, Brazil. Sh weighed 7 lbs and was 19 3/4 inches long.

Today, March 22nd, she is one week old. Both mother and daughter are better than well.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sure, she sleeps....


when he's holding her.


Integration

It was Saturday evening. Clementine was 2 days old. Sam and Pete were playing with Thomas trains on the floor of the play room while Elise rested on the couch and I sat next to her in our orange rocker from Ikea. Clementine was sleeping in the bouncy chair in the kitchen.

Sam bounced up and declared that he was going to draw a picture of our family on the chalkboard. He drew the four of us when I asked, “Where’s Clementine?”

Visibly stumped, almost as if he knew he’d erred, he replied, “I only drew the family in this room.” Nice save. He repeated himself, as if to reassure us that he hadn’t forgotten her, then drew a tiny stick resembling a clothespin that was supposed to be Clementine.


We never thought it would be easy for either of them, Sam or Pete. With so much new and so much changing, it is more important than ever that their worlds do not change. It doesn’t help that Sam got sick a day after she was born, and what was going to be already challenging became truly Herculean, but what we want to happen instantaneously, integrating five individuals into a seamless whole, will take time. As I reminded Elise, Sam doesn’t remember a time when there was no Pete, and neither Pete nor Sam will remember a time when there was no Clementine.

On the way home today from the med unit, all three of our brood lined up in the back seat of the Subaru in their respective car seats like sardines, Sam cooed softly to Clementine from his perch on the hump. It was her first time in a car seat and she was clearly not enjoying the novelty
of the experience. We stopped at Oba on the way home so Elise could buy some fresh fruit and vegetables. Shortly after the engine came to a stop, Clementine started crying. Sam tried consoling her, just as we had coached him to do. I turned on the radio. Neither worked, but I told Sam that was okay. He tried and sometimes babies just cry and there isn’t anything we can do about it.

He seemed to understand. It wasn’t so long ago that he was a
baby himself, you know.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sweet Clementine


Clementine
Origin: French
Meaning: Merciful, Mild, Gentle

The thing about having such a vivid imaginations is that sometimes, just sometimes if you believe enough you can make the objects in your minds eye appear...and even closer, even more real. I'm not saying it is easy, It wasn't. I'm not saying it happens with every dream, it can't. But, sometimes, just sometimes you have to dare to believe. We did.

From the second I knew I was pregnant, I knew she was a girl. From the second I knew she was a girl, I knew her name.

Growing up I had a list of girl names I pinky swore with myself I'd use someday. I'd collected them, ranked them, scribbled them in the back covers of journals, Bailey, Eve, Georgia, Simone. All of which, eventually held a different formation, but completely ready-to-use as we drove to the delivery room to meet Sam and Peter. When we learned they were boys, I stashed them back in my journals for use at a later date...should we be so lucky.

We were.

Though unlike with Sam and Peter, Paul and I never discussed names, not for nine months, not for 41 weeks and not for those last very long and exhausting, three days. We never fished back into those journals and pulled back out our list of girl names. We only spoke once, briefly, when I shared my idea for her name with Paul. He nodded knowingly as if we had always known and that was it. We never spoke her name aloud, except to address her as "c" to each other, we signed our oath with imaginary pricks from our fingers and then out she came.


Sometimes, just sometimes you know. We did.



I don't know where I even heard it now. Certainly not on the streets of Brasilia and I most definitely wasn't listening for it way back in the fall of 2010 when we left the US for Brazil. I've never even met a Clementine.

Until now, and she is just as sweet as I imagined. The black black hair, the world's most decadent soft skin. Those lips, those eyes, I saw it all in my dreams. I can't say I was even surprised.

We call her Clementine and "Clem," for short, which was my Grandfather's brother's name. Either call to mind sunshine and a slow, charmed, gentle life. Lush trees, warm sunshine, perfect, vibrant fruit.

Her middle name is a variation of my Grandmother's name, Eva. The sweetest most wonderfully gentle woman I've ever met. She was filled with joy for simple pleasures in life, gardening, picky wild berries, baking pies and collecting sea glass from long morning walks on the beach with her family.

Enough said.

...and then a few weeks ago I began to search for a song, because every girl should have a song:




May we always have our Clementine.

Friday, March 16, 2012

41 Week Ultrasound...Oi Papai...

At the recommendation of Elise's doctor, we sought what we hoped would be a final ultrasound to get the final okay for Clem's arrival.

I scheduled the appointment for 8:20 a.m., but after dropping Peter off at a friend's house for the morning, Sam off at school, and making our way through the rush hour transito creeping through Asa Sul (sometimes, the most direct route is not always the fastest route. Lesson learned. Again), we finally arrived 30 minutes late only to be told to come back in 40 - 50.

Elise and I decided to run downstairs and grab some breakfast and a coffee. We stopped at one of many lanches set up around the city for the dispensing of cafezinhos and salgados, little more than a shack, really, some no more than four wooden poles with a thatched roof, beer and popsicle cooler, peddling gum, cigarettes, refilleable cell phone cards, and dark, sweet coffee out of a pump thermos. We ordered two cafezinhos with milk and two salagdos, kind of like a hot pocket. It was bread sprinkled with dried oregano and filled with minced ham. In the bustling hospital sector, but still under the palms and the hot sun, it is not easy to forget we are in a foreign land, though one that is increasingly familiar.

We enjoyed what would be our last few minutes of peace before Clem would come. There are already peaceful moments, but our next date night is probably several weeks away, at least, so this brief diversion was welcome, if not entirely convenient. We talked about Clem, the boys, a return trip to Rio, our bid list, and the future (of which there is much to discuss).

We rode the elevator back upstairs just in time to walk into Dr. Luiz's office. We sat down and immediately Dr. Luiz's cell phone rang. He answered it.

"Oi, Papai...sim, Papai...sim, Papai....sim, Papai...okay, Papai."

He thumbed the cell phone off and set it on the desk behind him. He turned toward his computer screen. His eyes reddened, large tears welling in them.

"My grandmother," he explained, "had...had...." He touched his chest, searching for the word.

"Infarto?" I offered.

He nodded, wiping tears from his eyes with the tips of his fingers from both hands.

Heart attack.

A few moments of awkward silence later, he regained his poise and began the exam. Elise would have two sensors strapped to her belly and we would listen to Clem's heart rate for 10 minutes. During the ensuing 10 minute span, Elise experienced two contractions, not unusual in and of itself as she had been experiencing contractions on and off for several weeks. During one of the contractions, Clem's heart rate dipped. Through the other, it remained steady.

Five minutes into the exam, Dr. Luiz's cell phone rang again. Twice. He answered the second time, "Oi, Sergio..." Sergio? A brother? Uncle? Cousin?

Dr. Luiz hung up the phone and started crying again.

I couldn't help think of a circle of life, one life coming, another leaving. It was cold calculus, but, like I said, I couldn't help it. Elise and I exchanged suffered glances, by this point, just wanting to get the heck out of there before the phone rang again and Dr. Luiz left Elise on the table for a flight to Belo Horizonte to see his grandmother.

Through the tears, Dr. Luiz explained to us the reason Clem's heart rate had most likely dipped during the first contraction was because the umbilical cord may be wrapped around her neck. A subsequent sweep of the ultrasound wand confirmed as much. Elise had been carrying Clem around for longer than she had ever carried around any other baby, and, for her, Clem was a very real person. For me, on the other hand, she had always been this kind of abstract concept, a hypothetical person, my imaginary daughter-to-be. At that moment, she became no longer imaginary, but very real. My initial reaction, "Get that thing from around her!" I screamed the words in my head, though Dr. Luiz and everyone else assured Elise and I she was fine and there was no cause for concern. And, as we now know, of course, they were right.

I hope Dr. Luiz and his grandmother will have equally good news, though the reality of the matter is, we may never know. Now that Clem is here, I can hope the circle of life was interupted if only briefly.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

She's Here!




Clementine Eve Hanna
7 pounds & 19 3/4" long

"Clem" arrived this morning at 12:41am. We are all in love and exhausted.

(More about the big event, the name and the sweetness of completing our family to come...)


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

41 Weeks: A little Relief


Not in the "I had a baby" way but in the "final, biddable, bid list-arrived" kind of way. We are excited, anxious, exhausted, hopeful, busy and overwhelmed to the point of ambivalence.

Tomorrow I will lay on a bed of needles in an attempt to get this baby girl moving...ok maybe they call it acupuncture, but you get the idea. I'm getting desperate.


Monday, March 12, 2012

40 Weeks 6 Days: Comic Relief


100% Pure Sam

(Sound a must)

Friday, March 9, 2012

40 Weeks 3 days: State of Our Family



As we continue to wait for baby girl, we continue to grow more and more goofy:

Both boys in the middle of dinner last night, simultaneously and without warning jumped up, stripped naked and started dancing, singing and playing air guitar in the kitchen....and it was such a welcome distraction that Paul and I continued to eat like we were out alone at date night while they danced around us, tiny naked bottoms and fronts bobbling up and down in the residual heat contained by our Brazilian kitchen.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Waiting Days

I won’t soon forget the past few days. There are events coming that I know I will never forget, but there is also something memorable about the days and weeks that preceded them. What might make this period of waiting different from others is we don’t know when it will end. Most wait for a commercial break or Friday night or Christmas, marking off the days on a calendar. But in our instance we have no idea when our little girl will be born and no idea when the new list of posts for us to bid on will be released.

Elise’s due date has come and gone, and, now, I have received word that the release of the second list will most likely not come until next week. More waiting. But the thing is either could come at any minute.

Every time my office phone rings and I see Elise’s cell phone number in the call ID, I wonder if this is it.

I still run at lunch. I tell myself what are the chances Elise will go into labor during this one hour of recreation. Nevertheless, I have taken to running a three mile loop around my building which never takes me further than a one half-mile (a two and a half minute sprint) from a quick rinse and then on my way home. I’ve grown rather fond of this route. My old route, an out and back to the Chinese Embassy, is characterized by a grueling 1.5 mile uphill on the return. An out and back also means I run anywhere from 3 to 4 miles with the wind, most days, to my back as it comes off Lake Paranoá. This, in turn, means, without a headwind, I grow hotter and hotter under the 31 degree noon-day sun. By the time, I turn around, it’s usually too late. I’m overheating. But my new route has shorter ascents and descents and it is a loop, meaning just as I start to feel hot, I usually turn into a cooling headwind. I’ll miss this route, because, as much as I like it, I’m not fond of running by the front gate where my co-workers, going to or returning from lunch, see me. Though I should take pride in the fact that I run at lunch rather than belly up to an all you can eat churrascaria, I still feel like people think I’m crazy for running in the heat of the day. To me, it is the difference between running at noon or not running at all. There is no choice, really. If noon is the only time of day I can run, then that’s when I run.

I also find it easier to stay motivated when I don’t know which day is going to be my last day to run. I tell myself I am just ‘maintaining my fitness’ until after the baby is born, gets settled and I can start training again, but, in reality, I don’t know when I’ll be able to run like this again. After Peter was born, I didn’t run for a year and half. I don’t anticipate that will be the case this time around, but I’m definitely not taking running for granted.

Each day of waiting makes all of us a little more anxious. None more so than Sam who seems to feel everything a bit more acutely than most. Not only is he aware of the baby’s new arrival, but, despite the fact that we only talk about bidding after the boys go to bed, I begin to suspect he suspects that we will not stay in Brazil forever. I’m not ready to admit that we have to leave Brazil and I know Sam isn’t either. Our time here will go fast, and I hope it will be easier to prepare him for our next adventure after we know where we are going.

Again this morning, as I drove him to school, he asked when we were going to leave Brazil. My go-to response has been, “Not for a long, long time, Boobaluh.” But I don’t think he is buying this anymore. So I told him we wouldn’t be leaving Brazil for a long time, but when we did we would be going to a new country, on a new, exciting adventure. He seemed to like that idea, but he also wanted to go to Ma and Grandad’s house someday, because he likes that country, too.

Though time, as ever, is at a premium, I am trying to make sure Sam is getting enough of my attention. In order to make him feel special, we gave him the option of going to get his haircut and go out for ice cream or build a train or Legos in the playroom. Of course, he chose anything to do with ice cream, even if it meant having to get his haircut first. The truth of the matter is, Sam is the one who asked us if we would take him to get his haircut. I think both Elise and I were content to let his hair poof out, so he looked like a skinny Q-tip, but Sam had other designs, and his impetuousness seemed mollified, at least for the moment, by a sleek new ‘do. Not to mention he looks about 4 years older now.

On the way home we stopped at Pontão for iogurte. As much as we would like to curl up into a ball and hibernate until the waiting is over, Sam and Peter do not give us this option, and we should thank them for that. Because there are no waiting days for them. There are just playing days, school days, bath days, running in the sprinkler days, movie night days, going to Pontão days and coloring Ferdinand days. They don’t wait for anything, not milk, juice or dinner, so why should they start now? And they certainly aren’t going to wait for a new baby and a new list. There is wisdom to this that I thank them for it. Then we read books, brush teeth and go to bed. When we do, we don't know if this will be the night or if this will be our last restful night for awhile, but we do know we have arrived one day closer to our destination without even realizing it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

40 Brazilian Weeks

In honor of my due date....and the fact that I'm still pregnant (very pregnant) and having this baby is really the only thing on my mind (that, food and fitting into my real clothes again) I thought this would be an appropriate time to detail the highlights of my 40 weeks of pregnancy in Brazil.

From start to finish the cooking of this little Brazilian baby has been an awesome, weird and spectacular way to experience Brazil. We already knew that Brazilians loved babies, so why not go ahead and find out how they love pregnant women. Done....almost.

After finding out that Brazil has a 90% and higher cesarean rate, we began to choose our obstetrician carefully. The medical unit at our embassy researches and keeps a list of local doctors and specialists that not only speak English, but who's care is on par with that of doctors in the United States, which is mostly, but not always, in my opinion, a good thing. Having found out we were expecting in the summer (read: winter) months when most Brazilians take their long holiday, we were initially visiting a wonderfully nice OB who had a 95% cesarean rate. Though she promised me I could "attempt" (circus stunt-style?) a natural birth we also know that numbers don't lie. So we stayed with her for a bit, until we could transfer to another OB who is virtually the only other obstetrician who promotes and encourages natural birth in the city. If you are Brazilian and have even heard the words "parto natural" you know the name Dr. Rachel.

We have since learned that obstetricians, by law are required to remain with their patients the entire time they are laboring, which can be lengthy and obviously cuts into the number or patients that one obstetrician can take on at a time. Therefore they schedule a c-sections, which they claim, emphatically, are less painful than a natural birth and think we are crazy to attempt childbirth any other way. They also love the convenience and so do the obstetricians who can, as a result, load up on clients and assure no overlaps in laboring. Not at all unlike the United States is becoming.

In the waiting area at my first appointment with our new obstetrician, just 12 weeks pregnant, I found myself surrounded by beautiful, thin Brazilian mother's with babies that looked to have just been born hours before. I was dumbfounded at the luck of the genes of these people...until my name was called. An hour and a half later than my scheduled appointment and I was beckoned to step on the scale and given a strict weight-gain guideline of 12 kilos. This was nearly 20lbs less than I had gained (and subsequently fought losing) in my previous two pregnancies. As my charts were hand written on loose leaf notebook paper I also began to realize why my wait time was so standard and also why why my pregnancy here in Brazil would be so much more personal...and healthy than my pregnancies with the boys in Florida. Having taken over an hour with Paul and I to go over history, previous pregnancies, existing children, hobbies, favorite restaurants, etc. we felt like we were really people having a baby, not just another chart passing through the hands of our doctor.

In terms of caring for people with hearts and bodies and lives, the US could really learn a lot from Brazil. In terms of waiting times, American patients would likely be more patient with their wait time, knowing that the care that the quality and humanized care that they would be receiving would be worth their time flipping through Parent's magazine.

I have been greeted at both entry and exit to all appointments and ultrasounds with abraços and beijos and my hands stuffed full with tiny cappuccinos and bags of warm pão de queijo after my having my blood taken each and every time. I have even been serenaded at several lab appointments by a gentleman playing acoustic guitar while I wait.

Nearly all waiting areas that don't require an appointment, like the labs, give you an option upon taking a number to select "Preferencial" if you are pregnant, taking you to the front of the line. Even large grocery stores, hail a "Gestantes" line that includes chairs for sitting as your items are rung up and includes the elderly, handicapped and those with small babies (or screaming children we have learned!) I would have never been one to look "weak" and use the "stork" or "expecting mother" parking spaces in the US, but Brazilians insist that you use them, pulling you from one line to the next and well, waiting in lines here is like waiting for paint to dry, so you learn to take a break when you can get it.

If I was ever uncomfortable with the signature belly touch that accompanies pregnancy (and I was) Brazil has been the place to get over it. Brazilians "ooh" and "ahh" over the miracle of pregnancy, want to touch your belly, unload your shopping cart for you and tell you all about their own children and grandchildren.

Only time (hopefully only minutes or hours) more will tell the rest of our story of pregnancy in Brazil and our little Brazilian baby will be in our arms before we know it. Although she will not have Brazilian citizenship, but will always be a part of Brazil and Brazil a part of her.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Killing Time....

In the best possible way.





Saturday, March 3, 2012

Post-Nap Hideout






Thursday, March 1, 2012

You Can Cut the Tension with a Knife

Okay, listen, little girl in Elise's stomach, you're killing us. Get out here already before we tear each other to pieces.

Every morning, Elise and I are awaken by a tiny voice calling, "Daddy.....Daddy....." Usually, it is still pitch black out. This morning it started around 5:30. Yesterday, 5:00. The day before that, 4:30. Thankfully, it has been getting a smidge later and a smidge lighter every morning, as Peter finally adjusts to the end of daylight savings time in Brazil. I have received strict instructions not to get him out of bed before 6. Sometimes, I successfully tip-toe into his room, convince him in urgent whispers that it is not time to get up yet. Sometimes, he will curl back up, lay his head on the folded blanket which is his pillow and let me cover him with his other blanket, so he looks like a turtle trying to go to sleep. I rub him on his back a few times as reassurance, then tip-toe back into our room and slide back under the sheets and may get 10 or 15 minutes of quiet before the tiny voice comes again, "Daddy....Daddy....."

This morning, it was a chorus of two voices as the room finally started to lighten around 6 which made my rising from bed inevitable. I have had to resort to asking Peter if he has woken with a 'happy heart'. I'm not sure he knows what this means. I'm not sure I know what this means. I haul Pete from his crib. If Sam is awake, he follows. The first of what is sure to many bouts of sibling rivalry today ensues shortly after, when Pete and Sam argue who will turn the kitchen light on. They then squabble over sippy cups, who will stir the waffle mix, fight over a die-cast Lightning McQueen Hot Wheels. They both will lay their blankets on the kitchen floor like they are on the sands of Rio and curl back up as if it were I that insisted they get out of bed. Sam will scoot his poofy-head into Pete's ribs or tizu, then start head-butting his like he is a pachycephalosaurus defending his young. Pete screams then tries to flee, but can't because Sam is lying on his blanket. It's 5:45 a.m.

I handle this chaos better some days than others. Some days I can let it wash over me like waves rolling over the North Shore. Others, especially if the morning pot of joe hasn't been brewed yet, are more trying. Today was one of those days. It is on mornings like this one that I feel that the slightest pebble in our well-oiled engine could send the entire train careening off the rails. Some mornings, the chaos spirals out of control. Sam will whine because he has the smaller of two whisks I've assigned to my waffle-batter-stirring assistants. Pete has the larger and he isn't doing anything with it except beating it on the side of the counter like it is a cymbal brush and he is Neil Peart. I will dump the waffle batter in the sink in frustration. Sam bursts into tears. Pete looks about forlornly. Then asks for milk, juice, his blankie (which he is sitting on), his pacey (which is in his mouth) and five other things in the span of fifteen seconds. I take a deep breath. I quickly gather Sam up in my arms and tell him I'm sorry I lost my temper.

Neither Elise nor I believe in hiding the ugly truths of parenting. Nor are either of us ashamed of our less than perfect moments. This blog is here to remember both the beautiful and the ugly. Fortunately, we have had a very beautiful year, and the moments I consider ugly are mostly a confluence of naturally energetic boys displaying their natural boisterousness colliding with a deficit of patience I resolved on January 1 to have more of. And this is not to say that our boys are tiny Damians. Far from it. They are good, sweet children harnessing the destructive potential of an ICBM. Our job is to make sure if that potential energy makes it out of the silo, that it is transformed into a force for good.

Other mornings, yesterday, for example, I can calmly convince Sam he isn't ready to get out of bed yet. I know this because as I went in to lift Pete from his crib, Sam was still asleep. Before we could quietly slip from the room, Pete executed his 'down' maneuver, a twist of the torso combined with a crippling elbow to my adam's apple that signals his desire to be on his own two feet. He then promptly padded over to Sam's bed and queried, "Brudder....Brudder....you 'wake?" He wasn't, but he soon would be, much to his chagrin.

After a display much like the one this morning, I told Sam that he didn't have to get out of bed when Peter got out of bed. I gently guided him back to his room, turned his night light(s) on for him, gave him his blankie, stuffed Angry Bird doll, stuffed giraffe named Petey, tucked him back in and left the room. He was only in there for five minutes and promptly reported that he hadn't even closed his eyes, but the trick seemed to work. He was refreshed and didn't take Lightning McQueen from Peter, didn't head-butt him, hold his blankie hostage or rip the pacey from his mouth. A parenting victory, if only a small one.

The end of the day is a mirror image of the beginning. Whereas the morning begins quietly and revs up, the end of the day, from the moment I pull into the driveway, is a race to wind down the day and, again, find quiet. Often, I can't even get out of the car. Tiny exuberant bodies are blocking my exit. Once, it was only Sam that would ask, "Do you have any packages?" Now, Peter, too, runs up to my car door, asking around pacey, "Packages?"

The evening is like pinching quicksilver. Dinner, bathes, clean up the play room, dessert, brush teeth, two books and bed. Followed, by guiding Sam back to his bed two more times, a last trip to the bathroom, prayers, aquarium light out. By this point it is often close to 9. I hope it doesn't sound like I am complaining. I'm not. I realize how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to do this every night, and that there are many fathers who would envy being at the center of this kind of maelstrom. In my job, there is the unlikely reality that this could be taken from me for a year. I don't think this will happen, but I don't have to remind myself that there are other fathers who don't get to share the wonders of 'Dinotopia' with their sons every night, build Thomas tracks, or say prayers.

And this is only the beginning of the day, an hour, maybe two, and the end of the day, which can't be more than three hours, even on a late night. I can only speak to the beginning and end of the say. This is nothing to say of the middle eight to nine hours Elise must manage with alone. I readily acknowledge that no matter how challenging my work in the office may get, regardless of how many deadlines I brush up against, reports I have to juggle or meetings I have to suffer through, this 'work' pales in comparison to what Elise is doing. Every day. Now, 39 weeks pregnant. Rarely, if ever, complaining. Dinner always on the table within 30 minutes of me walking in the door. I readily acknowledge I have it eeeeeeasy.

A few days ago, I pulled my car into the driveway shortly after five. There was a tiny pirate standing in the car port. He had on a feathered pirate hat, eye patch, aquamarine plaid pants (that Elise sewed herself), a feather parrot cut-out glued to a popsicle stick in one hand and a treasure map in the other. I was so astounded, I promptly drove right into the gate, scratching the side of my car and denting the side view mirror. These things don't happen by accident. Tiny pirates are the product of focused parental energy. Sam couldn't stop giggling. Somehow, he found the wind to tell me--as he was showing off his map of the play room--that "Shees" was 'X' in Portuguese. This kid is good. This mom is better.





I know I have been a little more on edge recently. I guess having a new baby would do this to the best of us. Having a new baby and dealing with the unknowns of bidding on our next assignment would dent the calm repose of even Zach Brown. I feel it is ironic that I am feeling this anxious, because we have never been more stable and secure financially or in our home routine, and Elise and I have never been closer nor exhibited the kind of emotional resolve the next few days and weeks will require. I know we could not be more prepared for what is to come. No thanks to me. The baby will sport tiny pink Minnetonkas. Not by my design, but I am happy she will.

So get here already so we can all stop freaking out and love on you!!