Wednesday, November 25, 2015

In the Trenches. . .True Love at 3:14am

Three weeks in and I'm still going!  In this short period of time I've learned a lot and am simultaneously well aware of how little I know.  Humble pie is not a bad thing to eat while you're learning the ropes to caring for a newborn, it appears.  The other day I panicked when my mother-in-law fed my son twice within a 3 hour period because she said he was hungry. I explained that the doctor said we should strive to keep him on a feeding schedule to maintain his steady weight gain. She smiled and assured me that he would be fine, that he was hungry and she fed him. I mean, this woman who my husband and I deem, "the baby whisperer", has only raised a slew of babies over the last 50 years or so. Seeing the look of anguish on my face as I held Makana and imagined him becoming obese or suffering from dire gastrointestinal consequences, my father-in-law chimed in, "doctors not always right!". And how can you argue with that bit of wisdom?

24 days in and I've learned quickly to what and to whom I can turn to for help. Some are material things that make a parents' life much easier, but most come from humans. In this day and age, the material things are plentiful and have been created by people who, no doubt, once had an infant at home and thought to themselves, "how the hell can I create a solution for this?". 

Here's a short list of Delia's Favorite Baby Gadgets (all available online and delivered to your door in 2-3 business days):

1) A sterilizer (13 minutes to clean bottles, pacifiers and baby toys and no boiling water on a stove!)
2) A bottle warmer/cooler system (warmer heats up bottles in 2-3 minutes and the cooler keeps 2 bottles cool overnight so there's no blind stumbling to the kitchen to grab a bottle from the fridge and warm it up-set up perfectly on my nightstand!)
3) A video baby monitor (streams live video and sound, has night vision, you watch from a small, hand-held device anywhere in the house and you can speak into the device to soothe your baby from afar!) I'm using this now as I write this blog at the kitchen table.

Glory be to the creators of such wonders!

But even with these glorious creations, nothing and I mean nothing, can compensate for the type of help that comes in the form of people you can count on, most particularly in the form of a spouse.  I've always been grateful to Fosi for being the kind of husband and father who is hands on-cleans, cooks, shops, and serves his family and loved ones with selfless giving and so I guess I just assumed that he'd do the same when we brought home our little one. And I was right.

When I've left the house during my short maternity leave stint, I've had at least 3 people tell me, "you look well-rested, that's great!", to which I responded, "thank you, my hubby takes the 2am-6am shift."  The responses I receive range from, "you're lucky" to "good for him"to raised eyebrows and again, I take for granted that all partners do the same for their wives. Through discussions with other women, apparently this is not always the case.  This, in and of itself, could be the focus of a blog, but I prefer to keep this entry positive, lol.

For all you parents out there who've raised children, you know how challenging it can be.  Raising children is a blessing but it's hard work! I bow to the mothers out there who raise 2 or 3 (or more) little ones and primarily do all of the hands on stuff themselves. I pray for those whose partners are temporarily or permanently absent or, worse yet, who make life even harder with their presence.  To women (or men) like my mother who raised six children on her own after our father died, there are no awards or accolades great enough to praise and thank you.

I am blessed because I know what true love looks like in a partner. It looked different when we were dating or first married. It matured and grew through the years and went from taking just a romantic form to taking the form of family, friendship, sacrifice, hard work, generosity, kindness, humor and forgiveness.  I've seen the face of true love in a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand acts and more importantly I've FELT it. I've seen it take another shape, yet again, in the last three weeks. True love appeared this time at 3:14am, as I raised my head up from my pillow at the sound of my baby's cries.  Through sleepy eyes and ears, I saw my husband's back as he changed a wet diaper, then heard him speak lovingly to his son as he prepared his bottle, fed and burped him, and lay him back to bed.  That last part I didn't see because I had drifted off to sleep, grateful and secure in the knowledge that both baby and daddy were enjoying themselves.

Those moments I just described and hundreds more, are the moments that define what true love is for me. The crying child at 3am, the phone call from school saying that your son is hurt, finding out your loved one just died, not knowing how you'll pay the bills, going through hard times-that's what I call being "in the trenches". That's when you know who you can count on. That's when you realize who has your back, who you want on your team, what a true partner looks like.  Raising kids with someone, with a village of someones, is all about being in the trenches together.

I have a team of people that I can rely on in these proverbial trenches and I am forever grateful.  And always, at the top of my list, next to me in the trenches (as well as sharing in the beautiful landscapes of life's vista), is my hubby. Thank you, my love.

I got the next 3am feeding.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

In the Midnight Hour (aka Babies and Blogs)

So my life drastically changed 5 short days ago.  Before November 1, I slept when I wanted to, for as long as I wanted to.  Before November 1, I could never have dreamed that a 2 oz. bottle of ready-to-use, disposable baby formula would be the thing that I desired most to stack up on instead of quarts of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.  Six days ago you would hear me talking about how difficult it was to balance a demanding schedule of full-time work, part-time school, family and church responsibilities, while still enjoying some semblance of self-care and a social life.  Those days were a walk in the freakin' park.

Five days ago I became the mother of a precious new-born son.  Who knew that something so small could be so much work-require so much care, feeding, changing, fretting over, worrying about? I certainly never anticipated that I'd sit up in bed that many times a night just to make sure this tiny treasure was still breathing!  That I'd stand at the door to my home to welcome well-meaning guests with an over-sized bottle of hand sanitizer and ask them to 'disinfect' themselves before they touched the baby. Who could imagine that trying to dress an infant in a onesie could bring such angst?!? Studying for Torts on the Bar Exam didn't take this much mental concentration!

Six days ago, the only reasons I'd be up at 2am involved very self-centered (and most likely very enjoyable) activities, like being out with friends or watching Netflix and other 'stuff', lol.  And now, as I write this blog at 1am on a Friday night (Saturday morning), the fact that I managed to put this sweet baby to sleep successfully is more exciting to me (and much more of a personal triumph) than any other Friday night festivity I can remember.

Not even a week has gone by and I've learned so much. . .and had so little sleep! My son's name is Makana. On the second night of his arrival to our home, we had a discussion at 3am and it went a little like this:

Me: "Makana, we need to have a little talk."
Makana: *gurgles*
Me: "Do you notice that you and I are the only ones up? I mean, the whole household is asleep except for me and you. Do you see a problem with this?"
Makana: *smiles*
Me: "Hmmm. So I'd like to propose that we figure out this whole sleeping schedule thing. How about you stay up during the day more and sleep throughout the night like the rest of us do?"
Makana: (avoids eye contact)
Me: "I'll take that as a 'no'."

At the present moment, Makana and I are still negotiating the terms of his sleep schedule and let's just say that he has the upper hand thus far in this bargaining process.  And so, I've decided to make the most of his newborn nocturnal schedule and make a list of possible things to do while we're both up in the wee morning hours and he's staring at me like I'm supposed to provide entertainment with his 1am feeding.  So here's my list:

"Things to Do Between 12am-6am When Your Newborn Is Awake" (but already tended to):

1) Blog  (check)
2) Eat yummy things (check check)
3) Watch Netflix (I have yet to select a new series-any suggestions?)
4) Work on my papers for school (pending)
5) Exercise (next!)
6) FaceTime or Skype with friends in Japan (yes! yet to be scheduled)
7) Watch DVR'd shows (pau)
8) Clean (I think there's a cultural ban on cleaning at night, at least that's my story. . .)
9) Read (yes! any good book recommendations?)
10) Engage in other 'nocturnal activities' with other household members (I'm working on it, lol)

I'm determined to make the most of this midnight hour thing! I refuse to relegate this prime opportunity to mere bottles and diapers. I mean, the possibilities are endless, right? From these midnight sessions could come the next great novel out of Hawaii, or an "A" in my Master's class, a trim body, "bonding" activities with my hubby or catching up on all my favorite (and new favorite) shows! But alas, Makana has just drifted off to sleep and he just flashed a contented sleepy baby smile and I feel a yawn coming on, so maybe I'll just curl up next to him and catch a few winks and get back to my list tomorrow. . .maybe.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Maka the Cat: A Short Tail

"Mom, can you come out here, please?", the call came from my son out in the yard where I'd instructed him to cut the grass in pre-New Year's Eve neighborhood festivities preparation. 

"What's up, Sonny?", I replied at the front door.

"Can you help grab the kitten, the one that we heard crying last night?".

We had heard the cries of what we assumed were hungry and possibly abandoned or stray kittens the evening before and I hurried out to where he stood near our mailbox. There it was, tiny and curled up behind the base of the telephone pole in our yard. I picked up the tiny white fur ball, covered in grass clippings, and it meowed softly.

"Is the kitten dead?", asked the neighbor, "we saw it running around this morning."

"No, it's alive, we'll take it to the Humane Society", I responded as I carried the kitty to the patio to clean it up.

It continued to cry as I wiped it down and called to Sonny to grab some milk and a can of tuna. I held it up at eye-level to observe the tiny thing. It had a white body, with gray markings around its head and eyes, a gray tail, and one gray spot on the back of its neck. I had never been a cat person, I had actually hated cats growing up because they would cry like babies under my bedroom window at night, which scared the hell out of me, and because they used our yard like a giant kitty-litter box.  In my adulthood, as I became a dog lover, it softened my stance on cats as I begrudgingly accepted that there were cat lovers in the world who felt the same way I did about my dogs.

It was at this moment that the kitty looked directly into my eyes with its great big gray eyes as if to say, "Hey, I'm not that bad. I just want a chance to live."  Hmmm, maybe I'd been hanging out with and talking to my dogs for way too many years.  Nevertheless, when the little one started to eat and drink heartily, I thought to myself that it must be a fighter, a hungry one at that.  Being the social media creature that I was, I snapped a shot of her baby-grays and posted it on FB to ask if anyone wanted her. I received a number of "how cutes" and "keep its" and was warned that the Humane Society would put any kitten that weighed under two pounds to sleep. I also received a recommendation to call the kitten "Maka", for its eyes, or short for "Makahiki", in light of the pending new year.  I balked at the thought of naming it, firmly believing that you only named things that you planned to keep, call to you, and include in your family.

We wrapped the kitty up and headed to the Humane Society.  Upon our arrival, and after weighing it, we were told that it only weighed 12 ounces and that they would put her down. "You're going to kill it?", I asked incredulously.  "Most kittens don't make it without their mom when they're this young and this small, so yes", said Joe, the chipper animal worker. "If you'd like to foster it until it grows, we'll give you some things."

"Ummm. . .I'm not sure, my husband won't like this. . .", I mumbled as he handed my son a cat carrier and me a bag of food and kitty litter. "Yeah, we get to keep the cat!", said Sonny. "Wait, wait, we're not keeping a cat, we're maybe fostering at best...I need to think about this!", I told him.

"Here's some instructions," said Joe, flipping the kitty over and saying, "she just needs to gain 12 more ounces and be socialized before we can put her up for adoption. "But. . .but, I don't know anything about raising a kitten, how long will it take?", I sputtered.  "Maybe 2-4 weeks, the more she plays, the more she eats, the more she gains weight, good luck." And that was that. As I left the building, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was somehow conned into this by my sudden cat enthusiast of a son, the over-encouraging Joe, and the little kitty who was now nestled in the pink carrier at the back of the car.

The next several hours involved washing the foster kitty with Dawn, trying to pick off obvious fleas so my dogs wouldn't get infested and figuring out where it would make its 'home' for the time being. Fosi started with, "keep it outside", then "maybe bring it into the office, too cold outside" and finally, "it might be scared of the fireworks tonight, just keep it in the carrier in our bedroom". Uh huh, suckers, all of them.

My sister-in-law, the queen of cat lovers, upon hearing of the feline visitor, descended upon my home in record time, insisting that it be called Maka or Maka Girl (after reading the FB post, oh great), despite my insisting that it was just 'kitty' or 'cat' and refusing to give it a name. "I would take her if my building allowed pets, but now I can visit her here!", she gushed. Another one bites the dust.
She cooed over it in French and watched it stumble around the office carpet, attempting to crawl on me. "She thinks you're her mother!", she exclaimed. "She's comfortable on you and her head follows you whenever you talk." Uh, that's because I was the first one to feed it, mistake #1.

"Cats are easy to raise, Delia, they take care of themselves. Look, she's not even afraid of Snoop! That's a good sign." I shook my head, how did this happen? It was a guest, however, and a helpless creature, and so it was cleaned and fed and carried and made comfortable. I awoke at 3am to check on it and there it was, staring at me from it's carrier, meowing softly. When I reached for it, a sound that I'd never heard before seemed to emanate from its entire body. It reminded me of the low hum of an idling car engine and my first thought was it was having major digestive issues. After a while, as it clung to me, I realized that it was purring. That sound continued on whenever I picked it up or came into the room and took it out of the carrier. Wow, maybe it liked me.

When the kitten walked, it hopped on three legs because it appeared that its back left leg was either broken or lame.  Over the next few hours, the little one stumbled after the first hesitant, then curious, then playful Snoop. And Snoop nudged it with his nose, licked it and scratched the bedding around it, seemingly in an effort to make a bed for it. How odd, I thought Snoop would hate it, but he was intrigued by it and hung by the carrier when she slept in it. Mele, my 13-year-old pit bull, sniffed and licked the kitten's ears and rolled over, uninterested, as if kittens found their way into her sleeping space all the time.

On day two, I thought it a good idea to buy a couple toys, you know, just so it could play with it, expend energy, build an appetite, eat, gain weight, get closer to adoption.  But throughout day two she became more lethargic, wasn't interested in the toys or Snoop, threw up after eating and drinking and just wanted to sleep.  As the evening approached and I wasn't able to interest her in food or play, she started to mew, slowly and softly. When laid on my chest, she crawled up to my neck to rest. She became increasingly weaker and couldn't sit up on her own and I worried that she might be dying. My sister-in-law echoed my sentiments and recommended I hold her against my skin for comfort.  I resolved to take her to the vet the next day, should she last the night. I received a kind text from a friend, offering her a loving home and encouraged the little one to fight to stay alive, that it was wanted in a loving family.

But as the little one took a turn for the worse, I knew what was imminent and for a host of reasons, some of which I still don't quite understand, I bawled.  And I did what I thought a mommy should do, I stuck her in my shirt against my chest so she could hear my heartbeat and covered us with a blanket and said a little prayer and talked to her.

"Maka Girl, you're such a good, good girl. You're a survivor, you're brave and sweet and do you know that others want you in their home? But if you'd like, you can be a part of our home and our family." I envisioned, for a brief moment, coming home to Snoop barking at the window, Mele lounging in the patio and Maka Girl greeting us at the door, purring and rubbing against our legs.  A home where human, feline and canine co-existed in harmony and where I would say things like, "Where's the kitty?", and, "I'm a mom to one human kid, three canine kids and one feline kid."

Maka Girl mewed, low and soft, then long and mournfully. She put her two paws on my chest and I held her up and looked in her eyes. "It's ok, you can go if you want to, baby. Mommy's here. I'll ask Ma'a to meet you on the other side." I know he never liked cats but if the lamb and the lion can lie together in God's kingdom, then surely a naughty pit bull from Kalihi can care for a tiny stray kitten who came to live with our family for a short while.  I kissed her on the nose, told her I loved her, continued to stroke her and held her against my chest as she mewed, took a couple straggly breaths, one tiny last mew and then she was gone. 

I cried and asked Fosi, "Why, why did this happen?". "What was the point of her coming and living with us for only 48 hours and dying in my arms?". I needed a reason, I needed this to mean something. And why was I taking it so hard? I was reminded of being in the sacred space of others who shared their last breath while I was in their presence. My mom, my best friend, Feala, my doggie, Ma'a. I cried for all of them and for Maka Girl, who chose me to become her stubborn, surrogate mom for just a moment on this earth, who maybe just needed to feel loved before she moved on to the next level of existence. I think this tiny creature of God, only twelve ounces, came to teach me that love comes in all shapes and forms and that it can last a day and touch you for a lifetime. I think she came to teach me to open up my mind and heart to new experiences, to put aside long-held prejudices and beliefs that can prevent me from happiness and growth. Am I a cat person now? Maybe. But I know one thing, I am a changed person.  Because I loved and was loved by a little angel who became and always will be a member of my family.

Thank you, Maka Girl. See you on the other side.