Tucker’s story

Tucker is seven today.

I’ve never put pen-to-paper on his story before because I still can’t believe it happened. And I also have too many friends with raw hearts. But, here it goes.

Tucker’s story starts with his parents. Us. We were two plus years into our marriage, on a (mental) permanent honeymoon, broke and blissful.

newlyweds

We had just gotten back from Thanksgiving with Jeff’s dad in the mountains—we had four-wheeled down Spill Corn, filled up on 3 southern-squared meals a day and breathed in a big dose of pure North Carolina goodness.

Back home in Tampa, while we were unpacking, I realized that I was late.

How late? Jeff had asked. Since I didn’t keep track, we had monthly freak-outs.

Late, I promised him. He went to the store and bought a box of pregnancy tests. We watched the pink results flood across in instant slow motion. An indisputable positive.

I didn’t have time to think because Jeff said: Take another one. (Don’t worry. I still haven’t let him live down his first words to me.)

A box full of pink pluses later, we locked eyes. We grinned. And cried. We had made a person.

I could not keep my hands off of my belly. Sitting, standing, breathing. Everything felt brand new.

Me, shameless, after a 12 hour road trip
Me, shameless, after a 12 hour road trip

We made an appointment with the doctor. He didn’t need to see me until I was a little further along. But my mom was coming to visit us that weekend and I couldn’t keep it from her. We told her that she was going to be a grandma. And her elation made our surprise feel more like a reality.

To celebrate, Mom and I went shopping. And then I started having a few unsettling symptoms. So, I dialed the on-call doctor and explained what was going on.

Do you feel pregnant? He had asked me.

I was quivery and loopy and terrified. I’d never been pregnant before. How could I know what pregnant felt like?

I don’t know, I told him, apologizing. He asked me to come in first thing the next morning. I tossed and turned and clutched my stomach all night.

We went in the next morning and filled in stacks of paperwork. After measurements and samples were taken, a chipper ultrasound tech whisked us into her room so she could “take a look.” She sang out pleasantries in her outdoor voice.

Let’s take a look at this baby, she sung.

This baby.

Here’s the sac, she cheered, pointing to a shape that we absolutely saw. Joy flickered.

Now, we’ll turn this on and listen for a heartbeat. She did. We listened. She was bright-eyed and wide-smiled as she maneuvered each angle—and as each hour-long second crept by, my heartbeat quadrupled. As if it could pump enough for me and the blob shape. After a few minutes, though, our tech dropped her smile and her outdoor voice.

You go ahead and get dressed and I’ll get you back to the doctor’s office.

My limbs, heavy with worry, made dressing slow and clumsy.

My hand clung to Jeff’s, our fingers laced, mouths closed, as we walked into the doctor’s office. There we sat, we two, waiting on a doctor. My doctor was not in that day. That day, we saw Doctor G. He came in, shook our hands and sat down, making it a professional point to lock eyes with both of us.

His room was cold and alien, like an out-of-date space station, and the overhead lights buzzed as he confirmed, out loud, what we already feared.

There’s no heartbeat and, with your symptoms? I think, he said just so, as if he was reporting the 10-day forecast, you have miscarried.

I took it in as if it were a spoonful of cough medicine—swallowed quick, shuddered, shook my head, answering in silence.

You have options, he had said, diving straight into his speech.

We can wait a few days just to see if your hormone levels change. You can let this happen naturally. Everything will pass, but it may take a while and I can’t tell you how long it will take. Or, we can do a procedure here—as soon as tomorrow—called a D&C. That way, you don’t have to wait through it.

He lifted his hands off of his desk as if he were throwing good options before us.

I’m going to let you talk about it. I’ll be back in a few minutes.

He left. I slumped. Jeff just rubbed my hand with his thumb. What could we say? There was nothing to say.

I didn’t cry until I opened my mouth to speak. My eyes were drowning in indecision—a deluge of hot doubt soaked my shirt and our interlocked hands.

I guess the procedure will be the easiest, I told Jeff—saying it, but asking him. I don’t know if I can do it naturally. It sounds awful.

I’m okay with whatever you want. I’ll be here with you.

So, we agreed on the D&C. He wiped my face with his shirt. The doctor came back in.

A chill raced through my veins and across the tops of my arms and seized my stomach—an alarming chill. Something whispered. Something Holy. Something snapped. Something understood.

I want to wait.

The words popped up—and there they sat—between a surprised doctor and husband.

I just—I can’t do it tomorrow.

I understand, Doctor G said, without any understanding. I’ll wait with you. But I have to tell you that I’m 99.9% sure you’ve lost the baby.

The baby. My free hand found my belly. We had to wait.

Follow up appointments were scheduled and we slipped into waiting. Grief’s breath is strange. My nerve endings felt short-circuited, unplugged. How many days ago had they tingled with shock and promise?

I stayed home from work for a few days, nursing my numbness. How could this unplanned blob shape stir so much? The fraction of ounces was lead in my gut. I couldn’t taste, listen or focus, but each twinge in my belly felt like a violent convulsion.

Jeff was spoon-feeding me smiles, trying to.

We would’ve been good parents, I cried into his lap.

We will be, he said.

We went back to the doctor. They took more measurements and blood.

And then? Then? A miracle.

My hCG levels had increased. Two days later, they took more blood. The levels had doubled.

Nerves were tingling again.

One week later, that same sweet tech ushered us into the room for another ultrasound.

There was the sac. And there, I swore, was movement. An eye twitch? A glitch?

The tech found her outdoor voice. THERE’S THE HEARTBEAT!

She turned on the sound and a strong warble flooded the room. It was a symphony. An opus. My breath quickened to its beautiful beat. We were all crying—me, Jeff, the tech. And the baby’s heart, muscular, alive, kept pounding. We had waited.

Now, Doctor G was not at that office that day. I had not seen him since we’d sat at his desk. My own doctor was there, though. He took us through the packet, the appointment schedule, the new parent track. He explained that I would see all of the doctors in the office in a rotation because any one of them could be in the delivery room on the baby’s birthday.

I did not see Doctor G throughout the rest of my pregnancy. I was angry. And I don’t get angry. Forgive him 7 times 70 times? No. That’s how many times I wanted to punch him. The memory of his face, his voice was bitter. Soul-corroding. I went out of my way to stay out of his.

I spent the rest of my pregnancy happy, healthy. I ate 3 watermelons a week and held on to my belly for dear life.

belly

On an evening in early August, we I was watching SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE while a summer lightning storm fumed outside. I’d been having contractions all day, but now they were taking my breath away—every few minutes. Still, I insisted on finishing the show, taking a shower and putting my make-up on before we headed to the hospital. I was in labor all night, but my doctor—my own doctor—was on duty the next morning. And he delivered our baby boy.

Suddenly I was holding Tucker’s warm weight in my arms. The perfect fit. I put my palm on his teeny chest until I could feel his heart thumping beneath my fingertips.

Jeff’s lips were thick with prayer, a grateful murmur only God himself could understand.

We locked eyes. We grinned. And we cried.

Meet Tucker

What a boy.

happy Tuck

baby Tuck

Unreal combinations of Jeff and me, our best bits, wrapped up in one big, blonde, beautiful boy.

Photo by: letterbcreative
Photo by: letterbcreative

By the time he was two (oh, how much do you love two?) we decided that we really needed to do this again.

Photo by: letterbcreative
Photo by: letterbcreative

My second pregnancy was planned, expected, easy. I sailed through the doctor’s appointments, still avoiding Doctor G. We knew we were having another boy. And, though the world didn’t know it yet, we knew his name was Case.

I had an appointment to be induced and I planned to have Case naturally. Everything was set. We had the sweetest nurses—troopers, really—who were coaching me through labor without drugs. I was really close to being ready—in the throws of acute active labor—when the doctor on duty walked in. Doctor G.

He was not part of the plan.

I tensed to my toes, the acidic bitterness more painful than the contractions. I stared Jeff down, silently begging him to do something. Anything. He knelt next to me.

It’s going to be fine. Think about Case.

Doctor G did not recognize us. But he talked with us—with us, not at us. And then? Then? He was encouraging me. He said he’d get me anything I needed. He made me smile.

I did not want to smile.

I only pushed for mere minutes, five times, and Case was born. Doctor G was intent. He was kind. He was amazing. He melted my anger. I hadn’t realized it had calcified in my gut—an impassable block—until I felt it dissolving. Doctor G delivered our little one. And I’m so grateful he did. Because I forgave. Freely. Easily. Gladly.

Then, I was holding Case, feeling his warm weight in my arms. Jeff and I locked eyes. We grinned. We cried. And we prayed.

Meet Case
Tucker meets Case
photo by: letterbcreative
Baby Case
photo by: letterbcreative
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Thursday Thanks. Helping #5.

Happy Thursday, folks. I’m sitting in my Thanksgiving Chair now and my cup runneth over.

Thanksgiving Chair

This will be quick (I’ll explain why next week). But I couldn’t let a Thursday roll by without saying thanks to these two.

parents

Meet my parentals: Cindy & Jim.

Mom is the kind of mom who, when you have your first baby, welcomes you home with a full-on Thanksgiving meal that’s months early and right on time. She’s the kind of mom who packs you, for your trip–not hers, arranging every article of clothing between tissue paper like a Tetris maestro. She’s a doer and a mover and a shaker. More than anything, she is my oldest, truest, biggest fan.

Dad is the kind of dad who writes your family’s lexicon. He knows the book is always, always better. He doesn’t talk about character. He lives it. And he introduces you to magic.

Disney Digression
Disney Digression

Today, every day, I’m grateful to be a fusion of these two unreal people.

Who are you thankful for today?

Table Topic Tuesday. 7/9.

Another Tuesday, another dollar. It’s Table Topic Tuesday time!

Table Topic Tuesday is supposed to be easy fun. A game, you know? And I’ve been a purist, picking the next question right off the top. I really wanted to slide this guy back into the middle. It’s just a little heavy for my Tuesday morning taste. But it’s been pulled and posed, so now it’s time to answer. P.S. If I pull another groaner next week, it’s mulligan time.

Table Topic Tuesday. 7/9.

My answer depends on what I’m doing. When I goof—and I goof daily—I replay that oops again and again. Memories of the worst bits of my past are the most physical. Whether it was 6 years or 6 minutes ago, I can still feel the hot flush and nervous tingle of a mistake.

I go to the future a lot, too. When there’s a screen full of red alerts in Blue (our job management system at work). When I’m wondering what the heck we’re having for dinner. When I’m worrying over what I’ll do one day when Tucker pretends he doesn’t see my outstretched hand reaching to guide him across the parking lot.

I’m sure I’ve wasted half of my “present” toggling between the past and the future.

But when you catch the present? When it’s not a wisp breezing by, but it’s a moment that you squeeze and smell and taste? When Case barrels towards you, arms open, full speed, insisting on a family “Group hug!” When Tucker lisps a story through his toothless smile. When you’re so present and full that you stop to whisper “thanks.”

When you’re protecting.

Sunscreen

Roaring.

Disney Digression.
Disney Digression.

Singing.

Birthday Song

Reading.

Story Time

When you’re catching someone else in the present.

Daddy

Grace

I want to live there all the time.

Lynda was brave enough to play this week! She says:

This question is an easy one for me. I live in the future. The funny thing is that I’ve recently come to that realization and had a conscious thought about it. I’m at an age where many of my friends are either recently married or have been married and are now having kids or having their second kids. I look at them and I can’t help but look towards my future. What will it hold? What will my husband be like? How many kids will I have? All of these are things I want, and I don’t know that I’ve ever allowed myself to admit that they are things I want. I’ve always been content with living my life, making something of myself, developing a career. But lately I’ve found myself thinking, “…when I have a husband, we can do this or that. Or wouldn’t that be a fun trip to take with my significant other…” A lot of times it revolves around travel. Sometimes just with ideas of how to spend my evenings or weekends. And I know sometimes I let it hold me back from enjoying things in the here and now because I file it away or put it off. Of course, I don’t sit at home every evening pining over this future life, but I do think of it and dream of the day when I have someone to share it with. Perhaps you could say that these days it’s an awareness that I’m ready. I want it. And I want it now. But alas, patience has never been one of my virtues.

Lindsay, too! Her answer made me rethink mine.

I think living anywhere other than the present gets a bad rap. I don’t like that. I like to focus on the present and be ‘in the moment,’ but the past and the future are important, too. The past is for re-living good memories, learning from silly mistakes and realizing how far we’ve come. If we can’t live in the past a little bit, how can we be expected to know where we want to go in the future or how we’re going to get there? 

Who else is taking me up on this week’s question? Go!

Lucky Charm

We met out-of-town friends at Animal Kingdom yesterday. Magical day!

Disney Digression

 

And I saw a lot of tattoos. Hundreds. I like to think there was a story behind each one of them. There’s definitely a story behind mine.

I never thought I’d get a tattoo.

Enter my mother:

girls

“You know what I think?” she had said, placing her hands on the table in a way that we knew she was telling and not suggesting. “We should get matching tattoos.”

Newly free from wigs and chemo treatments, Mom was piloting life her way. And, up until that moment, I was an eager front row seat passenger. But there are certain things I don’t do, a few unwritten personal rules. I don’t let different foods on my plate touch. I don’t wear white after Labor Day. And I don’t do tattoos. It’s not so much the flawed stigma that goes along with them. It’s just that for someone who never does the same thing twice, a tattoo is a pretty permanent accessory. There’s also my fear of needles.

My sister Lindsey, though, who has as much ink as a Bic, squealed at the mention of a new tat.

“On our feet,” she said. “The top of our left foot.”

“I was thinking the inside of an ankle,” Mom said.

They both looked at me.

“I was thinking…no.”

“C’mon, Min,” Lindsey said, rolling her eyes. “For all your so-called free spirit-ness and whatever, you are no fun. Have you ever done one crazy thing?”

With no decent reply, I blushed the truth. And, after much discussion, I agreed to a stamp on a toe—a teeny, tiny tat that maybe, just maybe, could be mistaken for an unfortunate freckle.

The next day, they got me in the car and we were on our way.

The Big Kahuna tattoo parlor was edgy and cold and terrifying. Possibilities were plastered on every corner of the walls and counter—symbols and serpents and fairies—and my indecisive soul was already quaking with panic. Mom and Lindsey were flipping through a big black book on the counter and I slid between them. Three pages in, I saw a three-leaf clover—each leaf was a heart and the shape was created with Celtic knots so that you could trace the entire design without ever lifting your pen from the page. I pointed.

“A heart for each of us.”

“That’s it,” Mom and Lindsey said on top of each other, nodding, nodding yes.

A guy walked down from the other side of the counter, joining us where we hovered over the page.

“Ah. Good one,” he said. “Luck Forever.”

“We each want one,” Mom said. “On our second toe.”

He was tapping tattoo-covered fingers on the counter. “We can’t do toes. Or fingers. Plus—see the detail in the knots? If it’s not at least this big, you’ll lose all that. It’ll just be a black blob.”

“I gotcha. Okay. Well, how about the inside of my ankle?”

He nodded. “Fine.”

Lindsey crinkled her nose. “I still want one on the top of my foot.”

“Yeah. Fine. And how about you?”

I shook my head no. “Not getting one. I’m just the cheerleader.”

Mom sighed. “Min. This is something I really wanted to do with you girls.”

Oh, the guilt. Thick as organic peanut butter. Without the jelly diversion.

“I was only okay with the toe because of you guys. I really don’t want one.”
She wasn’t going to push further, but I still felt awful.

“I’m still represented,” I offered. “Three hearts.”

But they had given up on me. And soon they were each settled in a different artist’s seat, tipsy with luck, ready to paint the town.

I sat between them, green-eyed as they laughed through the stinging. I sat there, safe, familiar and not without pain, wondering how many times my rules had kept me from tasting, from trying, from feeling something new.

The tattoos were small and simple, and only in black ink, so it wasn’t too long before Mom and Lindsey’s new additions were wrapped in hot pink cellophane that crinkled with fun. We left and I was conscious of my naked legs as we walked. Then we stopped for dinner. At the table, Mom’s legs were crossed and the arc of what I imagined was my heart was peeking through the transparent pink.

She caught me.

“Do you want one, honey? We can go back. It’s just down the street.”

My silence must’ve given her hope.

“We’re going back.”

The guys at Big Kahuna welcomed us with hugs.

“So. Where do you want it?”

“The inside of my left ankle,” I said, motioning to my Mom’s. “But maybe a little smaller?”

Twenty minutes and a roll of paper towels later, the final knot was tied. I had to look away at the first sight of blood. But, after my sweaty palms were under control, the pricking was (almost) exhilarating. Later that night, when I peeled the cellophane away, the black ink winked against my pale skin in triumphant relief.

The pigment has faded a little now. But my tattoo is as much a part of me as all of my unfortunate freckles. And, at first handshake, you probably would take me for a buttoned up, plays-by-the-rules girl. My clover betrays me, though. And I’m always happy to twist and twirl my ankle to show off my lady luck forever.

photo(35)
Mom. Me. Lins.

How about you? Do you have a tattoo (and a story behind it)? Ever broken your own personal rule?