Mrs. Gore’s Tips for Fashionably Surviving a Hospital Stay, Phase 1

First-time Mommies-to-be, you’re going to want to print this one out…

I wouldn’t yet compare myself to Michelle Duggar when it comes to birthin’ babies, but after popping out an infant once every two years since 2007, this ain’t my first rodeo. (I’ve been wanting to say that for a long time…it wasn’t as gratifying as I thought it would be).

And so, young mothers, I thought it important to share with you the knowledge I have gleaned about how to survive – and thrive! – during your hospital (I’m about to make up yet another “vacation” word!) lay-cation, separated into 3 easy-to-follow phases. Today we will review Phase 1, “the packing phase,” which will include the literal packing of your suitcase, as well as tips for how to arrive at the hospital in an organized and peaceful state of mind. Let us begin.

~

The packing phase…

* Don’t be a dummy about this. To fashionably survive at the hospital takes some major preparation, and since you don’t really know when or where you will go into labor, you need to start planning and packing well before your due date.

* Purchase a sweet new nightgown (at a real people store, not a maternity one) – with buttons in the front if you’re planning to nurse – and hang it in your closet. Every time a lady has a baby she deserves to come home to a clean, fresh, pretty nightgown. Do not take it to the hospital. I did this on my first go-round and was surprised that my hospital room was more like a busy dorm room than a private hotel room. Believe me, you won’t feel comfortable hanging out with your doctor and your relatives in your lacy little gown and robe. Pants are a much better choice, especially when you are awkwardly and painfully crawling in and out of your hospital bed.

* Find a nice compact suitcase on wheels and start filling it with the following, about a month before your due date:

  • 3 or 4 new magazines that you haven’t peeked at, at least 2 of them of the fashion sort. It is so nice after having a baby to open up an issue and, saying good-bye to those final dreary months of pregnancy and your too-short maternity shirts, dare to dream of a new body, a new haircut, a fresh make-up palette, a real pair of pants! It is one of my traditions to read In Style the day after I have a baby…
  • a good book that you’ve never read before – it’s wise to have a good distraction on hand should you have a scheduled delivery, as a “schedule” at a hospital is tentative indeed (and for good reason – emergencies always trump plain ol’ inducements, and rightly so). If you are not a reader, bring a portable DVD player and some favorite movies or playing cards or your I-pod…you get the drift.
  • you’re going to have to read between the lines on this one because there are some things I just can’t talk about and some words I just cannot bring myself to say. So…buy a package of your favorite brand of lady products, the one kind…you know the long, flat kind, not the other…pointy…kind. They need to be for the heaviest you-know-what imaginable. Buy some for the house, too. And the car. (Just kidding, it’s not that bad. It’s worse. Just kidding. No, I’m not. Just…you’ll be okay.)
  • Travel-size bottles and packages of all your favorite toiletries. Buy as much of your bedtime and morning routine products as possible ahead of time and have them packed in your suitcase, along with a list of what you will need to throw in at the last minute, i.e. glasses, curling iron, etc. The benefits of doing this ensure that you will not pack in haste and wind up at the hospital without your favorite moisturizer, plus you can just dispose of all those travel-size products before you leave the hospital and not worry about unpacking a million things when you get home. Everything will be where you left it in your bathroom and you can head straight to your shower without rifling through your suitcase first.
  • A bottle of HPA Lanolin and a few nursing pads. I didn’t know the need for things like this existed, but a sweet lady brought me a care package to the hospital that included both. Trust me, you’ll need them.
  • A pair of slippers, a pair of flip flops (for the shower), and two or three pairs of socks. Clean or not, it feels gross to walk barefoot on hospital tile floors.
  • Packages of your favorite gum and candy, as well as your husband’s.
  • Cash for the vending machine…if you’re lucky like I was, your local hospital vending machine might just surprise you with the first package of Hostess Dunkin’ Sticks that you’ve seen for YEARS, at just $1 a package. So you’re going to need at least $6.
  • A coming home outfit for baby. This will be a keepsake outfit, so choose wisely…
  • A blanket for baby. This should also be a keepsake. I’m of the mind that each baby should have at least one special blanket that was not handed down from brother or sister.
  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It really does answer all of your questions, and you’re going to have lots of them, even after reading this most-helpful blog post.

*As your time gets closer, days before your due date, start packing or setting aside the following:

  • 2 sets of your favorite comfortable lounging clothes, something you will be comfortable sleeping in and entertaining visitors in, with a very comfortable waistband. Key word: comfortable. But not shabby, or else this post would be titled “Mrs. Gore’s Tips for Surviving a Hospital Stay.”
  • Several sets of undergarments.
  • A decent going home outfit. Keep comfort in mind here, too – your body is going to be a little out of whack – but also know that you might find yourself in several photographs on this day. You’ll regret it if you dress like a cotton headed ninny muggins.
  • Camera, camera charger, video camera, video camera charger, uploading cord and laptop. Because people want to see pictures of the baby the minute it lands in the doctor’s hands, and you really shouldn’t keep your public waiting. Or you might have one of those new-fangled telephones that can take pictures and send them to the “internets”. So take that thing and whatever you need to make it work.
  • A carseat. You can’t leave the hospital without it.

*And on your way out the door, don’t forget:

  • Your own pillows, if you are particular about things like that. I take 3 feather pillows – two for me, one for Mr. Gore. He always protests until he sees the plastic couch that will be his home for 2 nights, and then, he says “Thank you, Mrs. Gore.” Well…in my head he does.
  • The last of your toiletries…make-up, corrective vision stuff, toothbrush, razor…whatever you need to make the hospital feel like home and to ensure that you look semi-dazzlingly beautiful in all your pictures.

*Oh, and one last thing – if you have other children at home, pack the following for them in your hospital suitcase (aside from the separate bags you’ve packed for them to take to Grandmother’s house):

  • A box of animal cookies for each child, and other packages of treats like raisins or fruit snacks. It will give them something to sit down with for a bit when they come to visit you and see their new sibling, and they’ll see that Mama is still caring for them, even as a hospital patient. When children come to a hospital room, the room shrinks fast. They will most certainly need a distraction, and nothing works better than food.
  • A couple of movies, just in case they are stuck in the waiting room with their grandparents while you are having the baby. You can lend them the portable DVD player that you packed for yourself.

*You will also need to make sure your husband packs his bag. It doesn’t really matter as much what he brings…like your wedding day, no one really will notice he is even there. But he will need day clothes and something comfortable and modest to sleep in. He also will need books, magazines and the like. It’s your job to tell him this or else he’ll be bored in your room and talk to you, interrupting your perusal of In Style.

*That’s a lot of stuff, isn’t it? And it’s very important that you pack it well, in as small a suitcase as possible. The nurses don’t want to be tripping over your bags and you will not enjoy carrying armfuls of stuff or having your husband go back and forth to the car, which could possibly be 1/2 mile away from your hospital room.

And other random pre-hospital preparations…

* Birthing classes are profitable with pregnancy #1, plus they are so hilarious and awkward. You should go.

*Take advantage of the supernatural nesting phase by cleaning and organizing every last corner of your house. You will not have the time or the energy when you get back home, and frankly, you won’t really care anymore about the junk in your filing cabinet or the dust behind your entertainment armoire. This is a once-a-pregnancy opportunity – don’t miss it!

*Pray for your child. When you feel worrisome about what is ahead or have a sudden urge to panic, place your thoughts instead on your sweet baby and lift him/her up to God. Your health and the health of your baby is very important and prayer-worthy, but bundled up in that tiny little baby’s body is an eternal soul that, more than anything, needs the grace and mercy of God – this should always be the focus of your prayers. Nothing is more urgent or important.

*As tempting as it is to focus on yourself and your aches and your pains and your discomfort and your looming monumental delivery, take some time to focus on your husband. The world tends to revolve around a pregnant woman, and it is easy to become entitled. But your husband still has needs…needs that are doubly hard to meet when you bring home an infant! Putting yourself aside and heaping love on him will honor God and will do wonders for the atmosphere of your home…aaaand it might just ensure that your happy man will bring you flowers at the hospital, along with dessert for every meal. I’m just sayin’…

*Pre-register at your hospital, if possible. Then you won’t have to fill out pages of paperwork when you come in to have the baby.

*Eat. Eat all you want. A whole watermelon…6 slices of bacon…a sandwich and chips at midnight…these last months of pregnancy are your last hoorah! Enjoy it. But don’t tell your doctor I said so.

~

Holy smokes! I’m exhausted now….so how about we all go take a nap? Which is the last (and mega-important) step to fashionably surviving at the hospital. Get your sleep, Mama. You don’t want to arrive at the hospital on the wrong side of the bed!

~

Any other words of packing advice from our experienced hospital laycationers? Did I forget anything? Leave your comments below. And stay tuned, pregnant ladies…phases 2 and 3 will be posted in the days and weeks to come!

I delivered a baby; Mr. Gore delivered flowers, Dr. Pepper and key lime pie.

…I Will Trust in Thee

Saturday, I cried – I already told you about that – and my husband prayed over me and God was kind to me.

Sunday, God continued His kindness by doing an amazing work in my spirit, tranquilizing my usual worrisome tendencies. Our prayers that night were more worshipful than self-centered and it is a night I will always remember and cherish. Instead of continuing to plead with Him to flip our baby girl, we were just so thankful that He had given us peace. But after our “amens” we laughingly remembered to add, “Oh yeah…and please still flip her if you want to!”

Monday?…Monday, May 30th, 2011 was…BIG. I guess I should just start at the very beginning.

As we drove to the hospital to begin pre-op at 9:30 a.m., I was astounded at the calmness that still sat over me like a big giant blanket of dumbness. I told Mr. Gore “I feel like we’re just going to the grocery store or something, not to my first surgery!” I didn’t know whether I should thank God for my indifference and count it as grace or try to work up some kind of understanding or anxiety over what was about to happen to me. My wise Mr. Gore instructed me to accept the gift and be grateful.

Before long, I was completely prepped for the c-section; an ultrasound had proven that our stubborn little girl was still breech. Both doctors were there, the anesthesiologist had given me the run-down, I even had my sterile hairnet on, and, while excited that I would finally get to hold my baby in the next hour or two, I felt my heart begin to sink just a little that our prayers about having another vaginal (I promise that’s the only time I will use that word) birth would not be answered.

It wasn’t as if I didn’t understand the benefits of what was about to happen. I truly wanted what was best for our baby, and I knew that I was in good hands and that a c-section would pose little threat to either me or my child. Neither did I feel like I had the right to self-pity while so many women out there would have given anything to be in my place, looming surgery and all, and when so many babies have real health issues and simply being “upside-down” would be a coveted position indeed.

Still yet, my disappointment was acute…

Here’s why. While I don’t really adore being pregnant, and I could well do without the messiness of labor and delivery, there is nothing I love more than that final moment of pushing a baby from the quiet recesses of my womb, hearing its protestant cry split the air, feeling the seven or so pounds of human flesh exit my stomach…I feel so incredibly blessed to have experienced this miracle two times, but I just couldn’t help but be sad that I might never get to experience it again.

And so when Dr. Tramonte came in with news we did not even expect to hear, that there was a doctor on hand who was willing to try an External cephalic version, a procedure in which he and another doctor would place their hands on my abdomen and push and maneuver the baby around with the desired result of flipping her into place for vaginal (oops, promise that’s the last time) delivery, I was more than willing to give it a try. If you are interested in hearing more about this, it really is fascinating: http://www.webmd.com/baby/external-cephalic-version-version-for-breech-position.

And it felt as archaic as it sounds. Meaning…I should have said “yes” to the offer for drugs. It was like my stomach was a ball of dough that they were kneading into bread. Underneath, it felt as though they were scrambling up my organs like a jigsaw puzzle…I would not have been surprised to see my gallbladder next to my lungs and my liver somewhere close to my ear. But, praise God, it worked. The roomful of doctors and nurses – some just interested to watch a version for the first time, some on hand in case of emergency – sent up a sort of cheer as she flipped into place right there on the ultrasound screen for all to see…and on every wall of my stomach for me to feel.

The only problem was the foot that remained by her head. She was in an awkward, one-legged diving pose, completely bent in half. The Ecv-performing doctor recommended that I go home and wait to go into labor and hope that she would eventually draw her foot back up and refrain from flipping back into her preferred upside-down pose. My heart sank yet again. I was ready to meet her today. My bags were in the car, my other children were taken care of, and most of all, my niece Abigail, celebrating her 7th birthday, was counting on me to have her cousin before the day was up.

It just goes to show how important it is that your family doctor also be one of your greatest advocates. Dr. Tramonte, who had already given up his Memorial Day to see to it that we had a surgeon he recommended and then chased down the doctor and set up that miraculous Ecv at the very last minute, now began doing all he could to see that we could be induced on this day. He’s a fast worker. Within minutes, we were in a delivery room, waiting to begin inducement, now just praying that that little bitty baby foot would move out of the way! Just one little foot! If it presented itself before the head come delivery time, it would be back to surgery for us, back to the c-section we were all trying so hard to avoid.

And I was torn…should I go ahead and praise God for the successful Ecv and claim victory over the threat of this c-section? What if I counted on Him to see us all the way through this and we still had to be rushed down to surgery in a much more hurried and uncontrolled fashion than we would have that morning? What if I trusted Him all day only to be disappointed at the end of the night?

Over the next several hours, I thanked Him, I questioned Him, I pleaded with Him, I thanked Him some more, I begged Him…

And as my body began to go into serious labor, the doctor who performed the Ecv came to take a look at our baby’s position. Her foot was still there. He calmly reached in and tweaked those little toes. Her foot withdrew to find its mate. He broke my water. He nodded at me with a twinkle in his eye and assured me that all would be well…

Two hours later, I pushed my baby girl from the quiet recesses of my womb, I heard her protestant cry split the air, I felt her seven or so pounds of human flesh exit my stomach…

And my heart screamed the following words from the rafters: “WHY are You so good to people like me?!” A sob left my throat and I knew again, for the 10,435th day in a row, that God is no puppet-master in the sky. He is no distant “man upstairs”…

He is a master story-teller, taking each moment of each day and weaving it into a reflection of His glory and goodness. Our day could have ended a thousand different ways, tragically even, and it would not have changed His goodness or the fact that He cares for us. But the way He did choose to end it completely and absolutely knocked my socks off, sealing something deep and eternal inside this faithless woman.

There is so much more to share about our Baby Betsie and the time leading up to and following her birth. But this post isn’t about Baby Betsie or her Mama or her Papa. It is about the God who creates little babies and gently cares for their Mamas and Papas every single step of the way.

You can trust Him. Trust me.

When I Am Afraid…

Written on Saturday night, before one of the most phenomenal Mondays of my life…which, of course, will be shared in great detail in the days to come…

I cried a little today.

And not the humorous kind, or the hormonal whackadoo kind. The real kind.

The “I’m scared” kind.

It seems like my husband, without even seeing my face, could sense that my sniffles were real and not of the caricature nature, for within seconds his arms were around me. I was supposed to be napping as he laid beside me reading his book, but I wasn’t sleeping. I was thinking…

Next week, unless Upside-down Girl (that’s for you, Charlotte!) has done a little flip in my stomach by herself, I am scheduled for my very first c-section, my very first surgery, my very first non-participatory delivery of a baby. I know, I know, the risks are about as high as having my tonsils removed, but you have to understand who you’re dealing with here.

I have a somewhat morbid imagination. If you see me staring off into space with a sad look on my face, or my bottom lip sticking out, you can almost be sure I’m daydreaming (or daynightmaring?) about a loved one’s funeral, or writing my obituary, or picturing how dismal life would be without this person or that person or that person. On most days, I coast, not giving too much thought to mortality or eternity or even reality. But anytime a big event is on the horizon…a c-section, an airplane ride, a trip that separates me from any of my family members, a monumental birthday, answering the door…I inevitably experience these sobering moments where I come face-to-face once again with the fact that my life is nothing but a shadow…a vapor…

And that hurts, by golly.

This part of my personality is probably my greatest curse and struggle. It tempts me to be anxious, to have a lack of trust in a God who has been nothing but faithful to me, to waste time on the cares of tomorrow…

But it has also been a blessing, as strange as that sounds, for it glaringly illuminates my weakness and sinfulness and causes me, every time, to run helpless to the only One who can actually do anything to help me out.

And what does He do? He takes care of me again…

You see, I believe whole-heartedly that He created those arms of my husband’s to comfort me in times such as these, and that He equipped my Mister with a character that motivates him to put away his book when his wife is crying and to pray for her. I believe that He is the One that caused Gideon to wake up and come crawl in bed beside me as I was typing this post, at the very moment my heart was yearning for the human touch of my most beloved son. And He is probably the One who inspired our dear friends to come to our house on this night to make supper for us and distract us with the sweetest Christian fellowship.

If God would be so good to comfort me today, in the small stuff, what do I have to fear come Monday?…

Nothin’ a’tall.

Small Elephant Remembers…Rebekah (2)

Continued from Small Elephant Remembers Rebekah…

May 14, 2009

Just over two weeks until Baby R’s due date and I think in possibly one week I will have tied up all those loose ends ~ putting together the bassinet, cleaning out all the cars and closets ~ new mothers just instinctively want the nest to be clean! She has been poking my right side with a foot for about two weeks now, reminding me that she is there and healthy and strong.

May 14, 2009

On Sunday we celebrated Mother’s Day and I was shocked to see Abigail come walking in with a gift that I didn’t see coming ~ my very own American Girl Samantha doll, who was retired by the company in December (something that still irks me…don’t even get me started!). I always wanted a Samantha doll as a little girl, but we didn’t even discuss the possibility ~ they were obviously too expensive ~ and back in December when she was being retired, I wasn’t yet aware that I was having a baby girl so I didn’t end up purchasing one…but apparently, my Mom did. So there was much to this gift, but I was still mortified by my reaction, an awkward dance between laughing and crying with my face buried in my cotton napkin. Over a doll?! And the entire family just happened to be there to witness it. I’ve never lost control like that in front of the whole lot of them, but they all seemed to enjoy my discomfort so fully, I cannot quite bring myself to regret it.

May 27, 2009

We found out at our appointment today that Doctor Tramonte will be out of town until Tuesday, so we have all decided on unofficial bedrest, hoping to put off delivery until then. I know it sounds stupid, but I also don’t want to miss Abigail’s birthday tea party.

May 30, 2009

Today was my due date, but thank God I was able to celebrate Abigail’s 5th year without interruption. I even made cookies (while sitting in a chair)!

May 31, 2009

I am not going to church today. Not moving at all, actually. I was a little disappointed to go past my due date until Amy reminded me that now my baby girl might have a pearl for her birthstone. Good thinking, Amy!

June 1, 2009

One more day until Doctor Tramonte comes home and then I am getting UP! It’s a shame we like our doctor so much.

June 2, 2009

We made it! No more bedrest. And now I am feeling so large, so tired of it all, so…dejected, deflated (and inflated!), etc. etc. etc. Mom had breakfast in the oven when I woke up, starving as usual, so I grabbed a baggie with leftover donut holes from Abigail’s birthday party just to tide me over. I took them outside to the rocking chair so I could watch Gideon and Abigail, who had stayed the night with us, play. Now I won’t say Abigail woke up bossy, just…assertive. She was setting up a grand show on the corner of the porch and had rehearsed her lines and had Gideon in his place…everything was just so. I had just popped the last donut hole into my mouth when Abigail looked at me, hand on her hip, and said “Lesley, do you want to do something’?…instead of just sittin’ around, lickin’ your fingers?” My mouth was too full to answer her so I just shrunk in my chair.

June 5, 2009

I am in mental and physical agony!!! Surely she will come today.

June 6, 2009

Here it is, exactly one week after my due date and I have not gone stark raving mad! But tomorrow we are scheduled for an induction, and Lord willing, I will be bringing home my second baby. My first daughter. Today was dubbed “Happy Gideon Day” as it was his last to be an only child. Children are such a blessing ~ I am glad to fill the house up with them! Pregnancy, however, stinks like a gut-wagon.

June 7, 2009

I woke up to shower and fix my hair at 6:00 a.m. (I’m always terrified of having to go to the hospital dirty, or with prickly legs, or without a touch of make-up on…) and Chris called the hospital at 7:00. I have been told to eat a light breakfast and wait for them to call me back. The good news is we’ll be in the hospital on Monday, Kenneth Peterson’s volunteer day! (He is one of my best senior adult friends, married for 60 years!).

11:00 a.m.

Apparently the hospital is short-staffed today and there have been a surprising number of emergency C-sections. We’re still waiting for them to tell us to come.

4:30 p.m.

This has been the longest, worst day of my life. I haven’t been able to sleep, I have a headache, I’m starving, and we haven’t even started for the hospital yet! Chris just called them again and the sweet lady who has been dealing with us all day said “God bless her, let her eat!” So I am going to have a sandwich.

5:00

Seriously, ten minutes after I finished my sandwich, they finally called and told us to come…which means I will probably be throwing up this sandwich before the day is up. But who cares?? We’re on our way!

6:00 p.m.

H0w different this experience is than our last. We calmly checked in at the hospital, were taken to our room, and I am just sitting in bed waiting for them to shoot me up with some Pitocin. Chris’s Dad and Stepmother are on their way and Momma and Daddy will come after church.

7:00 p.m.

Chris and I are watching Titanic on the television. I wish the nurses would wait until commercial breaks to check my vitals.

10:30 p.m.

Everyone has left the room for the night and so I am trying desperately to get some good sleep before active labor begins. However, my back is killing me and the most obnoxious song from one of Gideon’s movies is blaring through my head. I am getting so frustrated and I’ve pictured myself ripping all of these tubes off of me and just running through the hallway screaming. If I just had two more inches of crazy in me, I probably would do just that. I think it’s time to ask a nurse for some help.

4:00 a.m.

I am just coming to after receiving my favorite drug, Stadol. The nurse injected it into my IV, and two seconds later, I was floating, back pain gone, Casey Jones song out of my head. I do remember Chris being gone when I looked over and so I just started yelling for him. “Chris!!” No answer. “Chris Goooooore?…where arrrrrre you??…” I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that I should stop yelling and that I probably sounded like a lunatic, but the drugs made me careless. I yelled for him for what seemed like 20 minutes and when he finally came into the room, I said in a drunken-s0unding drawl “Well there you are! There’s the man that I’ve been lookin’ fer!” He said I sounded like a liquored-up lady who might work on a streetcorner. I slept for about four hours and now it’s epidural time! I’ve got this labor thing so figured out.

5:30 a.m.

Doctor Tramonte is here, God bless him! It’s almost time…

10:14 a.m.

Three pushes and reluctant Rebekah Sunday is here! When I heard her sweet cry, the tears just popped out of my eyes. And when I held her in my arms, I fell in love. She weighs 7 pounds and 14 ounces of sweet baby goodness, is 21 pretty inches long…and the best part about it? We get to keep her forever. Day 1 has already been heavenly…

10:30 a.m.

I just threw up my sandwich.

June 9, 2009

Rebekah is a doll of a baby. She has the tiniest little high-pitched damsel-in-distress cry and she sucks on her two middle fingers. I want to eat her for breakfast. We’ll be taking her home where she belongs as soon as the doctor gives us the okay. I can’t wait to get to know her better.

June 2009, at home, via facebook

I think the hospital made a mistake and sent us home with an angel instead of a baby…

Small Elephant Remembers…Rebekah

Rebekah’s incubation, birth and first days were recorded in the 2009 edition of The Harry Herald

“Help! The Bun in My Oven is Overdue and I’m About to Expire!”

(from the author who brought you “Help! There’s a Bun in my Oven and I Don’t Know How to Cook; one woman’s journey to Motherhood in diary and recollection)

August 2008

Chris and I are thinking it might be time for another baby.

September 2008

Well the discussion is over…I’m with child!

September 2008

Mom and I went on a weekend trip to Dallas to go shopping. She does not know yet that I am pregnant and it is increasingly difficult to keep mum about it. We shopped at Anthropologie (my favorite store in the world!!) from 10:00 – 2:oo, accidentally missing lunch (by two hours?!), and sadly, I now find that the mere thought of that store makes me nauseous. I can’t visit their website or even look at a catalogue without feeling my stomach turn. Who would have thought that Anthropologie would give me morning sickness?! Perhaps this aversion will save us some money…

October 13, 2008

I’m a bit queasy this go-round. No actual sickness, but no spring chicken, either. I can’t drink or even smell coffee, oh woe is me! I have been taking more time to cuddle my firstborn and to heap love on him and play with him, for I know in the coming months there will be a wall between us ~ my enormous belly. So far I am not showing and only last week told Mom and Daddy. I hoped to conceal my secret a little longer but I was tired of pretending that I felt good and was especially tired of trying to suck my belly in. On Wednesday we will announce our good news to the church!

November 2008

With Gideon I craved broccoli and mustard (not together, mind you). This time I am eating a lot of ham and cheese sandwiches smothered in mustard and piled high with potato chips. YUM! I like the flavor so much, I’d take it in a chewing gum!

December 2008

I am most happy to report that the nausea has flown away for the winter! I am feeling so much better (although Gideon and I suffered the most terrible colds all of last week) and I must say this pregnancy has been better than the last, in that my vanity and my emotions have not taken such a hit ~ there is just not time enough for such things ~ hours of introspection are no longer a luxury (or a curse?), although I did have a small breakdown today…I had just prepared a delicious lunch but as I was settling down in my chair to eat it, I dumped an entire glass of soda on my lap, soaking everything, including the new “birthweek” shirt my Mom had bought me. I said “Momma, help!” and just started sobbing. She helped me up, but I just stood there and wept, so she pushed me in the direction of the bathroom, got my clothes, washed them, cleaned up the chair and five minutes later had me sitting back down with an identical lunch in place, this time safely on the tray in my lap. She hugged me and said “Lesley, there’s just no use crying over spilled Coke!” She’s right, you know.

December 2008

I can shop at Anthropologie now and I can drink coffee! And I have discovered a new craving ~ pastries. I could eat glazed donuts for every meal. I want one now.

January 2009

Well we finally made it to the doctor. Everything looks great on the baby, but Dr. Tramonte said something really funny after looking at the ultrasound…he said the thinks it might be a girl. There is no way.

February 11, 2009

It really is a girl! Fancy that! Here I’ve always imagined myself surrounded by boys, and already I am wrong. To be honest, I am at a loss! A boy you can imagine – his hair will be simple, he’ll be rough and tumble, he’ll eat a lot, but a girl?! Who can tell? I only know this…she is a blessing and a gift from a very loving Father. I cannot wait to meet her and see how He has put her together…if indeed the ultrasound read true…I wouldn’t be much surprised even now to discover this is a boy after all!

February 18, 2009

My doctor called me crazy today. After nearly fainting in the choir Sunday, we made an appointment to discuss some discomfort I’ve been having in my chest. It doesn’t bother me until I am in bed, and then I think I am dying. So we talked to Dr. Tramonte, who told me not to be too concerned, and then during his prayer for us, he asked God to be with us “even when we’re being a little bit crazy.” Chris snickered and made fun of me all the way home. But truly, this is why I like my doctor! He, like my husband, does not indulge my anxieties.

February 2009

Apparently word has spread about my “heart condition” and everyone at church is now concerned about me. Our resident Southern belle, Mrs. Annette Jones, called to ask how I was doing and Mom shared with her what the Doctor said on Wednesday, that nothing was wrong except that I might be a little bit crazy. In her irresistable Texas drawl, Mrs. Annette said “Well you just tell her she needs to get a second opinion…he’s right! She is crazy.” How I adore that woman.

February 2009

Ha! Turns out I might not be crazy after all. I had to have an EKG, an echocardiogram, AND a chest x-ray to rule out any chance of heart problems. It was probably the most anxious I have ever been about anything, contemplating my pending death and crying over the thought of anyone else planning Gideon’s birthday party…but it felt SO good to hear that nothing was wrong. The peace of mind was well worth the thousands of dollars we spent to determine the true cause of the squeezing in my chest…acid reflux.

March 2009

Abigail (nearly 5 years old now!) came over to the house today, and as she walked past me, patted me and said “How’s your belly?” very much like one might say “How’re ya doin’ today?”

March 2009

I made my Mom giggle when I came stumbling into the living room close to midnight to “check on my pastry” from Panera Bread…I just wanted to make sure it was wrapped up nice and tight, that’s all.

March 2009

Chris and I were in bed last night when I begin patting my belly. It sounded like a drum, beating through the bedroom! He exclaimed over the apparent hollowness of my stomach, causing me to dissolve into laughter. So tonight when we were about to go to sleep, I patted his belly, only to find that his, too, beat like a hollow drum. I began to mock him for having a cavernous stomach just like mine when he insisted that mine was much louder. “It is not!” I protested and began to beat on my belly just to prove it to him. I’ll never forget the resounding congo noise that loudly echoed through the room, proving that Chris, again, was right. We just cracked up. I hope we didn’t alarm the baby.

April 13, 2009

I cried a lot during my first pregnancy. I’ve cried a little during my second, but I have been more prone to hysterical laughter. At least ten times I have laid in bed laughing with tears pouring down my face. My stomach and face feel like they’re going to crack ~ it really is terribly uncomfortable! One night I began saying words like “fart” to oh-so-proper Chris and the more I said, the more I laughed. He just looked at me like I was an idiot. Tonight I started laughing about the whole birthing process and I just could not stop. Chris put his earplugs in and rolled over.

April 25, 2009

I’m just a girl who cain’t say no, so when Miss Barbara asked me to sing a solo in church this morning, I said yes. Chris was shooting daggers at me with his eyes, because he has heard me say time and time again that singing right now makes me feel like I’m going to fall over. We just decided to deal with it and do what we could to ensure that I was cool and comfortable that morning, turning the air down really low; I had no idea how hot-natured I had become and had to laugh at what our precautions did to the rest of the congregation. I was feeling great and for the first time in months did not have to use my bulletin to fan myself the entire service, but when I turned around in my pew to see who all had made it to church, I noticed that everyone was apparently freezing. Even my Daddy was hugging himself for warmth! Sorry, everyone, but I’ve not had such a happy Sunday morning in a loooooong time.

to be continued…

Small Elephant Remembers…Gideon (2)

…continued from “Small Elephant Remembers Gideon”

March 13, 2007

I was in “our wing” of the house getting ready for a shopping excursion to make purchases for Amy’s baby shower when some strange and unexpected things began to happen to me. Nothing to rush to the hospital for, but nothing to ignore either. So after I fixed my hair, I packed everything we might need at the hospital…1 suitcase of clothes for me, Chris, and the baby, a bag of toiletries, our DVD player, 3 feather pillows, 5 movies, CD’s, books, crossword puzzles, dominoes, cards, and of course, the camera. I took my little blue suitcase into the living room and said “I think I should take my bag, just in case something happens and I’m stuck in Tulsa without it. But I don’t want to talk about it.” Mom thought that would be a good idea, but then watched with her eyebrows raised as I began to bring all of my other bags and pillows in, piling them all up in the living room. And of course we “talked about it”…all the way to Tulsa!

10:00 a.m.

So I have poured over “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” looking for answers that I have already read over a hundred times, and I come up empty-handed every time. All I can find is that with the symptoms I am having, delivery could be an hour…or weeks…away. Very helpful.

12:00 p.m.

Mom and I just ate at Hideaway Pizza ~ I had a mini cheese pizza, a Caesar salad and a huge glass of Dr. Pepper. Make that two glasses. Those strange and unexpected symptoms are still happening, which means…I am still hours or weeks away from delivery. ??? But at least my tummy is full.

4:00 p.m.

Chris decided to meet me here at Matt and Kaci’s house in Tulsa after work. We’re going to stick around for awhile and see if anything happens before we return to the boondocks. I cried like a baby when I saw him, for I have been in a tumult all the day long and now he can be in charge.

7:30 p.m.

Kaci just got home from work, and we have decided to go to Scott’s in Bixby and have a hamburger. Then I think Chris and I will go home because nothing is happening, and I’m beginning to feel quite silly for causing such a stir.

8:00 p.m.

MY WATER JUST BROKE at Scott’s Hamburgers, waiting in line to make our order!!! All I have heard during my entire pregnancy is that this kind of thing only happens in the movies and that I shouldn’t even worry about it happening. But it wasn’t as embarrassing as I feared it would be ~ rather quite dramatic and exciting ~ and it will be great in The Harry Herald. I actually said that to Chris. “You would think of that.” he said.

8:20 p.m.

I will never forget our drive from the hamburger place back to Matt and Kaci’s house to fetch our car. My brother’s knuckles were white on the steering wheel and I just kept apologizing about their leather seats. Sorry ’bout that…but so cool to share this experience with my brother and sister-in-law.

8:25 p.m.

I changed clothes at Matt and Kaci’s…a lot of good that did. Apparently when your “water breaks” it’s not just a one-moment deal…it is the gift that keeps on giving. Everytime you stand up. Everytime. Every. time.

8:30 p.m.

Chris and I just got into our car and realized that the gas tank is empty. I guess he was a little distracted on the way here. So we have to stop and get some gas and then on to the hospital! I wish Jerry and Amy were here and not in Kentucky…

8:40 p.m.

I am having my first ever contractions, about five minutes apart, and I know now why people say “Don’t worry…when you are having them, you’ll know.” Yep. I know now – it doesn’t feel like gas, it doesn’t feel like a sharp pain. It feels like…a contraction. They don’t really hurt yet – it just feels like my belly tightens up – but I’ve heard they will hurt eventually. Yay!

9:00 p.m.

After accidentally going to St. John’s hospital first (true story!), we arrived at Hillcrest. Chris and I were both shaking with anticipation and adrenaline and were kind of clumsy and scatter-brained as we unloaded the car. We walked to the front desk together with the gigantic load of things I had packed – the receptionist asked when my inducement was. “Oh, I’m not being induced,” I told her. “My water just broke.” She looked surprised. “Well aren’t you calm?” she said and then looked at my baggage. “And so well-prepared!” Of course we are.  I never go anywhere without my make-up and an extra pair of shoes…

9:15 p.m.

Matt and Kaci were not long behind us and came in to our prep room where I’m getting hooked up to all kinds of machines. Kaci told me that Matt said with a bit of awe “My little sister is about to have a baby…” I don’t think my ultra-conservative brother ever dreamed he would be such a large player in tonight’s events, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way. God writes beautiful stories.

9:30 p.m.

We are settled in to a very comfortable room. My parents are here. Chris and Daddy are watching a basketball game, but have been courteous enough (after I cleared my throat very loudly) to mute it. (I can’t stand fan roaring, even on a non-labor day). We were lucky enough to get a BIG corner room, but I didn’t gloat so I wouldn’t jinx my labor. Chris would call that superstitious.

11:00 p.m.

Chris was just rubbing my back for me and exclaimed “Good grief, Lesley!” When I asked what was the bother, he silently plucked something off of my back and held it up…it was a tick. Country….Bumpkin! What kind of redneck would the nurses have thought I was if he had not found that first?!

March 14th, 2007, 12:00 a.m.

This is getting kind of painful. Chris is “hoo-hoo-hee”-ing with me and I keep using his arm to bury my face every time a contraction hits. During one contraction, he sweetly asked me if I wanted him to rub my back. “I don’t want you to talk.” I replied, my words muffled in his arm. Then I began absentmindedly rubbing on his shoulder and he said “Oh, so you’re going to rub my back?” I said “Shhhhhh.” When the pain was unbearable, I lost control of my breathing exercises and just writhed in pain. Chris encouraged me to breathe. My mature response? “I don’t want to. I hate breathing. I think it’s stupid.”

12:15 a.m.

The nurse said it might take 45 more minutes until my epidural and asked if I might like something to take the edge off of my pain. I said “Yes!” before she even finished her sentence, and in less than five, I was floating. Chris said I laid there with one eye barely open and a ridiculous smile on my face as I met the doctor on duty.  I don’t even remember getting my epidural (the part I dreaded most) and slept for a few hours. When I woke up, I couldn’t feel a thing! Who said having a baby is painful? This is a breeze!

4:00 a.m.

Dr. Tramonte, a blessing from the Lord, is here. He was to leave on a mission trip to China in just two days and we thought all along there was no way he would be here to deliver Gideon into this world. I am so glad that one of the first people our little boy will meet is a godly young man who has devoted his life and his work to the Lord and has spent time praying for our son. We’re going to start really working soon at having this baby…let the fun begin!

5:20 a.m.

So apparently the epidural is great in that you don’t feel anything at all…but there is also a problem with it. You don’t feel anything at all. So when the nurse says “Push!” and you obey, she ends up laughing and saying “The only thing you just did was flex your neck muscles. Try again.”

5:30 a.m.

It’s like a party in here. The lights are dim, there are three nurses cracking jokes with me, Dr. Tramonte is chatting with my Mom and Chris…but every so often when a new contraction comes along, we all straighten up and focus. They surround me in a bit of a semi-circle while coaching and encouraging me and I do my best to do what they say. It’s the weirdest situation I’ve ever been in, becoming instant comrades with this group of strangers in what would normally be a very vulnerable and embarrassing capacity. But tonight, we’re a team, all working toward one goal…bringing Gideon Michael Gore into this great big world.

7:06 a.m.

He’s here!!!! What an amazing feeling to have a human being go from the inside of my belly to my arms in a matter of minutes. His hair is red. And so is the rest of him! I’m a bit overwhelmed right now, but I feel like I’ve really accomplished something in this life.

9:00 a.m.

Chris just brought me a Sausage McGriddle and a cup of coffee and I think it is the best meal I have ever eaten in my life, the first thing aside from ice chips to reach my stomach since lunch yesterday. We’re already having visitors, which I love. And there is my little baby Gideon, wrapped up like a burrito and snoozing away right next to me. I’m so glad he was courteous enough to be born and get us to our new room before Regis and Kelly came on. I like this kid already.

9:00 p.m.

My brother Pete and his wife Jennifer just came to see us. Pete held Gideon for awhile and then went to lay him down in his bassinet. “Do I just put his head on his pillow?” he asked. The “pillow” he was referring to was a plastic package of wet wipes. Pete has a lot to learn before he gets to baby-sit for us.

March 15, 2007

We think Gideon will be an entertainer someday. The nurses brought him in to show us how to care for his lower regions and he decided to do a trick. He blew a poop bubble. That’s right, a poop bubble. Just like a bubble you would blow with bubble gum, but it wasn’t pink. Despite our amusement, Chris and I stepped back, lest it should pop.

March 16, 2007

I had no idea that the little plastic IV cartridge taped onto my arm this entire time was actually connected to something underneath my skin. The nurse went to remove it so I could shower and out came the longest needle I’ve ever seen. I looked in slow motion at Chris, who was watching me very quietly from the edge of his seat across the room. “Did you know that?” I mouthed. He nodded slowly, like he had been harboring a great secret. If I hadn’t been so determined to get that shower, I would have passed out on the spot.

March 17, 2007

We have checked out of the hospital. For lack of a better word, this feels plumb weird to officially be in charge of the baby that is sitting in our backseat. He belongs to us?! Chris is driving verrrrry slowly. And I kid you not, Spring has sprung since we came here on the night of the 13th. The grass is green, flowers are blooming…and I’m bringing home my new baby!!

March 17, 2007

We’re home! I am definitely seeing the world with new eyes, and what a feeling it was to walk down that sidewalk and bring my baby boy into the very house that I came home to as an infant. March 13th and 14th will forever hold one of the most incredible memories I possess ~ I already find myself, just four days later, revisiting them much as I do my wedding day and honeymoon, with joy and pride and, to be honest, a bit of sadness that I cannot remain in them but must continue on and perhaps face sadder days and less fond memories. How I wish I could cling to days like this forever and keep all of my loved ones around me, safe and sound. But I will not dwell on anxieties, for there is much joy to be had today. Indeed, there is a miracle sitting in my lap at this very minute. I made him a person, and he made me a Mother…I think we’re going to be a great team.


Small Elephant Remembers…Gideon

The following was mostly taken (with only a few minor alterations and additions) from the 2007 edition of The Harry Hareld and chronicles the incubation, birth and first days of Gideon Michael Gore. Without further ado, I present to you…

“There’s a Bun in my Oven and I Don’t Know How to Cook”

One Woman’s Journey to Motherhood…In Diary and Recollection

August 7, 2006

I ran out of time in my last entry to write about a suspicion that is now a fact…there is a wee babe in MY belly. Yes, even as I write that I little believe it, although I do have symptoms to help me in my disbelief.

September, 2006

Pregnancy has given me a new bedtime ritual. Before washing my face and brushing my teeth, I sit in my pink chair and cry my eyes out. Last night when I did this, Chris asked what was wrong and I wailed, “I don’t want to take a shower.” He asked why not and I cried “because I have to get wet, and then I have to get dry and then I have to put on lotion…” It seemed really dreadful at the time.

October, 2006

My sense of taste is so heightened! I am loving mustard and have eaten a hot dog smothered, nay drenched, with the stuff every day this week. It tastes so good I don’t drink anything afterward so the flavor will last longer. The other food I crave? Broccoli!

November 30, 2006

How many things can change in the course of months! I scarce know where to begin, but next week we will be moving back to Oklahoma…a dream has become a reality, yet it has happened so quickly I have had trouble swallowing it. We do know now that our little baby is a boy, a firstborn son. Even now I can feel him moving inside me. Wethinks we will call him Gideon.

December 2006

Chris and I nearly died today trying to get a dolly with two huge boxes of books downstairs and into the moving van. Before we had made it down the first step, we knew we were in trouble; it was too heavy to maneuver back onto the landing OR to proceed down the stairs without sliding down them full-speed…and full-force! And so we were just suspended there on the first step. Chris held onto the dolly with all his might, and I held onto the banister with one hand and a strap connected to the dolly with the other as I encouraged him in his ear with “What are we going to do Chris? This is awful. I told you to take the elevator. What are we going to do?!”” His shoes had no tread, the stairs were slicker than all get out, our hands and legs were shaking with exertion, and we were about to let the boxes go and let them fly down the stairs and into the wall when we heard voices from the floor below. We yelled “Help!” and two seminary employees assisted us. I nearly had a heart attack! Moving to Oklahoma when you are six months pregnant is a bad choice.

December 2006

Today was our Christmas tea party for my beloved niece Abigail. It was quite beautiful, all glistening and pink and dainty, but I have decided what I look like when I try to dress up now that I’m pregnant ~ an elephant ballerina in a pink tutu. Cute, maybe, but…not pretty.

January 20, 2007

I can feel Gideon moving inside me…who is this little one? What changes will he bring? May he be a compassionate fellow ~ that is my prayer for him; that he will defend the helpless and love the elderly. And dear Lord may he never break our hearts. I hope my belly has made him a good home and that when we meet one another for the first time, face to face, he will feel more at home than ever. What a strange world we live in, that the body of a silly girl can house something as precious as a baby. You know we planned this and all…but I can’t believe it’s happening to me!

January 2007

I was lying in bed last night thinking about how I might rearrange all of Mom and Dad’s DVDs into categories and then into alphabetical order. Then I decided I would take all the pictures out of their picture frames and organize them in a box…but then I didn’t know what I would do with the picture frames. I do believe I have started the nesting phase…

January 2007

Mom is so good to me! She gives me a daily pedicure so my feet will not be so disgusting at the hospital, she makes my breakfast, she prepares nutritious snacks for me throughout the day…maybe moving to Oklahoma when you are six months pregnant is a good choice after all!

February 6, 2007

I am growing so large that I am terrified at what the next two months will bring. I am afraid that pregnancy is a great challenge to my vanity…and I so much want to be a grown-up about this, like the ladies who thrive in their pregnant skin, glorying in the fact that their dear child is making them the size of a prize-winning watermelon on legs. But alas…all I see is the watermelon!

February 2007

Mom talked me into getting out of the house today and going to Cracker Barrel. She said it would be good for me and she assured me that I looked so pretty. We were in line for a table – the host bent down to get some menus and on straightening saw my belly. His eyes became huge and he said “You are pregnant.” I laughed a little and he said, “No I mean you are pregnant. There’s not just one in there – you’re having twins, right?” I assured him through gritted teeth that there was indeed only “one in there.” He didn’t get the hint, though, and continued expressing his shock over my largeness all the way to our table. Ruined my breakfast! (for a lengthened telling of this story, see https://mrsgoresdiary.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/small-elephant-scrapes-the-bottom-of-the-barrel-literally/)

February 2007

My Mom and I were in the shoe section of Dillard’s when I saw them – a pair of $300 knee-high Frye cowboy boots with a 3-inch heel that had been on my Anthropologie wishlist for months. I rushed over to them just so I could hold them in my arms for a minute, knowing they were too expensive to buy. But then I saw the sale price. I knew they wouldn’t have my size…but they did! I started to shake with delirium. When I went to try them on, however, my foot only made it halfway down the calf of the boot before getting stuck. I began to sweat. I pushed and pushed while Mom patted my back and two salesladies coached me on how to put them on, but I couldn’t bend over because of the enormous belly between me and my foot. Finally, they each took me by an arm and helped me to stand up into the boot, successfully shoving my foot into one and then the other. Oh, they fit alright, but I wasn’t telling how tight they were. I proceeded to take them off so I could purchase them and go find a place to cool off…but them boots weren’t budging! Here came the sweat again, but try as I may, I could not even begin to get them off. So one of my sales friends had mercy on me and grabbed a hold of my foot and pulled with all her might while I held fast to the arms of my chair, and finally off they flew. Mom thought a breakdown was imminent, but truly, the entire situation didn’t phase me. My boots are sitting on the top shelf of my closet and we will get reacquainted this fall when my feet are no longer clubs and my ankles are no longer waterlogged.

March 2007

I have just been struck with fear realizing how far away we are from the hospital. What if I get stuck out here and have to give birth on the farm?! If I feel even a hint of labor coming on, we’re moving to Matt and Kaci’s house in Tulsa. I hope they don’t mind.

March 2007

Chris and I went to our first Lamaze class tonight. For whatever reason, they had us watch a live birth video, and it showed…everything. Chris looked over  at me to see that I had my hand over my face (which had a horrified expression on it) peeking at the TV through my fingers. He got onto me for being childish which got me tickled and I could not stop giggling…which with only 8 other people in the room is very difficult to hide. He was mortified. But I just have never seen anything like that and thought it was quite vulgar. And funny. And absolutely terrifying.

To be continued…


Small Elephant Remembers

I had a doctor’s appointment last night, and my heart was so happy when I left. Thanks be to God, I have reached that “full term” marker, and although two weeks remain until my official due date, we are all very aware that Baby 3 could be joining us any second now. My suitcase is partially packed, a new carseat has been purchased, a freshly laundered stack of soft pastel-colored baby pajamas and dresses is tucked safely away in the closet, and I have pre-registered at the hospital. All that remains is to go through and organize that last tub of randomness that I collected from the four corners of our home as I waged war on every last piece of clutter we own – I adore the nesting phase of pregnancy and use its power to conquer every possible area of my little world. Mr. Gore and I have accomplished more in the past three weeks than I think we have since we moved into our house on the hill, and I have loved every second.

Anyway, I hid that tub in our master closet last week, and its final demise is scheduled for tonight. Once we have sparred and I am left victor, my duties will be complete and I will be free to indulge in one last wish…

Snuggle the living daylights out of my first- and second-born.

All of these preparations for our soon-to-be addition have caused me to go into that introspective mode that I am sure my husband adores. He looked at me last night in the car and said “Why the sad face?” Sad face? I didn’t realize I was making a sad face. I pulled down the visor mirror – yep. Ugly sad face. My thoughts had carried me far away to the place where my memory entraps me and causes me to stick my bottom lip out…something I never realize I’m doing until Chris says something like “why the sad face?”

But I wasn’t sad. I was doing something else that makes my bottom lip stick out, for whatever reason. I was just…musing. Concentrating. Remembering….

If you just ignore the science and the hormones and the chemicals for a second and look objectively at what happens when you deliver a babe into the world, there is something downright magical about it; that moment when your body finally decides the time has come is one that freezes time…everything slows down a bit and there you are in a darkened room, laboring, working, toiling to bring forth life

Thus when a Mother Hen like myself looks back on those monumental occasions, the memory is as intact as any memory could be. Like the Ghost of Christmas Present, I can return to them and watch, transfixed, heart stilled, breath caught in my throat, as I revisit the nights that my greatest treasures made their way from my womb to my oh-so-ready arms.

And so, as we drove through the streets of Tulsa, Chris like a normal person, watching the traffic with his lip not stuck out, I was somewhere else, communing with my past, bottom lip on display, sentimentality threatening to pour from my eyes in the form of salty tears.

Over the next few days (unless I go into labor tonight!), when I am not smothering Gideon and Rebekah with kisses, I will be sharing those memories bit by bit, drawing not only from my mental diary but from the yearly newsletter I send out to my closest friends and family members. You’ll be hearing more about that newsletter, The Harry Herald, in the near…or distant (What?…I’m my own editor!)…future, as it has been my main source of chronicling our moments and our days for the past six years. Every noteworthy detail of my pregnancies and deliveries has been recorded on its pages. I’m excited to share these stories with you not because I experienced something unique that others have not (except for the tick on my back and the postpartum carpel tunnel syndrome), but because life….is beautiful. It is so precious. And I love to talk about it.

Some of these memories are hilarious, some are disgusting, and some are so sweet they make my heart ache…

Can’t wait to see them again.

Small Elephant Scrapes the Bottom of the Barrel (literally).

Well I told you all after my experience at ‘Beauty and the Beast’ that Small Elephant (Mrs. Gore’s parturient – yes I just looked up ‘pregnant’ in the thesaurus – alter ego) should either get out more often or be kept at home behind lock and key…

Unfortunately, my zookeeper took me on another outing on Thursday that very well might have subjected the entire family to embarrassment…especially now that I will be publishing the account in my very modern and wildly popular diary.

I have been an idiot at scheduling and remembering appointments lately, and found out four days ago that I had scheduled back-to-back doctor’s appointments for Gideon and me at 9:00 and 9:20 on the ONE day that Mr. Gore could not accompany us. I was left with the following options: cancel the appointments and reschedule, leave Rebekah with her Grandmother and take Gideon alone, or take Rebekah, Grandmother and Gideon to the doctor with me. Canceling would involve picking up the phone, taking Gideon alone would be risky indeed (for many reasons), which left me with the third and final option: a family field-trip to the doctor.

It is impossible for my Mom and I to go to the big city without stopping somewhere for food and coffee. On the phone  Wednesday night we longingly bandied about the idea of going to Cracker Barrel, but decided it would take too much time and settled on Panera Bread instead. We were trying so hard to be good girls and not spend the entire day in Tulsa. However, our plans quickly changed when I mentioned to Gideon that after our appointments we would be going to the place where he likes to eat muffins…

“My new favorite store??” he proclaimed with boyish excitement. “The one with the wittle checkers?” It took me a moment, but then I understood what he was saying…the store with the little checkers…Cracker Barrel! His zeal was all it took for Mom and me to decide that Cracker Barrel was completely worth the time. And secretly where we both wanted to go all along!

Gid was a gem of perfection at the doctor, tripling my joy at our prospective jaunt, for no one loves a well-deserved reward more than Mrs. Gore. However, on the rather lengthy drive there, he began dipping his toe into that dangerous realm where whining, stubbornness and tantrums reside, and that region that my 4-year old controls underneath my ribcage, the one that tenses up when it smells a storm brewing, began to clench in consternation. But I had my eyes set on the prize…to Cracker Barrel I marched, all while doing my best to keep the male occupant of the backseat from throwing his reward out the window and punishing all of us in the process.

We made it before the dam broke, barely, at 10:00 on the button, and I was so pleased upon arriving there to see that, even though it was just the four of us, they were prizing us with the big round table near the front of the restaurant, the most snug little set-up in the joint where we could look out over all the other patrons while enjoying our own private little corner. I feel safe there, with plenty of room to enjoy my apple butter and coffee, with plenty of floor space for my kids to throw food and those little Cracker Barrel game pegs on, surrounded by walls on two sides, a walkway on the third and only one other table on the last. (Meaning there would be only one table of people to apologize to for ruining their meal by sitting in their vicinity.)

Now before I go on, to help you fully grasp the hilarity of the scene I am about to describe to you, I must backtrack for a moment to another Cracker Barrel outing just over four years ago, one so very antonymous (yes, I just looked up ‘different’ in the thesaurus) from this day.

…I was unknowingly in the very last stages of my first pregnancy (Gideon was very kind to come two weeks before his due date!), and I was also unknowingly depressed. Not dangerously so, nothing worth prescribing or even being concerned about, but it didn’t dawn on me at the time that my constant desire to sit on the living room loveseat day in and day out was a bit unusual. My Mom would try to entice me to partake in some activity other than curling up there…”Would you like to read?” No. “Do you want to watch something together on TV?” Mmmm, not really. “How about a magazine?” I’m fine. “Can I at least turn the light on?” If you want. Again, I wasn’t morose in my attitude. My shoulders weren’t even slumped. I just couldn’t think of a thing I wanted to do. And then she’d ask the question that I could vehemently, rather than lightheartedly, answer. “Do you want to go somewhere?” Heavens NO!

You see, I was so painfully self-conscious throughout my first pregnancy. Those intended-to-be-funny comments from well-meaning folks like “Are you sure there’s only one in there?!” or even the less offensive “Boy, you’re really showing!!” just nearly did me in, and I had heard enough of them in the seven or eight months before this day to wish only to stay confined in my home where no one could see me, no one could ask me questions about the body that was so unfamiliar to me, and no strangers could intrude on and trample my nearly nonexistent self-esteem. I was done with the human race, just biding my time on the loveseat until my personal labor day. In the dark.

But apparently my Mom had had enough of the hermit’s life and somehow, against my better judgment, managed to get me out of the house for an outing to Cracker Barrel. I voiced my silly concerns. “No one will even notice you!” she cooed, and before I knew it, we were standing in line for a table. The young host on duty was bending down to retrieve our menus, and upon standing up, laid eyes on the mass of flesh that is Small Elephant. His eyes grew alarmingly huge and the first words out of his mouth were seemingly a declaration meant for the entire restaurant to hear. “You are pregnant!” he blurted out. I gave him a passingly polite smile and nodded, hoping we could move on to another subject, like where our table would be. Nope. He just had to go on. “No, I mean, you are pregnant!” he exclaimed. I gritted my teeth, trying to school my emotions and control my response. “Yep, I’m pregnant alright.” I replied, inwardly pleading for him to leave me be. Nope. Again, he just had to go on. All the way to our table. Ending with my favorite: “You’ve got to be having twins, right? There’s no way there’s not two babies in there!” I felt like every eye was on me and every ear was tuned in to the loud conversation I did not want to be having, but I managed to keep my kindness intact and he finally left us to move on to the next customer. “No one will notice??…” I asked Mom, who offered me a hundred apologies. I was so mortified and ordered something pitiful like two biscuits and a glass of juice and swore I would never leave the house again until my water broke…

Oh! What an uncomfortable memory, albeit laughable…but where were we? Oh yes, four years and two children later at that huge round table at the front of the restaurant…

I took the very center seat on the backside of the table, my gaze encompassing the entire room of customers. Gideon was next to me, who was next to Grandmother, who was next to Rebekah, leaving the remaining half of the table empty. We could have fit at least five or six more people next to us!

Now you all know that whether your children behave as angels or not, a meal spent with humans under a certain age is just harried and chaotic. You’re perusing the menu not only for yourself but for them, you’re passing out crayons and peg games, you’re removing everything from their little hand’s reach including sharp utensils, the salt and pepper and the container of sugar packets, and you’re trying to think for five seconds while they are demanding to be seen and heard. My children were behaving quite nicely (i.e. not laying in the floor…yet), but my hands, arms and brain were all flying, in mostly different directions. All while trying to doctor up my first cup of coffee just perfectly before it got cold.

But do you see what the great thing is, so different from the scene I described above? Not once did I give a second thought to what the rest of Cracker Barrel was thinking about Small Elephant. I wasn’t trying to cover up my giant midsection. I wasn’t assuming that every eye and every thought was on me. I wasn’t wishing I was at home on the loveseat. Mostly because I’ve gotten over myself since becoming a mother, realizing that nobody cares. And also because I don’t have the time to care. It’s wonderful. Self-esteem isn’t low; it’s just not even needed anymore and has been thrown in some forgotten and misplaced box with my mustache bleach and Kiehl’s acne spot treatment.

We ordered our food, and steadily kept a decent level of good decorum at our table, although Gideon was really itchin’ to go and play with that whole section of toys in the room next door. He wasn’t being bad, persay, but he made me work for it. Hard. And Rebekah, leaning back in her highchair with both feet on the table, kept squawking out orders at her Grandmother while batting her eyes at the unfortunate ladies at that lone table next to us. And she was so very determined to hold her own drink with her own hands and drink out of the big girl straw rather than the safe and boring sippy cup I brought for her, meaning my Mom was on constant watch for a major milk spill.

There has to be a way to describe what we were doing, Mom and me…holding down the fort…keeping the dogs at bay…in other non-cliche terms, trying to pretend like we were having a leisurely meal while frantically working at it. She looked at me at one point and laughingly said “Why do we keep doing this to ourselves?” We simultaneously answered. “The coffee.”

Thank God the food came, and I immediately noticed something different. Now I am a diehard defender of Cracker Barrel, but I will admit that sometimes their food, while always decent, is not always great. I don’t care…I’ll pay $8 for the coffee and the ambiance! But today…the food…was p.e.r.f.e.c.t. The butter was soft, the bacon was thick yet pliable, the eggs were steaming and well done, and even my little jar of syrup was hot. It was like we hit the chef jackpot! My eyes lit up at the feast before us and I quickly began divvying up the plates, cutting up eggs and bacon for Rebekah, passing out Gideon’s yogurt, muffin and bacon, buttering my french toast, all in eager haste lest this golden opportunity of savoring a feast of perfectly hot and delicious food slip out of my grasp. I looked like that crazy Muppet chef, arms and knives flailing, chop chop here, butter there, a sprinkle of salt, a quick prayer and…let’s eat!

And was it ever delicious. For a few blissful minutes, maybe even six or seven, Gideon was completely occupied with his yogurt, his granola and his muffin. Rebekah, too; granted, she kept trying to shove scrambled eggs in Grandmother’s mouth, but for the most part, we were able to enjoy our food. But all too soon Gideon uttered those dreaded words: “I’m full.” How a child can be full before their grown-up counterparts can even get through the first biscuit is a mystery, but it is to be expected. Time in a restaurant with a little boy is something like dog years; for every minute we normal people experience, they live seven. So we had only been there for a short time, but Gideon…well he had been sitting for at least three hours. He was done.

I did some quick thinking and finally told him he could go right across the walkway to where two rocking chairs were set up around a game of checkers. He happily did my bidding and began building a tower of checkers, allowing us womenfolk to return to our meal. But I soon noticed a big problem. He was stationed awfully close to the kitchen entrance/exit. Which meant that the three times he ran across the walkway to tell me something, he almost collided with a waitress carrying a huge tray of food; it was uncanny, their timing, as if the wait staff and my son had conspired together to give me a very premature heart attack. I frantically scolded him to watch where he was going and to stay put. But then his tower fell, which in turn caused him to fall into the floor in a conniption. I talked him through it and he went back to try again, soon crumpling up on the floor again in absolute despair. Three times.

My Mom must have seen that I was about to crack. She shoved her last piece of ham in her mouth, threw back one last drink of coffee, and like an angel from heaven, whisked both children out of the restaurant to go play with toys.

Alone. I took a deep breath and looked around me, holding court with no one at the head of my sizable table, reining like the Small Elephant Queen over the whole of Cracker Barrel, a feast of still warm food laying before me, a fresh cup of piping hot coffee in my hands. A delighted smile slowly spread across my face and I began to laugh; this is when I truly began to marvel at the difference in the woman I was today compared to the self-conscious girl of four years ago. The position of our table, and my seat in particular was something akin to a stage. I could have waved and every single person in the restaurant might have waved back! And I could have cared less!! Obviously…I was sitting there chuckling like a crazy person. And then…then I began to eat…

And eat. And eat. And eat.

I ate until I could eat no more, finally stopping, not because I was full, but because there was nothing left to eat. I ate…everything.

At one point, our waitress even asked if she could take a plate that had only a half a piece of bacon left on it. My hand shot out to claim it and I actually said “No, no, no…”

The Elephant Queen had spoken. The Elephant Queen was still hungry. And the Elephant Queen made it exceedingly clear that none of those plates were leaving her table until they were starkly and gloriously empty .

When I was finally finished (remember, I wasn’t actually stuffed to the brim – I could have eaten more) and regally rose from my throne, this is what was in my tummy along with my unborn baby girl. Brace yourselves…

Three-and-a-half cups of coffee. Two scrambled eggs. Four (that’s right…four) pieces of french toast. (Did you hear that? I ate FOUR pieces of BREAD in one sitting!). A small bottle of syrup. Gideon’s leftover yogurt and blackberries. A glass of water. And here’s the kicker…six large pieces of bacon.

Call it impressive. Call it disgusting. But any way you slice it, it was funny.

I licked my fingers, said goodbye to my new waitress friends (I hadn’t had the leisure time to actually talk like that in a long time!) and walked, utterly satisfied, into the next room to reclaim my children and the chaos that, thankfully, usually keeps me from eating an entire table full of food. It was back to the grind, as in minutes I was escorting Gideon to the handicap stall in the bathroom for some sobering discipline and soon thereafter chasing Rebekah down the sidewalk before she ran straight into the street…

But for a few minutes there, I knew what it was to be at rest. No responsibility, no self-consciousness holding me back from eating as far as my stomach might take me, and not one lick of embarrassment at my (perhaps) over-indulgence. In fact, I rather enjoyed putting on a show for the good people of Cracker Barrel. Which leads me right back to my initial conundrum…

Small Elephant needs to get out more often.

Or maybe be kept at home behind lock and key.

Small Elephant* Goes to the Theatre

I had reason last Saturday to wake up early. And not wake-up-early-because-I-had-to, but the more unusual and exhilarating wake-up-early-because-I-want-to. For I had a 10:00 date, not with my husband, but with two other men, a chauvinistic backwoodsman and a hairy tantrum-throwing monster…

That’s right, I had my very own ticket to the live stage performance of “Beauty and the Beast.”

What made this particular outing unusual in the first place is that I went unaccompanied by any of the inhabitants of my home. My Mom came to pick me up, and I walked out of our front door with no children in tow, no diaper bag on my arm, and most notably, no sweating and flustered frenzy as my crowning glory. In fact, after I woke up an hour before our departure time, I found myself struggling to fill in the time. I have become a master at fixing my hair, putting on my make-up and eating my breakfast lickety-split and so it was downright luxurious to feel the morning’s stillness, and to pitter-patter about with nothing much to do but add a little more rouge here and drink a little more coffee there.

As Gideon is our early riser, as well as a big fan of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast movie (he just told me last week that Gaston is his “favorite bad guy”), I did not tell him where I was going or why I was wearing real clothes AND earrings at 8:30 on a Saturday morning. He gasped in awe when I walked into the room with my bejeweled headband on (he thought it was a tiara, but I promise I stopped wearing those approximately five years ago), but when he saw that his Grandmother was there to pick me up, he assumed we were going to the grocery store. And horrid coward that I am, I did not correct him…

We did, however, stop to pick up my two eldest nieces, Abigail and Anna, and their Mama, my sister-in-law, Amy. Why did they get to go, but not Gideon, you ask? Well, for starters, this was their birthday gift from my Mom, and for enders, these little girls can be counted on to, at the very most, completely enjoy the show, or at the very least, refrain from rolling in the floor in public agony if they do not enjoy the show. I very badly wanted to experience this day with my little man, but would he have sat, transfixed, by the music, the costumes and the fairy-tale?…

Or would he have decided midway through the show to mutiny by laying on the floor with his chin in his hands (what he did at our last professional photographic session), or worse, gone completely mad with boredom and claustrophobia? There is just no way to know with ol’ Gid the Kid. And therein lies the rub.

But as much as I missed my own children the minute I closed the front door (I could hear Rebekah singing “Mama…” from her crib upstairs!), it was actually quite nice to hop in the passenger seat as easy as you please, no carseats to buckle, no “stuff” to pass out, no responsibility at all really, and it was also nice to spend some concentrated time with my two eldest nieces, Abigail Grace and Anna Ruth.

Abigail was the first baby I was ever around. In fact, we were more than neighbors during my senior year of college. Her bedroom was right next door to mine, and I used to race her parents to fetch her when she cried in the middle of the night. On countless afternoons I came home from class and we would fall asleep together on the couch, a blanket on my bottom half, Abigail on my top half. We were soulmates from the very beginning, 22 years apart, yet deeply understanding of one another, and I’ve always been able to read her and know exactly what is running through that brain of hers. She is nearly 7 years old now, and although it goes without saying that I love having children of my own, I sometimes miss the time I used to have to dote solely on this amazing girl. We were inseparable for so many years, and now even when we’re together, I am tending to my offspring and taking their pictures and looking out for them. I miss my Abigail. And so it was a sweet day to spend walking alongside her, holding her hand and more closely observing how she has grown and changed.

And then there is Anna…I was not as heavily involved in her infancy, as she was born two weeks after Gideon in a state that was 10 hours away from us. But this little doll of a girl, with her ever-changing personality, is grabbing more of my heart every day, especially since, thankfully, she lives just down the street from us instead of in Kentucky. While Abigail spent her toddler years playing tea party and tap-dancing, Anna was a little fireball, fearless and active. However, she has taken a surprising turn this past year, becoming a bit of a bookworm, seemingly always with a pencil and paper in hand, happy to play quietly and calmly by herself. And she absolutely melts anyone who looks at her with her extraordinary eyes and aim-to-please-you smile. “Cute” doesn’t even begin to describe her, and although she and Gideon weren’t the fastest of friends when their worlds collided two years ago, they are becoming quite the pair in their old age…although I haven’t divulged the secret to him that Anna has her sites set on him for a husband. Nothing good could come of his knowing, as he would either run for the hills…or agree!

But back to our outing.

I had my typical English muffin with red plum jam and two cups of coffee before I left the house, but somewhere between my home and the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, I started to get nervous that maybe I should have eaten a bit more. I pictured myself, six months pregnant, elbow-to-elbow with the other audience members, knees nearly touching the seats in front of me, in a shaky state of claustrophobic pregnancy hunger (Gideon gets it from somewhere!). I really didn’t want my first time to publicly stroke out to be in such a grand room during such a grand show, with nary a husband or father in sight. The very thought of it made me, well, downright shaky.

However, upon our arrival, I found that the concession stand was just that…a concession stand that sold mostly…candy. I didn’t think that would help much with any potential light-headedness so I used my brain and picked the best of the litter, a PayDay. At least it had peanut butter in it, and is fully dressed in peanuts, which are a member of the meat family, are they not? So in a sense, I was eating a meat bar. Regardless, it was the first time I’ve ever had a PayDay at 9:45 in the morning, and my quick consumption of it made me look like a caricature of a pregnant woman.

After I swallowed my meat bar and took the time to look around me, I was shocked by the sea of golden yellow dresses in the room…you wouldn’t believe all the little girls dressed as Belle! I have to admit it was very cute, but it also kind of trivialized the way we dote on our own individual children and family members. We’ve all been in that situation before…on Halloween, at birthday parties, on really any rite-of-passage event where it becomes glaringly and immediately evident that our children or our nieces or nephews are not the only ones on the planet or the only ones who are adorable or funny or talented or smart. I am sure that each mother who decked her baby girl out as Belle that morning was just a tiny bit disappointed to see that there were at least 100 other mothers who had the same idea. I made a mental note to dress Rebekah as…Rebekah…should I ever have the pleasure of taking her to a show starring someone as adored as Belle or Dorothy or Cinderella, not because it wouldn’t be precious, but because I like to stick out like a sore thumb. You know, the only one not in costume. (We’ll save the costumes for a show where no one else will come dressed in character, like Fiddler on the Roof…I’ll be Golde, she can be Tzeitel…)

And it was during our slow descent up the crowded stairwell, surrounded by baby Belles, that I knew beyond the tiniest shadow of a doubt that I had made the right decision in leaving Gideon at home. The only thing my interesting son dislikes more than a nosebleed is a large crowd…he easily grows hysterical in the noise, in the bumping, in the shoulder-to-shoulderness of oh so many strangers; he would have definitely been “out” before we even made it “in” to the theatre. Good choice, Mrs. Gore!

And oh my…once inside that theatre, when the show finally began, the magic of Beauty and the Beast was as contagious and inspiring as it was when my Mom took me to see the film version on the big screen as a young elementary schoolgirl. The acting, the singing, the costumes, the lighting, the set, and the nostalgia of one of the most beautiful and entertaining stories I’ve ever known were equally enjoyable, mesmerizing from beginning to end. It would be safe to say that I (along with the middle-aged gentleman behind me) laughed louder than anyone else in the entire Performing Arts Center, and probably much more frequently than called for. And during the finale of the song “Be our Guest” when streamers and confetti shot out of the ceiling…well I just nearly shot out of my chair!

In fact, the entire show brought out all kinds of whackadoo things in me, three if I’m keeping count…

1. I was embarrassingly jealous of the lead actress, even finding myself criticizing her heighth and her face, when in truth, she was the perfect representation of Belle. In my initial green-eyed estimation, she should have been a bit taller and looked a bit more like…me. Which led me to the realization that this was probably my dream role.

2. I did manage to get over my initial jealousy and to admit the truth of the matter, that Belle had been perfectly cast, even managing to feel happy for the young actress whose children and stretch marks did not ruin her performing career, once again becoming the somewhat kind pastor’s wife who realizes that her voice and her stature and her talents are perfectly suited for the life she lives…but that did not stop me from having to cover my mouth with my jacket to refrain from singing not just out loud, but very loudly out loud, especially during the “Kill the Beast” song. Seriously. I was literally holding my mouth shut, and if I had been a fraction bolder or crazier (prayer request: please pray that that never happens), I would have just stood up and joined in. Don’t you doubt me for a minute.

3. It took just as much restraint to keep from putting my head in my hands and weeping, not necessarily when the Beast and Belle found that their true love conquered all, but when Chip, transformed from a teacup back into a little boy, ran across the stage and into the arms of his joyous mother, Mrs. Potts. It done me in. If I didn’t know it before, I definitely know it now…I am 100% pregnant.

All that to say, I don’t know who had more stars in their eyes at the show’s conclusion, Abigail, Anna, or their loony-tune Aunt. The magic of our fairy-tale experience carried us through the rest of the day, even through a dreadfully long and overly warm lunch experience at a nearby Italian restaurant…

And so what’s the moral of this story?

I’m not sure, except that maybe Small Elephant needs to get out more often.

Regardless, Small Elephant, like the good elephant she is, will NEVER FORGET her outing to the theatre. I raise my trunk to you, Beauty and the Beast. And even to you, diminutive should’ve-been-my-understudy Belle…

*Small Elephant is the pregnant and large version of Mrs. Gore who comes out every two years or so to entertain the world, to torture her husband and to eventually bring forth another interesting baby version of a human being before returning to her former identity. To read more about her, see ‘Mother Hen Paints the Fence’ and ‘Mother Hen Paints the Fence Some More’…or stay tuned!!