Thursday, June 2, 2016

Car Shopping When You Don't Know How Many Seats You Need

I have a Nissan Maxima with 213,000 miles on it.  I love that car, its sunroof, its leather seats, its peppy engine.  Two weeks ago it started idling funny, as cars with lots of miles on them do.  The mechanic is starting to seem skeptical when I drop it off to fix it.  

The Oregon coast is one of my favorite places in the world.  In the summer, we pack the kids up and stay at various coastal spots all the way down to northern California.  We explore the beaches and the lighthouses and attempt to gain massive amounts of weight as we eat our way along.  Then I entertain my husband the whole way home with my petty and childish whining about wanting to live on said Oregon coast.  He's definitely lucky to have me.

Combined with the funny noises, the high mileage, and the impending road trip I would really hate to try to reschedule, we decided it was time to shop for a new vehicle.  New vehicle purchasing always seems to stress Jerry and I out.  This time it's worse.  This time it feels irritatingly fraught with tension as we attempt to answer the age-old question, "How many children are we going to have?"  

I think every couple goes through this to some degree.  Money, time, so many factors to consider when you are attempting to plan a pregnancy.  But we've been trying to get pregnant for a few months shy of two years.  We've seen the doctors, the specialists, the specimen cups, the blood draws.  Husband got a day surgery, and I got an HSG.  I've read research papers, printed them off and highlighted the sections that apply to me and my used-up, battle-scarred uterus.  I've cried in the bathroom at work when I had myself convinced I was pregnant, only to find out that the pregnancy was imaginary.  I'm trying not to do that anymore.  The crying or the imagining.  

We try to picture our lives with our two living children.  And it's not a bad picture.  One of each, and there are so many people who are forced to get along with less.  I'll have to be drunk to go through the bins of baby paraphernalia piled up in the basement and decide what to keep and what to get rid of.  But shouldn't everyone be slightly inebriated for that exercise?  I can take them on more vacations.  I love vacations.  I can be there for each of them without feeling spread too thin constantly. 

And... I can keep the two kids in a normal sedan car.  Unless, of course, I have another baby.  I think the uncertainty of it all gets to me sometimes.  There are so many life decisions that hinge on whether or not we have another baby.  Like whether I should go to nurse practitioner school, and when.  Or whether we should buy a car with 3rd row seating.  

"How many kids do you have?" the salesman asks us politely.  I feel the familiar clench of my insides as I answer "Two."  I never pictured myself in a minivan or an SUV.   Mostly I picture myself in something small and red with a manual transmission.  So I already feel like I am compromising.  If I knew I would have another child, the matter would be simple.  But it's never really simple, is it?  

I clamber into the back row of an SUV that costs more than my education did.  I picture where I would put the imaginary baby's car seat,  along with my son and daughter.  I test whether or not I could hand the imaginary baby a toy from the passenger seat as we drive along.  I can tell my husband is trying to picture what cargo room would be left after the imaginary baby's car seat is installed.  

I move on to the cheaper options.  No need to go deeply into debt and feel regret when all the seats aren't filled in a couple of years.  My husband maintains that the extra space would be useful, no matter who might or might not show up.  I nod and say nothing.  He loves cargo room so he doesn't really understand.  To him, it wouldn't be an empty seat, but for me there's a chance that extra seating would always be there, mocking me and my imaginary baby.  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Other Side of the Wall

Its 0433 on the morning of April 10, 2016.  Today is Matthew's 10th birthday.  Today, nearly to the minute, marks ten years since his brutal entrance into the world and my entrance into parenthood.  Ten years feels like such a long time.  It's long enough to move a few times.  Long enough to have more children.  Long enough to acquire new lines around my eyes.  

Yet, a scent or a thought can bring my reality screeching back to those moments ten years ago, and it's like no time has passed at all.  

One of the great ironies of my life these days is that I am a nurse in the hospital where Matthew was born.  I am literally sitting on the other side of the wall from the operating room.  Where he took his first breath.  Where my first c-section incision was hastily made.  Sometimes I can hear babies cry as they take their first lungfuls of air in that OR.  Thankfully, tonight it's quiet.  

It's not where I thought I'd end up working, but here I am.  There are times, like tonight, when the divide that separates me from that 22-year-old girl and her baby seems as thin as a veil.  Like it's a curtain I could sweep aside.  If I wanted to I could step across the last ten years and talk to them.  What would I even say to that girl?  Have I learned anything in the past years that she didn't already learn in the most tragic, brutal, bloody, horrible way on this night? 

I don't feel like crying tonight.  I'm not really sure how I feel.  I know that 22-year-old girl hoped that ten years down the road she wouldn't feel like a huge chunk was missing.  But she probably could've guessed that the missing chunks are permanent.   Actually I know what I would say to them.  I'd tell them both how much I miss them.  It never goes away.  I miss her.  I miss that stupid, ignorant, optimistic person.  I miss her un-scarred heart.  Frankly I miss her un-scarred uterus.  And him?  I miss him physically, every moment, always. 

I have one hastily taken video of Matthew in the NICU.  In it I am narrating and joking, talking to him the entire time about someday when he is bigger.  I watch it once every couple of years.  I listen to myself babbling.  "Be quiet," I think to myself.  "Just be quiet and watch him."  Then I hit the mute button so I can't hear my falsely cheerful voice and the beeping of the machines that are keeping him alive.  It's the only way I can really see him.