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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Firstborn Birth Stories

I was 19.  Married a year (yep, got married really young, like most of the military wives do!) and living in Orlando off base in an upstairs apartment on LeHigh street. 

I swam daily, the pressure from being super pregnant, still technically a teenager, and all alone without my family was severe.  Emotionally, I was a wreck.  Physically, I gained maybe 7 pounds and secretly hoped I'd have a small baby.  Ouch, do you KNOW how babies are born?! 

Speaking of lack of weight gain, I had to go and see this guy for some shots every week.  Protein, and probably Valium or Prozac because I was super high strung and sad all the damn time.  I loved him.  Or her.  Or shim?!  His/Her name was "VER" (rhymes with Bear, but pulled into two sexy syllables) and s/he was awesome.  Bald, about six foot three and the deepest sexiest man voice a woman ever could have.  S/he really knew how to accentuate his/her eyes too.  "OHMIGOD GUUUURL, you are juss da tiniess thaaang."  (My belly...)  "Gimme your arm, squeeze dis ball and we can get started.  haha, I always wanted to say that.  Squeeze this ball!"  I don't think my husband got a kick out of him/her as much as I did.  We talked about all the girly stuff you could talk about to a best friend who you only saw because you were paying them to keep you alive.  :)  Thanks Ver. 

Anyway, I had felt Braxton-Hicks contractions before, and on my due date, September 24th, I was sure I was in labor.  A quick visit to the hospital and yet ANOTHER person checking my whoo-haa confirmed that I was just being a wimp.  On the way back from the hospital, I decided I needed some watermelon.  I mean, I REALLY needed watermelon.  So, we stopped at a grocery store, I forget which one, for some watermelon.  Are watermelon in season in late September?  Only at certain places.  So, I settled for some red vines instead.

On the way back to the apartment, I swear my hips were breaking in half.  I mean, seriously, the pain was unbearable.  I thought I was going to die.  (Not really, but man, it hurt)  Even red vines weren't helping.  So, driving back from the hospital, in the dark, we hit something.  The (tiny) HUGE bump brought me to tears, what the hell did we hit?  BIGFOOT?!  I mean, it could have been a rock, but damn, my legs were falling off!

So, because I was in such pain, we decided that the best thing to do was go bowling.  We drove over to the bowling alley and got two games for each of us.  I don't know if you know this, but bowling with a big full term belly is hard.  But I still won.  Because that's what I do.  Win. 

Then as I was walking away from the snack bar, my water broke.  Like gushed out, in- the-movies-broke, Niagara-Falls, baby-juice-flowing-all-over-the-place, dammit-I'm-in-a-bowling-alley, holy-shit-are-people-looking-at-me, my-husband-looks-pissed, Gushed out.  Stanky, slimy baby juice.  All over my cool bowling shoes.

Dammit.  Shit just got real.

Unfortunately, there was a football game on, and we needed to see who won.  So I swayed like my momma taught me.  Well, she didn't really "teach" me cause she wasn't there, but I remember walking with her the night before Elsa was born and she would stop and sway back and forth on her heels, so I just mimicked that motion.  It sure as hell didn't work for me.

That kid was coming whether or not the Colorado Buffalos beat the Tennesee Volunteers or not.  Hurry up with that touchdown Peyton, we needed to GO.

And go we did.  We left the bowling alley and cruised down the road to the Winter Park hospital.  I tried to check in and they told me visiting hours were over.  I gently, or as gently as my breaking hips could tell them, told them I was in labor, and my water had broken.  "WHAT?!" 

They rushed into servitude.  Apparently my tiny body (I know, right.) and lack of weight gain prompted them to think I was severely premature.  They called my doctor, Dr. Wolford, and he assured them that I was indeed full term. 

I got dressed into that awesome butt-less hospital gown and wanted to walk around.  But, alas, my doctor came in and said, "You're getting an epidural." 

Who was I to complain?  Doctor's orders, man.  Besides, my hips already broke in half, so walking would have been difficult.  Right?

The anesthesiologist came in and said he was going to put this 8 inch needle in my back and that I needed to relax.  I said, "Cool, can I watch!"  Surprised, he agreed to let me watch.  The nurse came over and gave me a huge mirror, you know the Goody Mirrors you can get from Wal-mart?  She then stood behind the drug doctor and held another equally as cool Goody mirror back there so I could watch this dude stick a needle in my spinal fluid.  After I signed the "If I die, it's not his fault" liability form, that is.

After a few minutes, they checked if my toes could feel anything by poking a needle in my big toe.  Nope.  Nothing.  Naada.  Zilch.  Damn that stuff works.  Of course, the football game was going on in the tube TV behind everything.  Go Volunteers. 

The baby monitor told us that it was time for me to push this sucker out.  The contractions, apparently were really strong now and I was effaced and dilated all the way.  Did I know?  Nope.  The nurse kept checking me and watching a screen to let me know.  As far as I was concerned, my hips were no longer broken and I needed to keep this epidural drip for when I stubbed my toe. 

We did the normal, you-hold-one-leg-I'll-hold-the-other and the nurse said that I wasn't pushing "right."  Huh?  How the hell do you push a baby cantaloupe out of a lemon hole, then miss-know-it-all?  Oh, that way...  

She literally told me this:  "Have you ever been constipated?  Well, push like you're pushing that BM out.  Push from THERE."  And pointed.  Uhm..  uh...  I didn't think I was doing THAT.  I thought I was having a baby.  But my 19 year old self was like, "OK Whatevs, this epidural is the shiz."

After about 5 minutes, the epidural wore off.  In my mind:  "HOLYGODINHEAVEN HELP ME NOW!!!  WHY DO PEOPLE KEEP HAVING BABIES??!  OH MY GOD I'M DYING AGAIN.  Oh, ok 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, (breathe Maija...) 3, 2, 1... ONE more...  10, 9, 8, 7"  OK STOP, someone yelled.  "WHAT?  STOP?  How the hell do you want me to STOP!?  There's a BABY RIGHT THERE... holy shit there's a BABY right there...  oh my God, I had a baby.  Holy cow he has A LOT of hair."

My Andrew Jade was born.  Wait, my husband wanted to name him Shae or Kobe.  So no AJ for me.  Damn.  Well, if you know my son, you know that Colorado beat Tennessee that day, and therefore my son is named Koy (detmer) Peyton (manning).  A pretty fitting name for this kid.

Happy 17th Birthday son.  Since the day you were born, I've been cutting your hair, and today is no exception.  I love you.  I love your stoic looks.  I love your maija-attitude.  I love the way you've grown and continue to grow.  I love how you stick up for your sister, even if you get in trouble with me.  I love you.  Even if you did "break my hips." 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Things I learned from my aana.

Last week my grandmother passed away.  My aana.  My mom's mom.  She was 85 years old.  After a whirlwind week of funeral homes, funeral services and a burial at camp, I am finally able to sit and think about her.

When the call came in that she may not make it, I prayed for three things:  1.  If it was time for her to go, that she went peacefully and pain free.  2.  That my family would accept that it was her time to go.  3.  That I would not lose it in front of anyone. 

Thankfully, God answers prayers from the soul.  She passed away her own way, waiting for my cousins to arrive on the flight to Anchorage.  Smiled a little and took her final breath.  I left before that, because I didn't think I could hold on to prayer #3 if I stayed.  And my family is not used to see me cry, be upset, or pretty much do anything but work real hard. 

Anyway, each night I think about what a legacy she left.  And how much I learned from her. 

These are the things I came up with:

Put other people first, especially family.  Help other people, even if it costs you something (time, money, pride).  She always had family living with her; nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and more.  She took care of them like they were all her own.  Funny (sort of, now) story:  When I was a single mother to my son and had just gotten a divorce, I thought my ex-husband was going to come to Kotzebue to steal my son away.  I told her and she kicked everyone out of the house, took a shotgun and told me that we were staying with her until he left.  I didn't leave the house that week, and she didn't let anyone in.  Not even my tatta, who had no idea what was going on, because he was just at the Post Office when she did that!  She was a savior to many of her grandchildren. 

It doesn't take much to make you happy.  My grandparents lived a different lifestyle compared to most people here.  They used a dog team to get around, and simple items like a qayaq to check their nets.  There was no need for extravagance, or "more."  They raised all their kids in a house at Sisualik with only two rooms, a "bedroom" and everything else in the other room.  We slept on the floor, covering the entire house, and rolled up the caribou skins (and the lucky ones got some foam to sleep on!) in the morning to start the day.  She was always happy, it seems like, and never needed anything more than she already had. 

Try not to have regrets.  Does that even make sense?  I think so.  I mean, you learn so much from mistakes, from others and from life in general, that you can't possibly think that you're the "same person you always were."  Right?  I know I'm not the same person I was when I was 18, or even last year for that matter.  I don't have regrets, really.  I think she just showed us that it's OK to fail, it's OK to win... as long as you learn something and are graceful doing it.

Hold on to your culture.  My aana taught us to live off the land.  To sew, and pick berries, and bake bread.  She sang to us in Inupiaq, she scolded us in Inupiaq.  She never told us to embrace our culture, she just did.  She didn't preach to us about the importance of our culture, she just lived that lifestyle and we learned from her and my tatta.  The Inupiaq here have a set of "Values" that they spout off all the time.  "Respect for Elders!"  "Knowledge of family tree!"  "Hunter Sucess!"  "Responsibility to Tribe!"  Very few people simply live them.  She was one of them who lived those values every day of her life.  Not in the open, not on facebook, not told to anyone else.  Simply lived them with no credit needed.  She taught her children and grandchildren the importance of being an Inupiaq person just by the everyday things she did. 

*I made these mukluks for her after she passed away.  She was buried in them.  I shed many a tear sewing these the week of the funeral.  But I always knew that she was watching over me, making sure my stitches were nice!  :)

Work hard.  This is probably the best lesson I learned, besides sewing from her.  She took care of her family, her community, her sisters, her nieces and everyone who came into her door.  There is not one person who grew up in Sisualik who did not know who she was.  She was not vocal, or verbal about much (except on the CB when we wouldn't go home on time!) but she took care of everything without complaint, or even a grumpy look on her face!  Sometimes I don't even want to make dinner for the four of us after working all day.  And by work, I mean sitting in my office, staring into my computer typing a whole bunch of stuff, answering emails, sending information out.  Not working, as in, picking berries, making seal pokes, cutting caribou, gathering greens, AND making dinner from scratch in a place with no electricity or running water for 15 people every night. So work hard picking berries.  Work hard making mukluks.  Work hard making dinner.  Work hard if all you're doing is answering phones. 

If boys can do it, girls can do it, too.  My aana was never really a conformist.  Yes, she sewed mukluks and parkys and hats and mittens for all her kids and grandkids.  Yes, she baked bread and made doughnuts every Sunday.  Yes, she picked thousands of gallons of berries.  But she also had a dog team, checked nets, hunted caribou, drove a boat, raced in dog races, chopped wood, and more.  I was allowed to go hunting with my uncles and tatta, and I was allowed to sew mukluks with my aana.  I would rather chop wood any day, than do the dishes.  My male cousins had to do dishes too, I remember one day my cousin said, "I don't need to do dishes, let Bessie, she's a GIRL!"  My aana said to him, "Being a girl or boy doesn't matter.  Some day you'll have a wife and she won't always do dishes for you."  And that was the end of that.  There was not real "scolding" just a simple lesson that boys need to do dishes too.  (haha)

Keep on learning, always.  If you're taking classes, great.  If not, you always learn something new.  My aana grew up speaking Inupiaq and she worked hard to learn English correctly.  She worked hard listening to the people telling her to "embrace westernization" but she still held on to her culture and past.  She enjoyed new technology, and western movies.  She always made sure our schoolwork was done before we got to "play out" or have doughnuts!  Education, both traditional and western, was important to her.  Always keep learning.

I'm sure we learned so much more from her than these, but these are the lessons that are most important to me.  I learned a love for sewing from her.  A love for helping people.  I learned to make doughnuts and sourdough hotcakes.  I learned that there is no place I'd rather be than Sisualik, AK in the fall time.  No internet, no phones.  No electricity or running water either.  Hard work, quiet, peacefullness that we all want. 

Thank you aana for teaching us.  Thank you for being our grandmother.  Thank you for taking care of us.  Thank you for scolding us when we needed.  Thank you for showing us unconditional love.