daily fieldnotes

Waiting for babies category archive

Magic Hour 9

Photographers call dusk the “magic hour”, as the light softens in a way that brings softness and dramatic contrast to the camera lens, and makes us all glow more beautifully.

Here, we walk on a beach just outside Marbella, on a mission to explore new places around this apartment JJ’s parents now have. The water of the Mediterranean felt warm against my bare feet, the sand soft against my toes. A little girl sat, looking into the distance, perhaps dreaming of where she’s from. Three small children dug in the sand, as excited about making a hole as most kids get about a new toy. And JJ and I strolled along, him avoiding rocks, me going up to my knees in the surf, almost losing a flip flop.

The magic hour, on this beach, this evening. In this life, right now.

Magic. Because it’s so soothing and relaxing, like spreading cool lotion on a sunburn, for JJ and I to spend time together, alone, for a couple of days here after three weeks with his parents.

But mostly, magic because I’m pregnant at last! Due in February! We are so, so thrilled. I can’t wait to share more.

Wanting to be back on the marsh 1

Out on the marsh, I watch birds. A tall, white crane, standing still at the edge of the water. I take a picture, wishing I had brought a zoom lens, knowing the photo wouldn’t capture the feeling I have here. The feeling of being open, relaxed, taking in the world. Suddenly the crane lifts off, flies above, wings large and almost awkward for the size of its body. It swoops around, flies out of sight, and I keep walking. Smelling fresh air blowing off the water, feeling fresh spring grass against my ankles. The next day, my body still relaxed from a weekend in Pt. Reyes, I can still see the orange poppies when I close my eyes, feel the open space and rolling green hills.

Back in the city I worry about which windows are open, whether I locked the backdoor, and what time I have to leave today. I think all too much about clothes though my wardrobe doesn’t matter in grad school. I walk to yoga class, grateful to have found a teacher nearby. I worry about the progress I’m making on my thesis, whether it’s enough, what it means to me, what I will become when I finish. What if there are no jobs I’m interested in applying for next year? I feel completely open to shifting my career for family, yet children feel further away than ever. I’ve stopped thinking ahead, planning, thinking about what things will look like if I get pregnant this month, or next. Who knows?

I stall this morning, making a quiche for tonight’s class potluck instead of writing first, as I know I should. Chopping broccoli from last week’s farm box, weighing down the crust with rice and putting it in the oven for 10 minutes, mixing together eggs and milk, throwing in thyme, cheese; all the while listening to the radio, a show on Alzheimer’s and new research about its causes and cures. “The scariest thing for people is losing cognitive functioning” a doctor says. “I think, therefore I am Shakespeare wrote, but he might as well have written “I remember, therefore I was, for without our memories, who are we?”

It’s a good question. What will I remember from this time in my life?

In the Streets of Toledo 2

We got back a week ago, late Sunday night. The week quickly flooded us with the everyday of our lives in San Francisco. JJ with his worlds of new technologies, me with university days, dissertation, professors and scheduling meetings. It feels like a dream that we were in Toledo just a little over a week ago.

The power of high speed jet travel still surprises me, how far we can go in just one day. I grew up without traveling, except a few small car trips, mostly through school; I didn’t fly until I was 14. Now international travel is a permanent part of my life. It amazes me that my children will grow up traveling, will have two passports, will never know what it feels like to know nothing beyond 100 miles from their home.

My children. Oh how I wish they’d make their way into my life already!

*This last picture is the Alcazar, formerly a fortress, now housing the county library in one section. At the top of the corner tower there’s a cafe; the sweeping views of Toledo posted below were taken from here.

From Spain 2

My husband is from an old city in Spain, born and raised among stone buildings and wide open Castilian plains. We flew here yesterday, and I spent this afternoon visiting his grandmother while he went to the Madrid soccer game with his dad. I never knew my grandparents, and am in love with this Spanish grandma, 91 and full of spirit and a lifetime of stories.

We talk in her sitting room, in flowered easy chairs surrounded by family photos and the sounds of heels on cobblestones below the window. She’s lived in this same first-floor apartment since the mid-1940s, between the Alcazar and the Cathedral, centers of military and religious power that dominate the Toledo skyline. She tells me about growing up here, going down to the community fountains with a bucket to get water, lingering with her friends talking about boys. Working in her family’s bakery during the Spanish Civil War, trading bread for produce with people who rode donkeys into the city from the pueblos. Going from house to house through tunnels in the walls when it was too dangerous to walk on the streets.

I am going to interview her, record the stories, write a history of her life. When I ask her, she likes the idea, goes and gets a small pad of paper and begins reading me her family history in dates; births, weddings, deaths, where people were from, full names (a mix of Spanish and French from her mother’s side of the family). When she finishes reading, with the last two grandchildren, my husband’s adopted cousins, it’s quiet, and I’m thinking about how much she’d like to write down a great-grandchild in this small family history. “Have faith” she says, as I kiss her soft cheeks goodbye, and bundle up against the cold.

And I feel it, because she is smiling, so full of life, spirited and beautiful after all she’s lived through.

* photo from Christmas, 2009

Spinning in Sunsets 4

It’s hard to talk about wanting a family, and not having it yet, and being in the in-between space of wondering what to do next. At every turn there’s advice. Give it more time. Get help right away. Try acupuncture. Take this test. Avoid that test. Try homeopathy. Eat better. Drink more water. Drop caffeine.

And of course—relax. Always that.

Everyone wants to help. And lots of it is good advice.

But none of it helps with the feelings that come along with “trying” and not having anything happen. Like rowing a boat with holes in my oar, pushing hard against the current and finding myself only swept further downstream, each month is a little harder than the last. Isolation becomes more comfortable than trying to talk. It’s easier to spin around in my boat, burrow deeper in, try to patch up my oar and keep going alone.

It’s easier to change the subject and talk about sunsets.

Like how the sinking sun lit up the clouds on our way home from school last week, made the downtown buildings glow like Mordor. How the deep pomegranate red turned to persimmon orange, reaching out to engulf us. How cars inched across the Bay Bridge, and instead of noticing how slow it was, we all turned our eyes to the sky and enjoyed the journey.

What do you find hard to talk about with the people in your life? What helps?

Or how about you just tell me what’s making you smile today, ’cause I’d love to hear about it.

Balancing anxieties 1

Talking with my husband’s 90 year-old grandmother in Spain the other day, I was asked, again, “¿bueno, algunas noticias?” (“so, any news?”). She then began worrying at me, saying “and at your age you shouldn’t be wasting time”, and “you should look and see if somethings wrong, if one of you “no vale” (literally, “doesn’t work”). All I wanted to say was “mind your own business”, but at the same time, I want people to feel like they can ask how things are going, because it’s a big part of our life right now. This is a hard balance to strike, because I’m both wanting to share how it’s going, and not wanting other peoples’ anxieties to make my own even more pronounced.

Every other week or so my mom tells me about some naturopathic doctor she ran into at a farm market while selling her dolls, or an old midwife friend she saw who had some advice for getting pregnant. (The latest, told with a good laugh, was to eat goat balls. Yes, goat balls. According to this 40-year veteran midwife, it works every time.). It makes me realize my mom is bringing me up a lot, and it also makes me think how when you know someone who’s trying to start a family, they’re the first people you think of every time you see something related to fertility.

It kind of makes me wish we hadn’t said anything to anyone. But too late for that. On Halloween, grandma’s 91st birthday, it will be a year since we started, a year since we whispered in her ear on her 90th birthday that we were trying for that great-grandaughter she’d been asking us for. And in some ways that’s a long time, and I get anxious about it. And in other ways, given that this last year was very stressful and unsettled for us, it’s really not that long at all. So for now I’m trying to be relaxed about it, tell people how I’m doing when they ask, but avoid letting them get inside my head with their own worries.

Not an easy balance to strike, but it feels good to try. And I’m glad to be talking about it with people–it seems somehow better to be open about it than secretive, the way people used to be.