Thursday, January 27, 2011

Elyse in Color

Here's the color version of the picture I posted on Elyse's birthday. I've since decided I like this one best; I was going for a kind of Julia Margaret Cameron feel with the sepia version, and I think it succeeded, but I think the color version is stronger anyway.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Birth of a Child: For Jessica on Her Birthday

January 24, 2007, was a Wednesday. We will probably never forget that it was a Wednesday. Anna had taken the day off to go to her doctor's office for an ultrasound to check on Baby Burdett, and we were going to go out to lunch afterwords. The ultrasound wasn't quite routine; at her eight-month checkup the week before, Anna had measured "a little small," so Dr. St. Charles wanted to bring her in the following week for an ultrasound to make sure everything was okay.

We weren't expect to have a baby that day. If we'd had any idea that that were even possible, we would have packed our bags at least, instead of just saying, "We really need to get around to getting our suitcase ready," and then not doing it. So imagine our surprise when Dr. St. Charles said, "You're going to have this baby today."

"What? It almost sounded like you said we're going to have a baby today. But that can't be; the due date is still three weeks away--February 14, Valentine's Day, remember? We've still got plenty of time to finally adjust to the fact that we will soon become parents. We still have time to get ready!"

That kind of readiness is not a factor in such decisions, apparently.

Dr. St. Charles told us to get ourselves straight to the hospital. "Can we at least go home to get some clothes?" "No! Go straight to the hospital. This baby is going to be born in the next few hours." Based on the ultrasound measurements, they believed the still-in-the-womb Baby Burdett (we knew her name would be Jessica, but we hadn't told anyone yet) weighed about four and a half pounds, which is very small for a soon-to-be-born baby. Since Anna was 37 weeks along at that point, and they consider 37 weeks to be full term, Dr. St. Charles believed it would be best to get little Baby Burdett out into the real world to determine what issues she might have that were making her so small, rather than wait for Anna to go into labor.

So we went to the hospital, scared, concerned, totally inexperience, but still with excitement, albeit somewhat muted.

I remember so clearly sitting on a chair outside the operating room where they perform C-sections, wearing the flimsy hospital outfit they had given me over my clothes, including the paper booties over my shoes and the cap on my head; the face mask dangled down onto my chest, the top straps not yet tied, just like I'd seen countless times on "M*A*S*H." Inside, they were prepping Anna for the surgery; Baby Burdett's heart rate had dropped when they tried to induce labor, so a Cesarean was the only option. I sat there, not knowing what was going on anywhere, writing over and over in my back-pocket notebook, "Please, God, let this baby be okay. Please, God, let this baby be okay. Please, God, let this baby be okay." I sat out there nearly forever.

They called me in.

It takes a long time to perform a C-section, and it was comforting that while they were cutting my wife open and pulling our baby out--Bobcat Goldthwait once said a C-section is "when the baby comes out like toast," and I couldn't get that image out of my head--Dr. St. Charles and the assisting nurses were talking about vacation plans and family visits and other mundane things. On "M*A*S*H," you know everything is going to be okay when the doctors are chatting and making jokes; when they're quiet and really focused on their work, it's time to worry.

After a short eternity, Dr. St. Charles said, "Here comes the baby," and seconds later we heard crying. And we cried.

She was skinny; we didn't realize at the time how skinny, she was the only baby we'd ever had. And she was purple and covered in blood and everything else newborn babies are covered in. But she was crying, and wiggling around, and she was so beautiful to me. I didn't know I could feel so much love so fast.

I stood at the nurses side, tears streaming down my face, as they cleaned our little baby up and weighed her--three pounds, thirteen ounces, more than half a pound less than their estimate--and put her in a diaper and blankets; they showed her very quickly to her mother and then whisked her away to the NICU.

And that's how Jessica was born.

She was in perfect health, though they kept her in the NICU for six days--perhaps the longest week we've ever lived through--before they let her come home. They never found out why she was so small, but ultimately it doesn't matter; she was fine, and by five months she had caught up to most babies her age.

I can't believe it's been four years now. Four years is, of course, really not very long, but in a way it really is. I hope that the next few years go by very slowly. I hope our oldest daughter is telling me the truth when I tell her not to be in any rush to grow up and she says, "I'm not."

Happy Birthday, Jessica. I love you.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Happy Birthday, Elyse!

Today is Elyse's first birthday! I can't believe she's already one; it seems like only yesterday that.... Well, that's the thing about being a parent, isn't it? Children are constantly growing and changing, whether we want them to or not; only we adults are stagnant.

Here's a picture of her from the joint birthday party we had for her and Mommy last Saturday (Saturday, January 15, 2011, was Anna's 35th birthday):

And here is a picture I took during a formal photo session tonight:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Elyse at Play

Here are three pictures of Elyse playing in her play yard this morning:

She was very interested in playing with Maggie (one of Jessica's Little People) this morning:

Tessie is a frequent visitor to the play yard, and sometimes Elyse tries to involve her in play, as you can see:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Let it Snow!

If you live in the American South, at least in our part of Georgia, snow is an occasional and short-lived part of winter. The last month has been a real aberration: first, it snowed on Christmas day in quantities enough to stick and be measured, and then, just two weeks later, we got several inches of it! (Of course, for this to be true you have to buy into four being "several." Humor us, okay?)

And this isn't a short-lived episode, for us, at least. As I write this, school has been cancelled for a third day in a row (Monday, January 10 through Wednesday, January 12), and the college where I teach, Georgia Perimeter, has pushed back the beginning of this semester by a full week. (I'm very happy about this, because I don't have to worry about driving back home from my Thursday night class at 8:30 on low-trafficked streets glazed with ice.)

Here are some pictures of what our four-inches of snow looks like here at Planet Burdett. First, the view from our patio:

This is what four inches of snow looks like on our trash cans:

And, a little more poetically, on our bird baths:

I know to my Minnesota in-laws, four inches of snow doesn't even warrant the snow tires, but to us, where some years it's seventy degrees on Christmas day, this is a pretty big deal. However, it's also becoming an annoying ordeal; the novelty has worn off, and I'd really like it to clear away as soon as possible.

Plus, we're very nearly out of cat food, and if I can't get out and get us some more soon, I'm going to have six very angry kitties to answer to.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Twenty Years of Me

Here's a brief glimpse of how I've changed over the years.

First, here I am in 1989:

(picture by Margarette Rogers)

I was nearing the end of college--my undergraduate degree, anyway; I didn't know it at the time, but I would keep going back for sixteen more years until I eventually earned two master's degrees. I cut most of that mass of hair off just a few months later, though frankly I miss it sometimes. I liked having long hair.

Now, fast forward ten years to 1999:

(picture by Heather Dobson)

I'd had a beard for most of the previous ten years--though as you can see in the picture from 1989, it was a little sparse when I was younger--but I shaved it off near the end of 1998, and kept it off through half of 1999. (I haven't been beardless since.) This is how I looked when Anna and I met right in the middle of 1999, though by the time of our first date on August 11, I'd grown my beard back. I gave up the contact lenses not too much later, when my astigmatism reached a point where contacts didn't work very well for me. Besides, I look better with glasses anyway.

And here I am, about a year and a half ago, in the middle of 2009:

By this point, I was a full-time stay-at-home dad of one, and a part-time college English instructor. Not a whole lot has changed since this picture was taken, except that now I'm a father of two, and I have even more gray in my hair and beard.

As I write this, I am just three months away from turning 44, twice the age I was in the first picture above. Sometimes I miss the person I was in 1989, half a lifetime ago. You give up things as you get older, like the notion that you've got in you a string of great novels just waiting to come out, or the idea that someday you'll be a well-respected professor at a prestigious university. But after a while, you realize--or, at least, I realized--that it's okay to reach middle age without having published a book, there's still time. And the people teaching at prestigious universities are so busy with grading their students' work and reading the Important Books that they're s'pose to read that they don't have the luxury of reading cool science fiction and fantasy novels (especially the ones with covers by Darrell K. Sweet), lots of Ray Bradbury stories, and books about Zen Buddhism.

So in every way that really counts, I'm better off now, certainly happier, than I ever have been.