Monday, June 23, 2014

See You on the Mother Side


According to medical estimations, we're barreling down the home stretch towards our due date this Friday. I'm doing my best to relax and keep the stress / nest instincts to a minimum, minus the occasional junk drawer tantrum. Thankfully, I still have my career to keep me occupied as I work to wind down for a brief but strictly maternal break. 

It's a strange place to be. I keep describing it as waiting for an earthquake. You don't know when the "big one" will happen, but there are a few tremors here and there that let you know it's coming, ready or not.  

This waiting is a bit of a purgatory. I want to procrastinate the pain lurking around the corner. But I am eager to wrap my arms around my baby boy and nuzzle him like there is no tomorrow. I want to relish these last fleeting moments of me, myself and I that I've known all my life. Yet, I'm eager to for my world and thought process as I know it include this unknown other being.

Safe to say, I am anxious and excited to see what's on the "Mother" side. 

Let's go back to the end of September 2013, my birthday weekend to be exact. There we were at one of THE places on my bucket list: Dollywood, U.S.A. That's right. Ever since Dolly Parton became the songbird of my life, I have obsessively wanted to visit her mountain home and breathe in the Great Smoky empire she built. So for my 36th birthday, my husband arranged a couple's trip with our dear friends Mitch and Justin to a Gatlinburg cabin, complete with a visit to my own magic kingdom. Sorry Minnie Mouse, but you have nothing on Dolly. 

Up until Dollywood, I still wasn't myself. I had spent my summer in grief, as told here in the earlier post, and was now crossing the age line of apres-35. I never realized how much I needed this long weekend to let loose until we got there. And what better way to do it than with some of the best roller coasters I've ever ridden. We spent our day hooting, hollering, screaming and cheering on every thrill ride the park offered. I had my husband, two wonderful guy friends (who love Dolly and Aveda hair products as much as I do) and of course, the mountain mist of Saint Dolly Parton everywhere I turned. I finally felt back to life. And life was good. I had discovered the rainbow after the rain, as the bedazzling guru had once said. 

I told my husband today that waiting for baby was much like our ride on those Dollywood thrill rides. We're as buckled up as it gets, slowly climbing the coaster conveyor belt, clutching to each, occasionally cussing under our breath, and wondering why in the world we got on this ride. But as soon as we crest the top, we're ready to throw our hands in the hair and let gravity take it from here . . . and ride out those thrills, spills and chills with our heart in our throats and the wind in our hair. 

Almost ten months ago, in a log cabin on the mountain, after a day at Dollywood and discovering my soul again, the secret is out: that's where this baby was made.

Earlier that day, as we wound down our park visit and headed towards the gift shop, I found myself passing the one-room school house that had been moved to the park in an ode to a simpler time. As I peered inside its window, a scripture lesson caught my eye:


Jesus replied, "You do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand." 
- John 13:7 NIV

The message was received, loud and clear. Here's to Jesus, Gravity and Dolly Parton. 



   

Friday, June 20, 2014

What it Will Take to Make Macon a Music Town Today

Here I am leading one of our Macon music history tours in front of the Douglass Theatre 
(photo by Stephanie Shadden)

Even though the main theme of our life right now is revolving like a spin top around our anticipated arrival, our passion for Macon, in particular, Macon music, has been like our first born to us. Or maybe now, we should just compare it to a part of who we are. It's second nature. 

I continue to write a monthly column for the Macon Telegraph's Out and About entertainment section. Today, an edited version of this entry ran in today's paper. You can read the published version here. Below is the un-cut:

It took a slightly strange, high-pitched and unapologetically hopeful resident who the world would ultimately know as Little Richard.  It was soon to be combined with the guttural determination, 40-watt charm and unmatched talent of a young and beloved Otis Redding, who had a lot to do in a too-short time. Throw in the South’s most passionate music fan, Phil Walden, who had an uncanny ear, the smarts and hellfire to dive headfirst into the world of black musicians during a time of deep segregation, which carried him like a rip tide to the weeping slide phenomenon we’d know as Duane Allman. 

All of this was enveloped by the Ocmulgee River mist, said to be blessed by Macon’s original musicians-in-residence, the Creek Indians, who held the first flute chair before Confederate soldier, poet and Macon’s musical forefather Sidney Lanier shot to post-Civil War superstardom well beyond his brief life.

I don’t believe we can ever top our past. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t embrace it. 

There was a reason that legendary Tom Dowd named Macon among his “Five M” recording towns that included Manhattan, Miami, Muscle Shoals and Memphis. There was something to be said about a small southern town with a music scene. It was this kind of place where once-in-a-lifetime songs were made.

Last week, I attended a session of the Art Matters Symposium Series hosted by the Macon Arts Alliance that focused on “Music and Music Criticism” and included the panel of Patterson Hood and Josh Jackson.

Hood is the singer-songwriter, instigator and lead singer of one of current music’s most “southern things,” the Drive-by Truckers. He knows a bit about Muscle Shoals (“before it was a movie,” he laughs) because he grew up there with his dad, bassist David Hood, who was deeply embedded in its studio scene.

Jackson is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Paste. He’s a journalist and music critic with a quick-wit, keen observation and impressive knowledge on the pop and sub-cultures of music, film and literature and their shared social threads.

When asked what it takes for a town to have a music scene, the answer came quickly: musician retention.

“To have a music scene, you have to be a city where musicians go to hear each other play,” Jackson said.

Hood quickly echoed. That was the scene he was seeking when he left the Shoals and moved to Athens. Muscle Shoals was in a dry county. Musicians didn’t play outside their studio time. Hood was seeking a live music scene where not only he could play, but he could hear others doing the same thing any night of the week.

Exposure is among the “special things” they said are needed for music to matter in a city. Hood also added that hiring musicians and providing receptive day jobs, that employers are willing to hold in case a musician tours, is another key. Multiple venues, cheap rent, having multiple musicians circulating at once were also listed as essentials.

I’ve sighed as I’ve seen some of our most promising local acts move to other cities with strong music scenes or just disband all together in order to make a living. If we don’t start realizing these artists are just as important players in local economic development as the large corporations we court with gusto, then we’re going to keep sending our kids away to other towns at the end of the day . . . as well as our money that comes from ticket revenues, payrolls, taxes and all the other expenditures arts scenes enormously produce. 

Later that evening, Hood performed an intimate concert in a historic College Hill home as part of the Music Amabassadors: Macon program, funded by a Knight Neighborhood Challenge grant. The unique venue is known as the house “that Crisco built” and whose legendary guests included Tennessee Williams, who drew inspiration for “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” while visiting.

“Y’all have got a lot of stories here in Macon,” said Hood later in the evening. “It’s certainly easy to be inspired.”

Inspiration, check. Now let’s get to work on the rest.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Happy Future Father's Day to THIS Guy



As we're down to our final days of just waiting for our world to change, Jamie and I spent the weekend wondering . . . Was this our last Saturday morning sleeping in with just the sounds of each other? Will it ever be as easy as our Sunday mornings we've been accustomed to together? Did we really mean to do this? Didn't we realize just how good we had it as the two of us? Yes, the thoughts crossed our minds.

But as we celebrated our own dads for Father's Day and as my belly jumped around with the new life that will soon spring upon us, I couldn't help but marvel at the dad I chose for my child. He makes up for where I leave off. Jamie won me over those several years ago with his caretaker by nature. He works hard. He plays hard. He tackles each day with a grateful soul and not a grumble in the sky. The man has a heart like a lion and the tenderness of a kitten. This is the parent we all want to be. Even though I am careening into motherhood with all the anxiousness of a Henny Penny hen, there is no doubt that at least one of us has got this from the start. I know this reflection is a day late, but Happy Future Father's Day, Jamie Weatherford. Our baby boy already has one heck of a dad.   

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Every Time She Turns Around: Three Things Preggos Hear Constantly



I can guarantee I will hear these three things multiple times today and every day until this precious boy gets here (please note, I am having a boy. He's a he. I'm having a boy. I do, in fact, know what I am having. I'm having a baby. And I happen to know my baby is a boy):

1. When are you due? 

Fair enough. I ask my fellow pregnant women the same thing (once I am absolutely, positively, 100% certified sure they are also pregnant). I'm due at the end of this month. I don't like giving a specific date because we all know Mother Nature doesn't operate on our time. Baby boy's not being delivered by a stork via Amazon Prime with a guaranteed date and time. Being my first born and a boy (and let's just admit it, related to my side of the family), he's probably going to take his sweet time. If you want to predict a date, I hear there is a baby ETA pool going on with my co-workers at the College Hill Alliance. 

2. Are you ready? / I bet you're ready!

I don't know how you can be truly ready to have life as you know it transformed and turned on its head. Jamie and I got most of our thirties behind us before we decided we were ready to expand our party of two. We've taken all of the baby classes the Medical Center offers and even a private birthing class with local Douala extraordinaire Mandy Miller. We've read books on pregnancy, birthing and parenthood (personal favorites are From the Hips and Bringing up Bebe) and subscribed to the e-newsletters like the amazing Lucie's List and others that tell us what fruit or vegetable our baby is sizing up to every week. The bags are packed. The nursery is done (see the pic!). The car seat is installed. I've even made a play list for the hospital. According to our checklist and Jamie's mantra of "Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance," we're pretty darn prepared. But ready? To become a parent? To bring a child up in this world? To take on the wonders of a newborn? I just don't think it's possible to be ready.

As for those who bet I am just "ready to get that baby out," the answer is no, I'm not. I have enjoyed every minute of this pregnancy. 

Read these hips: I LOVE being pregnant. 

Yes, I got a hall pass on morning sickness. I haven't even experience much fatigue. Even in this final trimester, I still have crazy spurts of energy and for the most part, I'm sleeping well (as long as I get my pillow fort arranged just right). Don't get me wrong, I love the excuse of saying, "Sorry, I'm making life right now" as legitimacy to multi-task while napping. I love that my husband acts like I am wrapped in bubble wrap and literally bends over backwards to help me (since bending in any direction is pretty much out of the question). 

I love this new found sweet tooth that has me spending a fortune on organic fruit and indulging in the occasional Amanda's Bakery cupcake with glee. I love that I have justification to pamper myself more than usual with the little things like manicures and pedicures, massages, prenatal yoga and the perfect blow-out (shout-out to Mitch, Miki and Amber at Amanda Jane Salon!). I love feeling this little being inside of me and knowing that this is most I'll ever be able to protect him during his life in this crazy world. 

Aside from my biggest ache and pain being the stress fracture in my foot I most likely acquired from switching from heels to bad flats (and possibly the combo of Pure Barre, treadmill and walking to work which I was actively doing up until my injury), I truly have no complaints. Carrying this little guy has been an honor and a blessing. We worked hard to get here. The first time (see previous post), was not as easy. So no, I'm not ready to have this baby. Technically, I am 37 weeks and some change. I want to carry him as long as he wants because I am his best incubator. I want him to be safe and sound and have every chance to develop to his best ability, and right now, that safe place remains my womb. Yes, I may change my tune as I approach these final, anxious days. But until then, just let me enjoy it. I am proud to have this honor and a privilege on board. 

3. You are huge!

I just don't get this one. When does pregnancy give anyone the right to basically call you fat [to your face]? This one really does ruffle my lustrous prenatal feathers. I am not huge! I am still just under 5 feet six inches tall. I still wear a 6.5 shoe (maybe a size 7 when the swelling kicks in at the end of the day). And I'm still fairly loyal to my original body frame I've had all of my life - chicken legs (check), lanky arms (check), and judging by the fact I wish I had more padding on my arse these days, I am not sure if that area has grown or possibly shrunk. My belly, however, is indeed huge. There's a growing baby boy in there. If you look closely, he'll give you a wave as he does his little alien-like jigs throughout the day. I love my healthy Buddha belly. Let me just break-down what's happening right now in pounds, according to estimates from Baby Center:

Baby: 6-7 pounds
Placenta: 1-2 pounds
Breasts: 2 pounds (okay, outside of the belly, I'll give you these. Bra size doesn't lie. And never did I think I would see the day.)
Uterus: 2 pounds
Amniotic Fluid: 2 pounds
Blood: 4 pounds 
Other Fluids: 4 pounds
Fat Stores: 6-8 pounds

That's over 30 pounds, and of course, varies from women to women. We all carry differently. We all look differently just like any outfit would according to the one wearing it. Call me over-sensitive, but I just can't imagine saying this to anyone - pregnant or not. I wish I could fire back with "Well, I am pregnant. What's your excuse?" but even I can't muster enough hormonal rage to fight rude with rude. I especially don't get it because we're in the south. I thought our mamas raised us better than that. 

And while we're on the subject of sh*t people say to pregnant women, here are a couple of other teeth-grinders:

Are you sure you're not having twins? What I want to say - Maybe this is a question you should pose to my doctor since you're doubting her diagnosis. We have this thing called an ultrasound that works really well these days . . . If there is a twin, he or she is hiding behind my son's giant scrotum. 

Are you about to pop? What, a button (maybe)? A gasket (keep talking)? Do you think I am an explosive device? This isn't a jack-in-the-box being cranked up to "Pop Goes the Weasel," there's a baby in utero! I've been called a firecracker before, but outside of some red face and hissing, I haven't combusted . . . yet. There are only two exit options for this baby boy, and I only wish it was as simple as Snoop says. But alas, I will not pop it like it's hot. 

There are actually a few things that don't prick the hair on the back of my neck. I am not totally freaked out by folks touching my belly. Most of the time, I've found people ask first, which immediately sets me at ease. I was surprised to find that the laying of hands doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would, especially when asked. After all, I'm not sure when my stomach will ever be this tight again! Just don't ask to feel the "mummy tummy" after the birth. I hear that thing is like a bowl of jelly (please note: like all new moms, I will have one. God forbid the moment and poor soul who asks me when the baby is due after he's born!). 

I also don't mind when people exclaim, "You're so pregnant!" It's almost a relief to hear the obvious stated. I am so pregnant. Nine-months-and-counting pregnant! I don't think everyone realizes that we human mammals carry our offspring almost 10 months. And what I love most about being *so* pregnant is I could go on my brief baby hiatus any minute now. It's a terrifying relief to know I am about to take a step aside (not back, mind you) and focus on my family, however long or short that may be.  

End of my one and only pregnancy rant. The fact is, I could stay pregnant forever if I wasn't so anxious to meet my son AND the fact I am growing weary of the unsolicited comments and observations of folks who mostly mean well. 

There are also those who get it just right. They are often parents themselves. I don't mind being asked how I am feeling, even if it's over and over again. I love those who shower me with sweet compliments and reassure me I'm holding it together, especially when I've just been side-swiped by another who just told me I'm huge. I love the ones who tell me to enjoy every moment because it flies by. I appreciate those more than they know who tell me the joy my husband and I are about to experience.

I'm around a lot of folks throughout the day, and while I love that they all take an interest - and seem to have a genuine liking - to this little guy they haven't met yet, this mama is starting to yearn for a return to our regularly scheduled programming of small talk surrounding the weather, the latest local news and the things we do for a living. But I realize this may never happen again. In fact, in a few months, I may be the one annoying them as I scroll through endless cell phone pics of my son and rave endlessly about his latest coo, poo and sleeping patterns. I may even be doing this while publicly breastfeeding or at least referring to the need to pump, making the conversation that much more squirm-worthy. Actually, now that I think about it . . . for all of these awkward commenters, payback will be swell. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Let There be Baby Rock

Thanks to our amazing photographer friend Maryann Bates who has always been there to capture the finer moments in life. From our infamous engagement photo to our wedding day to where we are today - ready to pass this little blue guitar onto our next big thing. Thank you, Maryann, for giving us proof for our little boy that at one time, we were cool. Rock on forever. 




Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Too Precious to Forget


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He would be nearly six months old right now. Surely, he would be a ball of smiles and dimples and softness who I wouldn't be able to soak up enough of. We would be semi-pros at babies. Or at least, at six months into it, we would be at some point of confidence and agree, "We've got this."

Instead, we're in the final weeks of a journey that began in the spring of 2013 and almost came to a crashing, heart-wrenching halt on this day, one year ago. What some know and many do not is I've been pregnant off and on for over a year now. 

Today, I am almost 37 weeks into my second pregnancy. On June 3, 2013, the 12th week where we were supposed to hear our baby's heartbeat, there was blood. This tiny, jigging blob that had captured our hearts from the moment we had our first sonogram and heard, "there's your baby," was now a sunken mass at the bottom of my uterus. Jamie and I have experienced some serious loss together but nothing prepared us for walking out of the back door of the doctor's office. 

And during the days that followed, it did not get easier. I woke up to an empty womb in a recovery room. I bled for weeks on end. We had to put on brave faces and face the community - those who knew, those who had no idea and those who still haven't done the math and think this pregnancy is the same one I was carrying over a year ago. What had been my pregnancy journal now chronicled the loss of it:
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I’ve never felt the physical pain of emptiness. There is a hot, empty vacuum in my core. I can feel the sear . . . It feels as if my gut has gone with it, while my heart ripped out on its own.

There was physical sadness and mental madness. I wrestled with God. I blamed the world. I seethed with envy at the site of perfectly pregnant women. I lost a lot of light behind my eyes . . . and really didn't know if I'd ever get it back.  

But along the way, I discovered the sisterhood of women who endured the same pain, sometimes multiple times. I finally quit questioning God and started listening to my faith. Months later, my journal read:

I’ve gained some strength. I don’t know if it’s just an ounce of courage or time starting to heal. But even though the thoughts haven’t left me, I’ve stopped resisting the lasso of the Lord. He roped me. I’ve balked and bucked and kicked and spit. Yet, within recent days, as the loop grew tighter, I quit fighting it. I dropped my head. I gave in. I bowed. 

There will never be a reason why we had to lose the first one. However, thanks to the wonders of science, we do know the exact chromosome where biology failed us. And through the mystery of faith, even in the blur and haze and anguish, I learned one solid thing: God gave me the strength of a mother. 

I was indebted to friends and family who mourned with us. The day after the D and C, I laid in a bedroom filled of flowers sent by our loved ones who said all of the right things: "Thinking of you;" "So very sorry;" and "Love conquers all." Choose those words when comforting others instead of "It was meant to be" or "God needed another angel" or "Your body knew something was wrong." 

And for those who have faced this same cruel and oddly empowering twist of fate, my hat and my heart are tipped to you. No, it never leaves. Jamie and I can still look up in the sky on a starry night and think the same thing without even a word --- he was our being, even if it was just 12 weeks of being with us. 

Four months later, when the next pregnancy test showed positive, we had just as much fear as joy. For this last nine months, we have held our breath and prayed. I have played over and over again in my mind this beautifully written Miranda Dodson song. And we got through the last year because this -- this -- is for love. And I thank God for every minute of this baby's mile markers and making us try again.