Breathing Lessons & Birthday Tales

Twenty six years ago there were no reality television shows and certainly none dealing with childbirth.

I know that may be difficult for some younger readers to imagine, but it is true.

No one howled their way through their birth experience with a room full of cameras committing it to permanent memory and the filmed versions of  labor and delivery I watched while pregnant looked nothing like my experience.

In the tidied up childbirth videos I saw prior to my labor, women breathed their way through the pain seemingly without fear or loss of control. Babies were delivered straight into the mother’s waiting arms before the umbilical cord was even cut and happy tears were always present as the mother cuddled her child for the first time.

Those were the stories I saw and I expected my own would mirror what I viewed in class.

I chose a physician who had used midwives ten years longer than any other medical group in town and did everything I could to prepare for the big day, but despite all of my reading and preparations, nothing really went as I’d planned.

Let’s gloss over a due date that came and went, waiting until ten days had passed. I was prepared for that as first babies are often late.  And let’s just skip past the 52 hour labor that everyone says you forget, but my daughter would groan that I never have.

Let’s talk instead about fear.

Let’s talk about what happens to the happy tears you expected when your first glimpse of your baby is from across the room surrounded by medical staff instead of looking down at her in your arms.

Or when they say things like ” She looks pretty good, but her Apgar score is not a high as we’d like.”

Of course fear is not an emotion that disappears when you learn the issues have resolved and your baby is fine … every parent knows that getting them here safely is just the first step.

Parenting is a bit like a complicated recipe where adjustments have to be made all the time to keep the cake from falling before it’s finished or the soup from being too salty.

Add too much of this or too little of that and it can be easy to make a total mess of it.

There have been loads of resources to help guide me along the way, but without knowing it the most useful may have been some of the breathing lessons I first learned in childbirth classes.

I have shared my daughter’s birth story many times over the last twenty-six years and I have always talked about how those deep breathing lessons let me down.

It’s funny that only now can I see how they important they have actually been.

Learning to pause and breathe in and out deeply has been a huge part of my journey and those happy tears that were so elusive on the first day … somewhere along the way I discovered that one must let go of fear to make room for joy.

After being out of the country for her last few birthdays, I am ” over the moon ” excited to be in Atlanta to share some of this special day with my daughter.

Happy Birthday, Miranda.

photo

There are links to Miranda stories on this date for each year that I have been blogging. This one from last year has links to the earlier years. The one titled, 8:03 can be found here and it is probably my favorite.

 These photos were taken by Miranda’s father.

Remembering Captain Bradley Gene Cuthbert

Captain Bradley Gene Cuthbert (Photo by Elizabeth Harper)

It can be frustrating when you spend several hours searching for someone online and can’t find them. We’re all so used to easy access to information, but what if you spent your whole life searching and wondering.

Captain Bradley Gene Cuthbert went missing on November 23 1968 during a flight over North Vietnam. It was his 28th birthday.

When agreements were reached and the POWs came home, Captain Cuthbert was not with the survivors. According to information I found online, it seems he was declared dead based on two teeth, a dog-tag, and differing tales from witnesses some as old as 21 years after his plane was shot down.

Two teeth were repatriated and his military file was closed.

His daughter, Shannon Cuthbert Sassen believes he may still be alive somewhere.

I’d like to think we wouldn’t leave a solider behind and that all efforts to find him were exhausted, but 45 years is a long time and it seems unlikely that her father will be returned to her now.

After reading his story and her comment with it, I tried to find her online to give her a copy of the image above. I took the photo of the POW bracelet with her father’s name on it during a trip to Washington D.C. when John and I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The long dark wall is a powerful memorial to loss and suffering and like many memorials, people sometimes leave mementos behind. Placed along the wall are personal touchstones left by people connected to someone whose name is etched on the reflective wall of war dead.

A lasting memory from my childhood, the POW bracelet caught my eye placed as it was in front of the wall next to an American flag.

I tried to find Captain Cuthbert’s daughter through a variety of search routes before giving up. I hope this post finds its way to her so she will know that her father is not forgotten and that I too, will be thinking of him today.

I’ve written more than a few words about Memorial Day over the last few years and you may be interested in those stories as well.

The Perfect Way To Start My Day

Once people realize I’m an American living in England and not just here for a visit, they always ask me if I miss my life in the US. My response never varies when I tell them that I miss my daughter, other family members, and my friends. Of course there’s more that I miss, but not being able to easily see the people I love does make it tough at times.

Unlike immigrants who left their homeland in the days before airplanes, telephones, and the internet, moving to another country doesn’t have to be a total or permanent separation from those you love.

My daughter is pretty easy to reach by phone so that helps a bit and she sends me photos fairly often too. They don’t always have her in them, but may be more of what she’s seeing, like a smoky red sunset seen over the darkened parking lot of the company where she works or a funny bumper sticker on the car in front of her, taken at a red light. Random quick snaps that help me see what she sees as she goes through her day make me feel a bit closer as if she’s just across town instead of the other side of the Atlantic.

Her point of view photos like the image above can make it seem as if I am actually there with her, feeling the evening sun on my face and seeing the breeze blowing through her horse’s mane, enjoying as she said later, ‘ The best way to end a weekend.’

My favorite ones tend to be the last ones, those that I know come at the end of her day. They are the unexpected ‘goodnight’ photos that I wake up to over coffee and the perfect start to my new day.

Both photos were taken by my daughter, Miranda and used with her permission.

Birthday Wishes & September Daydreams

When my daughter was born I watched her constantly, amazed that this marvelous little being was related to me. She seemed too perfect to be mine to love and protect and like many new parents, I worried that I might mess it all up. I muddled through those early weeks on a rotation of feeding, diapering, and adoration, tempered only by new mother fatigue and fear.

She was only two weeks old when this picture was taken at a local department store. I had a camera of my own then and a decent level of skill so I’m not sure why I thought a posed portrait like this one was necessary. I’m glad I have it now and not just because she looks so darling, but because it brings back some interesting memories of that day.

It was my first trip out with Miranda on my own as her dad was at work and I put the new unused stroller we’d received as a gift into the trunk of the car to make our outing a bit easier. It came in handy while we were waiting our turn at the mall and all went well with the photo session until we made it back to the car.

After strapping a now hungry and slightly fussy newborn into her car seat, I went to work on the stroller to fold it up and put it away. Here’s where I learned an important lesson … what goes up with ease does not always go back down the same way especially if you don’t read the directions closely, and sometimes not even then.

I struggled for what seemed like forever and Miranda’s fussiness turned quickly into wails with a volume that seemed impossible coming from a baby weighing about as much as a small cat. It became a tug of war with me pushing levers and yanking on different parts of the stroller trying to figure out how to make it close and I was practically crying myself before I worked it out by accident and was surprised and relieved when it folded up as easy as bending paper.

A few weeks later when this photo was passed around to family and friends, someone remarked that with so much hair and her big-eyed cuteness, she looked more like a baby doll than a real baby and gave her the nickname, ‘Fake Baby.’ Remembering how disheveled and weepy we both were about twenty minutes after the photo was taken I thought, ‘Fake baby my foot!’

Today marks 25 years of loving the little baby doll of my dreams and there’s nothing fake about her, she is always just as she seems.

Happy Birthday, Miranda!

You can find more sweet Miranda stories if you click on the posts written on September 14 in the previous years. 8:03 will always be my favorite and can still be found here.

A Comment For Me From My Daughter’s Dog … On The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Earlier today I received a photo sent by my daughter of her dog. He’s pretty precious and I always enjoy the late night images she sends of him. He’s usually sleeping in the photos and not just because of the lateness of the hour, but because he is a champion snoozer.

When I saw a message from Miranda in my email with the word ‘Snoring’ as the subject, I smiled to know I had a message from her. It’s nice to feel a connection as her day is ending and mine is beginning and I always enjoy seeing what she sends me. Many times it’s just a dog shot and sometimes she is in it too, but today’s photo was just one of a sleeping dog or so I thought …

Ry is sleeping on the leather sofa I gave Miranda when I moved to the UK. I thought he was at a strange angle when I first saw it until I worked out that the cushion was out of place for some reason and resting up on the back of the sofa against the wall. Then I noticed the paper partially hidden by the cushion and realized that her cute dog was being used to deliver a message to me.

I expect my American readers can easily recognize the paper that’s peeking out from behind the cushion. It’s a copy of a famous document that is an important part of American history and I laughed out loud when I realized that her dog shot contained a copy of the Declaration of Independence, the formal statement where the thirteen colonies proclaimed they were no longer part of the British Empire .

I’m guessing she must have read my blog post from yesterday where I wrote about celebrating the Jubilee and singing “God Save The Queen,” and thought I might need help remembering my American roots … as if I would ever forget.

Using her English Springer Spaniel to help deliver the tongue in cheek message has an irony she may not have considered.

Hmm … I think Ry might like for me to bring him a new collar like the one below when I fly home to Atlanta next month.

Internet photo

What do you think?

Memorial Day 2012 – Put Down That Plate Of Barbecue And Think About Today

From where I sit this morning, there are no “Buy one, get one free, sales” and no families planning a cookout or any opening day festivities at the neighborhood pool. No one here is celebrating the end of the school year or the beginning of summer. It’s just another Monday. I’m not even sure my friends in UK community know what today is in the US. I don’t expect them to, but it’s kind of lonely in a way.

Today is Memorial Day in America and it’s national holiday meant to remember those who died in wars or other military conflicts. It always occurs on the last Monday in May creating a three-day weekend for vacation-hungry Americans and while it was never intended as a day for shopping or beer drinking and pool-side fun, 147 years after its post Civil War beginnings, that is all Memorial Day means to many people. I will confess that before I moved to the UK and despite having served in the Army myself, I tended to fall into the category of seeing it as a much needed day off from work.

I’ve realized how important the day itself is having watched the Remembrance Day ceremonies here in the UK for those who died in wartime. It occurs every November 11 when the leaves are gone and the sky is more likely to be grey, all of which adds to the solemnness of the occasion. People are primarily focused on honoring the war dead on that day with rituals and traditions that remain much the same as they have since WWI ended and Remembrance Day began.

I wish our Memorial Day had more focus on the sacrifice that inspired it and less on shopping and summer celebrations.

This is not my first Memorial Day post and it’s interesting to see the progression of my thoughts since moving to Cornwall. You can read more if you’d like by clicking the links for 2010 & 2011. In 2010, I wrote about Eleanor Grace Alexander and later about my great-uncle, Hugh Lee Stephens who died in France just before the end of WWII.

If you have someone you remember on this day and would like to share them with us, please leave their name in comment below or if you’ve written a Memorial Day post, feel free to leave a link.

El

Mother’s Day – Blooming Through The Bitter & The Sweet

Some celebrations are not always happy ones and Mother’s Day probably causes more angst than most for many people each year. If you’ve been reading GOTJ for long, you already know some what makes it both bitter and sweet for me.

The sweet is clearly visible in the image above. My daughter Miranda is only a few hours old in this photograph of my step-mom Cullene, holding her for the first time.

What I know best about ” mothering and being mothered ” I learned from these two precious people and it’s important for me to be sure they know it especially on days like today.

Cullene, like most mothers would tell me not to get her anything to mark this day, ” No gifts please, a card will be fine … ” and I understand exactly where that comes from especially with a child of my own, but while a card may be enough for her it isn’t enough for me.

Being so far away, I miss spending time sitting and talking with her in the chairs by the kitchen fireplace like we do when I’m there, making it more important for me to give her a little reminder of how much she means to me since I’m not close enough to show her in other ways.

A few years ago, I discovered that my favorite tree from my home in Georgia also grows here in Cornwall. Being in the southwest of England, we have just the right kind of environment Dogwood trees need to thrive and bloom.

When I first saw pictures of the jewelry my friend Leslye was making I fell in love with one piece in particular and it pleases me greatly to be able to give one of her dogwood flower necklaces to Cullene for Mother’s Day.

Leslye was the first blogging friend I met face to face as she lives in Atlanta and we’ve seen each other a few times since. Fittingly for today, her blog is a mother-daughter collaboration where she and her daughter share their photos and thoughts.

I like the idea of Cullene having a tangible reminder of what I am aware of everyday … that I am better able to bloom through the seasons of my life due in large part to her care and nurturing.

She won’t see this post until after she opens her present so I’m giving you a sneak peek at the lovely work Leslye does over at Autumn Sun Jewelry.

Autumn Sun Jewelry

Autumn Sun Jewelry

I’ve included two images so you can get a good look at the necklace before it’s boxed up by Leslye and sent, along with the bottom one so you can see it as Cullene will when she opens it.

Isn’t that the sweetest way to wrap a gift inspired by nature … I wish I could be there to see her face!