Friday, March 21, 2008

Gabriel Haven

Dear Gabriel,

My pregnancy with you was rough. When I reflect on how I felt, I have strong memories of nausea and heaviness, which wiped a smile clear off my face. For the most part I felt a dull form of depression, that left me worn and tired. I craved rest and solitude, away from the reasonable demands of your sister and daddy. In the brief moments when I could lay in my bed, still and at peace, I'd rub my ever-expanding belly and feel you safe in my womb. I imagined you contented and calm, well protected from the storm and turmoil I often felt. You were at the center of my inner sanctuary, my haven. This was how I came to your middle name, alone in the warmth of my bed, massaging my tummy, and cooing 'Haven' to you.

The day you were born, began with slight disappointment, as I had resigned myself to the fact that I would never experience the beginning of labor without a little kick from the outside world. You were due on February 26th, but here we were, on March 6th, and I had chosen to be induced again, as I had to do with your sister, 2 weeks past her due-date. It was 8AM, and my midwife examined me to find that I was 4 centimeters dilated and fully effaced (I'd been this close for almost 2 weeks, with only an occasional contraction). My waters were broken, in the hope that labor would begin without the necessity of drugs. By 12 noon, I had been experiencing erratic contractions, but nothing steady enough to truly get things rolling. Pitocin was begun, and in no time, the up and down of fast and furious contractions racked my body. Emotionally and physically, I was ill-prepared to cope with the pain. Weak and wimpy from the start, I was pleading with a higher spirit to time warp me to a different zone. Within 3 hours I'd reached the zenith of my tolerance and made the call for the anesthesiologist. "Epidural, take me away!"

As the numbness spread down my spine and legs, stripping away ALL traces of pain, the dark clouds lifted from my consciousness. My pessimism and depression did a 180 degree flip, and I felt genuine happiness and anticipation for your imminent arrival. The midwife checked my progress, and I was already at 8 centimeters. She figured that we would be meeting you within hours. I was now able to drift in and out of sleep, and although I could feel no pain, I did feel you gradually travel lower through my uterus, and slowly edge your way into the birth canal. By the next time my midwife checked me, she could see your head, and it was time to push. For a half hour I worked to deliver you into this world in relative quiet, calmly surrounded by your encouraging father, the nurse Cheri, and the midwife, Robi Quackenbush. Your father told jokes, and I was actually able to laugh between concentrated pushes. At 6:05 PM, you were born complete, and nestled atop my bosom. I felt instant and deep love for you, my precious. As John Lennon's 'Beautiful Boy' played in the background, your father and I wept tears of joy. I will never forget the pure bliss brought by your presence, your first gift to me.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Haiku Announcement

After a long hibernation from my blog, self imposed by all the commotion, emotion and physical state of my final trimester of pregnancy. I am truly happy to announce the arrival of my sweet baby boy. He has already brought great joy and completion to my family.

The following email was written last week by my darling husband:

Last Thursday we finally welcomed our new addition to the Gamber Family.
What would a birth announcement be without some Haikus?

Enough Is Enough
Oh Thank You Epidural
My Beautiful Boy

No No No Not Yet
Cold, Bright, Loud, Hairy Man Bad Breath
Boobies Not So Bad

Not Too Sure Of This
A Cookie Competitor
"I Love My Bruh-Der"

Have Amazing Wife
Three Cameras One Subject
No Sleep So Much Love



Gabriel Haven Gamber
Born : March 6th 2008 6:05pm
8lbs 12oz
20.5 Inches

Mama and Gabriel are healthy, happy and at home.
Stella is helpful and excited.
Dad is a zombie.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Best Wishes

Merry Christmas!
From the Gambers...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

My Mother-In-Law

One year ago...

Even though the holidays can submerge one in the dark depths of stress, I am still managing to comfortably cling to a buoy, enjoying the sun glistening atop the deep waters. I don't know if it is the effects of watching the holidays through the eyes of a 2 year old, or earnestly enjoying the creation of new family traditions, but I feel surprisingly satisfied with this season and very blessed (my new and overly used descriptive term).

A big part of my joy comes from my family, both our own small nuclear unit and the extended relatives that create a comforting umbrella of protection around us. I am so lucky to have married a man who comes from a wonderful, generous and genuine family. Since day one they have welcomed me into their arms, and I cannot think of a moment of friction in our eight years of bonding. I feel especially thankful for my wonderful Mother-in-Law.

As usually happens when you first meet someone, there is much focus on your similarities and sometimes even more awareness of your differences. In a lot of ways, my Mother-in-Law and I are very different from one another. Much is generational, but even more is just the difference in our upbringings. She is from the Midwest, and grew up during a time when I think children were more innocent. Women played more traditionally defined family roles, church was a prominent part of each week, and patriotism ran deep. In contrast, I do not feel like I was sheltered from the darker realities of life. I grew up having honest discussions about sex and drugs, and questioning issues of equality, government policies and religion. As the oldest child, I craved independence and wanted to be an 'adult' before my time, moving out of my home at the age of 17. My MIL has described her young self as painfully shy, and a little fearful of the greater world. Yet, marriage to a Navy man, meant that the wider world was thrust upon her, forcing her to move across an ocean to a foreign country, Spain, as well as live in several states across the U.S. (all far from her own relatives). The military life, which meant long separations from her husband, and months of living as a 'single' mother strengthened her confidence as she rose to the challenges. My husband and his brother often talk about the immense respect that they have for their mother, especially now that they have grown and truly realize how much that she managed in the absence of their Father.

The more I learn about her, the more that I am amazed and the greater my respect grows. When it comes to work, I feel that I am a great multi-tasker. When it comes to parenting a child, cleaning house, getting dressed, shopping, arghhh! the list goes on, my capabilities tend to fall short. Perhaps, it is years of experience that make my MIL such a wonder at managing a household and simultaneously playing with her granddaughter, but I think it is more than that. She is gifted - a true organizational wizard when taking care of all things domestic, AND she did this with her own sons, while holding down a part-time job!

Beyond her honed abilities to prepare a 3 course meal, keep the kitchen clean, and deal with a toddler - all skills that have proven unbelievably helpful whenever she visits, my love for my MIL has grown due to our talks and a greater understanding of the good woman she is. Despite all of our different personality traits, views on politics, religion, etc., I have always felt acceptance and a lack of judgement. I would guess that my relationship with her son and all it's stages, living together before marriage, having a civil wedding ceremony, and some of our parenting decisions might not have been her first choice, but if this is the case, she never made a big deal out of it, and it never effected our connection negatively. Above all, I believe that both of my husband's parents have recognized that the good intentions behind any of our choices are all that really matters, and have thus never felt the need to exert their influence against our plans. This patience and acceptance has made for a very smooth and respectful relationship. I can only hope that I will be the same kind of Mother-in-Law to my own children's spouses.

Dear Gayle, I really love you and hope that today, your birthday, is a very special occasion and celebration of all that makes you wonderful. Stella, Dan and I wish that we could be with you now, and look forward to your visit in February.

Above photo from Mother's Day 2007

Above photo from October 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

Lights, Lights, Lights

Being that it's holiday time, and cold, and dark by five, and since we are often cooped up in our home - with a two year old (picture her running away in defiance from a waddling house of a pregnant woman)we are constantly trying to find nighttime activities of diversion.

On a personal level, I LOVE holiday decorations. I have been collecting Christmas tree ornaments since 1998, and get excited about unveiling each and every one of them weeks before we actually buy a tree. I like bluish noble trees that have elegant branches with spacing between, so that you can see the dangling ornaments and lights in its' depth. No fat fir trees for me. I usually ground my ornaments with white fairy lights and gold gossamer ribbon (hee, hee), although there have been a few years that I've brought out the tiny multi-colored lights for a more 'child-like' quality. This year, prepping the inside of our house with holiday cheer filled a few nights with arguments, I mean laughter. Dan and I usually waited until Stella was tucked into bed before beginning the task of trimming our mantel and arches with garlands and twinkling lights. We filled a couple of nights with tree shopping and decorating the home, and officially finished the task last week. Stella has been surprisingly good at not touching the tree, and the only broken ball was thanks to my clumsy fingers.

With our nights now free, we have gone out in search of holiday activities. Our first excursion was to the Grotto's "Festival of Lights", a Portland locale that has been lighting up their wooded glen and stone bluff with nativity themed images and lights for 20 years.

The Grotto is a very religious destination, with both cathedral singing and outdoor caroling, candle lighting, reenactments of the birth of Christ (both by actors and puppets), and wandering angels and St.Nick's, looking like popes, not Santa Claus. Being a more secular soul, I feel both moved and completely out of place in an environment like this. I wholeheartedly acknowledge that Christmas is primarily a Christian celebration, and often wonder what has drawn me to celebrate this holiday when I am not religious myself. My Father is an atheist, yet we always celebrated Xmas, and I feel that the 'spirit' of giving, initially represented by Santa Claus, was always present, if not the customary acknowledgement of Baby Jesus. Now, as an adult, still hanging on to these traditions, I question why, and feel like a poseur. Can we really base an entire holiday on stories of Santa Claus, trees and lights, baked goods, and lots of consumerism? I want Stella to understand both the pagan and christian beginnings of this holiday, as well as the made-up meaning that her Father and I put behind it. I am trying to focus on the spirit of giving, enjoyed time by the hearth with family, and hopefully a genuine thankfulness for the simpler gifts of life. I do want to encourage her own spiritual growth, introspection and exploration, as she matures, and will support her beliefs wherever they may lead her. For now, she has a play nativity scene and can walk around with baby Jesus in her pocket without needing to know much more.

The above was a little bit of a tangent, because this entry is supposed to be all about surface decoration - lights, lights, and more lights, not a touchy probing of religion and its' holiday relevance, sooooo... back to the superficial!

We enjoyed the lights at the Grotto, but had much more fun at the Portland Zoo on Stella's birthday. Starting at 5PM, the Portland zoo changes from a venue that displays live animals, into a nighttime wonderland of lights arranged in animal forms, with trees and walkways wrapped tightly in an astonishing array of colorful lights. 'Zoo Lights' is all about dazzling color in the black of night, without a hint of religion. There is a choo-choo train ride through a landscape of moving animal images made entirely of LED lights, and vast stretches of park turned into psychedelic savannas, jungles and swampland. We all loved it. It was a great place to take Stella and watch her excitement and wonder at the panorama before her.

Now that we know how much Stella digs lights (I use her as an excuse for my own fascination), we have plans to visit another spot in Portland, Peacock Lane, which is a neighborhood known for it's gaudy devotion to all things brilliant and bright. They apparently have horse carriage rides up and down the street and give out free hot cocoa. I can't wait!

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, whichever makes more sense to you!