Extreme discomfort, eager for the retrospect

Friday I looked down to see Jai had discovered and was fiddling with the knobs on the gas stove.   Saturday while out for a walk he suddenly and gleefully aimed to veer his little body right out into the street.  Sunday he (big surprise) was the one who “happened upon” the forgotten scissors.  At a restaurant in the evening he communicated quite clearly that he wanted to get down and explore, then immediately made a beeline right for the nearest uncovered electrical outlet.

This morning I glanced to the side for an instant, then turned back to find a smirking child standing next to me on the couch–not down on the floor where I’d left him seconds earlier.

Boy on a couch

Pshaw!  I scale couches like this when I’m sleepcrawling.

With a kid whose sole criterion for developmental milestones seeming to be some risk of getting zapped, charred, sliced, dropped or crushed, I keep reminding myself that each little surprise is less a cause for anxiety than for celebration of his stretching brain and body.  Even when the surprise is him fishing in the toilet.

Speaking of surprises, at the very moment I’m writing this he’s planted himself in the middle of the living room, legs widespread, right arm outstretched in front, index finger pointed right at me … and letting out an audible rumbling in the shorts.

I’ve played the pull my finger game, Boy, and it’s only funny if it’s just gas…

… Back again to report:  officially not funny.  Not funny at all.

Toddler pranks aside for the moment, we continue to be aware that not all surprises come with an immediately obvious up side.  The premature birth of our first son Javid etched that truth on our bones and we’re not likely to soon forget.

In past years I’ve often taken solace in the midst of discomfort from that old line about the definition of a good story being “extreme discomfort in retrospect.”  I do love a good yarn, Ana Lisa would probably say maybe a little too much, but the thought provided little relief during Javid’s short life.  At any moment along the way we would gladly have exchanged a set of healthy baby lungs for the ability to, pfffft, blog about it.

The surprise was to indeed find up sides, many of them and from such unexpected sources.  As we struggled to maintain some sense of grace and humor while navigating the twisty path along the side of a tiny, sick baby, we encountered at every turn people ready to help and hold us.  The bountiful kindnesses of friends, family and folk we had never known carried us along during the half year of Javid’s life and for long after.  The experience lives on in us now more than two years after his death in the form of an abiding sense of the basic goodness of people … those we know and those we don’t.

Our unexpected surprise was to be suddenly plunked into a hospital trying to figure out how to support this little critter as he fought to develop on the outside long before he should have been anywhere but inside.

For the past few weeks Ana Lisa’s cousin and his wife are facing a surprise that’s not exactly the same, but one with fears we find all too familiar.

Obie is one of the little boy cousins Ana Lisa used to play with and tease and tell M&M stories to when they were small.  Here he is to the left of brother Brian, back at an age when the Panama Canal–one of the industrial wonders of the world–was sooooo boring.

Obie, Brian and AL at the Panama Canal

Dumb canal

I can relate, having once been a snotty kid who kept a list of all the stooopid things his dad pointed out on family vacations:

4.  Hinges on a door, well duh!

5.  Trees!  Who cares about trees?!?

The arc of the universe is long–so poor Dad had to wait a while–but eventually it does bend toward justice.  I’ve become exactly the kind of adult who’s fascinated with and can’t wait to point out interesting hinges and trees to his kid.

Obie, too, is all grown up and gallivanting around the world to fun tourist destinations like Sudan and the Palestinian Territory, clearly bent on accumulating good stories at a record pace.

So anyway, while working in Ramallah he and his wife Kari found out that at 23 1/2 weeks of pregnancy her cervix had dramatically shortened, creating a serious risk for (very) premature childbirth.

Now she’s in bed, and Obie has begun a bedrest blog:  “dispatches from the front lines of keeping Boy Diener in the womb where he belongs, one day at a time.”  The posts are dry and witty and scared and brave.  If you’d like to follow along, click here:

24 Weeks and Counting

Kari and Obie, bless ’em, have found much to celebrate as they grit their teeth, guard the exits, and hold on for a higher week count.  We’re rooting for them and Jai’s little second cousin, and hoping for the day when this can all be a really, really good story.



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