One week post-op and last night I was so tired after a few hours with kids that even “Welcome Back, Kotter” made me cry. Horschack! Vinny Barbarino! Our Lost Youth!

I’ve spent so much time on the couch for the past week, my butt is getting sore. I’m open for business and letting the world come to me, trying to appreciate this time, knowing it will not make one damn bit of difference in the long run if the house is messy and dirty for a month. Greg is doing all of the dropping off and picking up of kids, along with some help from in-laws and neighbors. We’re eating well thanks to the good cooks in our lives (you know who you are). I am diligently upholding my vow of saying Yes, thank you and it is actually quite nice to have a vow to uphold, a point of reference that tells me what to do.

I had a brief moment earlier in the week of beating myself up for the timing of this surgery. We can, if it is our habit, always find a reason to beat ourselves up. A reason to worry I’ve let someone down or done something wrong or not thought things through well enough, you name it. It is, needless to say, unproductive, this second dart throwing, literally adding insult to injury.

This Saturday, October 10, is a big day at our house, both Aviva’s birthday and our anniversary. Why, I wondered, did I not wait to have this hernia repaired until AFTER this day? Here I am about to host a slumber party for four seven-year-old girls, trying to figure out how I am going to muster the energy to make 20 cupcakes for Aviva’s class tomorrow, possibly another batch for her soccer team on Saturday, and the Hershey’s double chocolate cake she has had her heart set on for weeks to her little party Saturday night. Of course it will all get done, it will all be fine. The worrying does not help matters. Nor does the regret or the lament or any of that. There is no good time to have surgery. Period.

If you promise to keep a secret, I will tell you that I got a drum for Greg for our 10th anniversary. (I can write this because unless I explicitly ask him to, he generally does not read the blog. “I’m living it” is his line.) It’s made by an artist in Corinth, Vermont who makes everything by hand, out of cherry wood. It is tall and slender and has a warm, rich tone. Aviva pulled me into the guitar & amp store downtown one afternoon a couple of weeks ago after school, and she and I spent about 40 minutes trying every drum in the store. It was really fun, one of those unexpected dates we never could have planned. Then Greg went off on a five-day vision quest and came home feeling really connected to himself, to creation, to an open heart. Launching back into email and business and busy-ness and kids and life at its fullest, it’s easy to feel that slipping away even though it never really leaves. The drum will be my offering to him.

Aviva turns seven. She told someone the other day she’s turning twenty-five. It sure feels like she is both of these and running the scales between.


In Guidance Class at school, they have been talking about reputations. The reputation she wants to have at the end of the year is that she was “helpful” and a “good math thinker.” I will settle for the fact that she was proud enough of her bed-making skills to snap this picture without our knowing it:


She has been noticeably helpful the past few days. This morning when Pearl said she could smell cat poop and I snapped about not being able to change the litter, Aviva said, “I’ll do it after school.” She helped Pearlie make her lunch last night and toasted her own cinnamon bread for breakfast this morning. I have to remember this, to stay in a place of holding space for her rather than hovering and nagging, which I fall into so, so easily.

Pearl, I think, may be having a harder time with my recovery. Either that or she’s three-and-a-half (tomorrow is, in fact, her half birthday). Most likely, both. She only has three long-sleeve shirts and refuses to wear two of them, so if her favorite “blue” outfit (see below) is dirty, Greg is likely to say something like “Fine, Pearl, you can go to school in a diaper today” to her in the morning, at which point she gets with the program and usually we figure something out so that she will not be naked all day.


I spent half of the last two nights half-awake, trying to protect my tender, stitched-up belly from her relentless kicks and fusses in her half-sleep. She wakes up at four or five in the morning in a rage, demanding a new diaper even though the one she’s wearing is dry. She wants the tags cut off of things and can’t stand socks and doesn’t like the way the hood feels and didn’t want Aviva to… who remembers now, it was hours, days, lifetimes ago, that fuss. She is so over it. And here I am, writing about it. This child, shooting up like bamboo right before my eyes. Maybe it’s because she’s such a peanut, or maybe it’s because she’s the second, but somehow, her tantrums and fall-aparts don’t penetrate that deeply for me. But still, it’s hard not being to pick her up and I can sense her trying to get her bearings with a shifted reality for the time being.

The two of them play hard and fight hard. And then I see them from behind, walking ahead of me downtown or at the beach or the apple orchard or the schoolyard. I peek in on them early in the morning if they’ve managed to spend the whole night in their own beds (which are pushed up together), and Aviva’s arm is tossed across Pearl’s back. I’ll always remember my mother’s words – “such comfort” – the first time we visited Amherst with baby Pearl, after Aviva fell asleep not two feet from her little sister’s cradle. Such comfort in having a sister. And now Pearl is exactly how old Aviva was when Pearl was born. There’s that “blink” everyone warned us about.


I am officially working on my book. In the name of superstition, I wasn’t going to say anything here. I was going to wait until things were further along, like a pregnancy. Make sure it stays, make sure it’s healthy, make sure it’s really going to happen. But there are never any guarantees, and the other school of thought is that you share your exciting news knowing that if things fall apart, you’ll be surrounded by support. So yes, I am expecting a book. This won’t come as news to many of you, seeing as I’ve been writing about writing and dancing around this, preparing for, moving towards this for years now. I can’t say exactly what the gestation period will be. I’m circling in on a name. I believe this baby will change my life, and hopefully some other people’s too.

We look at our babies and know the world wasn’t the same without them and will be forever changed because of them. We fret and panic and fuss and fear. (This website, by the way, cracked me up yesterday.) And then those moments come when we relax. When I relax. Blessed be. When I trust. I am starting to trust my book, trust that the book goddess is peeing in her pants with excitement about it.

I don’t know what this post is about. I am not even going to re-read it. Okay, that’s a lie. I already did. A line I’ve always loved from the poet Heather McHugh comes to mind here: “Poetry is not about about.” This post might not be about “about.” This post might be about not being up and about. About what happens when you have surgery and have to spend a whole bunch of time on the couch. It’s a check in, and checking in is what I do here. I hope you’ll take the time to check in, too.

10 thoughts on “Bedrest

  1. Kelly says:

    It’s good to see you here, I’m glad things are looking okay for your recovery. I hear you on the 3.5 year old. Except mine will be 4 in just a few weeks and is becoming much more agreeable (and dare I say likable without sounding like a bad mommy?).

    Good luck with the birthday/anniversary!

    And I can’t wait for a book from you!!


  2. Anna says:


    It is eerie to read your post… Jeff & my 5th anniversary is tomorrow (the 9th) and Silas is coming up on his 3.5 birthday as we spend many nights fighting errant busy feet and many mornings struggling over what pants he will or will not accept. And as you gestate a book, I count the moments until our 2nd child arrives…

    I hope your healing is going well- and glad that you finally sought treatment even if it wasn’t “convenient”… and while I don’t have a 7 year old, my guess is her friends and classmates might accept store-bought sugar if you don’t feel up to baking, frosting, and cleaning-up (this coming from a guilty mama who baked homemade cupcakes between bouts of nausea this spring because she wasn’t going to see her baby on his 3rd birthday)

    Maybe someday we can build on these parallels in person… Until then, thank you so much for your words. I’m here and so healed by them.



  3. Karen Pery says:

    I don’t know that it *has* to be about anything, ever. You write and we receive, and that’s it. And I loved it, and the photo of your girls brought tears to my tired eyes, and the description of the impact of the fuss from the littler one rang true, too. And the poorly timed choices, and the celebrations all at once, I get it. I’m with you. We have connected. : )

    And a book. A book! Mazal tov!

    Happy to share in the journey with you.


  4. Mom says:

    Great writing, Jena! I love how Vivi has risen to the occasion. How sweet! As the original Grammy used to say, “We must have done something right!.” Here’s to a great slumber party and happy 10th anniversary! p.s. glad you bought the drum! xxo, mom


  5. Stacy (Mama-Om) says:

    Holy Moly! I haven’t read for a while, and I am so surprised to hear about your surgery. I am sorry the recovery is so intense, and there doesn’t seem to be enough space for it.

    Congratulations on summoning the book goddess!!

    Rock on,


  6. GailNHB says:

    Who cares what the post is about? You are writing to us and for us – and to yourself and for yourself. And even though you may not know what the post was about, it needed to be written. The words needed to come together – and if the number of comments you have received to this post is an indication, there are several folk out here in the world who needed to read what you wrote. So thank you for not holding back even though you didn’t know ahead of time exactly where you were headed.

    I cannot wait to see your book.
    And you someday…



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