Tuesday, October 13, 2015

It Gets Better


The first thing that comes to mind when I think of this last trip to visit friends in San Francisco is how rejuvenated I felt once our plane landed in San Diego. The second thing is how awfully this trip started.

The plane ride there was fine. Avalon only slept about 20 minutes of the hour and fifteen minute flight, but was generally content playing peek-a-boo with my nursing cover, eating a book and bouncing between our laps for the remainder of the time. I have no advice for flying with children except to say you should wear at least 50 layers of deodorant before you takeoff. Even while Avalon was chilling out, I was sweating through my clothes wondering if she would unleash her new found ability to scream or projectile spit-up onto the nice college girl next to us highlighting her notes. I wasn't worried about her first flight before it started. I must have forgotten how small planes are and how constricting a space can feel when the fasten seat belt sign is on. I did find comfort in what one lady said when we boarded: "Who cares if she cries, you'll never see any of us again anyways!"

Once we landed, we took BART to our hotel, booked only a few days before in the short time I spent away from Maddie while she was recovering from her colon surgery. Even though I spent hours reading Amazon reviews about the bouncy baby seat and bath tub I registered for, I used no more than six minutes to read reviews about the hotel we planned to spend a three day weekend at in San Francisco. 

We exited BART at the Civic Center and had to take the elevator up to the street level because we had the stroller. When I shared this information with Basia, Phil, Nicole and Mike later they gasped and laughed and requested details. You know how at the end of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and Grandpa and Willie Wonka take a magical glass elevator up to the sky? It was exactly like that if that elevator had been used like a porta potty and only had a small scratched glass window that looked at a concrete wall. Basia, Phil and Nicole were shocked it was even in service since they said most BART elevators have been closed because so many people use them as private toilets.

We walked past a number of homeless people and a man pretending he was a bird on the way to our hotel, then a real bird pooped on my foot. 

Our room was on the second floor next to the fire escape. I told Scott I wasn't sure about being so close to street level after our experience on the way over, but we called down and requested a crib to be delivered while I took a shower and washed my shoes. Scott said the hotel was historic since it was over one hundred years old. I said it must be haunted too. It looked exactly like the one from the new season of American Horror Story with carpet that had also probably had a 100th birthday.

After my shower, I took a nap while Scott and Avalon watched a girl in striped pink tights lean on a car and poop outside our window. A recent email from Phil titled 'SF Poop Map' revealed, via a virtual and interactive map, that we were right in the thick of where the most public poops are taken in the city. When I woke up, I remarked how the crib delivered for Avalon seemed more like a cage for a ferret. Scott suggested we leave the hotel and explore the area. There was a Roxy store at Union Square that I wanted to stop by so we decided that would be our destination. On the way there we passed countless homeless people, an ambulance carting someone off on a stretcher, a bike gang getting arrested and a man with a pirate patch offering Avalon cookies. In an effort to see this experience through rose colored glasses, Scott kept saying things like "This is life happening all around us!" When a lady who seemed like she was tripping on acid briefly followed us hollering "I can blow bubbles!" I quietly started crying. 

Avalon and I waited in a coffee shop while Scott cancelled our hotel reservation. When your daily goal is currently: keep it together you need the help of your surroundings. I called my mom and told her exactly this. She encouraged us to find somewhere new and then paused because she had something to tell me too. "The pathology report from Maddie's surgery came back..." 

I remember when she called me to tell me Maddie had cancer in the first place. I just knew before she spoke. Her voice was sad, but matter of fact kind of like when a newscaster reports there's been a school shooting. When she said it I just started screaming "No!" over and over again like I'd forgotten all the other words I knew, my voice becoming hoarse and hopeless. She couldn't even finish telling me the details because she was reminding me to breathe appropriately. But on this phone call, I felt like I knew she was going to give me good news, at least as good of news as it was allowed to be right now. We knew before that Maddie's colon cancer wasn't stage four and we were pretty sure after the surgery that it wasn't stage one either so "good news" would have been stage two cancer instead of three. And it was. I took big breaths and felt like God really had been looking out for us, despite my skepticism. "Honestly, I'm so relieved!" I said. My mom said she was too. Maddie would still have to do chemo and a number of other unpleasant things to preserve her fertility, but we knew what we were facing now and it wasn't the worst case scenario. 

With a better head space, Scott, Avalon and I got into a cab with our luggage. Scott found a new place for us to stay near the water down in the Embarcadero called The Harbor Court. It made everything better. Before we booked it, he told me to look around the lobby to make sure it was the right place. I just had this feeling that it was, like I had been there before. My shoulders seemed looser once we arrived and I felt safe again. There was a fireplace, a free happy hour in the lobby, gigantic chess and tic tac toe sets, fresh, cool water with fruit in it and pretty flowers. The bonus was it was even more affordable than the other hotel in the heart of one of San Francisco's biggest crime (and poop) zones. They delivered a Pack 'N Play to our room and we relaxed immediately. We had dinner that night with Basia and Phil in the sushi restaurant connected to the hotel. It was the kind of night you remember because it bookended something stupid hard and began something hopeful and new.

On Saturday we met Basia, Phil, Nicole and Mike at The Ferry Building and had lunch at The Plant before heading over to The Exploratorium . It was pretty expensive to do half day at The Exploratorium, so we ended up wandering the lobby and gift shop instead. I bought a white blood cell stuffed animal for Maddie, and Avalon enjoyed watching us create tornadoes inside a water tank at a momentum exhibit. I nursed her while walking around the city, which was something I had only hoped of doing when I was going through the worst of my feeding struggles. I even had a drink that night at the complimentary hotel happy hour while Scott gave Avalon a bottle. She was the best little travel partner, looking wide-eyed at every dog, dinging trolley and flickering candle we passed. She enjoyed the elevator, hotel fireplace and mirrors and fell asleep sucking her thumb from pure exhaustion both nights.

I remember when I was just beginning my journey in motherhood. I was walking on the beach for the first time since Avalon was born. She was probably three weeks old, curled against my body like a baby sea otter. It felt like emerging from hibernation or, more accurately, surfacing from a bomb shelter. My mom and I observed a lady and her young daughter playing in the waves. The mother approached me and pointed to Avalon saying to her daughter "Baby! Look at the baby!" Then she said to me, "Aren't you just l-o-v-i-n-g it?" I wanted to say yes enthusiastically because I loved Avalon with every cell in my bloodstream, I'd lost hours of sleep just looking at her, but the truth was I felt like a shell of myself, caught off guard by what was expected of me as a mother at times. "I love her. This is hard, but it's getting better." 


Thank you all for your very kind words about Maddie. It feels so incredibly heart warming to have the support of this caring online community. I feel very lucky to have you all thinking such positive things for my family. I also feel so fortunate to have connected with you all over the years.
+First and last city scape shots by Philip Nowak Photography 
+Saves-the-day, awesome hotel The Harbor Court! <3

17 comments:

  1. Yay Avalon and yay you! So glad to hear your sister's cancer is type 2 and you know what you're dealing with. This story made me laugh out loud and tear up. Beautiful expressions as always. ~Lydia

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    1. Thank you Lydia! That's so thoughtful!

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  2. I am so glad to hear better news for you and the family and most importantly Maddie!!! My thoughts are with you and all my well being vibes as well!!!

    I am so happy you were able to turn this trip around - your first stop sounded so much like a bad dream!!! Or breaking bad! :) The 2nd hotel sounds perfect!!! And thank you for always keeping it real. I am currently working through my fears of trying to conceive, and being a mother... yes, you read that correct. And this is actually the first time I've put it in writing. Step 1 is usually admitting, right?

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    1. Kelly- I am SO happy for you! You'll be an amazing mom and your kid will have excellent taste in music ;) !

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  3. I'm so glad to hear Maddie's cancer is type 2, and I'll be sending her (and you all!) all the good thoughts I know throughout her treatment. I have two siblings and can't even begin to imagine what you must be going through - I wish I could give your whole family a giant hug xx

    PS: Avalon keeps getting gorgeouser and gorgeouser. Those eyes!

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    1. Hi Adeline, Thank you so much for the giant virtual hug. The good vibes from everyone must be working as our family is doing much better now than we were a few weeks ago.

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  4. Goodness Devon, that sounds like quite an adventure, and not the sort you'd ever want to have with a new baby along. Or ever in fact. I always wanted to visit SF, but I'm less sure now! So glad your sister's news was as good as it could be. I hope she is doing well. Glad your trip ended up being good. I especially like the "began something hopeful and new" part. My current daily goal is also "keep it together", so I could do with a bookend and a hopeful beginning as well. Glad you're back safely. CJ xx

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    1. Honestly I think we were in one of the worst parts of SF at the start of the trip (way to go team!). It truly is an amazing city. My favorite for sure and I'm sure you'd have an awesome, memorable trip if you visited. Thinking good thoughts for you to have a bookend to your struggles soon too, CJ. xx

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  5. I am SO thrilled you found us at the Harbor Court and were able to relax! I can say on behalf of the entire Harbor Court Hotel, we cannot wait to welcome you and the family to return! :) Safe travels and we will hopefully see you very soon!

    Cheers,
    John

    Director of Sales & Marketing
    Harbor Court Hotel

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    1. Thank you John! We would love to come back again!

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  6. Your writing is just amazing! I didn't want this post to end. I'm so proud of you for traveling with your baby. I don't have the courage to do it yet, so I'm living vicariously through you. :)

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    1. Andi, you're so sweet. Thank you!

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  7. Because I'm a total bubble head this morning this is the third time in my attempt to leave you a comment...and I have to get going to work (flower shop/greenhouse) I will type the key words. Just in SanFran this last weekend. Smelled like pee. Mom said for her in the 60's it smelled like tacos. You made me almost snort tea out my nose and spit scone out my mouth making me laugh so hard. You are hilarious and adorable. ~Andrea

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    1. Your job sounds straight out of a movie or something Andrea. How fun to work in a flower shop and green house! Interesting you had a similar experience with the smells in the city. Wonder what's going on. I don't remember that being a part of my experience even just a few years ago.

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  8. I've now been cured of any desire to visit San Fran ;) So glad you're back home. Traveling with a baby is so exhausting, especially when things don't go as planned. When we were in California, I cried more than she did. So happy you have good news on your sister, and I pray her recovery is smooth and as painless as possible.

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  9. Oh my gracious, that sounds so terrible! I honestly have never seen another adult poop in public (or private for that matter)... I can't even imagine what I'd do. I'm so glad you found a better place to stay. And I'm so glad to hear the news about your sister!

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  10. funny to read right before I head to San Francisco tomorrow! will avoid these poop zones...

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