Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Secret to the Universe

What Have You Learned, Dorothy?

Chiara and I have been on a whirlwind tour this November.  Multiple flights, multiple visits to various family members in various time zones. My mother came along, as part of her own [lengthier] whirlwind tour.  She had just flown from El Paso to Philadelphia to visit her sisters, one of who will be a grandma in February.  (Congrats, Aunt Nancy!  I mean, congrats Cindy & Tim!)  Then, my mother flew from Philly to Oakland on Tuesday afternoon, just 13 hours before Chiara and I were scheduled to fly out on Wednesday morning.  My mother had it in her mind that I shouldn’t lift anything heavier than my laptop, so she traveled the rest of the way with Chiara and me, helping us get ourselves and our luggage through the airport. Truly heroic, and she is good company, to boot.

Our first stop was to St. Paul, Minnesota, where I nearly ate my brother and sister-in-law out of house and home (see previous post ) and looked for real estate (Hey, Matt!  In Minnesota you can buy a house AND send your kids to college!).  Then, after nearly a week at the Bryan/Kramers, I suggested that my mother stay behind to take care of all three of her grandchildren while I skipped town to visit my sister and relive my college days. 

I flew to El Paso on Monday where I actually ordered take-out FROM THE RUNWAY (Landing runway in El Paso, not departing runway in St Paul) and then made my dad and stepmom pick it up on their way to fetch me from the airport.  (Tortilla soup from Jaxon’s—YUM!)

On Tuesday I flew to San Antonio where upon landing, I made my sister take me to Mexican food.  She brought me to the place that—in her words—has the only decent Mexican food in San Antonio.  Then we went wallet shopping (my wallet, a gift from Jackie 5 years ago, was stolen just before Halloween.  I wrote a whole blog post about it but you probably didn’t read it because the words didn’t quite make it from my head to my laptop). 

At the wallet store, I bought the one wallet my sister (unbeknownst to me) had been eyeing for the last two months.  After that, I made her watch me eat a 12oz steak, (Texas red meat is so tasty it makes me tremble), some ice cream and the rest of her granola before co-opting her bed and making her sleep on the floor.

On Wednesday, I followed Jackie to her classes (We didn’t learn such cool things when I was in college).  We went back to the wallet store because it turned out that Jackie really really really wanted that wallet.  Now we have matching wallets except hers has scrunchy crinkly leather because I took the last good wallet.  That afternoon, on the way to the airport to fly back to El Paso, partly out of guilt, I switched wallets with her and now I am the proud owner of the second-best wallet in San Antonio.

Back in the west Texas town of El Paso, I met my mom and Chiara at the airport (they arrived from St Paul just as I was arrived from San Antone) and we spent Wednesday AND Thursday night at my Mom’s.  Friday through Monday we stayed at my dad’s.  Tuesday we went to my friend, Tessie’s, for green chile soup—YUM—and briefly discussed El Paso real estate (Hey, Matt!  In El Paso they have two-for-one deals: buy one house and get one free!). 

Wednesday morning I left Chiara with my stepmom, Marian, and had breakfast with one of my oldest friends, Sofia.  (I mean, our friendship is old, not that Sofia is old).  Wednesday night, our last in El Paso, Chiara and I had dinner with my mom, my stepdad and my cousin and her family, back at Jaxon’s for more tortilla soup.

Thursday we—Chiara, my mom, my stepdad and me—flew back to Oakland.  And on Friday I drove to Mt. Madonna for a weekend yoga retreat—just me and the peas.


Mt. Madonna is just ninety minutes away from Oakland if there’s no traffic, two hours away if you get lost, and three hours away if there’s rain and you have to stop twice to go to the bathroom and once for doughnuts.  It’s a national park near Watsonville.  It overlooks the ocean and is littered with campsites.

Yes, of course there’s more.  Like I would go camping!  Mt Madonna is also a yoga commune where people live and work and pee in outhouses.  They depend on their own wells for their water (hence the outhouses) and have their own schools and fire department.  They also have guest rooms (with bathrooms down the hall, thank goodness) and a m†assage center and a community building where all the meals are cooked (always vegetarian, mostly without peanuts, gluten, wheat or dairy) and some other buildings for yoga retreats and classes.  I think it’s the perfect balance between hippie and comfortable.

I had signed up for a Qi Gong and Yoga course that focused on creativity and healing.  I thought it might be a nice way to build my repertoire of active and positive practices to help me through the pregnancy.  And I thought it would be nice to get some more sleep and eat some more food that I didn’t have to plan, prepare, or clean up afterwards.  And I thought it would be even nicer if it were all me time instead of shared me time.

It was a very interesting experience.  I didn’t learn anything new and spent the whole time thinking about my family and imagining how much fun they would have had if they were with me.  All of which was very comforting.  I felt like the characters at the end of the Wizard of Oz when they all are told (or realize, rather) that they have always had that which they had been seeking.

(There was one very new thing that was offered in the weekend retreat: specific and powerful visualization techniques for positive thinking.  They were in the form of four affirmations that we repeated to ourselves while lying down.  They were so powerful that I—and everyone around me—fell asleep, which means that none of us knows just what those powerful affirmations were.)

The really really interesting part of the weekend was that I gave in to the dark side and told people the dramatic part of the pregnancy.  You know, with words like, “high risk” and “50% chance of death or complications.”  Not because I wanted their sympathy, but I guess I wanted people to know that I was there for VERY SERIOUS REASONS. 

It kind of backfired, not in a bad way, just in a non-productive way.  For example, during our round-the-room introductions, I didn’t tell people why it was high-risk which meant that I was always getting cornered by some curious and well-meaning participant and bombarded with questions.  Some thought I was concerned just because it was twins and that it wasn’t that serious. 

And for whatever silly reason, I felt compelled to assure them that, yes, it was that serious.  Which meant that, being well-meaning people, they felt obligated to say something “helpful.”  Like, “Well, are you taking vitamins?”  Or tell me the story of the sister-in-law who was six months pregnant with a baby with Trisomy 18 whose heart was on the wrong side of his body and probably wouldn’t live a week. 

“See, some people have it worse than you!” the woman said, cheerfully.

That’s when I realized how far I’d come in the thinking positively department.  I no longer focus on how bad things can get.  I focus on what I can do, which is basically just sleeping well and eating well and spending time with those in my life who can accommodate my sleep and eat lifestyle.

There is no doubt in my mind that these babies are going to make it.  Time will tell if they are born at 32 weeks or 34 weeks, but now that I know that I have the support of the doctors, I’m gunning for 34 weeks or more if I can.  In my mind, I see the Peas coming home from the hospital when I do.  Time in the NICU just isn’t part of the picture.

So I was a little bit sad to realize that on this, my meditative retreat, I’d given into the Drama That Could Be.  And after I’d talked about the Peas like we were all part of some Lifetime movie, I couldn’t very well backtrack and say, “But I’m not really worried about it.  I have a great support system through my family and friends and feel confident that everything’s going to work out just great.”  Consequently, I got sucked into a world of fear that I don’t really feel anymore.

I realized something else, too.  That there’s something very “busying” about wallowing in worry, almost like a comforting way to preoccupy your mind.  And in many ways, it’s much easier to wallow, to talk about how awful things could get than it is to shut up and take action to make them better, particularly when that action is just the same thing day after day. 

You can always create new and exciting things to worry about.  There isn’t a lot of thrill in the diary entry that reads: “Day 147: Same old, same old.  Ate all my vegetables and all my cheesecake.  Took two naps and all my vitamins.  Hugged my kid, laughed with my husband and rubbed my belly.”

I’m not sure what I expected from this retreat: some great secret to the universe or something.  And what I learned was that I already know these secrets.  They come in the form of friends like Ang, who is living proof that you can make it through the most difficult situations and triumph, and friends like Kara, who say things like, “Eat, get a second opinion, and don’t look back.”  It comes in the form of friends like Lara, Dr. P, Sofia, and Tessie who all said the same thing to me: “You know, I have a good feeling about this.”

It comes in the form of family who have opened their homes and their refrigerators: from moms (and stepdads) who travel halfway across the country to dads (and stepmoms) who make impromptu fast food runs to brothers who cut 12 minute slices of cheesecake, sisters who offer to sleep on the floor and daughters who bring you “a favorite toy” when you say you need to nap. 

I think it started when we were still in Lifetime movie mode, scared and worried and calling our siblings.  When we told Cathy our scary details, she just kept repeating, “I think it’s exciting!”  Our first thought was, “Did she not hear the part about death and sickness?”  Our second thought was, “Maybe that’s how you see life when you have five kids.  Maybe we should get us some of that.”

It seems like we should say, “It wasn’t always easy.”  But it kinda was easy.  Granted, we’re only halfway there, but once we reached out and got this outpouring of support, our positive outlook just kinda snowballed. 

So thanks to everyone for all the calls and emails and comments and prayers.  That’s the key to creativity and healing; that’s the secret to the universe.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Next Post: the details behind our most recent visit to the doc’s (Short version: twins are doing great!)

© 2010 Janine Kovac 


  1. Now I'm hungry!!
    Janine, when I make it your way, I will make you my favorite red chili! I ate chili with all four pregnancys and never suffered from the heartburn threat!
    You sound wonderful and the peas sound great!
    I know that the healing light/intent is surrounding them in your womb/safe haven.
    Wonderful thoughts you and friends are the greates gift of all.
    Love you and your family,

  2. OK, I'm really sad I couldn't have seen you while in St. Paul (but I know how it is visiting family when time is of the essence!) But maybe Matt does want to buy a house out here after all? Keep me posted. And yes, I agree, about the secret to the Universe, you already know it. Makes for such a great ending to the Lifetime movie, don't it? Happy T-giving!