Peony madness

In 2009, I went to Sheffield to visit my aunt Georgina. One of the conditions of my going on the trip was that I bring back plenty of plants. My aunt recommended the online nursery, Crocus, which is truly dangerous- whatever we looked at we wanted. In the end, I brought back, among others, the amazingly scented red rose that now scrambles up the side of our house (Etoile de Hollande), asparagus root crowns, and a peony, paeonia lactiflora “Duchesse de Nemours,” that was apparently both snow white and scented. Well, it flowered for the first time this year, and all that and more: it is just an impossibly beautiful thing to behold, with a scent like lily of the valley and vanilla ice cream. I think it says, “Look, the world is a beautiful place after all,” but Ali thinks it’s saying to us, “You’re ugly and you smell.”

It’s got a cage around it for two reasons. One is a little lesson that I learned last year: if you want to have free range chickens, you can’t have free range plants. The other, more pressing reason for this particular plant is that we are having another house built, and the peony is right behind it. Lest this sound very grand, let me point out that the entire footprint of the house is 15 meters squared, and the interior of it is 9 meters squared, so it is more accurate to think of it as another room, with a terrace. Still, it’s a welcome addition, and it’s almost finished.

Musk rose

One day, maybe five years ago, Ali and I were in Yenikoy, a neighborhood by the Bosphorous in Istanbul. We often went there in the Spring and early Summer to visit the giant mimosa tree or to see the wisteria in full bloom- there are lots of lovely gardens there that cam be appreciated from afar. On that particular day, Ali took me to see and smell a rose he’d encountered, a white rambler that tumbled over a garden wall. The scent of it was delicious, and we decided we’d take a cutting of it.
The cutting rooted ( taking cuttings is Ali’s department- I am more adept at seeds) and lived in a flower pot on our terrace. When we moved down here, I was in charge of packing the van, and that was one of the potted plants that I shoehorned into it.
Last year, I planted it out by the stairs and it immediately began to shoot up, as if it had been waiting for all that time to be liberated from the confines of its pot. Then Ali put up an arch over the path and now we have our own sweetly scented rambler that we pause regularly at the foot of the stairs to enjoy. We’ve pored over our garden books and we think it must be a musk rose, or Rosa Moschata.



Of all of us, Baki is the one who’s seem the biggest change on his life. After all, I was already a mom and Ali was already a dad. But Baki has only just become a brother.
Naturally, we all wondered how he would take to it, especially once he voiced his disapproval at having a baby brother instead of a baby sister. We found out Kaya would be a boy months ago, though, which gave Baki time to come around.
And it seems that he has. He was so excited to see us that he met us at the gate when we returned from the hospital, and he reacted with calm approval upon meeting Kaya for the first time. Since then, he has been loving towards Kaya, hugging and kissing him, or, like us, just staring at him. And he’s been very helpful, fetching diapers when I need them and wetting wash cloths.
No doubt it helps a lot that my mom is here, and we’ve managed to get back to some of our old routines, like a bedtime story or two. Still, I am amazed at how open-hearted Baki has been and at how much he seems to have grown up.

Dear Kaya

Dear Kaya,

It will be one week today since you were born, and to mark the occasion your father and I planted a hyacinth bean over your placenta. It was about time that we did it, especially since your grandmother was getting upset at encountering it every time she opened the fridge. There is a belief here, that must be shared by many places, that this means that you will be forever drawn back to this place; I hope it is true, as the garden is something that we work on with an eye to the future. I hope that this place will always be here for you.

Even though we have had some time to get used to the idea, I still find it hard to believe at times that you are really here. We had been waiting to meet you for so long, and as you grew inside my belly we tried to imagine what you would be like and how we would welcome you.

We don’t have a lot of rooms to work with, so we could not prepare a room for you, but we did make a little corner in our room down in the red house where we could keep all of your things, and where I could change and dress you.

I will admit that I wondered how you would fit into our family when you arrived. It seemed like such a change to have another person on board. Now that you are here though, it feels not so much that you have always been here as it does that your place in our family has been waiting for you to fill it. Baki greeted you almost as if he already knew you, and now that you are here it feels that our family would be incomplete without you.

It is hard to know how to tell you how important you already are to us all, and how much happiness you have brought us. In the moments we have together now, with you still so small, I want to welcome you into our family and thank you for having taken your place in our arms and in our hearts.


Kaya: a birth story


Note: this is a birth story, so it contains some of the attendant horrors of childbirth, beautiful miracle that it is. Just a warning, in case you’re not into that kind if thing!

On Sunday night, we all headed down to the red house to sleep. I was thinking about the laundry that I wanted to do before we went in to Antalya for my appointment with the doctor. “Come with your bag,” she’d said. At the same time, we were waiting for people from the department of the treasury to measure our land in order to get a title deed, so we weren’t even sure if Ali could take me in or if I should just go in on my own.
After Baki and I had brushed our teeth and read a story and had a goodnight hug and kiss, I fell asleep and dreamed that I was playing hide and seek with my mother, Ali and Baki. I was awoken from the dream by a familiar feeling, a rhythmic swell of energy that coiled itself around my abdomen. I lay in the dark, waiting to see if they’d continue.
The doctor and I had agreed that we would come to Antalya early, since we live about an hour and a half away, and we did not know whether things would move along quickly. After about the fifth contraction, by which time it was going on 1 in the morning, I told Ali and we gathered a few things and headed up through the garden. I made coffee for Ali and tea for me and we sat on the porch for a while before setting off. How strange, we thought out loud, that we would likely be coming home with another person in tow!
My mother went down to the red house so Baki would not be alone, and we set off. I’d had my doubts about riding in the car on our road during labor, but it was so early on that it wasn’t a problem – this was the point, I guess, in leaving early.
It was exciting to be driving into town in the middle of the night, just the two of us, not really knowing what to expect. I called Dr. Figen and the midwife, Saadet hanim, who would meet us at the hospital.
We got lost trying to find the hospital in the dark and ended up on the road leading out of Antalya, but eventually, after asking a few times, we made it there. Saadet hanim checked me out and proclaimed it early hours yet, so she told us we may as well come to her house; she’d gotten a room ready for us.
We got lost again on the way to her house, and I could tell that Ali was feeling a bit doubtful about having left the hospital. I just wanted to get done sleep; I didn’t sleep enough in the early stages of my labor with Baki, and it took its toll in the end.
When we got to her house. Saadet hanim showed us to a room with a fold out bed. I went to sleep immediately- it was well past 4 by then.
We woke at maybe 8, and talked about what to do over breakfast. Saadet had spoken to the doctor and told her that we were with her. Ali was worried about the treasury guys coming, and also wanted to check on the chicks back home. My contractions had continued, but I was still comfortable enough to eat and talk. Saadet checked me again after breakfast and said that my cervix was effacing, but I would not be giving birth before the evening. We decided, then, that Ali would go home to assess the situation and then return, and I would stay with Saadet.
I felt a bit lonely after Ali left, began to knit to hide my feelings. It was a beautiful day out, though, so Saadet suggested a walk. A walk sounded nice, I thought, and it would pass the time nicely while at the same time moving things along a bit.
It was a beautiful day, perfectly clear and sunny. Saadet walked me through a park by her house that was beautifully scented by enormous pittosporum trees.
I’m not sure when I put two and two together, but Saadet had mentioned that she liked to exercise, and the term “tempo walking” had come up. In any case, it soon became evident that this walk would be neither leisurely nor short. Every time we stopped for a rest, Saadet talked about the next park we’d go to. When we set off, the contractions immediately began to occur closer together, but they didn’t stop me from walking, they just made it feel a bit like trying up walk through quicksand. By the time we were almost home about two hours later, though, I had to stop for each one, and my legs were so tired that all I could think about was taking a shower and lying down. Saadet checked me and said I was dilating a little, but we still had a way to go and sent me off to the shower. She fed me afterwards, and Ali returned from home, where he’d fed the chickens and determined that the treasury guys were not coming that day.
Ali and I slept awhile, then I got up after the contractions made me too uncomfortable. I noticed with Baki as well that I’m usually more uncomfortable lying down. I began to pace around the house. I didn’t want to sit, but my legs felt so tired, I wasn’t happy standing either. I tried kneeling on the sofa, which wasn’t so bad, but I had entered the time when there just isn’t any getting comfortable anymore. I was getting loud, too- I had to hum my way through contractions and sway. Saadet said she’d check me again at 3. When she did, I was more than 4 cm dilated, so she said we should leave for the hospital in an hour.
I’d been dreading the drive because I didn’t know how I’d sit through the contractions, but it wasn’t so bad, and once we got to the hospital, things started to move very quickly. We went straight up to my room, they asked me for phone numbers and other information, put in an IV catheter, and sent me down to the delivery room. Once there, Saadet told me I had to lie on the weird, truncated birthing chair, and she was stern about it because she knew I wouldn’t want to. I was to stay on my left side, to get his head down, she said.
By this time, the contractions were intense, and I began to make a lot of noise. Dr. Figen arrived, and stood drinking tea as they waited. I fell asleep for a little while, in a lull between contractions and heard her say that this was always the sweetest sleep to see. They kept telling me to tell them when it felt like I needed to poop.
Then they told me I had to try pushing. “Hold your breath,” they said, “lift your head, and push like you’re pooping.” it sounded like a horrible idea to me, so I was perversely pleased when I did what they said- and I pooped.
The next while was a sort of battle of wills. They kept on checking me to see if the head was out of my cervix, which was very unpleasant. And I wanted their hands out of me, I wanted to get off their stupid chair, and I wanted them to stop asking me to hold my breath and push.
I lost hope then, and thought that they may as well cut me open because i would never be able to get the baby out the way they wanted. Then Saadet looked at me and said I was sweating a lot and my lips were dry, so she thought I needed glucose serum. This was when the whole thing turned around. While they were administering the glucose, which took a while because they had to put in a new IV catheter for some reason, they stopped with their breath holding talk and Saadet just let me hang on to her through the next few contractions. And then, when the glucose kicked in, I felt the thing that I had been waiting for- the feeling that pushing was the only thing I *could* do. It felt so good, and it was so easy and so right. They got excited then, Dr.Figen, Saadet, and the nurse, and they said, yes that’s the way! I pushed and pushed and then they said, “Stop pushing! Breathe!” That turned out to feel very strange, but I knew he was crowning and I was almost there. Then I pushed again with all my might and suddenly Ali gasped by my side and I saw a pair of feet! They gave him to me right away and I couldn’t believe it. I was completely unaware of delivering the placenta as I held him. “No stitches!” Dr Figen said, and I let the pediatrician take a look at him.
Ali went with them as they took Kaya to be weighed and dressed, and they put a new gown on me and rolled me back up to the room. My friend Deniz was waiting in the hall outside the delivery room, and as she spread her arms in greeting her poncho spread and she looked like an angel. After what I’d just seen, miracles seemed to wait around every corner.