Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hospital hell, part one

Hudson, I don't even know how to describe how scary, shitty, and miserable things have been for the last twenty-four hours or so, especially knowing that things are likely to kind of, sort of, stay this way for a while. You made it through surgery with flying colors; everything went "super" (according to your surgeon) and you came back to the PICU with great stats. Then, not so much. To quote your cardiologist, your pulmonary thoracic system is "twitchy." Pretty much any stimulus can throw you into what he called a "spell," which sounds like more or less full-on cardiac distress. You've had a few more of these incidents, which your (also amazing, in addition to the others I've mentioned) nurse, Jane, assures me have gotten less awful as we've moved forward in time. Still, anything that a doctor has to be present for so that it is "less life-threatening" than it would be otherwise...good shit.

I just can't wrap my head around the idea of your life being threatened by anything. You seemed so normal and strong when you first came out. Even yesterday morning, there you were wriggling around, making little squeaky noises, death-gripping our fingers, whining when you pooted ("Dolphin farts," as your Dad playfully and accurately titled them)...totally regular new baby stuff. Today, they have you sedated so that you can't even move and accidentally startle yourself. There's a certain irony to the fact that our number one goal is not stimulating you in any way. Your Dad and I are so chill and quiet (for the most part) that we were actually kind of excited to have a kid who needs a more relaxed lifestyle. This is a fairly drastic extreme, granted, but I guess it's good to know that our virtually silent evenings will be a good match for what you can handle.

The surrealism of this situation is making it somehow easier to stomach. Not having ever had you at home, only having held you for minutes of your life, and really only seeing you for some minutes every day, are all making it nearly impossible to internalize the fact that we even HAVE a baby. I have to look at pictures of you when we're not in your room to kind of remind myself that this is real (not that massively sore boobs, healing stitches, and some still-shrinking belly flab aren't reminders enough), and even when I've got a few fingers touching some part of you that isn't covered with tubes and IVs...it's so hard to convince myself not only that you're a real person, but that you're a real part of your Dad and me. This makes me feel, frankly, awful when I register "oh yeah, right, I'm a Mom now...maybe I should be with my baby more," but it's also making it possible for me to ever sleep or leave your room. I'm capable of listening to doctors describe what is happening to your body without completely flipping out every time. I've even managed not to bawl my eyes out too many times a day (really, it's only been a few times so far), which has even me pretty impressed.

As of right now - just over five days from your birth, and roughly thirty-six hours after your surgery - you're doing a better job tolerating stimulus. They were able to suction out your throat (which was previously the worst thing throwing your whole little system into crisis, despite being completely necessary due to your breathing tube) once this afternoon without incident, and while little changes still distinctly upset you, they aren't completely messing you up. I'm tempted to take pictures of how utterly horrible you look now just so we can look at them together and you can say "holy shit, Mom," but I'm terrified that those will end up burned in my memory the way I'm trying to burn in the images of you pre-surgery, all pink and comfier. We'll see. I think I will the first day you don't look entirely like hell, but for now your Dad and I are just plopped in the cafeteria, blogging and poking around on the internet, and ducking over to watch you in little spurts. I hope the good vibes are soaking in as much as we're pouring them out.

Monday, January 30, 2012

"Surgery Morning," or, "How I Learned to Stop Panicking and Love the Donut"

Here is what your Dad and I got at the hospital cafeteria this morning after we saw you off for surgery:

  • Juice
  • More different juice
  • Two fairly enormous coffees (mine is mostly ice, don't worry)
  • We each got sausage and mediocre but delicious corned beef hash
  • Your Dad got eggs
  • I got a pile of home fries, which are the kind that are basically individually fried potato product nuggets
  • Two donuts: I think one is molasses, and the other is coconut
  • We both grabbed a handful of ketchup packets
What the hell else can you do when you know that at this very moment, your baby is in the process of being cut open, dissembled, and reassembled to be stronger and more efficient than he started out? Food has always been a major comfort factor for me (hence bringing most of the snack aisle of the grocery store to the hospital when we were getting you out, and eating Thai take-out piled into my hospital room with your grandparents the night after you were born, and enjoying the hell out of stir-fry and college-style fried tofu made by your Papa and Aunt Erin last night despite being so tired I almost fell asleep on my plate), so of course your Dad and I bought half the cafeteria before bunkering down by the windows to wait out your surgery. We only didn't get bacon because we know we'll have some at home in a few hours, assuming all goes well.

You've had three nurses so far, and while all of them have been wonderful, two have been truly exceptional. Darcy, who was with you during the day Saturday and Sunday, was clearly extremely good at her job, but wasn't especially warm and fuzzy. I can understand why she works where she does: she clearly REALLY knows what she is doing, and the unit you're spending time in requires a lot of extremely specialized knowledge, but babies are clearly part of her job, not the reason for loving her job. Cathy, who was with you Friday and will be pretty much directly on top of you today after surgery, is just awesome. She is caring for the whole family, not just you: she insisted on getting an insulated mug brought into your room so that I can stay hydrated, has been extremely communicative, and is clearly wonderful with babies. Dee, who has been with you during the nights, really has a "everyone's grandma" vibe, and kind of vaguely smells like chocolate. I find her to be amazingly comforting and warm. The first night she was with you, she made sure you had Alfred (the crochet bear your Aunt Katie made for you), Yelling Bird (the stuffed robin the hospital gave you), and the elephant blanket your Nana and Papa gave you all in your little incubator thingy. Angie, your nurse from the NICU came down to check on you the night before last, and she and Dee set you up in the little snuggle sacks you had grown to love. I can't say enough good things about a nurse who happily and enthusiastically goes out of her way, up to and including experimenting with new things, to make sure her patients are happy and comfy.

Dee truly wins the Number One Awesome Award, however, because when we got to this hospital this morning, she had a wheelchair in the room. My first thought was "oh, nice, shove the extra junk into the room with the smallest patient and least equipment," but no. Dee had ordered it brought down so that I could hold you and be wheeled up to the OR with you. Granted, the anesthesiologist who came to escort you up needed to take you on your bed, so I had to put you back down, but I GOT TO HOLD YOU! For, like...minutes! I desperately hope that you are as snuggly and excited about being held post-surgery as you were today, because the second I had you in my arms, you calmed down, passed out, and turned into a happy little pile of goo. I don't think I've seen you quite so contentedly asleep so far. You startle really easily, and need a lot of contact to be completely calm (which has so far been mimicked by strategically placed blankets), but when I had you bundled up...oh man.

Of course your Dad got a bajillion pictures. We joked the whole time we were with you this morning about his fatherhood-induced AV superpowers. You actually had your eyes open when we got to your room (a beautiful phenomenon that I've still only really seen three times, including this one), so he was taking photos like it was his job...which to some degree, it is. Damn, you're a cute little dude. Nurses who have basically nothing to do with you keep ducking in to the room to tell us how adorable you are, which is not only just awesome to hear, but is especially funny considering my paranoid worry a few weeks ago that you might be funny-looking. It's going to be really rough seeing you all puffy and...well, damaged...for the next few days, but everyone assures us that babies your age bounce back from surgery and heal REALLY fast. Growing is basically your job at this point, and if they're not only giving you IV nutrition but also little bits of colostrum as you can stomach it, I'm optimistic that you'll be back to your adorable self quickly. 

It's a tiny bit after 9:00, so we're relocating from the cafeteria up to the windowless, crappy waiting room in the SCU (Special Care Unit, which we have to pass through to get to the PICU, and which is sadly where families generally wait not for optimistic, progressive news but instead for darker updates on loved ones). I'm so excited and scared to see you. I know you'll look like hell for a few days, especially at first, and it's going to be absolutely terrifying, but we'll be over the first hump. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

It's the shit.

I hardly know where to begin, so I guess I'll start with poop. Hudson, this is going to be a common family topic of conversation, so get used to it.

I don't know if this is a superpower that some new parents just magically manifest, or if I am naturally a certain sort of desensitized to gross or icky things beyond what I thought I was, but since you've showed up, I've had no problem whatsoever with the kind of terrifying bodily stuff that has happened. Without going into too many details, I can safely say that my first shower after giving birth to you was not unlike a slasher flick; I practically had to keep alternating between giggling uncomfortably and pretending that I was being attacked by a psycho with a giant knife. Did it actually bother me? Nope. That's a thing that happens. No big deal. I know I've got a fair number of stitches in a place where I really didn't ever want to think about having stitches, but whatever. You needed that to happen, so I haven't batted an eye.

On your end, it's been a little tougher. The first time I tried to see you after you popped out, a few NICU doctors or specialists or something were hooking up your IV, and apparently having a tough time of it. I couldn't see anything but the suggestion of you in a sea of blue sterile blankets, so we had to wait and come back half an hour later. At first, you had an IV in your head, one through your belly button, a ton of small sticks where they tried to place IVs in both of your hands and feet, something in one of your heels, and you were covered - COVERED - with tiny sensors that measured your heart rate, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation. This sounds awful. It looked awful. Frankly, it WAS awful, but I didn't really care. I knew you were being kept as comfortable as possible, and everything that was being done was necessary. Your Dad has been similarly collected about all the medical junk, to a point where he has actually been there and keeping you company during a number of procedures while I was off being poked or prodded for some reason on my own. The only time I have seen cracks in his genuine cool has been around poop.

Hudson, I am positively thrilled that you have still been pooping and peeing close to as much as any baby does. Not only does that mean that you have good, oxygenated blood flow getting everywhere it needs to, but it means you're getting the nutrition and hydration you need. I've only been able to help change your diaper twice, but - while I'm sure I'll be more than sick of dealing with diapers sooner rather than later - that has actually been a huge treat. It's such a normal thing. I haven't even been able to hold you except for immediately after you were born, and then I was a little shell-shocked; I know it happened, but I can't really pull up a concrete memory of anything except kissing the top of your head and thinking "wow, he is just COVERED in gunk." I don't remember the weight of you, and there were enough other people hovering around that I didn't really need to worry about you wriggling off or away. Your Dad got to carry you back from the NICU folks who checked you over right after birth to see me, so he's at least held you a little more than me, but he is not so excited about poop. In fact, he's stood by and stoically held your hands or feet or cupped the top of your head while doctors or nurses have done all sorts of things to you, but during diaper changes? Not so much.

Why is this so damn funny to me? I know this is a legitimate aversion that he will really need to work on, but watching him grunt "Oh GOD..." and turn away from poop, but not anything else? It's weirdly comforting. What a totally normal, non-medical thing to be uncomfortable with. I know that the next few days are likely to get rougher, what with your surgery tomorrow morning and the inevitable pile of scary machines, tubes, and substantially more invasive things going on, but even these first few days have shown how much better we can both feel as lines come out, color gets better, and dire situations get calmer. Plus, you're pooping! That shouldn't stop, so you should just keep being more and more like a healthy, normal baby.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Go time.

6:35 - We head into Portland to go to Ri-Ra, the pub where your Dad and I had our rehearsal dinner before our wedding, and where I quite honestly believe you can get the best burger in the city. Wednesday is half-price burger night, which made our scheduled induction today weirdly fortuitous. For the first time ever, we manage to score a parking space directly across the street from the pub. No joke: best parking ever, and we've been here a lot in the last few years. Our waiter was super-friendly, but it was clear that this was not a magical, happy night for him; I can't imagine that nights when your average bill is somewhere around $10-$15 instead of more than double that are especially fun or awesome. Regardless of his happiness, we had awesome burgers, your Dad got a Black & White (Guinness floated over Allagash White - yum), and despite not being super hungry when we walked in the door, I polished off everything but a few fries. There were two other conspicuously pregnant women eating there, which I found strangely amusing and reassuring, especially since one of them was sort of enormous in comparison to me. We mused over whether any of the other couples had had the same brilliant idea as us, simultaneously wanting to be unique and enjoying the validation of a good plan.

7:30 - After dinner, we wander up and down Commercial street, both to kill a little time and to just move around freely for a few. Your Dad and I bullshit about game stuff. We laugh a lot.

8:00 - We arrive at the hospital, go to the security desk we were told to go to, and are immediately told to turn around and go to Admitting, which (with our five bags and full tummies) is kind of really far away. Also, I was told just to come in and go straight upstairs, so I'm confused. After ten minutes of sitting and waiting, someone comes to get me to fill out paperwork in a windowless, tiny room. Not even five questions in to the "interview," someone comes in frantically to inform us that I am wanted upstairs in Labor & Delivery, and that my intake will be completed there. You mean like I was told earlier in the day...by my doctor...who is currently wondering where I am...? Yeah. We've officially entered "Hospital Time," a crappy and miserable time that my family is all too well-acquainted with. Nothing happens when you are told it will or when it seems it should, and you never get what you expect when you expect it. We're walked upstairs to the Labor & Delivery floor, showed into a room (which, funnily enough, is the same room we saw on a tour a few weeks earlier), and left there. Waiting. We can't get the internet working, which of course drives your Dad insane, so he wanders around essentially hunting for a wireless signal.

8:40, give or take a few minutes - Dr. Linnell - Liz - one of my OB's, finally shows up. She checks me out, finds that I am 100% effaced and already four centimeters dilated, muses somewhat unfortunately that we were only scheduled this late at night because they were expecting me to come in neither dilated nor effaced. I'm given the option to just take an Ambien, go to sleep, then get everything going in the morning, but seriously? How wired are we already? There's no way your Dad or I was going to either sleep OR not start getting you out of here as quickly as possible. At this point, we're committed. This is happening. If none of this gets to be on our terms, then damn it, everyone else is following through on their commitments. I'm told that we'll start off with breast pumping, get some hormones going naturally, and see how that goes for a few hours.

9:35-ish - My nurse, Beth, who is very sweet and not at all obnoxious (score) finally comes in to introduce herself, do my intake paperwork, get a copy of the birth plan, and discuss next steps. The breast pump we came in with is missing some parts, so she has a hospital pump delivered...but then announces that she really doesn't know how to use it. Hm. Per Liz's orders, they want an IV in ASAP so they can start the antibiotics we need because I tested positive for Group B Strep, so Beth checks me over and...can't find a good vein. She recommends calling in another nurse who has tons of experience placing IV's. This somehow does not inspire confidence either. At least, at this point, I have a lovely pink bucket of ice water and we've not only managed to get the internet going, but we're happily both puttering away. Good thing, too. I open up some of the packages that came with the breast pump (which is this weird turquoise-blue motor thing on a rolly stand and a pink plastic tub packed with sealed bags of parts), and realize that I have no friggin' clue what I'd be doing if I even tried to do anything with it.

10:15 - This other nurse - the IV pro - comes in and checks me over. She can't find good veins anywhere but my hands and the crooks of my elbows, both spots that will drive me insane if I have a plastic tube poking out of them for the forseeable future. Craps. Because I have made it abundantly clear to everyone who has ears that I really suck with needles, she's prepared to put a topical goo on two spots where she will try to get an IV going. I've used this goo before: it's not awesome, and it's not particularly effective, but it should at least minimize the discomfort of the needle for the subdermal anaesthetic she'll give me before actually placing the IV. Yes. I'm getting numbed up before they numb me up for a single needle stick that most people just get without even flinching. What once again does not inspire confidence is that in twelve years of nursing, she has never used this topical goo before. I have to instruct her in how to apply it, and even then, I don't think she really does it correctly. I'm told to wait half an hour for it to work.

10:30 - Beth comes back to put on the external monitors, which are two three and a half inch wide, inch thick discs with a flat contact surface that get strapped on to my belly with a stretchy band. We joke about the obvious practicality of this design, and I am told just how lucky I am to have one of the remote sets available. Apparently the hospital used to have a set for every room (which is what we were told on the tour), but between losses, damages, and cost, they only have about three. A+ tour guide info, I guess. Beth wanders off with the promise to return (after my IV gets placed) with another nurse who just set another patient up with a breast pump so we have multiple brains in on the problem-solving adventure. Why this is any sort of adventure, I don't know. Meanwhile, your Dad discovers Ikea Hackers and becomes entranced; this surprises me somewhat because it is a website essentially devoted to cheap Swedish furniture, but it is pretty amusing, and if it will eventually get him excited for a trip to Ikea, then score. You seem to be taking great pleasure in kicking the monitors, which gives all sorts of fun, wonky readings, and I start evaluating entertainment options for while I'm pumping. Ten minute cycles make for tricky intervals during which to do much of anything.

10:55 - It's been well over half an hour, so IV nurse SHOULD be back...

11:05 - I buzz for the nurse, and am told that they will check to see if she's ready to come in. Meanwhile, I'm having a party keeping your monitors on and transmitting consistently: apparently ANY movement on my part, and sometimes on yours, means those massive plastic buggers just float around and don't transfer data. Beth comes in with a warm blanket in hopes that it will help my veins pop more and keep me from the dreaded hand IV. I begin to worry - amusedly - about going to the bathroom with the monitors and an IV hooked up.

11:11 - I discover that my recently-discovered guilty pleasure, Regretsy.com, is blocked by the hospital firewall because it contains "adult content." WTF?

11:20 - Finally, an hour later, IV nurse comes back and gets to work. It takes her about ten minutes, top to bottom, but getting the IV in really wasn't as bad as I'd feared. Honestly, I hardly felt anything, but the knowledge that there is a plastic tube in my arm still makes me feel really weird.

11:45 - My IV starts leaking. It gets fixed, but now I can kind of see where it goes in to my arm, which is seriously gross. I start thinking that I should get more used to medical, gross things. We're still waiting for this other nurse to come and help with the breast pump. I begin to wonder if I will be doing this volume of waiting for promised things once I'm in active labor, or if I'm just a low priority now because you're not terribly actively trying to get out of me. Did I mention that I've been having fairly mild, not-terribly consistent, but definitely escalating contractions since Liz did her initial exam at 8:30-ish and did some casual membrane stripping?

12:10 - I finally start breastpumping to get things going. This works. Rapidly. The contractions evolve from mildy uncomfortable cramps to profoundly noticeable aching that I absolutely can't ignore. After six cycles of pumping for ten minutes, waiting for ten minutes, and taking a break in the middle somewhere, I'm having strong enough contractions that I am no longer comfortable. At all. Your Dad is a total champ about keeping me as distracted and entertained as possible, up to and including making a number of requisite jokes about how much breastpumping makes me look like a cow being milked.

3:00-ish - Breastpumping is officially complete, contractions are coming regularly, and you are flipping around like crazy. I'm miserable and exhausted, but still keeping things more or less together. Beth offers me an Ambien, which is supposed to not only help me sleep but help me sleep through the increasingly shitty contractions. A bit before 4:00, when I'm still not only awake but distinctly not able to ignore the pain, I'm given a second Ambien.

4:00 to 7:25 - Your Dad sort of, kind of dozes off (albeit poorly), but I can't. I almost doze off between contractions, but the second one hits it's all I can do to focus on breathing through it, so I don't sleep for longer than a scattered dozen minutes. The labor and delivery room we were given faces out directly over the main entrance, parking garage, lobby, and two other major wings of the hospital, so it isn't exactly a dim or romantic view. We keep the shades drawn, but I'm vividly aware all night of being in a hospital.

7:25 - Liz pops in rather suddenly with some other OB/GYN resident whose name I don't catch, and despite my only barely being conscious, she checks and discovers that I am a whopping five centimeters dilated...then with no warning, breaks my water and casually notes that this is likely to lead to more contractions. It does. We call Kristina, our doula, and she shows up pretty quickly. The contractions are getting utterly miserable, to a point where literally all I can do is force myself to breathe and try not to clench up my entire body.

Until about 9:30 - These two hours are a haze of pain, but pain that I am powerfully rationalizing as necessary and normal. I didn't want to ask for drugs of any kind, both because I was convinced it would get worse before I really NEEDED pain relief and because I felt somehow ashamed that I would be caving in despite wanting to get through the whole process without medical interventions. (So far, nothing but the timing has been entirely unnatural, and taking two Ambien seems like a far cry from compromising my values. Hell, I've been taking Tylenol PM pretty much every night for months; Ambien is nothing.) I get into the Jacuzzi tub, discover that the jets are making me oddly nauseous, and sit through something like an hour of contractions in warm water with your Dad and Kristina quietly cheering me on. Somehow I manage not to clench my teeth, my fists, or any other clenchable part of me; even though the pain is pretty unspeakable. I'm exhausted. I'm having a hard time focusing on anything anyone is saying to me, can barely keep my eyes open, and yet the pain is so bad that I can't bring myself to do anything but sit through each contraction as it comes. Eventually I have the wherewithal to drag myself out of the tub and beg to crawl into bed, where I finally accept that I just need some pain relief. Someone calls for the doctors who come to check my dilation before they approve me getting any IV drugs...and I am not only fully dilated, but have started having contractions that lead to some very hefty inadvertent pushing. Everyone scrambles to contact the myriad people who are needed for when you show up, none of whom were really ready because they expected hours more labor before you arrived.

10:00, almost on the dot - Out you come. Somehow, that near half hour of pushing went incredibly quickly, and after hours of contractions that felt utterly fruitless, it was actually a huge relief. I didn't realize - at all - that I had any tearing as you came out, and was honestly so caught up in the focus of just pushing that I had to be told to look down as you were plopped onto my chest. You were pink, noisy, huge, and gorgeous; eight pounds, three ounces, and twenty inches long.

10:05 - Your Dad tells me they are taking you up to the NICU, and I tell him to go with you. Kristina stays with me for a few minutes while the doctors stitch me up (which oddly hurts more than giving birth to you did), and I fall asleep. Granted, it's a shallow sleep, and I'm interrupted often by doctors, nurses, and your Dad checking on me or making progress reports, but it's any sleep at all, bringing my grand total for the last thirty hours up to roughly two hours of actual unconsciousness. Your Dad's parents descend upon us with your Uncle Pookie, and after we entertain them for a while and I eat some solid food, I finally get to go see you.

Batman - Hudson - you are just so incredible. I don't even have words for how utterly, completely, stunningly amazing you are. By the time I got to you, you were already covered with monitors, wires, tubes, and nurses, but as soon as I get one of my fingers near your hand, you grab on fiercely and won't let go. It breaks my heart that you're so completely covered with medical...stuff...that I can't hold you. I got a minute, maybe two, of full contact with you immediately after you were born, and now all we can do is rub your cheeks, hold your hands, and gently touch any other part of you that isn't covered in some vital tool. Even still, I can barely grasp the reality of the situation. Your Dad and I stood there and talked about your name for probably close to half an hour, just not knowing what to do with ourselves. Your name has basically been picked out for you for close to eight months already, but meeting you in person and calling you by name was just...wow. Here you are.

After spending a while in your room, your Dad and I were both so burned out and exhausted that we dragged ourselves back to my room in the "Mother & Baby" ward. The view of Portland is stunning, but I am conspicuously aware of the fact that you are somewhere else in the building, not with us. I know you're being watched like a hawk by outrageously qualified medical professionals, and I know that both of us really, desperately need to rest, but being away from you is more than a little rough. We're taking a dinner and internet break, then heading back down to see you ASAP. Just...wow.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Good morning to us...

I woke up this morning and wondered if I should try to go back to sleep. I'm not actually scared or nervous, much like the morning of your Dad and my wedding. I'm eerily calm and at peace with the reality of the fact that we will almost definitely be parents before I really sleep again. Your Dad was still sleepy, so I went out to the living room, watched a few episodes of "How I Met Your Mother" (which is really cute), ate a Minneola tangelo (which was good, but not as good as the one I had last week), and didn't let myself think of much of anything else. You've been wriggling around a bunch - more than you usually do in the mornings, but I'm somehow not surprised. I'm pretty sure you're officially out of space.

At our last ultrasound yesterday afternoon, the sonographer estimated your weight at eight pounds, three ounces. Uhm...holy shit? I know these types of measurements really aren't necessarily THAT accurate, but dag, yo. Both your Uncle David and I were eight pounds, five (or six - my Mom has told me both numbers) ounces, so there's precedent, but your Dad was only six pounds and six ounces, or something close to that. Granted, he was a bit premature, but still...even at full term, he probably wouldn't have been THIS big. I'm jazzed, really: the more weight you have on you now, the better shape you're in for all the scary shit you'll need to go through (including not actually eating except for by IV for days), but getting over eight pounds of you out of me is going to be a trip.

See, there's the abstraction again. How the hell am I supposed to process the fact that you're going to be out in the world - an actual independently-functioning human being - hopefully in under twenty four hours from now? I mean, at the moment, I'm worrying about things like getting spare keys to our apartment made up, needing to do all our dishes before we leave this evening, and the fact that our cats are likely to be really lonely for the next few days. Tomorrow - even later tonight - priorities are going to majorly change. This morning, the big decisions were whether or not to add chocolate or butterscotch chips to our pancakes, and how many strips of bacon to cook up. (We added both kinds of chips, and each had four pieces of bacon. Hells yeah.) Tomorrow, who even knows?

We coasted through the day with what momentum we have. We spent the afternoon running errands, installing car seats (which was surprisingly easy, given the humorously absurd fuss and hassle it is presented to be in every TV show or movie ever), tidying up the apartment so it's ready for people other than us to be there taking care of the cats and such, and doing our typical anal-retentive over-planning and over-packing. Seriously: I made a five page birth plan, a list of all relevant and necessary phone numbers and contacts people might need, a letter detailing all the things people visiting the apartment can do if they are so inclined (nothing like inviting people to clean and cook for you and knowing they won't resent being asked). These were all Google documents that we printed out and left where they needed to be or brought with us. We showed up at the hospital with five bags, including WAY too much food, enough changes of clothes for both of us to stay here for days (which we know we're liable to do), and enough media and technology to keep us more than occupied and distracted. We heated up leftover Chinese food (Happy Garden!) for lunch, watched an episode of "Bones," and I did a spot-check after your Dad trimmed his hair and beard.

Things seem utterly mundane now, up to and including leaving a note on the kitchen table for whoever checks on the cats next, except there's also a baby seat sitting and waiting, a bag with some clothes for you (for whenever you eventually need them), and we're really only going about ten minutes away. Batman, this is all so weird.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Just over 24 hours to go.

Birth is supposed to be this beautiful, random event that happens how, when, and sometimes even where nature intends it to. The supporting cast should be a deliberately chosen ensemble of loved and trusted people whose presence makes the introduction of a new life to the world all the richer. The mother should let her body take control, and should both trust her instincts and release herself to an experience that countless others have surrendered to successfully over eons past. In other words, there shouldn't be nine extra strangers in the room, and no one should set a timer for when all this shit is supposed to go down.

I'm not going to sugar-coat, and I certainly won't ascribe blame (although I'm feeling especially shitty towards a lot of completely innocent doctors), but this whole situation is making me feel really robbed of a lot of what makes childbirth what it is. My soft-focus ideal of a birth is definitely not the mainstream, much like my dream wedding was really nothing like the standard that little girls grow up expecting, but it sure as hell was never anything like this. Last night I slept pretty horribly (and not just because you kept kicking my ribs, which was admittedly cool), and I woke up feeling hazy and depressed. I should be nesting, basking, and glowing in maternal joy, damn it! I shouldn't be panicking about the IV I know I'll need to get, the escalating interventions that seem inevitable because your birth is being forced before you're ready to make it happen on your own, and the pain that I know will be worse and harder to manage because of the dual factors of unwanted chemicals and my own stubbornness. We're both being robbed of the chance to let nature do it's thing, and I'm frankly really pissed off.

Sure, I'm upset at all the people around me who have overshared their opinions about how this experience should be (whether that be telling me how sad it is that things have to go this way, jumping to the conclusion that I'll end up with a C-section just because this is a planned birth, or openly lamenting the interventions that I literally have no control over), and sure I'm devastated that you are going to be born right into some crappy episode of a medical drama, but damn it...there's no surprise. I will need an IV for antibiotics, will almost definitely received synthetic hormones to accelerate or start labor, and having that IV present means I will almost definitely end up with some kind of pain medication (both because pitocin just makes for shittier contractions, and because if there is a needle already there, there is no excuse of trying to avoid another needle to stop me from getting some pain relief that I might otherwise justify avoiding). You will be born either Thursday, January 26th or Friday, January 27th (which would mean well over 24 hours in labor, so let's aim for NOT that). You will be taken by neonatal and cardiac specialists for a slew of tests pretty much immediately after you pop out. Your Dad will leave me in the delivery room to go off with you, which is why we have a doula so I'm not left alone. I may get as much as a few minutes of contact with you immediately after you are born, but only if you are conspicuously in really good shape right off the bat.

For someone who generally hates surprises and loves anal-retentive plans, I'm having a really damn hard time with this. I'm losing days, if not weeks of having you safely wriggling around inside me. It's really hard to remove myself from the fact that medical science is ultimately depriving me of a good chunk of time when my body can keep you safe, growing, and (I can only assume from all the swirling around) happy. You may never be safer than you are right now; I will never be able to protect you so completely. I spent most of the day feeling sort of numb, not because I'm scared (which I am, but so abstractly that it really doesn't count) but because I can't bring myself to accept that your birth is going down this way.

What do we do to cope? Your Dad is taking tomorrow off so we can just take things slow, tie up loose ends, print out what plans we hope we can have any control over once we get to the hospital, and enjoy some last quiet moments together. Control freaks don't let go easily, and this is just about all we can do. What have we retained? Well, we've kept your name (which will only legally be Batman if our pretty much set in stone name just isn't right - but I'm almost positive it will be, so hopefully that much is moot) a secret from just about everyone. That's our one last bastion of personal retention. I'm kind of ticked off that your Dad's parents actually guessed the name (his mother thinks she came up with it, but she totally didn't), but they don't know that. We did a good job covering up and saying "hmm, yeah, we thought about that..." when she mentioned it initially, but I know there will be some smugness when we announce it.

I'll tell you where the name REALLY came from soon. For now, I'm going to let myself be reassured by the really nice conversation/planning session I just had with our doula, and we're getting Chinese food for dinner. There is just about nothing as comforting as take-out from a long-time favorite local dive. It's really damn weird knowing pretty much exactly when you'll be showing up, but at least it's letting us plan out meals and activities so we strategically spend our last baby-free moments doing things we love.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Privacy, or some attempt at it.

So, Batman, this post is only kind of, sort of, for you. I ranted a few weeks ago about my worries regarding maintaining a degree of privacy that your Dad and I are comfortable with during my labor, your birth, and your care immediately afterwards. To put things gently, those fears have only grown as the big day approaches. Everyone - and I mean everyone from our parents to some lady who started talking to me out of the blue at a coffee shop - wants all the gritty details about everything from how the induction process will go to how I'll handle post-partum bleeding. I'm running out of nice ways to tell people that I don't want to discuss it, but I'm trying my damndest not to get bitchy when my patience runs out. It's getting really hard.

I feel like it goes without saying at this point that I am pretty pissed off that the whole process of having you has gone from being something natural and controlled exclusively by your and my body's needs to an utterly medicalized experience that is only vaguely, tangentially, and abstractly within my control. There have been rants aplenty about that, so I won't say more. What I really can't handle, and this is a somewhat new revelation, is needing to share every excruciating detail of this process. Even the parts that are completely natural and normal are so fettered with medical interference that I just don't want to talk about them to any audience beyond your Dad and a few choice friends who I am just naturally comfortable discussing unpleasant bodily stuff with. I don't give two shits if our modern culture has evolved to a point where any details related to childbirth are just expected to be broadcast to the world: that's not me.

Your poor Dad has, as he puts it, "learned more about coworkers vaginas in the past six months than any guy ever needs to hear." Some people LOVE disclosing this stuff, regardless of gender lines or standards. I know how many stitches one of my coworkers needed after giving birth (twelve: eight internal, four external), how long a friend of a friend had to wait between asking for her epidural and finally getting it (an hour and fifteen minutes, and she just barely got it in time before she dilated too far for it to be considered safe), the horrors of post-partum bleeding experienced by a coworker's daughter (she needed three blood transfusions and they kept her on an IV for hydration for four days), and just how dreadful another coworker's wife's second C-section was (I won't even dignify that information by typing it out). Why do I know these things? Seriously!!!!!

All that being said, I'm choosing to take some posts underground from here on out. Not just considering the medical nitty-grittys, there are some things that I know will happen, or that I will want to talk about, or that I will for some reason determine that you (my son, who will inevitably find plenty of this stuff either gross or just way too informative anyhow) should be the sole audience for. For non-Batman readers, let this be my polite way of saying "I don't want to talk about everything," rather than exploding outward in a tirade about the need for me to retain control and boundaries during a time that our culture inexplicably deems to be boundary-free. I do really appreciate the openness that others have offered to me, and don't necessarily plan to withhold all personal information about this process, especially not from everyone, but I'm a damn private person for all my public writing, and that's how things will need to go from here. My vagina is not a public access television show.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Nosy Nellie might as well be telling dead baby jokes.

I know I've complained about this before, Batman, but I've really hit my boiling point on this one. What is it about having a baby – specifically a baby with known health problems – that encourages even the most sensitive, sensible, and otherwise considerate people to tell you awful stories that end with someone's baby dying? Is there something about my acceptance of our situation that suggests “sure, she can handle that story some lady I talked to the other day told me about her two (or maybe three, or maybe more) babies that all died within days of their birth: maybe this will even be informative to her!” I know I've been pretty damn stoic throughout this whole process, but that doesn't mean I want to hear every tragic story you've got kicking around in your memory bank. 

Sometimes worse than those woeful stories are the expressions of complete disgust or horror at what I am about to go through. Yes, the idea of a whole human being getting thrust through a relatively narrow channel of muscle and tissue that typically serves an entirely different function does sound pretty unpleasant. I'm not expecting labor to be a fun experience, nor do I anticipate it being in any way, shape, or form easy (physically, emotionally, or in terms of recovery), but I do know that women have been doing this for millenia - almost all of them with zero interventions or medical support beyond a few other ladies telling her she can do it. This can and should be done, but somehow everyone either knows (or is) someone who had a truly disgusting experience during childbirth, or (even more exciting) they have such egregiously WRONG conceptions about what childbirth is that they ignorantly explode vitriol at me. A few people have been especially dreadful about this, and I fear that there has been some splatter; other folks than just your Dad and I have been on the receiving ends of these unintentionally malicious tales, and there is nothing I can do to change that but hope that I find this all hysterical in hindsight. 

One particularly dreadful Nosy Nellie who can't keep her damn mouth shut is one of my coworkers. She is one of my so-called teammates, and from the moment I announced I was pregnant, she more or less turned off any degree of courtesy I'd previously been offered. Rather than just being kind of bitchy and impersonal (as usual), she ceased making direct eye contact, glared awkwardly off into space with a look like a deer caught in headlights any time I started talking about anything pregnancy- or baby-related, and only ever interjected either horror stories or massively inappropriate questions when she engaged in conversation at all. At some point in the last few weeks I was at work, I was treated to a vaguely panicked series of questions that went something like this:

Nellie: "So, I don't know if you've thought about this, but what would happen if you went into labor at school? 'Cause I seriously couldn't handle that. At all."
Me: "Well, I'd send one student down to the nurse, and one student to Ms. G's room (my carpool/sanity buddy) to tell her we were leaving early, but it's not like on TV: labor usually starts pretty gradually and peacefully, so you really don't need to worry about any crazy, messy drama."
Nellie: "...but it could happen. I would completely freak out if, like, your water broke in class. Oh, that would be SO GROSS. What would you DO? I would have to, like, leave the building if I even knew that was happening. I don't know if I could EVER go into your classroom again."
Me: (after a long pause) "Uhm...let's just hope it doesn't happen? Remember, I'm leaving school something like two weeks before the end of most normal pregnancies, so I think we're safe."
Nellie: "Thank GOD. I'm not joking: I will probably throw up if anything starts...ugh...HAPPENING while I'm in the building. I don't know why pregnant women aren't just put in the hospital once they hit nine months."

Okay, Nellie, let's analyze. First, you are a horrible bitch for preemptively blaming me and my baby for your discomfort with something that is not only completely natural, but extremely unlikely to happen in your proximity. Second, you are clearly massively uninformed about childbirth in ways that are definitely going to bite you in the ass should you ever decide to have a child of your own. You should watch less TV, and possibly listen when someone reasonably informed (say, for example, me) shares clinically-proven information about how babies actually show up in the world; that might allow you to be less terrified that a pregnant woman is just going to explode a baby onto your shoes. Third, the idea of cramming pregnant women into hospitals just to keep the general public safe from their potential expulsion of bodily fluids is...I don't even have words. I'd say it was a barbaric perspective, but any barbarians I've studied were totally cool with childbirth, often even celebrating the process with massive bonfires, feasts, ceremonial ingestion of the placenta, and reverence of the birthing mother during and after labor beyond any acknowledgment than women typically received otherwise. Perhaps your ignorant perspective is proto-Victorian? Just Fucking Stupid? I'm out of ideas. This woman is part of why I was very happy to leave school a few days earlier than planned. 

That same Nosy Nellie also thought it appropriate to tell me not one, not two, but three unique stories about women she'd heard of who had hideously awful labors and had their children die shortly thereafter. Not only is it just awful to tell this sort of thing to an expecting parent, but seriously? You think I REALLY need to hear some story about some family who some other person you know heard tell of through six degrees of separation? No. No I do not. After the first story, I started listening for clue as to whether anything this Nellie said was going to end well, and after a few sentences, I started just saying "If this is one of those stories where the baby dies in the end, I really don't want to hear it." Her mature and thoughtful response? "This just reminded me of your situation, so I figured you'd want to hear it." This just reminded you of what...the inevitable kiss of death visited upon every human being when their ticket comes up? Oh, wait, we're back to the TV/movie misconceptions: every laboring mother and new baby statistically is that much more likely to die for the sake of drama. Silly me for forgetting. 

Another Nellie who caught me completely off-guard is someone very close us. I won't point out who she is because I would hate for you to look at this woman and think "what the fuck was going through HER crazy head?" when really I wish for you to have nothing but affection for her, but that question has been plaguing me for a few days now. Entirely out of the blue, this Nosy Nellie started sharing every story that had been shared with her about women whose children have died. In the course of a single conversation, she referenced nine different dead babies. NINE. Seriously? 

Okay, I get it: a lot of women lose babies. This is, unfortunately, a completely normal thing, and weird medical conditions don't necessarily play into it at all. America totally sucks balls when it comes to maternal and fetal care, and that's not even taking into account the fact that creating a new human being is just a dicey endeavor. I personally know two women who have had miscarriages in the last year and a half, and have unending respect for their strength and determination to carry on. (Both are currently pregnant with healthy babies: YAY!) I would run out of fingers if I counted the number of women I know who had miscarriages on a longer timeline, but you know what? You don't get horror stories about miscarriages when you're nine and half months pregnant. You get the dead baby stories, and apparently the general public seems to think that having a baby with a known medical condition just increases the likelihood that you want or need to hear them. This particular Nellie decided to slip in her retellings of the stories told to her casually...just more helpful hints shared with her by friends...just like recommendations for ointments or brands of wipes...and I can't help but be shaken by them. 

I have great confidence in the fact that you are going to be fine in the long run, Batman. Not only do you have incredible doctors literally waiting at our beck and call to do anything and everything they can to make sure you get what you need, but your first few weeks of life will be spent under the watchful eyes of some of the most highly-trained, highly-qualified nurses in the region. There's also the flood of positive intention being directed at you by a massive network of family, friends, coworkers, and even vague social acquaintances, and the soon-to-be-glorious smothering of affection and attention from me and your Dad. So are these dead baby stories really bothering me all that much? No. What really upsets me is the fact that people are inconsiderate and, frankly, dumb enough to think that telling them to us is any sort of appropriate. These Nosy Nellies (and all the other Nellies who share such crap with them) should be ashamed of themselves. Aside from giving them a story that doesn't end in tragedy, I'm hoping I have the guts in a few months to chastise them for being such shallow ass-hats.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The last truly solo Thursday and Friday

Yesterday morning, I woke up around 6:15. (Okay, that's a lie, I woke up at least twice to go to the bathroom, but that's status quo.) Your Dad's alarm was going off, and in typical form, he hit the snooze button three times before grunting at the clock and sliding out of bed. I dozed around for a while, then realized after he'd left for work that I wasn't just going to fall back to sleep on my own, so I read a few chapters of The Hobbit and passed out again until 10:00. Beautiful. I got up, made some breakfast (pancakes and bacon: oh yes), puttered around online, and realized all too soon that I needed to get myself motivated to leave the house for a baby shower at your Dad's school. After that (which was a little weird, but very sweet), we hit the grocery store, made some lasagna, watched some TV, and went to sleep.

Today hasn't been much more eventful, though I have been debatably more productive! I had leftover Indian food for breakfast, made some calls about getting new tires on my car, and have organized myself so that I can run out and do some necessary shopping this afternoon. Not the greatest excitement ever, but I feel more than okay about how I've spent my time. We did a little reorganizing in your room last night that I'm going to continue this afternoon, most notably making room for the craptons of extra linens that currently reside in a pile on your floor. My challenge now is getting everything set up in a way that is aesthetically appealing to your Dad and I (who are both fussy about such things) and using the small space we have effectively.

Yesterday and today have proved to me a standing theory that I've only kind of, sort of been able to quantify evidence of in the past. If I have no reason to be relaxing, I am a slug. Those sick days when I'm really not sick, just sick of going to work? I sit on my ass and aggressively do nothing I need to do, typically making a bigger mess of craft supplies or pile of dishes than I might even make normally. Show me a sick day or vacation day when I'm either legitimately sick or have a real reason to take it easy? Just try and stop me. Yesterday I had to force myself to not do anything (because everyone I know, their mothers, their cousins, their coworkers, and those ladies they know from church have all told me to relax while I still can), but today I'm getting shit DONE.

Here's hoping this is a trend. Everyone has been telling me (and this I do believe, unlike many other new parent warnings) that once you're here, I will have zero control over my time. Every minute will be allocated to whatever YOU determine it needs to be, and everything from eating to sleeping to pooping to bathing (mine and yours) will depend on your needs. This I know to be true. I'm also predicting, and this remains to be proven, that having the restrictions of your wants and needs will likely escalate my ability to be productive in and among high-maintenance moments. Kiddo just fell asleep solidly for the first time in nine(teen) hours? I have a scary suspicion that I won't pass out on the couch within arm's reach; I'll probably do something stupid like try to teach myself to cross-stitch, or make blue corn tortillas, or work on a quilt. This may turn into debilitating masochism, but we'll see.

Today, I actually went to thirteen (count them: THIRTEEN) different stores looking for a wooden back massager that your Dad can use while I'm in labor after his thumb joints start to give out. This has been a weirdly impossible thing to find - clearly - because apparently people only want to purchases massage accoutrements before the holidays are over. This is, I believe, utter bullcrap, but it did allow me to feel massively productive when I otherwise would have been sitting around doing nothing. Arguably, the latter is what I probably should be doing, but I could also make a compelling case for the fact that moving around a lot furthers our efforts to get you out without too much intervention being needed. Still, I also bought some crucial organizational stuff, not-so-exciting but very necessary breastfeeding supplies, and a second pair of pajama pants for me (since I don't expect to wear real person pants for a while after you come out). I know how to live it up, right?

Your Dad and I have been quietly enjoying our evenings, which I think is exactly what we should do. We're not frantically rushing out to do exciting things (because seriously, what the hell do we normally enjoy doing that we can't do quietly at home with little to no extra disposable income on hand?), and we're not treating this like some sort of "last hurrah" that needs to be celebrated. I'm even physically feeling good enough that we could go out and...hurrah...if we were so inclined, but why bother? We're perfectly happy eating homemade food, lounging around, watching whatever TV we feel like, talking a lot, and not worrying about going to sleep early. I may be in hyper-productive mode during the days, but even that is really just a few hours of activity in a given day. This weekend, I think I have something like a cumulative six hours of any kind of activity planned (including hanging around the house with friends and probably some cleaning and organizing), then Monday - gasp! - I'm getting new tires put on the car, but that's pretty much all I'm committing to. I'm sure I'll find some ways to fill that time, but I'm okay playing things by ear. Who knows, Batman, maybe we can buck the system and you'll show up before I have to start teaching myself new hobbies!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Clear sailing, for the moment...

Finally, some entertainment! (I hate that I've gotten so jaded, bitter, and frankly sadistic just six months into what will become a lifestyle peppered liberally with medical appointments, but I guess we'll call my amusement a silver lining.) I walked into Dr. Fuckhead's waiting room this afternoon to find a relatively packed house, among them a few choice and exciting characters. Perhaps most visible was a massively pregnant, furious-looking African woman who was breathing heavily enough to suggest an asthma attack (but reeked of Dr. Fuckhead's office's favorite aromatic: cigarette smoke). Her male...er...partner? ...son? ...husband? ...friend? (I couldn't tell: he looked to be at least ten years younger than her, and she was definitely not much older than me, so I didn't want to jump to any conclusions)...whatever he was, he was slumped so far down in his chair that no part of the lower half of his body was even close to the seat. I think he was asleep, but I couldn't tell until she was called. He exhaled with clear annoyance, muttered something that included the word "fuck," and glared at her while she more or less failed to get herself vertical without an unseemly struggle.

Also quite exciting were the two dudes I ended up sitting closest to: both were shaggy, ill-kempt, stank of cigarettes, and were glued to their cell phones. One appeared to be texting, but the other was playing some kind of game that apparently rewards or punishes the player with either canned applause or a fake studio audience boo. I couldn't help but notice that their behaviors seemed to line up suspiciously with the noises from the second dude's phone.

Guy #1 picks his nose really, really obviously: boo.
Guy #2 clearly gets a text that makes him happy, and he smiles broadly: applause!
Guy #2 then drops his cell phone and swears loudly in front of the half dozen children under the age of six who are quietly watching a PBS science show: boo.
Guy #1 scratches his crotch: applause!
Guy #2 notices that his knock-off Timberland boots are untied: applause!
Guy #1 goes back for another dig at some boogers he missed the first time: applause?

This continued until Guy #1 wandered up to the desk and asked to be let in to the exam room with his girlfriend, and Guy #2 just left altogether without any woman rejoining him. I was left with five women sitting quietly by themselves, one dude peacefully doing a crossword puzzle, a mother with two delightfully polite, happy-looking kids, and a gaggle of women clustered around an obvious mother-to-be who was just reveling and glowing in the onslaught of attention they were delivering her.

Batman, this was by far the most populated AND pleasant the Carnival has ever been. The most unhappy or unpleasant person left was a woman who just looked sort of uncomfortable, but all the kids were getting focused, loving attention from their parents, all the other women seemed calmly resigned to their wait, and any men left over seemed perfectly content to amuse themselves for as long as they needed to. All the folks who brought truly offensive odors to the room cleared out fairly quickly, and no one even had a phone visible. It was almost like a normal waiting room!

Of course, this reeked of foreboding. I've developed a lot of weird superstitions about this office, several of which are frankly embarrassing. In order to NOT have something show up on an ultrasound that either indicates a new problem or raises a warning flag, all of the following conditions must be met. I must be wearing my Ganesh necklace. Your Dad can't be there (seriously: every time he was, we got some kind of bad news). I have to arrive at least five minutes early. I have to grow at least mildly annoyed with the wait. I have to park on the side of the lot closest to the exit.

This appointment, aside from being the second to last one before your intended arrival, was kind of a huge deal. Last week, I was told that my amniotic fluid levels were an eight out of twenty, which is two points away from a score that would require them to pop me into the hospital immediately to get you out as quickly as possible. What I was left wondering was a) what the hell can I do about this? (drink more and rest a lot), b) has this been progressing at a rate that someone should have warned me about sooner? and c) what the fuck? How many more things can go wrong? I pulled into the lot reasonably early, Ganesh necklace on, Dad at home, already somewhat irritated by the crappy traffic in town, and there were no spots where I normally park. I've even gotten to a point where I wear the same pants for every ultrasound day (not just because they give the easiest access to my belly), and I was totally wearing the right pants! After a panicked moment (because the only spot I could see was on the other side of the lot, where I had to park the day we found out there was something wrong with your heart), I saw a spot on the correct side of the lot, just in a different aisle from normal. We were okay. I've parked there before. The off feeling remained, though.

After a hefty-ish wait, I was called back by this one particular ultrasound tech whose almost unintelligible Eastern European accent is simultaneously comforting and disconcerting. I can never quite make out what she's saying the first time she says it, but hearing excruciatingly detailed information in her accent (once I get it the second time around) somehow sounds more credible than if it was coming from anyone else. She looks you over, and pronounces that there is basically no way that my amniotic fluid levels could have dropped as low as they did without me having some kind of virus or major illness, which clearly I would have known about, so her theory was that you were just stretched out in such a way as to "hide" pockets of fluid from easy view. All that chugging water, all those inconvenient bathroom trips, and all that panic for nothing. We're both given clean bills of heath and sent on our way.

Batman, of course I'm thrilled that everything is fine and that they didn't have to frantically induce me a week and a half before we'd planned. I don't think I can accurately express in words how excited I was to drive my car home tonight, walk upstairs, throw my stuff down by the door, and kiss your Dad hello. Just like normal. I know normal is going to completely change soon, and I'm prepared for that, but I was definitely not ready to lose it quite yet, especially not on anything resembling our terms. A semi-bonus of this whole experience, though, was learning just how tired and worn-down I really am. Even one day back to school - even a fairly quiet day - completely wiped me out. Conversely, the five days we spent lying around thinking that bed rest was basically the safest mode to operate in were just amazing. Lesson learned: I'm throwing in the towel a few days early, and not going back to school for the last two days of this week. It's time to pay attention to you, Batman, not sixty other peoples' kids.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Potty mouth...or just appropriately verbally expressive?

I made a big mistake a few weeks back, Batman. I let on to one of my classes (granted, my favorite class, not that teachers are supposed to have favorites...but we do) that at one point in my past, I said the f-word during a class. It was an accident, and it was with eleventh graders, so they were about as fazed by it as they would have been by me stopping to scratch my nose mid-sentence. To eighth graders, however, this is an admission akin to "I once skinned a baby bunny in the middle of a room of kindergarteners." I was immediately asked if I might ever swear in front of their class; I assured them that if I ever did, it would not be on purpose, and that as a teacher I always do my best to restrain myself. Granted, they also know that I am not an angry - or easily angered - person, so it's not like I'm constantly at the brink of flying off the handle. This has not stopped them from requesting - regularly - that I swear in front of them for some special occasion, or on the last day of school, or right before the holidays, or as a reward for good behavior. Really, guys? Hearing me say "fuck!" is all the incentive you need to behave, do your work, try your hardest on a test or quiz...? I just don't get the fascination.

This has gotten me thinking. During the holidays, we were at a party that was reasonably heavily populated by parents of children under the age of three, many of whose offspring were present. Your Dad, bless his heart, did very little to restrain his current level of *ahem* verbal expression. I naturally go on alert when I'm around kids, and save for one shameful time when I loudly said "son of a BITCH!" in front of some friends' seven-year-old, I'm usually quite good about keeping my language rated PG. Naturally, with a handful of toddlers roving around, I started to get a little twitchy anytime your Dad peppered an enthusiastic statement with a less-than-kid-friendly word, but I'm left wondering...when does it really start to matter?

I learned recently that MY Dad's first word was "fuck." Aside from giving me a whole new level of respect for both him and his parents (who are all pretty damn awesome people to begin with), I realized that this was charming and hysterical to me, not repellant and shameful. I mean, clearly I'm okay with using profanity: look at half my post titles...and almost everything I say when excited, annoyed, hungry, happy...er...yeah. I'm one of those people who finds it absolutely hysterical to hear a small child say something typically considered inappropriate, not one who finds it abhorrent and a dreadful reflection upon the parents. Will I care about swearing in front of you? My knee-jerk reaction is "fuck no, especially considering the crazy shit we'll be going through in the beginning," but my soon-to-be-suburban-Mommy instinct wonders "goodness gracious, perhaps I should learn to recalibrate my linguistic selections?"

I'm honestly thinking that you will hear pretty much the same language your Dad and I use now until we realize that you specifically understand what we're saying, and even then it won't necessarily stop, we'll just be sure to demonstrate appropriate use and context...then have real conversations about why certain words are okay (or not) at certain times. I figure this will be much like nudity. Between baths, changing clothes (yours and ours), and just living in the same space, I fully expect that we'll end up naked in front of one another a fair amount. Obviously, that will get cut off between you and me by a reasonable age, but I fully expect that we will need to - at some point - discuss the appropriateness of being nude at certain times, but not others, and of only being naked in front of or around certain people. Likewise, while it is okay to say "crap!" when you drop something at home, we'll do our best to make sure you know it's not okay to say at school...or in the grocery store...or to your Dad's Nanny (but my Bubbe, on the other hand, would probably find it precious, so that's cool)...or what have you.

Weeks later - possibly even months now - that group of students are hounding me every chance they get about dropping an "f-bomb" in front of them, so much so that I've started saying "oh, ffffffffive more days until the weekend..." or "it's really fffffffffffreezing cold outside today!" just to mess with them. I know that if some stodgy parent or annoyingly crusty teacher caught wind of this, I could end up in some degree of hot water, but I think it's only fair for kids to have truly realistic fulfillment of their demands and desires. What? It's not like I'm saying anything even vaguely inappropriate, and besides; they're totally asking for it. Little fuckers.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Why I will never put a ribbon on my car

I feel like it's ironic that I start off this blog entry somewhat upset over someone else's blog. I really don't know why (I should REALLY have learned my lesson about the internet by now, shouldn't I?), but after your Dad and I got home from yet another tour of yet another wing of the hospital where you'll be born, I stupidly started poking around online for pictures of kids after they've had the same surgery you'll have. I found a picture on the personal blog of some dude in his mid-forties who was born with the same condition as yours, and while it's sure nice to hear that he's doing well, this poor man's entire existence seems to have been reduced to the fact that he has a congenital heart defect. Seriously? The last thing I needed to read after this afternoon was some kumbaya-singing inspirational rambling about "overcoming adversity" and "taking every day as a blessing." For no good or fair reason, this guy was born with something wrong with him, and he has clearly spent way too much time focusing on that fact; is that really enough to make a person?

This afternoon, we got to see the NICU again (which really is a beautiful facility) but also the PICU (perinatal ICU) which was...well, crappy. All things considered, it's a collection of glass shoeboxes with harsh fluorescent lights, an open door to the massive monitoring station in the center of the room, and to make matters that much worse (or weirder, or something) it's apparently used as overflow for the cardiac ICU. There were only two children in a ward of twelve or so tiny "rooms," only one kid small enough to be in a crib, and about eight or so adults, most of them in extremely rough shape. There are no chairs, no visiting space, and no privacy. They don't allow sleep-ins when there is any equipment in the room, so your Dad or I won't be able to stay with you for a few nights after your first surgery (which, as far as I'm concerned, is a load of horseshit, but not negotiable due to physical space restrictions), but as soon as you're off a respirator, they can wedge a cot in there. How charming. A cot. This is where you'll spend an estimated week after surgery before being moved to a regular room in the children's wing, and I'll be honest; even after seeing a photo of what your incision will look like, how puffy and unwell you'll look immediately after the operation, and how completely covered with tubes you'll be, I'm also more unhappy with where you'll be and the fact that being there seems so forbidding. This is where the best nurses for you (and arguably some of the best nurses at the hospital, which has an exceptional reputation for cardiac care) are stationed, so it's definitely where we want you to be, but what a shitty place to spend the first week or so of your life.

What has me upset is the fact that we've already been marked as a "heart family." For now, this is a vital adaptation, to be sure, because it labels us as we need to be labeled in order to access the care, people, and resources we need, but long-term, can't we just be ourselves? How can this blog-dude so gladly adopt THIS as the focus in his life? He goes to conventions and regional meetings and such for other adults with congenital heart defects, participates in tons of medical studies, and generally seems happy to devote all of his time to just BEING a person with a heart defect. Growing up with a father with a very specific medical condition that has been a pretty majorly occupying focus for the family, I do get it: people need support and validation when a medical problem is a huge part of life. It's healthy to look to others who share your challenges for support and inspiration (if that's what floats your boat), but to turn oneself into a poster child for a cause feels...erm...how do I say this nicely...creepy?

I don't want to be one of those families that ends up pigeonholed into only having relationships with other families whose lives have been impacted by heart problems. I refuse to limit my friendships with other parents - to say nothing of your friendships with other kids - to people who have "faced adversity" like we have. I know it's probably not going to win me any friends if I speak ill of people who lovingly and openly support medical causes, but I just can't let myself, your Dad, or you turn into one of those people. This will obviously be a major part of our lives; hell, it's majorly impacting the start of yours and our experience having you in ways that I honestly can't help but be furious about on some levels, but that is all the more reason I refuse to let it shape my identity or yours. There will be no ribbon magnets on the car, no cheering at some walkathon, no fundraisers, and sure as hell no inspirational t-shirts. We'll celebrate you for the accomplishments you choose, and the achievements our family creates for ourselves. Batman, you're always going to be more than a heart condition.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Your first snow day!

Things continue to be uneventful at Dr. Fuckhead's Tedious Carnival of Madness during my notably later appointment times. Yesterday afternoon, the most exciting and noteworthy people I observed were a couple who were both massively obese (and I'm talking three hundred and fifty pounds plus, if not more) whose crappy old cell phone kept making obnoxious chirping and beeping noises when they weren't being used to make outrageously loud personal phone calls. (Seriously: this dude was virtually screaming into his phone about prices for something being "bullshit," how the caller was trying to ruin his life, and other choice gems like those. Whee.) There was a woman tapping her long fake nails irritatingly against some plastic thing she was holding on to, but other than her, the next most entertaining folks were sitting quietly in stereotypical middle-class polite silence while they watched "The Dr. Oz Show," which, incidentally, makes me want to vomit. Nothing crazy, nothing too exciting, and nothing that made me go "holy crap, am I ever lucky to be me and not them." With only two scheduled ultrasounds remaining after this one, I can't help but be slightly disappointed.

I had my now-normal twenty minute wait before going in with one of the ultrasound techs who I've had really pleasant appointments with before. She's young-ish, maybe about my age, and jokes around with you about not being in a good position, which I very much appreciate since most of the other techs seem to think it's somehow my fault when you have your face nestled into, say, my pubic bone. (I mean, where else would I want my baby's face? C'mon!) After doing all the normal measurements and checks, and determining that everything looked just ducky, I shared with her my recently-acquired irrational fear that you will be funny looking.

I am embarrassed to admit it, Batman, but there have been a few things that have become utterly, stupidly, and frankly humorously preoccupying to me in the last month or so. I had something like two weeks of panic - and I'm talking the deeply-seeded, quiet sort of panic that persistently gnaws at your soul, not an immediate "holy shit, I'm on fire!" kind of panic - over the possibility of me not already owning nursing bras and tank tops. I eventually managed to drag your good-natured and accommodating Aunt Katie out to get a few bras, soothing myself at least temporarily. After resolving THAT issue, I started to freak out over not owning enough socks and tiny hats for you. That's right. I was waking up in the middle of the night freaking out over not owning clothing for you that is not only debatably not especially necessary, given how much other stuff you'll be bundled up in, but of which we already had any. Your Dad humored me with a shopping trip to grab those (and a really good thermometer, which I hadn't even realized I was going to panic about not having until I contemplated walking away from the aisle of medical stuff at Babies 'R Us without one), and now I'm just left with a subtle, obnoxious worry about nursing tank tops, which I am hesitant to buy without knowing what size I'll be after you're on the outside.

The new panic - a truly ridiculous one, I hope, given that neither your Dad nor I were funny-looking babies, nor are we funny-looking people (I think) - has been that you will come out weird looking. We know your heart is pretty messed up, but otherwise your growth has been fine, all your other body parts are where they should be and are in proportion to one another, and there have been no indicators that anything else is wrong with you. The few ultrasound images we'd previously seen of your face, however, are...funky. Granted, at twenty-something weeks of development, even the most gorgeous babies probably look a little like a Roswell alien...or Mr. Burns (as your Dad observed of one profile shot)...so it was impossible to tell if anything was actually amiss. This compassionate sonographer yesterday was kind enough to humor my paranoia and fairly literally dig around in my lower abdomen to get a good shot of your face, despite you being pretty deeply nestled.

...and you know what? You're friggin' adorable! We got a handful of 3-D shots, and not only am I fairly sure you have your Dad's nose, but you have the cutest little mouth, pudgy, squishable little cheeks, and NOTHING is disproportionate or funky! Check that paranoid fear off the list. On a not-so-awesome note, my ongoing undercurrent of fear that I haven't been drinking nearly enough has been justified. My amniotic fluid levels are as low as the doctors will accept without popping me into the hospital, which means I need to just drink more (which sadly makes me really nauseous) and try to stay off my feet as much as possible. Oh rats.

These new directions couldn't possibly have been better timed, however, since we just got our first real snowstorm of the year, and with it, your very first snow day! Ah, Batman, you will learn to love and cherish the snow day. Few things are more glorious and lovely than waking up at five-something in the morning, rolling over, discovering that you are being told by your school not to show up that day, then rolling back over to go back to sleep. So, today, instead of dragging my sorry, puffy ass out of bed at 5:20AM and hauling myself forty-five minutes north to be mostly uncomfortable all day, I get to sit around with my feet up, eat yummy breakfast, and watch pretty snow. You seem pretty content, too, what with all the hiccuping and kicking you've been up to. I've got a doctor's appointment this afternoon (gee, really?), but other than that, I think your Dad and I need to do one of our trademark food + movie themed marathons and really take advantage of this complete lack of responsibilities today for anything other than our own comfort and happiness.

(Did I mention how glad I am that you're cute, and not funny-looking? I think I need another pancake...)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Reality, or something like that.

We're seventeen days from your intended arrival, and depending on the minute, I either feel completely, serenely prepared, or quietly but hysterically panicked. I have a suspicion that this is a lot of what being a parent will feel like, at least for the first few dozen years. More of the details of your birth are coming together, and I'm feeling a little like a Viking for having everything so crazily organized...despite knowing that we have zero control past a certain point. At the same time, my ability to focus on...er...anything...is...um...what?

Yipes. Okay. So, here's the plan. On the evening of Wednesday, January 25th, I check in with my OB/GYNs to see what we need to do to make sure I can be induced the next morning. Maybe they do anything, maybe they don't. Thursday, January 26th, we show up at the hospital and start to try to get you out with as little intervention as possible, as quickly and safely as possible. I'm reasonably anxious about the whole labor and delivery process, given that a 6+ pound living thing has to make his way out of my body somehow (and that is B-A-N-A-N-A-S bananas), but even more than that, I'm weirded out that so many people need to be involved. There are liable to be at least nine other people in the room when you're born, not counting your Dad and me, most of whom I'll have met a matter of minutes before you pop out. All of them are necessary, ranging from my doctors to NICU nurses and specialists, but at this point I can only hope and assume that I'll be preoccupied enough not to be uncomfortable about all the people hovering around the room.

Your Dad and I are ultimately very private people, to a point that I know often frustrates others. He is far more inclined than I am to be politik, sharing whatever other people need to hear to have peace of mind, but if I had it my way, I would fairly literally crawl into a cave the second I go into labor and only crawl out after you've successfully figured out breast-feeding...or maybe when you turn three or so. Clearly, that's not an option, but the fact that I will have a hefty audience while giving birth - and that we will inevitably be swarmed with both more medical staff and by our families within minutes of your arrival - actually makes me more anxious than the idea of, say, shit-tons of needles. The more I've thought about it, the more I'm thinking that even having other people waiting IN the hospital might be a source of too much anxiety for me to handle. I will be constantly eyeing the door, and your Dad will feel like he has to go and placate, reassure, or otherwise communicate with other people while I decidedly need his full attention.

We may need to make some demands that a lot of family members won't like. Historically, I have sort of a crappy track record for communication about things that I NEED (not things that I want). Either I come across as too brash and cold, or I don't actually say what I mean and end up resenting actions that other people never would have known I didn't appreciate. This is a crappy problem to have, and it's something I've been working on, but can I play the pregnancy/new mother card here and just demand what I need? I think I've been underutilizing that excuse quite a bit (mostly out of stubbornness), but this may be the time to milk it.

I have started putting my foot down more when people start telling me "how things are going to go." Really, Batman, I thought the onslaught of advice and cautionary tales was bad enough when your Dad and I got married, but that was nothing. Even the most balanced and typically respectful people have started spouting not just warnings, but certainties: "THIS WILL GO THIS UNPLEASANT WAY." "YOU WILL DO THIS MISERABLE, OUT-OF-CHARACTER THING." "THIS DISGUSTING THING WILL HAPPEN." Okay, yeah, I get it. Childbirth can be a messy, sometimes even violent process, but does that mean that it will absolutely, unconditionally suck for me? Hells no! Does it really help me - someone about to go through this experience - to hear all the worst possible scenarios? This is like telling an 80+ year old woman how she WILL DIE HORRIBLY IN A FIERY WRECK AFTER BEING TORN ASUNDER BY AN ONCOMING FORD F-150...before sitting her behind the wheel to try to renew her driver's license. Let's leave the doom, gloom, misery, and suffering for another time and place, please. I don't think that's an irrational pregnancy demand.

On the other hand, I've hardly heard a lot of the crappy, negative stuff, or the flat-out demands that we get ourselves informed, educated, exposed to some technique or strategy, or whatever. Plenty of well-intentioned folks have been trying to share entirely sane, friendly, and helpful advice, but my focus is just not there. Maybe it should be. I spent something like two weeks of sleepless nights panicking over the fact that I didn't think we had enough teensy socks and hats for you, and tonight is the first time that your Dad or I are going to an actual "class" about anything birth or baby-related. (It's a breastfeeding workshop, which promises to evoke a great deal of snickering from us both.) I don't think our priorities are out of order...I just don't see any way to focus what little bit of focus I have left. You are it now, buddy. Wow, those last few paragraphs were majorly tangential...right?

Can I focus at work? Oh, good heavens no. I've been entirely tuned out since sometime roughly midway through last week, which really does not bode well for the rest of this week and all of next, during which times I am still expected to both show up for work and actually do my job. I had an especially choice moment today when a phone call interrupted me giving directions. My kids, who have mostly been adorably compliant with and accommodating of my spazziness, politely looked slightly concerned as I stared blankly off into space for ten seconds after hanging up the phone. I had no damn clue what I had been saying, what activity I had them doing (and NOTHING on their desks or my whiteboard gave a clue, darn it), or...yeah. Nothing. Total blank. One very sweet boy prompted me, and I was able to get at least passably back on track, but that was a rough moment. Funny thing, though? While I was flummoxing to get my brain back in any sort of order, I was completely preoccupied with where one of your feet was. 99% of my attention was on that foot, and that poor 1% of my functioning brain cells just didn't stand a chance on their own.

Hell, I just realized this afternoon that I had several incomplete posts going. I'm so damn focused on you that I can't even write for or about you with any regularity! What the hell is up with this?!? I can only hope that when you show up, my ability to multi-task (or, y'know...task) at least partially returns. Your Dad and I spent a nice fifteen minutes reading silly stuff friends had linked off Facebook this afternoon, and that held my attention better than almost any other single thing but you has in days. Silly internet stuff is not, however, well-known for improving or remediating focus and efficiency. Batman, I sure don't blame you for this, but...ooh, is that something shiny over there?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

We've turned another corner, and by we, I mean you, and by turned a corner, I mean turned all over the place. Aggressively.

Sometime in the last two weeks, you either started to build muscle mass or dexterity or something that is allowing you to basically beat the living crap out of me from the inside. All things considered, this is awesome; it means you're strong, developing the way you should, and must be getting everything you need from me (even though I'm still really worried about eating and especially drinking enough). At the end of the day, however, I'm caught gritting my teeth and muttering "yay, he's so strong and active..." while wishing you would just friggin' roll around gently for a while rather than stomping, punching, flailing, somersaulting, and otherwise doing your best to pummel my insides. This has gotten me thinking about those little things in the future that I'll be simultaneously excited about and made relatively miserable by.

Poo. I know that poo is going to be a big one. Your Dad is pretty much just not ready to deal with poo (which I understand), but he is going to have a rude awakening and I can only hope he handles it with the same grace he has shown in every other step towards you being here. Once he realizes that poo will influence something like one fifth of our interactions with you (if not more), I'm pretty sure he's going to suck it up and learn to deal pretty damn fast, but I worry a little about myself. I'm walking into this situation with pretty much indiscriminate comfort with poo; part of me is even kind of creepily excited for you to start pooing, because that will mean that your little body is doing exactly what it should. I fully expect to be grossed out and horrified every now and then, but I may just be one of those moms who simultaneously brags to anyone who will listen about the quantity and quality of your poo. I mean, if you're pooping, that means you're eating, which is going to be crucial.

Food. Food has always been a major source of comfort and catharsis for me, whether I be researching, purchasing, preparing, sharing, eating, or even just observing it. I just adore food, especially interesting or unusual food...or uncomplicated comfort food...okay, any food. We are going to spend a lot of time at the hospital with you for the first few weeks of your life, so I know that good food is going to become a somewhat precious and rare thing. Thankfully, knowing how much of a soothing influence food can be, I think this is going to be kind of a good thing. Something as generally unremarkable as a decent sandwich is going to become a precious source of comfort. Having your Dad show up at the hospital after school with a Pyrex thingy of something that didn't come from the hospital cafeteria will be a major treat. Take-out from any of the excellent restaurants within half a mile of the hospital...be still my heart! On the other hand, getting food into YOU is going to pretty much be the focal point of the start of your life. Eating regularly - and enough to put on weight - is your ticket out of the hospital, so most of my life is going to be centered around your eating schedule and needs. This will doubtlessly become a source of stress, whether you take to breastfeeding right away or not.

Temperature. As you'll learn, Batman, I react really, really poorly to being too warm. I'll happily freeze half to death rather than be even slightly overheated. Look at your Dad and my first apartment; we only learned after we moved out that there was literally no insulation in the walls, so even paying out the nose to keep the heat set in the mid-sixties did virtually nothing to heat the place. We spent that winter in double-layers of socks, thermal underwear under double-layers of fleeces and sweatshirts, scarves and hats worn inside, and honestly? I furiously resented that I only had the options to either freeze half to death or sweat through my clothes. I still let myself get cold at night because I couldn't bear to be too warm. Now, we keep the heat turned down pretty low, not just because it's financially easier to manage, but because I just can't bear getting too warm. I can always put a layer on; when you get down to skin, there's nothing left to take off! All this makes me worry about your comfort (and health), and I really, really hope we can find a compromise to keep you toasty. (I may be sauntering around the apartment in a bikini as soon as we get you home...)

Space. I'm fussy about where things go, knowing where things are, not having too much clutter, having enough clutter, having things clean, not needing to do too much cleaning...yeah, I know I sound like a high-maintenance pile of crazy, but I promise it's not really THAT bad. Having all of your stuff - a third person living in our space - was prepared for when we moved in, so at least we have some ideas for how to accommodate all the accoutrements of a baby, but it will be an exciting juggling act at first. I think we're really smart not to have promised crash space to more than a single person at a time after you're born, so we're not going to be cramming your things among our things and vistors' things, but this will be another fun puzzle to figure out.

As I write this, you are jabbing me in the lung with a foot and basically head-butting me in the...actually, I have no damn clue what you're smashing your head against, but it isn't my bladder, so that's cool. So far, all vital systems on my end are holding steady. Eating a full meal is a challenge, and breathing can be a little adventurous if you stretch out too much, but I think my body is otherwise holding up pretty damn well. Here's hoping we can keep it together long enough for me to be able to comfortably shift all my focus to your physical systems and not worry about mine falling apart, out, or otherwise!