Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Who needs sleep?

It feels tawdry to complain about our lack of sleep given that your Dad and I got to sleep on our own terms for about three and a half of your first four months of life, but goddamn, Hudson, have I ever come to appreciate the necessity of a good eight or more hours of uninterrupted snoozing. You have gotten into a pattern of waking up roughly every two to three hours - which isn't so bad - but I am such a delicate, delicate flower when it comes to sleep. I need at least eight and a half hours or I am a ditzy zombie. Some interesting side-effects have begun to present themselves in the several weeks we've actually had you for twenty-four hours a day, and I feel that if I don't document them, they are likely to fall prey to one of the following:

#1: I have a short-term memory like a pot-addled goldfish. There are times when I actually forget what I am talking about mid-sentence, which has been hilarious fun while attempting to cram a meaningful unit on the Holocaust in to the last week and a half of school. "Hitler introduced the Nuremburg Laws which had a on...uhm...some people...the Jews, maybe? Sit tight, let me check online..." Grocery store trips are likewise a laugh riot, in that I frequently come out of the store with about six things I didn't plan for, three things that I did, and missing at least two or three truly necessary items (I've been out of conditioner for days, by the way). On the plus side, my long-term memory seems fine, and anything that I write down is generally safe.

#2: Gross things don't phase me in any way, shape, or form. This may be a side-effect of having an infant, but while I might have grown desensitized reasonably quickly regardless of how tired I am, being sleepy makes me react to even the most hideous full-body poo blowout with little more than a shoulder shrug. Even the funkiest teenager funk in my classroom is no big deal, and I don't know why. It's not like I care less about gross things being in my space (or lap, or wherever), I just don't want to bother to spend any energy doing anything about it.

#3: I have inactivity-triggered narcolepsy. For someone who almost never naps, this is a very strange development. As long as I'm up and moving, I can stay up and moving even with virtually no sleep fueling me, but the second I stop...I really, really stop. Many, if not most, parents that I know have told me in a knowing, almost threatening voice: "You'd better sleep any time that baby is asleep, or you won't be able to." It's true, but it's also uncontrollable. Sitting on the couch to play with you in the evenings is wonderful, but there is a very real threat that I might doze off with you on my lap and not notice when you flop over sideways.

#4: My mental filter is gone. I know that not everyone wants to hear about your most recent diaper blow-out, and surely no one cares about the texture of your St. Bernard-style drooling, but somehow my brain fails to get that message to my mouth. Anyone who will stand still long enough is liable to hear something gross and/or embarrassing about you - probably your butt, to be specific - and I utterly lack the social cognizance to know if/when that person is disgusted. Oops. I mean, poops. Heehee.

#5: Task completion is Anything that requires more than a few minutes of concentrated effort, or that takes more than a few simple steps to complete, is probably not happening. I've been working on this one, little piece of writing for days, and I'm not even sure I'll finish it in this sitting, despite you being asleep and not really having anything else I need to do. This definitely harkens back to the goldfish memory issue, but is also probably just a substantially escalated version of my already weak work ethic. As I write this, I'm regretting not already having gotten up to get a fresh cup of coffee, feeling awkward about not having made the number of important phone calls I've been putting off for days, and preemptively worrying about the planning I'm potentially likely to skive off this summer. Yeah. Good stuff.

#6: I move at roughly the speed of a stoned sloth with three broken hands. Somehow, your Dad and I manage to be on time for almost everything, but I think most of that owes to our choice to start motivating to get out the door at least forty-five minutes before we actually need to. When attempting to go anywhere or do anything, I just drag. I'll start something, sort of...wander off...and, er...forget...I should probably go make sure the oven is off.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Saving Private Hudson"?

When my alarm went off last Monday morning at 5:00AM, I didn't carefully roll up cradling you to go draw up your meds, and I didn't poke your Dad to ask him to get us a bottle for you to eat. I woke up in our bed - alone - and went about my old, normal morning routine. I made sure coffee was brewing, brushed my teeth, showered, got dressed, threw together my lunch, and was on the way to my carpool before 6:00. I drove to work and taught middle schoolers, which was about as weird as normal. Of course, that was a stilted reintroduction to life because you and your Dad were still in Boston. Monday night was more real, since both of you were home and needed attention and care, but even then reality seemed tenuous. What the hell is the real world after four months of hospitals, displacement, medical drama and uncertainty, and the still unthinkable paradigm shift of becoming a parent? It might seem an insensitive comparison, but I feel like a soldier returned from deployment.

Before we were discharged, one of your transplant doctors asked us "What are you most worried about?" I can only assume she expected us to be afraid of the big stuff (rejection, heart failure, messing up your ribcage, infection, or some other catastrophic medical scenario), but what really scared me was the most mundane. I'm terrified of you catching some totally normal illness like a cold or a stomach bug, and I have no idea how I will be able to recalibrate myself to work properly outside a hospital setting. Oddly, I'm almost less anxious about you than me. If you get sick - even a teensy bit - we have a dozen people we can call who will tell us exactly what to do. You have safety net upon safety net, whereas I have been essentially left to defend myself. If (when) I find myself panicking about something - your health or safety, my ability to fit into non-medical conversations, being a full-time teacher again, or what have you - there is little I can do.

I might be more shell-shocked than I thought I was, though, because I walked back into the building feeling painfully self-conscious. Of course, no one else has been through exactly what I have, but even those who have been dragged through some serious shit haven't been through it as recently as me. I always feel painfully awkward around people who have experienced major trauma, and part of me assumed that others would treat me differently somehow. Even at the hospital, you stood apart from many other kids because of your age and the severity of your problems. Critically ill teenagers are sad, but critically ill (really cute) infants whose parents are displaced from home and financially in danger despite being educators? Who knows what to do with THAT? It feels like expressions automatically soften, topics of conversation shift, and voices go a bit maudlin when I join a conversation. I'm sure much of this is in my own head, but Hudson, it seems impossible to ever feel completely normal again after such a dramatic interruption.

I feel like a war veteran. I don't have flashbacks, per se, but the last four months of my life have been completely saturated with minutiae that are genuinely unrelatable and often scary to others; I don't really have anything to talk about that isn't generally about you. Despite this being an election year and my generally caring about politics, I couldn't tell you a single thing about what has happened in the campaigns during the last four months. I can, however, rattle off pretty much every medication you've ever had, recite the details of a pre-op consent form, and I have stories upon stories about people in and around the hospital. Everything is you, Boston, cardiology, or hospital.

Walking out into the world - whether that be into a grocery store, work, bank, whatever - I feel labeled. I know this borders on hubris, but I feel like anyone I encounter can see on my face that there is damage under the surface that I still haven't reconciled. Grocery shopping feels untoward; how can I do something so utterly mundane? Shouldn't I be home hovering over you, or talking to a doctor, or responding to some kind of crisis? (Isn't there a crisis?)

I recently read through the entirety of a blog written by another mother whose child - a girl - received a transplant at around the same age as you. The girl had a long, complicated recovery and required almost constant care. The mother consequently took months off of work, ultimately leaving her job. The whole way through, she kept a positive perspective to the point of almost being gushy despite the fact that her life was literally crumbling around her. She embraced having a "transplant kid" to the point of reshaping her personal identity; put simply, she reveled in the label rather than feeling self-conscious about it. I'm still not sure how you will bear the burden of being so intrinsically different, especially since I'm bucking the distinction in a way I never expected.

Some people attend veteran rallies and hang out at VFW halls...others do their best to forget they were ever in combat. I knew from the beginning that I would be the latter more than the former, but I never realized how forcible the decision would need to be. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

And I miss you when you're gone...that is what I do...

I don't even know how to process the last twenty four and some hours. In over a year, I haven't really been alone for longer than one night's sleep (the second night after you were born) or the length of time it takes to go to and from some appointment or another. Even when we were in Boston and you weren't staying with your Dad and me, I was at least with him, but not right now. I didn't think I would be excited to go back to work - frankly, I am still somewhat terrified at the prospect of interacting with human beings who aren't 100% focused on you or your care (or who are actually you, for that matter - but I think that even one full day alone has given me a sufficient need for meaningful human contact to make any affectionate contact appealing.

Today was weird on many levels. I woke up in your Dad and my bed surrounded by all three of our kitties, which was lovely, but otherwise alone. Nothing woke me up. No one needed me during the night. I didn't even really need to get out of bed, but for the fact that I got hungry and really wanted some coffee. As soon as I was out of bed, however, I was in action mode. I packed away a ton of the stuff we came home from Boston with, re-organized the kitchen (because your Gramma is well-intentioned, but does not put things in the same places as we do), and took a surprisingly unremarkable shower. The whole time, I kept reminding myself "Hudson and Ryan are just in Boston...they're just two hours away..." not because I was worried, but because I couldn't keep my brain wrapped around the fact that you're not just in the next room.

I don't have much to say. I spent a nice chunk of time flipping through photos of you this evening, and even longer this morning putting together a slide show of pictures of you and facts about heart transplants to share with my students tomorrow. I am really excited to see them, and not just because they are human beings who I can have any kind of meaningful interaction with, but because they were kind of my first kids. I've been with them for almost two years, and it is going to be REALLY strange for them to go off to high school and for me to stay in my classroom to receive a new batch of seventh graders. What can I say...I get attached. My big fear is that I will become aggressively maudlin and teary in the coming days without you there for me to fawn over. Obviously I can't just scoop up and snuggle a fifteen year old if I need a hug, but I might get gushy.

It's staggering the love you feel as a parent. I visited a friend in the hospital today who had her third who was just happily lounging in bed and snuggling her little girl. She so calmly, casually let me hold this incredible little creature she had made while telling me all about giving birth, plans for the summer, her other two girls, and life in general. At the same time, she hardly took her eyes off her daughter. While I was holding her (and holy crap does almost eight pounds feel tiny compared to your thirteen pounds of squirming glory), I was struck by how desperately sad I was that your Dad and I didn't get to hold you for days. Okay, I exaggerate: your Dad got to carry you across the room to me right after you were born, and you hung out on me for a few minutes before you were whisked to the NICU, but I hardly remember that happening at all. (I needed your Dad to remind me that ever even happened, since all I really retained was holding you for the few seconds right after you were born.) Obviously, we're doing our best to compensate now, but it is bizarre to consider the sheer volume of time we haven't gotten with you so far.

Because I'm weird like that, I've been re-reading "The Cider House Rules" by John Irving (which I hope you eventually read and love someday, but not too soon: it's got some serious darkness). Despite the enormous quantity of abortions that are performed or referenced by one of the main characters, Dr. Larch, I keep finding myself using the opening litany from his many written works when I start a new train of thought. "In other parts of the world..." ...parents get to hold their children right from the beginning. Children get to go home mere days after they are born, assuming they weren't born at home. Babies are pink right from the beginning. Some children never even see the inside of a hospital, and many don't feel a needle until their first immunizations, assuming they even get those. In other parts of the world, parents don't need to leave their children every night in an ICU. I am so overwhelmed with happiness for other parents who get to spend every second with their children right from the beginning, and so stymied that we didn't get to.

At the same time, that's all the parenting we ever knew. Seeing a new mother cuddling her baby, changing her diaper, feeding her, casually plopping her up on a shoulder to burp...this was all so weird to me. Beautiful, of course, but definitively weird. I'm caught off guard every time I see a parent grab a small child under her or his arms because we have NEVER gotten to do this with you; you've always been on precautions (which is such a contrived term, but part of our vernacular by virtue of interacting more with medical staff than anyone else in the last four months) because your sternum has always been recently opened. Really...what the fuck? It's pretty devastating not to be able to just wander into another room - or at worst, travel five minutes by car or foot - to see you at any given moment, but I guess in the grand scheme of totally weird shit that has happened in the last chunk of time, this is relatively unremarkable.