Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Dear goodness, it's been a year (almost)

Exactly one year ago, Chris and I sat in my hospital room,  trying to settle down and have one last quiet night before our lives were turned upside-down.

Tomorrow, my silly little girl will turn one. I now have a toddler running around my house, hiding combs in my winter boots.  When I try to evaluate how my life has changed over the past year, it's easy to think of the inconveniences: I rarely get to wake myself up in the morning; leaving the apartment is a giant ordeal; I can't go to the bathroom without a small creature scratching at the door; my carpet is perpetually covered in Cheerios; I can't sit down at the computer and write my dissertation while she's awake, because she wants to climb on my lap and bang on the keyboard.

But I'm so thankful that our family has grown by one small person. She's so joyful: every person she meets is her new best friend, and every spoon, potato and Kleenex box is an exciting new toy. She's thrilled about the existence of books, and I'm thrilled to have a small creature with whom I can snuggle on the couch and share my love of reading. She wanders the house singing (mostly she sings "doot doot doot"  with occasional trumpet sounds). I love watching my parents and in-laws interact with their grandchild, and seeing her bring out softness and sweetness in all of them, beyond what I've seen before.

I haven't changed as a result of motherhood as much as I presumed I would: somehow, a part of me expected that I would suddenly become a proper and level-headed Mom, full of wisdom,  and not as ridiculous as I usually am. Instead, I now realize that my child will likely make poop jokes at inappropriate times, and that it will be entirely because of me.

I resist the idea that parenthood is some absolute and necessary experience of adulthood and womanhood, just as I cringe when parents of multiple children state or imply that those with one child haven't experienced "real" parenting.  But this small person (who I still can't believe is my very own to keep) has changed me during this past year. I've started to learn how to love and accept this child on her own terms, to see her own personality and not just some person I want her to become. That lesson teaches me to love myself as well.

Happy birthday, Little Bug. Here's to a great second year.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

To My Love, On Our Eighth Anniversary

Hello, my love,

Eight years ago today, I made the best decision of my life. I married you, and we ran away together half-way across the country. We made a life for ourselves, far from friends and family, and then created a family around us where we were. And then, this year, we made the next best decisions of our lives: we had a beautiful little girl, and ran away together half-way across the country, back to our friends and family. I'm so glad that I've had you, my love and my best friend, beside me this whole time.

This has been both one of the hardest and one of the best years of our marriage. We've been through some of our biggest struggles yet, and as you've particularly risen to meet those challenges, you've amazed me over and over. I love you so much more today than I did a year ago.

Last year's anniversary was very much our worst. I was in so much pain, mid-way through that pregnancy, with the fibroids degenerating and leaning on my sciatic nerve so hard that I woke up in the night screaming. And, when I couldn't sleep because of the pain, you would hold me and sing to me. I know you never sing for other people, because your tune's a little off, but that's the most beautiful music I've heard in my entire life. For months, you took care of me. You cooked every meal. You washed all our clothes. You did everything (along with our friends) to move us back home. And then E was born, and you continued on caring for us, through the challenging recovery. At the hospital, as you took on the role of E's and my primary caregiver, many members of the hospital staff told me how lucky I was to have someone like you. And, all that while, you slept for sixteen days on an uncomfortable pull-out couch, getting up with every feeding, and holding me and singing when I got scared.

And now, as we parent that hilarious, active and challenging child together, I fall in love with you more and more. E loves you so much, and is always braver when you hold her.

Because I feel the need to include a goofy picture of you every year, I included one from my birthday, when E was three days old. The doctor had just scared us with the possibility of head surgery, and I broke down and cried for quite a while. But then you returned, and rescued my birthday. We read together, and took silly and serious pictures of ourselves, and recorded video messages, telling E how much she aged us already.

And now I'll watch Doctor Who episodes with you, because you've made me nerdier since I married you.

From your wife

Monday, May 27, 2013

Statements of Intent

There's a post, which I've been occasionally writing, and then saving as draft, and then deleting, for the past few months. It's a post about the small compromises which I've made, and how they've made my life as a parent livable. It's about comparing the ideals I had before I procreated, to the realities of parenting. It's also about having to put away all the parenting books that seemed full of guilt messages, and just doing what worked for us.

And I've deleted that post over and over, because it turns out that I'm terrified discussing parenting choices on the internet. I've been around too long, and know that every small choice has become ridiculously controversial in certain circles.

This is more of a reminder for myself, and a statement of intent for my blog: while I have opinions, which I sometimes voice a little too strongly in personal conversations, I'm going to stay out of it. We're all getting by as well as we can, making sure that our kids are sleeping, eating and learning as well as they can.

While I'm making statements of intent: I'm also staying off the parenting boards, and I'm trying to lay off the books (outside of Mayo Clinic guides to development and stuff like that). I'm also making a valiant attempt to avoid googling my child's symptoms, because I'm enough of a hypochondriac about myself that nobody needs for me to start focusing my crazy on the next generation as well.

And now I'm going to make popcorn and watch a bunch of Arrested Development on Netflix, because in spite of the fact that I now have a kid, I'm still the reigning Queen of the Nation of West Procrasti.

On Leave

Last week I received word that my request for sick leave was approved, and applied retroactively to September. The university credited me this year's tuition, and I'll go back in the fall. In the meanwhile, my library card doesn't work, and I'm not supposed to be engaging in any research/academic work. (Ha.)

It's a strange feeling, suddenly having that weight off my shoulders. It's now okay that I've been useless for the past year. I've spent the year doing was doing what I was supposed to be doing: taking care of myself and my family. I was sometimes a little hard on myself about my lack of progress, because I know people who finished their dissertations in the midst of being pregnant and having a baby. Of course, I constantly have to remind myself that it's not fair to compare myself to anyone else, because I've been a rather exceptional case. (So exceptional, in fact, that I was granted leave after the terms of my extension explicitly stated that I didn't qualify for leave!)

It's funny how my brain is more full of ideas and strategies for finishing, now that I'm not registered. I'm going to get myself an alumni library card, since I qualify for one here. I'll start practising my German while the baby's napping, and since it requires the use of a headset microphone, I've ordered a baby monitor, and will watch the little lights for signs of the kid making noise. I'll also take this opportunity to review my primary sources, since it's been a while, and the review will be good for getting my brain going. That's all I'll really do this summer (and meet with my supervisor when we go back to the Island in the summer: he'll want to see the baby, and then we'll draw up a timeline for completion).

But I'm also going to allow myself some space. I'm on leave, and I'm going to make sure that I appreciate that. This is the first time I haven't been a registered student in a decade, and I want to take some time and enjoy being home with Li'l E.

This has all coincided with the good news that E won't need surgery (there was some concern, but it has thankfully turned out to be unfounded), and so we now have fewer health professionals in our lives, which means fewer appointments. (Okay, in the next few weeks, she has a physical therapy appointment, 6-month checkups with both her family doctor and her pediatrician, and then her next round of shots. But then we get a break!) More importantly, we no longer have that anxiety hanging over us, and we can just move on with our lives, dealing only with normal baby stuff.

And so I'm grateful for this bit of respite from all the craziness of the past year. Normal is a nice change from the usual.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Introvert has a child, discovers she's now always being watched

Li'l E is asleep (although we'll see whether she sleeps for more than half an hour). I'm sitting down with a cup of tea (this week, it's David's Teas' Salted Caramel, because I'm apparently in the mood for tea that tastes like candy). I'm finally starting learn how to carve out little moments in my day.

For a while, it seemed impossible to get anything done or to take any time for myself. At first, Li'l E and I had the double whammy of my slow recovery and her constant feeding (undersized baby more than doubles her weight in the first three months: oy). I also had a serious case of the New Moms, where I didn't know how to get anything done while she was awake, since she wanted to be cuddled constantly. But now she's growing up a little (and so am I), and I've been working on getting her to be more independent. Now, I can at least get housework done while she's awake, and she's just pleased that I talk to her while I work.

The next hurdle is getting back into the dissertation process. I really don't know how to work while she's awake: she's so demanding, and wants my attention constantly. I'd be too distracted to form many coherent thoughts. (I guess I could do mindless tasks and some editing while she was awake, but writing is another story.) I need a lot of sleep right now in order to continue to function, and so working after she goes to bed is out of the question. I imagine that nap time will become my ideal writing time, once I get on a roll. Li'l E takes several small naps a day, and during her morning naps I've already formed the habit of approaching them with the attitude of "I MUST WORK AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE."

Really, the problem is that I'm so tired and distracted. Perhaps reintroducing my SAD lamp into my morning routine would alleviate some of the tiredness, but I'm also tired because I'm physically catching up with the requirements of my new life. I don't know how to deal with the distractedness part. Right now, I'm trying to deal with it by taking a little time to be quiet. A cup of tea and a little bit of silence. I grew so accustomed to having endless quiet time at home over these years, and now that I have a small and loud constant companion, I find that I need to deliberately carve out quiet time for myself. I never before realised how much my mental health depends on time spent being alone and quiet.

So. Where do I go from here? I finish my project of organizing the house, so that I have space to work. (We really didn't get off to a good start here, with my inability to take part in the unpacking process. We've been in survival mode until now.) I get started writing while family is around to deal with the baby, and then create tasks that can be done during naps. I continue to allow myself a little quiet time.

And now the baby's awake, and I'm typing with one hand. That second cup of tea will have to wait.

Update: I just got a message from my grad secretary, saying that she's confident that I qualify for medical leave (backdated to the beginning of this school year), even though the terms of my extension stated that I could not apply for leave. Apparently my case is exceptional!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When motherhood is weird

Oh hey guys! Guess what: I had a baby like a million years ago and then didn't post about it on this blog. And by "a million years" I mean "nearly three months." I've been in a bit of a haze since then, and have been trying to figure out how to succinctly explain the insanity that happened to us when I had the baby, and then three months disappeared, and we're piled under this deep snow in late winter, and I haven't updated since the summer.  Living up to my naaaaaaaaame!

So. Going back to where we left off, it turns out that the fibroids I had were insane, and the pain I was experiencing last summer was the fibroids getting unsustainably big and going through degeneration. (Oh hey! Apparently other women get hospitalized with narcotics for that stuff. I moved across the country and felt bad that I was so unhelpful in the process.) Other crazy stuff happened, like the sheer weight of fibroids + baby causing my ribs to pop out in painful ways, which made me my chiropractor's most complicated patient. I had a lot of health professionals tell me that they'd never seen a case as extreme as mine before, so that was fun.

Then, a little more than a month before the baby's due date, and two days after we had my baby shower (where we got the stuff we really needed, like the car seat) and set up the baby room, I went for my routine OBGYN appointment and found out that I had dangerously high blood pressure. I got sent straight to the hospital.

(Oh, and about two weeks before that, my parents and sister were in a bad car accident, which resulted in my father, whose respiratory system is very much a delicate balance, spending a week in ICU with pneumonia. So, my family spent about a week between hospitalizations and health crises. And the stress of that probably didn't help matters.)

I was initially admitted to the hospital with the intention that I'd only be there for a few days, as they got my blood pressure stabilized, and then I'd be sent home with medication and monitoring. But, before I could leave, they wanted to do an ultrasound, to make sure that the baby hadn't been affected. At the ultrasound (one of many ultrasounds where the tech freaked out because my fibroids looked unusual, and insisted that they couldn't be fibroids), we discovered that the placenta was touching one of the fibroids, causing the baby to have a growth restriction. She was in the third percentile for size, at that point. While the doctor assured me that she was healthy, and that small babies catch up, I freaked out. That was not good for my blood pressure.

So, armed with the knowledge that my high bp and my PUPPPS rash were the result of the placenta sending out warning signals through my body, we were given a night to decide whether to deliver immediately, or to wait a few days until the baby was 36 weeks old (with the hope she could avoid NICU). We decided to wait, and she was born a week later.

The c-section was insane. (Note: not only was she in the frank breech position, but fibroids were blocking the birth canal, and so c-section was the only option. Thank goodness for modern medicine.) Because of the enormity and the nature of the fibroids, there was a serious risk that I'd bleed out and need an emergency hysterectomy to save my life. There were also question about whether the growth restriction would cause problems for the baby. When they wheeled me into the Labour and Birth ward, the entire staff was standing around to greet me, looking nervous. The head nurse informed me that they'd be taking me to the regular OR, because the L&B operating room wasn't big enough for my complicated procedure.

"Don't worry; this is standard for our more complicated c-sections!" she reassured me.

When I got to the OR, the surgical staff was buzzing with excitement. "A baby!" one of them squealed. "We haven't had a baby born here in YEARS!"


My anesthesiologist periodically counted everyone in the room and asked, "Now, how many here need to be here, and how many are here to observe?" It was a circus. There were teams from more departments than I can even remember now. I do remember that we had pretty much all the residents from NICU, and a big team of staff and students from Respiratory Therapy. Someone brought in four units of blood, in case I needed a transfusion. Chris had to wait outside until I was prepped (actually, we had to ask permission for him to be there, because the regular OR doesn't normally do c-sections), and so I was suddenly alone, shivering on the table as they inserted the spinal block. I sang to myself the old hymn "Under His Wings" and repeated Psalm 91, and someone in the room marveled at the fact that I was so calm and still, in the midst of such insanity.

Everything went better than expected. My biggest fibroid had gone through some kind of liquid degeneration, and my OBGYN drained a whole gallon of fluid from it, on the operating table. That resulted in a bit of commotion. When the baby was born, she had a bit of trouble with her lung capacity, and that whole NICU team swarmed her, got her breathing and warm, and rushed her out of the room. Honestly, I didn't get to see the baby until she was a whole day old, because she was in NICU and I wasn't well enough to leave my bed.

I didn't get a hysterectomy, and I didn't end up getting a transfusion until two days later, when my hemoglobin levels were so low that I was fainting when I tried to stand. That transfusion was the best thing to happen to me (it even knocked my cold out of my system!).

We stayed in the hospital for a week after that, since the baby's pediatrician was worried about the fact that her head had been squished between my ribs and a fibroid, and thought that the sutures in her skull may have sealed prematurely, which would make it difficult for her brain to grow (if all sutures were sealed), or would cause skull shape deformity (if one of the sutures was sealed). We waited for a neurosurgeon to look at an x-ray of her head, and were then sent home with the reassurance that at least not ALL of her sutures were sealed. (The question still remains if one is sealed: the neurosurgeon ordered a CT scan of her head, and now we're waiting to find out if the baby has to have surgery when she's 8-9 months old.)

And that's the end of the dramatic part of our story. Now, I've been slowly recovering (the fibroids still give me some pain, as they shrink and degenerate), and the baby is growing and developing wonderfully. She's now big for her age, after a couple of months of crazy non-stop feedings. ("Small babies catch up. It's what they do best." - the OBGYN who saw her growth restriction. At least I already knew that they catch up by EATING LIKE MANIACS.)

Li'l E slept for 8 1/2 hours last night, and is napping again now, which is how I had the time to type up this whole blog post. We're enjoying being non-dramatic for a while. Now, if I could only get her to nap like this on a regular basis, so that I could get some writing done.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

When pregnancy is weird

So, it all started at my 10-week checkup.

Well, I guess it started a few weeks before that, when we started having to tell people around us about the pregnancy earlier than people usually do, because I was showing so much that it was impossible for people not to figure it out. And then they'd give me the side eye and say "You're sure you're only that far along?" That was about the point when my pants were also not really fitting anymore, and I started having pain that was best described by my pregnancy book as round ligament pain (but that stuff's only supposed to happen when you're in your second trimester). Some days it felt like I could almost watch my belly grow. Which I knew was weird, but I also kind of ignored it.

And then I went for my 10-week checkup, with the GP who did my initial pregnancy test at the university's health services. Our original plan was for me to stay with health services until we moved, at which point I'd be handed over to an OB/GYN. But, at the checkup, the doctor freaked out, and was convinced that I was at least 20 weeks along, or that I was having twins and was about 14 weeks along. Either way, the doctor was beginning to make me feel like those ladies on that TLC show. The doctor kept using the doppler on me, to try to find the baby's heartbeat (because it ought to be easy to find at 20 weeks), but couldn't find anything. But the long time of using the doppler hurt my belly.

And this all is how I got rushed in for an ultrasound, and how I got a "maternal health specialist" instead of a health services doctor.

(Oh, and all of this happened while Chris was out of town, chaperoning his school's graduating class.)

So, a few days (and many medical appointments) later, Chris and I went for my ultrasound (and what really did feel like a moment of truth). We nervously chatted about the possibility of twins, as we sat in the waiting room.

When the ultrasound began, the tech began asking me weird questions about whether I'd ever had an ultrasound before, and started looking at my kidneys as well. He then said that I had one baby, with a healthy heart rate, who was 10 weeks along. I may have cheered and said "Take that, Dr. [Health Services Doctor]!" in response. And then I thought to ask why I was so big and had all these weird symptoms. And he showed me the image, saying, "So, up here on top is your baby. And allllll this below it? They're called fibroids, and they're a significant size. Have you been uncomfortable lately?"

Okay, first weird part: I already knew all about fibroids, because a good friend had a big one when she was pregnant. But she also had all the symptoms before that, and so I knew all the symptoms and didn't have any. And I may have recently said to her, "Well, at least I know that my pregnancy will be easier than yours, because I've never had fibroids."  FAMOUS LAST WORDS, PEOPLE.

And that's set the tone for the last few months: extra specialist appointments, where I'm reassured that there is very little risk for the baby, but that I'll have a lot of pain (mostly ligament pain, but also pinched nerves, and pain associated with my various squashed innards). The main "complication" is that it's likely/almost guaranteed (and veering towards "it'll take a miracle to avoid") that I'll need a C-Section. I've had a number of health professionals say that they've never seen a case this extreme before, my GP tell me that I'm too complicated for her to handle until after the baby's born, and my chiropractor tell me that I'm almost too complicated for him. I can only walk short distances, and can only stand for a few minutes at a time, and lately I've only been able to sleep in a recliner. Also, I recently had someone ask me if my due date has arrived yet (I'm only half-way there, people!).  Also? Apparently there's an intermediate stage of maternity pants, where you have extra elastics and no belly band. I wish I'd known of its existence when I was at 8 weeks, because I've skipped straight to third trimester pants (okay, and muumuus around the house).

Mostly, though? It's made life funny and weird. Chris and I make jokes about the fibroids being our baby's weird, angry companions (or couches, waterbeds, soccer balls to kick...). I've become That Woman Who Always Talks About Bodily Functions, because fibroids interfere with them and make them weird. Because the baby's up by my ribs now, and pushed far forward, I got to feel the kicks early (especially when he/she kicks me right in the ribs!). Actually, because the kid has holed up right under (and sometimes in) my left rib cage, it's always tricky finding the heartbeat, because it's so close to my own heart that my own heartbeat drowns everything out.

Oh, and if you look closely, I never have so much "cute pregnant belly" as "why does that pregnant lady have extra lumps on the bottom of her belly?" or sometimes "Is it possible that she's only pregnant on the left half of her body? And now is it visibly shifting?"

Oh, and my bellybutton is already and outie, and I forced far too many people to look at my bellybutton as it progressed from innie to outie.  Because I'm a giver.

So, that brings you up to date with my life: trying to stay comfortable, trying to sleep, trying not to overshare all of my medical detail to EVERY stranger,  trying to write a dissertation chapter, and trying to shift my focus away from the painful lumps and toward the child that's going to be part of our lives sometime around Christmas.

For a while, I was a little bitter that I didn't get to have a "normal" pregnancy. Now I'm finding the hilarity in being weird.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Christopher's Very Good Day

Chris has had some moderate ups and downs lately. UP! He's moving back home to the prairies! DOWN! It's very sad to move away from school and church community. UP! Baby on the way! DOWN! His wife is pretty much useless because she's been so sick!

But lately it's been more UP! than DOWN! for that cheerful husband of mine.

Especially today. Yesterday was pretty hectic: he was determined to have his classroom entirely packed up, and the entire lab inventoried (because he's amazing and wanted to leave everything so that the new science teacher has an easy time taking over everything) by the end of the day. We also needed to finalize all the details about our future home immediately (our potential new landlord hadn't called our references and approved us yet, while my old apartment complex called and said that there were a few suites available at the end of the month, since we'd put ourselves on a waiting list there weeks ago). We were running around all stressed. Chris had to spend a long day at the school, and what if he had to go back for another day? Do we turn down the apartment complex, presuming that we've actually secured the house?

But, by the end of yesterday, everything was done. Chris handed in his keys to the school. I got on the phone and made sure that our house was secured. And, when Chris got home, our next door neighbour asked Chris if he wanted to spend the next morning helping to fix up his boat. Chris loves that boat: it's a wooden houseboat, built in the 1930s. He loves that boat, and he loves our semi-retired next-door neighbour, and Chris is always scheming about ways to get in and help Peter work on the boat. I think at one point he was hoping that, if he helped enough with the boat, he'd get to go out on the water in it when it was seaworthy, but now just the work itself makes him ridiculously happy. Any time Peter asks him if he has a minute to help, Chris's response is along the lines of "Aw, gee Mister, really?"

And so this morning Chris woke up, free from all school responsibilities (he can't really deal with next year until we get to Regina), spent an hour fixing up an old houseboat. And the telescope that he ordered (using gift certificates from the school and as a thank you present from the new science teacher) might arrive today.
And, more officially now that we went over the terms of the lease this morning, we also have a house (minus basement suite) complete with a fire pit and vegetable garden in back, right near the park and the lake (and pretty close to both Chris's school and the university). It's not yet noon, and he's also gone and puttered around the mall, checking out construction progress (his favourite), and getting all squishy about clearance baby items.

Of course, it's not yet noon, but he's already filed today away as "Christopher's Very Good Day."