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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

When a friendship fades

As social beings, we have all experienced the rise and fall of close relationships over the years. Playmates in elementary school that made way for cliques and teams and groupies in middle school. The in-crowd vs the uncool in high school. The BFF who has known you the longest, and the ones you suddenly realized were way more into the same band than you ever would have guessed and never thought you'd wind up being friends.  

It's a certain rite of passage to experience losing a friend over something silly, or to have those friends who fade in and out of life as circumstances change for both of you. It's an experience that we have all come to know throughout our formative years when someone is no longer meeting our needs, and it's time let it go.  

But the further we get from forming those lifelong friendships with people who have known us forever, the harder it is to open up and trust another adult to join our inner circle, to see who we "really are" in our grown up life. Finding someone later in the game who just seems to "get you" is special. 

As women, I think we give more deeply, we invest more emotionally in our friendships than men do.  When we finally do trust someone with our vulnerable selves, we expect that it will be worth the investment because it has been crafted so carefully and with such deliberate action.  

But what if that person eroded the trust you built? What if that friend you carefully selected and groomed before letting her in fully, suddenly decided to go in another direction...without you? It can be a unique and incredibly lonely experience to lose an adult friendship. One created after the frivolous nature of childhood, never had to be sustained through puberty, after college, after choosing your careers. One where you both decided to go deeper, because you valued each other for who you are as women, at the point in time you are both standing in. 

Losing a friendship that became a part of your daily life as a adult is like rubbing salt in a fresh paper stings with a surprising jolt when you least expect it to.  When you hear a song you danced to together on a rare night out, or you long to eat at that restaurant again, but it feels like cheating not to go there with her. When your child wonders where "her friend" has been, and you have to choose between honesty and saving yourself the wave of emotions when you answer. When you look into your Timehop folder and realize you won't have any new memories going forward that include photos of you together.   When you see the remainder of the bottle of her favorite drink you bought to keep at your place for her visits, and know you'll never drink it without her. When you see someone driving a car like hers and think for a moment it might be fun to run into each other, catch up, and then think about all the reasons why that would actually hurt more than not seeing realize you have been expertly left out of her new life. To know that part of the reason is the new life growing in me, who she will probably never snuggle and love the way she did my first. 

As a full time working mom, making friends as an adult has been a difficult feat for me. I feel like an outsider to my SAHM friends, and to be honest I'm a little bit jealous of them.  They have time to cultivate relationships to carry them through the long days of being home with kids...and I trudge off to work, missing my baby, wishing I had more time for myself, my spouse, to meet my own needs.  I have my "core friendships" of life well established - those girls from home who have known me forever, and who will always be there to mark the passage of time along the way; those from college who met me as I was becoming more "me" than I'd ever been before. Those from grad school who saw me through existential growth and self reflection, there with me as I watched my parents divorce as I was on the cusp of marrying my own husband. Those friendships have the ties of time holding them down like anchors. But then, those friends move and have families and careers to chase and lives to solidify. And we come back to each other, to mark the time, to remind each other of the anchors when the waves seem high, but then we go back into our own daily lives. 

So what about the friends we seek to buoy us through the daily realities of life as we know it? The new "BFF" to call/text, make plans with on a Thursday, routinely see on the weekends, stay up too late on a weeknight chatting with? To share the truly awful parts of a difficult career choice with when the going is tough. Who sees you through some
pretty bad nights, and for whom you've done the same.  The one who loves your kid, who enjoys making last minute plans with you, who loves to let you cook while she cracks you up in the kitchen? The one who gets you, when it feels like you've almost forgotten what it's like to be an independent person aside from being a wife, a mom, a career.  What happens when we let someone in, and sooner or later, without the history and the anchors...they walk out again? 

It's a new kind of loneliness. When it feels
as though someone you chose, not because of history or shared time, but because of who they are in the here and now, used up all that you invested and gave and offered, and decided to move on anyway? Nothing hurts quite like that for awhile. And it's true, pain eases with time, and new people will come and go, but sometimes? You just really miss your friend. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Pregnancy Sciatica, Pelvic Girdle Pain, SPD...whatever you are, please go AWAY

Since about 9 weeks this time, I've been graced with a somewhat new and unwelcome guest - shooting, searing hot pain in my right butt cheek and down the right leg into my foot. It started with a sneeze (I feel like that could be a whole book chapter on post-partum life). My entire right leg went numb and I instantly fell to the floor. If it sounds dramatic, it's because it was. I laid there for a few minutes hoping to collect my shit and get up and head out the door for work. Well, that did not happen. Fast forward to almost 5 weeks later, and it's a daily presence that is seriously, legitimately, a pain in the ass.

I am going to see the chiropractor weekly or every other week. I've gotten a full massage. I ice. I heat. I rest. I walk. I stretch. I use pillows to prop when lying down. But without fail, the pain is there every time I re-position, stand up, put weight on my right foot, sit down for too long, cough, laugh, blow my nose, bend over forward, roll over at night, put on pants, sit down to pee. Basically, it never goes away. It's getting really old already, and I'm only just 13wk6d.

If that's the only complaint I have this entire pregnancy, I'd be ok with that. After the last two times, I'm ready for a road without any major issues. The nausea (which was passing and not awful at all this time) is nearly gone, and other than some weird soreness or other passing things, I have very little to be bothered by other than this constant butt/hip/leg pain.

I know that the sciatic nerve is being irritated, either through compression of the piriformis or from a vertebrae/disk issue. I don't know that it's true sciatica, it could be pelvic girdle pain or some form of SPD like I had last time. I'm willing to try whatever I can do for relief, because this is already taking a toll on my emotional health and I'm constantly fatigued (both from pregnancy and from being in constant pain/fear of pain). I'm trying mindfulness techniques and using the skills I've been learning in a year of therapy for anxiety to try and deal with this to the best of my ability, but man, sometimes I just want to complain and have someone commiserate about how unpleasant the pregnancy process can be!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

12w5d and new pics of Baby Smith 2.0

Yesterday we got to see little Smith 2.0 again on ultrasound for our first trimester screen. Little stinker was being quite stubborn and did not want to wake up or move for a while, so we had to coax it out of the little ball it was in! After much cajoling, we were able to get the baby to flatten out enough to get the measurements they were looking for, and get a good estimate of growth. Looks like baby is on track and measured right at 12w5d, which was exactly my estimate! The nuchal translucency and my blood work results indicated a very low risk profile for any of the trisomy diagnoses (1:10,000) which is a giant relief. I also had been screened last time and I'm not a CF carrier, so we can rule that out for this baby as well. It's nice to have an ultrasound in the Fetal Diagnostic Center without needing a consultation and potentially difficult news from a high risk OB for once! Even though we did see our good friend Deb Berman, MD, who has been involved in my OB issues from the beginning, and she reassured us that as of yesterday, everything is looking great and she is hopeful that will continue for us this time around going forward.

Up until now I've had a pretty solid feeling that this is just going to be a boy. Everyone in real life (other than my mom who stands firm that it's a girl) has guessed boy, and the pregnancy has been so very different that I just assumed it had to be a boy. But...because I'm HORRIBLE with surprises, and I just love to putz around and guess about things like this, I've put up some of the pictures on a few forums for people to guess the sex based on clues in these early images. So far...100% GIRL guesses! I'll still be SHOCKED at our next scan if they confirm it's a girl, but it's really fun to guess and wonder about the possibilities either way! I guess the "nub theory" is what people are guessing by, and here are the shots they are using to guess:

We didn't get as clear of shots as we did with Norah, but evidently there is enough shown for people to give very consistent guesses! Now we just have to wait another 7 weeks to confirm at our next scan on 8/15...I'm sure it will go by quickly ;)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The one that comes after...

Most of the things I've read on the subject of pregnancy after miscarriage are meant to be reassuring. Most women go on to have healthy, normal pregnancies even after one ends sadly. But the way our society treats miscarriage, it's hard to talk about, and there are few articles that actually highlight the emotional toll it can take, not only at the time of the miscarriage, but long after. Into the next pregnancy. Perhaps even more anxiety arises when getting pregnant again, because all of the fears about the unknown resurface, and especially if there was not an identified cause of the loss.

I lost our second baby January 3, 2014. It was early, around 6 weeks. And at the time I brushed it off, telling myself it was best that it was over quickly, and I wasn't as attached. I hadn't known the sex. We hadn't thought of a name. We'd barely known about it, and then it was over. But as time went on, it settled in. A son or daughter we'd never know, not in this life. A sibling for Norah she'd never meet. A piece of us that would never join our family in this world.

I'm currently 10w2d with our 3rd pregnancy. And from the moment I saw two lines on the test this time, I felt afraid, anxious, worried. I worried about the possibility of it ending so soon, I didn't want to get attached to the idea of being pregnant again, let alone acknowledging that we could have another child in our family by the end of the year. I worried about all of the things that could be going wrong in the very earliest stages of development, right under my skin, and I'd have no control over the outcome. I was afraid to bond to the baby, because honestly I just assumed there was a greater than average chance that this one would end, too.  I was immediately aware of how tenuous the entire thing is, and how stressful and all consuming and terrifying pregnancy could be for me, given my experience the last two times. Then, the fears of another traumatic and life threatening delivery loomed over me as well. I don't want to go through that again. I don't want Matt to go through that again. I can't bear to think of Norah losing her mama, for something we could have chosen not to do again. I felt responsible for causing not only myself, but my family, potential grief and anxiety, for wanting to do this again, and for getting pregnant at all.

Fast forward to this week. We had our first prenatal appointment on Monday, my 32nd birthday. We talked about my history, reviewed my birth records and pathology reports and discussed risks of recurrence. We were able to see the baby on a quick ultrasound, and confirm a little beating heart and a fully formed teeny babe. It was a relief. The past 5 weeks of anxiety felt lifted, and I just felt a calm sense that this time would be different. This baby was here to stay. This baby, as surprising as it was to get here, this baby I wanted and needed to be in my arms eventually.

Then, Friday, my midwife called to discuss my lab reports. My glucose was normal, my A1c was normal, indicating the gestational diabetes is still at bay. But, I had tested positive for a rare antibody called the Kell antibody (my titre level is currently 128). I either acquired this through one of the multiple blood transfusions I had after the post-partum hemorrhage, or was sensitized through my pregnancy with Norah (if she is +Kell). Matt now needs to be tested, and if he is positive for the antigen (heterozygous would give 50% and homozygous would give 100% chance the baby will also have the +Kell antigen) we will need to transfer from the midwives to high risk for extensive monitoring. If the baby has the antigen, we will need to have ultrasounds and special dopplers done every 2 weeks to monitor for a condition called fetal hydrops and severe fetal anemia, both of which could be fatal either before or just after birth.

Essentially, it is similar (although more severe) to Rh incompatibility.  One difference is that with Rh factor incompatibility, there is a shot the mother can receive (rhogam) which greatly improves outcomes. There is no such treatment for the Kell antibody.  The Kell antibody in my blood crosses the placenta and enters the baby's body, and if the baby has the Kell antigen, my antibodies are essentially fighting off the baby.  It makes it difficult or impossible for the baby to create its own red blood cells. So, the baby could have a severe lack of red blood cells, and become significantly anemic, requiring intrauterine blood transfusions. One of the risks is that these babies are often delivered early, between 33-37 weeks, because the risk of doing further transfusions after that point outweigh the risk of early delivery.

This could all be a non-issue, if Matt tests negative for the antigen. From what I've read, about 45% of kell+ moms got the antibodies from a transfusion, and the other 55% were sensitized from a first pregnancy with a Kell+ baby. So, it's about a 50/50 chance that this baby will have the antigen. If it's negative, I believe we will still monitor serial titres on me throughout the pregnancy, and if they continue to rise there may still be a reason to monitor the baby for anemia. All we can do right now is wait. Have Matt's blood tested, and wait.

It makes me so sad and angry that I have another stressful condition to monitor, once again, in this pregnancy. My relief from Monday was fleeting, and all concerns I had about bonding to this baby have instantly gone out the window. I am now all-in. I want this baby to make it through this crazy thing, to be in our arms this winter, for Norah to meet and love and play with. It just seems unfair that one person should have such bad luck when it comes to pregnancy. Sure, I can GET pregnant. I only have a 50/50 record of staying pregnant so far. And I have a 0% batting average for uncomplicated, low-risk pregnancies. I feel like I am just not made for this. If this pregnancy ends in any other way than a baby we take home with us...I am not sure I'm ever doing this again. I don't know that my body is capable, and to be honest, I don't know that my heart is either.

I'm not a spiritual or religious person, but I believe in the power of shared strength. Please, if you wish, think good thoughts, pray if that's what you do, but send your good energy out into the universe for this one thing to go OK. For the test results for Matt to be negative, and for this to proceed as an uncomplicated, low risk pregnancy. It takes a village, doesn't it?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mirrors usually tell the truth

When I glanced at my reflection tonight, quickly darting over the parts I know too well that I'd rather not focus on, and going to the ones I can usually find something kind to say to myself about, I couldn't help but think "Who the hell is that woman?". The dark circles seem almost physically imprinted under my eyes, like the shadowy hollow that is left after being really ill. The color I might normally have swiped over my cheeks and lips was long gone. The mascara flaking off my tired eyelashes. The "clean" shirt I changed into after work already stretched out, wet from tantrum splashes and a writhing, wet kid at bathtime. And, my first thought was not "man, I need more sleep" but more along the lines of "surely I don't look that bad in real life, right?".

And then, my thoughts were broken up by a still-screaming preschooler who has been having one tantrum or another for nearly the entirety of the 2 waking hours on either side of the work day I've been with her. And, I would say this is just a particularly rough day, everyone surely has these moments...but lately it's been the norm for her to scream/cry/whine/hit/kick/thrash/go limp/go ninja for somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-4 hours of the day, as long as she is in my presence.

Instead of meeting her needs with kindness, with strong, welcoming, supportive arms, with all the right words to soothe her tears and build her confidence like the mother I always imagined I would be, I meet her screams with my own. I mirror her tears with the same salty, burning hot ones from my own eyes. I swear. I shout at my spouse. I seethe with red-hot anger at myself for the fact that I have absolutely no idea what the hell to do.

When I screamed at her "YOU ARE MAKING ME SO F*&%ING ANGRY" and her tiny reply through tears was "well you are making ME angry!"... I remembered that we tend to mirror each other, and what we see across from us is probably what the other is looking at, too. We butt heads because we are so alike. We are both seeking acceptance and love from the other. She needs me to keep on being here for her, even when she's terribly hard to be around. I need her to keep on being here for me, and reminding me that she does still need me, and that she keeps asking for my love, even when I'm not so great to be around, either.

So, yeah, next time I glance at my reflection and think "who the hell is that exhausted, burned out, glazed over woman?"...the mirror probably is telling the truth. It's me. I'm just a mama, trying her best, plain and simple.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Don't bend me or I will break

I haven't written in nearly a year. I have so many stories that need to be told, stories that my life has written out in those many moments. Stories that make me laugh, and stories that took a piece of my heart when they marched on. But there's no way to catch up on life lived out, only stand in the present, looking ahead.

And the present, it hasn't been the easiest place to stand. It's not that much of my story hasn't been told before, by working mamas, by wives, by those in professions wherein loss and heartache are the norm rather than the exception. But my own unique experience of those's an amalgam of the joy and pride I feel in being a mother and spouse, in having a career I should be confident in, and fear and insecurity about the uncertainties of the future, of my own success, value and worth to those around me.

I have the beautiful privilege of walking with families through arguably the most difficult experiences any family will know. It's my job to be something for them that they cannot be for themselves. I've taught myself how to balance being emotionally present with them without shredding the tender pockets of my own least I thought so until this week. And like I've told myself for the past four years since the last one that brought me to my knees and almost put an early end to my career as a medical social worker, there will be others, surely, that will tap little cracks into the harder shell I created around that tender heart.  Until now, it hadn't happened.

But, now it has. There is a tiny little baby boy in our care who desperately needs a liver transplant. But his body is too sick, too septic and malnourished, to receive one right now. We can't even offer the parents the promise that we will do everything we know of to save him...because we know what to do but aren't in control of when that can happen.

Today, as I walked into his room, his mother curled up in the hospital crib, cradling his tiny frail body in the curves of hers, as though she wanted to crawl inside his skin instead of him. I know that's what she's thinking, because it's exactly what I would do if my baby were in that crib instead. Giving her strength over to him, telling him to fight for something harder than anyone should have to in their whole life, certainly not at 4 months old. And watching her husband, a military man who is due to report back to base in 3 days, hold them together while talking to the physician and asking questions he must never have imagined he'd form words to ask...that harder shell I thought I'd built...started cracking wide open.

Leaving that place at the end of the day, to walk out into the sunshine and play music in my car, drive myself to teach Zumba, to move and push my body to feel alive, to think about my family and what we will eat tonight. To know that my own baby has been missing me for 12 hours, and that is my biggest hardship today. The sense of caregiver guilt has become a battle I had forgotten about fighting. Why do I deserve the happiness and health my family has? Why isn't it my baby in that bed? Thank goodness it isn't...but what does that make me to think?

These are questions I can't answer. They only bring more questions into my mind. Like, how am I going to go back there tomorrow...check the census and scan for his name. Will he be there? Will the conversation with family be one of relief that another night has passed and he's with them? Or will it be one of grief and loss and planning something they never wanted to plan in their lives? Will I hold them up, or will I break down too?

These are the thoughts in my head this week. And then, just like that, I'm also thinking about whether the spaghetti stains came out of Norah's new shirt, and did I remember to brush her teeth tonight, and shoot the car needs gas before driving to work tomorrow. Oh, and she needs milk. Picking out my outfit for the day in my head...only to realize tomorrow that I can't find that belt, and that top isn't really clean. And, oh, will that sweet baby boy be curled into his mamas body tomorrow, or will she have to pull herself away from his tiny, puffy, line covered body for the last time? And, will I break, or will the shell hold this time?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Summer catch-up

Well...the summer is over and I only updated this blog once! We really had some great adventures and made some wonderful family memories with Norah, now that she is getting old enough to actually talk about and recall things that happened longer than 20 minutes ago.

We took a family trip to Boyne this July and Norah absolutely loved every minute of it! Rather than re-upload 800 pictures, I'll share the link to our photo album and if you want to flip through feel free :)

We have pent lots of time outside, riding bikes, playing on her slip n slide, taking walks, going to "the blue park" and generally soaking up as much childhood summer whimsy as we can. Mostly I've had my iphone handy for taking photos, so these shots are the best I can do for a taste of our summer:

S'mores by the bonfire

ice cream dates with mama

Down the slip n slide

and a duck! 
So many bubbles! 
On my head!

and a beard! 

Daddy's birthday cake 
Being a doggy doc

new leotard for gymnastics, won't take it off (even slept in it)
Elbel Field band practice 

First game day, waiting for the band to march by
there they are! 

so excited!

hairuts, haircuts! all around!
tea party with Mary Read's vintage tea set (she was like a grandmother to me growing up!) 
tea party with Julia