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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Emmeline Laura, a birth story

This post is one that I have anticipated writing for many, many months...years. Putting into words the details of my first birth was part of healing from an extremely traumatic and trying experience, and although it's been nearly 5 years since then, I have awaited writing out another birth story with such apprehension, for fear that I would be writing out another similar story.  This birth could not have been more different. While I know that just like each child, each birth is entirely unique, I almost didn't want to believe anyone when they said this one could be, would probably be, completely different. That I could have the healing birth story I so desired.

Before I begin with the day of her arrival, I feel that I also need to write for a moment about where we were in our lives that brought us to the point of having our rainbow baby. As many of you know, I had a miscarriage on 1/3/14. It took me by surprise, but it's also one of the things that happens in life and you move forward, carrying it with you as you go. There's no other way. But, a year passed, and we were not pregnant again, not sure we were ready. Life tossed some punches at us during that year as well, and it seemed best to just wait it out a little longer. In April 2015, I found out quite by surprise that we were going to be parents again. It was the start of a tumultuous but very rewarding pregnancy, because in the end, we have you, our sweet Rainbow Baby. After every storm, there is a rainbow of hope, and here you are.

Emmeline Laura, here is your birth story.

Your estimated due date was 1.1.16. New Year's Day. A fitting day for a birthday; a day of "rebirth" every year, when everyone chooses to start anew and try to reshape themselves into better versions of who they were the year before. We prepared for a holiday arrival, spending much of December anticipating that you might come early, and we wanted to be ready. We wanted everything set for Norah as well, so that the impact it might have on her at the holidays would be as smooth as possible. However, week after week went by, and I found myself still pregnant on your due date. I went to see the midwife each week, and each week she was encouraged and reminded me that I would in fact, not be pregnant forever.

Taken around noon on your birthday, 1/8/16

I went in for a non-stress test on what turned out to be your birthday, 1.8.16, to monitor your movements and to see if there was any reason you were in distress. For half an hour, the monitor picked up every slight movement of yours, tracked your heart rate, and checked for any contractions. I wasn't having any, and you were moving and bouncing around wonderfully. The ultrasound tech pretty much assured me that we would not be meeting you that day, and sent us home to keep waiting. I was really pretty disappointed, but your Daddy and I went out to breakfast and then came home to spend more time with your sister while we waited.

I sewed up a few things for you, and made a pillow that afternoon to pass the time. Around dinner time, I needed to clean up the table so we could eat, and we decided to order pizza. I stood up from the table about 7:15 PM, and felt a weird flip-flop sensation, and I thought it was possible that was my water breaking, but I wasn't sure. I went to the bathroom and nothing seemed to be up, so I grabbed the vacuum and got to work cleaning up the fuzz from the pillow making along with all the dog hair! It was as I vacuumed that I realized it was probably my water that had broken after all, and went to check it out; it was! I nervously told your dad he should order that pizza if he wanted, because we were going to have to get moving pretty soon as it seemed you wanted to be born that day after all! After saying it out loud, I realized my heart was pounding with anxious anticipation...I knew I was ready to meet you, but wasn't sure I was ready to go through birth. 

Tiny headbands I made for you on your birthday 

He left to get pizza about 7:35, and my contractions were about 5-6 minutes apart at first. I called triage to let them know, and started to time things to see how it was progressing. By the time Daddy got home about 25 minutes later, labor was definitely in full swing. I was contracting every 2-3 minutes for about a minute long each time. Triage finally called me back about 8:30 PM and I decided we should head in. I had been on my hands and knees alone in the bathroom for about 10 minutes, and definitely needed all my focus to get through each one.  Looking back now, I think I was starting to hit transition before we left the house. I was getting hot and irritated by having any clothes on, and I definitely didn't want to wear a coat or shoes, even though it was a January night outside. We had the car packed up already from earlier in the day, so we grabbed the last essentials and headed out the door. I had a moment of almost feeling tearful when we told Norah we were finally leaving to go to the hospital to meet you; her sweet face lit up and she was so very excited!

In the car, things got serious pretty quickly. We put on some music from the playlist I had made, and we listened to
Jack Johnson for most of the drive. I remember thinking at several points that I couldn't understand why the contractions seemed to peak at the beginning, rather than start gradually and build up, but they were starting out strong and sharp, and then dulled down.  In hindsight, I think this was definitely transition. I was hanging on the handle above my seat, and I kept saying "I can't believe how much these HURT!". Daddy said lightheartedly "maybe try swearing, sometimes that helps!", so I did, but it sure didn't take away the painful sensations! Your dad was trying to be helpful and calming, and tried reaching for my hand, but I shook him off and said "I don't want anything touching me!". I also unbuckled my seat belt and told him not to get in an accident.  At this point, he said "should I start speeding now?"...I think even he could tell things were going more quickly than either of us expected. 

By the time we arrived at the hospital about 9:30, I was contracting nearly every minute, and HARD. As it was late evening on a Friday, the valet service was accessible only after going inside first, which took a few minutes to figure out. I stood outside leaning over a wheelchair for a few contractions, then inside the double doors. It took us several minutes to get through the lobby, and I think I freaked out a few people, but we made it up to triage.  We had to wait for a few contractions before they got a room for us, so I stood leaning forward against the wall.  As soon as I walked in the first room, the clerk heard me and watched me and said "Oh, those were awfully close together. Let's actually go back into this other room" and walked us back to the first room in the hall. I realized as we walked in this was the room babies are born in; the baby warming table was set up, and I thought "there is no way they think this is happening that fast...I'm not having a baby in triage!".  They told me to get a gown on, and I wanted none of it. I tossed my clothes off (they must have been strewn about the room, I did not care!) and they had to basically put a gown on me, which I ended up ripping off again. They monitored the heartbeat for a little bit, but before I knew it my body was starting to get "pushy" at the peak of contractions. One nurse asked if I was pushing, and I said "I think so, I'm not trying to!" and one nurse asked if my plan was to go without medications; I said "that's the plan".  It is a good thing, because there would not have been time for an epidural anyway!  The triage midwife arrived and said she'd check me; I was 8.5 CM already, about 2 hours after my water broke! She said she would catch my baby if needed right there in triage, but they were trying to get a room set for me first. At one point Matt noticed some blood on the floor, and the tension in his voice was palpable as he called a nurse over to see. She said it was totally normal, but I can only imagine from his experience that the fear of witnessing me lose so much blood again was very real. After that point, he seemed to be somewhere behind me for the rest of the birth...I only recall seeing his face a few times, but I knew he was there.  I think he was truly afraid of watching another horrible thing happen, and just stayed where he could let the midwives be in charge and tell both of us what was happening. 

The midwife on call, Anne Rosa, arrived shortly, and said they were ready to get me down to a delivery room. I tried to just bust out of triage, but they reminded me I needed to be in a gown. I literally rolled my eyes, and said "Fine, but make it quick!" while they tossed a gown on me. They asked if I wanted to walk or take a wheelchair. I couldn't imagine sitting, but they said it was a long walk, so we went for the wheelchair. They moved us very quickly down the hall, and Anne asked if I was still wanting to be in the tub, as she saw that in my chart. I said I did and they planned to run it when we got to the room, because I had no idea how much longer I would be in labor, and I knew from Norah's birth that I would never have gotten through without being in the tub. However, as soon as we got to our room, 9E-16, I pulled off my gown again and tossed it across the room (found it behind the couch the next day!) and hopped onto the bed. I was pushing on my own with every contraction at this point, and I heard one nurse say "don't push" and I panicked! But Anne checked me again and said there was the tiniest lip of cervix and she held it out of the way.  Then, there were nurses trying to draw blood and start an IV in each arm at the same time.  It was a little crazy for a few minutes, but soon everyone had done what they needed, and I told Matt I needed a pony tail because I could not stand my hair on my neck anymore. He got a hair tie and did it for me, and he apologize so sweetly because he said he gave me the "worst ponytail ever". Like I cared!  Needless to say, there was no time for the tub. 

Just a few minutes old, bright eyed, calm and alert in Daddy's arms

I was facing the back of the bed, on my knees, and pushing that way for a few minutes, but Anne said she thought we should try side lying. As I turned around, for some reason I realized I didn't remember the midwife or RN's names, so I asked them and kept saying "sorry I didn't ask before!". They all laughed, given that I had been pretty busy from the moment we checked in.

We did side lying for a few minutes, but I just didn't feel like I had any leverage, and my leg with the sciatic pain was not comfortable that way at all.  Then, on the monitor, you started to have dips in your heart rate. They put oxygen on me, and said you were doing ok, but they wanted to get you out quickly. I got scared for a moment, worried I wouldn't be able to get you out fast enough and I would end up in the OR again. The midwife said she thought you had a cord around your neck but you were doing OK between contractions, and she felt you were very close to being born. She had me flip into a reclined sit position, as this would be the fastest way to get you out. (Totally against what the physical therapist recommended for my sciatic pain, but at that moment we had to do it).

As much as you think you remember what birth feels like, I was still somewhat surprised at just how incredibly intense and painful moments of it can be! I didn't remember actually being aware of the feeling of Norah's head moving down through my pelvis, but I could distinctly tell where the edges of your head were as you moved down. I kept saying "I can't do this! I don't want to do this!".  Anne helped calmly guide me in what to do, and even though it goes against what the mind tells you, pushing through the pain is the only thing that brought me closer to meeting you.  Less than 20 minutes after getting in our delivery room, you were born at 10:20 PM. You had one loop of cord around your neck, and as soon as your head was born, Anne unwrapped it, and then your hand and arm came out along with your shoulder as the rest of you was born into my hands. I pulled you up to me, and I kissed your head and started to cry, so very thankful that you were here, safely, and the physical intensity of birth was over in that instant. Your cord was wrapped all around your body, but you were pink and crying and totally perfect right away. We let you lie on my chest for a few minutes, and your dad cut your cord once it stopped pulsating.

Your very first photo, just moments old. 

Your Apgar scores were 9 and 9, and you weighed 9.19 lbs, 21.5"...exactly the same stats as your sister! While Daddy followed you around the room, Anne got busy trying to get the placenta out right away this time. Pitocin in my thigh, and within 5 minutes or so, we had it out, without any issues like last time. No retained parts, no hemorrhage, no OR. I was actually interested in looking at it, when Anne checked it over, and it is such an amazing thing to see an entire organ my body created, solely to sustain your life.  I was so relieved, and so thankful for the way your birthday unfolded, all on its own. I kept thanking all the nurses for being so amazing, as I really felt they helped me bring you here safely. I was just incredulous at how fast it all went.  I high-fived Anne as she was leaving for the next birth, and was just so impressed with how calm and supportive she was during such an intense birth.  Our L&D nurse, Tiffany, stayed with us for 2 hours, helping get the rest of the things we needed checked off (since we didn't have time for most of it when we came in!).  We had such a great, easy going, supportive team with us, and I couldn't have asked for a more redeeming birth experience.

Daddy singing your first song to you ; Too Ra Loo Ra

Your stats
Swaddled and snug, your fresh red cheeks are so kissable! 

In the weeks that have passed since your birth, I have replayed it so many times. I still can't believe it happened so fast, after we waited so very long to meet you.  Nothing about your birth could have gone any better, and I truly feel so proud of myself for bringing you into this world.  Birth is the most transformative process I have ever experienced, and now that I have two completely different ones to compare, I know the feeling of triumph when you have an entirely empowering and exhilarating (albeit intense and kind of terrifyingly fast) birth. The intensity of birth emotion is a high wave to ride anyway, and I have been beyond grateful in this postpartum phase that I feel like such a different person than I did in the early weeks after Norah's birth. I'm physically stronger, have more energy, and coming out of a non-traumatic birth vs. the kind of situation I had with Norah has made a world of difference in my ability to be truly present as a mama.

You have your hands in your mouth all the time, and you found your thumb right away. I'm sure you were sucking them on the inside too! 

Hanging out in the morning waiting to meet your sister, grandparents and aunt Tryn and uncle Liam

I have so many thoughts on the "fourth trimester" and postpartum phase, especially as this is likely my last time to experience the newness of a baby of my own, but I will save those thoughts for another post, or this one will be 10 pages long.

Emmeline Laura, I love you with a whole new place in my heart that burst open the moment you landed earthside. You will forever be my last "baby", but please revel with me in your newness and let this next few months pass as slowly as possible while I soak up all there is to you, right now, the tiniest you'll ever be.

Meeting your big sister for the first time. She is so in love with you! 

Love always,


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?