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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas III.

Our crazy Christmas Eve dinner at Mom and Shane's consisted of crab dip (Mom), spaghetti (me), steak (James), some kind of yummy pear and feta salad (Shane), and pasta salad and cheesecake (Josh). Oliver went to bed early, but I missed him when Mom was getting ready to read the Christmas story from Luke (James argued that she ought to read from Mark instead). Josh went to get Oliver, and I held him, asleep, as Mom read. Josh easily took him back to bed after that. We watched Christmas Vacation and sampled the Italian cream cake Shane had made. I took a bath before bed, and Josh sat with me as he has for years now.

We woke Oliver at 7:30, and I nursed him. He was wearing a blue fleece outfit with polar bears and penguins on it. I wore a black shirt and my hot pink and black snowflake pants. Josh was wearing red plaid pajama pants and a green First Union T-shirt. We went downstairs, and Shane took Oliver to wake up James.

Oliver grinned when Mom showed him his first present. Josh and I were excited too about the play mat with hanging toys and a mirror. Oliver also got soft blocks and sea creature toys. Josh and I gave him a treasury of children's literature. We both wrote to him inside the cover. We're going to make a Christmas tradition of giving him a book for his library--fairy tales, mythology, poetry, classics. Mom cried when Josh and I read our inscriptions.

Josh and I gave each other books, too--favorite authors, childhood favorites. I gave him a poster based on our favorite episode of Doctor Who ("Silence in the Library"). He gave me a beautiful Potter Style Bronte-themed journal. When I get a new journal, I try to remember to write inside the cover about where I bought it or who gave it to me and when. He wrote in it for me: "Given to Becky, from her husband, Josh, the gift of a space to dream-- Christmas 2011." Yes, I love him.

Josh got comfortable casual clothes. Most of his wardrobe is fancy teacher clothing, so he needed stay-at-home dad clothes. I got a gorgeous light blue cardigan with rhinestones around the color, a cream T-shirt with a rhinestone and sequin snowflake, purple jewelry, and a sleek green wallet. My fat, metallic purple one is nearly worn out, and though I've looked for flat wallets, I could never find one that was pretty and that I could figure out how to open.

We gave Mom and Shane photo gifts and mint chocolate soap. Shane got nutcrackers--he has quite a collection--and a guitar. Mom got purses and an aquamarine ring.

We had sausage in croissant rolls (Mom had found Morningstar sausage for Josh) and eggs for breakfast. Then, we got ready for church. This would be Oliver's first church service, and it would be at the church I attended from ages twelve to nineteen.

Josh wore a black suit with a light blue shirt. I wore my new blue cardigan and a sparkly navy cuff bracelet. Mom looked sassy in tall gray boots and a rhinestone-glittered cardigan I gave her for a recent birthday or Mother's Day. We gave Oliver a bath and dressed him in a red Christmas fleece outfit.

At church, it was strange and nice to see the youth minister who had tried to include me when I was twelve, had long hair in my face, and was completely socially inept and miserable and show him my baby. I also saw two girls, grown up now, whom I used to babysit.

After church, I changed into a green velour suit and wine purple T-shirt and nursed Oliver again. We gathered in the living room again, with another huge fire, to open stockings. Many starts and stops followed as Oliver was tired. Most of my gifts to Mom were stocking stuffers. My favorites were a silky purple top, a gold and rhinestone rabbit necklace, and gray pajamas with lace and lavender bows. My stocking brimmed with gorgeous journals and headbands. Oliver's was full of toys and fleece outfits (the only baby clothing Josh and I really bother with--warm, easy, and cute). I especially like the plastic rings that we now use to attach toys to everything.

Lunch was ham, pasta salad, macaroni and cheese, Caesar salad, and deviled eggs. We took turns entertaining O with his play mat or by showing him the Christmas decorations. He's so observant.

Josh and I spent most of the evening taking care of an upset baby. When he went to sleep, we sat in the bathroom talking for a while, both of us haggard and tired of being in a dark room. We re-emerged, and I had an odd comfort food dinner of chips and crab dip, Caesar salad, and pumpkin pie with Cool Whip.

Though Josh and I were tired, we stayed up to watch the Doctor Who Christmas special about tree spirits and a courageous mother. That one action made us feel like people, like ourselves as a couple, and like our seventh Christmas had come.

Oliver won't remember his first Christmas, but we will, and it's our Christmas too.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas II.

Josh, Oliver, and I picked up James on our way into Charlotte. We met my dad at Katz Deli. This is where Dad used to pick up egg salad sandwiches for me when I watched kids at the nearby women's gym. The restaurant was packed. I had my usual egg salad (how could I not?) and the fabulous fries. James had breakfast with thick pancakes. Dad had matzo ball soup. Josh had baked macaroni and cheese and a fancy hummus, veggie, and pita bread plate.

At his apartment, Dad had gifts and stocking laid out. His fiancee, Michelle, arrived with a snowflake book for me. We gave them a collage frame with photos of us and Oliver. Dad said he'd been meaning to ask for photos for Christmas and that whittling down our vast online albums to just four photos would have been impossible for him.

Dad gave Oliver a royal blue, velvety jacket and pants (Ralph Lauren!). He gave us a date night-themed gift bag with perfume and cologne and a gift card to Olive Garden (one of our favorites). Nanna and Grandpa had sent toys for and teethers for Oliver and Applebees and Panera (our very favorite!) gift cards for us.

The stockings were full of fancy snacks and fun items Dad and Michelle found on their trip to Universal Studios. My favorites were Josh's Kwik-e-Mart name tag and my ruby slippers socks.

Oliver charmed everyone as usual.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas I.

On December 23, we drove to Wilmington to see Josh's parents, siblings, and siblings' significants. We all met at Sarah and Adam's house. Adam was hard at work cooking amazing bits, just like he did at my first baby shower. Josh had commented that he wished I wore more skirts. He has often listened to my preferences for clothes, hair, and facial hair, so I tried to pay attention even though it's winter, and I'm usually a jeans-and-cute-T-shirt girl when I'm not working. I wore a gray tweed skirt (just above the knee), a black tank top with white polka dots (a fabulous new Old Navy find), a wine purple cardigan with ribbon trim, matching beaded hoop earrings, black tights, and black knee-high boots.

The food was tremendous--cheese (including fresh mozzarella) and crackers, potato skins (no bacon for the veggie heads), crab and risotto poppers (delicious -- and which Zach lovingly called crab balls), and probably other wonders I can't recall. I do know that the evening ended with homemade chocolate mousse and whipped cream.

Oliver received practical gifts of fleecy clothes and diapers. His aunt Sarah, who is not inclined to sew, had made him an amazing jungle-themed quilt. It will cover his bed when we convert his crib to a toddler bed.

We gave Oliver's Grammy a "granny bag" (canvas tote with Oliver's photo), Grampy a "grandpa mug" (with Oliver's photos) and various prints, Sarah and Adam a World Market gift card (so they can have a shopping date at their favorite store), and Zach and Tina a Chili's gift card.

Josh's parents gave him a joy stick and flight simulator game, a fancy pen and pencil set, and a DVD of his favorite Christmas movie (A Wish for Wings That Work). They gave us a digital picture frame--we're excited about that. Susan usually keeps me well-stocked with cozy socks, and she kept that going in pinks and reds. I also got candles (gingerbread, Vanilla Cinnamon, and Marshmallow Peppermint--my new favorite) and bubble bath and lotion in Vanilla Cinnamon and Be Enchanted. The shimmery purple gel and sparkling label of the latter are worthwhile on their own. The silver branches remind me of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses."

Oliver was by turns smiling and fussing. Sarah and Adam's regular and Christmas decor (silver tinsel and snowflakes even adorned the guest bathroom) fascinated Oliver. He's so observant now, and he's cooing as he begins to want to speak to all he sees.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Maternity Fairy Clothes: Lady in Waiting

This is just two days before Oliver was born and the last day I went to work. Crazy! Here are the purple flats again. A coworker and I realized we were wearing the same shoes, though hers were black. My having a meeting just forty-eight hours before the hospital admitted me seems crazy!

Mom and I love looking around at Francesca's. We had never actually bought anything until one day when I went in and drop a lump of cash on three jacket-like items (including this jacket and the navy ruffled cardigan from an earlier post). Neither of us cared for the military style until we saw this jacket. I think it's even cuter buttoned up, but of course, I couldn't wear it that way. I think everything is better with ruffles, glitter, rhinestones, or sequins.

I love this warm and irreverent stripey lining.

I have no idea what is coming my way, but I'll have my precious boy soon.

And that is the last maternity fairy clothes post.

Maternity Pants: Motherhood
Top: Target
Jacket: Francesca's Collection
Flats: Target

The Spirit.

The Christmas spirit didn't envelop me this year. This wasn't the first such year, and I'm never sure why. Even as I felt a little flat, though, I knew that when I look back on this Christmas a few years from now, I won't remember that flat feeling. Similarly, when I look back on my Disney World honeymoon with Josh, I don't immediately think of the dizzying heat or the endless love bugs or the swollen insect bites on my ankle. I think of everything we saw and did. The same is true of Christmas, I think. In this way (as well as in many others), I think that what we do matters more than what we feel, especially in those small pockets of time.

Josh built our first fire in our new home (which I will write about). We built it before Oliver went to bed so that he could watch the bright dance. Josh played the three bell chimes of the first song on Aaron Neville's Christmas album. When Oliver went to bed, we spread a snowflake blanket by the hearth and lay down together, just watching the fire and remembering how we used to fall asleep that way in our apartment in Charlotte.

Josh hung our silver beaded and rhinestoned stockings from the mantle. While I was at Target, I'd picked up a small green knit stocking for Oliver. We put it between our two silver stockings. It looks quite precious and little. I set up our funny little tree on the counter. It's fiber optic--no lights or ornaments to tempt the cats. Josh set a few of his childhood nutcrackers on the mantle. His parents used to buy him one every year.

My mom and Shane came to visit and help us unpack after Thanksgiving. Mom and I went out to Barnes and Noble, and I had a Peppermint Mocha Frap. I also bought a beautifully illustrated Gift of the Magi, which I'd wanted when I worked at a bookstore the Christmas before last. We haven't read it together yet, but we will.

At Old Navy, I bought a gray and black sweater with rows of silver sequins to wear on Christmas Eve. At Target, I went ahead and picked up the pretty hot pink pajama pants with black snowflakes, even though I didn't need more pajamas. I found a first Christmas fleece outfit for Oliver--white with a little ice skating creature and the same creature on the feet...I think they're puppies, Josh thinks they're reindeer, and Josh's mom thinks they're bears. Oliver wore it several times, but we found it was too small (like all his newborn clothes) just a few days before Christmas.

I painted my nails metallic fir tree green and wore purple sparkle on my eyes often. I never did play my favorite Jingle Cats video, but I can still do that. In little ways, I invited the spirit, and I think those memories will be blessed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mothers: David's.

Josh had the idea that we should write about the fictional mothers and fathers we'd like to emulate. I can't think of many or much detail for mine, in part because many of the books I've loved are about orphans, or the mothers are beautiful, tragic creatures who die young and early in the story.

One of these tragic mothers is in The Book of Lost Things, which I still haven't made much progress in (due to my own distress and fatigue rather than any flaw in the book). David sees her as a figure both familiar and mysterious, tangible and mythical. 

"He sat up late into the night, squashed into a corner of the living room while grown-ups exchanged stories of a mother he had never known, a strange creature with a history entirely separate from his own...a beautiful woman in a bright red dress who was stolen from under the nose of another man by David's father... (Connolly 5-6).

I want Oliver to see both my best self, and when he is ready and wants to, my flaws, history, and humanness. I don't plan to keep secrets. I don't want him to suddenly find out something that makes him doubt himself, his origins, or his safety. I do, however, want him to see I am not only my roles, just as he will not only be his.

"...he would step often quietly into the room in which his mother was reading, acknowledging her with a smile (always returned) before taking a seat close by and immersing himself in his own book so that, although both were lost in their own individual worlds, they shared the same space and time." (Connolly 4).

This is one of my most important aims: to model a love of books, reading, paper. I want to provide books for him and show him, rather than tell him, how fascinating and vital stories are, whether we find them or make them.

"He thought of his mother's a symphony, capable of infinite variations on familiar themes and melodies that changed according to her moods and whims" (Connolly 4).

When I first spoke to Oliver face to face, I knew he knew me. Now when I speak or sing, he doesn't usually look toward me immediately. He continues looking at the leaf pattern on his bed or the shadows on the wardrobe, but he changes--a calm or hint of delight tickles his face. I want that to remain true: though my voice will not always capture his attention, I want it to be a source of comfort, something that makes him feel safe and loved as he becomes himself.

Connolly, John. The Book of Lost Things. New York: Washington Square Press, 2006. 4-6. Print.


The losses I've had, self-inflicted and blindsiding, permanent and temporary, seem to intersect or at least echo each other. This is what that sounds like now.

I feel like someone else, like I'm looking at reflections or symbols of whatever was formerly familiar. I don't know how much of that is sleep deprivation or the recent inability to focus on much besides scrambling through the end of the semester. I don't know whether or not, after the initial break, the world through the looking glass will be better, clearer, or brighter.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Worst Glitter.

About two weeks ago, I got home at 1 p.m. on Friday. We had a relaxed afternoon. I started reading The Book of Lost Things and was a little emo over the boy whose mother died and whose father took up with the hospital administrator. Later, I slept near the foot of the bed while Josh sat at the head of the bed, back to the window, Oliver beside him. A few nights before, our bedroom had been illuminated in blue. Three squad cars were at a house across the street. Policemen ran toward the house in their bulletproof vests, yelling. Later, I heard the loud speaker. I told Josh we should stay away from the windows until they left. I remember wondering if we ought to try to move.

This night, I had the vague sense of Josh grabbing me and of me protesting or maybe even shushing him. I woke up fully when I hit the wood floor at the foot of the bed. I immediately tried to sit up and figure out what had happened, but I heard Josh yelling, "Get down! Stay down! Don't move!" I couldn't see him. Then, I heard my son screaming. I tried to question Josh but he kept yelling to ensure I didn't move above the line of the bed.

I somehow assured him I wasn't moving and said, slowly and gently, "Do you have our baby?" I had no idea if Oliver was hurt or if he was in his bed and I needed to crawl to get him.

"Yes," Josh answered, and I heard him calling 911, shouting at the dispatcher who was being too slow and calm. "Do you understand? Someone has shot through my window."

Then, I understood why I was on the floor. I thought about how I had once been sitting, pregnant, with my back to that window and had the sudden vision of a drive-by shooting. I told Josh that if I were ever hurt, he needed to call an ambulance immediately and tell the paramedics that I was pregnant. "Even if they couldn't save me, I'm far enough along that they might be able to save him if they were fast." This had mortified Josh somewhat, but I'd said it more than once because I wanted to make sure he wouldn't waste Oliver's precious minutes on grieving me.

When Josh hung up (which I thought was odd--aren't the dispatchers supposed to keep the caller on the phone until the police arrive?), I said, "I think you need to come over here," having realized that he and Oliver were on the floor on the side of the bed, which was much closer to the window. He crawled to me and let me take Oliver. I crouched over him, holding him to my chest. He had fallen asleep again.

The police arrived in minutes, and I realized I was only were underwear and a pajama top unbuttoned over my nursing bra. The blankets had fallen to the floor with me, and I found my pajama pants and struggled to pull them on while holding my son and staying low. The pants were up to my knees when the policemen walked in, and the not caring leftover from the hospital kicked in.

Three of them came, one a young patrolman, one a big K-9 unit guy, and the other the lieutenant. They had their big boots and bullet proof vests. The K-9 guy started asking questions (Had we had words with anyone? Had anyone been begging us for money?) and touching the doors of my wardrobe opposite the window, feeling for a bullet hole. He opened the wardrobe doors and touched a hole in the plastic over one of my work jackets.

"Was this hole here before, ma'am?"
"I don't know," I answered, feeling a little desperate that I didn't remember every tear and worn place in my home and life.
He noticed Oliver and that I had begun to shake hard. "That's okay; that's fine," he said. He asked if I would mind going into the living room, so they could search. He must have noticed my half-dressed state because he gestured to the young patrolman and said, "We'll step outside for a minute." He closed the door behind him, and I felt strange about being alone in that room, standing when Josh had repeatedly shouted (desperate for my safety) for me to stay still, pulling up my blue snowflake pajama pants, and carrying my son into the living room.

Josh was rigid in the green recliner. I sat on the couch. Both of us were hyper aware of the windows in that room and everywhere in the house. Because the rooms were so small, even safe corners or closets big enough to huddle in together didn't exist.

The young patrolman stayed with us, asking occasional questions and saying he knew how shaken we must be, especially with a new baby. I could see him wanting to say, "You shouldn't be living here."

The K-9 guy came out with a small white rock. "Was this in your room before?"
"I don't think so," Josh said.
"Did you hear a gun shot?"
"I heard people arguing and then two popping sounds and the glass shattering."
"Okay. If you'll come outside with me, I'll show you what we think happened."

Josh pulled on his boots and went outside with the K-9 guy and lieutenant. I think the patrolman stayed with me. The two men showed Josh how the rock had probably gone through the window and how the hole was consistent with that. Josh asked how a rock of that size could have busted the screen, shattered the glass, and exploded the blinds. They said that the person must have thrown it extremely hard from the street or must have been standing in our yard. We've seen thought, with others' input, that the person must have fired the rock through a paintball gun, potato gun, or at the very least, a slingshot.

They assured us that they weren't trying to "belittle the rock" (which we later found a little funny) but that they were glad it wasn't a bullet. The report would be ready on Sunday if we wanted a copy.

We stayed in the living room. Josh paced. I called my mom. I was surprised she answered, and her voice was strained when she answered with "Becky?"
I immediately said, "We're okay," and told Josh he should do the same when he called his mom. I cried as I told my mom what had happened. Something about my mother's voice triggers the outpouring of pent up emotion even as I try to convey information.

I could see the adrenaline and fear pumping through Josh. I thought he would never be able to sit down again. I wished he would cry, either with me or while talking to his own mother. He hadn't cried since the hospital, and I knew that, even beyond his heart and mind, his body needed that relief. That white rock, which looked like it would have come from someone driveway or a border around a small, decorative tree, had seemed to bring with it all of the losses and near-losses in Josh's life, and maybe all the mistakes and guilt too, as it cracked the window of our bedroom just above our infant son.

Thinking about the glass fully took us a long time. We were still in the living room when I thought to look. Josh found glass on Oliver's pajamas. I found little glints on his face and later found a terrifying shard in the folds of his neck. I was so scared to try to move it, afraid I would only make it pierce him when it had, mercifully, not done so yet. I had the idea to use a piece of tape to pick it up. We did that too many times. Even the next day, after an hour of sleep in Oliver's room (which doesn't face the street), I continued finding little shiny bits on his face. I couldn't understand why until I looked down and saw that my chest was covered in tiny bits of glass. Josh and I put Oliver in his crib, stripped our clothes in the hall, and took turns showering. My hands stung as I washed my hair.

I went into our bedroom to get my phone charger. The blankets were still on the floor. The blinds were hanging, literally, by their threads, letting the sunshine pour it. My breath caught. Our room, the room in which we had slept, talked, fed our son, began to recover from skirting death, sparkled with glass in on every visible surface and in every corner. Our bed, Oliver's bassinet, the floor were we had crouched, all was glittering with cruel shards and sand-like bits. At that moment, I didn't think I could ever wear anything that sparkled (what if I saw traces of eyeshadow glitter on Oliver and thought I saw glass?) again.

That night and the next night, we slept at a hotel, using the points my dad offered. We spent the week of Thanksgiving at Josh's parents' house, and I commuted an hour and a half to work. We knew we could not sleep in that house again because of what had happened, what we thought had happened, what could have happened, and oh, just the new bitterness of that place. We washed Oliver in the bathroom sink at the Hampton, and Josh and I slept, completely satisfied with having nothing but Oliver's bed and diaper bag, an overnight bag, and my blanket (which I've had and slept with since I was a baby and grabbed on our way out the door, suddenly seized with a bizarre fear that I'd never see it again, as if I were grabbing my family and one treasure and fleeing a burning house). Whatever the reality and whatever the symbolism, we were going to take our baby and run.

Our bed, with an ad I had torn out of a magazine that night to show Josh because I thought the little girl looked like she could be our daughter, our Eirene.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Comfort Food.

Since Oliver's arrival, many people have given us food. Since we are definitely food lovers, this has been fabulous. When we got home from the hospital, Dad had gone to get some groceries--milk, eggs, bread, roast beef (since I was allowed to eat deli sandwiches again), bacon, Dr. Pepper, and other essentials. He's also brought Subway (Josh loves the Veggie Delite) during his visits, and more recently, he brought 215 on Main. I had penne pasta with tomato cream sauce, sausage, and shrimp. Of course, I also sampled the Parmesan and herb fries. Mmm.

Mom and Shane brought twice-baked potatoes; buttery, seasoned green beans; rotisserie chicken; and soft chocolate chip cookies (they brought other treats too--brie for me, spicy pimento cheese for Josh, and a case of baby wipes. The wipes may have been most exciting). I inhaled the supper they prepared. That chicken is amazing, and the green beans were the first vegetable I've really wanted since Oliver's arrival. I had a potato and chicken for breakfast and for dinner yesterday. Yep. Another time, they made pumpkin pancakes and bacon. And another time, they brought veggie pasta salad and crab salad.

Josh's grandfather and his wife brought a German chocolate cake. Mom and Shane's house church group sent a gift card to Wal-mart and two big bags of Trader Joe's groceries. We quickly devoured a huge loaf of cinnamon bread from the adjacent bakery. We've been munching our way through powdered donut O's, granola, plantain chips, and Pita crackers (love them!). We still have pumpkin bread mix, gingerbread mix, black bean soup, squash soup, and mini ravioli. One day, when I was famished from nursing, I stood in the kitchen and ate a generous handful of the almonds they sent.

On Thursday night, two of my coworkers sent me home with salad, garlic bread, white veggie lasagna, and peach cobbler. All the food-related kindness has been pretty grand.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hello, Autumn.

Our backyard is full of yellow leaves. Neighbors keep coming to the door, asking if we'll hire them to rake the yard. On my way to work, I see a beautiful amber tree on the next street. The long drive is red and orange. Even the lawns and fields are the color of pumpkin pie.

Yesterday, Josh bought more fleece, footed, one-piece outfits for Oliver so that he can stay cozy without constant swaddling. He wears zebra stripes, little elephants, and pumpkins. New chub has appeared on his cheeks, on his thighs, on his shoulders, and on the back of his neck. When we went to the pediatrician the week before last, Oliver was one ounce away from 7 pounds. Right now, he's lying on my lap, cooing and grinning at the ceiling fan Josh has decorated.

To work, I wear opaque tights under my dress pants. One day, I wore a black and silver scarf with a plum turtleneck. Josh dug my purple wool coat and my quilted olive velvet jacket out of a box under the bed. The temperature was 33 when I left for work on Friday.

My office is freezing since the AC is still on in the building, and the nearby, windowless classrooms tend to get stifling. I leave on my layers. Today, Josh bought me a tiny purple space heater for my desk. I'm excited about using it tomorrow, in part just because he picked it.

Josh burns candles throughout the day, so when I come home, the bedroom often smells of cinnamon or caramel. I need to make a trip to B&BW for more candles. A few minutes in the brightly-colored store, breathing in holiday scents, would probably be good for me anyway.

We keep saying we wish we had a fireplace. I'd drink some hot chocolate, but I'm paranoid about having anything hot around Oliver. When I'm home, I'm usually nursing him. This morning, Josh watched him so I could sleep until nearly nine, which was marvelous. I have read three books since Oliver was born, and I mostly read them while nursing. A Famous Broken Heart, one of Josh's favorites, was brief and beautiful. A spark glitters when one of us reads a book the other already loves. The Writing Circle was a book I bought at Waldenbooks because it looked fluffy. It was indulgent but not really fluff. I had to read some gorgeous, insightful, image-driven sentences aloud to Josh. The book is worthwhile just for those. And today, I just finished Outside the Ordinary World, a two-generation book that deals with the pull and aftermath of infidelity. I hope to start another book today. I'm so relieved that I can attach to a book. I thought I might be too ravaged or tired or overwhelmed to read. Josh and I have been enjoying the TV shows Up All Night and Once Upon a Time (though I think he watches the latter only to indulge me).

Though I'm loving autumn, I am already looking forward to hearing those three bell chimes at the beginning of Aaron Neville's Christmas CD. For me, those sounds have always signaled the beginning of Christmas. I have good memories of listening to the CD with my family as I grew up. Josh and I added James Taylor's Christmas CD to the canon. Taylor's voice is warm and cuddly in a different way. I'm looking at the Christmas issue of Real Simple, thinking about the stacks of unread magazines I have and may indulge in over Christmas break. I feel drawn to rich colors and sparkles. In no time, I'll be contemplating which calendar I'll pick for next year.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How Are You?

This is a question people normally ask without listening for the answer, without expecting a real answer. Real answers are unsettling. But I've been asking Josh this question frequently since we got home - a slow, quiet asking with eye contact. I really am asking, but I'm actually asking dozens of questions.

Are you staying sane?
Do you love us?
Are you getting too hungry or sleepy?
Do you need to get out of this room or house for a while?
Are you keeping up with your medication?
Are you reading? doing something creative?
Do you feel calm?
Do you feel like yourself?
Am I being nice enough?
Am I doing enough?
Have you processed everything that happened?
Do you need to cry?
Are irritations staying manageable?
Do you like your life?
Do you want to be near me?
Are you amazed at him?
Can you believe you got here?
Do you feel neglected?
Are you lonely?
Are we doing this correctly?
Are we staying close enough?
Are you harboring any resentments?
Do you need to take ibuprofen?
Do you feel proud?
Are you happy?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Five Weeks.

Oliver is five weeks old today.

Josh spent the morning decorating the ceiling fan with white paper shapes on the blades and wet erase marker drawings (a bunny, a butterfly, an Eric Carle caterpillar, and a message) on the globe. I'm glad he's been creative lately...yesterday, he attempted a portrait of Oliver.

I held Oliver upright in my lap and read Eric Carle's My First Book of Shapes and Winnie-the-Pooh's 123 to him. He listens and sometimes looks at the books. I touched his fingers to the smooth pages.

The rest of the day has included a lot of feeding (I'll write about the craziness of breastfeeding eventually); planning, selecting stories, and creating exercises for my creative writing class (I'm team-teaching it, and my segment on short fiction starts next week); and reading a little of The Writing Circle (a book I bought at a closing looked like fluff, and Josh said it would be a perfect postpartum book). I also cooked for the first time since Oliver was born. I made brown rice with asparagus, cheese, and grilled chicken (boiled egg, soy bits, and hot sauce for Josh). That feels like a big day.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Maternity Fairy Clothes: Teal and Purple.

While this dress was very comfortable and wonderful to have during my third trimester, I will not miss it. I like the color combination, though.

In fact, I repeated it on my eyes, using the Too Faced Enchanted Glamourland pallette. These purple flats became the only shoes I wanted to wear at the end. Josh and I would take short walks on campus during my break, and these shoes didn't hurt.

Maternity Dress: Target
Cardigan: Old Navy
Necklace: Target
Flats: Target

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Maternity Fairy Clothes: Royal Treatment.

I think this was the day of my last ultrasound and of my surprise baby shower at work. The red evidence of my respiratory problems appears around my nose. My mother gave me this gorgeous purple cardigan as a Christmas present just before I began teaching. It was one of the first pieces in my teaching wardrobe! I can't wait to start buttoning it again.

Maternity Pants: Motherhood
Top: Target
Cardigan: Ann Taylor Loft
Headband: Target
Necklace: Ann Taylor Loft
Flats: Target

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


When I was driving home today, I was thinking about some music I'd like to hear. After a few minutes, I realized that I have an iPod, and it's in my car. I had completely forgotten this. I think I'd forgotten it for almost four weeks. What else have I forgotten?

On Monday, a coworker came into my office a few hours after seeing me in the hall. She said, "Are you okay? I got scared when I saw you. You looked more than tired. You looked fragile." 

Fragile does describe how I feel. I also feel insubstantial, uncertain, and a little bit threatened. On the way home, I saw a series of huge fir trees that seemed to be missing their back halves--branches, green, roots. I felt a connection with them. I seem to have lost half my essential energy, half my securities, half my ideas about what's important, half my brain power, half my normalcy.

The electricity went out briefly today, so my alarm clock has been blinking blue, and I haven't known the time. This has made me unusually uncomfortable. Work has a strong and unfamiliar smell now...something like pickles and pepper. I smell different too.

Josh and I were trying to nap, and I whispered, "I don't feel real." He asked what I meant, and I didn't know.

How much of this is postpartum changes, and how much is what happened? To what degree have I become a different person, and how long will I take to either go back or to become comfortable with the new self?

Maternity Fairy Clothes: Royal Ruffles.

This poor tank top is straining! I hope I didn't stretch it out too much.

This cardigan was an irresistible find with its fancy pirate ruffles and that lace on the cuff but not right at the hem. This is a feel-good piece of clothing.

These earrings aren't my usual style (I go for dangling more than big and round), but I like them!

A baby is in there!

Maternity Pants: Motherhood
Tank Top: Old Navy
Cardigan: Francesca's Collection
Earrings: Target
Flats: Shoe Show

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Maternity Fairy Clothes: And Mend My Pockets for Me.

I'm glad I got another wear out of this fantastic maternity tank top!

This tiny pocket with a tiny rhinestone on the button makes me think of something Wendy would sew.

Oliver Sweet: coming soon!
Maternity Pants: Motherhood
Maternity Tank Top: Motherhood
Cardigan: Old Navy
Headband: Target
Flats: Shoe Show

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Six Years.

Josh and I have been catching up on Up All Night, an NBC show that, with the new baby and stay-at-home dad, is quite timely for us. We've been watching it on NBC's Web site, and the same two or three commercials appear constantly. One of them is a Lowe's commercial that shows two cardinals remodeling their birdhouse. I keep expecting it to stop being cute, but it hasn't yet. Anyway, the song playing along has the words "Have I paid my dues just to be with you?" That reminds me of the last six years. We've had crazy times. I think Josh wonders how his life became so dramatic.

I would think that adding a third member to our family would make it feel stronger and more stable. Instead, everything feels more fragile. I had to realize how easily I could lose my family. My own delicacy is part of this.

Yesterday, Josh and I were able to really snuggle during one of Oliver's naps. For the first time in months, I didn't have a huge stomach or various bruises and injuries keeping me at arm's length from him.

A few days after we got home from the hospital, I couldn't sleep and was up all night cleaning. When Josh came into the kitchen to try to make me go to bed (saying, "I don't want you to start whimpering like a puppy again"), I started bawling for no apparent reason (well, I guess I had general reasons). He didn't say anything but stood straight and held me firmly until I was calm. That was perfect. I don't think I've had a breakdown since (yet).

When Josh and I first met, I had long straight hair and wore Mudd jeans and glitter. He and a friend referred to me as "the goddess." Now, that's something I can always ponder when I don't feel good about myself. I saw a quiet, steady boy who never got awkward or uncomfortable, who listened intently, and who noticed the slightest details like a purple silk scarf in my hair. I found out that his hair curled when he grew it out and that he would wear glasses when his contact prescription ran out. Those are just superficial examples of the ways I've repeatedly found my dream boy in him. Since then, Josh and I have changed quite a bit, our lives have changed remarkably (several times), and he has seen my appearance evolve and my body completely transform. How much of our happiness is in who we each are, and how much of it is in how we choose to see each other every day?

And now, we've made a miracle together. The making could have dismantled us, but we are here, three of us together. Josh is outside in jeans and a white T-shirt, switching the car seat to the other car so that he can take Oliver to his pediatrician appointment tomorrow while I'm at work. I can't imagine leaving my boys, but I know I'll get through it and then rush home to them. I'll just try to never think about it too much. People will give me a hard time about going back to work so quickly, but I know what I have to do to take care of my family, to ensure that we all have health insurance and can buy groceries and live in Oliver's Love Palace. And Oliver will float safely in the center of a six-year love bubble.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hospital, Day 5

Dr. H arrived at 6. He took one look at me and said, “I'm going to let you go home today.”
Pam said, “You better call your mama right now.”
I did. Oliver came to us soon. I ate waffles and boiled eggs for breakfast. I was in the bathroom when a nurse and a nurse-in-training from my college came in to bring me stool softener. I couldn't see them, but the nurse asked me who had done my delivery.
“Dr. W.”
“Oh, she's good,” (or something like that.)
“Yeah. She was a champion.”
“This is Amy from work talking to you.”
Pause. I couldn't really tap into my life. Then, I remembered the kind nursing instructor who is pregnant with twins. “Oh, hey!” I said.
I came out and talked to her for a minute. She knew what had happened. I had Josh bring Oliver over to show her.

At ten, Josh and I went to a parenting class in the nursery. It was mandatory before discharge, and we'd been hearing about it for two days.

I put on the little jacket that went with my pajamas. In the night, a sweet CNA had said, “I like your lounge wear. It's so youthful.” She had spent time looking for gray socks to match and seemed regretful that she couldn't find any. I liked the baby blue ones she brought, though.

Josh had me push Oliver's bassinet, using it like a walker. I managed pretty well this way. Everyone who saw me exclaimed how good I looked. The door to the nursery was unremarkable, almost like the entrance to a secret clubhouse. A nurse took Oliver, and Josh and I sat down in a little room with a TV and many stuffed, black and white diaper bags (which contained diapers, wipes, and formula—excellent). We watched two DVDs. The room was fairly full, but Josh was one of only two dads. The other moms were texting, most of them wearing pajama pants under their hospital gowns. I cried during one of the DVDs when it showed a doctor handing a vernix-coated baby to a mother. I hadn't seen or experienced that. The doctor will place the baby on your chest or belly kept going through my mind.

After the DVDs, we waited in line for Oliver. The nurse said to another, “You'd better get Mr. James too.” He came out wide-eyed. I walked him back. Josh went ahead of me. Mom had arrived and completely cleaned up the room. She looked shocked when she saw me pushing the bassinet through the doorway.

Josh and I took a shower, and I didn't really need help. I put on maternity leggings and a long top that would work for nursing. I fixed my hair somewhat and then nursed Oliver. Mom asked me what outfit I'd like him to wear home. The outfits I had brought were much too big, so Mom had gone to Belk at some point and bought all the preemie boy outfits she could find (three of them—yellow with ducks, blue basketball-themed with tennis shoe feet, and brown stripe with giraffes). I picked the giraffes but said I wanted to dress him.

Dr. H had given me a prescription for iron and another for Percocet. He said he wanted me to have something stronger than Tylenol. I still needed to stay away from everything else. The hospital pharmacy filled the prescriptions for me.

LeAnna came to discharge me. She took out my IV (which also didn't really hurt) and went over a great deal of paperwork. I'd be going back to my doctor in two weeks rather than six.

Wanda came to discharge Oliver. His jaundice had gotten a bit worse but was still okay. We had made an appointment for him for the next day with his pediatrician. A CNA came to remove Oliver's security anklet.

I pulled a chair over to the bed, sat down, lay Oliver on the bed, and dressed my baby for the first time. I swaddled him as well as I could. A wheelchair was waiting in the hallway. Josh had taken most of our luggage out to the car and was pulling around to another lot. I hoped he wouldn't get lost. This was the real test: I somehow picked Oliver up, stood, walked to the wheelchair, turned around, and sat down. Oliver immediately began lifting his head to watch the ceiling go by. Several people said goodbye to us as we passed. We used that same elevator. Everyone we passed congratulated me, amazed even though they had no idea what we'd been through.

We got outside, and Josh was there. I stood and walked to the car, holding my son. Mom helped me get him in the car seat. We had to tighten the straps as far as they would go. Oliver was patient and stared at everything. I got in the backseat beside him. Josh and I were out in the sunlight for the first time in five days. Oliver was in it for the first time. Within moments, he was asleep.

Hospital, Day 4

I slept. Dr. H came in the next morning and said that my blood was not improving. If it didn't get better in the next few hours, we'd have to consider a blood transfusion. He said I looked very pale.

Oliver arrived, and we had a great nursing session. The next time, though, I couldn't get him to nurse, and he came back from shift change with those formula bottles in his bassinet again. I felt discouraged. I was thinking about that a lot more than I was thinking about my blood. Mom, on the other hand, was ready to take me to a hospital in Charlotte.

LeAnna came to take out my catheter. I was scared this would hurt, but it didn't. My mom later said, “Out is always better than in...except with a baby.” I was worried about getting up all the time to pee because I was still drinking water madly. The first time, Mom placed Oliver in his bassinet, and she and Josh helped me to the bathroom. We laughed ruefully about having done this before. Mom threw away the ice pad and helped me with the peri bottle, and Josh sprayed the Dermoplast. We figured out how to activate another ice pad.

We got Oliver to start nursing again. Mom turned out to be quite the lactation specialist. My dad arrived at some point. The day before had been his birthday, and I felt bad that I didn't have a present and hadn't been able to do anything besides call him and explain my scary sickness to him.

Dr. H returned. He had me stick out my tongue, and it was white. My mom says this was one of the scariest images from the hospital because I clearly wasn't getting better.

Dr. H explained the risks of blood transfusions to me. I don't remember this, but Mom and Josh do. Dr. H looked at Mom and said, “We have to give her this blood.”
I know,” she answered.
Apparently, I signed the consent form.

LeAnna and another nurse named Meredith brought in the first unit of blood. They read numbers from my bracelet, read dates, and confirmed, “A positive.” My IV had survived getting wet in the shower, and I was relieved that I didn't have to get another. LeAnna and Meredith started the transfusion, and while the transfusion itself didn't bother me, I didn't like the look of the dark red tube. Then, one of the nurses nearly pulled the IV out while moving the blood pressure tower. “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” I yelled, and the poor nurse was mortified at her mistake. After that, I held the tube close and didn't let it near the floor or other equipment or people. Meredith and LeAnna had to sit and watch me for thirty minutes to make sure I didn't have a reaction. Apparently, heart failure was a possibility.

But I was fine, and Mom had to roll the IV tower into the bathroom so that I could pee. The transfusion took a long time, and I felt a lot of pressure in my arm. My blood pressure rose.

Then, I had a second unit of blood, and the nurses had to watch me again. Mom rolled the tower into the bathroom again. Nurses and other staff members kept coming in and saying, “You look so much better!” I'd just smile and point to the blood bag above my head. Some would nod knowingly, and others would look a bit mortified. Josh saw the pediatrician Dr. R in the cafeteria. She asked how we were doing, and he told her about the transfusion. She looked stricken. Several hours later, my transfusion was finished. The bags of blood hadn't looked very big, but I realized that it was a lot of blood.

Soon after the transfusion, I was ready to shower. The night before, Mom had gone to Food Lion. She'd bought laundry detergent and washed Josh's clothes late at night at the hotel. She'd also gotten hair barrettes, a nice razor and girly shaving cream (which Josh had used that morning to shave his face so that he could finally kiss Oliver without worrying about scratching him with his rough whiskers), chamomile and white tea face cloths (which she used to clean my face—so soothing), and kid's detangling spray.

I said, “I think I want to wear my own clothes and my own underwear and my own pads.”
Everyone looked rather amazed. The transfusion was already working.
Josh gathered everything, and we went into the bathroom (he was wearing his swim trunks again). We threw away those ridiculous mesh panties. We kicked the irritating sitz bath (which I had used once, failing to see the point of wasting my energy sitting up to use it) to the side, and I showered with my back to the water. Josh still held me, but he didn't really have to. I put on my own overnight pad, my own comfy maternity underwear, and my own gray nursing pajamas. I was so glad I'd brought all that. Back in bed, I sat up, and with the detangling spray, quickly brushed my hair and put it in barrettes. My dad held my tray while I ate dinner.

Josh's mom; sister, Sarah; and sister's boyfriend, Adam came to visit. I'm amazed so many people could fit in the room. I was, I think, cheery and energetic. But after a while (probably a few minutes), I started to get tired. The night nurse, Pam, came in to examine me. Our guests stepped into the hall. Every nurse would check my bleeding and swelling, have me squeeze her hands, check my reflexes, check my legs for blood clots, and feel for my fundus (the top of my uterus), which was getting lower and lower. Most nurses and even doctors pressed gently on my belly. Pam didn't. I cried out and then wept. She said, “I'm sorry, honey, but this is better than us having to dig out clots later.” This, of course, scared the hell out of me. Josh's family had probably heard me from the hall. Though Pam was rough, she was also serious. She said, “Honey, you have been through it.” We had no doubt that she had read my chart. My mom liked her.

I couldn't really recover after that pain, though. Josh's folks came back in, and I basically held onto my mother and cried. Susan ushered everyone out soon. They had all been so nice. Sarah and Adam had brought tiny cowboy boots.

I asked Pam about a sleeping pill, and she said, “After what you've been through, I want to see your chest rising and falling when I come in.” This seemed reasonable, and I thought that since I'd slept once, I could probably do it again. Pam instructed me to rub my belly hard in the bathroom to keep the blood flowing normally (which I did to avoid her doing it), and she told me to get up every two hours. If I didn't get up often enough, I might not realize how badly I was bleeding. She brought me my Percocet but warned me that I may not go home with anything. Since even Tylenol wasn't on my chart, though, I kept taking that Percocet.

My blood work showed a great rebound. My levels weren't optimal, but they were much closer to normal. I let Oliver go back to the nursery again; I knew I'd need my energy for him if we got to go home the next day.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Maternity Fairy Clothes: Stormy.

On cold days, I tend to bundle up in dark colors. I need to make sure to incorporate plenty of brightness this fall and winter to keep my spirits up, especially as I'm away from my precious family. Still, black and gray make me feel sophisticated.

This warm cardigan has rhinestone buttons. It's too awesome. And the key necklace is always wonderful.

I'm looking a little wistful. I don't have very long to wait!

Maternity Pants: Motherhood
Tank Top: Old Navy
Cardigan: Old Navy
Necklace: Banana Republic
Headband: Target
Flats: Target

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hospital, Day 3

Sleep seemed impossible. The nightmare images and sensations continued. Horrible airplane sounds (which I later realized were the bed inflating—it was the sort that rapidly deflates to make a hard surface for CPR) kept scaring or annoying me. I looked at photos of Oliver on my phone. I thought about calling the nursery and asking to see him, but I knew Josh was too far gone to help me if I needed help. The knocks on the door and sudden floods of light startled me. CNAs checked my blood pressure and temperature, and for six hours, someone took my blood every two hours. I'll probably always remember the rattle of the big lab cart. One guy chewed his gum like it was a rubber ball, but I liked him because he got blood on the first try every time.

Dr. C came in for rounds. He no longer seemed frightening or Oz-like, and his clear-cut manner of speaking again felt reassuring.
“Has anyone told you the name of the condition you have? Wait, the condition you had. We're going to use the past tense because we're going to move past this,” he said decidedly.
“I think someone mentioned pre-eclampsia...” I said uncertainly.
“You had severe pre-eclampsia with HELLP syndrome.”
“And the major parts of that are the high blood pressure and the low platelets?”
“Right now, yes. Your blood pressure has been great, but the platelets are still too low. They take longer to get better, so we won't expect a major improvement, but they do need to turn the corner. I expect I won't see what I need to see for a couple of days.”
“Okay. The nursery nurse said I could try nursing today since I've been off the magnesium since last night...?”
“Go for it. Have you been pumping to start your milk supply?”
“No. I was pretty out of it until recently.”
“Good.” I took this to mean good, the mag was doing its job and keeping you from convulsing.

I appreciated his determination that I understand what was wrong with me. I also appreciated his letting me know that I wasn't going home soon.

This was the point when I began to understand what had happened. Mom had begun to read information to me the day before, but I had tuned her out. I was already so stressed and scared, and I couldn't process what she was telling me. She later said that at that point, not telling me seemed wrong.

I looked up the condition on my phone. According to the American Pregnancy Association, HELLP syndrome occurs in 0.2 to 0.6 percent of pregnancies. I learned that according to some studies, as many as one in four women die. Josh, impressively, had slept through Dr. C's visit, but I woke him to tell him what I was learning. We had both known that Oliver was in danger, but we had no idea how much I was in danger.

Josh went back to sleep for a while, and I was lonely. I called Melissa, who was getting ready for work. I told her everything—well, as much as I knew and understood at that point. She had had no idea until my mom sent her a text the day before. She only knew from Josh that I couldn't get an epidural. That was about all we'd known for sure, and our mothers weren't going to try to tell us in the middle of labor. I felt a little better after talking about it myself.

We ordered another bagel for my breakfast, and it took an hour to arrive. By this time, I was starting to feel rough, and I realized that I hadn't had any medication in the night. I called the nurse and asked for Motrin, but she said that wasn't in my chart anymore, so I had one Percocet.

Josh started helping the CNAs change my puppy pads and rearrange my legs and blankets. Oliver came to us soon, and I unsnapped my gown at the shoulder to try nursing him. He didn't seem interested and usually fell deeply asleep as soon as I held him close to me.

Josh changed a diaper for the first time. I gave directions from bed. Poo got on the new diaper, and I said, “That's okay; just get another.” Then, Oliver peed everywhere. Josh had to clean it off the floor when he was done. It was an eventful first experience.

My nurse for the day was named LeAnna. She had blonde hair, blue eyes, and a sweet voice. She had just transferred from another hospital. She showed me a couple of tricks for nursing, including rubbing his shoulder to keep him awake. I still couldn't get him to latch, and Josh had to use one of the formula bottles to make sure he ate on time.

Around the time Mom arrived, Oliver went back to the nursery for shift change. Josh had his computer out, and he helped me change some due dates for my classes and write an E-mail to my boss. I wanted her to know how serious the situation had been, but I didn't want to bombard her with unnecessary details. I felt very strange about the fact that no one seemed to know what had happened.

Everything got overwhelming. Someone was literally coming in every few minutes, checking my vitals, getting the trash, bringing stool softener, asking about how the nurses were doing.... Someone came in with a rattling scale and wanted to weigh me. The thought of getting up and balancing on that scale was pretty absurd to me. Luckily, someone else came in, and the scale disappeared and didn't return. I had been trying to keep up with asking for a new ice pad every two hours, asking for pain medicine every four hours, making sure Oliver ate every three hours, and making sure I ordered a meal an hour in advance.

My blood pressure was very high again, and mom looked alarmed. I turned onto my left side and began to cry.
“I have to do everything,” I said.
Mom answered, “No, let your subs handle it. That's what they're supposed to do.”
“I don't mean work. I mean here.” Claudia was right; I had to watch out for myself, and my mind just wasn't up to it.
“Josh and I can handle it.” She and Josh started talking about the timing of everything, using matter-of-fact tones to reassure me.
I imagined myself sinking deeper and deeper into the mattress and dark. This wasn't difficult since the mattress did deflate with most movements.

Almost two weeks after we all went home, my mom told me that, in the moments after I delivered Oliver, she thought, Josh is going to be a single dad. She'd watched my blood pressure numbers and seen how watery the blood was as it splattered on Dr. W. She thought I would give up after getting my son out, and she was thinking of how Josh and Oliver could move into the guestroom at her and Shane's house since Josh's parents have been busy with his ailing grandmother.

She asked me if I ever thought I was going to die. I did, but it wasn't in the delivery room. It was on this day as I sank into the mattress. It was a sudden realization. I stopped crying and started praying. I asked God to remember me, to keep Oliver alive so that Josh could have purpose and family, to take care of my boys, and to make sure that my family or Josh's helped them. I considered telling Mom and Josh that I loved them, but I didn't want to scare them, and I knew they knew I loved them. I felt peaceful rather than afraid. I think Oliver was in the room at that point, and I wanted Mom to hold him near me again, but I didn't speak. I breathed in and out slowly. The need to breathe that way was frightening and probably always will be because I had to breathe that way through contractions.

At the time, I didn't know why I felt sure I was going to die. But my blood, which had recovered somewhat after my platelet transfusion, was crashing. I had less than half the platelets and hemoglobin I should have had. I had twice the liver enzymes I should have had because my liver was still destroying my blood cells. I still felt that pain and movement under my ribs. Later, my mom called my grandparents to make sure they knew what was happening. She again thought I might not make it.

Something broke this thought process: probably more needles. I had a buckshot-like bruise on my thigh, possibly from my or someone else's holding my leg up during delivery. With my low platelet count, a fall, bump, or bruise could be dangerous.

I don't remember who told us about my blood; it was probably Dr. C. Once I got into a routine with my pain medicine (and stopped trying to be a hero and took the two Percocet I was allowed to have every four hours), my blood pressure got better. The doctor said I might need a transfusion the next day if I didn't improve.

A very kind and interesting pediatrician, Dr. R, came by. Oliver had had his ultrasound for his abdominal cyst, but we hadn't heard anything about it.

When I was feeling a little calmer, Mom helped me try again to nurse Oliver. She rubbed his sternum, and he would latch briefly before falling asleep. Eventually, she bent over the bed and held him to me without letting him touch much of my body. I was still lying on my side. Josh was behind me, supporting me so that I didn't fall onto my back. It finally worked! Since Oliver wasn't cuddled up to me, he wasn't falling asleep as easily. I'd actually fed him! Mom took a photo of Josh, Oliver, and I with her phone. Somehow, the light from the window made it an utterly gorgeous photo, like some narrative painting one would find in a Christian bookstore. I felt so relieved and content.

Dr. R returned later and told us that the ultrasound still didn't reveal much about the cyst. It isn't attached to anything, which means it's almost certainly benign. It's also very small. It may be a place where Oliver's intestines began to form and then formed somewhere else instead. Dr. R was working on getting us a referral to the head of pediatric surgery at the children's hospital connected to a major university a couple of hours away. This scared me at first, but she didn't mean that Oliver would have surgery. Dr. A was just the next top person to see. I was grateful that she was working to get us such a good referral.

The doctor wanted me to get up and walk, so Josh and a CNA helped me walk down the hall and back. I don't know if anyone would really call what I did walking, though. I was still bent over and picking my way. The positive side was that another CNA changed my bed linens while I was up.

Later, I was ready to take a shower again. I timed it to be about an hour after I took my pain medicine. Josh donned the swim trunks, and LeAnna wrapped my IV with gloves. I noticed that the box of gloves in my room was frequently empty. I guess I required a lot of hands-on work.

The glove wrapping didn't work out so well. Claudia had taped a bio hazard bag on my arm. But the shower itself went a little better. I still had my “purse,” which I hooked onto one of the railings in the bathroom. I had thought to go to the sink first and brush my teeth, something that hadn't occurred to me the night before until I'd used all my energy. Having a clean mouth felt rather fantastic.

I think I went full-on for a hot dog and fries that night. Oliver was nursing every three hours though it took a lot of help from his Marmee and a lot of irritating him awake. I was planning on keeping him with us that night, both so I wouldn't miss him and so we could start getting used to taking care of him for real. I was a little worried that we would have a hard time transitioning to being real parents after this strange experience.

The night nurse arrived and was short with me. She didn't know I had a catheter and obviously hadn't looked at my chart. She gave me a hard time about asking for pain medication and wouldn't discuss my blood work with Mom. Mom reared up. When the nurse came back, she told Mom that my numbers hadn't changed, and she had apparently looked at my chart. She was very sweet to me the rest of the night.

Mom left, and the night nurse told me that I could have a sleeping pill. I knew I hadn't really slept in a long time, and I was starting to lose my mind again. But I was terrified of not getting ice pads or pain medication in the night and being in awful shape the next morning. I didn't want my blood pressure to rise again. I hated feeling my body shake with every heart beat. I also had been set on keeping Oliver with us.

I had a bit of a breakdown. Josh had the nursery nurse come to get Oliver, and I cried about that. I told Josh how worried I was about everything else, and I kept crying and being incoherent.
“You've got to sleep,” he said. “You're out of your mind.”

I called the nurse and tried to explain my worry to her. Josh told me later that I made absolutely no sense, and the nurse looked rather alarmed. She said, “I think taking the sleeping pill would be a good idea.”

Josh assured me that he would keep track of everything I needed and make sure I got it. Finally, I took the pill. Josh sat next to the bed, talking to me with the kind of tone I use when I'm managing something. I think he said, “You're all right,” dozens of times. He told me later that I was whimpering like a puppy and that as I fell asleep, I started pedaling my legs the way I did in labor.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hospital, Day 2

After my D and C, I'd been so terribly cold that I kept asking for more blankets. Claudia got me some straight from the warmer and even wrapped one around my head. I wasn't the only cold one; my stepfather put on the Gap pullover I'd brought. The next day, I kept all my blankets except the headdress.

Dr. W came in early. She had quite an on-call stretch. I don't remember much of what she said. I know I asked if I had stitches, and she said I had just a few, a couple below and one or two above. I guess she must have done the stitches after the D and C. I remember that she hugged me. Later, I would think about what a difficult line she'd had to walk, making such rough decisions between helping me and helping Oliver. To my uneducated mind, she made the best possible choice at each point, and she stayed calm and soft-spoken though she was scared.

The NICU nurse brought Oliver to us early and put him right back in my arms. She had bought a blue and white knit hat for him. One of the nurses was making and selling them for United Way. She said it was a little big, and she might buy him another.

I realized how much I had missed, and I felt a little sad about it. I said to Josh, “I guess everyone has held him?”
Josh looked at me and said firmly, “No. No one has held him but you.”
That made me relax a bit. That was mine.

I wasn't allowed to nurse because I was still on mag, and Oliver didn't need any more of that. Tiny formula bottles and nipples were in his bassinet, and we had instructions to feed him every three hours. That proved to be much more difficult than we imagined. Oliver was either very sleepy or not at all interested in the bottle. When we smelled what was inside, we could hardly blame him.

My mom arrived, wearing a blue-gray, silky shawl against the coolness of the room. She was excited to see that we had Oliver. “Can I hold him?” she asked.
I paused and said, “Josh hasn't held him.” I hadn't thought about it before. Mom was surprised Josh hadn't held him. So I had Josh come take him and sit in the recliner. I was glad I was just with it enough to protect Josh's right and feelings.

Mom struggled along with Josh to try to get Oliver to take the bottle. They managed 20 or 30 milliliters, about a third to half the bottle. I kept telling Oliver that I would give him the real deal as soon as I could. As the day went on, I started getting sad that I couldn't nurse him. I didn't feel like I was being his mother at all. This feeling increased when Josh went to take a shower, and Mom asked, “When was the last time you checked his diaper?”
I was blank. I hadn't even figured out how to unwrap his swaddle enough to see anything but his face. I'd barely lifted his hat to see his hair. Luckily, I was too out of it to feel really guilty or incompetent.
Mom checked him and said he needed a change. She asked if I wanted to do it, and I looked at my encumbered and weak arms.
“I think Josh would like to do it,” I said.
Mom didn't want to wait, though, and risk a diaper rash, so I told her to go ahead. She's a very in-the-trenches grandmother. I made sure to tell Josh that I'd thought of him.

Since Mom had to figure out the complicated swaddle, I finally got to see more of my baby. He was wearing a preemie diaper and a white, long-sleeved T-shirt. His hands disappeared completely because the shirt was so big. The skin on his legs was wrinkly because he was so thin. I noticed that his right arm was stiff, and I asked Mom why.
“That's his IV board,” she said.
I tried not to think too much about this and asked her to pop off one of his socks, so I could see his foot. I expected to see Josh's fat toes but saw my long, thin, flexible ones instead. I had already seen that Oliver did inherit Josh's pretty, smirking mouth.

The nursery nurses came to get Oliver frequently, either for shift change or because we were all too incompetent to feed him well. We saw him often, though. He did come back with a new hat at one point. I asked one of the nurses to help Josh figure out how to feed him, and she offered some techniques that actually seemed to work.

I had no interest in eating, but I did have another grape Popsicle. Claudia had left, and my daytime nurse told me that I needed to start eating, so I could have pain medication. That changed my attitude, and I ordered a bagel with cream cheese. This seemed inoffensive. It arrived quickly, and Mom feed it to me bit by bit. That was the most massive and overwhelming bagel I have ever encountered. I started calling it the loaves and fishes bagel. I felt like I had never really eaten before. But I finished it, and I got a half dose of IV medication, which made me a little extra out of it. We hadn't yet figured out that the mag was the main culprit making me so senseless. We thought it was still the anesthesia. I'm sure that contributed, but the nurse later told us that I would feel so much better once I got off the mag that night.

Josh put my wooly green socks, which I call my Grinch Feet, on me and sometimes rubbed my heels with body butter. They were dry and raw from the sheets. Eventually, I started asking Josh or Mom to bend my knees a little and turn my feet inward. I could move them, but the blankets were heavy, and I was worried about the catheters.

I remember my dad and Susan coming back. I think Shane may have come back too. The day is so blurry. Yes, I think he did come back because James was there at some point. Everyone got to hold Oliver. Susan had brought flowers, balloons, and a gift bag full of junk food. I drank some Dr. Pepper. At lunchtime, I tackled an endless roast beef sandwich. The hugeness of it outweighed my excitement over being able to eat lunch meat. I accepted a full dose of the IV medication, and Mom turned down the lights in hopes that I'd sleep. I was still so anxious, though, and every though I had with my eyes closed was the beginning of a nightmare.

Then, Mom had an idea. My mostly useless arms were tucked under the blankets. She bent over the bed and held Oliver right next to me, his face near mine.
“Mamas are good medicine for babies, and babies are good medicine for mamas,” she said.
I hadn't been that close to him. I nuzzled him (mostly his hat, I think), and finally smelled him. He smelled like any recently bathed baby, but something sparked in my brain with the scent and said, This is my baby. I felt completely activated then and desperate to care for him. But I just reveled in the nearness. Mom says his breathing slowed, and we both relaxed. Josh had gone to get lunch, and he seemed struck when he came back in and saw this scene. He took a photo. I was so grateful to my mom for thinking to do this. I wouldn't have even thought to ask, but it was just what I needed, and I'm sure Oliver needed it too. The thought of his needing me is still surreal.

While Mom, Shane, James, and Dad went to get lunch, someone came to take my blood. I was already covered with bruises. I was completely out of tolerance for pain, even needle sticks. She stuck me twice before giving up and sending someone else. This second girl, who was wearing black scrubs with green Tinkerbell silhouettes, came in confident. I said, “Is that Tinkerbell?” and focused on her scrubs. She got me the first time. Still, I felt completely petrified. I couldn't bear the thought of anyone hurting me, and I was sick of hurting being synonymous with helping. I wanted my mother.

When she came back, I told her about the three sticks and held onto her. Then, the Tinkerbell girl came in again. I don't think I made any attempt to disguise the horror on my face.
“I know, you don't want to see me again,” she said.
This time, she couldn't get a vein either. She dug. Mom was getting pissed. I don't know how many tries it took.

When the IV medication really kicked in, I was loopy. Dr. C, the now-doctor on call, came in. I had seen him before and usually liked his matter-of-fact manner. But with the medication, he seemed to a appear as a harshly-lit cardboard cut-out with a booming voice and abrupt manner...something like the great and powerful Oz. He told me that I'd be off the mag around 6 as twenty-four hours is the limit, and after observation, I'd move to a regular OB room. Mom asked how long I would be staying, and he said something like, “As long as she needs to.” He then looked at Josh and said, “Having babies isn't like it is in the movies, is it?”

I did a little better with my turkey sandwich at dinner time, and I switched to Percocet. I was glad that this was one of my options because I'd had it after one of my other surgeries, and it made me feel alert rather than groggy.

I had a sponge bath, which was soothing though it mostly just spread sweat and oil around and did nothing for the massive bird's nest that was my hair. I couldn't get a full bed change since I couldn't get up, but I got new blankets and pillowcases. Because I was unconsciously having some incontinence (and not the more acceptable kind...though I'm sure I would have had both if not for the catheter), I had to roll onto my side for clean up, which was particularly unpleasant with the soreness and with two catheters trailing out and taped to my thighs.

The nurse could now empty my uterine catheter with a small cup, so the bleeding had decreased significantly. Most people hate urinary catheters, but I was grateful for mine. I could drink gallons of water without worrying about how I'd get to the bathroom. My daytime nurse had been very busy with someone in the next room most of the day, so I hadn't had as much ice as I did at night, and my swelling didn't improve very much. Claudia returned for the night shift, and she told me that Dr. C wanted her to remove my catheter, but my swelling meant I might just have to get another. She spoke to him, and he said the catheter could stay.

Claudia's next job was to remove the uterine balloon. She would first drain half the fluid from it and see how my bleeding responded. If that went okay, she would drain the rest and remove the balloon. I was so nervous about this, afraid it would hurt. But I barely felt the first draining.

By then, Claudia had stopped the mag, and we had grown used to my IV beeping frantically at intervals all day. I started feeling like I could think. My bleeding was okay, so Claudia drained the rest of the fluid from the balloon. I felt the rubber slide out, but it didn't hurt. I was so relieved.

After watching my bleeding for a while, Claudia asked if I'd like to try to take a shower. This concept was rather incredible to me.
“I can take a shower with a catheter?”
“'s like a purse.”

I wanted to be clean. I knew that a shower would either be a fantastic idea because I'd feel more human and less disgusting (since I was finally becoming a tiny bit aware of my body and appearance), or it would be a horrible idea because I'd try to hard, hurt myself, and pay for it. I decided to try.

Mom fished out my face wash and my marshmallow shampoo/body wash. I asked her to get my razor.
“Don't you think that's a bit ambitious?”
“Just for under my arms,” I said. I couldn't imagine ever shaving my legs again.

When we were packing our hospital bags, I'd asked Josh to bring his swim trunks. I'd seen this on a packing list. So Josh, with only slight mortification, put on crazy beachy swim trunks and got the water going in the shower.
“I hope this is a good idea,” I said to Claudia.
“I think it is,” she answered.

Mom held Oliver while Josh and Claudia helped me out of bed. The sitting up was okay. Claudia said, “Here's my arm. I'm not going to pull you, but you pull on me if you need to.” That seemed like one of the most supportive sentences anyone had ever spoken to me. Once I was sitting up, I rested. Then, I was able to stand. I bent forward far, and my legs didn't straighten, but I was able to hobble with Claudia and Josh on either side of me.

The bathroom was large and all shower with a toilet in the corner. I got out of my gown and socks, and Claudia handed me my catheter bag, which was a bit like an old woman's purse. She had me hang it on the shower faucet. Then, she stepped out, and Josh helped me. I stood facing the water, which I don't normally do, but I knew I wouldn't be able to lean back. Josh held me under my arms while I washed my face and hair. I didn't try to wash my body, but I did manage a bit with the razor. When I finished, I knew the shower hadn't been a great one, but I was glad I'd tried.

Claudia came back and had me sit on the toilet while she and Josh dried me and dressed me in a clean gown. She put tan hospital socks on me. We crept back into the room, and she put me in a wheelchair. My hair was ridiculous, and she asked if I had a brush. She spent the next twenty minutes brushing my hair with a little travel brush while Josh packed up the room. She told me about her twin boys and said that soon, all of this would be a distant memory, and I'd just be enjoying my son.

A nursery nurse came to get Oliver. She said I would be able to try nursing the next day since the mag would have been out of my body long enough. Claudia warned me that I would be on my own in the OB hall. I didn't understand what that meant until later.

Claudia wheeled me past the nurse's station and pressed a button. The lullaby Josh and I had heard when we got to the ER on Sunday morning (just the morning before!) began to play.
“This plays throughout the hospital to let everyone know you've had your baby. We usually play it when someone leaves since we're a little busy when the baby is actually born. We certainly were with you.”
I told her about hearing it when I arrived, and I settled into the wheelchair to listen. Whatever else had happened, I had had my baby.

The OB room was tiny. Claudia had told me the bed would be more comfortable, and it was. She and an OB nurse named Levy helped me into it. Claudia told Levy that my legs were very weak. The room was just big enough for the bed, a sink, a recliner, two wooden chairs, a table on wheels, and the door to the bathroom. This looked like a normal hospital room. Claudia had said, “Now, you'll be like all other women postpartum.” That wasn't quite true.

I grasped Claudia's hand as she left. She had been enormously kind to me.

Levy and a CNA cleaned me and changed my ice pad. I noticed that I had something like a puppy pad under me. I had seen the peri bottle by the sink. I knew what that was from reading so much online about delivery and postpartum care.

Mom left to go to her hotel. She was exhausted and said she would sleep until she woke up and then come over. Josh and I called the nursery and had Oliver over for about an hour. I still had the IV in my arm, but it wasn't attached to anything. The blood pressure cuff was gone, and the pulse/oxygen monitor was off my finger. I could hold my baby up close to me. The shower had proved to be a good idea, and the mag's effects were really fading.

After the nursery nurse came back for Oliver, Josh and I tried to sleep. Josh's narcolepsy kicked in hard, and he was completely gone. I got hungry and managed to get him to bring me the bag of junk food. I felt ridiculous, eating peanut M&Ms and potato chips and drinking Dr. Pepper in a dark hospital bed while Josh stumbled around out of his mind. Later, I got him to put my water on a chair next to the bed, so I wouldn't have to ask him for it.

Because having the ice packs again had clearly helped my swelling, I called the nurse every two hours for a new one. I had started rotating and shifting my hips in bed, a weird exercise instinct, and the nurses and CNAs were surprised by how well I could push up when they changed my ice pads. I didn't realize, though, that no one would keep track of my pain medicine for me, and I would suffer for that the next day. I should have listened to Claudia.