Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Unexpected Celebrations

My heart has wings today.
On Sunday night at 9:40 the phone rang.  I was surprised when I saw it was the hospital, but figured it would be a recorded appointment reminder.  Instead, a pleasant voice on the other end introduced herself as Deborah, Chief midwife at the South hospital.  She called to talk to me about our birth.
We have been in negotiations for the past two weeks between our High Risk OB from the North hospital and South hospital's OB administration where we want to have the baby.  Our OB was worried about the lower risk hospital being able to manage my blood thinners, but South's only concern was actually having me be on continuous monitoring while in the labor tub, a sometimes difficult feat.
I told her I would make it my priority to keep heart tones on baby or get out of the tub. We talked a long time.  I didn't have to convince her how important birth was to me, she is a midwife, she gets it.  
She said I was "extremely reasonable" in my expectations, and by the end of the call gave me her schedule for the month, saying she hoped she would be my midwife on the day I gave birth.  She promised to advocate for me with the doctors to help me get the birth I hope for.
But a lot depended on today's big appointment...
 It has become our routine. 
Weight, samples, blood tests, non-stress test,
 amniotic fluid level test, brain blood-flow test...
We have gotten so used to scary news that it has come to be expected.
But today was all good.
The baby's heart rate was great,
baby is estimated to weight 5 1/2 lbs,
fluid levels are perfect,
and most importantly, baby's brain blood-flow is perfect.
And because of those results, some things changed,
and in a very good way.
First, and my favorite...
 we just added a week to this pregnancy. 
 It's official, I am going to get to stay pregnant for 39 weeks! 
A successful induction that does not end in a cesarean
is far more likely at that point. 
Next, though we are still waiting for confirmation from the South hospital,
 we have been given the thumbs up by our high risk OB
 to birth at the South hospital where they have:
labor tubs,
"Baby-Friendly Accredidation"
(the only hospital in Sacramento that can boast that,
which means more natural practices, lower intervention rates
 and 24 hours midwives),
and a big thumbs up to be attended by
a midwife!
I am keeping my mind open to the possibilities of things not playing out that way. 
 My pain level is pretty high, and when push comes to shove that may change things.
 I am getting really good at accepting change.
But for today, I will enjoy the great news we have had,
and hope for more to come.

Keely's beautiful artwork.

A few of our traditions have managed to slip past the interventions and complications. 
Respect and honor for pregnancy has always been part of my role as a doula, and something I enjoy as a mama.  We had no idea we would still be pregnant at this point, so I am tickled to have had the opportunity to celebrate this growing belly with henna.  Who knows that we might not still be able to bring this baby into the world more naturally than we had supposed?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Thoughts from the hammock

A conversation with my sweetie:

"Why are you into
working on the yard all of a sudden?"
"What do you mean?"
"I thought you didn't like yard work."
"I don't, but you can't do it now, and I know it matters to you."
I wandered out to the back yard to watch Guy plant some of the lovely flowers he bought.  A few weeks ago a crew of church folks came and cleaned winter's death from the ground, and left it welcoming and hopeful for Spring.  I followed Guy's hands as he worked and felt the itch in my arms to join him; the imaginary soil under my nails.  The whispers of "need to" and "should" in my heart began their little battle with the logic-and-practicality lobes of my brain.  Gardening makes me want to work, plan, improve, perfect.

After Guy felt done planting (though there were plants still waiting their turn from their black plastic pots), he sat down in the hammock.  He has the gift of being able to be "done" and not have to work himself into the ground.  The hammock scene called to me, so I made my way across the uneven lawn and settled in under his arm.

At first, I only noticed his arm under my head and the feel of the hammock on my back.  My mind was an airport terminal of weary travelers waiting their turn to be processed.  Soon the tree above us groaned, barely beckoning me away from my crowd of frustrated thoughts, the carousel of un-handled baggage going round and round and round in my mind.  A bold squirrel with huge black eyes, who clearly owns the yard, emerged from the mulberry  and demanded, "What is the meaning of this?" with his arched tail.  Bird's voices, that had been there all along, began to ease over the rickety fence and to stretch down from hidden places in the trees.  Somewhere, dozens of somewheres, a chorus of wind chimes sang together as though they were sharing the same secret. 

A sudden raucous gust of wind lifted the gently bobbing spring branches over our heads with a whip and a thrilling wave, and raised up music from the new leaves like a rushing green river.  I fell up, into the branches, and was engulfed by the intensity that mocked how un-noteworthy a moment this was.  My vision held only the branches overhead as they settled into whispers of sea foam that meets wet sand, only to leap again like a crowd in a grandstand in united celebration with the next gust of wind.  A hummingbird buzzed through the shuffling green-clad crowd and somehow found easy footing on a slender, swimming branch.

I floated up beside it and held on.  Suddenly nothing mattered in my head anymore, just the rush and thunder and calm of the wind in the trees that, despite my inattention, had always been there.

In the past few days I have been hearing so many "should's";
- in my own harsh mind,
- on the lips of friends as they question their parenting abilities,
- and in articles and posts from people I have never met that scream at me
 in yellow highlighter
 where my shortcomings lie.
When I focus all of my attention on them, they seem so important. 

Then I listen...
My friend Ellen hears me critique myself and gently points out how I gravitate towards self-shaming.
Kind Chantal reminds me over and over that we are all on our own journey, all of us trying, and that our Creator would never judge us as harshly as we often judge ourselves.

My gentle husband reminds me that my own heart is where
 I have always found my greatest answers.

Wise Amanda points me to all that I am doing right.

And Kathy, her heart as open as the sky, takes my concerns, wraps them lovingly,
and hands them back to me with all of their sharp edges carefully tucked away.

For the past two years, there have been no irises.
This winter was so cold it killed my 13 year old rose geranium,
but because of the harshness of winter, the irises have produced a bounty
 to be envied by a seasoned gardener... which I am not.

I have given away cuttings from my old geranium to many people over the years.
I know I can get a cutting from one of them, and start over again.

The loveliest spots in my garden this year have surprised me.  They are the places
 I have been cultivating for years in my awkward way. 
It took the efforts of others to bring the polish to my flowering beds,
but what was there
was already going to be beautiful.

Monday, April 15, 2013

New Arrangements

First night in the new bed.  Time to paint, at least that one wall!
 "Mama, 'ah-'mon!
 Ah jump'a tyam-po-yeeeeen!!!! 
 Ge'yup mama! 'ah-mon!"
I laid on the couch like the moment you are awakened from a deep sleep by a sudden, explosive sound, not knowing at all where you are or what is happening.  Grog clouds the brain, yet your heart pounds like you have just flown out of the starting gate at a dog race.  It was just after the first hospitalization, just after the first procedure.  We had a lot of adjustments to make.
"I am so sorry, baby.  Mama can't jump on the trampoline with you," I said as he pulled on my shaky hand, and even in my deep fog, the humor of the moment reached me. 
Though that was many weeks ago, we are still adjusting.  I am managing to do more each day, and learning to handle bad news like baseballs in a bating cage, but there are things that have changed that won't be returning to what we once called normal.  There are disappointments that don't show in an ultrasound or a messy house, that only matter to me and my sweetie.
From the minute I was put on a blood thinner, my plans of having another homebirth dissolved.  There was no discussion, no pros and cons list, no prayer to help decide.  It just was
I know, I just lost most of you.
You can stop reading.  Most people don't think I should have an opinion anymore about how my birth goes.  "You should just be hoping for a healthy baby", I am told, as though by wanting a good experience I am simultaneously disregarding my baby's safety.  I just have to ask, must we throw the birth out with the bathwater?
What may seem to some a simple change in venue has become a change in the axis of my planet.  It is kind of like having to suddenly change nationality or religion or some other deeply ingrained and heartfelt identity.  Maybe compare it to your beliefs about health care or politics.  I have only had one baby in the hospital, and it was a miserable experience.  The subsequent choice to avoid the hospital birth machine, with all of its policies and protocols, its shift changes and intrusions, and the dozens of personalities that could be encountered in one long labor, was a hard one at which to arrive.  We had to battle the ignorance of people who accused us of selfishness and "wanting to hurt" our baby, who had arrived at those opinions without study or research, and who held on to mythical notions of birth they had acquired from a lifetime of TV sit-com birth scenarios or second hand horror stories as their textbooks on the subject.
Our next birth was simple and beautiful, and at home.  The three after that were hard, but not terrifying.  I was safely cared for by a midwife who measures her experience in the fat little faces of 2,000 healthy babies.   Add to that the experience of four miscarriages at home, labors included, and we have worn a comfortable groove in the way we bring our babies into the world.  With each birth, my way of laboring was not dictated to me.  No one ever told me when to push.  No one nagged or said "you have to do it this way, these are the rules," because birth doesn't create rules for itself, institutions do.
But now I have fallen outside the lines of safe and normal, and suddenly there is a need for the institution, with all it's rules.  And please understand, I am grateful.  I didn't want it when I didn't need it, but now that I do, I am happy to accept the help available to me to keep me and my baby alive and safe.  But even the simple guidelines I have held golden, like telling my doula clients not to rush to the hospital until labor is well established, are ones I cannot follow.  I will need to be induced in order to manage the blood thinners so I don't hemorrhage, and to have the baby closely monitored during labor in the event of an abruption.  Gone is the notion of walking along the river in early labor, going to a puppet show, and  having lunch with Guy and Francine while I laugh and breathe through early labor.  
Mine will be the labor of a woman with an IV, with fluorescent lights, with noisy machines, with nurses constantly scanning my wrist bracelet for my member identification number with their little grocery-store beepers.  Certainly, I know what to expect.  I've been to labors at the hospital with dozens of clients before.  Sometimes I would watch a woman labor and think to myself, "I don't know how she's doing this here!  I could never do this in a hospital."  I would see her struggling and think about how, at home, I would be able to get through this part of labor so much easier if I were in my own space with my own things around me.  I would see the intrusions of strangers with no way to defend her from their voices and noise and perfume and opinions.  Some don't understand why I would opt to feel the sensations of labor when the drugs that would take those feelings away are so close at hand.  They have been trained to minimize pain, and they don't seem to understand that the pain has a purpose and a benefit in the grand scheme of this beautiful system.  
And I still believe it is a beautiful system.  I believe birth can and should be a gentle, family building experience.  I am not ready to give up everything.
Yesterday the boys built Jonah's new toddler bed.  He had long ago outgrown the large wooden cradle on the floor in our room, and had moved to a foam pad on the floor.  We've had the bed, but we just had to figure out how to shuffle things around.  Would we put him in the den, Adam's room?  Finally, we settled on the girls room.  It is not ideal, but he doesn't seem to mind the pink yet.
We are rearranging things. 
 Spaces, expectations, paradigms.
I had never imagined I would be pregnant again. 
I certainly never imagined all that has come because of it. 
I haven't figured out how to shuffle things around in my head yet,
but we will figure out how to make it work.

Saturday, April 13, 2013



I haven't ventured out of the house since February without heading for a doctor's office, so last night after an appointment my sweetie took me to the Art Museum for a little while.  As he pushed me in the wheelchair through the galleries, I rested my head against his tummy.  At first I felt weird about being pushed in the chair, but it was clear in just a few minutes that we moved together the same as always, whether I was taking the steps or not.

The weeks of stress melted a little as we talked about the paintings.  When we moved to the pottery exhibit, we played our little game of "pick one", where we choose one thing in each room to pretend to take home.  He let his hand settle on my shoulders now and then, and as I reached up to take his hand I was reminded of our trip to the ER with him ten days before.

That afternoon as we got in the car, I sat in the back seat with my leg up while Bishop drove.  I felt so far away from Guy.  Each time he would ask a question about how he got home or if he had played the organ at church, only to be startled by answers he didn't remember, I wanted to hold him and comfort him.  All I could do is reach for his hand and hold it from the back seat.

"Do you remember the first time we ever held hands?"  I asked him, trying to take him someplace else.

"It was just like this." he said, and I felt such comfort that he could remember.

It had been a road trip.  We took a friend to college in Utah, a bunch of us.  By the end of the week, Guy and I were two planets in orbit around one another.  By the time the road took us back home, we were in the same orbit.  As the miles of highway rolled out before us, though Guy was driving and I was in the back seat, my hand rested on the armrest of his seat where his fingertips gently found mine.  Mile after mile we held hands in the dark, half listening to the conversations of the others in the car, entirely aware of each other.  We began falling in love.  It is one of my most cherished memories.

As we drove to the hospital, my heart pounded at the realization that now those precious memories I had with him were threatened, along with everything else we have built together.  When we left the house I had lied to the children that daddy simply wasn't feeling well and that I was taking him to the doctor, but Ethan knew the truth, and the fear I had seen in his eyes now had free range of my face with no one to notice.  My eyes filled with tears as I held onto Guy's fingers from the back seat.

Guy has been doing great since that day.  Thank you to all who have asked after him and extended help, not just for me, but for him.  He says he feels fine, but of course, he said that before this incident.  It has been hard to even think about what might have happened to him that day.  When I see him stressed or tired I do worry more than before.  I hope to return soon to being more of the wife he knows to take some of the weight of our lives back into proper balance.  I am so grateful for all of the help we have received and know we will need less and less in the coming days (I "made dinner" for the first time the other night, if dumping frozen chicken and coconut milk in a crock pot counts as cooking). I am getting around better, and even went to the doctor without the wheelchair yesterday. 
I know we will get there eventually.
Going to the museum, stepping out of stress and worry
 and back into something familiar for a little while, was so nice.
 And I am glad,
 Guy remembers.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Happy Birthday Tessa (and Baby Update)

Seven years ago a little girl entered the world.
She took her time.  She made her mama wait.  She was soooooo worth it.
I went into labor with Tessa in the morning, which I had never done before.  It was strange to labor in the sunlight, but I love sunlight, and I loved being in labor with her.  It was a Saturday and we had planned to go to the amazing Russian marionette puppet show that day.  I was sad I would miss it.  Then I decided, why miss it?  So we went.  We sat in the back row of the library, Guy on one side of me, Francine on the other, and I rode the waves of the contractions as the ripples of children's laughter cascaded over me.  It was joyous.  On the way out I told our Children's Librarian "Hey, guess what?  I'm in labor."  He blanched white and said, "I am not a taxi driver!  I don't deliver babies!!!"
We came home to eat and then would have headed to the river, but I was overcome with a shift in my labor, so the kids were shuffled off to friend's houses and we got to work.
I remember at one point kneeling in the labor tub, sunlight bouncing gloriously around the room.  The contractions were strong but I was able to visit and laugh in between, even at 8 centimeters dilation.  I looked around me and smiled and said, "This is how I always pictured it.  This is JUST what I wanted." 
At some point Guy and I snuggled and even smooched a little.  I sang during the hard contractions and the pain was lessened by my concentration on deep breathing and the familiarity of the songs.  The night wore on and finally Tessa came.  I watched her being born and I was astounded.  I reached to catch her but my hands trembled too much.  Claudette lifted her up to me and I don't think I let go of her for the next four months.
Tessa is a dear.  She is serious and smart and helpful.  She is kind and imaginative.  She loves life, and laughing, and loves her siblings.  She is gentle and refined.
I always feel sad when my kiddos hit age seven.  There is a bend in the road this year that takes them away from pudgy baby faces and dimpled knees.  They start to wake up to the great big world and it's possibilities.  They begin to care about friends more than cuddles, and they start really gettin' their sassy on.  But here she is, such a big girl.  And in years to come I will look back at this post and think she looked so tiny.
Big or small, I love this girl.

Daddy took over cake duty and did a smashing job.  I had luckily prepped the dairy free frosting a while back and had it stored, and amazingly Guy and I had happened to do the birthday shopping the week before I went into the hospital for our first date night since the last hospital stay.  I couldn't stay up long enough to do one of my elaborate cakes, so I let the girls plan and decorate the cake.  They did a great job.

See the yellow flash? 
 That is a flying Cinderella doll. 
 The boys were fascinated by her and kept picking her up, and I would grab the camera but never quite catch them in action playing with the doll.  That doll hit the floor no less than six times, poor thing!
Baby Update:
Baby was a little uncooperative at the last NST, and the nurse didn't accept my input that baby was asleep.  Cuz, like, what could I possibly know?  I only house the tiny human IN MY BODY, so what would I know?  They did that awful zappy-noise thing to it to stimulate it and get it to move.  Poor baby jumped so hard.  Finally, baby woke up and started behaving just as perfectly as it always has in previous NSTs.
As of today I am 32 weeks.  This means that a cesarean is no longer required to keep the baby from having a cranial bleed when being born.
So one of the many reasons for a cesarean;
fetal distress,
red blood cell damage,
clots on the placenta,
abruption, and
extreme prematurity...
has been checked off the list.
And if baby waits at least 3 more weeks, we can have a birth at the hospital we want where they have labor tubs.
It may seem strange that I have hopes for any particular comforts for our birth experience, but we have lost so much already, that if there are things we don't have to throw out, we won't.
But that is another post.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Back to Gratitude

I took a wrong turn the other day.
(Not on the road, though I totally made us late for my 7AM ultrasound by having Guy go to the wrong city). 
My wrong turn was that I let go of my commitment not to complain
 (to be very clear here, I DO express my feelings about what is happening, and even talk about what is hard, but I haven't wanted to go to the "why me?" pity party).   I didn't plan on it or anything, but I'd had a really rough morning.  I had been bumbling around our ridiculously poorly designed kitchen in my wheelchair, trying to scramble some eggs.  Every move I wanted to make took twenty moves to execute.  I finally sat right there by the stove and ate, but for some reason afterward I blacked out.  I felt my eyes roll up in my head and my head flop over.  I was alone with poor Tessa and Jonah, and she was the only help I had.  I asked her for water, and she brought me a kiddie cup with about 2 tablespoons of water in it.  I drank it and said "more, sweetie, lots more".  She gave me more, and then I had her wheel me to the couch.  I rolled off the wheelchair onto the couch and then taught her how to call 911 in case I really passed out.  She told me later that she ran down to her room to pray for me.  My heart broke that she felt so scared.
A while later as I was trying to call a resistant Jonah to me to change his sopping wet diaper, the doctor called to schedule another test.  Suddenly Tessa began to wail and came running to me with a large cut on her heal.  She had slipped on the old wooden stairs in the garage.  I couldn't hear the man on the phone over her sobbs, Jonah ran wild, and Tessa couldn't be calmed enough to get the bandages so I could help her.
I felt like a helpless child.
I called my neighbor/friend Denise to come patch up Tessa, and implored her to change Jonah while she was here.  In those moments the seeds of frustration got a foothold.  I complained.
Not just to Denise, but to a couple of other people, too.  Krista came later to take me to a blood test, and I audaciously vented my woes.  My sweet sister-in-law called and I gave her an earful too.  I was in full whine mode.
And a very sorry thing happened.  I felt all the strength and courage I had been mustering these past many weeks drain out of me like a leaky air mattress.  I began to feel like a victim.  I filled with darkness.  A feeling of despair and shame and embarrassment came over me like a storm cloud. 
From that time on for the next few days I felt ashamed at every call and visit that came with offers to help.  I understood why I had lost my grip; fatigue and feeling out of control is wearing on a soul, but that didn't take away the feeling of loss that I suddenly felt.  I had lost hold of the medicine that has been keeping me afloat; the hope and faith and energy that was keeping my nose above water.
There is a quote from Anne of Green Gables, "To despair is to turn your back on God".  I realized I had to shift back to that place of gratitude that has seen me through much harder days than these past few.  I had to apologize for willingly letting go of peace and opening my heart to discouragement; to others, to God and to myself.  I recommitted to stand in a place of gratitude and to use that as a platform from every interaction, regardless of what might be happening in my body.
It is amazing how much energy I wasted in those few days.  It was very draining to be negative.  It dawned on me that I had actually undermined my own healing pace, and in doing so cut myself off from the one bit of control I have in this situation; I may not be able to change what is happening in my body, but I don't need to create a nasty chemical soup in my bloodstream for my body and baby to marinade in.  The best chance I have at getting better is to hang on to hope and peace and gratitude; to fill my body with endorphins and my heart with the Spirit.

Test results have been coming in the days since.  A leg scan that only showed small improvement, but at least no decline. Baby still looks great.  A new challenge has popped up, with ferocious muscle spasms in my back that seem to have no explanation.  After 6 hours of tazer-like jolts in my back last night I was pretty worn out, but my heart was okay, because I have found my gratitude again.  I refuse to let this new challenge change who I can become. 

I listened to conference today from the tub, where I spent almost 5 hours today to control the spasms.  It turns out the muscle relaxants they gave me aren't very safe with my other medication (of course!) so I may become a mermaid before this baby is born.  But that's okay.  I am back to gratitude.

Loving on Krista's little Lainey while Krista graciously cleaned my kitchen.


A special request for prayers for my dear friend Stephanie who was diagnosed with cancer yesterday.  I know she will be blessed, but I can't imagine how hard this is for her.  Please pray for her and send her healing thoughts.

Monday, April 1, 2013

No, I'm not kidding.

Guy left for church late and frazzled yesterday morning.  He was supposed to fill in on the organ, and learned when he arrived that a speaker had canceled and he would also be filling in at the last minute there.  He ran up on the stand to sit down after the meeting was already underway.

Between meetings he came home, fed me, got me my shot and got Jonah ready, and then went back to church.  At the end of church, the family piled through the door and began the ritual hunger-announcing and clothes-shedding.  Guy sat at the end of the bed staring out the window.  I asked if he was okay, and he turned and looked at me with a red face and eyes full of tears.  "I don't know what's happening.  I can't remember anything."

I called him over to me and started asking questions.  Nothing.  He didn't remember the day before, that morning, playing the organ, speaking, or coming home to feed me.  He had no idea how he got the kids home.  He was terrified and held back tears.

I assessed him for a stroke, but didn't see anything physical happening.  I talked to him for a few minutes and decided this wasn't just a momentary lapse.  He had no memory of the day, or much of the day before.  I didn't know what else to do... I called Kathy and Bishop.

I told Guy to lay down, and I got dressed, rallied the kids, got my walker, and packed my medicine and some food.  Guy sat on the bed staring at his medical card on his lap.  His expression was blank, and dull, and he looked like he was just calmly waiting in line at a grocery store.

Bishop came and put us into the car.  As we drove, every few minutes Guy would ask with sudden concern, "Did I play the organ?"  I learned quickly to just say yes, without more details.  The more he realized he had forgotten each time his mind looped, the more upset it made him.  Once in a while he would ask how he got home, and looked very shocked each time I told him he had driven, particularly knowing he had driven the kids. 

At the front desk, the clerk asked why we were there.  I could see Guy in the security monitor, hands in pockets, aloofly gazing around the room, and I whispered "I think my husband may be having a stroke."  The woman startled, and wide-eyed, asked, "Him?!".  Yes, I told her, explaining about the sudden lapse in memory.  She hurried us into triage, and the nurse there quickly assessed him and moved him into a room.

Guy was on auto pilot.  He did what he was told.  He flatly answered questions.  He startled sometimes when I was asked to answer for him, not prepared to hear about things he had done unknowingly. 

As the next hour went by, wisps of memory began to return, beginning with the furthest memories lost, those of an Easter Egg hunt at our friends house the day before, and later, of us watching movies in bed in the evening.  Between CAT scans, EKG, chest xrays, and blood tests, more memories began to return.  Soon he could remember the morning stress, being late, and snatches of church.

The doctor came in twice, once when the preliminary tests came back looking reassuring, and again later when all tests came back ruling out a stroke, heart attack or some other neurological event.  We were told (both times, though Guy didn't really retain it the first time around) that Guy had had a rare event (there's that word again) called Transient Global Amnesia.  With no head trauma or any other physical cause, it is a result of extreme stress, emotional trauma and physical exhaustion.  It's almost a wonder it didn't happen sooner.  Guy said it should have happened for April Fool's day.  Kinda not funny.

We were told TGA's almost never recur, are not a foreshadowing of stroke or other looming crisis, and they usually resolve in a few hours, though his memories may never return for the missed time.

I can only say right now that I am grateful it waited until I was out of the hospital so that I could be with him, for each of our sakes, and for the kids.  The big boys are traumatized.

Bishop took us home to his house, and Kathy created a Loaves and Fishes miracle, making her Easter dinner stretch to feed two large families with plenty left over.  My kids even got to dye eggs with them.  What a blessing they have been to our family.

I didn't fare too well.  The Micro PEs are pounding me, and 4 hours in the wheelchair finished the job.  Guy is asleep beside me on the couch right now.  I am so grateful he is okay.