Friday, March 18, 2011

The First Month

Captain Crankypants is absolutely refusing to spend this drab and cold afternoon napping, thus effectively ending my plans to nap, too. As a result, I am hoping he'll stay relatively content hanging out on the couch next to me while I write... The good news is that he should be exhausted enough to sleep well tonight, which means I may catch a few quality hours of sleep, too. Then again, he could continue to be fussy all night, which means no one in the house will sleep well (except, perhaps, Jynx the cat who doesn't seem to be bothered by baby cries).

My sweet and adorable baby boy is one month old today, and what a month it has been! Five weeks ago, I had an appointment with my regular obstetrician, at which point we discussed the probability that I had cervical stenosis, which is basically a constant muscle spasm holding my cervix closed that would be a result of scar tissue from my cervical cancer treatment in college. The good news is that the stenosis is most likely what kept me from going into full-blown pre-term labor. The bad news was that as the baby got heavier and lower (and let me tell you, he was already pretty low at this point -- not quite, but nearly fully engaged in the pelvis at 37 weeks), I would have a greater chance of the stenosis releasing and delivering in a rapid fashion considering that I was already fully effaced. At that appointment, we discussed the idea that an induction at 38 weeks might be a safer bet than waiting for me to go into labor on my own. If we were induced, we'd already be in a hospital under the doctor's care, and we wouldn't have to worry about labor progressing too quickly and not being able to get to the hospital in time. So, she called me back the next day with the news that our induction was scheduled for February 17th at 8:00 in the morning.

February 17th dawned clear and sunny. The projected temperature for the day was in the 70s, and Paul and I were a little disappointed that after a horrific winter of snow and ice, we would be spending the prettiest day of the year so far in a hospital room. Of course, knowing why we were going to be in the hospital room helped to soften the blow. We got to the hospital and met Angie, Paul's dad (who had driven up the day before), and Paul's mom. My mom was on her way, but we didn't expect her until around lunch time. She had originally planned to get up in the middle of the night and be at the hospital in the morning, but I convinced her to take her time since I didn't think I'd have the baby within the first few hours of being there. Dr. McCray had promised that I'd have at least an hour or two of pushing since I was a first-timer, so I knew that even if I walked in fully dilated, things wouldn't get too crazy before my mom could get there.

Paul, Angie, and I headed back to the labor and delivery area after establishing Paul's parents in the waiting room. The nurse got my IV inserted (oh, joy -- after not being able to get it going in my arm, she finally had to put it in my hand, which hurt. I referred to it throughout the day as my "twitch" -- I didn't notice the contractions as much because I was distracted by the discomfort of the IV) and checked to see how dilated I was. We turned on the radio and started just hanging out while we waited for the nurse to make contact with Dr. McCray. Good omen for the day #1 occurred then -- the song that Paul and I had in our wedding, "Keeper of the Stars," was the first song we noticed playing on the radio. At around 9:30, the nurse came back with news from the doctor -- they had decided to give me a pill called "cytotek," which was actually designed to get me to efface. Since I was already fully effaced, though, the idea was that it would start regular and productive contractions. The pill didn't really do anything for a few hours, and we were talking about doing another dose of it, when contractions started to happen pretty regularly (every 7 to 9 minutes). I managed to convince the nurse to let me have lunch at 11, even though both the nurse and Angie warned me against it. I just had the idea that this process was going to be a marathon rather than a sprint, and I knew that the pop-tart I'd inhaled at 6 that morning wasn't going to be enough to get me through. Paul, who has lots of experience dealing with me when my blood sugar is too low, also advocated for my lunch. The nurse called the doctor, who agreed to let me have a "light" lunch, which consisted of an awesome roast beef sandwich and soup. I enjoyed it immensely, even knowing that I would probably be tossing it back up at some point during the afternoon's entertainment.

Dr. McCray popped over around lunch time to check my progress -- unfortunately, I was still stuck at 1cm dilation, which is where I had been when I came in. The stenosis was doing its thing, even though I was having regular contractions. This was not unexpected, though, and she went ahead and did a "sweep" when she checked me -- basically, she got in there and tried to stretch out the muscle. The idea behind this was that once it got loose, it would open naturally due to the contractions. An hour later, I was only at 2...sigh. We talked then about our options -- she could send me home and see if nature took its course over the next day or so, or we could continue doing what we were doing and try to get me to dilate further through a combination of walking, squatting, and sitting on the birthing ball. She planned to break my water at some point, which would REALLY get things going, but she didn't want to do that until I was further dilated, because once the water's broken, there's no turning back. If I didn't dilate and my water had broken, we were looking at a higher risk of a c-section. Paul and I were in agreement that we weren't leaving the hospital without a baby, so we settled in for the afternoon and got to walkin', squattin', and ball-sittin'.

Callaway Community Hospital is built in a square shape, with wings going off two of the corners of the square. In the middle of the square is a beautiful courtyard with trees, picnic benches, bird feeders, and a walking path. Our fears about being stuck in the hospital room faded as we started walking the courtyard and enjoying the sunny afternoon. By this time, my mom had arrived, and we all spent the afternoon enjoying the sunshine. I swear, I mut have logged miles walking that courtyard, but it really was a beautiful afternoon, and I was grateful not to be stuck in a bed. We also had good omen #2 during our walking -- as we were cruising around the court yard, a bald eagle flew overhead.

Around supper time (which I didn't get, drat it), I had only dilated to 5cm, so Dr. McCray and my birth team decided to go ahead and break my water. At this time, I decided that I wanted a little something to take the edge off the pain, since I knew that once my water was broken, the contractions would start coming much fast and with more intensity. Since Angie had received NuBane during her labor and had good luck with it, that's what I decided to go with -- according to Angie, it just took away the worst of the pain and let her focus on labor. I still hadn't gotten to get in the jacuzzi for my labor, but the nurse promised that once the doctor had broken my water and the labor started in real earnest, I could get in. I was holding off on the real good drugs (like an epidural), since if I went for that pain med, I would definitely be stuck in bed until the baby made his grand debut. Unfortunately, once the NuBane hit my system, my entire world went fuzzy. It seemed to have the opposite effect on me that it had on Angie -- I didn't notice any break in the pain level, but I no longer had any ability to focus. I also lost all control over my coordination, and I plopped my fanny in the bed and watched the world spin around me. I pretty much was completely stoned. As promised, though, the contractions did start in real earnest at this time. I was unable to get in the jacuzzi since I couldn't even get out of bed to use the bathroom, and I maintained enough sense to tell the doctor that if I couldn't get out of bed to labor in the tub, then I wanted the good drugs. I saw no sense in holding out and hurting, so she called in the anesthesiologist for a consultation. We talked about an epidural, which required putting in a catheter and dripping the anesthesia into my spinal cord. The benefit of this would be that it wouldn't wear off until they stopped giving the medicine. Even if my labor went another ten hours, I would be covered in terms of pain. The downside was that I would not be able to feel anything, and that it could potentially hinder my ability to push the baby out, which could lead to a c-section. It also would take an hour or so to take effect. He also gave me the option of an interlochal, which was basically a shot of morphine directly into my spinal cord. The downside was that it would only last four hours, and that if it wore off before the baby came, I'd be stuck. I looked at Dr. McCray, who assured me that we should have a baby within four hours. We went with the interlochal. He got me up and prepped my back to put in the shot. As he injected the morphine, he warned me that it might take five or ten minutes to take effect. Immediately, my toes started to tingle, and by the time I got laid back in the bed, I was feeling no pain at all. In fact, I fell asleep and was in and out for the next two hours. I think I woke up and puked at one point, but honestly, the whole time period is hazy. I was VERY relaxed, except for the contractions, which were now coming fast and furious. All my research about labor and delivery said that transition would be the hardest state, but I honestly don't really remember much of it. I don't feel particularly cheated, though...

Around 11:00, Angie and the nurse woke me up and told me it was time to start pushing. Angie went to my side and Paul went to the other to support me as I pushed, and baby, did I push. Every time a contraction hit, I got bent in half like a contortionist and told to push as hard as I could. After about an hour, Dr. McCray called Paul down to the end of the bed to show him the baby's head, which was right there and ready to come out, but stuck under my pubic bone. Paul settled in like a catcher at the plate and prepared to watch his son being born, and Angie stayed at my side and continued to exhort me to push. It took another hour of the doctor working me and the baby to prevent tearing (and I didn't!) and me pushing through (and beyond) the contractions for the baby to slide on out. Chayton Thomas Rogers was born at 1:07 AM on Friday, February 18th. The doctor wrapped him in a towel and put him in my arms for a minute, long enough for me to look him over and make sure he was all there. Then, the nurses whisked him away for clean-up and all the other things they had to do, and the doctor finished up with me. Angie went out to deliver the news to the waiting grandparents (and my niece Allie, who had decided to stay after my brother-in-law brought my niece and nephew and pizza over for supper). After about an hour, we had the grandparents come in to see the baby for just a minute, and then we sent them all home. Angie left then, too, to take Allie home. The baby and I were moved to a different room, and Paul stayed long enough to get us settled. The nurses went ahead and took the baby so I could get a little sleep, and our family of two officially became a family of three.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Adventures in Bed Rest

So, my mother-in-law set my oven on fire last night. Yesterday, I put the leftover Christmas cookies in the oven while we went to the doctor's office so that Flash and Tucker wouldn't pull them off the counters and eat them all (as they had done the previous week). When she came over to make supper, I told her TWICE that they were in there, and to be sure to pull them out before she turned on the oven. I was sitting on the couch (my home these days), embroidering a pillow case for the baby's changing table pad, when I heard a feeble "Oh no. I need a fire extinguisher!" coming from the kitchen. Doctor's orders to stay off my feet or no, I jumped up and ran to the kitchen to find her taking my best kitchen towel and trying to slap out a fire in the oven (ruining the towel in the process, of course). I grabbed the baking soda from the refrigerator, sprinkled some on the flames (which weren't huge), and shut the door. No oxygen; no more fire. So, we were left with two oven racks covered in melted plastic , which of course hardened right back up as soon as it hit the air. She also set one of the oven racks on the floor while trying to deal with the other, which caused it to melt right through the linoleum. The oven itself was covered with burnt cookies and melted plastic. I just gritted my teeth and got a spatula to start scraping out the oven. Paul came home a little while later and promised to clean the oven racks, which he has since done. So, no major crisis, but my teeth are even more gritted than they were before...

Today starts Week 3 of doctor-ordered bed rest. Three weeks ago, I went to the high-risk OB to have the baby's weekly bio-physical test done, and to spend 30 minutes on the monitor to check baby's heart rate and to make sure I wasn't having any contractions. At that visit, my cervix measured between 1.2 and 2.2 mm, which was less than it had been previously (I'd been running 1.8 to 2.4 previously). The monitor showed that I was having regular contractions (which I had no idea I was having). The good news was that baby was as happy as a clam inside; the bad news was that she was quite concerned that I was going to go into full labor at any time. 29 weeks was just too early for the baby to come, so she admitted me to the hospital for 48 hours of magnesium sulfate to stop the contractions, and steroid shots to stimulate the baby's lung growth just in case he decided he was going to make an appearance. I ended up being kept there for a total of 96 hours, because the doctor in charge wanted to observe me for an additional 48 hours after the magnesium sulfate was taken off to make sure the contractions had stopped. Paul and I were given a tour of the NICU, both to reassure us that even if the baby did come too early, he'd have excellent care, and also (I think) to scare me a little bit into not pushing myself to the point that I would go into pre-term labor. I was released to go home on bed rest with a prescription for nifedapine, which is a smooth muscle relaxant to keep the uterus from contracting (interestingly enough, it also has my blood pressure, which was already low, at somewhere between invalid and dead. I don't have to worry about overdoing it while I'm supposed to be off my feet -- I only get about 10 minutes on my feet before I feel like I'm going to pass out and have to sit back down).

So, I've been living the sedentary life for the past few weeks -- taking naps at will, chilling on the couch, watching endless episodes of "My Fair Wedding with David Tutera," playing millions of games of Free Cell, and trying not to lose my mind. It helped immensely that Christmas came in the middle of it all, and my mom, dad, brother, and his wife came to stay for 5 days. My local sister-in-law came over the day before all the houseguests arrived and spent 5 hours cleaning the guest bed and bath, the living room, the dining room, and the kitchen. Christmas dinner was supposed to be at my mother-in-law's house (which is a wee little place), but since I'm not allowed to leave the house (why, yes, you did sense a bit of resentment in that statement), it was decided to host Christmas dinner here. I admit to cheating quite a bit while we had company and sitting at the table to sew up some Christmas presents as well play a few hands of cards, but now that everyone has left, I'm back to living in sweats on the couch.

Paul's brother and family came over the day after Christmas, too, to help him empty out his back junk room into the new shed and then empty the former office/now nursery into the back room (one benefit: my hoarder husband came in that night and said, "I really need to go through all those boxes and just get rid of stuff." You think? There are boxes of newspapers from the 1980s in there, among other gems. If anyone would like boxes of Western Horsemen or Auto Life magazines from the 70s and 80s, give me a call. I've got some you can take off our hands.) Then, the next day, Angie (my sister-in-law and soon-to-be birth coach) came in and put all the nursery furniture in place. It's pretty well done, although we're waiting on some hardware to finish the crib (when the guy I bought it from on Craigslist said, "I've never put it together, but I'm sure all the hardware is there," I should have known...) I'm a little (and "a little" seems to grow in proportion to the amount of time I sit on the couch feeling useless) disappointed that the walls are still plain white -- I really had wanted to paint them the lovely shade known as "Green Acres" before we got the nursery put together. Still, it's pretty exciting to have a new room in the house -- Paul has been spending a lot of time sitting in the glider rocker in there since it's been put together. I'm not sure he's contemplating baby in there as much as he is escaping from the craziness around us...

And my mother-in-law, bless her painkiller and sleep aid-riddled self, has come over pretty much every day to clean the house and make supper for us (which pretty much consists of meat, mashed potatoes, and gravy. No wonder I can't get Paul to eat anything other than meat and starch. Last night I requested spaghetti for a change, which I thought would be really easy. We had sauce and mush that once resembled pasta. When one cooks the noodles for 20 minutes and forget they're on the stove, they don't tend to hold their shape very well.) And I'm grateful for the help. I really am. But it's SO HARD to let someone else in my home and kitchen. Dry-clean only items have been washed and dried. She can't remember to empty the drier lint trap, so she keeps complaining that the drier doesn't work and runs it three times to dry one load of clothes. It will take me at least a year to find things in my kitchen, since she washes dishes and just puts them away somewhere (would it kill her to ask where they go? I'm sitting right here on the couch...).

I'm being an ungrateful whiner, I know. But after two weeks of family in the house changing things, I just feel invaded. I'm pretty mellow, so it wasn't so bad and I just laughed it off until she set my damned kitchen on fire last night. Paul already lost it and yelled at her the night before for washing his dry-clean items. I'm not a yeller by any stretch of the imagination, but I definitely wasn't very happy.

There must be a silver lining to every cloud, though, and mine will come in two forms. First, the high-risk OB has promised that if I'm still stable and nothing has changed next Wednesday (week 32!), I can go back to work for four hours a day. Assuming my principal is willing to find a long-term sub for half days, that will make my outlook much rosier. Being confined to the house is killing me. I find myself dreaming of jail breaks to Wal-Mart... It's probably a very good thing that Paul has been driving my Santa Fe to work every day; otherwise, I might manufacture an excuse to get outside. At week 36 (only five more weeks, which is endless, but at least I can do a toilet paper countdown or scratch lines into the wall or something), she'll remove all restrictions and let me do anything I want to until the baby comes.

And that, of course, will be the biggest joy of all. The more the little bugger rolls around inside of me, using his little hands and feet to push against the confines of my belly, the more I can't wait to meet him in person. For a week or so, I was resigned to having to have him stay in the NICU for a while after he came. Now that I've made it through two more doctor's appointments with no surprises, I'm starting to feel a little more optimistic that when Paul and I go to the hospital next time, we'll be coming home as a family, with our little boy tucked safely next to us.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas, Baby!

Dear Baby,

It is 4:51 in the morning, and both you and I have been awake now for an hour. We'll have to chat about these early mornings at some point (3 days in a row now that we've been up at 3), but since it's Christmas morning, we'll let this one slide. Kids always are up at the crack of pre-dawn on Christmas, and Santa is in the house (of course, he's sleeping in the spare bedroom and you'll know him as "Grandpa," but why quibble over details?

I wish you could see the outside, Baby -- God has sent a soft blanket of snow to cover all the earth's imperfections, and staring out the window is like looking at a nature painting: Study in Winter Beauty. Each tree limb is bent under the weight of the snow and looks like it has been especially beautified in honor of Christmas. What was predicted to be 2-3 inches materialized into 6 before any of us knew it. Considering that I'm stuck indoors, I am blessed enough to be able to enjoy its beauty without having to deal any shoveling or cold. I did step outside before we went to bed (don't tell Dr. Martin) to just breathe deeply and be thankful to live in one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Even your Uncle Richard was impressed at how beautiful the forest was yesterday during the snowfall (pretty remarkable, considering that at the time he was chasing your hound dogs, who thought fresh snow was a perfect opportunity to hunt rabbits and ran away from him when he took them outside).

But, as much as I'd like to share this beautiful sight with you, I don't wish you here with us any sooner. These next two months will seem endless with the waiting for you, but after a week in the hospital and week 1 of bedrest, I'm prepared to do what it takes to make sure you are born as close to term as possible. After visiting the NICU last week during our hospital stay, I'm relieved and resigned to know that even if you come early, you'll have incredibly good care. That said, my wish for you is that you are born able to breathe on your own, able to take food the traditional way (as opposed to having a feeding tube down your nose), and ready to enjoy life with us, rather than having to fight for your breath, nourishment, and comfort.

Oh, Baby, I have so many wishes for you on this, your first Christmas. I have a feeling there may even be a present or two for you from your family, even though your presence at today's family event will consist of your aunts and uncles and grandparents rubbing my belly and feeling you poke and jab at them (and me).

I wish, most of all, for you to be safe and healthy. It's been a little stressful these last few weeks, knowing that you might be coming any time now, and knowing that if you do come in the next few weeks, you'll have to go to the NICU until you're healthy and strong enough to live at home. I know you're strong -- you're your daddy's boy, and he's always been strong -- especially over these last few weeks as he's had to do both his and Mommy's chores on top of his working.

I wish for enough financial freedom that you don't know hunger or want. Things are pretty tough right now, and I can't promise you a life filled with "stuff." There are so many things I want to be able to give you, but we may have to settle for a roof over our heads and food to fill our bellies.

I wish for you to know joy in life's simple things. I hope that you will know the peace that comes from wanting what we have, instead of having what we want. You may (should I say "will"?) never have a fancy video game system to entertain you, but you will have the back yard and the forest, in which you will be able to create your own worlds of imagination and entertainment. You may never have fancy clothes or toys, but you will have the love of everyone around you. You're coming into a pretty wonderful family, Baby. They bring me joy every time I am around them, and I wish that same sense of happiness for you whenever you get to be with them as well.

I wish for you a solid faith built on the knowledge that there is a force in our lives who loves and guides us as we live our lives. I hope you are able to find Him in the world around you and the lives you touch. I know He has already touched your life -- He sent you to us, even though medical technology told us we'd never be able to have a baby. Your very existence is a miracle, Baby, and I hope for myself that I never forget that (especially when in the throes of labor and delivery or when pulling living things out of your pockets while doing laundry...).

So, Merry Christmas, Baby. Go to sleep now, and when we wake back up, Christmas will officially be here, complete with family and love and even a few presents. I love you.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pardon Me While I Freak Out a Little

So, I had my 20 week ultrasound last Friday. I was very excited to get to see my little boy do some serious screen wiggling, and he didn't disappoint. In fact, he was extremely wiggly, and even obstinate about having his picture taken -- so much that I had to drink a bottle of cold water, get up and walk around, and perform a series of other contortions to try to get him in the right position for the ultrasound tech to get the necessary images. Our regular high-risk doctor (whom we've only seen once) wasn't there, and his partner handled our visit. I really liked her; however, I didn't really like what she had to say.

After the doctor came in to read the results with us, she told us she had three areas of concern. Whoa. So this was unexpected. After our last visit with the high risk OB, he seemed to think everything was going pretty swimmingly and just prescribed THOUSANDS of milligrams and micrograms of nutritional supplements -- a total of 8 pills a day, including 4 of the massively huge fish oil capsules that make me burp salmon all day long.

So, concern number one was our high risk of having a Down's syndrome baby. Been there, done that -- already looked at the probability and scary ratios and decided against having an amnio. Our motto as concerns the baby's chromosomal help (as refers to Down's) remains "it is what it is." For us, the risk of having an amnio outweighs the uncertainty of the possibility of having a Down's baby. The doctor, though, seemed to be encouraging us to have it so we would just "know." She listed this as her main concern.

Her second concern was about the baby's heart. The ultrasound showed that his blood flow was a little abnormal, which she didn't seem overly concerned about, but enough so that she wants him to have a prenatal echocardiogram in December when the technicians are here from St. Louis. She said she definitely didn't see anything that would necessitate a big worry or prenatal cardiac surgery, and that most babies with a heart murmur find that it heals naturally within the first two years of life. This was disconcerting, but not so scary as to send us over the edge into panic.

The third thing, which she didn't seem to prioritize as highly as the other two, is the one that has thrown my whole life into chaos. It seems that my cervix has gone from 32mm at 16 weeks to 18mm at 20 weeks. This could show that I'm at an increased risk for pre-term labor, and since the baby is nowhere near ready to live outside the womb, it's a pretty big honking deal. She had me sit for twenty minutes hooked up to a monitor to make sure I wasn't having contractions that I didn't recognize as contractions (because I sure don't know what those feel like). After twenty minutes, she came back and told me it looked like the monitor showed no contractions, but that my bladder was filling up. I could have told her that -- no monitor required. She asked me about my activity level and what plans I had for the weekend -- I told her that I was going to clean the house and that my folks would be coming to visit, and then on Sunday we'd be going to Warm Springs Ranch to see the Budweiser Clydesdale breeding farm and operation. It was advertised as a 1.5 hour walking tour. She asked about my activity level at work, and whether or not I could teach from a chair. I told her that I'm not really that kind of teacher, and since my schedule doesn't necessarily allow for regular exercise, I use my walking around while I teach as my activity. She thought this was just fine, but told me to take it easy and not do anything too strenuous. I asked about vacuuming, which she thought was fine (ironically, she didn't want me scrubbing toilets, which is a whole lot less strenuous for me than vacuuming...). I'm scheduled to go back on Friday (a week later) for another ultrasound to decide whether I've continued to shrink, or whether I'm holding steady at 18, or whether my little Buddy has flipped and taken his head off my cervix, and that it has sprung back up to a more acceptable thickness. At that time, she'll make a call about where to go from there -- but it looks like bed rest is possible (if not probably) in my near future.

Bed rest.

Holy hell.

The one thing I have been adamantly pre-freaking out about since I found out that I was pregnant. The one thing I begged my OB to help me avoid. The one thing that I didn't even allow myself to think of as a possibility, because the consequences are too gruesome to even contemplate (what do you think the chances of the mortgage company letting us just skip 6 months of payments and adding that to the end of the loan will be? Yeah -- that's what I thought, too.) And here it is, staring me in the face. So, I've spent as much time as possible this week on my butt with my feet up. I sit in class rather than walking around. I go home at night at sit in my recliner. I'm being as sedentary as possible, as well as drinking massive quantities of water and emptying my bladder super frequently. I am, of course, freaked out that every twitch and cramp (which I was taking as due course in this whole pregnancy thing) are now signs of incipient and impending early labor. In short, I'm pretty much a mess.

Thankfully (she says with an ironic question mark in her voice), my priorities have done what they needed to, and shifted. After a little time trying to wrap my head around this, I'm a whole lot more concerned with keeping my baby inside and growing than I am with concerns about how I'm going to pay the bills. I won't say I've hit that zen state wherein I won't be freaking out and will be just handing it all over to the Almighty to handle, but I think I'm on my way. We have friends (none of them rich, unfortunately, but good enough that they might be willing to come vacuum my house or bring me books once in a while) and family who will help us in any way they can. The school will hold my job for me, and will make sure that I don't go any months without a paycheck of any kind (although it will consist of my total estimated time off minus my accrued sick leave prorated over the time gone, if not the rest of the year -- so basically, a loss of around 1/3 of my salary over the course of 5 months). Of course, we don't have any short-term or long-term disability insurance, since we dropped it several years ago when the doctor told us we couldn't have kids; there's also no way to get disability insurance once one receives a diagnosis of pregnancy.

I have to have faith that Baby is going to stay inside and growing until he's fully (or fully enough, anyway) cooked. Then, I have to have faith that the rest of it's going to work itself out. Until Friday, it's a waiting game.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Stick Peeing and Other Summer Adventures

And so, I find myself at the age of nearly-39 with a baby on the way in 21 weeks...

Perhaps I should step back and explain.

Paul and I decided when we were first married to wait to start a family. Having children was always a plan for us; we just wanted to enjoy one another's company first. Plus, we were living 5 states away from our families, and just didn't want to put either us, our children, or our parents through the strain of not being able to see one another as often as we would want to. So, we waited until we moved back to the Midwest to begin trying for our family.

That was eight years ago. We did several rounds of infertility treatment, stopping short of in vitro fertilization because 1) we had no money left to pursue it and 2) I was just done with the emotional ups and downs of the whole infertility roller coaster. The doctor told us not that we "couldn't" get pregnant, just that we "wouldn't." We just planned to enjoy our nieces and nephews and leave it at that. We looked briefly at adoption, realized that we weren't in a financially good place to pursue that option, and just moved on.

So, exposition over.

We went to Maine in late June and early July of this year for the wedding of a friend -- he married a Maine girl, and Paul was honored to be asked to be one of his groomsmen. We thought, "Cool. Maine. Never had any thought to visit, but it sounds like a pretty cool place." It was -- an absolutely gorgeous visit that reminded us a lot, topographically, of upper Michigan and the Piney Woods of Wisconsin. Of course, staying practically on the Atlantic Coast made the experience a little more unique for us. We took a tour on a lobster boat, drove down the coast looking at lighthouses (for what seemed like FOREVER -- my husband is FAR MORE INTO lighthouses than I will ever be.) It was a nice vacation, especially considering that we hadn't taken one since our trip to the UP of Michigan four or five years ago. When combined with our earlier trip to Washington, D.C. this spring, we considered ourselves pretty lucky to be able to log two trips in one calendar year.

I enjoyed Maine, even though a nagging part of me hadn't wanted to go -- the trip was pretty expensive, and it wasn't on my top 10 list of "Places I'm Willing to Spend a Lot of Money to See." However, we had a nice mix of time to ourselves and time with friends of the bride and groom who had also made the trek from Missouri. I did find myself tired by the end of the day -- almost like a power switch that would flip off at about 7:00 each night. One evening, we were taking a car tour of Acadia National Park, and we got to the lookout point for Cadillac Mountain (the first place in America to see the sun rise every day). It was a short 1/4 mile hike to the summit, and I just refused to go with Paul and the others -- I just wanted to stay in the car and read the guidebook. This is SO not like me -- I'm usually the one scrambling to find every hysterical...erm...historical marker and scenic overlook possible. I just didn't have the energy. I chalked it up to let down from the excitement of getting ready for the big trip and tiredness from having spent that afternoon walking all over Bar Harbor and visiting the tourist shops.

And then we came home to Missouri. I didn't have the energy to unpack -- I took a few things out of the suitcase each day and listlessly threw in some laundry now and then. My mom had taken care of the house and critters for us while we were gone, and the place looked wonderful -- I couldn't keep it that way to save my soul. The only thing I could muster up the energy to do was shower in the mornings (eventually) and plop my butt on the couch to spend the day watching reality TV marathons on the Bravo channel (pausing, of course, for a 3 hour nap every afternoon). Paul was less than thrilled at my lack of gumption, and just gave me holy hell one night for being lazy and unproductive, which was true. However, I didn't care and couldn't explain to him why -- I just told him I didin't feel good, to which he replied, "Then go to the doctor and get it taken care of." Good point.

I had to work at the library the next day (but not until noon, thank heavens -- I could still indulge myself in a relaxed mornning), and I woke up feeling just icky and queasy. The feeling didn't go away, and I thought back to realize that I'd been off for a while -- I didn't eat very much while we were on vacation (and again had just chalked it up to excitement from the trip) and hadn't felt much like eating since we'd been back (took too much effort to cook anything, so I existed on cold cereal). I went to the pharmacy while on a break from the library and told the girls working there that I wanted some Pepto Bismol to calm my stomach. In our conversation, they somehow came up with the hair-brained idea that I might be pregnancy (I scoffed) and that I should take home a pregnancy test just to make sure (I disagreed -- I've had a long-standing belief that I have a bad gallbladder, and I was pretty sure that it was just time for the sucker to come on out.). They pretty well forced the test into my sack, and I laughed at them for their silliness.

And then I peed on the stick. Since it was a cheap one (I stopped spending money on the good ones years ago), I had NO IDEA how to read the results. I'd have thought a degree in English would qualify me to decipher the fine print on a generic pregnancy test, but no such luck. I finally called Paul (who had no idea I had even bought one) into the bathroom to help me try to interpret. He couldn't tell either, but from what we were both reading, it looked as if it MIGHT be a positive result. Holy cow. Neither one of us even allowed ourselves to think that it might be a possibility, though, and I decided to head into the doctor's office the next day to start talking seriously with the doctor about getting the gallbladder yanked. I was, by this time, pretty tired of feeling like poo all the time.

The next morning, I popped into the doctor's office and peed on another little stick, then stepped back to let the doctor tell me that I was NOT in fact, pregnant, so we could have the "remove the gallbladder" chat. Yeah. It wasn't the gallbladder. Her fancy little test showed one pink and one blue line -- positive for pregnancy. Holy cow.

I refused to believe her, and told her it must by a chemical or hysterical pregnancy (I'd been watching the television show Glee, in which hysterical pregnancy was one of the major first season story lines). I challenged her -- "Well, if I'm pregnant, the spot where I used to get pain from ovarian cysts hurts -- it's probably a tubal pregnancy, right?" She did some math after asking me a few pretty personal questions (although she is the doctor -- you kinda' have to answer those honestly) and let me know I was a little far along (six weeks) for a tubal -- I'd have noticed it a long time before now if that had been the case. However, knowing my history of infertility and my refusal to believe that I was, in fact, knocked up good and proper, she sent me into town for an ultrasound. An hour later, I was laying on a table watching a little fluttery heartbeat on the screen and thinking, "Holy cow." Savannah, the lovely ultrasound tech with the ready box of Kleenexes, printed me off a picture of the blob and kindly marked it with an arrow that said "Baby." I took it to Auto Zone to show it to my flabbergasted and slightly disbelieving husband.

That was 13 weeks ago today. Since then, we've had 3 more ultrasounds (during which times we've seen him hiccup, grab his toes, and flip himself completely around) and are scheduled for another one (the big one) next week. We have a pretty good idea that the little booger kicking me (I can't feel it, but my innards feel like they've been beat with a blunt instrument) all the time is a baby boy. As of 2 weeks ago, his heart beat was strong and sure, and considering that my belly is growing every day, I'm guessing he's still in there getting bigger. According to this week's entry in "What to Expect When You're Expecting," Buddy is the size of a mango and is covered in vernix. That's a lovely thought -- a cottage-cheese covered tropical fruit with legs who does flip turns like Michael Phelps. Yesterday, I bought a used crib on Craigslist, and this afternoon, I picked up a brand new changing table that I found the same way. More and more each day, this whole situation is seeming less like a made-for-TV movie and more like reality -- it's going to happen. We're going to have a baby.

And I can't wait to meet him.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

In Which I am a Happy Horse Mama

I've always wanted a miniature donkey, so once we found some land and moved to the country, I started keeping my ears and eyes open for news of one that might be able to be purchased on the cheap. My dad kept insisting that they were selling up at the sale barn in Iowa for next to nothing. I thought that was simply wonderful, but I didn't think a donkey, even a mini, would do so well on a 4-hour car ride back to Missouri (although, come to think of it, they're not too much bigger than Lucy Lab). It was a Friday during summer school last summer, and whilst my students were playing Free Rice (they LOVE that game, and I am mollified by that fact that even though they're playing an online game, they're also donating food to the starving with every correct answer. Plus, they actually tend to learn something from playing it.), I popped open Craigslist, one of my favorite time-wasters. There were no minis for sale, but my attention landed on an ad for a Missouri Foxtrotter mare and foal for $550. Now, I know we're in the middle of a recession and that people are reducing their horse herds at alarming rates due to the cost of feeding the things, but that was still an exceptionally low price for a twofer. There were no pictures on the ad, but my attention was nabbed. My wonderful horsey neighbor, Claud, had been urging me to start my own herd ever since we moved in. He and I had even talked about what it would take to get the fence made for the pasture. We also had a "barn" of sorts, since Dad had managed to trade our camper for two carports the year before, and we were using one as an open storage shed (to be fair, when we chose to place it way down from the house, we did have in mind that it would be a good barn location one day). I knew I'd have plenty of money to pay for the horses, as well as enough to buy materials for a fence and some left over to pay for several months of upkeep. It was just a matter of saying to myself, "Yes. It's time to become a horse owner." Paul and I drove down to the Lake that next weekend to take a look at the girls, and it only took one glance for me to know that they'd be coming home to Critter Country. Mama Horse was pretty enough, albeit skinny as a rail (and was only green broke -- silly me to think it would be nothing to have her trotting all over our National Forest trails in a matter of weeks). But, it was the baby who sealed the deal for me.

Now, my dad (from whom I've always tended to take my horse cues) is a color man when
it comes to horses. He likes a lot of chrome -- stockings and blazes -- the flashier the better. He has always, always (since he was a little boy) yearned for a "John Wayne" horse -- a sorrel with four white socks and a blaze. And here, standing in front of me, was a pretty little sorrel with a white main and tail, a huge white blaze, and the promise of four high white stockings. Some part of me knew I had to buy this horse for my daddy, even knowing that he would probably never ride her.

Paul and I took a look at the horses, and we went in the pen and played a little with Mama Horse. Paul said to me (knowing full well the answer already), "You want them, don't you?"

I was raised better. I knew that you were supposed to buy a horse based on what you were looking for, in this case, one I could ride all over. If I were going to buy two horses so that my not-such-a-confident-rider of a husband could ride along with me, I should probably turn around, walk away, and look for a pair of geldings. But, oh, that baby horse. The owners hadn't done a thing with her -- never laid a hand on her, in fact. She hadn't been imnprinted (a training technique used by most horse people -- when the baby is a few hours old, humans rub them all over with a bunch of potentially scary items they will come into contact with as adult horses -- clippers, brushes, blankets, ropes, spray bottles, etc), which many horse people will say leads to untold difficulties training a horse when it's older. The owners also didn't have the mare's registration papers in hand -- they were with the woman from whom they'd bought her, who had promised to send them along, yada, yada, yada. But I just sensed something about that little girl horse -- I had mental visions of my daddy's face when I showed him his dream horse, and I couldn't walk away from that opportunity.

So, three weeks later (after a fence was hastily constructed and I went on an internet crash course in horse ownership, considering it had been 20 years since I'd been responsible for one. Even then, Dad took care of things like feeding and vet bills -- I just showed up and rode when I wanted to.), my horses arrived. I bought a halter for my little baby horse, and the previous owner was brave enough to put it on her while she was containe in the trailer. Mama Horse came off the trailer glad to be free again, and started munching on the lawn. Baby came off rearing and whinnying. Neighbor Claud had hold of her lead rope, and she was NOT happy to be held (a fact which, he thinks, led to the fact that she doesn't particularly care for him to this day). We took them down to their new corral, and let them settle in.

Since I was home from school for the summer, I started working on taming my wild baby. I took a lawn chair and a book down to the corral and just sat down. It took about two days, but finally Little Miss Curiosity decided to nose the strange human to see what she would do. By the time a week had passed, we were practicing being led (not very successfully, but we were practicing.). I decided to name her "Ginger," since she was an ornery little girl.

Flash forward to today -- almost a year later. I've had quite a few people tell me I should just sell the baby and buy a horse I don't need to wait three years to ride. Babies are a pain, why feed a horse you can't ride, blah, blah blah. But, Miss Ginger and I are a team. When I go outside, she comes to the fence to wait for me. She doesn't necessarily follow me around like a dog, but if she's in the pasture and I go out to see her, she comes running up to me. Her pretty flaxen mane and tail have turned black, which is genetically impossible for a sorrel horse. Since Mama Horse is technically black (she's a lovely sort of Hershey's chocolate drenched in sunshine) and Daddy was a dark palomino, Ninny had a 50/50 chance of being black or palomino -- those two colors don't mix, and one dominates the other. However, Daddy was a Peruvian Paso, those lovely Spanish horses who throw their feet to the sides when they walk and always look as if they are in a parade. According to the vet, Peruvian genetics are odd when it comes to color, and he believes that she'll either be a one-of-a-kind sorrel with black and white striped mane and tail, or she'll change color entirely at some point. It doesn't matter to me -- she's going to keep those pretty white legs and big white blaze.

Anyway, today was spa day for the horses. This morning, I went out and gave Angel a bath. Their new pasture is full of poison ivy, and I live in fear of getting it from them. Horses don't usually get poison ivy, but the oil can stay on their coats and transfer to their human caretakers -- not my idea of a good time, and not really very nice to the farrier who was coming out to do their hooves. Paul came out and helped me with Ginger, since she had never had a bath before. She is always really spooky about new things, and I knew this bath would be a two-person operation. Paul tried holding her while I used the hose to wet her down, but she looked like a guest star on "Dancing with the Equines." So, Paul looped her lead rope around the utility pole and let her pull for a bit. Once she figured out she couldn't pull away, she settled down and let me give her a full bath. She even went as far as to drink out of the hose when I held it up to her nose -- she thought that was kind of a fun game.

After lunch, I mixed up a batch of homemade fly spray using Avon's Skin-So-Soft, vinegar, and dish soap. Ninny has never let me spray her, either -- but today was definitely a day of firsts. Once she figured out that the spray wouldn't hurt her, she stood still and let me cover her. I'm not sure if the fly spray will work (I'm not sure any fly spray works out here), but if it can give her some relief, I'll be happy. I even painted her little white nose with sunscreen, since it tends to burn on hot, sunny days. Around 2:00, the farrier came out to do the horse's hooves. This farrier has been out once before, but it was while Paul and I were in DC for Braden's baptism, so the house/horse sitter handled them then. She said that the baby was really well-behaved last time, so she didn't expect any problems this time. Ha! We were putting front shoes on Angel and were halfway through when a huge thunderstorm blew up out of nowhere. We went under the garage, but since it is open to the west, we the wind was blowing fiercely and Angel was not having any of this strange pounding on her feet in concert with lightning and thunder. So, we went down the barn, which is enclosed on three sides and protected from the western storms. Ninny, of course, went with us. After Mama Angel was finished, the farrier decided to go ahead and try to trim Ninny's hooves, since she was pretty calm in the storm and curious about the whole operation.

Even though the rain was sheeting and blowing horizontally in front of the shed, and even though lightning and thunder were cracking overhead, my little baby horse stood like a statue while she had her feet trimmed. The farrier remarked, "Man, this little horse is good. She's a keeper." When we were all finished, the farrier came up and kissed her on the nose, then said to me very seriously, "I have never seen a young horse behave this well with all this going on. It just doesn't happen. If this were my horse, I would never, ever sell her." I couldn't agree more.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Who Are You?...and You Haven't Changed a Bit...

There is a strange sort of alchemical magic that occurs when old friends who haven't seen each other for years finally reconnect -- all the time that has elapsed since the last meeting evanesces and conversation picks up right where it last left off.

The first time I experienced this phenomenon was when I met up with my high school friend Liz (who by that time had decided she wanted to be called "Beth" -- talk about your major life changes...) some time after we had both been away to school. With no effort at all, we caught up on what had happened in our lives and reestablished the bonds that had carried us through the joys and horrors of public high school. We manage to get together about once a year, and have become even closer since the miracle of Facebook has plopped us directly in one another's paths -- she gets to read daily updates of my horse and dog stories, and I get to see pictures of her adorable children and hear about their antics.

But I put the timelessness continuum to the test this past weekend. While in college, I was blessed to spend an inordinate amount of time with two friends, Ed and Paige. I met Ed at the beginning of my freshman year -- his dorm room was right next to a friend from high school's, and I feel madly in freshman love with his roommate, who subsequently broke my heart in short order. Ed was there to pick up the pieces and force me to take a reality check look inside. Paige came back to school a few years later, and we immediately became tighter than ticks. All three of us shared a love of politics, karaoke, and time spent with good friends. We managed to take care of one another during the low times in our respective lives, and we celebrated one another's joys and triumphs. When they graduated and I went off to student teach, we vowed to get together often and stay important parts of each other's lives.

And I tried. I have always been a far better correspondent that those with whom I associate, meaning that I tend to send a lot of letters and e-mails to people I care about. Unfortunately, neither Ed nor Paige is all that great about staying in touch, so when combined with my not-so-subtle paranoia about not being liked (Sally Field complex?), I just thought they had moved on with their lives and didn't want me to be a part of it any more. For the first few years, we didn't do too badly, though -- Ed came and spent a week with Paul and I our first winter in Texas and we had a ton of fun, and I spent an evening with Paige in Dekalb while on my way to O'Hare to pick up a flight back to Texas after having visited Mom and Dad. They were both in my wedding -- Ed in the honorary brother role of usher, and Paige as the blue bridesmaid (which refers to the color of her dress, not her mood at my impending nuptials). And that was 13 years ago. Nothing since. I Googled them both through the years and was able to find Paige in Dekalb -- I also found an e-mail address for her and for a while, we e-mailed one another pretty regularly. I also tried to find Ed's address at least once a year to send him a Christmas card (you know, a lot of people poo-poo Christmas cards, but I have to give props to a social institution that forces people to correspond with one another at least once a year in order to keep bonds alive). I always sent the card, and they usually didn't come back, so I'm guessing he probably got them. People Finder on Yahoo is usually fairly accurate, and I knew he was in the Twin Cities, so I was fairly confident when I addressed the Christmas card envelope each year that it had a pretty good shot of landing in his mailbox. When the I-35 bridge collapsed in Minneapolis three or so years ago, I took a chance and called the number that was listed in People Finder for him and left a message saying that all I wanted to know was that he wasn't on the bridge when it collapsed, so call me and let me know he's still alive. He did, and we spent over an hour on the phone chatting and remember why we were friends in the first place. At that time, he mentioned that he was planning to ask his long-time girlfriend to marry him that very weekend. He promised to send me a wedding invitation and made sure he had all my numbers and addresses. He also promised to stay in touch this time, and not let another 10 years go by without contacting me.

Never heard from him.

About 6 months ago, Paige bowed to peer pressure and signed up for Facebook. Since that time, we have done a much better job keeping up with one another's lives -- this is the joy of Facebook: instant catching up on the lives of people with whom you share some sort of common bond (even if it's a kid you know because his mom is friends with your mom and with whom you went to elementary school with a million years ago). So, when Paige and I "reconnected" (to borrow FB phraseology), one of my first questions was, "Have you heard from Ed?" I (somewhat grumpily) related my last conversation with him, including his promise to stay in touch this time. She said, "I don't know -- I'm going to call him right now and find out." This is vintage Paige -- meet life head on, and just do it; whereas I tend to prevaricate and think I probably shouldn't just pick up the damned phone since he hasn't called me, and thus must not want me to be in his life, and get all over-reflective and wonder why people don't want to stay in nauseum, ad nauseum.

Two hours later, I get a message from Paige: "Holy Cow! Ed's got a baby! And he's getting married in a few months! You need to e-mail him your address so he can send you an invitation."

Flash forward to a few weeks ago, when neither Paige nor I had received an invitation. I was all self-indulgently paranoid and whiny, thinking he didn't really *want* to invite me, when Paige once again gut-checked me (this is why we're such good friends -- she doesn't let me put up with my own crap) and told me to get over myself -- the first thing Ed had said when Paige called him was, "Have you heard from Justine? How is she?" She then went on to say, "Remember -- this is Ed. I'm sure our invitations are still sitting on the kitchen table. I'll call him to see what's going on." That was Tuesday -- the invitation came in the mail on Saturday.

Plans were made, reservations were confirmed, and last Friday, I left Missouri for Cedar Falls. I spent the afternoon and evening with Paige (including experiencing my first-ever pedicure -- it was totally fun, but I'm already tired of my toenail color, and they put some sort of UV coating on it that turned the polish to some sort of industrial car clear coat paint -- I think it will be on there until my toenails fall off...) and family. Her neice is horse-nuts, so I shared all my cell phone photos of the girls with her and told her lots of horse stories (my little girl cool points were way up at that point). We went out for dinner at a restaurant in the building that once my beloved Granny Annie's bakery (sigh -- small sob), then hit the town for drinks (obviously, we've aged -- one drink and I was ready for bed). Around 10:30, we found karaoke -- this was probably the best way for my Cedar Falls life to come full-circle. Ninety minutes and four songs later (thankfully, the place was pretty empty, and there weren't too many singers), we headed for Paige's house, where I took out my contacts and crashed.

The next morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed (this dragging seemed to be a theme for the entire weekend -- my lifestyle these days means being up at the crack of dawn, which precludes staying up late and enjoying the soulful stylings of karaoke queens everywhere; however, this weekend was all about catching up), showered and breakfasted, and then hit the road for Minneapolis. Yahoo maps promised us that our trip would only be 3 hours long or so, but after a wrong turn and road construction, my latent obsessive-compulsiveness regarding being late started to rear its nervous little head. We originally planned to go to the hotel, check in, change, apply faces, and head over to the church. The closer we got, though, the more we realized this plan would not be very likely to fall together as seamlessly as our college "wing it" plans used to. We pulled over at a rest stop about 30 minutes south of the Twin Cities and changed in the bathroom, which was hilarious. One little girl was totally in awe of our beauty and verve as we cosmpolitan ladies brushed on our foundation and lined our eyes -- actually, she just liked our dresses. My dress was white with black flowers. Paige's was black with white designs. I had a black shrug to wear with mine. Paige had planned to bring a sweater, but forgot it at home, so she wore my white eyelet lace camp shirt. We figured that one of us had to be the negative. Regardless, we looked fabulous.

We headed into Minneapolis and faithfully followed our Yahoo maps instructions to the church...well, we intended to, but road construction shut down the exit we needed to get on, and we spent an extra 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get to where we needed to go. By this time, that obsessive-compulsive tendency was starting to really gnaw at me (either that, or it was the Tuscan Herb Baked Lays I had eaten for lunch). We pulled into the parking lot of the church with about 5 minutes to spare, grabbed camera and purses, and headed on in. We ran into Ed as we were waiting to walk into the sanctuary, and he gave us both a big hug before he headed off into the next phase of his life.

It was a lovely, simple ceremony, and when Ed choked up while reciting his vows, Paige and I quietly wiped our tears away from our seats in the corner. At the reception, after all the beginning hoopla and assorted toasts, he made time to come and talk to us at our table. We could tell it meant a lot to him that we had come. Of course, we wouldn't have missed it. We also extracted a promise from him to sign up for Facebook, so that we could definitely keep in closer contact. We talked about a possible reunion in Cedar Falls for homecoming this year, which would be fun.

And then, we danced at his wedding.