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.