Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Million Little Details

There are certain events of one's life in which you want to remember every detail. One such event, for me, is the birth of my children. The day comes and goes at such a rapid pace, it's easy to forget those little moments that have the potential to become treasured memories. Here is my account of the birth of my second child; it was just two short weeks ago, but already seems like a lifetime has passed.
I awaken. The room is dark but all too familiar. This has been my only place of comfort during these final weeks. I sit up, trying to relieve the increasing pressure and muscle tension that the last month has brought. I put my feet up on the edge of the couch next to me and stretch the blanket along the length of my body. I look at the clock.
It's 4am.
Just 2 hours to go.
A noise from the hall. My mother, and elected keeper of The Boy for the next week, has emerged from her room. She sees I am awake and decides to join me in my vigil.
How'd you sleep?
The same as I have for the past month.
I'll keep you company.
She takes her place on the opposite end of the couch. We both snuggle into our respective blankets and try to pass the time with sleepily idle chit chat, each of us trying to suppress our growing excitement. The stirring in my belly tells me that She, too, is aware of what today will bring.
Today will be Her birthday.
Another noise from the hall. My Husband is awake.
It's now 5am. He makes himself a pot of coffee and goes outside for a smoke.
Hey, wiff.
Come see this.
The moon is bright red.
My Mother and I step onto the front porch. The moon hangs low in the pre-dawn sky and is a beautiful Harvest Moon
. Not quite the red my Husband described, but noteworthy nonetheless. I will make sure I tell Her the details of the morning she was born.
(I wonder if it's significant that instead of watching the sunrise, I am watching the moon set.)
I go back inside and decide it's pointless to sit any longer and that I should start getting myself ready. I check my bags for the millionth time and decide that if I haven't packed it by now, then I don't need it. My Husband showers and gathers his things together. Having been through this once before, he wants to be prepared. He fills two thermoses with coffee. Hospital coffee sucks.
6am. It's time to leave. I tip-toe upstairs and kiss The Boy goodbye. Tell him I love him.
We leave for the hospital.
It is still dark when we arrive although the sky is showing signs of its transformation to azure blue
. The Main Entrance to the hospital is eerily quiet. The security desk is empty and we realize that we are not sure where to go. There are no signs for the Maternity Ward. We aim for the Women's Pavilion. I don't remember the walk being so long the first time we made this journey 3 years ago. We follow the red and green dots along the floor to the elevators, push the button, and get in. The doors open on the 2nd floor. It is quiet.
We walk through the set of double doors to the Maternity Ward and go to the nurse’s station. No one is there. Computer screens cast a soft glow across empty desks, patient charts and various paperwork.
We look over at the nursery. A nurse spots us and emerges. She has on her face a smile that is as full of hope and excitement as my waistline is full of the infant I am about to meet.
I tell her I am here for a scheduled c-section.
She escorts us to what will be my "labor" room and tells me to change into a gown and that there is an emergency c-section going on so it will be a few minutes before someone is in to see me.
I get changed in the bathroom and emerge to assess my surroundings. This room isn't as nice as the last time I was here. It is smaller. There is no whirlpool tub. But I don't need it this time. Today there will be no unnecessary drugs meant to encourage my body to expel a baby too big for me to handle. No prolonged waiting. Today is scheduled. I know what to expect. Or so I think.
I sit in the chair by the window and begin to rock hoping it will soothe the anxiety that is building inside me.
7:00am. A nurse comes in to hook up my IV and decides against putting me on any monitors. It's too soon to take any vitals.
We are being bumped for the emergency c-section they mentioned when we arrived. Our 7:30am appointment is now looking like it will be closer to 9am.
My husband and I pass the time by watching the news. He takes random pictures of the room: the clock, the TV., me trying my best to look calm and maternal as I rock in the rocking chair.
8am. The nurse returns to hook me up to the monitors. Outside, we hear the circular swooping sounds of the helicopter rotors as it air lifts the newborn infant from the emergency section to another hospital. Husband, the Nurse and I each exchange glances that convey the uneasy awareness of the true fragility of life. That sometimes, no matter how hard you try to do all the right things, things can go terribly wrong. Our thoughts momentarily take flight with the swooping sounds and with the new life carried within, and with the Mother.
We are brought back to the moment by the sounds of our own child's heartbeat from the monitors that are now strapped to my belly. Her heartbeat is strong. She is active. She has been awake since 4am.
8:30am. A visitor. A woman of small stature, dark skin, and middle-eastern accent. She is to be my anesthesiologist and she is here to go over the different types of anesthesia that might be used during my surgery. Epidural. Epidural with sedation. Spinal Block. She tries her best to make it as clear as she can, but I am admittedly too anxious at this time to make note of every detail. I am about to become a Mother for the second time. I trust her explanation and put my fate in her hands and sign my name by the X.
9am. It's time.
I am wrapped in a blanket, kiss my husband and walk out of the room through a set of double doors and into a small postage-stamp sized operating room. It is filled with instruments, large lights looming overhead, and a small bed in the middle. I am told to hop on board and sit "Indian style" slumped over so the anesthesiologist can administer my epidural.
How tall are you?
You're going to feel some pushing, but it's just my hands right now.
She pushes along my lower spine, trying to feel the gaps between my vertebrae in which to administer the medication that will allow me to remain awake during my surgery.
Now you're going to feel a little pinch and burn.
She begins to inject the Novocain into my spine to numb the area.
They say the body has no memory of pain, but the burning pressure and pinpoint stings instantly call me back to three years earlier during the birth of The Boy.
Another pinch.
Just relax.
Once I am sufficiently numb, she injects the epidural and I am asked to lie down.
Instantly the O.R. staff goes to work prepping me for surgery. Drapes, blood pressure cuff, nasal cannula for oxygen, heart monitor, blankets to keep me warm. I watch the clock.
It's 9:20am.
Then another familiar sensation. My body begins to tremble. Partly due to my increasing excitement and anxiety, and partly from the medication. I breathe deeply to try to calm my body and remind myself that this will be a walk in the park. In 20 minutes or so, I will have a daughter. I keep my eyes focused on the clock and try to control my breathing.
Where's the Dad going to sit?
The staff scurries to find a place for the stool on which my Husband will take his place by my side.
Dad's getting anxious. He wants to come in.
Let's get him in here quickly.
My Doctors are now here. Their eyes smile at me from behind their masks and they begin their prep work.
I feel pinching in my belly. I tell them.
Don't worry. We haven't begun cutting yet. We're just testing to see if you're numb.
I'm not. I feel what you are doing.
Ok. Don't worry. We'll wait.
I keep my eyes fixed at the clock in an effort to calm myself and take my mind off what's about to happen.
It's 9:40am. I struggle to speak.
I'm feeling light headed.
And my throat is feeling a little swollen.
I feel cutting in the left side of my stomach.
No one’s cutting you. Just relax.
The anesthesiologist tries her best to calm and reassure me.
The hustle and bustle of activity continues. Voices, commentary, conversation. Bright white light. The excitement level increases as we all prepare for the new life that is about to enter our lives.
The voices echo and resonate through my mind. The commentary, hustle and bustle continues.
Suddenly I become ware that my eyes are closed. The voices and activity around me sound as if they are coming from a distant hall. Bright white lights rolls overhead. I am being moved.
Where am I going?
What happened?
The questions come, but I am unable to speak. I struggle to open my eyes but I can't. The voices, conversation and commentary continue but I cannot open my eyes. I do not know what is happening.
I cannot see. I am being moved, bright white lights roll by overhead and the voices continue. I fear something has gone terribly wrong.
Am I still pregnant?
Am I dead?
In a coma?
Where is my baby?
Where is my husband?
Where are you taking me?
What the fuck happened?!
My questions go unspoken. Unanswered. Why won't someone answer me!
Then a voice speaks to me.
Your husband is with the baby.
What baby?
Where am I going?
Again I ask the questions but no one hears me. I still cannot speak.
I am sitting up now. I manage to open my eyes enough to see I am in a room. There is a bed next to me. I think I must be in another area of the hospital. What happened to my private labor/recover room? There are voices and people around me, talking to me, but I don't know what they are saying. I look at the clock. It's 11:20am.
An hour and a half has passed.
What the fuck happened?!
Still, I cannot manage to make my mouth work. To formulate the questions that are welling up inside of me. I am panicking, but my panic is suppressed by the sedative veil.
Suddenly a familiar face. My husband comes in to the room and he is wheeling a bassinet. Inside, a small bundle swaddled in a blanket is removed and placed in my arms. I am holding a baby. My baby. My eyes can barely focus. My throat is swollen and I struggle to speak.
What happened?
My voice is thick and slurred.
You had a baby.
But how?
The people in the room find this question funny, but my sense of humor is numbed along with the rest of me. My husband tells me I was sedated during my c-section.
I don't know. You were out when I came in to the O.R.
I missed her being born.
The tears come. My husband hands me a tissue and tries to comfort me.
You didn't miss anything. She's right here. Look at her.
I try to focus my eyes on her face and take in her details. She is sleeping. Apparently also feeling the effects of the sedation. Her skin is pink, her hair golden brown. She smells of peaches. She is beautiful. More beautiful than I could ever have imagined. Angelic. Innocent. Peaceful.
I try to draw from her peacefulness, and accept that there are no do-overs. I missed her birth, but am reassured to know that my Husband did not leave her side for the 1 1/2 hours that I was in surgery. I am grateful that they had that time to bond and get to know one another. And I am thankful that she is healthy and finally here.
She opens her eyes. Her gazed fixed on my gaze. Her eyes are a deep blue-gray... and I am instantly lost. Lost in love, in hope ... in peace.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Boy ... on Lactation

The Boy: "Mommy, you're like a machine."

Me: "I am?"

The Boy: "Yeah, because you make milk. You're a milk machine!"

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Self-Portrait: Before and After

8 Months

8 Days Post-Partum

The Stats:
BabyGirl (a.k.a. The Mouse)
November 14, 2005
8lbs 15oz.
20 inches

Sunday, November 13, 2005

My Breeder's Cup Runneth Over

Hubby and I found out at our 39 week OB appt on Thursday that bioBaby #2 is a whopping 8lbs 15oz already. Her older brother, The Boy, didn't reach the 9lb mark until 42 weeks.

Damn, I make some big babies!

The clinical term for big baby syndrome is
macrosomia. This is a fairly common diagnosis in women with gestational diabetes, which I have been fortunate enough not to have. However, my overly-fertile uterine environment paired with inferior birthin' hips means I must go under the knife once again to free my offspring from my loins. My second c-section has been scheduled for tomorrow, November 14th at 7:30am. We have to be at the hospital by 6am. Ha! Guess I won't be getting much sleep tonight.

The good news is, I won't be subjected to an induction, followed by 12 hours of labor, and 1 1/2 hours of pushing before having to endure major surgery as I did with The Boy. The bad news... hmm... let's see: 4 days of rest in a hospital where I will have my meals delivered to me and a dedicated staff of nurses to make sure I am comfortable? No. Pain killers (a.k.a. happy pills)? No. A healthy baby girl? Nope. Nothing to complain about here.

Oh, and one other plus, is that increased birth weight has also been linked to
increased IQ in adult life. I'll gladly allow my mid-section to the stretched to it's limits and then my guts strewn across an operating table if it means my children will grow up to be geniuses, get high-paying jobs and support me in the manner to which I would like to become accustomed. It's the least they can do to pay me back for the months of nausea, swelling, constipation, joint pain, carpal tunnel, post-nasal drip, and insomnia I had to endure to bring them into this world!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Surviving the Holi-DAZE!

It's easy for me to forget that the holidays can be challenging for blended families. After all, I've been doing the Stepfamily Holiday Shuffle for almost [gulp!] 30 years. My parents divorced when I was 7, and stretching Christmas between their homes was something I was completely used to. Then when my Dad and Stepmom split up when I was in my 20s, I had no problem adjusting my holiday visits to include one more household. So by the time I met my husband and SD, I was an old pro at this holiday schedule balancing act. It was literally second nature. My husband had a harder time incorporating this way of thinking into his holiday mind-set... especially when it meant dealing with my freakishly large extended/blended family. In fact, he is still getting used to it but here's how we've been managed so far...

Be flexible. In order for our holidays to be successful, we have to expand our thinking b-e-y-o-n-d the 24 hour time frame. Christmas simply can not be done on December 25th alone, so visits are planned for the 24th and/or subsequent weekends depending on where we are in the holiday custody schedule. Again, I am used to this concept. My husband is still getting the hang of it. But my SD? C'mon!! What kid doesn't love getting presents, and in our family the gift giving mayhem gives Chanukkah a run for it's money... sometimes lasting well into the new year!

Plan ahead. Lucky for us, my husband and his ex had the foresight to work out a holiday custody schedule ahead of time as part of their divorce agreement. Each year, they alternate who has my SD on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve/Day, New Year's Eve/Day. Halloween is shared with each getting 2 hours to go trick-or-treating. Knowing ahead of time when my SD will be home with us makes planning our holiday visits so much easier. And, a detail which I think is brilliant, the exchange time for Christmas is always 11am on Christmas morning, so Santa has never had to change his schedule. ;) This year is bioMom's turn to have my SD for Thanksgiving, so that means she will be home with us Fri-Sun. A left-over turkey feast is just as good the second time around, IMO, so SD will get a mini-Thanksgiving celebration with us too.

Don't over do it. Not doing too much is also a challenge, especially with all of the steps and ex-steps in my family. We try not to over-book ourselves and keep the kids in mind, especially my SD who often travels over 4 hours to visit her bioMom's family for holiday celebrations. We try to have as many people over our house as we can to cut down on the travelling. And we plan visits with relatives who live further away in the weekends that follow Christmas... oftentimes extending into the new year just to give ourselves and SD a break from too much travel.

Develop your own traditions and memories. We always decorate the Christmas tree together as a family. In the past, that damn tree has sat bare in our living room for days until my SD came home from visiting her Mom. It was so worth it. SD has her own special decorating job -- which is to to hang all the non-breakable ornaments. She knows which ones are "hers" and tackles them with great enthusiasm and last year happily showed her brother how to hang them just right.

In recent years, SD has also expressed an interest in helping me bake my Christmas cookies. I've usually done this alone, when she is visiting her bioMom and when The Boy is napping. It's just easier and much more productive for me to have the kitchen to myself. (I can bang out over 3 dozen butter cookies in an hour!) But I now realize that I'm robbing both my SD and myself of a wonderful bonding experience and a cherished holiday memory. So this year, instead of taking the easy way out, I will share this tradition with her just as my mother did with me. Baking our Christmas cookies is one of my most treasured holiday memories with my Mom. I want my SD to have the same memory... one that she can then share with her own daughter one day.

My husband and I have learned that in order to be successful, holiday expectations have to be tailored to fit custody arrangements and several sets of relatives who all want time with the kids and us. Expectations have to be realistic, and not based on some fantasy. But with a little planning, patience, and a sense of humor we have made it through and created precious memories in the process.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Adding bioChildren

A reader recently asked me to share how my stepdaughter's bioMom reacted when hubby and I started having children of our own.

To be honest, I have no idea how she reacted. I suspect that she secretly hated it as her behavior over the last 7 years has indicated some jealously as to my husband's ability to move on with his life (and some resentment with regards to my existence in her daughter's life). It's quite possible that some comments were made to my husband -- but he tries very hard to shelter me from her verbal attacks, so nothing ever made its way to my ears and I never asked. I do not believe that any negative comments were made to my SD either, and if they were they haven't seemed to have any effect. My SD loves her little brother to pieces and is thrilled about the pending arrival of her new baby sister. [Just ask the staff and patients at our OBs office who all overheard her exclamations of "My prayers have been answered!" when we found out we were having a girl.]

What's of more interest to me is my own reaction to adding bio-children to our family. After my son was born, it was as if there was a sudden shift in the balance of the "relationship" between my husband, his ex, my stepdaughter and myself. I was no longer the self-proclaimed-odd-man-out, but a valuable player in this game of parenting because now I had a child of my own.

I felt enlightened. I now understood my husband's motives for all those years he was trying to keep the peace and bent over backwards to give in to his ex's demands, despite my repeated protests. He was doing what he thought was best for his daughter and ultimately us. I was now aware of the feelings a parent has for their child and the lengths one will go to ensure that child's safety and happiness. [We have since learned that our relationship must come first if we are to be a successful blended family.]

I felt empowered. Now I felt I had more of a
right to speak up with regards to what was happening in my own home: from issues concerning discipline, to visitation and how it impacted family plans, to creating our own family rituals and traditions. I was not just a member of this family, but now a bona-fide parent in this household who had a voice and deserved respect. I suddenly was willing to take more control over the parenting duties of the household as they applied to my SD where in the past I remained a quiet observer and let my husband handle things. This decision has apparently elevated me to the rank of the only stabilizing force in my SD's life right now (according to the psychologist involved in the custody case).

Yes, there has been a definite shift in our family dynamics since we began adding biochildren to the mix, and it's been all for the positive.

With bioBaby number two on the way, I can only hope that my husband's ex will not further infuse her negativity into our lives or my SD's feelings towards her new sibling. But, as I have said, we are in the middle of an ugly custody battle so there are no guarantees that attempts will not be made. As it stands, we are preparing for some resistance from bioMom with not allowing my SD to visit the hospital should I deliver on a non-custodial day. My husband has already placed a call to his lawyer and is prepared to handle any problems that might arise.

Quite honestly, we try not to get bogged down with worry over what bioMom might or might not do in response to us adding to our family or with regard any other decisions we might make. We will deal with what we have to deal with, when and if we have to deal with it. And we will deal with it together.

In the meantime, we are confident that we have created a firm and solid family foundation in which all of our children can thrive. And we look forward with anticipation, and not dread, over expanding our home by another 2 feet. :)

Monday, November 7, 2005

Little Boy Lost

Last week, The Boy reached yet another milestone in his short 3 year life... moving out of the "nursery" and into the big kids room upstairs which he will now share with his 9 y/o big sister.

My husband and I have been preparing The Boy for this move for a couple of months now, explaining all of the details involved--getting a new big boy bed, moving his toys upstairs, getting to pick out new dinosaur sheets, etc--all the while purposely leaving out the details as to why he was being moved... to make room for his new baby sister due later this month. . We I was expecting there to be some resistence as he made the transition from having a room next to Mommy & Daddy, to being alone upstairs at the opposite end of the house. So I had been playing up all the positives to make him excited about the move. And when his big boy furniture finally arrived, he helped Daddy to put it all together. We then made a family trip to Sears to pick up a mattress and his new sheets. The Boy thoroughly enjoyed this process of building his furniture and buying his dinosaur comforter and Hot Wheels sheets.

Unfortunately, as is usually the case in our household, time is a major issue. There is never enough of it. The Boy's room was not completely set up by bedtime that day and at 8pm it was nothing more than a bed among boxes that had once been stored in that space and were simply pushed against a wall to accomodate his bed. But we had promised The Boy that he could sleep in his new room that night and we were determined to keep that promise.

The Boy seemed totally unaffected by the fact that there was nothing familiar of his own in this room... with the exception of his "red bear" which he sleeps with every night. He happily explored his new digs, bounced on the mattress, checked out the drawers under his bed and helped put some books away in his bookcase headboard. As I sat on his bed and looked around, I was completely convinced that he would be freaked out once being left alone in this foreign space amongst looming towers of boxes and want to be back in the comforts of his room next to Mommy & Daddy. But we trudged along with our normal bedtime routine, kisses, snuggles, donk heads, ice water, music, etc. I said goodnight to my Little Man and walked down the stairs.
10 minutes later, beneath the soft drone of his lullaby CD, I could hear his gentle snores.

He slept.

I was relieved, until...

I emerged from my own bedroom to find the door to his old room open, and inside nothing but a silent darkness and an empty toddler bed. Something was wrong. The Boy was home and in bed, but he wasn't where he should be. He wasn't where I was used to seeing him and hearing him. Not in the safe place next to my room where I could check on him whenever I wanted... as often as I wanted. I instantly felt an overwhelming sense of loss. He was gone. My baby was gone. My little boy was growing up and truly becoming a big boy. And as any self-respecting mother would do, I cried sobbed over this loss. I cried as I walked past the empty room, I cried as I watched him sleep from the top of his bedroom steps, and I cried as I listened to his breaths over the monitor from the privacy of my office.

The Boy has now officially been in his new room for a full week and is as content as ever. He loves his new bed, and being close to his big sister. I've been feeling very nostalgic this week, and have been viewing old home movies taken of him over the last 3 years. I don't know if it's helped or not. My only comfort now is knowing that in a few short days/weeks, I would have another baby to fill that void... and hopefully the loss of my first baby won't feel so tragic.