Friday’s Child

Blood is rushing through a tube next to my face. There are a lot of people in this room. It is cold in here and there are a lot of machines making noise. I watch my heart rate blip on the monitor. 93, 92, 90, 92. If I just keep watching it, I won’t die. My brain takes over and tells me that if I just concentrate my heart can’t possibly stop. She slips out quietly and the room stands still for a brief second. When it moves again half the people in the room rush out taking her with them. I don’t hear her. I don’t see her.

“Now we can take care of you.” Says a voice on the other side of the curtain.

Many times I have sat down to write this story. But every time I do I worry that it sounds like a horror story. I don’t want it to be a horror story. I have never felt the need for it to be a warning to others. I want it to be a blessing. It is a blessing. My little girl is a blessing. Everything about her is a blessing; her conception, her birth and her near perfect development.

The weeks before her birth are standard other than this will be the first time I have gone into labor. My twins were a scheduled c-section. I have my last appointment with the midwife on Monday. She is overdue and we are concerned because my husband’s final exam at the fire academy is on Friday. The midwife cocks her head to the side, smiles and says “Oh, well. You know she will come on Friday, right?”

Tuesday the contractions start in the evening. I feel a rush of excitement. I am alone. My husband is at work, my mom and the twins have gone to bed. At 3:00 am I wander around the house and happily pack a bag.

Wednesday night I call the midwife and say I am coming in. I am not dilated when I get there. They say I can go home and get some rest. I tell them I would rather stay because laboring with two year old twins crawling over me has worn me out.

Wednesday night goes by. I ride waves of pitocin all the next day while my husband studies for his exam in the cafeteria. I am tired to the bone Thursday night. I am dilated to a 7 at 10:00 PM. Something isn’t right. I haven’t peed all day and my bladder aches but nothing comes out.

“What should I do? Is this normal?”

“It is up to you. Yes, it is normal.”

Please, someone tell me what to do. I am too tired to think. It hurts too much to think. Just tell me what to do. Please.

Epidural and catheter.

“Between 2 and 4 AM, I think you’ll be ready to push.”

2:00 comes and goes. 4:00 comes and goes. 6:00 my husband gets up. The nurse says nothing is going to happen for awhile. We agree he needs to leave for his final exam. I will call if anything starts to happen.

Even though my legs are numb there is a stabbing pain rising and falling on my left side. A flame pressed to my skin.

There is a scuffling sound, footsteps and paper rustling. I blink my eyes and look around. There are close to ten people in the room. There is a doctor, not the midwife. He looks at the fetal heart monitor and says something about the monitor being out of place and they are having a hard time finding the heart beat.

He needs to examine me. My legs are so numb I can’t move them. I hear, “too much blood…”

Plugs and cords are ripped from the walls. There is yelling. The end of my bed slams into the door frame.

“What is happening?” I feel like I am screaming but it comes out in a cracked moan.

“I am scared,” I whisper into the chaos.

I watch the ceiling tiles speed by above me. I think to myself “I am going to die. My baby is going to die.” I think about my husband and I see a flash of him standing in an empty hallway and I think, “Will he be okay? Will he forgive himself?”

I am lifted from one table to the next in the white room filled with machines and lights. My body a lead weight. Doctors and nurses are talking over the top of me. Anesthesia.

“I don’t want to go to sleep! I don’t want to go to sleep!” If I go to sleep I might not wake up.

I see his blue eyes above the surgical mask. I don’t know what he is doing there, suddenly next to my face. I grab his arm. He looks straight at me and I lock my eyes into his. “I’m scared.” I whisper to him, a secret between him and me. I grip his forearm, digging my fingers in. I cling to him. He is my anchor. He doesn’t break eye contact. He stays with me until he can’t any longer and he gently peels my fingers from his arm and says, “You are doing great.”

14 minutes from the time the doctor walked into my room she slips quietly into this world on a Friday morning.

I ask the midwife to find my video camera. I don’t tell her but I don’t want to die without seeing her.

They bring me a short video and play it next to my face. It is hard to see what she looks like under the tubes. But I hear her crying. I see her moving.

I stare at my heart rate on the monitor and a female pediatrician comes in. She is talking about an ice blanket, lowering the baby’s body temperature for 3 days. She is asking my permission because there is no one else to ask. She tells me it reduces swelling in the brain. It can help reduce brain damage. Will I give permission?

The minutes go by on the clock. They talk about blood loss. They talk about me. They comment about how calm I am.

“I am concentrating,” I want to say but I can’t take my eyes of the monitor.

Then my mom is there. She smiles at me, her smile pinched. Her face is frozen, the stricken calm of an emergency. The room is finally quiet. It is still white and cold but the doctors and nurses have gone. It is just me and her and the units of blood dripping slowly back into my body, replacing the blood that rushed out through the tubes or spilled out on the floor.

They bring her in and all I can see coming out of the tubes and machines is her thick head of black hair. I touch her little hand, but I can’t see her face. I know that she looks just how I had imagined for 9 months. Black hair and blue eyes just like her daddy. She is a strong nine pounds. There is no swelling in her brain and she won’t need the ice blanket.

Finally my husband is with me. Standing next to my bed, his hand nervously wringing my hand. A tear escapes through his eyelashes.

It will be two days before I get to hold her. She gets stronger every minute. When she is able they bring her from the NICU to my room where I can see her through the tubes that are now attached to me pumping the contents of my stomach out through my nose.

In the weeks and months after her birth there were suggestions that I sue the hospital. That my labor shouldn’t have gone on as long as it did. That they should have anticipated that my uterus would tear all the way across my previous c-section scar and then down to my pelvis. It doesn’t seem right. It is not what I want. For so many things that went wrong, so many things went right. I want to feel grateful. I do feel grateful. I have no regrets. My baby is beautiful and healthy… and alive. And I am alive to sit here and look at her in wonder every day.

Is Kelley Day Divorced?

Sadly, the number one search term for my blog is “Is Kelley Day divorced?” or alternately “kelley day divorced”. I think this is because one of my posts is entitled and refers to a firefighter’s kelly day. Can anyone tell me who is Kelley Day? Is s/he divorced? If you have come across this blog as a result of entering the above search terms please leave a comment and tell me who this is and why you are searching for this information. Inquiring minds want to know. Near as I can tell she may be a Portland news caster but I am curious to know why so many people are interested in whether or not she is divorced. Or maybe it is a different Kelley Day…?

Vacation Relocation

Summer is slowly slipping into fall. From my office window I can see the green embankment of trees across the river splotched with yellow and red.  The sun is still warm but the air is just a bit cooler. I am sorry to see this summer go. This was the first summer that we were “out of the fog” so to speak. It was the first summer since we had kids that we were willing and able to take them on short family vacations.

My kids are little enough that I can still remember when vacation was sand between my toes, a good book, staying up late and sleeping in, sunshine, mountain or ocean air, a cocktail before 5:00 PM, someone else cooking and dare I say it, sex in the afternoon. I remember returning refreshed and relaxed, sometimes with a healthy bronze to my skin, although this likely tainted with a hint of nostalgia.

My aunt wisely calls vacation, “relocation”, which is an apt description. Once I had kids I no longer go on vacation, I go on relocation. You see, when I travel or head to the coast or head out camping I do all the same things that I do at home, just in a different location. I am just relocating my family and all the chores and responsibilities that go along with them. There are different beds, different schedules, different climates, different foods and sometimes different time zones. Other than that, it is really very relaxing for the five minutes that I get to sit down by the campfire before someone gets sand in their eye or a diaper explodes.

We spent this summer relocating around Oregon and Washington in our mini-van towing our shiny new pop-up tent trailer behind us. It was exhausting. At the outset I think my husband had a harder time with relocation than I did. He still expected vacation. He still expected to sit by the fire and have a beer, to have an entire uninterrupted conversation, to have normal bedtime and a full night’s sleep and he somehow expected that the kids would behave better than they do at home! He eventually came around, but it took a “gentle” talk about I already had three kids and I didn’t need another pouting child to deal with.

The truth is, kids don’t want to go to sleep in a tent when it is still light at 10:00 PM. But, they still wake up when the sun comes up at 6:00 AM. They still poop in their pants, but they do it in the woods when there is no running water. They still refuse to wash up even when they have sand in their ears, between their toes and in their nether regions. They still have tantrums and believe me, it is still embarrassing when people pack up their campsites and move to a different area of the campground just to avoid us.

Relocation is a lot of work. Maybe even more work than being at home. We definitely got less sleep than we do at home. Despite that watching my kids running on the beach with the ocean waves sparkling behind them, watching them laugh with their heads thrown back, watching their eyes light up when they got to eat something that I would never give them at home (a corn dog for example), watching them chase after the big kids on their little balance bikes and seeing the sand in their sweet little ears while they were sleeping was so worth it.

It was just a matter of changing our expectations. Relocation is pretty great, but it’s no vacation.

Silence

I want to apologize for the silence. The long awkward pause from my blog. I could give you all kinds of excuses… I have been busy… it was summer… the weather was too nice… school started… blah, blah, blah. But I am not going to do that. The truth is two-fold; 1) I just needed a bit of a break and 2) I have been working on a new blog (yeah, I know, I clearly have too much free time). Anyway, I am working on some new posts but it is just taking me longer than normal. Hope you are still out there!

By Erika: Scarred for Life

Each of us has slivers of childhood memories — tiny memories among the vast sea of our experience that are somehow sharper than the others. You know, those painful little pesky ones that, try as you might, won’t go away. Pick at them with tweezers all you like… they only go in deeper. Maybe it was the day of a field trip when you forgot your sack lunch and had to sit there with nothing to eat and pretend it was OK because you weren’t that hungry anyway. Maybe it was when you heard your mom telling a family friend that you were “getting little boobies.” Or, maybe it was the day you got your period while wearing white pants with rainbow pinstripes and you had to ride the bus home wondering how you would get off the bus and walk to your front door without anyone noticing your backside.

We all have these hellish memory slivers, which make great stories now, but were just about our complete undoing (or so it felt at the time). As a parent, I consider it a primary goal to be as infrequent a source of these traumatized memory slivers as possible. You
just never know what it could be – some “harmless” thing you said about their favorite TV show or some unfulfilled promise for ice cream that you forgot you made. But last night my 7-year-old son, without question, had a sliver opportunity.

Just so no one thinks I am totally clueless, I must tell you that I cut my children’s hair for the first two years of their lives. Maybe it was even three. Although I am no professional, I have to say it looked pretty darn good. I have a track record and the photos to prove it. Last night was another story. All I was attempting was a simple ear trim to clean up the haircut to last another few weeks. There was no blood. But as my 7-year-old wiggled while standing naked in the shower (easier cleanup that way) I managed to make entry into the point of no return where you go farther and farther, trying to fix the un-fixable. A few minutes later, my boy was covered in hair saying “Itchy! Itchy!” and I was shouting, “Hold still, this looks terrible!!” I finally tried to convince him to just let me shave his head like Daddy’s, to which he lamented, “But Daddy’s hair looks STUPID! He never even HAS any!” He was about in tears when I eventually realized I’d better stop while I was ahead and have it fixed after school tomorrow by a professional. It was bad. Quite bad. But I tried to shift gears and say it wasn’t so bad and kids wouldn’t notice anyway and off he went to bed.

The next morning, one look at him and my heart sank. It WAS pretty bad. He didn’t say anything about that, but as the time to go to school came nearer and nearer, he started saying he hated school, hated Mondays, and didn’t want to go. I tried to ignore it until we were leaving and he asked for a baseball hat to wear to school. “Does it cover all my hair?” he asked desperately. I felt so bad. Then I realized he might not be permitted to wear a hat in the classroom, so I asked him if I could talk to his teacher about it. He very reluctantly said I could, and I did. She was noncommittal about whether he coud keep the hat on, and simply said, “We will see how the day goes.” I worried all day long.

At pickup time, what do you know, out comes my kid sans hat. I tell him we are going straight to get his hair fixed, and he said, “Aww, why?! Do we have to? It isn’t even that bad!!” While that made me feel better, we went anyway. He did great, lost a bunch more hair, and powered through it. I think the best thing he got out of it was the advice of the hairdresser, which was, “Next time you see Mommy coming toward you with scissors, you run. Run as fast as you can!”

In the end, whether traumatic or not, I know this will be something he will never forget. I know this because I also found out that school pictures are in two weeks. So yes, he will remember. But maybe, just maybe, I am the only one who got a sliver from it.

Goodnight Sweetheart

Until recently my twins, Bubba and Toot, have spent almost every moment, waking and sleeping, together. As infants they slept in the same bassinet. Even when they started wiggling around they were still only a few feet apart so they could see each other. They even napped together until Bubba figured out how to tip over his pack and play and then free his sister.

Before they could talk we would hear them laughing and giggling together. When they started to form a few fledgling words we would eavesdrop on the monitor and hear them “talking” to each other.

“Toot… Toot!”

“No Bubba. Too early.”

I couldn’t get enough of listening to their private conversations.

Three years later they still shared a room until about a month ago. The peace treaty between Bubba and Toot had broken down and if they weren’t waging war on each other then they would wage a bedtime war on us, their weary parents.

One night out of exhaustion I waved the white flag and asked Toot if she wanted to sleep in her little sister, Juju Bee’s, room. To this she exclaimed “Yes!” and happily padded down the hall.

She hasn’t looked back.

I thought it would be a one night thing. Give them a little space from each other and then they would contentedly go back to being roommates. It didn’t work out that way. Every night Toot says goodnight to Bubba and heads down the hall, leaving the toddler bed next to him empty.

Bubba has taken consolation in our new pup, Duchess, dragging her warm little body under the covers and holding tightly to her until she stops struggling.

The result is that bedtime is easier. There are no longer two raucous hours before they pass out amid scattered books and toys on the floor, under the curtains or in a chair by the door. But it also means their relationship is changing.

One morning as we drove to school Toot told me she didn’t have a good sleep the night before. I suggested maybe she would sleep better if she went back to sleeping with Bubba. She quickly dismissed that idea. Bubba leaned over and looked at her from his car seat and said “I miss you… Toot!!…. I miss you SO MUCH.” It nearly broke my heart. Toot looked at him and matter of factly said “I love you SO MUCH. I sleep with Juju Bee and you sleep with Duchess, Bubba.”

I knew this day would come, but I didn’t think it would be so soon. Toot was ready for the change. She was ready for the independence. Bubba… not so much. He is slowly getting used being in that room by himself. He doesn’t ask Toot to come back anymore. Now they meet in the morning at the breakfast table like old friends. Bubba climbs into the chair across from Toot and waves “Hi Toot!”