Monday, August 25, 2014

The hardest part of the hospital stay.

There are some things that have been much easier to handle during this hospitalization than expected. Normally I am a stir-crazy person if I'm stuck in the house the entire day; I've been known to do laps around Target or to go get coffee just to get out of the house. So the prospect of 2 days here, let alone another 14, was overwhelming. It has actually been one of the easier parts. I've gotten fresh air three times since last Sunday morning, twice for food pickups and once for a break where I just stood in the courtyard (tired of sitting).

The days go by faster than you'd expect. We have a routine, set in place by meals. I order a meal and kill 45 minutes before it arrives. There are constant people in the room - volunteers, med students. They break up my day. Many stay and chat for a minute, telling me stories that are entertaining and warming. Between feedings, diaper changes, and snuggling, the days go by fast. I watch cheesy cable tv and indulge in shows I don't see at home (we don't have cable anymore).

 Ryan and Griffin visit every day around 6pm, and those are my favorite hours of the day. I hear his feet as soon as they hit our hallway - how do I always recognize his footsteps? We have dinner together and catch up; often we play a game or watch a movie. We hug, we snuggle in bed together. We are a family for those two hours, where everything seems almost normal except for the setting. I feel like a whole mama again. Ryan can snuggle with Bear and usually I lay down for a nap to supplement my nightly sleep; it's the most peaceful sleep I can get, with my whole family together.

And then, each night, the inevitable happens: it's time for them to go. We hug, kiss, say goodbye. I tell my boys I love them and that I'll see them tomorrow. And each evening as I walk them to the door, I cry. It's hard to say goodbye each night, knowing that the happiest time of my day is another 24 hours away.  It's dark and lonely when they leave, even when I can snuggle Bear close as he goes to sleep.

One more week. We're already (hopefully) . We've already done 8 nights and have another 8 to go. We will be ok and I know eventually this will be just a distant memory. For now I'm trying to enjoy the moment as he won't be this little forever and there are so many things to appreciate and feel fortunate for. It's still hard though.

Boys not as grumpy as pictured.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Barrett goes to the hospital.

Sunday morning, around 2am, Barrett woke up. He was a little bit harder to settle than normal (which isn't saying much because he's such a chill kiddo) but he felt warm. The room felt warm to me too so I didn't think too much about it, but opted to check his temperature anyway. I could only find my big kid thermometer - an ear one - so I started there. The reading was just at the high end of the acceptable level so I dug around and found a regular thermometer for the good old rectal temp. I couldn't get it to max out, but the highest we got it to was 100.8. A quick call to the ped confirmed what I had suspected: they suggested we head to the nearest ER.

We passed the nearest ER, St. Joe's, because I will never allow any member of my family to return there again if I can help it after my previous fiasco, and opted for the U of M peds ER. It is amazing to be able to go to a peds ER instead of a regular ER. The consensus was pretty immediate: a baby this little with any fever needs to be admitted and have a series of tests run. We hit the ground running.

Before we left the ER they had established an IV, done a lumbar puncture (much harder on me; he slept through the entire thing!), done a quick clean catch of urine, and taken some blood. His vitals were fine other than a temp of 100.3 - lower than at home, but just beyond their threshold for treating.  The plan was to treat with broad antibiotic and grow the cultures to see what we were dealing with.

We happened to get a room on the 7th floor, which is pediatric oncology and hematology, and settled in to wait for the cultures to grow for 48 hours. I assumed then we'd go home on antibiotics. I started counting down the hours, fully aware that 48 hours was nothing compared to what many of these families faced.

Daddy snuggles.At 48 hours the only thing that had grown for sure was his urine, which meant a UTI had likely caused the fever. Thankfully the blood and spinal fluid cultures were clear. And then, just as I thought we were almost set to go, the results of the urine culture came back: the cause was an antibiotic resistant strain of E. coli. This changed the game and instead of going home we were committed to two weeks in the hospital with IV antibiotics every 8 hours. We were also quarantined because of the nature of the immune systems on our floor, so no more trips even to the ice machine. Initially they told us no more visitors, and then lifted that to visitors over 16, and my heart was broken. Thankfully they agreed to let Griffin continue to visit as long as he didn't touch anything on the floor on the way out. Without their daily visits I don't know if we could make this work. 

More hospital snuggles.We've been here five days now. It hasn't been as bad as I had thought, actually - the days go by fast with all the people in and out and the routine of things. We have dinner together every night as a family, often provided by loving friends or family who have sent a delicious warm meal or gift card for a warm meal. I get lots of baby snuggles and he's doing well, fingers crossed.  And of course it's all worth it to get him to 100% again. I'm looking forward to the days when this is behind us and a distant memory of a rough start to our time as a family of four.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Saturday night Barrett felt warm to me. I figured it was because the windows weren't circulating much air, but I took his temp anyway. His ear temp was on the higher end, so I managed to find a thermometer and took it rectally. At 100.8, it was high enough to call the ped. They, of course, suggested we go into the ER with any fever in a newborn. Around 3am, off we went.

In the ER they took his temp again, and this time it was 100.3. They admitted him for an initial 48 hours to run some tests and determine if there was an infection. As we waited for our room they did a spinal tap (he slept through it), got a urine sample, took some blood for cultures, and started an IV. A few hours later we were set up in our own room, awaiting the results of the cultures.

The next morning, the urine sample showed a UTI but nothing had grown in any of the cultures. At the 36 hour mark the urine was growing but nothing else was; if it had been, it would have suggested the infection had spread throughout his body and was much more worrisome. At 48 hours, nothing had grown beyond the urine but the results of the urine were shocking: the cause of the UTI was an antibiotic-resistant strain of E. coli that would require 2 weeks of IV antibiotics administered in the PICU.

We are considered "contaminated", so no leaving the room for the most part. We cannot have visitors under 16, which will break Griffin's heart. Staff must wear full get-up (gown, gloves, etc.) to come into our room. And we won't feel fresh air in our lungs until September. SEPTEMBER.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Birth stories.

Yesterday I shared (or, attempted to share) my second birth story at a community meeting sponsored by my doulas, and I had an epiphany.

Several woman indicated that they had only heard horror labor stories and were lamenting why people would share those.  Why would they want to scare new moms?

And then I realized it's not about scaring, not in the least. It's a warning. It's a fear. It's in anticpation that someone learn from our mistakes.  I'm not proud of my first birth story, but it is what it is. It's shocking, it's cruel. But it's also something that I hope other mamas will learn from, like I learned from it. I want mamas to realize that extreme things can happen when you allow yourself to be swept away by the medical field, blindly trusting them. I want mamas to realize that they don't have to end up with my story - that I am the exception, not the rule, and they can fight to avoid being the exception, too.

Another ephiphany I had is that my body didn't fail me with my first pregnancy - medicine did. My body knew what to do but I ignored it. I didn't give it a chance, and that's my fault. But medicine is supposed to supplement and save, not replace our natural tendencies. Medicine didn't supplement me but forced me along. Of course my body didn't comply; it wasn't ready and it was forced. My body was capable of birthing, but the science was not capable of helping my body birth like it was supposed to.

For the first time I have a positive story to share. Right now it's jumbled up in my brain in terms of order of events, but the general gist is that it was such a positive experience. It wasn't perfect, but it was so much better that I am ok without perfection. I understand now why women get an exhilaration from sharing positive stories. But I also know how heartbreaking it is to have a story you're not proud of, a story that's hard to share. And both are valuable things for people to hear, both have their places in the birthing world because we can learn from all elements.  I'm so glad there continue to be safe spaces for women to acknowledge their births in both the positive and the negative in order to move past the experience in whatever capacity they need to. We have to foster that in the hopes that we can create more positive experiences as the medical community improves, too.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mother blessing.

One of the most touching and meaningful days of my life will always be the day of my mother blessing.

Baby showers are great  and special, too, but nothing compares to a mother blessing. Thrown for me by two dear mama friends who know me so much better than I ever knew, I got to spend the afternoon surrounded by other mothers I admired and showered in love, faith, and compassion.  It was especially important for me as a VBAC hopeful (and now accomplished!) mama who really wanted the positive energy supporting me on this last stretch of pregnancy. Even though I was hesitant at first to even have a mother blessing, afterwards  I realized it was exactly what I had needed both in my pregnancy and in my life.

The general gist is that women get together and celebrate womenhood. Normally this isn't my kind of scene - I did a women retreat as part of a class in college and it ended up being an embarassing disaster for me instead of the empowering activity it was designed to be. My friends invited the mamas I was inspired by and asked them to bring a bead for a mother blessing necklace and a blessing to accompany the bead.

The henna artist, Sandy, was fabulous. Turns out she's a friend of a friend and does such great work. She started on my belly a bit before the guests arrived, and all in all it probably took her about an hour. I gave her a general idea of what I was hoping for and it turned out so perfectly.  The lines are so intricate and precise it's almost impossible to believe she can create them.

 Once my belly was done, Sandy set about doing henna tattoos for
the other mamas on their feet and hands. They also turned out amazingly. I was even more impressed as people posted pictures of the tattoos the day or so after when the stain had set in. They were still vibrant and loving, and I loved that I had this connection with other women in the universe at such an important time in my life.

When it was time for the blessing to begin, my sweet friend Lambrina read a touching story about a mother reflecting on motherhood.  I was crying almost instantly, and within a few minutes there wasn't a dry eye in the room. If you know me you know I rarely cry, but somewhere in that story I realized that it was futile to fight the tears. I needed this moment, and I needed these tears. She lit a candle in honor of a loved one - how she knew I needed that, I don't know.

And then, one by one, these mamas I admire and adore shared their beads and blessings. The beads came from all different places with all different meanings. Some had been with the mamas for years, some brand new. 

The women I admired most as mothers shared their blessings and placed each bead in the bowl (later on I created a necklace, mid-labor. It was very therapeutic!). Some shared for mamas who sent beads but hadn't been able to be present. They all had beautiful stories, and it was so incredibly touching to hear the nice things they said about me. I couldn't believe it and honestly I saw myself in a new way after that day.

 My beads were absolutely beautiful, and I loved the stories behind all of them. There was such love and warmth in a room full of all kinds of mothers that I knew in a variety of ways. It meant so much to me that they were able to be there with me and share in part of this motherhood journey. It's a wild ride, isn't it?

The necklace turned out amazing and I'm so grateful to have a reminder of this wonderful day. I wore it every second of labor and reminded myself of the wonderful words these wise women shared with me. I felt their individual and collective strength; I felt their love. When I felt like I needed them, I reminded myself of the beads and what they represented. It was an amazing support to have during labor, and I think I'll try to remind myself to wear the necklace to other mother blessings and every one in awhile when it feels right.
 Some of the beads include wooden beads from a youthful necklace, beads from cooper kilns for each member of my family, popsicle-shaped beads for Griffin's nickname for the baby, blue beads to represent water, a birth labyrinth to give me confidence we'd find out way out of the birthing maze, and so many other beautiful beads. They're all so special in their own way, and I'm so excited to have finally found beads to give next time I go to a blessingway, too.

This is my first photo post VBAC. One of my favorite parts is that you can clearly see my mother blessing necklace - and it's like baby knew how important it was to me, grabbing towards it already. :) 

The final part of the blessing was a wrist binding. Everyone took a few loops of string and wrapped it around their wrists. I was particularly superstitions of the symbolism of cutting the bracelet, which often happens, so I specifically requested they be untied when I went into labor. Less than 48 hours later and my sweet friends were already untying their bracelets! I couldn't believe it. It was like my body and baby knew that I needed this mother blessing before labor could begin.  My own binding bracelet is hanging in my car, another wonderful reminder of how lucky of a mama I am on so many levels. There's so much symbolism in some string; I couldn't be luckier to have had this experience with these strong women.

I have never been more proud to be a woman than at my mother blessing. I have never been in more awe at the amazing things our bodies and hearts can do. I have never appreciated these amazing role models around me more than at that moment, and I plan to channel their positive energy for a long time to come. What an amazing honor it is to be a mama.