Monday, April 25, 2011

Pardon Me While I Gush

 I spent my first week home saying to various friends and family members, "Have you seen Emy do this?" and "You'll never guess what Emeline can do now!" only to be told that yes, they did know and had in fact been doing _______ for days/weeks. Ugh. As if I need a reminder of how absent I've been and all the moments I've felt cheated out of.

We certainly did not have a traditional bonding experience and I could write pages about how soul crushing it was to spend weeks away from her. I could write that it took months to bond with one another, or how spending more time away than with her causes me feel sweaty and anxious every time I say good-bye. But this post isn't about all that. I'll save those topics for a day when I am feeling more self-loathing and melancholy than I do at the present.

On the contrary, this post is intended to be positive and will be about all of the moments that I've had the great fortune of being present for. These moments may not be earth shattering but they were firsts for us. As my husband carefully pointed out Friday while I was pouting about not being present for her first trip to the zoo; Emeline won’t remember these events, but the "firsts" we share are the ones that I will remember. I hate to admit it when he is right, especially when I am pouting, but it's true. So in order to ensure I remember the tiny moments from this week I am going to spend a few moments writing down snippets of the moments Emeline amazed me. Feel free to stop reading here if you don't want to be subjected to a guilty mom's observations. If you choose to continue reading, let's just say you were warned about the sentimentality that follows.
 Memory Snippet #1:
This kid doesn't stop moving. Every moment she is awake she is on the go. Her favorite game is to crawl away as fast as she possible can, while laughing maniacally. If I don’t follow she crawls halfway back and/or laughs louder, in case you missed the subtle clue that you were meant to follow. When I would oblige she resumed her escape until she reached her desired destination. Usually the bed or couch. She’d wait ever so patiently (for half a second) until she’d get a little boost so she could climb up. Convinced she has won, celebration would begin by letting out a sweet giggle followed quickly by a hysterical screech, Not wanting me to feel as if I'd lost, she'd reward me with  a sloppy kiss on the nose with just enough bite to make my eyes water. After playing this game a few hundred times this week neither of us are the least bit tire d of it. What could possibly be more enjoyable? Although, I do need to put a stop to the bite/kiss before she draws blood.

Memory Snippet #2:
A smattering of carefully articulated babble provides background music to my days. New consonant and vowel combinations are learned daily; many of them resembling words I've just said. (Note to self: find substitute for damn.) As of today (two days shy of 11 months old) she has over a dozen words in her vocabulary. Words she uses consistently, correctly, and clearly are: hi, daddy, mama, more, book, read, kitty, doggy, milk, bye-bye, woof, moo, yeah, and bath. Her most recent words –are  me, mine, no. Hmmm . . . should I be worried?

Memory Snippet #3 - She already is a little book worm. Adoring books she sleeps with a copy of Goodnight Gorilla every night. Morning begins with her sweet little voice coming over the monitor (almost always 11-13 hours later) More often than not, she is reading her book aloud to herself, flipping pages, looking at pictures, talking to the characters. Nothing makes me prouder.

Memory Snippet #4:
Tonight while I was feeding her dinner, Emy decided she’d help. I was feeding her mixed veggies and not wanting to discourage the hearty eating of vegetables, I handed her a spoon and let her dig in. The spoon was quickly abandoned once she remembered fingers are much easier to maneuver to mouth. My worry about the mess she was creating was discarded as quickly as the spoon. Her diligence in ensuring she got every bite possible from the bowl was hysterical and will provide me hours of laughter in the years to come. Especially because I caught it on video.  

I could go on and on, but it’s already taken me 5 days to carve out enough time to write this post. Our entire week has been a wondrous concoction of verbs. Laughing, giggling, smooching, cuddling, chasing, climbing, crawling, exploring, learning, tumbling, napping, tickling, teasing, squealing, talking, feeding, patting, consoling, crying, loving, we’ve shared them all. At the end of the day I am left feeling exhilarated and exhausted.  Like a teenager in love, I am so giddy with adoration that I can't contain myself. I have to tell somebody, usually my patient husband all about our tiny adventures. What she wore, ate, said, and did. All of this has been my main topic of conversation this week. Although I am slightly disturbed by this, I will treasure the gushiness of my words, because forget the teenager in love, I am a mother in love. Deeply and unconditionally in love. It may have taken me eleven months to put aside fear, anxiety and trauma long enough to get here but I plan on enjoying every single second.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Last Night

Tonight will be my last night spent at the MCBTC in Kalamazoo, MI. My stay here has certainly had some less than stellar moments, but overall I truly enjoyed my time here. Today I will be listing things I am giddily looking forward to about going home, as well as things that I will miss here at the MCBTC.

1. Emeline Joy 
2. Joshua
3. Snuggling with my kitty, Luna every night before I sleep
4. My bed, my sheets, my pillows
5. Catching up with friends and family I haven't seen very much over the last two months
6. Springtime walks around my neighborhood
7. Planning my own meals with foods that I enjoy eating
8, The big, green recliner in my living room
9. Eating with real silverware, real plates and bowls, and drinking out of glasses, and mugs
10. Working in my yard (Yes, I mean it)

1. My traveling buddy, Donna
2. The LNC (Late Night Crew) - Dwane, Tony, Donna, Scott
3. Large screen computers in the computer lab, also they're much faster than my dinky laptop
4. Only having to keep aprox. 220 square feet clean
5. The restaurants of Kalamazoo - especially Saffron.
6. Public Transportation
7. The city of Kalamazoo
8. The staff at the MCBTC
9. Most of the staff at the Clarion.
10. The time I've been forced to spend reflecting, learning, adapting, focusing, and healing.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Tase of Reality

I don't need to tell any of you how difficult Mondays (or whatever day you start your work week) are. This is not news. In fact, no fewer than 16,000 images of Garfield sharing his disdain for this particular day of the week can be found when the phrase I hate Mondays" is Googled.

I was always pretty indifferent to Monday. I enjoyed my job and generally looked forward to each new week. I certainly haven't given much thought to them since I've been on medical leave. Over the last eight weeks that's changed. Buy me a Garfield poster I am an official (albeit, temporary) Monday hater. I have so much empathy for parents whose jobs take them away from home for extended periods of time. Even though I am secure in the idea the skills I am gaining outweighs the effects of my absence it is torture not seeing my daughter's impish smile on a daily basis. Spend less than 48 hours with Emeline and Josh on the weekend is dreadful. Mondays become even more difficult after we’ve spent a wonderful weekend together.

That's the trouble I had with spending such a wonderful weekend with my two favorite people. When I returned - alone - to my hotel room yesterday evening, I was shocked by the silence and loneliness that enveloped me. I felt as if I had just spent the weekend pretending that Josh and I were a normal family on vacation. Kalamazoo was our destination and visiting friend, trying new restaurants, drinking in the afternoon, wandering aimlessly through various neighborhoods and local shops were all part of the experience. For the first time in weeks, I felt as if I was choosing to spend time here based on want, not necessity. As enjoyable as our weekend together was the underlying anxiety of our current familial situation was never completely able to be denied.  

The reality is that we have a lot of decisions to make as a family over the next few months. The majority of them have to be made because of my vision and ability (or lack thereof) to independently navigate the current community in which we reside. Where we should relocate or even if we can is only the tip of the iceberg of uncertainties that wake me at 3 in the morning. The responsibility I feel to make the best decision is overwhelming. I know that I should focus on what I can control and leave what I can't to rest, but I have opportunities that could become reality if I place all the puzzle pieces in the right place. I can't wait to reenter the real world - cook my own meals, sleep in my own bed, and be a mom and wife 7 days a week.  As excited as I am to do all these things a big part of me is dreading the unavoidable reality check that is coming my way.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Last Week!

Tomorrow will be my 8th week here at MCBTC. Thankfully, it will also be my last. I entered here with the naive idea that I didn't have all that much to learn about adjusting to my visual impairment. I'll leave here knowing how ridiculous that thought was.

This week I will be reflecting about the time I have spent here at the MCBTC, the friends I've made, the skills I've learned, the things I missed in the real world, things I can't wait to return to, and the things that terrify me about going back home.

I've learned an awful lot about myself and how I have changed over the last 10 months, as well as how I've grown in the last 8 weeks. I am a different person than I was before motherhood, blindness, and rehabilitation. I kind of like who I have become.

I'll try not to get too sappy, and I can assure you that my journey will not end on Friday evening when I go home. I am not adjusted - mentally, physically, or emotionally, to my new life as a visually impaired individual. Every single day, for the rest of my life I will be learning new ways to adjust.

May 27, 2010 - Part 1

May 2010 had been the roughest month of my pregnancy. In five weeks I had gained 25 pounds, most of which landed on my face, feet, and ankles. My blood pressure fluctuated between too high and almost too high. These two symptoms of preeclampsia landed me on partial bed rest 3 weeks before my due date, and two weeks before I'd planned on going on maternity leave. I left my third doctor's appointment in 5 days, on May 24th, feeling shell-shocked by the idea that unless I went into labor before then,  I'd have to be induced the following Monday. My doctor told me that she initially thought I'd have to be induced that day, but since my BP was lower than she expected and I hadn't gained any weight, she felt we could wait a week, when I'd be 38 weeks pregnant. Being induced was not part of my birth plan, and I hoped that Baby Landebean (as my family affectionately referred to my gender unknown fetus) would initiate his/her own birth prior to then. My instructions were not to be ignored. I needed to spend 80-90% of my time off my feet, preferably with them elevated, and I should be resting NOT stressing. Sure. No problem. I just needed to organize the baby's room, do sub plans for the remaining five weeks of the school year, and prepare myself for the arrival of a tiny, tiny human. Not stressful at all.

Fast forward 4 days. I'd spent the last 4 days on my couch in sweltering pre-summer heat, only venturing out of the house to buy a recliner for the baby's room, get a fetal monitoring test at the hospital, and make a quick Target run to stock up on essentials for before, during, and after the birth. I woke up the morning of the 27th feeling confined and antsy. I had plans that afternoon to attend a "surprise" Baby Shower my students were throwing me and I was really looking forward to seeing them. However, I felt somewhat fluish. My back ached, my stomach and head vaguely hurt, and I was nauseous. Figuring it was just the heat, (secretly hoping it was labor) I readily accepted when my sister suggested we go visit my grandfather in the hospital. Two outings on the same day was pushing the partial bed-rest envelope, but I rationalized it in the following ways:

A: The hospital was air-conditioned, my house wasn't.
B: I could sit with my feet up while we visited.
C: My sister was meeting me and would drive me the majority of the way.
D: Valet parking
E: Would have time for a nap before the Baby Shower
F: If I was in or anywhere near labor, there is no one I'd rather be with except Allison. (Apologies to my husband, but having had two children already her experiences trumped just about everything at this moment)

Visiting my grandfather was more eventful than I had imagined. A month prior he had broken his leg and was having a difficult time recovering. During this particular hospital stay, he was suffering from a yet unknown infection that was manifesting itself as hallucinations and delusions. While at times entertaining, they were also worrisome, and during my visit I felt unprepared to handle them. While sitting in his room I began to feel worse. I began having sharp pain in the top left area of my abdomen, up near my ribs. Being pretty sure the baby hadn't moved over there, I was uncertain if this was a contraction. The pain didn't feel as if it was in my uterus, but what the heck did I know. The only description I could remember about the onset of labor is that it's not like a tiny side street you might miss while you're driving; you know it when you get there. 

I began to feel frightened as the pain intensified and really felt the need to get some fresh air. Allison knew something wasn't quite right and we said our good-byes to Gramps. In the five minutes it took for us to get to the lobby I went from feeling frightened to being downright terrified. The pain was coming in waves and I was having a very difficult time catching my breath. We called my OB, who was out of the office, but her partner immediately called me back and explained that while she didn't have privileges at the hospital I was at, it sounded as if I needed to go to the Emergency Room. Allison had left momentarily to get some assistance and returned with several orderlies and a couple of nurses in tow. I was quickly wheeled to the ER, where they took one look at my nine-month pregnant physique and immediately redirected me to the Mother and Baby Unit.

Things begin to get a little fuzzy from here on out, but I will try to accurately recount the rest of the day’s events in following posts.  

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Drama Free Existance

WARNING: I am in a mood and there will be mild profanity in the following post.

Just for one month, hell even one week, I'd like to live a drama-free existence. I've always had a flair for the dramatic and exaggeration, but I don't consider myself a drama queen. By that I mean, I don't think I actively seek out situations that cause drama, and try to live a relatively peaceful life. It hasn't worked out so well for me.

 For the past five years I've felt as if I am starring in some sick situational comedy where the writers place the characters in ridiculously horrific situations just to see how long it takes for them to go bat-shit crazy.

Well folks, it's happening.

 Let me set the backdrop for the story so you can fully appreciate the intense frustration I currently feel. I have alluded to all the crazy medical drama that has encompassed the last year of my life, and have not gone into all the details. I apologize - I've been quite neglectful on completing unfinished posts. All you need to know to understand my current situation is that I had pancreatitis which is HORRIBLY painful and wreaks havoc on your digestive system.

I am almost done with my stint here at the MCBTC. I have a week and a half left. I am feeling good about my impending departure and actually am fairly secure and confident about returning to work next fall. I've missed so much time with Emy, an am looking forward to spending the rest of the spring and all summer hanging out with my amazing kid. Hopefully this bonding time will finally help me feel adjusted to motherhood.

Additionally, I've felt healthier (mentally and physically) than I have in a while. I've been eating (and digesting!) and my strength and endurance has increased to a point where I no longer feel like a weakling. But I've been having this pain. In my side. For a couple of months. Being completely paranoid that I will somehow slip into the dire medical situation I was in last summer I've spoken with my doctor about this elusive pain several times. She and I both agreed that it was most likely due to scarring of my abdominal cavity from all the procedures I underwent. When I return home from Kalamazoo I would have an ultrasound to be sure. The pain hasn't been intense or frequent, but I have been curious to know how much fluid was left behind and what damage all the infected fluid pockets might have done to my organs.

All is good right? Except that over the last couple of weeks the pain has intensified and increased in frequency. Initially, I chalked it up to stress, being more active than my body is currently used to, indigestion, and anxiety. Last Friday (April 1st) the pain changed. It was no longer just a spasm that went away quickly, it became a searing pain that wouldn't abate, even with Tylenol or Vicodin. When I awoke Monday morning to the pain, I decided to be a responsible patient and call my doctor. Being that I am approx. 3 hours from her practice and in an unfamilar city, it was recommended that going to the Emergency Room would be my best bet for quick blood work and exams. Reluctantly, I agreed and spent all afternoon Monday in the ER at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo.

After blood work and a CT scan it was deemed that my "flank" pain was a concern but not one that required admittance. Phew. . . However, the ER doc wanted me to contact my specialists at U of M and make an appointment for this week. When I asked if this could wait until my program was done at the MCBTC, he replied, "I want you to see your doctor THIS week." Alrightly then.

I spent yesterday in Ann Arbor seeing my Internal Medicine Doctor and was mostly reassured by what she said. My pain is not indicative of something dire and urgent requiring hospitalization but it's not nothing either. According to my blood work and CT scan, there is no infection but there is a pocket of fluid surrounding my pancreas which needs further investigation. I've been referred to a gastro-intestinal doctor at U of M and will know more in a couple of weeks. 

What frustrates me to no end is that things can't just be calm in my life, EVER. I finally feel like I am emerging (damaged but adapted) to the shit-storm that hit last May and guess what? It's not over. Seriously Universe? Can't you cut me just a little slack? I need to have some words with whomever is in charge, because I need to request a drama-free existence, or at the very least, a vacation.