Thursday, 17 April 2014

What to do in case your daddy dies when you aren't ready - which is ... any time, every time, for all of your life

Tell him you love him every single time you walk away because you never know when you will look back and your last words will be "I'll see you later" ... and you won't have.  And you'll be remembering how you said "I love you!" and he said "I love you too, Jess" as you walked out the door past the nosy nurse, and his voice was as reassuring and raspy and low-key and accepting as it ever and always was and you can't stop thinking about how you didn't know it was the last time you'd ever hear him saying "I love you".
Tell him how much you'll miss him even though it's the last thing you think he wants to hear and you want to be a positive bedside cheerleader that only talks about the good stuff.  Because everyone wants to know they'll be missed even if they are sure they are gonna make it through this one, too.
Don't wait for the right moment.  There isn't one.  There are nurses and machines and beeping alarms and visitors and your grandma will be there, frail and lovely and strong, and you won't want to upset her .... but don't wait for the right moment.  Don't wait for it to be perfect.  Don't wait until you can talk without crying.  Or say the right things.  Because that time won't ever come.  It will always be imperfect, but trust me, it's better if it happens and it is crazy and wonky and tragic and ridiculous all at the same time.

Find something you can believe in without asking a lot of snarky and/or bitter questions.  We are programmed for a belief in the eternal because believing that death is the complete and utter end of everything is still a belief in the infinite finality of death.  So whether you believe we live forever in heaven or if you believe it all ends with your last breath, you still believe in eternity.  So find something that makes that a comfort and a blessing for you.  But be open-minded.  Be able to believe that when your two-year-old nephew squeals a delighted "PAPA!" while pointing into an empty corner of the room, that they are seeing him there.

Find a way to live with the missing sounds.  Maybe you play music or watch dumb TV.  Maybe you stay up till 2 am talking to someone.  But find something to fill in the quiet spaces when you should hear the creak of a chair or the whir of a wheelchair or the squelching squeal of soft rubber tires on a laminate floor.

Everything in your life will be missing.  Nothing will be right.  You will cry endlessly at nothing and then forget for hours at a time.  Everything in your life will be there, but it will be stupid and meaningless and wrong and not what you want at all.  You will feel like a toddler with the grief of a mother and a daughter and a woman - sadness will encompass you and then pass, then come back to strangle you again.  Grief will be impossible to control or contain and it will take over your life and you will wonder at what you have become, even as you question why you seem to be able to continue to move on with your life and laugh at jokes and write trite sentences like these ones that do not begin to describe how utterly your life is destroyed.

That's what you do.  That's part of it, anyway.

Find someone who loves you and let them hold you.  Indulge yourself by pretending that your daddy's arms are around you again and all is well.  Cry even harder because they aren't your daddy.  Make sure they are a wonderful, kind, understanding type of love in your life because you will look like a crazy person.

If you still have your dad, call him and tell him you love him.

I love you, daddy.  I know you are happy, wherever you are, but I miss you.



Monday, 8 July 2013

From the archives! 27 Random Things

This was written a million years ago (or at least, considering what has happened in the last 3 1/2 years, it feels like a million years ago, anyway).  There was this huge craze for writing "25 Random Things" and everyone on FB was doing it.  I just found mine while randomly browsing and kind of enjoyed reading it (maybe am terribly self-centred?? I swear I think it's readable!) so I'm posting it here.

**Note - as evidenced by the 1/2 completed story of the birth of my daughter, with the frequent references to my husband, I clearly wrote this long ago, before a child or a spouse was even remotely on my radar.  And okay, maybe he's not from Scotland - but he does have an accent, and speak more than one language, and he's terribly bossy and always supportive, so I guess I found my Jamie after all - and I didn't have to leave Canada :)

1. Twenty seven is my favorite number. For that reason, and NOT because I am overly verbose (although that's true) nor a closet-rebel (although that's also true) I kinda have to think of 27 things to write in this note. And I hope any subsequent tag-ees do as well, although how many of you there are in facebook-land who haven't already done the 25 is to be determined! It's good luck, I promise.

2. I am addicted to perfume. I have no money, not really, but I calculate that I have spent obscene amounts of what little funds I have on . . . things that make me smell pretty. And it's not just because they smell pretty. It's because their descriptions are so seductively gorgeous, and it's like reading a trashy magazine - you read the perfume box, and you're sucked in by all of these unlikely promises of how alluring the fragrance of magnolias can be and how the random sandalwood 'balances it out' and then you suddenly are $200 poorer . . . .

3. I think one of my feet is prettier than the other. So I put toe rings and anklets on the less pretty foot. Because I always cheer for the underdog, and ... that apparently includes my feet.

4. I have been in love with the idea of Louisiana for longer than I can remember, and the idea of moving to a green, humid place full of people who freely say "y'all" is about as close as I can get to my ideal of heaven. I have yet to visit it, but I'm obsessed with the idea.

5. I am a shameless romantic. Literally, shameless. You cannot embarrass me about it, no matter what lengths you may go to - nothing makes me happier than a great love story, real or fiction.

6. I was afraid of kids until I met my niece. Now I find that even though I've only seen her for a few days at a time, I am still dressing for her every day - bright colours! fun patterns! I go to work looking like a kindergarten teacher and I don't realize it until I'm at my computer wearing pink and purple at the same time, and feeling gleeful about it.

7. I didn't know that the Polkaroo was the 'other' host on that kid's show until I was ... well, pretty sure I was twelve. I was also embarrassed about that for years after I figured it out, about 7 years after everyone else did.

8. Up until I was eleven, I was reasonably sure that I was the Antichrist. I didn't have that longing for power or revenge, but ... as Jessica Christine, my name was suspect (hello mom and dad? Naming your child ... okay, here it is: "Jes" ... "Christ" ... if you chop of the last letters of my name it is just evil despot waiting to happen . . . . ) and I read too many books.

9. I've been late for virtually everything I've ever gone to in my whole life. And every time, I was late because I was reading a book. Since the age of 8, when I spent all of my evenings sitting in a snowbank reading books from the public library, I have played hooky with books. But until I was about twenty, and realized my friends lied to me about the start time of EVERYTHING by at least a half an hour, I thought I was punctual. I never clued in . . . .

10. I have never felt so at home as I did in Texas. Despite poor vacation planning on my part, once I met the cicadas and the humidity and the trees and the people and the sweet tea - it felt right, from the first second i walked out of the airport.

11. I think I'm single because I met Jamie Fraser (in a book) when I was eleven. And . . . nobody else could compare to him.

12. I'm planning a trip to Scotland someday soonish. As soon as I pay off all of my other adventures, and go to Germany, becuase I am dying to visit Katrin, and I can't wait to try the 'black bread' and the sauerkraut soup (mmmm!). But even that lacks the special appeal of Scotland - because there, I might meet . . . (see number 11!)

14. I'm not religious, and I fancy myself too smart to fall for superstition - but I remember every superstition I've ever read in my life, and avoid them like the plague. Like...the number 13.

15. I love roadtrips, and driving is the most cathartic thing I have ever done. I have trouble understanding people who don't drive, just because I instantly think: But how do you deal with anything hard or sad that happens in your life??? Every trauma or grief I've ever experienced has been dealt with in a car drive, music blaring, conversation optional . . . . Although I also love coffee, and early in the morning in a strange town on said roadtrip, that's difficult to find, but despite appearances at 7 am, I still love roadtrips.

16. I love my family more than it is reasonable to, I'm sure. I have so few close relatives that I keep everyone as close to me as I can, and the only thing that can distract me from a great romance novel is a phone call from a family member. Sometimes I'm so proud of my brother that just looking at him makes me want to cry - for lack of a better way to express extreme emotion. For a long time I thought this was weird, until one day my sister and I were sitting out in our driveway enjoying the end of a summer day, and he pulled up in his truck and walked up and made fun of us for something, and she looked at me and said "Do you ever just feel so proud that you think . . . you might just explode with it?"

17. Even though I have not accomplished very much in my life, I am disproportionately proud of my travelling experiences. I have little else to talk about in terms of crazy life experiences, but I am still proud of the fact that I have spent the night in a town called "dead man's flats" in a hotel room furnished with FOUR different shades of shag carpeting, with one working light, a hotel proprietor who answered the door in curlers at 8 pm, and two channels - and that was the PREMIUM room.

18. If I'm hungry, and I smell skunk, my stomach rumbles, audibly. I have always felt a little big cannibalistic about that.

19. Despite audible stomach rumblings, I have always wanted a pet skunk. I have been known (on several occasions I have yet to live down) to sometimes follow too closely behind baby skunks, ostensibly to just "make sure they get home okay" . . . granted, I'm usually tipsy at the time, but the impulse is always there (they're so cute!).

20. I tend to think that I can do anything. Not in an arrogant way, but just in a 'why buy that piece of furniture/bottle of wine/steel girder/truffle oil - I can MAKE it' kind of way. 

21. When I don't know how to do things, it irritates me to no end. And the number of things I feel inadequate for NOT being experienced/expert in is kind of ridiculous considering the scope: I feel very guilty, like I'm wasting my life, because I've never shot a semi- or fully-automatic weapon, taken up kung-fu, learned to be a stunt driver, become a musician, started a business, made a wrought-iron fence or screen, become a pastry chef, written a novel, or worked in another country in any capacity.

22. I can't wear corduoroy (wow, how DO you spell that word?) pants. Or touch/listen to someone touch/talk about/think too long on anything at all with parallel lines that are ridges. Once at my old job, I was getting the mail, and accidentally touched one of those 'holographic' ad inserts, and I screamed. Then I made the mistake of complaining about the trauma to a guy I worked with (thanks ERIC) who tormented me for the rest of the afternoon by sneaking up behind me with the ad (that I had to get an older gentleman to take OUT of the post office box for me) and scraping his fingers across it like it was one of those washboard instruments. I almost went home early.

23. On rare occasions, I like to read badly written books because it encourages me. Some of the crap I've seen from supposedly popular authors makes me feel like ... there is hope for me despite some of the drivel I've seen myself create. Also, it's often funny/hysterical, especially in the case of badly written romance novels . . . you girls who were at my birthday party remember - "because of the annoying lint this would create . . . . "

24. When I read a crappy book, no matter how encouraged I am as a writer, there is a point where I will throw it against a wall. I also do this with pens that die. I never thought that this was weird until I did it at work once. People will look at you strangely if you just randomly start hurling stationery supplies against walls - who knew? Also, when I moved from my aunt & uncle's place, I found about 14 books all crumpled and banged up in the corner. It occurred to me then that this is maybe not the most typical response to poor writing. Although the books deserved it. Trust me.

25. I love the summer, and the beach, and the feeling of being so warm your bones are almost sighing with happiness. I've also never complained about being 'too hot' before. Ever. And the more stifling, humid, and hot the day, the happier I am. When I was little my parents used to take us to the Science Centre. I'd go to the rainforest exhibit - and stay there, all day long.

26. It took me this long to come up with my response not because I couldn't think of anything, but because I had to edit myself down. Really - this is me trying to be a little LESS verbose.

27. When I was 17 I was talking to a friend online and he asked me to just tell him something random about myself - and I did, a few stupid things, but he seemed impressed if maybe confused, and I felt interesting and unique, and I think, ever since then, I have been compiling random things about myself for future reference, if I ever meet someone who understands me enough to ask that question again. So in a way, I guess, Facebook (and the soon to go-down-in-infamy instigator of 25 Random Things - whoever you are, no one will ever believe you if you say "You know, I was the one who started that ...") is kind of like that sensitive boyfriend I never met, and that explains why this is such a popular thing to complete now. Sometimes I think we are all the sum of our 25 (or 250) random things, and the invitation to spill some of them, however cavalierly offered, is something which everyone finds tempting.

(that wasn't me trying to be deep, it's just a fact - and I've enjoyed everyone else's 25 things tremendously . . . . we should all do this more often!)

Friday, 15 March 2013

Reviewing a product, baby - my SodaStream!


For my birthday my husband bought me a SodaStream.  I'd love to give him credit for being a psychic genius, but the truth is he'd been listening to me beg and plead.  My more recent (evil) tactic was to make sure that I asked him to pick up my club soda (which I drink by the case!) from the grocery store.  He detests carrying large, heavy things that don't fit easily into a bag.  (Like everyone I know - including myself -  he makes it a personal challenge to carry every single purchase he makes from the car into the house in one trip.  Sometimes this means that he is wider than the doorframe, which is quite comical to me.  Is this some kind of modern competitiveness thing to replace the adrenaline rush we used to get from running away from rabid hippopotamuses? [Sidenote: Merriam-Webster is no help on how to spell the plural.  Hippopotami?] And now I have that Christmas song stuck in my head.  Sorry, all!)
Anyway, my carefully executed plan was to make sure that every.single.time that he went shopping I texted him with a peppy little "Don't forget my soda, honey! Love you!" and carefully ignore the little scowly-faced emoticon he would send back.

Product review:  it works great and it's very easy to use too, although it is loud (I can't make soda while my daughter is sleeping or it will wake her up, and she's _not_ a light sleeper) and the 'three buzzes' it's supposed to make when it's done are more like honks - and I rarely need to wait for 3 before I'm perfectly satisfied with my fizziness!  It also tends to go from 'not quite fizzy enough' to 'erupting over everything' in about .5 seconds.

My only complaint would be that this product feels extremely flimsy.  I've only had it for a month and so far there is no sign of wear & tear, but all the components are plastic, the case is very lightweight plastic, and the only solid part of it is the CO2 canister.  It remains to be seen if I should have invested in the higher end version of this product; I guess I'll find out as time goes by!

I only wish I was a famous, important, and most importantly, PROLIFIC blogger that could get attention by posting this little note - attention in the form of about 35 'free' CO2 canisters.  But thought I'd share this in case someone is out there, pining after one, wondering if it's crap, or looking for a sneaktastic solution to get it as a 'present' instead of having to treat yourselves!  Perky text messages that feign obliviousness to your husband's blatantly obvious dislike for the chore.  That's the trick.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Reading, Recording, and trying to fit Living in there too somewhere!

I am really struggling with the concept of a blog.
I am supposed to be back to work full time (from home, as my employer is a godsend allowing me to migrate the office to my living room!) on October 1st and ... the idea is terrifying me.
But add to that the fact that this means it has been over FOUR MONTHS since my beautiful daughter was born - and I've managed to write down HALF of her birth story - leaving out the part where she was actually born! - and a hopefully lighthearted anecdote about attempting to converse with a stranger in a casual way.
I read a LOT of blogs.  I have easily ... 400 in my google reader list?  And I am increasingly aware of the fact that while there is a lot of good content on there - I have every thing from foodie/recipe blogs, attachment & RIE parenting blogs, mama blogs, craft blogs, etc. - more and more while I am reading it, it's more so that I can check off the counter of 'unread' blogs, like it's some kind of weird computer game that I'm playing.  "GOTCHA!" I think when I've finished off a folder that previously said "17 Unread".  I don't know how much I'm getting out of it.  And even worse, sometimes I'm not just using it as a oddly competitive reading game - sometimes I'm reading it and thinking "wow, I am completely inadequate."  Hard NOT to feel inadequate as a mother, as a creative person, as a 'balancing work and life' person ....  Some of these women have three kids - five kids - and they still manage to run a graphic design business AND create crazy harvest centrepieces made of those cute little decorative squashes.
D'you know what I did to "update" my mantle for fall?  I bought a green candle from the dollar store and wrapped the bottom of it with festive fall-coloured paisley ribbon.  I moved some other stuff off the mantle and now, well, it actually looks worse - less balanced, not enough tall stuff.  But I am also working (part-time now, ramping up to fulltime in a few short days - *eek*!) and mothering and dog walking and ... sigh.  It doesn't seem like an excuse given the super moms whose blogs I check off in a mad game of reading steeplechase every morning.

But one thing IS really bothering me.  The fact that my daughter is four months old and I have yet to create a record for her.  I have a bunch of notebooks that were originally destined to be scrapbooks.  I am religiously collecting the ultrasounds (of which I have many, owing to extended hospital stays) and still have our matching hospital bracelets.  And whenever she does something - makes that contented little humming noise while she's sleeping - I think to myself - I have to write that down in the book.  Or the blog.  I have to write that down.

Then I think, I don't have time to write that down.  I have to work.  And fix the damn mantle!  And sit here and soak up every second of breastfeeding and bonding because otherwise our bond will be broken and she'll be four years old and kicking me in the shins when I don't give her cookies and won't care even if the kicking brings tears to my eyes because we don't have a bond!!

This is hysterical thinking.  I recognize that.  So I am making a vow.  To be imperfect.  To have an ugly mantle and no time but still take a few minutes at LEAST once a week to write a note about my baby.

So here's this week's list:

She's four months old now.  Still not sitting up on her own although she loves to sit on my lap facing out and look at everything.  She can roll onto her side but is mostly content to lay on her back under her lion (stuffed baby toy) and tell him stories about her day.  The more stressful the day, the more animated the story.  Also the more stressful the day, the more time she'll spend trying to suck his feet.
She's sleeping through the night - or was until about a week ago - I got from about 10 pm to 4 am (yes, I call that "through the night").  Very recently she's started waking multiple times in the night to nurse voraciously.  I went on the mini-pill about a month ago and noticed a distinct drop in supply about 10 days ago, so I think the problem is that she's just not filling up as much as she used to in the evenings in order to fortify  herself for a long night of sleeping.
And ... here's where the imperfection comes in.  I hear her waking up in the next room again after her early-morning nap.  So ... off to collect my sweet baby ... more to follow on her awesomeness soon :)

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Pregnancy and birth story - Part II

Okay, part 2 - where were we?  Oh right ... I was crying :)

Typically of how life goes, the day after we were informed that I had a potentially fatal pregnancy complication - and the OB who I should "urgently" consult with was not available until after the weekend - was the day we were moving to a new condo.  I had been packing all week, trying to keep the heavy work to the absolute minimum, which meant that after I filled a box I called my boyfriend over to shift it the four feet out of the kitchen to the "box collection area" in the living room (it was a small place, there was little "shifting" required!)

We only had my brother to help - fortunately he has the ability to be more productive than 5 men put together, but it was definitely a lot for my husband to handle.  We also have the dog - the very neurotic dog who hates moving with a violent passion and does whatever he possibly can to communicate that deep loathing (barking nonstop, sitting on top of/in front of suitcases and boxes, walking very slowly in front of you to prevent you from getting out the door with said suitcase/box - or at least prevent you from getting out the door without tripping and risking serious injury!)

The simple matter of what to do with the dog while they were trying to move things was a logistical nightmare.  I alternated between holding him on a leash and locking him in the bathroom.  The latter was a terrible choice because he would bark and scratch frantically at the doorframe and the linoleum, trying to escape to prevent us from leaving him.  The former also stank on ice, because I was also the designated door opener/holder (we'd bought doorstops at the dollar store.  Don't do that, okay kids?  They fit under the door quite nicely, but completely failed to hold it - just slid docilely along the floor while the door slowly closed.  You could practically hear them saying "I'm the door stop.  I'm here to stop the door.  Oh, you want to close, door?  Hmm.  Well, I'm not really expensive enough to stop you.  I'm like an underpaid bodyguard - do you think I'm going to leap immediately into the path of that bullet if there's $1700 a week in it for me?  I'll tell you what I WILL do.  I'm just going to slow you down very slightly so that everyone can see that I know what I'm designed to do and yet, just can't be bothered.")  Every try carrying a 100 lb sofa through a tiny narrow doorway and equally narrow hallway while your 8-months pregnant girlfriend tries to take up as little space as possible while also warding off the panicked, hyper leaping dog who seems to be trying to get up ONTO the sofa even as you cart it out?  Yeah, I don't recommend it.  It was funny to me, but I had to save the laughter for when the boys were well down the hallway, or else I would have been in mortal danger.

Inevitably I found myself trying to hurry things along.  I reasoned carefully before I picked up a box:  "Okay, this is sort of light-to-medium-heavy, so I'll just half pick it up and half shuffle this one.  But this one's light - we'll just quickly pop that over to the car...." then I'd try to pass my husband in the hallway and he'd grab the box away from me, his expression scolding, and I'd mock pout and return to the rapidly (but not quite rapidly enough for me) emptying condo.


Why am I telling you about this?  Let me back up a tiny bit more.  In the year we'd been living together my soon-to-be-husband was also completing his university degree, job-hunting, and dealing with a very unexpected pregnancy.  The combined workload was so much stress for my boy that he ended up developing a case of shingles in late March.  And after much arguing about what we were capable of (me, pregnant, and him, at school) and what kind of jobs he was looking for, we finally came to make a simple vow:  "We will not be greedy".  He wouldn't pursue jobs that were big money but possibly a level up from his current experience and education, because not getting the job also meant he wasn't getting any other job from that company for at least a year while his 'rejected application' made it's way through their hiring cycle.  He wouldn't take on a massive course load because finishing something 3 months ahead of schedule wasn't worth the risk of NOT finishing it - or worse, failing a course.  And we would just take every pregnancy milestone as calmly and happily as humanly possible.

The weekend after we moved I got a call at 8 am on Monday morning from the OB to whom my case had been referred.  They asked me to come in an hour later to see the OB, adding rather cryptically that I had been a last-minute addition to the schedule 'given my case'.

My heart was pounding as I went into the office and met the OB, who was a tanned, lean woman with very velvety brown eyes, and looking into them I felt my heart rate normalize a little.
She held the closed file in her hands and leaned forward in the small exam room.  "Okay, so first thing - you need to be in a hospital.  The reality of this condition is that if you go into labour and these vessels rupture, your baby can bleed out in less than 5 minutes."  (Let me interject that the OB was wonderfully calm.  Somehow she managed to impart the intense urgency of the situation without scaring me to death, and allowed the decision to feel like something I made while fully informed, not blind with terror.)
She continued, "Now, I can deliver your baby right now.  We can do a test and check on the baby's lung development and if we're assured they will function outside the womb, we deliver as soon as tomorrow."  I don't think I replied immediately to this statement.  The only thing I remember distinctly is that my lips had instantaneously gone completely numb - such a strange sensation.
"But we can also wait and see, but either way you need to be in the hospital.  Right now.  Are you all right with being admitted today?  It's right across the street."

I remember agreeing to be admitted, and she pushed to her feet, and it was like someone had hit the play button twice and everything had sped up to double time.  This woman was filling in for the regular OB who was on holidays, and as she went out front to consult with the office manager you could sense that she was wishing for the comfort of her own office and her own staff.  A polite, slightly deferential tone crept into her voice as she said "We need to get this woman into the hospital, as soon as possible.  Can you call over please and make the arrangements?  I assume you have access to the right channels for this - if not I can make the call - can you let me know?"  My heart rate had accelerated again, and I was starting to feel like I needed to sit down.

Truthfully though?  Despite the numb lips, racing heart, and the spots flashing at the edges of my vision, a part of me was thinking - what the heck kind of craziness is this?  I don't need a hospital.  And the baby does NOT need to come early.  This is insane.  I am just going to go home and go to bed and everything will be fine.

The OB looked back over, then abruptly took my purse away from me, hefting it in her hands to check the weight.  "Okay, Stefanie is going to take care of you now.  You can go home and gather up some things but I want you to be careful.  NO heavy lifting.  Your husband does Everything.  I'm not even happy about the weight of this purse right now."  She handed it back to me and I carefully slipped it back over my shoulder, trying to do so in the most ergonomic, non-womb-impacting way.

Then she looked me in the eyes and said "You know what I tell my patients?  We will not be greedy."

Well.

I was going to the hospital.

15 minutes later I was home, making lists.  The boy came in and heard the story and started offering the same arguments my panicked brain had come up with.  "You don't need to be in the hospital.  Just go to bed.  They are just trying to avoid a lawsuit, that's all, and all you need is to take it easy.  We've just moved. We haven't even unpacked.  The dog will have a meltdown!  You can't go!"

I looked at him and said "Honey, you know that won't work.  This whole weekend I did WAY too much, I know it.  And the OB said my purse was too heavy - and that's the smallest purse I own!  We can't afford to take any risks."

He just looked at me, unconvinced.

"Honey, she actually said the words - 'we will not be greedy' - " and as I watched his expression changed immediately from faintly militant to resigned.

"What time do you need to be at the hospital?"**

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

** Now, while he did say this, leaving the story there makes him sound almost preternaturally calm, so let me add one little story to put this into perspective :)

Before we went to the hospital I googled "what to bring for a hospital stay" and decided we needed to go shopping - I needed socks and Junior mints and trail mix, and we needed a lock for my laptop, and other myriad things to make the stay a little easier.

We went to the mall.  Because the OB had said those magical words I felt completely confident that we were doing the right thing, so I chattered happily about the appointment, how dramatic it felt.

He got a coffee from Starbucks and had about five sips before tossing it out, complaining "It is way too strong.  I don't handle caffeine very well."

I mentioned how the OB had said "I can deliver the baby as soon as this afternoon." 

He described how the coffee had been way too hot and too sweet.  "I can feel my heart racing from all the sugar."

I talked about how the baby might have the same birthday as my sister (a week from that day).

He said "I don't know why they put skylights all over the mall.  The sunlight is way too hot.  I'm sweating in here.  It's like a greenhouse."

I said "I mean, it seems really soon, but we were only expecting to wait another 7 weeks anyway.  That time would have flown by."

He said "I think I need to eat something.  I don't feel well - I think my blood sugar is crashing.  I don't think I've eaten all day - except for lunch."

I looked at him and laughed.  "You ate lunch like 20 minutes ago!"

"It's the coffee, I'm telling you, I don't handle caffeine well on an empty stomach," he protested.

"Your stomach isn't empty!" I proclaimed as we grabbed a bottle of all-natural, hypoallergenic laundry detergent.  "Now listen, you need to wash all the baby clothes we have - and the baby blankets, using THIS detergent, before the baby is born.  Okay?"

He stared uncomprehendingly at the bottle.  "What?  It is way too loud in here.  I can't even hear you talking!"

[Are you starting to figure out what I was so clueless about?]

It wasn't until he started complaining that we were walking too fast - "I can't even breathe!  That coffee was way too strong!" that I actually looked at him closely.  Very belatedly I realized that his face was grey, and indeed, very sweaty.

"Okay, let's go eat something," I agreed, and we walked as quickly as his protesting lungs would allow us to a pancake house located at the front entrance of the mall.

Once we were seated and the waitress was bringing a massive order of food and orange juice - "STAT!" - I tried to help.

"I know it's scary, but I promise, it'll be okay."

"I don't know what you're talking about.  I was just hungry.  My blood sugar was crashing.  I told you.  I don't handle caffeine well."

"Okay, honey."


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All right, there apparently will be a part 3 - and probably part 4 - before the story is done.  If anyone is reading this, please know I'm not writing all of this because I think you'll love reading this in all its excruciating detail - I'm trying to record it while I still remember everything!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Losing the ability to talk to other people….


So I took Anu down to the 2nd floor terrace of our condo for his afternoon constitutional.  A few weeks ago we had a mortifying incident where he escaped from me and proceeded to go bonkers over a kid with a small bicycle who was fooling around on the terrace.  Not at the kid, at the bike.  But it went on forever – even after the kid dropped it Anu kept circling the bike and barking at it like he suspected it of being a particularly malevolent, sentient-type bike that was just.about.to.display its true colours – y’know, like picking itself back off the ground and attacking me, the kid, and Lior … very proactive of him, really.

I couldn’t get him to stop barking and come back to me no matter what - and I am not exaggerating when I say I think ten minutes went by with me hugging the kid’s shoulders (he was terrified, poor thing) while trying to say sternly and authoritatively – “Anu, no.  Stop.  Down.  Sit.  Come.  Leave it.  Go play.  Stop.  Down….”

I know it was a long time because in the end we were rescued by a woman who lived on the THIRD floor, heard the ruckus, looked out, and correctly interpreted we needed help.  The second she walked out Anu abandoned the bicycle and ran up to her, tail wagging.  Very careless of him.  I swear the bicycle wheel had just started to turn on its own and there he goes, turning his back on it ….

Anyway, the incident was both embarrassing and incredibly frustrating, and is always at the forefront of my mind when we go out to … promenade (my husband and I are always coming up with new euphemisms because Anu keeps learning the old ones and our painfully casual conversations when he gets home from work about whether or not Anu has “had an adventure in the wilds today?” prompt an excited, deafening round of barks).  So today it was the first thing I thought of as I snapped on the lead and Anu excitedly twirled around Lior and I on his way to the elevator.

[Now let me just back up a bit and say that just this morning I was thinking about the fact that I’m doing DARN GOOD at this at-home-mama thing.  I’m out and about and I haven’t once screeched at at my husband for having NO IDEA how hard I work at home.  I think I’m still interesting and engaged in the world, at least a little.  All those things people say about women who go out in public with spit up on their shirts and can't stop themselves from cutting up other people's food into bite-sized pieces ... lies, all lies.  I have got this shit DOWN!  Y'know what they say about pride, right?  Yeah.  I was pretty proud of me until about an hour ago.]

So today we head out to the terrace and I see two young boys who appear to be having a wrestling match on the opposite end of the green.  I look down at Anu, who looks a little too interested in joining in as the referee of said match, and tell him, “Nope, sorry pal, you’ll have to stay on your lead for now.”

We start walking around the opposite side of the terrace.  Anu keeps dropping his ball in my path and cocking his head at me like “Hey, this is how we play, remember?  What’s your deal, lady?”

“Nope, you’re staying on lead.  There are kids on this terrace.  And you know kids,” I continue, conversationally, feeling lighthearted and witty – “It’s all fun and games, and then out of nowhere, one of them pulls out a bicycle.”

Anu shakes his head, looking very unimpressed by this absurd thought, and goes to “waltz” with some flowers.

At this point another woman comes bounding (literally, bounding) out the door of the terrace with her dog, who is off leash.

Now for the non-dog owners out there, having your dog ON a leash in a leash-free area means that your dog is NOT good with other dogs, to the point that it may be dangerous.  The woman, observing Anu’s state of captivity (or rather, the nearly taut length of leash disappearing into the bushes where Anu is still “interacting naturally”) immediately leaps to the conclusion that Anu is one of those unfriendly dogs and says “Oh, sorry,” and reaches for her dog to put him back onto the lead she has in her hand.

“Oh no,” I hasten to reassure her.  “No, it’s fine.  He’s fine.  I just … I thought there was a bicycle.”

The woman looks at me quizzically and then looks towards the other end of the terrace, where the boys now appear to be engaged in a cartwheeling contest.  Not a bicycle wheel in sight.  Her face, when she turns back to me, is both kind and concerned.  The sort of look I’d expect to give someone I run into at the mall who is dressed in slippers and a bathrobe.

“No, I just thought … You know, that there might be a bicycle.  Someday.  Soon.  Or maybe hidden, but – there could always be a bicycle, right?”  My voice gets a little high at the end, and I can feel desperation creeping in.  Anu got it.  Anu knew what I was talking about, and yet even he’s no help, sitting there, looking polite and friendly and not at all like a psychotic dog who suspects that all small objects with wheels harbor capabilities for acts of mass destruction, which is kept in check only by furious non-stop barking, by Him, Anu, mankind’s only protection from the evil bicycles.

She gives me a rather tense smile, then calls her dog.  “Sammy.  Sammy!”  Then again, urgently – “SAMMY!  HERE!  NOW!”

She snaps the leash back on and heads back off the terrace without looking back. 

I *barely* suppress the urge to say “Was it something I said?”

Friday, 3 August 2012

Pregnancy story (to be followed by birth story) - Part I

I had my daughter 11 weeks ago now via planned c-section.  I refuse to use the word "elective" even though that's the box they checked on the form at the hospital, because it sounds frivolous and implies that I had a choice - I did not!  I was there at the birth of my sister's firstborn, a homebirth so perfect that the midwives kept exclaiming afterwards "I wish we'd taped that!  I want to show that to every woman considering homebirth because THAT is how it's supposed to go!"
I knew before I got pregnant that I wanted to have a birth at home, and even managed to get my highly skeptical husband on board with the idea (well, at least, he grudgingly said, "Well, since you're the one HAVING the baby, I guess you should have the say in how it happens" - hmmm, simple truth for the doctors and hospitals to take to heart, huh?)
But ... my homebirth was not to be.

We're - Pregnant!

I knew to the day when I got pregnant and had my first symptoms less than four days later.  I was in my office having a very important meeting with an accountant when I was suddenly swamped with a wave of dizziness that almost knocked me over.  That night I had the same sensation while talking to my husband (boyfriend, at the time) - this time it was so strong that I ended up sitting abruptly on the floor in the middle of the sentence.  My boyfriend said one word - "Pregnant?" and I scoffed at him (not because I thought he was wrong but because I didn't know I WANTED to be pregnant until that first wave of dizziness that afternoon, and suddenly I wanted it so badly I couldn't bear to say "yes" and then be disappointed.  Also, he has this incredibly irritating ability to be right on the money about some things - things he knows absolutely nothing about - and I try to ignore that ability as much as possible - y'know, to keep his head the correct size).

The entire theme for this whole pregnancy was going to turn out to be "don't judge other people" - something I wouldn't start to see until much later.  And this was going to be my first lesson in that.  I'd read stories about women who took a pregnancy test too early and then got a negative result.  I had been so scornful of those women - "How hard can it be to read the instructions!  And wait a few days, for pity's sake, before taking it, just to be sure!"

Well, what do you know, I did the same damn thing.  Turns out it's really easy to do, even if you're smart and read the instructions and understand why they tell you to wait - because you're really excited and anxious and you can't even begin to predict the start of your next cycle because they've been all over the place for your entire life.

So - I got my negative result - beat myself up sideways for thinking two dizzy spells = pregnancy, and went outside and walked my dog in the park while I tried not to cry (failed, so was very grateful I didn't run into anybody!)  I told my boyfriend, "nope, not pregnant" and tried not to cry while he looked vastly relieved and tried not to look it (we both failed).

Still, for the next week or too I felt odd - to the point that I was voluntarily foregoing my morning coffee, which for me was a dramatic sacrifice.  Then one Saturday morning I work up early because I *HAD* to clean the entire house and organize every closet, and when I was down I showered off all the grit and grime and dog hair and drove straight to the pharmacy for another test - this time I sprang for the pricier one that also indicated how many weeks along the pregnancy was.

The next morning I woke up very early and took the test.  Then I walked very slowly into the bedroom and woke up my soundly sleeping boyfriend to show him the results in the window - "Pregnant" it said in the lower left hand corner; "three weeks" floated in the top right hand corner.  The second I saw that he'd read it and woken up enough to understand it (poor guy!) I burst into tears, and he just folded me up into a hug and held me for a long time, saying "it's going to be okay" over and over again.  

In retrospect I don't know if he was reassuring me or himself, but it worked (for me!)

9 Weeks - Testing

At 9 weeks I went in for a CVS as I carry a major genetic disease.  I knew somewhere deep down that the baby was a girl, and she was just fine, but my boyfriend wanted a little more reassurance than "I know in my heart" so off to the hospital I went.  This was my first experience having any kind of procedure in a hospital, and I remember thinking "This is so clinical.  Hmmm.  I'm sure glad I won't have to be in the hospital again!  Yay homebirth!"

The doctors told me it would be about a 3 week wait for results, which meant we were scheduled to hear back on December 24th.  I kept asking about holidays - "when do they take holidays?  How long are they off?" - terrified because I was sure they'd all be skipping merrily off to have a great old Christmas & New Year while I shivered in a ball on the sofa, chewing my nails and twitching, waiting for the phone to ring.

The day after the procedure the doctor called me and let me know that they'd gotten a rather small sample size and that they had to "grow it" before testing it or the results would be inconclusive.  She apologized, because that would add another 3 weeks to the delay for results.

I hung up the phone and cried.

All I wanted to do was be HAPPY about the pregnancy!  To take "before" belly shots and pretend to have food cravings and wander through the baby section at the stores, feeling all the baby blankets for softness and welling up at the incredibly tininess of the little outfits.  Now she was telling me that I had to wait until the middle of January?  Six weeks?

Two weeks later I was at work and realized my phone was beeping.  I checked it and it said I had missed a call from a number I didn't recognize.  I took the phone into the bathroom with me (yep, I do that! sorry kids!) and was in the middle of trying to figure out who it was from when it rang again.  I fumbled with it and almost dropped it into the toilet while answering (then almost hung up the call after answering it!).

It was the doctor.  Inexplicably she had results already - a week earlier than originally projected (to this day I have no idea how the got results so quickly).  All was fine - we were having a girl and there was absolutely nothing to worry about.

20 Weeks - Worrying

The pregnancy progressed normally.  Despite a lot of stress at home (boyfriend was still a student and wasn't expecting to finish school until 2 months before my due date - unplanned pregnancy was pretty scary for him!) I was doing really well.  I didn't even have morning sickness or anything, unless you count a peculiar aversion to anything with noodles that lasted for the first half of the pregnancy.  Anything I ate - pasta, soup, even my beloved pad thai - if it contained noodles, especially long, skinny noodles, it was a no-go for me (I shouldn't complain, all I had to do was stop eating noodles, but somehow I kept feeling the urge to test it -- "hmm, can I eat ... pad sew?  Let's try.  Um, nope, that's not a happy thing for me.  Scratch pad sew off the list.  Hey, what about macaroni and cheese?")

At 20 weeks I went for our routine obstetrical detail ultrasound and the ultrasound tech spent a lot of time saying "hmm" and going back for second and third glances.  Finally she let me know that the placenta was a lot more low-lying than they would like, a marginal previa, and that very likely I would have to be back again at 31 or 32 weeks to check again.  Odds were pretty good everything would move up the way it was supposed to and I'd get to have that homebirth I wanted.

I went home and woke up my boyfriend to tell him (the u/s had been scheduled for the ungodly hour of 7:15 am on a Saturday).  I ended up in tears (hmm, I'm starting to notice a trend here.  Truly, I am not THAT much of a leaky faucet, I just cried at all the points that are worth relaying for this story!)

"I'm gonna have to have a c-section!!" I sobbed.  

He was deeply unimpressed.  "Didn't you say the u/s tech said that it was a 95% chance things would go back to normal?"  

-- hiccup -- "Ye- yes, but ..." 

"Then let's just wait and see, okay?"

31 Weeks - Scared

I went for the followup scan and this time my boyfriend came with me. He'd finished exams the day before, and sleep deprivation and euphoria/relief combined to make him willing to come along, even though this scan was also set for 7:15 am.  I had been told I was allowed to reschedule the exam if I wanted, but as I'd learned the last time, it wasn't that terrible.  The hospital was quiet and empty at that time (well, the medical imaging department was, anyway) and the techs were relaxed, able to give you a lot of time and attention.  As it would turn out this was very lucky, as we needed to have a very fresh pair of eyes on the screen that morning.

The u/s tech was named Janet.  She invited me in, and told my boyfriend that he could come in after a few minutes for the "guided tour" of the baby.

As ever the first part of the scan was quiet and tense.  I chattered about how I really wanted a home birth and was hoping the placenta had moved outta the way, and she smiled and nodded - and then abruptly she was less smiley.  I fell silent as she continued to move the wand around over a shadowy area that looked like nothing to me (I'd had several scans at this point and fancied myself at least a little aware of what they were looking at in terms of the baby, but she wasn't looking at the baby).  Then she excused herself and told me to to clean myself up and put on a hospital gown to pop over to the washroom, and told me to stop by "my hubby" on the way to let him know he'd be invited in very shortly.  I came back and she took even more scans and pictures before excusing herself to go get my boyfriend, and also check the computer to make sure that the scans had come through properly so that she could forward them to the doctor.

15 minutes later she came back, with my boyfriend in tow, and sat down without a word to give us our guided tour.  She was very thorough and sweet and calm, but I was incredibly tense.  My boyfriend could sense it, and finally asked the tech about the u/s.  "Did the - thing - you know - move out of the way?"

The tech looked torn.  She said, "I'm sorry, but I'm not able to say.  I'm not a doctor.  But I did send your scans to be reviewed, so your midwife can tell you in a couple of days."

My boyfriend pressed on.  "But can't you say if the - thing - moved?  You could see, right?  Because Jessica really wants to have a natural birth."

The tech looked very sad, pressing her lips together.  "I really can't say."

Then I realized that she was shaking her head, very slowly, from left to right, her expression tragically eloquent.

My boyfriend seemed to notice it too, and asked again - "Can she have a homebirth?"

She still didn't answer - not out loud - but her head kept shaking - "No."

We drove to Tim Hortons (why, I have no earthly idea) and I ordered a very large decaf coffee and a very large doughnut.  (Oh right, I remember why.  I was depressed and wanted a doughnut! I had been largely gluten-free for the last four years so this was a big crazy splurge for me!)

At this point I was sure I had placenta previa, so as I ate my doughnut, I read article after article on my phone while my boyfriend sat there patiently, listening to me read random sentences off random articles.  I think I posted something on Facebook about how "things don't work out anything close to the way you planned".  Concerned friends messaged me immediately "Is everything okay with the baby?" and gave me a much-needed kick in the pants.  I quickly updated the status "The baby is fine!  I am fine!" and emailed them back to explain what had happened.  I realized that we were incredibly lucky.  Up until that point there was nothing to indicate that anything was wrong and even though something wasn't 100% "normal" the baby was fine, I was fine, and I was in the care of some really excellent experts.  One truly spectacular friend emailed me a list of things that she thought were positive aspects of a c-section (while it's hard to find information on placenta previa that won't scare the pants offa you, it's even harder to find anyone posting about c-sections that isn't judgemental or determined to convince you NOT to have a section because if you DO have a section you obviously don't care if your child is sickly or brain damaged or what have you) which I read over and over again for the next week or two.

32 weeks - Referred

I had an appointment the following week with my midwife.  I went in fully expecting her to say "Well, you're in the 5% of women whose placenta does NOT move up and out of the way."

Instead she started with "I know you were really hoping for a homebirth - but it is just not in the cards for you for this pregnancy."

I sat still, my heart in my throat.

She continued, "what your scans showed was not placenta previa.  It is actually something called vasa previa with a ...."

She kept talking and I honestly don't know what else she said.  There was this dull humming in my ears, and only the occasional words broke through - "velamentous cord insertion" (what?) "c-section" - "hospital" - "referral" - "obstetrician" - "urgent".  All I could think about was that I needed to get out of there and get onto Google (such a bad idea, btw, there is a LOT of scary stuff out there about vasa previa).  I left and I was still in the fog, but I heard her tell me that while they (the midwives) would still be taking care of me, they'd also be referring me to an obstetrician, and that I should expect to have an appointment over the next few days.  She cautioned me against lifting heavy things, against stress, and against sex, and I wandered out the door.

Inexplicably I went to the store and bought soft white rolls, lettuce, roast turkey, and sweet mustard.  All I could think about was eating a giant sandwich - yes, I am definitely a carb addict - which worked out well since for me, coping with bad news usually involved a glass of wine or two - carbs were a nice pregnancy-safe substitution!  I came home with all my groceries, made myself a sandwich, and ate it without tasting it at all, then went into the bedroom to wake up my boyfriend (noticing a pattern here?  He's not a layabout, I swear, I just had a lot of very early appointments) with the news that yes, my homebirth had turned into a hospital c-section - and that we had reason to be worried now.

I imagine I cried :)

.... to be continued .....