Saturday, October 24, 2015

Ronan's Birth Story Part Three: There and Back Again (A NICU Tale)

Life and time both run away from you.
Priorities change. When my son naps, I have to make a decision. Do I:
A. Wash the dishes?
B. Watch one more episode?
C. Exercise to battle the baby weight?
D. Fold the mountain of laundry the cats are using as a nap site?
F. Vacuum?
G. Clean the bathroom?
H. Shower so I feel human?
I. Make dinner?
J. There's something else I used to do . . . what was it . . . BLOG?!

So, yeah, that's kind of life right now.
It's not a bad thing.
In fact, it's pretty much a GOOD thing.
It's just life.
And life is lovely, but it's filled with a ten-month-old who is crawling and exploring like energy is going out of style. Mine is, but his? Oh, laaaaaawd have mercy!

But it all started in the NICU. 
P.S. Want a brilliant description of the NICU? Read This

The NICU is . . . it's a different sort of place. A different state of being. You exist in that tiny room for as many hours a day as you can stand. Completely sanitized.  You hate leaving that room to eat or go to the bathroom because of the washing, the checking in, checking out, and, really you just hate leaving because your tiny little person is in there.  So you sit in that chair, snuggling that tiny, fragile person for as long as you are allowed, wondering if the scent you smell is him or the hospital.
I always heard stories about that "straight from heaven scent" newborns carry.
I don't know if Ronan every smelled like that. I mean, I liked his smell, but it seemed . . . sometimes I wonder if it was too sterile. If he smelled like hospital, like his islet and the tubes and the clean hospital blankets. Once he was home, I think he smelled differently. Now, he smells like himself and his chamomile baby wash. It's perfect.
But I'll never know his true brand-new smell.

You don't get to hold preemies the moment they're born, you know. They're whisked away--for their own safety--to their warm little nest, hooked up to IVs for nutrients since they may be too little to nurse, and, sometimes, there are the little oxygen masks.  32 weeks seems to be the tipping point for oxygen--before that, it's almost guaranteed that the preemie will need assistance breathing until his lungs are stronger. Once the baby hits 32 weeks, there's a strong chance that he can breathe on his own. Ronan was the latter--I don't know if it was the steroid shots they gave me that morning and evening or if he was just ready, or if was just God, but that tiny little body had strong lungs under that bird-sized ribcage. When he would hiccup, I was afraid his chest was going to explode then collapse, it was so violent in someone so small.

He was, shockingly, born with feathery hair all over his head, but no eyebrows or eyelashes.
We couldn't really take pictures of him except on our phones, and, even then, we had to sanitize our phones and then sanitize our hands. I used that little bottle of foaming sanitizer like it was going out of style.

Ronan spent one day in the most critical level of the NICU.  I couldn't bring myself to look around. The babies in there, so very, very tiny. Incredibly tiny.  Parents and doctors hovering.  I didn't want to see--I didn't want to see what he almost was. What he could have been. I still can't look at pictures of preemies without my chest constricting, aching. It scares me. I should have been braver, more understanding, but I was afraid. So I looked at him, and that was all.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Ronan's Birth Story Part Two: My Body Strikes Back

After the birth begins the recovery.

My gosh, the recovery . . .
I think it's the recovery, in the end, that nearly killed me.
And that's not an exaggeration.

The first night, I cared about three things:
  1. Getting a shower
  2. Getting my second emergency IV out from inside my elbow (it hurt like the dickens every time I bent my arm)
  3. Getting the flippin' catheter out. 
I HATED the catheter. 
Yes, I understood it was a necessary evil--that they had me on diuretics to help decrease the swelling and, in that case, I wouldn't be able to get up quickly enough or frequently enough to pee--and that it made it easier for them to check my kidney recovery. 
But, my gosh. I hated that thing.
When they finally allowed me out of bed and wheeled me to Ronan's corner of the NICU, I had to carry that thing hooked to my wheelchair like my own little urine purse.
Tackiest accessory EVER.

But, oh my goodness, holding Ronan.
He was so tiny and soft, and all he did was sleep, but he huddled up against my chest, skin-to-skin, and it was like everything would be all right. I didn't mind that I was exhausted or that my second IV was throbbing. I was FINALLY able to hold my baby boy.
So everything was good.

This was actually from my SECOND time holding Ronan two days after his birth.
My mom and I didn't have a camera for the first time. I honestly don't know if they would have let us use it in the first level of the NICU.

I dozed off holding him, and, all too soon, they had to put him back in his incubator. I was only allowed to hold him for an hour or so, anyways, because they needed to maintain his temperature in his islet or else he could burn too many calories trying to stay warm.

Lactation also visited and got me hooked up to a breastpump.
Oh, lactation . . . . such a love-hate relationship we had.
The relationship with my breast pump wasn't much better.
Every three hours, they told me, and I could have a five hour stretch at night if I was diligent about that three hour schedule.
So, every three hours, I hooked my boobs up to that apparatus and waited, waited, waited for milk to come.

That night, they gave me the heavy pain and nausea meds because I was achy. 
I blame the catheter.
It was the most uncomfortable thing ever and I kept feeling like I had to pee.
The nurse told me that was impossible.
After my second catheter experience, I think it had a kink in it.
All night, I shook uncontrollably and couldn't sleep because I was so uncomfortable and so afraid of throwing up.
But I woke up, and out came the catheter, and I was a new woman. I actually shuffled down the hall to see Ronan in the second NICU level (he had done so well they moved him from the crisis ward to the middle ward--not a crisis but not ready to go home).  That evening, Chris got to hold Ronan skin-to-skin, and my heart exploded.

And they told me I could FINALLY have real food.
That was the mistake.

What they don't tell you about C-Sections is that it is VITAL that you actually pass gas or have a bowel movement.
But, seriously, you need to fart.
Your insides are all tied up with gas, and the gas wants to escape, but it all goes out the front door instead of the back.
And, honey, you want that back door WIDE open.

Mine wouldn't.
I mean, just wouldn't.
So I thought some fiber would help move things along.
Do you know what fiber did?
It left me dry heaving for the rest of the day, clutching a pillow to my incision because I thought I was going to burst open, intestines all over the maternity ward.  And I couldn't stop.  All day long, with that little square, pink tub on my beside table, trying simultaneously to hurl and not hurl, my core throbbing. 
The only thing that stopped it was when they knocked me out with heavy meds.
I woke up feeling refreshed, like a new woman.
Ten minutes later, I was heaving again.

The night nurse came in, and saw my wilted, gagging form, hunched over in bed, pathetic beyond reason, and said, "Has anyone given you a suppository, honey?"
"Would you be okay trying one? They can be little miracle workers."
"Yes, I'll try anything."

Let me tell you: having a nurse stick a suppository up your bum with your MIL in the room?
I sat there and thought, "Welp . . . there goes modesty. There's nothing more humbling than someone else trying to help you poop."

But, let me tell you: it worked.
I have never been more grateful.

I woke up the next day a brand new woman.
An intenstines-cleared new woman.

And Ronan was getting his own abdominal work-over. They had tried feeding him through a tube, but his stomach had grown distended, so they did X-Rays and put a tube in to help empty his stomach.

This picture breaks my heart, but they took SUCH good care of him

He actually got to spend some time without the tube down his throat, and he loved that.

The IV had been moved from his head to his arm, and the tape was stained with blood because it hadn't clotted properly when it was inserted. He was fine, afterwards, but the sight of it was heartbreaking.

Ronan was recovering with flying colors.  The staff was hopeful that he might be home in time for Christmas.

Me? I was doing pretty darn well, too.  The nurses were super impressed that I only requested Tylenol for pain and that I insisted on walking as much as I could. I was pumping through the night, and was getting just enough colostrum to send to Ronan once he could start feeding.  It broke my heart those first three days when he would root around my chest and cry because he was hungry but his stomach couldn't take food. He was so tiny and helpless.
And sweet. My gosh, that tiny boy was sweet.

 Then my arm stopped working.
Sort of.
My left shoulder ached so badly that I had to use my right hand to life my dead-weight left arm to do anything. The doctor ordered an ultrasound to make sure it wasn't a blood clot, and, the next day at 5:00 AM it was finally my turn.
Not that that particular fact registered as I came out of a deep sleep to this nurse wheeling equipment into my room in the middle of the night. But we had a lovely conversation as she scanned me, and, yay! no clots! It turns out that, sometimes, spinal taps cause shakes, and, in turn, those shakes can lead to pulled shoulder muscles since they have you strapped down in the crucifix position. But, hey, it wasn't a clot.  Good news, right?

My legs and feet were not so swollen that I couldn't even wiggle my toes, but my kidney levels, blood pressure, and clotting factors were looking better, so the doctors told me I could go home if I wanted or I could stay ONE more night for observation. I didn't trust my body, not any more, so I asked to stay one more night.

I should have asked to stay for two.

The next night, I went home, and I felt somewhere between happy and torn to pieces--I got to go home, be with my husband, eat my own food, but my baby wasn't with me.
After dinner, I couldn't catch my breath simply hobbling the twelve feet from my washing machine to my bathtub where I tried soaking my feet in epsom salts to bring down the swelling. It didn't work.

My chest felt weird.
I could hear and feel this dampness, this wet bubbling like I had a bad cough. But I couldn't remember ever HEARING that sound before.Like, I knew what it meant, but I'd never had a cold I could feel AND hear.
I didn't just feel like I needed to cough--that odd tickle--I could HEAR it.
I didn't want to cough though.
My incision hurt. I ached all over, really, and I was so, so tired.
But my heart wouldn't stop racing and, no matter how many deep yoga breaths I took. My heart thought I was running in terror. My brain and body were exhausted going, "WHAT THE CRAP, DUDE?? SLOW THE CRAP DOWN. IT'S FLIPPIN' BEDTIME."

And my chest . . . why did I feel wet inside? Was it because, in the five days I was in the hospital, I had gotten used to the dry air? And now I was in normal, humid air, and my lungs needed to adjust? Yeah, yeah, that had to be it.
I tried little coughs, just clearing my throat, but no, no that didn't do it. All night, I tried to sleep, tried to catch my breath, and I couldn't.
So I braced myself.
I hobbled to the bathroom, chest heaving (why was this so hard?), grabbed some tissue paper, sat back down on the bed, clutched a pillow to my middle, and braced myself.
And I coughed.
I felt some relief, but then the wet feeling was back again.
And I looked at the tissue.

Bright orange red. Like blood. Was it blood? Oh my gosh . . .
I hadn't hacked up mucus.
I had coughed up blood . . . almost blood? To this day, I don't know.  But it was close enough.

"Chris? Chris, wake up. Please. I coughed up blood. There's blood."
He was up like a shot.  We called my OBGYN (this time she gave us the emergency contact info--just hit 0 for the operator).  Uh, yeah, she sent us back to the ER.
You know, the one we had been to two weeks ago for my "flu"?

"Sarah, hurry, get ready, get dressed."
I tried, I really did. I was practically laying on the counter to brush my teeth. I had to sit down between putting on my bra and tee shirt. 
I could barely fit into anything. I was mismatched, giant tee shirt and sweatpants. My feet were so swollen, they barely fit into the ginormous hospital socks and my husband's flip-flops. I shuffled, leaning on Chris, gasping for breath. No matter how deeply I inhaled, I felt like there was never enough air.  Like I was a kid who had wandered too far out to sea and, every time I swam to the surface, a wave hit me in the face. Just enough air to survive, but not enough to feel right, safe.  It was very, very wrong.

This time, the ER took me seriously. This wasn't some crazy pregnant lady puking.  This was someone recovering from surgery who was coughing up blood.  That wasn't okay.
They ordered a CAT scan.  Oh, thank goodness it wasn't an MRI.  I wouldn't have been able to handle it. I'm already a little claustrophobic--a tiny space? failing lungs? I would have freaked. But I made it.  By the grace of God, CAT scans are fast and I made it. It was afterwards . . . The nurse pulled me out of the scan and began wheeling me for the door on that metal cart, and then it got worse.
"I . . . I feel bubbles. Right here." I tapped my chest, halfway between my breasts and my collarbone.  I felt like a gradeschool volcano experiment--baking soda and vinegar. Bubbling, crackling, wet. So very, very wet. "Please. I feel bubbles."
"We need to get the results from the scan before the doctor can do anything. We'll have results, soon."
"But, please, help. It's bubbling right here."
This is not okay, this is not okay, something is so wrong. "Please."
"We need the results first."
I don't know what I expected her to do. I think it was somewhere along the lines of trach or something--I'd watched way too many medical or crime shows where they just randomly slice open people's throats--anything to help me breath.  I was gasping.

They finally had me back in a room with Chris, and all I could do was keep talking about bubbles and coughing more blood into the wet washcloth they had given me.
An older nurse stood there and said, firmly, "Honey, you gotta stop gasping, you're going to hyperventilate." She sounded exasperated with me, but I suppose she'd been there a long time, had seen a lot, and this was all very old news. If I couldn't breathe, it was my own fault I suppose. Or maybe she was keeping a cool head, because, for the first time, I almost couldn't keep mine. 
I couldn't breathe.
But I tried to slow my panicked gasping down to controlled, deep breaths but they still weren't enough.

The waves of my imaginary sea were pounding hard and fast, choking me.

A younger nurse came in, and starting poking around at my veins for an IV. "No, no, they took too my blood, my veins are blown," I managed.  It was true. For the last six days, hospital staff had taken my blood taken multiple times. My big veins that every nurse loved? Smashed and bled to smithereens.  They couldn't get a decent draw.

But that was the last thing I said.
Or I thought I said.
I don't know, maybe I just gasped and coughed, and Chris said everything.

Because, now, I was clutching the side of the little metal bed, twisted onto my side. I didn't care about my incision anymore--I didn't feel it. I just coughed and pleaded with any nurse nearby, "Please please please please please please."
The bubbles were worse, now. I kept hacking, but nothing helped.

"We're going to give you a nebulizer, now," young nurse said, and fitted a mask over my face.

I hate oxygen masks, but I was so grateful. Air, yes, this would give me air, this would make it all okay . . . but then I couldn't stop coughing. I ripped the mask off and hacked. Hard. Uncontrollably. Over and over. For one second there was glorious relief, and then I was gasping again. The mask went back on, and was immediately removed because another coughing fit struck.
The previously spotted washcloth was now soaked red and orange. 
And it wasn't getting better.

"Can't you help her, please? Please, can't you give her the meds?" Chris was begging. He told me later that he thought he was watching me die. Right there. That I was gone. That it was all over and he couldn't. He couldn't. He couldn't. No. No. No. No.

"We can't give her any antibiotics until the tests come back," the nurse insisted.
"But she's getting worse!"
"That's what the nebulizer does--it has medicine to help clear her lungs.  This is what it's supposed to do."
That calmed us both down, just a little bit.

A second nurse had come in and started poking around for a vein in my other arm. Two at once, searching desperately for a vein that wasn't blown.
Grumpy nurse returned with a catheter.
"No, no, no, please."
"Honey, you can't get up to go to the bathroom. You need it. Just take it."
And, with that, she inserted the bugger.
Well, it felt like she shoved it, but I'm sure she didn't.
Hurts like crap anyways. That space was not meant to be invade EVER by ANYTHING.
But thank God for catheters.

But they found the vein, just barely, and hooked me up to a bag of IV meds.
At the time, I couldn't pay attention to what they were. I was too busy coughing.
But they were diuretics.  Meds to suck you dry.

It wasn't until much later that I put two and two together. 
The diuretics entered my system.
Within minutes, I didn't have to hack as hard.  I could gasp and get oxygen.  I released the rails of the cot. I let myself lay down. I inhaled. Exhaled. Inhaled. Exhaled.  I fought the urge to sleep.  I couldn't go to sleep, I couldn't, I couldn't, I couldn't.Something told me sleep was bad. I had to hang on.
And I slept.

I crept in and out of consciousness. I knew enough that my in-laws had arrived. That the ER was trying to transfer me to a hospital. The one I had just come from.

But I could breathe, so I didn't care.

Chris filled me in later that we were at the ER from roughly 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM. 
In that time, the combination of diuretics and catheter had drained me of three liters of fluid. The said that the moment they put the meds in my system, the catheter bag had filled. FAST. And then it was emptied and filled again. Three times.

I was on a catheter for two and a half days during my ICU stay.
I hated that thing.
But I'm grateful. They drained me and drained me.   By the time I was released back into the maternity ward, I had lost over twenty pounds.
That was JUST fluid. Twenty pounds of water.
We were later told that, even though it had originally appeared that my kidney functions were back to normal, I had swollen to such an extreme that my kidneys and heart were failing--they couldn't pump out the fluid fast enough.
And so the fluid had gone into my lungs.
I was drowning in my own juices.

But I was breathing, now.
I felt world's better, but they wouldn't let me out of bed. I had to bathe by wiping myself down with hospital-grade wet wipes. Shaving was not remotely an option.
They put oxygen tubes in my nose and hooked me up to all manner of monitors.  They gave me the TV remote and told me I could order anything on the hospital menu (yay? um, no). I didn't really have an appetite, though.  So my mom and Chris set up a visitation schedule (Mom wanted to make sure that Ronan and I both had someone with us during all daylight hours). 
The nurses were lovely, though they confessed that they weren't use to having an ICU patient who could talk back. I didn't understand what they meant until they transferred me back to maternity.
Chris brought me my pillow so I could TRY to get comfortable  (not happening). 
That first night, I woke up and found Chris sitting next to me, head in his hands, and, when he saw me awake, he gave me the saddest expression I had ever seen.
"Sarah, I will never, ever ask you to do this again.  Ever. Ever. Ever. I mean, you'll have to convince me that you really, really want another baby. And then like compromise the contraceptives.  Because I won't do this to you again."

I patted his hand, smiled, closed my eyes, and whispered. "I told you so."
The entire pregnancy, I had said over and over again, "I can't do it a second or third time, Chris. Not this sick. Not with a toddler. I am too sick. I don't think I can. Really."
And Chris had replied, "We want more kids--we always have. We loved kids. You love kids. You'll want another."
And I did--I do.
But I knew my body's limit. Unless a miracle occurred, I don't think I could handle it. Pregnancy broke me.

"I told you so."
"Yes, yes you did."

The next day was Thanksgiving.
The nice thing about being in the hospital is that people you don't usually get to see come to visit. The bad thing is that, at least in my case, they don't let you shower, so you look and smell homeless, but, hey, they love you, it's all right.

So my godparents came and brought us a legit and delicious Thanksgiving dinner. We hadn't seen each other since shortly after my wedding five years previous.  That was awesome.
I said I felt great and I didn't know why they were keeping me in the ICU, and couldn't I please get rid of the darn catheter already?

That night, Chris stayed to say goodbye and goodnight.  We talked a bit until I started drifting off to sleep. Every inch of me was heavy with exhaustion. I was so tired. So very, very tired. When your body is trying to put itself back together again, it sucks the life right out of you. And so I told Chris how much I loved him, goodbye, and then I fell asleep. My last conscious thought was, "I am too tired. Maybe this is what it's like to die in your sleep. I think I'm just too tired."

But no such luck. I woke up.

The following day, I had feet and legs again.
The swelling had nearly vanished, and I felt like the little mermaid trading her fins for feet.
Except mine was more like swapping waterlogged sausages for human appendages. For the first time in my life, I looked down that bed at my unshaven legs and went, "Huh. I really do have nice legs. I'll never complain about them again, ever. Seriously, look at those things!"
Yeah, that lasted until I put on a pair of jeans a week later.

The nurse said that today we would try standing up.
Big whoop, right? I could TOTALLY stand up. I was good as new. Come on! Serious--ooooh, I think I'd better sit down.
That was when I understood how sick I really was.
I could only stand for about two minutes before the wooziness took over.
Holy crap.
What had happened.

I had three specialists and their two assistants working my case: a blood specialist, a heart specialist, and a high risk pregnancy doctor (mine and her partner--the one who told me I would need a C-Section).
They eventually all came to the same conclusion: the preeclampsia had caused such severe swelling that my heart and kidneys couldn't cope any longer and I had suffered congestive heart failure. They thought I might have had pneumonia (which I told them was bizarre because I had had absolutely NO cold symptoms whatsoever), and later concluded that it was possible they had misread the scan and MAYBE I had tiny little clots in my lungs. They had no idea. But they agreed  I needed treatment. What treatment--well they just couldn't agree on that one.
They wanted me to continue blood thinners.  This had always been the plan even before the crisis--for six weeks postpartum, I would continue my lovenox injections.  Ah, but did they want me on a QUADRUPLE dose of lovenox or put me on Warfarin? Who wants to give themselves a shot every day, right? Why not a take a pill! So much easier! Who wants to stay in the hospital while they try to get her body adjusted to the perfect dosage of Warfarin? So much easier to just keep taking the lovenox shots! And what about breastmilk?? Does anything get into the breastmilk.
Round and round they went for three days.
I suddenly understood what a bill must feel like in Congress.

One doctor or his assistant would come in and explain the situation and the treatment that had been decided upon.
Perfect, let's move forward.
Doctor Number Two or HIS assistant would arrive and say almost the same thing but a different treatment.
Then my high risk OBGYN arrived and said almost the exact same thing but was on page with the first treatment not the second and was going to have to double check on the whole breastmilk thing.

It was maddening.

Especially when Doctor Two arrived in his hipster-cowboy get up (boots, necktie thing, and large belt buckle with a black vest, crisp white shirt, and square glasses) and his wheeling podium, laptop, and microphone. He'd talk to me, and then narrate EVERYTHING (including his observation of me, "the patient") into his laptop's mic in a heavy Indian accent.  It was all Chris and I could do not to burst out in laughter. Seriously?? I mean, I get not wanting to type, but seriously?
Maybe it's a doctor thing that we patients just don't get.
But it would seem talking ABOUT someone like a test subject right in front of her would be rather rude and insensitive.
Maybe I was just loopy.

Eventually, Chris and I said we wanted the quadruple dose of lovenox because it wasn't a breastmilk concern and we already knew those meds, thank you very much.
Besides, it didn't matter which med I took, if I were in any sort of accident, I'd bleed out. They wanted me "fully coagulated" to make sure any MAYBE clots were completely wiped out.

My regular OBGYN sent a liver-doctor friend of hers to relay her regards and didn't come to see me until I was transfered.

I was also on two blood pressure meds, oral diuretics, and iron supplements for six weeks. 
I don't know if you've ever had to try blood pressure  meds, but they wipe you OUT.  In the weeks to come, it took all of my strength and determination to walk from the parking garage to Ronan's NICU room.  I'd huff and puff like I was finishing a marathon, but, nope, just a ten minute walk.  Eventually, I was cleared to half my dosage, and that helped worlds, but I was still woozy. I wasn't allowed to drive or walk the dog, either.
Not that I could have even if I wanted to.
While in the ICU, I couldn't even have a bowel movement without a nurse helping me get to the little cabinet toilet in my room.
Yeah, you read that right.
I'm sitting on that little metal thing, all dignity gone.
I mean, just gone--no modesty, no pride, no nothing. Nothing humbles you like a bowel movement in ICU. And I thought the suppository in the maternity ward was bad.
I'm sitting there, and the nurse starts talking to me about old movies (I had the TV on Turner Classic) and, yeah, taking a dump talking about Cary Grant. We were classy.
I don't have it any more.

By day three in the ICU, a nurse named Rose was determined to get me--smelly, dirty, exhausted, sickly me--to the NICU to see Ronan.  And to get that blasted catheter out because we were coming up REAL close on the "catheter has been in long enough to encourage infection" expiration date.  She accidentally squirted some on my leg as she pulled that rubber tube out, but, golly, I was so relieved I didn't care. They have wipes for that, anyways.   And she finally got a wheelchair and wheeled me out.
That was when I understood what the nurses meant about patients not talking back. The doors to the next rooms were open.
Old men were hooked up to so many tubes and wires, the machines beeping, breathing, beating. Their bodies seemed withered husks. Death was in the hallway.
And I looked away and didn't want to look again.  This was where they had me. This was what they were prepared to do for me. What they thought I might become. Something like dread settled over me and I felt that Rose couldn't wheel me quickly enough.

I reach maternity, and finally, finally, FINALLY I can shower.  Bathing after days without feels like shedding pounds of grease. I'm like a reptile wiggling out of old skin. I am a new creature, and it is glorious. I begin my strict meds schedule, but they hook it all up so I can have both an IV AND go see Ronan.
I was so very. very tired in those days.
I felt awful because I was only able to visit Ronan about once a day due to the med schedule, trying to breast pump (I hadn't stopped even in the ICU),  and exhaustion.
Some thought it was that I was indifferent.
That wasn't the case. I was too sick and tired. I tried not to act like it, but my bones were weary. Everything exhausted me.  And still I made sure I could get down the hall to see him until I was too tired or they sent me away. 
Maybe I didn't care enough.
I don't know.

I didn't know what to think or feel.  I could barely think.
I missed my son. When I held him, everything was okay. The world felt right again.
But then came the meds, and that stupid IV pump that never worked and only beeped incessantly.
Then my limbs ached and my eyelids fell and my head felt light and off kilter.
I moved day through day perky but in a fog.
An emotional, mental, physical fog.
Day by day.

Until they sent me home with a booklet on all the meds I had to take and the instructions for the next six weeks of my life.
I was not happy that night.
The first time I was sent home, I was thrilled--I couldn't leave fast enough.
Now . . . now . . . I had felt nothing but dread. I was leaving my baby, and that was not okay. He was all alone in that little islet and that was not okay. Not okay at all. Can't he come home? Wasn't he allowed to come home?
I asked Chris if there were any cookies or cupcakes at home because, for some reason, I wanted one. I guess, for the first time, I was going to be an emotional eater. There were pumpkin "muffins" with cream cheese icing in the kitchen. My MIL was there making sure stuff was clean for us.

I took my muffin and a mug of milk and went to my bedroom with hardly a word. I sat on the edge of my bed, and I cried and I cried until Chris came home with all of my filled prescriptions. I was so tired but I didn't want to sleep because that's when it had happened. What if I tried to sleep and everything happened again? My heart stops working and I have to go back? I have to do it all again? I don't want to go back, I don't, I don't want to do it again.
And where's my son? Why couldn't I have my son? Why did I have to go home without him? Why didn't I get to go home with my baby in my arms like every other young mother. I had abandoned him in that place and couldn't have him. Why, why, why? It wasn't fair. Nothing was fair.
And it was all my stupid body's fault with my stupid blood condition and it just couldn't handle growing a baby. It was broken. I don't work. And I cried and I cried.
Eventually, I pulled myself together just enough to type something out.

Because I can't process until I write it out.
And all of our FB friends had been following my progress and praying.  I wanted to be honest. So I posted this, because it was the only way I knew how to explain my feelings even to myself.

Released from the hospital tonight with six different medications for a month.
As awesome as this is, I'm not nearly as exuberant as I thought I would be. Instead my mind is filled with checklists I can't complete and the fear that something else will go wrong and I'll be back in the ER, still broken. That something will happen to Ronan in the NICU, all alone, and we won't be there.
I am well but not well.
I am a parent but not a parent.
I am home but not at home.
It's going to be a very strange existence this month.
And God is good. All the time.

And I set my phone aside, breathed deeply, and wiped away a tear.
I was not okay.
This whole thing was not okay.

And that was okay.
Because, one day, we could be okay.

And, really, we are.
Ronan has been home for four months and is positively thriving. I went off my meds at the six week mark with a clean bill of health.

But the doctors tell me I have a 50% chance of the same pregnancy experience--the preeclampsia, the early C-Section, the NICU, the swelling. All of it. Of course, they'd handle it differently the next time around. And, of course, that means there's a 50% chance of it NOT happening--I could have a normal delivery and hold my baby the moment it's born and breastfeed and be right, be normal. Be together. Have that feeling of first look and first embrace and first nurse. All the things we missed.
It's a lot of maybes.
Maybes we still don't have answers for.

But that's okay.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Ronan's Birth Part One: The Birthing Games

So  . . . here I am . . . hopefully all caught up on my seven months of pregnancy . . . My son is now six months old (currently napping HYAH!), and I can now FINALLY get on with his birth story.
Which I really don't expect you to read in full. It's really more for me, I guess. Aren't all birth stories, in the end? I wanted to write it all down before it got too fuzzy.
So much happened, I didn't have the time to process all of my feelings. I remember wavering between fear, hope, and disappointment.
And there's just a lot to our story, really, there is.

For one thing, the first part takes place over a week. 

It's actually kind of a two parter . . . or maybe even a trilogy . . . yeah, I'd say it's more of a trilogy:

Part One: The Birthing Games
Part Two: My Body Strikes Back
Part Three: There and Back Again

Yeah, I'd say that's about right. 

And so, we begin . . .

A downright HIDEOUS picture of me, but it's the only one we have from roughly two hours before Ronan's birth.
Here's Chris filling out the paper work and me HATING that oxygen mask . . . and the fact that the didn't let me shower that morning. -_-
Thursday, November 13, I was standing at the counter, chopping veggies, when it hit me. My legs were throbbing, twitching, my whole body felt heavy. Exhausted. The same way I feel when a bad cold or a flu is coming on. Achy. Weary. So I texted my teacher friends and principal to see about getting a sub for the next day because this feeling on top of morning sickness meant I would NOT be making it to class in the morning.  And the weekend proceeds with me wavering between nausea and normality.
But, coming midnight Saturday night/Sunday morning, I started vomiting.
Every forty-five minutes.
Bile and stomach acid so potent it was ripping my throat to shreds so that I was coughing up blood. My throat was on fire.
My meds--usually almost miracle workers--did nothing to stop it.

Normally, I would say that, yes, this would be cause for concern.
Even more so when you're pregnant.
And doubly so when, the last time you were sick to this degree, you lost your baby.
So, I am trying not to panic, while looking at Chris, tears in my eyes, saying, "We need a doctor. This is not okay. This is too much like the last time. This is not okay."
We try my OBGYN. Nothing. I mean, NOTHING. Her office doesn't have an answering machine, no out-of-office message, NOTHING. I hadn't been given an emergency number or contact. So, here I am, hugging my toilet, crying, and no idea what to do.So Chris packs me up, hugging Puke Can to my chest, and drives me to the Emergency Clinic where they routinely process me and basically tell me I'm overreacting.
Or maybe they were just trying to play it calm so I would.
I don't know.
But it felt like they saw me as just another crazy pregnant kid with the flu.

My blood pressure, however, was concerning, so they tried a urine sample, but I could barely pull that off. They tried getting in touch with my OBGYN, and they didn't have any luck either. They did, however, get in touch with my high risk doctor, and, after the urine sample, they wrote me a prescription for stronger anti-nausea meds and sent me home.
As we were gathering our things, the sweet nurse looked me over and said, "Honey, you got a hospital bag packed?"
"No . . . we're only 31 weeks.
"Well, honey, things keep going like they're going, you're gonna have that baby sooner rather than later. Better pack that bag now."

Oh, I wish I had listened. 

Monday, my OBGYN squeezed me in for an appointment (you know, they actually pick up the phone during office hours). 
This is when I should have realized something wasn't right.
You see, before we left California, my previous OBGYN made sure I had memorized the symptoms of preeclampsia because my blood condition put me at more risk than usual pregnancies (as opposed to my current OBGYN's opinion).  If I were preeclamptic, I would have:
  1. Change in vision
  2. Unusual and persistent swelling
  3. A headache that wouldn't go away
  4. Pain in my right side (liver)
  5. High blood pressure
  6. Protein in urine
Unfortunately, I didn't know that sudden weight gain, reduced urine output, and excessive vomiting were also symptoms.
And, apparently, no one else did, either.

Feeling world's better that Monday, I was actually a little excited to step on the scale at the doctor's office because, after a weekend of eating and then vomiting saltines, I thought that I should have lost at LEAST five pounds.
But, no, against all logic and science, I had GAINED weight.
And then the nurse had to take my blood pressure three times with two different cuffs before my blood pressure seemed normal.

My feet were a little swollen, but that and the weight gain were chalked up to third trimester symptoms (I mean, that's what happens, right??? You start to swell and you gain weight even more quickly? Nothing weird).

I was sent home with, "There's something going around--you probably had the flu."

But I had that gut feeling, you know (and I don't just mean the nausea).  The whole time we were in the clinic, I kept telling Chris, "It's NOT the flu. I know it's not. This is too much like the last time. This is hormonal. It can't be the flu."  Still, she was the second professional I had telling me it was just the flu, so it had to be the flu . . . right?

So, the next day, I dress myself up all cute (seriously, I got SO many compliments, and everyone telling me I FINALLY look pregnant, how much it suited me, and I finally felt "fun" pregnant), I go to work, and, by the time I get home, I am WIPED.  Still, it's business as usual.

Wednesday, the hubs and I head to our monthly ultrasound appointment with my high risk doctor.
I've gained even MORE weight.
And, this time, the nurse takes my blood pressure once, and says, "Wow, your numbers are really high."
"Are you sure? I just went to my OBGYN and they said my blood pressure was fine . . . She had to take it three times, but . . ."
"Well, we'll let the doctor give you a look, and then we'll see if we need to take it again."

They didn't.
The ultrasound showed that Ronan's heart was working much harder than it should have been.
They took a urine test . . . and my protein levels were so high that they couldn't measure them accurately.

So the doctor sits me down and tells me that I am severely preeclamptic, that I need to go to the hospital immediately for 24 hour observation. If things get better, I can go home on bedrest and would be induced at 36 weeks on Christmas day. 
If things did not get better, I would have a baby within two days tops.

And that's when the waterworks started.

You see, that morning, my Facebook feed featured a shared post about a family with their little preemie baby asking for prayers, talking about how it's the first time they've seen him without his oxygen tubes so they can really see his little face.  The day before, I had read an article on PTSD in NICU babies. I remember reading all of that and thinking, "Oh my gosh. I can't do that. I just can't. Thank goodness I don't have to go through that."
More than ever before, I KNEW having a baby prematurely was a huge, big deal.

And here we were, my doctor telling me this was going to be our story, and all I could think of was a tiny body hooked to tubes and wires, the pain, the tininess, and I feel myself breaking.  Just withering.  Because I can't do that to my baby. I just can't. I can't hurt him like that.

Here's the deal: life will always take you to your breaking point. It will stretch you and test you and wound you, and you then have the choice to let it crush you or come out stronger on the other side.
This was my valley.
This realization that my body could not nourish a child. That, no matter how healthy I tried to be, my body couldn't maintain a pregnancy on its own. I had to take the blood-thinner injections daily in order to keep from miscarrying (the theory is that "sticky blood" like mine clots in the placenta and starves the fetus).  Even then, my placenta was starting to die.
I know it's not my fault--that I did everything I could--but it still felt like I was failing my son and he wasn't even born.
Well, he was going to be.
And I knew it was a good thing--that this procedure could save his life and mine--but it didn't feel that way, sitting in the ultrasound chair, trembling, fighting back tears.

BUT . . . the doctor said I might still be okay. We might make it four more weeks. So I clung to that like oxygen. 
That things would be okay.
And they were.
They just weren't my definition of "okay."

So we go to the hospital, we are put in one room then another, and I am hooked up to several monitors, hooking up to an IV, and have my blood drawn regularly. I have to pee in a "hat"--an insert in the toilet to catch my urine for testing--and tug around a little IV stand feeling completely exposed in that little hospital gown.
I tell you what, by the time all of this was over, I had NO sense of modesty whatsoever.

The next morning, after night of watching Anne of Green Gables with my mom (always our sick day movie), a male doctor comes into my room. He's tall, with brown hair and glasses, and I have never seen him before in my life, but he says he partners with my high risk doctor.

"Good morning, Sarah. How are you?"
"I'm doing pretty well, feeling better. How are you?"
"I'm good, I'm good.  So . . . well, it looks like you're having a baby today."
"Wait . . . what???? They told me . . . if I felt better . . . I could go home. I can't?"

And he tells me that my kidney levels are falling rapidly, my protein levels are through the roof, and my blood clotting factors are dropping too rapidly, so rapidly, in fact, that they can no longer give me my prescription blood thinners because I will bleed out.
He also says that I will have an emergency Caesarian.

"But . . . but . . . They told me I have a 50% chance of vaginal delivery . . . "
"Yes, but, you see, labor is stressful--for you and the baby--and we really don't want to put unnecessary stress on you two.  We're going to give you a steroid shot now, and, hopefully, we can hold off long enough to give you the second. The steroid's will help with the baby's lung development."
"How long until he can come home???"

That becomes my question for the next three days. Over and over and over again to every doctor and nurse I meet. "When can my son come home?"
And over and over and over again, they tell me, "We don't know. It depends on how he does, but the typical goal is by his due date."
Eight weeks.
That morning, I was EXACTLY 32 weeks pregnant. That means eight weeks until my son can come home.
Two months.

As soon as the doctor left, I called Chris as he was on his way to the hospital. I had done so well holding it together, but now, I start to cry, not hard, but real tears, real tightening in my chest and throat, the mourning of my pregnancy, of our plans, of my son's homecoming. "Chris . . . um . . . they . . . um . . . we're having a baby today."
"Wow . . . um . . . wow . . . Are you okay?"
I start to compose myself, "Yeah, I think so. I . . ."
I don't remember what else we said, but I remember that soon I was okay again.
We were moved to ANOTHER room where the hospital staff began processing my request for transfer.  Our son could not stay in our current hospital because their NICU didn't cover babies younger than 34 weeks. I didn't want to separated any more than I absolutely had to--so I asked to please deliver in the hospital where he would be treated as a NICU patient.
Miraculously, the request went through and, hours later, I was on an ambulance.
My only complaint was that, in all those hours, they wouldn't let me bathe. I felt like a greasepot. This is NOT how you're supposed to feel before those just-gave-birth photos.
As it turns out, we didn't get to take any of those anyways, so there's that.

The EMT beside me in the ambulance smiled and said, "Don't worry--everything will be fine. I had to have my baby early at 32 weeks, too, and he came home in three weeks.  It's going to be okay, I promise."
Oh, what sweet sweet comfort, what a gift to have as I was trying so hard to be brave. I don't know her name, but I will always thank God for that precious EMT.

You know, I had a birthing plan . . . The doctor told us that we would have to be induced by 39 weeks if I hadn't gone into labor naturally before then.  You see, my blood condition puts me at risk of stillbirth past 39 weeks gestation.  Still, we had arranged to have a doula and try for as natural a birth as possible. Just because I wanted to see if I could do it, because I wanted the experience. We had prayed Ronan would come early so I could have a natural labor without induction.
I guess we kinda got our wish . . . we weren't anticipating for him THAT early, but hey . . . whatever works, right?

But I wouldn't get my natural birth.
I wouldn't even get to go into labor.
Some mamas out there may be throwing up their hands and saying, "You lucky son of a gun! No labor! That's the way to go!"
You want to know what's funny? I feel like I missed out on something.
Sad because I never got that experience, because I never got to feel how strong I was, because I didn't get to hold my baby boy as soon as he was born, because I didn't get to breastfeed him once he was in my arms, because nothing about Ronan's birth was the way things SHOULD have been.
I mourn that.

But that's all okay.
You know why?
Because Ronan came into this world healthy.  Too tiny, but healthy and strong.
I didn't get to breastfeed him in his first days.
But, three months later, I did get to breastfeed him.
If we had not delivered when we had, I would have had full-blown eclampsia and started seizing, and then there would be nothing anyone could do.

We are alive, so it's all okay. It's better than okay.

So it was okay when they gave me my spinal tap, and I sat there, head pressed against the stomach of the doctor, breathing deeply, as they stuck a needle in my back.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah . . . yeah . . . I'm just trying my yoga breathing to calm me down."
And the doctor chuckled.
I must have sounded like I was hyperventilating instead of practicing yoga.

So it was okay when they strapped me down like a crucifix--arms spread wide--and Chris held my hand while the sweet anesthesiologist held the other and narrated everything happening behind the curtain.
"You're going to feel some pressure and some flicking--the doctors are making sure you're numb. Can you feel any pain? Yes? Okay, we'll up the dose a little. How about now? No? Good, good. You're doing great, Sarah. You're doing great."
"They're making the incision, now, you may feel some tugging. You're doing so well."
"Okay, his head is out now. And he's born. He's beautiful."
I remember thinking that she said that just to be nice--that she couldn't mean it--because all newborns look like potatoes.

It was okay that I was shaking so hard and uncontrollably that Chris asked if I was okay, and I said, "Yeah, I'm just scared for him. Is he okay?" And Chris chuckled and kissed my forehead.
And I heard this tiny, mewling wail. Just one.
Then someone said, "Well, it's definitely a boy."
Thank goodness for that.
And Chris tried to get a picture, but Ronan had disappeared through a window and was whisked away to the NICU. Chris only caught a glimpse, a tiny glimpse, and just enough to recognize Ronan when we were finally allowed to see him hours later.

The anesthesiologist squeezed my hand. "You did great.  They're patching you up, now."
And blood splattered the curtain.
Right at eye level.
Okay, so it was more like a squirt.
Just a tiny bit.
Right in front of my face.
And I thought, "Welp, now I'm officially a member of the zombie apocalypse."
Chris laughed. The man actually laughed. I suppose my face was wearing a rather, bug-eyed, horrified expression, after all.

"And they're all done! You did great! And look! You have your flat tummy back!" She moved the mirror so I could see my naked reflection.
I didn't have the heart to tell her that I'm positively blind without my glasses, so all I saw was a flesh-colored blob.  Or that it wasn't flat.  Or that it should NOT have been anywhere near flat.  Because it was supposed to have gotten bigger. Two months bigger.  But now it wouldn't.  And so they wheeled me into the little curtained recovery area because I was still frozen from my chest down. 

A NICU doctor visited while I was still regaining control of my toes.  He told us that Ronan had made 9/10 on his APGAR test, was breathing on his own, and had the gumption to try to suckle one of the nurses. 
And again, I asked, "So when can he come home?"
And, again, the doctor couldn't tell me.

We were wheeled into the NICU, and we were allowed to touch him, but not hold him.
He was so tiny.
And looked so bewilderingly like a tiny, shriveled version of my father. Nothing like either of us had anticipated.  When we first saw him, we did a double take.  I mean . . . he didn't look ANYTHING like either of us.
And, maybe I'm a terrible parent, but we didn't think he was cute right away. He was so skinny with folds of skin hanging off his tiny, bony arms, and he was all eyes and mouth.  He looked like one of those baby baboons.

Oh, how I loved those tiny arms and giant eyes and wide mouth, that little monkey baby.

And he felt like velvet. To this day, I think he was the softest thing I had ever touched.

He had an IV stuck in his skull because his veins were too tiny.
It broke my heart.

I don't attach easily.
I'm wary of letting things and people too close.
So I looked at this tiny little person and tried to feel like a mother.
It was so surreal and bizarre.
And distant.
To not get to hold him. To look at him through this plastic casing.  To not know what to do.
But I touched him--because I knew I needed to, because, deep down, I wanted to.  This was the little dude who bounced on my bladder every morning at 7:00 AM sharp and kicked like mad when Chris played his guitar. The tiny person we had gone to doctor after doctor for, doing everything we could to keep him healthy.  The little boy we had prayed and waited for with such anticipation.

And here he was:

17 inches, 3 pounds and 6 ounces.
8 weeks early.
Thursday, November 20, at 6:06 PM

And so entered our little warrior: Ronan Oliver

In which we briefly return to California for more adventures . . .

Again, thank the good Lord for Facebook.
I barely had the mental faculties to blog, but I had JUST enough brain power to chronicle our adventures via Facebook status updates.

Chris had started training for his new position in Florida, and it turned out that his boss needed photographs of California employees for the company communication website. You see, Chris's sister was also in the training program (but for a different position) and she lived with us for a couple of weeks while she worked in the California offices. She had begun this project, but, due to scheduling, had been unable to get pictures of every single employee.  Chris would be heading back to fill in the blanks.
Later that weekend, we would also be in Jesse and Sharon's wedding (huzzah!).
And celebrate our five-year anniversary (DOUBLE HUZZAH!!!).

And so began our last gallivanting adventure (before parenthood, of course . . . )

Adventuring Day One
1. Dear First Class Fellow: whoever told you that you should wear flip flops LIIIIIIEEEED. Honey, I have seen better toenails in a werewolf transformation. How did security not confiscate those things? Weapons, I tell ya. Yick.

2. Chris made a friend on the flight to Houston, a little girl about four who LOOOOOOOOVED to chatter and was traveling with her father.
"So where are you heading?"
"Arizona! Daddy's going to see a judge!"
"Oh ....... Well ..... I've been to Arizona. We saw the Grand Canyon there."
Sweetest little pair though.

3. LAX feels like a prison. So completely and totally depressing. Dementors must inhabit that soulless, lifeless, gray concrete desolace .... For reals.

4. "And if I ever have a son, I think I'm gonna name him .......
Bill or George! Any damn thing but Sue!"
Ah, the wisdom of Johnnny Cash ....

5. In-N-Out Burger: reunited and it feels so goooooood.

6. Hotel Cable. Brooklyn Nine Nine premiere. "Every time you open your mouth, I just hear the sound when PAC-Man dies."

Adventuring Day Two
1. Sleeping in a Hotel's King Sized Bed Pros: when your leg suddenly becomes afflicted with pregnancy-induced leg cramps, you can flail about like a crazed cat in a swimming pool and never touch your partner. Seriously, he had no idea it happened.

2. Sleeping in a Hotel's King-Sized Bed Cons: once said leg cramp wears off, you must transform into the human tumbleweed and roll across a vast expanse in order to cuddle still sleeping partner.

3. Waking up thinking your nose is stuffy and discovering, nope, just another pregnancy nosebleed that won't quit. I think the more I expand the more I am slowly falling apart. All temporary and for a good cause, all temporary and for a good cause ..... even if I'm a living example of, "DO NOT HAVE SEX!!!! If you do, you will get pregnant and DIE!!!!"

4. Oh, California avocado, so moist, so fragrant, so full of fresh flavor, I have missed you, my love. SO MUCH.

5. And we are back to fish tacos from heaven.
This trip is as much about the food as the people, seriously. We have a list of FOODS WE MUST CONSUME because it's just so stinkin good, peeps. OMG.

6. For two years Chris whispered tales to me of the best club sandwich in the entire world, the most delectable collaboration of meat, cheese, and veggies squished between succulent slices of toasted sourdough. We had it for dinner. The kid wasn't joking.

7. We discovered Wildman Mick Dodge on National Geographic. We began by laughing hysterically and then were transfixed with, dare I say it, almost respect and even, gasp, envy.
If you cut out the part where he eats maggots out of a beaver carcass, the man almost doesn't seem crazy.

8. Also we are now inspired to take a rafting trip through the Washington rainforest to the Pacific Coast. How awesome would that be?????

9. Eventually, there will be more to tell than TV shows and food, but, until we are on the road again, that's all I've got, folks.
Seriously, while Chris works I'm just chilling in the hotel because I'm too exhausted and without a sense of direction to wander ........

Chris took many, many, MANY photographs of the celery fields.
The man's got a good eye.
 Adventuring Day Three in which we drive from Oxnard to Hollister 
 1. As we left the Ojai area for the vast and majestic wilderness, we decided we needed kazoos. Why? Because those mountains inspire epic renditions of the LOTR soundtrack, and what better, tiny instrument than a kazoo?

2. The awe-inspiring mountains gave way to a desolace that makes you feel like you're in the middle of a Mad Max movie. No, the moon. No, Satan's armpit. It was BAD, folks.

3. It was so bad that we passed a street literally titled, "Brown Material Road." Like someone just went, "And I have zero craps left to give. We will name this after the landscape ...... or the craps I don't have left any more. Brown Material Road. The end."
And don't ruin our fun by saying it was probably named for a factory or something. Because there was NOTHING.

4. The only way that Brown Material Road would have been better is if it had featured the little Smart Car from LA with the "OH THIT" license plate. I love that witty, little car.

5. We finally made our way back into the hills ("And there was much rejoicing! Hooraaay!") and found ..... A WILD TARANTULA CROSSING THE ROAD!!!! I had heard of the tarantula migrations here, but I had never seen one until that moment. Sure, I would have loved to see a pack of them, but just one meandering the highway like he owned it was fantastic. I even got to take pictures.
And then we saw another, but he wasn't important enough to irritate by shoving a camera in his hairy little face.

6. Proceeding down the winding, mountain road, imagine our great surprise when we rounded a corner and were suddenly met by a pack of ...... alpacas. Chris and I regarded the alpacas in shock, exclaiming, "WHAT THE CRAP?!?! ALPACAS???? ALPACAS!!!!" While the alpacas in turn regarded us with indignant surprise before slowly advancing past the car, giving us the stinkeye as they went (the nerve of some people, driving down the road).
I, of course, was still screaming, "ALPACAS!!!!! ALPACAS!!!!"

7. As twilight fell, we ventured deeper and deeper into the wilderness. Twilight is that lovely, witching hour when wildlife wanders out into the open. We saw turkeys, a massive wild boar, several deer, and--the highlight--a herd of elk. We just sat on the side of the hill and listened to them call to one another in the fading light. If orcas and ringwraiths had babies, THAT'S what an elk call sounds like. It was AWESOME.

8. Driving through the mountains at night is all fun and games until your husband not only recounts a short horror story about hunters and an invisible, man-eating beast, but then dares to mention, "You know, we haven't seen another car for hours. Worst place in the world to break down or get a flat." So you spend the entire rest of the drive going, "Oh, God, please no" every time you hit a bump.

9. You finally arrive at your hotel, settle in, turn on Cowboy Bebop for the first time in almost five years, and call it a good, good day.

Adventuring Day Four:
1. Waking up in the middle of the night to see a tall form hunched over the air conditioner, muttering bitterly and poised for battle. Instead of feeling frightened, you feel something akin to pity and fall back asleep. Chris can't get the air conditioner to stop roaring on in the middle of the night, encasing us in frost and waking us, and, my golly, HE WILL CONQUER THIS BEAST!!! Eventually ..... Maybe ..... My gosh, I hope so

2. Oh, Mission Cafe, with your crisp bacon and fluffy, delectable French toast and quaint, 1950s atmosphere, I've missed you so. And I will miss you again

3. What to do when you have a couple hours to spare before going with the hubs to work? Start working on that baby registry together! Whoot! Scan scan scan scan scan scan scan scan scan! (To the tune of "The Ants Go Marching One by One" if you must know)

4. As the hubs works, you are introduced to various former coworkers. When he tells one that we are expecting, she looks completely shocked.
"When are you due?"
"Oh my gosh! You're barely showing!"
You politely say thank you (I think that's the appropriate response) but think, "Seriously?!? I feel like a FLIPPIN WHALE right now, lady. A. WHAAAAAAAALE. Maybe it's not showing because I've just expanded all over the place simultaneously ...."
Ladies, when they said, "Black is slimming," apparently they weren't kidding. It would seem my black top concealed a six month gestation.
Or she was blind.
Or lying.
I'm not sure which option makes me feel better.

5. Lunchtime Discussions with the Boccis:
Me--"No, the way birds feed their babies is not the most disgusting. Let me tell you about the most disgusting. When baby Koalas are too old for milk but still can't quite digest eucalyptus leaves because they're so tough, they crawl down to mom's bum, and massage her anus with their noses, which causes her to release diarrhea called 'pap.' And that's what they eat."
Chris -- silence
Me-- "It gets worse. Apparently, there's a chlamydia epidemic amongst koalas, which, you know, makes things ooze and can render them sterile, but it also causes them to be incontinent, so they just pee all over themselves. And THAT is the grossest animal."
Chris-- I can't even say their name anymore. Henceforth the creature whose name began with Koa- will now be known as THE SIN."
Me -- "-Villainous Laugh--This is payback for that scary story and comments on our drive last night."
Chris -- "Payback?! Sarah, I shot you with a rubberband. You returned with nuclear weapons and said something mean about my mother. That's not payback."
And, just for the record, I would never insult my mother-in-law.

6. That moment when you're so tired, you don't join the hubs in the bookstore. Instead, you sleep soundly in the car for thirty minutes until you're almost human again.

7. Dinner with lovely friends at our favorite restaurant. Whooooot!!!!!

8. Falling asleep to a John Candy movie and feeling, "Ah, your comic genius left us too soon, good sir."

9. Despite your best efforts, the air conditioner is merciless beast, so the hubs lends you his "smart wool" socks and you spoon for sheer survival.

10. Waking up in the middle of the night again to witness his bitter battle with the beast.

Adventuring Day Five
1. You wake up to discover the shower barely dribbles. Call the front desk and discern through his polite but heavy accent that there's been a problem and all the hot water has been shut off. So you stare into the porcelain and ponder if this is one of those moments that separates the first world girls from first world women.
And then you take the fastest, coldest shower of your entire flippin life.
I have no idea if that makes me a vain girl or determined woman, but I did it.
First world problems, man.

2. While the hubs works, you help lovely people prep for a lovely wedding and enjoy lovely company.
Too many lovelies? No.

3. I've decided I desperately need to learn Vietnamese so I can eavesdrop on the nail technicians.
And I'm not making an assumption about Vietnam--the delightful woman giving me a bridal party pedicure was telling me all about her birthing experiences in Vietnam.
Childbirth--bringing women together since the dawn of time

4. Finishing the girls night with Rifftrax and burgers with one of my favorites! Shella, I've missed you!

Adventuring Day Six:
Sickly. Wedding rehearsal. Still sickly.
And happy anniversary to us -.^

That weekend was an Indian Summer--it was 100 degrees Fahrenheit over the wedding weekend in OCTOBER. OMG. SO HOT. Thank the good Lord for breezes during an outdoor rehearsal, ceremony, and reception.

Adventuring Day Seven
1. Wedding hair: I have never been more closely akin to a hedgehog. There were so many pins in my head ..... but they tell me it was lovely, so that's all that matters.
Lacking eyes in the back of my head, I couldn't really tell. If I did have eyes there, however, they would have thoroughly poked and irritated and, therefore, no good at all.

2. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay wedding! Lovely lovely lovely! It was so lovely it was fabulous even in 101 degree weather. Whoooooooooooooo!!!!!

(If you'd like to see Sharon and Jesse's professional wedding photographs by their INCREDIBLE photographer, you can check them out HERE and their feature on Wedding Chicks HERE)

When it comes to weddings, I've always been laid back. From a young age, I realized they were ridiculously expensive, and I favored keeping cash in my pocket. I was the bride that would have driven planners crazy because conversations would have gone like this:
"So what's your vision?"
"Oh, I dunno . . . fun, really. And I'd love for there to be blue. But, mainly, just fun, casual. And affordable. You know, whatever, it's all good."
That's about as specific as I got, folks.
Sharon . . . Sweet Sharon was an ENTIRELY different bride.
She had pretty much been planning her big day from the time she was five.
And she had a very detailed, SPECIFIC vision, including a fairy-princess blush-colored dress (which she found at David's Bridal--don't diss it before you try it, folks).  The good thing about those kinds of days is that the bride isn't indecisive--she knows what she wants and goes for it, and the end result is GORGEOUS (really, her wedding was so absolutely beautiful).
But it can be a weeee bit stressful for the wedding party and bride (probably more for her than the rest of us).

And yet the day was fun, exciting, and really quite wonderful. I loved being a part of it and enjoyed so much celebrating the love and commitment between Jesse and Sharon :]

Sharon chose/designed each of her bridesmaids' hairstyles--even helped direct the stylists as they worked to make sure we were as beautiful as she envisioned.

Their Final Fantasy VII wedding cake


Adventuring Day Eight:
One last jaunt through the Aquarium because it's our favorite, one last plate of the best calamari ever, and one last look out at Lovers Point at sunset.
Adventuring Day Nine:
And then airports.
Why oh why oh why are airports such soulless places??? They should be so happy!!! YAY WE ARE ALL ADVENTURING!!!! But instead all motivation to live is sucked from you as you wade through grumpy crowds and lousy food. But it's over! It's done! We are home!
The puppy is absolutely thrilled.
The cats, fish, and lizard are completely indifferent.
Go figure.

It's hard to tell, but that's a mama otter and her baby!!!

The LAST picture of me pregnant at 26 weeks.
That entire week in California, everyone said I didn't look pregnant.
I felt like a WHALE.
Now, I'm wishing I had taken more pictures because, as it turned out, we never did get to schedule a maternity session and I had been too sick to take weekly or even monthly bump photos.