Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Believe it or not, we are finally west bound!

My new passport never arrived in Beirut. But that’s OK, because I got a ten year multiple entries US VISA in my current passport, so I'm good to travel. My new passport will be sent to the Swedish consulate in Atlanta instead, and I can pick it up there. Because that’s where our home will be over the next year: Georgia!

Most of our personal belongings are packed into a storage closet in our apartment. Our suitcases are packed: clothes, shoes, my Swedish cheese cutter - the essentials. I have a few loose ends to tie up today – finish up the kitchen, say good bye to friends, pick up August’s passport (he had to get his residence permit renewed in order to be allowed to leave the country, go figure), pack up the baby bed, etc. But if nothing catastrophic happens, we’ll be on a plane tonight.


First we’ll visit friends in Boston, then family in Indiana, and then we’ll drive down to Georgia to start our new adventure. 


(This blog will resume once we are back in Lebanon, a year from now.)

Happy summer!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sign of life

I am here, we're great; in the middle of transferring to the US for a year - with a baby and three boys, right? - but otherwise fine! Ha.

I dare you not to smile while looking at these pictures.




 
Anyways.

He's smiling. A lot. Every time I look at him. Which is ALL the time. Which makes it very, very hard to pack. Because, you know, he smiles every time I look at him... :)

Friday, May 31, 2013

Attached to physical possessions much?

Today I cleaned out our closets.

When you move a lot, like we do, you can’t keep stuff. You can’t keep clothes you don’t wear, thinking you might wear them one day, or your kids might, and you don’t hang on to things “just in case,” because shipping fees are really not favorable like that.

So since we are going to the US for a year and have to pack everything away that we are not bringing, I went through all our clothes today. The idea was that we’d only keep things we were prepared to bring to the US, and anything else would have to be pretty darn special to be kept in a box. We already don’t have a lot, but this means that the few extra items that we do have, are extra hard to part with. But, you know; they're only things (or in this case, clothes). So I was doing pretty well, until I got to Maximilian’s drawer.

He’s two months old now, and it’s a steady +80 F degrees outside, which means there are clothes that he has grown out of, and there are clothes that although they fit right at the moment, he will never wear, because it’s too hot. One of these items is the very first baby suit I ever bought. I was pregnant with August, our oldest, and although I didn’t know the gender or our baby, I had a feeling it might be a boy, so I got this soft, very nice baby blue outfit at Inno department store in Leuven. I thought that even if it wasn’t a boy, a baby blue outfit would at least be an original first outfit for a girl. Well; August was a boy and he wore it all throughout those first couple of months, and then William wore it, and Abraham, and Maximilian wore it a few times before it got +80 F outside. And now, I don’t need it anymore, because I will never have a baby again that small.

And as this thought struck me, I stopped stuffing clothes into charity bags and sat down with the outfit on our bed, touching it, smelling it, and I caught myself shedding a tear. A sentimental, silly tear.

Our last baby. Ever.

No need to keep any of our baby newborn clothes any more; not even the ones that have made it all this time, through moves across three continents. The blue outfit, along with the Peter Rabbit one that my friend Ann got me; and that grey one I picked up when I was due with William – they are not needed any more, ever again, by us. 

Oh my.

Just as I looked over at the charity bag, my husband walked in and saved me, “Why don’t we keep just that one, or maybe one for each boy? They can maybe use them for their children, or if not, at least we saved the outfits for them, and they can throw them away during their own transcontinental move?”


Yes! Leave it to our kids to take care of our most sentimental items. Thank you. 

I put it in a box.

Do you keep things around? Why?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

You want to WHAT?!

Submitting to my wonderful OBGYN’s hints that it was time for me to move on and bother another doctor recommendation to see a specialist, I finally went to an appointment today with an expert in wound healing: a plastic surgeon.

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting. I was afraid he would say that there was nothing he could do, however my OBGYN had indicated that he might be able to cut away the bad scar tissue in the shape of a vertical eye, and sew me back up again, much nicer than before, so I think I was hoping for that. I even glanced at my calendar on my way out, to see what day next week would work best for us.

The plastic surgeon seemed like a good doctor – young, intelligent, friendly, confident – much like my OBGYN. After pulling out a couple of stitches that had made their way up, out of my abdomen, and were poking out of my skin (I know, right?! I mean, really?!) and inspecting my wound, he however gave me some pretty bad news: he can’t do anything until I am 100% and beyond healed, which will take at least six months.

Six months of looking like a freak?

Sigh.

And I won't even be here in six months, so it will be more like in a year.

Double sigh.

But then he told me the good news: when I come back in six months or a year (even better, he said) he will give me a full tummy tuck, getting rid of the scar entirely. Our insurance will pay for it, because of my wound history. I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t even sure what a tummy tuck was, and his brief description did not entice me, since surgery right now isn’t exactly at the top of my Things I Want To Do list. But then on my way home I thought about it and how nice it would be not to have to look at this huge, ugly scar all the time. I texted a friend who also has carried and given birth to four children, and her response made me think that maybe it’s not the worst outcome, “A tummy tuck?! You are SO LUCKY!! I want one too!!!” In fact, I thought, if you ask any woman who bears the marks of multiple pregnancies on her abdomen, “How would you like for me to give you a 25-year old’s tummy again?” a lot of them would probably answer in the positive. Then I ran into another friend who made all kinds of exciting exclamations when she heard my plastic surgeon’s name. Apparently he’s quite famous in the region, and people come from abroad all the time just to have him operate on them.

So maybe it’s fine.


What would you do?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cyprus: veni, vidi, vici!

I was a little nervous; about checking in, about going through passport control, about renting a car, getting to Nicosia, managing to pay the passport fee at a bank, finding the embassy... Once we got to the airport and through passport control however, I relaxed. This time I came armed with a residence card for Max and his father’s signature, and was allowed to leave with him - without my master/husband.

The flight went well, as did the car rental. There was a moment there, however. Did you know that in Cyprus, people drive on the left side? Well, I didn't. Thanks for adding that, there, God. As if the whole trip wasn't challenging enough. I am very grateful for my friend, who so nicely came with me for practical and moral support, because driving alone on the left side with a baby - who hates car seats - in a car seat in the backseat would have been... stressful. It took both of our full concentration to navigate from Larnaca to Nicosia; my friend did the actual practical steering of the car, while I directed, “OK, to turn right, you have to turn all the way over to the other side. There, aim for that phone booth! You need to drive right past that sign! Stay on the left side! Here, over here! [gesticulating] Turn around the corner here, and follow the curb.” It really was a work for two. When we finally arrived at the hotel in Nicosia, it was late; we were both exhausted and extremely wound up at the same time. After check-in we went out for some food: pork kebab, tzaziki, taramasalata, Greek bread - and then headed to bed. 

I hadn't slept very well, still a bit anxious to get the paperwork done in the morning, but everything went well. I applied for Max’ Swedish citizenship and a new passport for myself. The Swedish embassy on Cyprus is really small, and the personnel was very friendly and helpful. We were done and back at our hotel room a bit after 10 am, leaving some time for a rest and packing before check out.

Our flight was leaving in the evening, which left us an entire afternoon to visit IKEA (we enjoyed some Swedish food and I bought wine glasses) and go to the beach. It was crowded – a lot of Swedes and Norwegians, burned like lobsters, drinking beer and swimming in the sea – but the sand was soft and the water fresh. Even Max got to dip his little feet in the water. For supper we tried finding a nice restaurant in Larnaca, but ended up driving to the airport and grabbing a bite there. We were both tired and wanted to make sure we had no problems getting home. When we successfully returned the car without a scratch, my friend and I high-fived and hugged from joy and relief. The rental guy looked at us funny. What an adventure.

It was such a short trip, but it felt long, probably because of the stress, and it was great to come home. I walked in the house with sandy feet and a big smile, and Abraham yelled at me for going to the beach without him, but the Swedish candy I had brought quickly made up for it.


My new passport will not arrive for another couple of weeks – it should arrive before we leave for the US, but of course I’m a bit nervous about this – and my VISA interview at the US embassy is tomorrow. I’m praying that they will not give me a hard time and deny/delay my VISA because of my passport situation. We’re anxious to start our adventures, and in light of recent events (the rocket hits), we’d like to leave as scheduled. Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

It's always five o'clock somewhere


It’s one of those days where I find myself cleaning up after breakfast around 11 am – hours after anything was consumed - dead tired. How do they make such a mess every time they eat? When I – to the soundtrack of yelling kids and a fussing baby - put the almost warm milk back in the fridge (hoping it has not gone bad), I find myself eyeing the chilled cooking wine in the door. Oh sweet release.

***

I didn’t *really* consider having a drink of course, but I thought it would be funny to write (if I ever got a moment); it’s the kind of thing other blogging mothers of lots of kids write at times when things get a little too crazy...

Four boys


You are not hearing from me much, because this baby will not let me put him down. As soon as I place him anywhere – a chair, my bed, his cot, in the car seat - no matter how asleep he is, he will cry within minutes. In someone’s arms, he is the happiest baby ever. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong advocate of baby holding/carrying, but sometimes I just need my hands, you know, to help the other boys, or go to the bathroom, and although the boys are always volunteering to sit and hold the baby, sometimes this defeats the purpose if I’m for example putting Max down so that I can help them with their school work.

Abraham has been a little more demanding than usual these past couple of weeks as well. He’s generally so independent that sometimes it’s easy to – almost – forget about him, but he obviously still needs me; not enough mommy-time is reflected in his behavior. As for the older boys – they’ve been the center of attention a bit lately since we’ve been trying to catch up on school and get them motivated to work among all the distractions. It’s difficult, I know – how can you work when a cuddly little cutie is yelling for you to hold and kiss him all day long? - but they’re getting better at it.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Our perfectly constructed paperwork plan, our beautiful card house


Last week our little baby’s passport was finally ready, and my husband went to pick it up. As soon as I had it in my hand, I purchased tickets for myself and baby to go to Cyprus. No, not as in “Yay, vacation time!” tickets, but as in, “Next step in the paperwork process” tickets. You see, the Swedish embassy in Lebanon and Syria is located in Damascus, and for obvious reasons, this embassy has been closed since, you know, things got heated in Syria. Now, because I only have a Swedish passport and because next time I enter the US I will want to stay for more than the three months the regular visa waiver program allows, I have to apply for a visa before we can leave for the US, and to get a visa, I need a passport that is valid for the entire visa period. My passport is due to expire at the end of this summer. 

In short; I need a new passport before I can get a visa, which I need before we can leave for the US. 

And to go get a new passport, I had to wait for the baby to be born, because remember how I’ve basically been on bedrest since before Christmas? And then once the baby was born I had to wait for him to get a passport, because obviously, I could’t travel without him. 

Once he had a passport I set up my trip to Cyprus, and then I went ahead and applied for a US visa, paid for the application and got my visa interview (which can’t be changed). You see, it will take up to three weeks for me to get my passport, and there was a three and a half week wait list for the visa interview, so I would have my new passport just in time for the interview- and then I would get my visa in time for us to leave for the US as planned. It was going to work out perfectly.

Until this morning.

Last week when we got our baby’s passport we asked the university to get his residence permit sorted so that he could travel with me. (I remembered from our time in Cairo that it was very important the baby had an entry stamp in his passport to leave, even though he was born in Egypt, because they had just had some problems with adoption fraud.) Our AUB representative said however that there was no time to get the residence permit sorted before our departure because of the holidays last week, but that I could just bring our baby’s birth certificate and passport, and that I would be fine to travel like that. So I didn’t postpone our trip and this morning I got up at 4:30 am, nursed the baby, changed my wound and took a taxi to the airport.

Check-in went well but I was stopped at the passport control and ushered into a smoky, 60’s style office. Bare dirty walls, and a big poster of Hariri with Arabic writing on it. They asked about the father of the baby. Did he know I was traveling with the baby? At first I thought, “Surely they’ll let me go in the end. I mean, I have the birth certificate right here, stating in very offical Arabic writing that I am the mother of this child.” Soon it became obvious however that they were not concerned about the baby being mine. The rules and regulations they were following were clearly designed to prevent women from leaving their husbands with their children. “Only the father can go with the child,” the security official told me. I was informed that there was a stamp that I could get at the general security building downtown, which would allow me to travel with the baby. I showed them the birth certificate, and explained to them that I really had to go – that I had been told I could. I would be right back tomorrow. They said that they had no problem with me leaving, but I couldn’t take the baby. This statement seemed just ridiculous to me. The baby would have to come with me, since I’m his mom, right? He needs me, if nothing else physically to survive. Literally. So what were they suggesting? That I leave the baby? I couldn’t believe they were serious. Oh but they were. At some point, I found that I had stopped thinking they were just giving me a hard time, and realized that they were not going to let me leave. I felt a little like Sally Field’s character in Not Without my Daughter in that dirty, bare security office – not allowed to leave the country with my child without the presence of my husband, the father, head of the family; the patriarch. My Sally Field moment. I still tried to argue though, but a superior and several pleas later, I was forced to go back through check-in, cancel my trip and return home.

Our perfect plan, our card house, has collapsed.

Planning for our junior research leave


Sometime during my pregnancy it came to our attention that my husband’s junior research leave was coming up, and that we needed to make plans for when and where we were going to spend this free vacation opportunity. We applied for a few fellowships and research stipends, but thought in reality that we had as much of a chance getting any extra money as we would have winning the lottery. So we started planning for a more frugal one semester visiting scholar position at a university close to family. Around the time the baby arrived we had set dates, connected with a good university, and looked into renting a home. We had also found someone to stay in our apartment for the four months we would be gone. Since we were only going to be away for one semester we didn’t have to move out, but could sublet, with our belongings remaining in the apartment.

Just when we were about to agree with a contact on renting his house near our university of choice, my husband received an e-mail from a reputable university in GA (to be disclosed later) offering him a one year paid fellowship. What? …What?!

Where do we start? First we had to get the approval from the university for a one year instead of a one semester leave. Then we had to sort out the housing situation, which worked out quite well – a visiting fellow at AUB will rent our apartment while we are gone, and we can have it back when we return. The only trouble is that we have to move out and put our belongings in storage while away.

We are currently trying to figure out how and where we can store our belongings.

We have no idea how we’re going to pack up this apartment in just a few weeks.

We are looking for a furnished house to rent near the fellowship university for 9 months. Not as easy as it sounds if your budget isn’t $2,700/month plus utilities.

Our family is searching for a used van that we can buy to use while in the US. I have absolutely no idea how to buy a car, get it registered and insured in the US, so thank God for family.

We are working on the paperwork needed for a family such as ours to relocate to the US for a year (more on this in a different post). You know how much I love paperwork.

We are in the process of buying tickets, with a return date over a year from now. Scary.

So there: stuff going on here, folks. Lots and lots of stuff.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Time and Money


You knew that eventually I would have to make this joke: 

Having a baby is like being in a casino; you lose track of time and money.

Days go by when I just barely manage, always a few steps behind. I sit down with the boys to start the school week on Monday morning, then the baby needs fed and changed, Abraham needs new clothes and a bath because he spent the morning playing with dirt watering plants on the balcony, then I make food, do laundry, and next time I look up, it’s Thursday evening, everyone’s hungry, there are no clean clothes, the house is a disaster, the boys are behind on their math, Abraham is muddy, the baby needs fed and changed, and I’m number 13 in line on the phone with the IRS.

I just wrote this, and suddenly it’s Friday evening. I’m telling you; it’s scary.

Whatever budget we used to maintain before this baby has been completely neglected pretty much since mid-March. Gauze, saline solution, and bandages are very expensive, as are diapers, wipes, and all the extra chicken I buy because I’m always craving protein. All the paperwork (birth certificates, translations, passports, transportation to and from the embassy, visa) has probably cost us more than $1000 alone. We have managed not to order in too much, but have not avoided it entirely. 

A couple of weeks ago my husband started hinting that maybe I felt well enough to start taking on jobs again, but really, I don’t even have time for everything that *has to* be done *right now* so sitting down to work has not exactly been an option. Now I’m starting to feel the pressure, however. 

Must. Get back. To work.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Out of this alive


I was actually starting to think that it would never happen, but by some miracle, over the past week and a half, we have managed to go from postnatal chaos to some form of routine again, entailing full school days and on time bedtime. I’m not sure how, to be honest, since nothing in particular has happened. We just... adjusted, I guess, and I regained some kind of control over our lives. Don’t get me wrong; there’s still chaos - it’s just not omnipotent, which means we get through most days in a – somewhat - similar fashion.

Mental note to self: after the birth of next baby, don’t worry about the chaos that follows birth. It will sort itself out.

Oh wait. There won’t be any more babies. Pheuw.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Happy birthday!


A little over a year ago, as you might recall, I started changing my eating and exercise habits to lead a healthier and more energetic life. I was reaching the end of my 30’s and decided that I wanted to run a marathon before I turned 40, and that I wanted to celebrate my 40th birthday looking (and feeling) great, somewhere special, like on a beach or in Paris. Maybe my husband would even buy me jewelry? Turning 40 was going to be a big deal!

Ha.

I feel like I was putting a prom dress on, thinking I was going dancing, when I should have been getting my wet suit on, ready for an afternoon in the Red Sea!

Obviously, I didn’t end up running that marathon, and I’m as far from my ideal weight as I’ve ever been. I spent quite a portion of my 40th birthday yesterday at the American embassy getting birth certificate and passport paperwork sorted, and as every day these days, I endured a session of unpleasant open wound care. I spent the rest of the day at home, inside. It was a rainy and windy day.

And guess what? It was a good day. I hugged my children, nursed a beautiful baby, kissed my husband, had some good food, cake and a glass of champagne. In light of what has happened over the past year, in the past months and what we are going to experience over the next year, turning 40 was nothing – no big deal. I mean, really; we have a new BABY! and I just survived a dangerous pregnancy and birth – a surgery. Plus we have some very exciting times coming up (I will tell you more about this soon).

Turning 40? Completely overshadowed. By life. And a great one at that.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bottle feeding

As you know by now, we are total hippie parents: we practice exclusive breastfeeding, baby wearing, co-sleeping, etc. – all those annoying parenting techniques that are continuously discussed in media and commented on by experts, parents, doctors and anyone else with an opinion. As I’ve mentioned before, our motivation is not always exactly based on any ideological beliefs, but could perhaps be attributed to laziness.

In any case; our parenting style has meant that we’ve never had any baby bottles in our possession – we’ve never fed our babies formula, and we’ve never been in a situation where I’ve consistently had to pump milk to be fed to the baby in my absence. Until now, when I have to go to the hospital every day. It’s not like I’m gone for a long time – an hour and a little more at most – but we’ve learned that no matter how little time I’m going to be away, I should never leave the house without leaving some milk behind. Maybe it’s a preemie thing, or maybe it’s just normal at this age – I can’t remember – but it seems our baby wants to eat all the time, so even though I feed him right before I leave, he still seems to get hungry while I’m gone. We have a cheap hand pump that comes with a bottle, and it only takes me about 10 minutes to express 4 oz, so it’s not really any trouble (except after several days, my wrists are quite sore from squeezing the pump!). 

This morning I was gone exactly 50 minutes, and when I came home, Courtney had changed the baby’s diaper twice, fed him the whole bottle and lay with him until he fell asleep (until they both fell asleep, actually). He stayed asleep for almost two hours after I came home, leaving me time to clean up the house, vacuum, load the washer and dishwasher, make a big breakfast, and spend some time taking care of my neglected older boys (bangs were cut, clothes sorted, stories read, music discussed, etc.). It felt like cheating, somehow: baby was cared for, fed and put to sleep AND I had all that time to go to the hospital AND catch up on other things.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Extended newborn stage


Don’t get me wrong; although our baby’s preemie behavior sometimes worries me, I’m enjoying it to the fullest. The older boys so quickly turned into babies, but this time – not only are we already appreciating every moment more than ever, this being our fourth and last baby – we get to enjoy the newborn stage for a few extra moments. The cutest little sounds, movements, the tiny feet and hands, the curled up legs and arms, and that beautiful, innocent “fart-smile” as we call it, which is only an involuntary reflex, but oh so cute. All this usually vanishes between recovery, nursing, paper work and everything else that happens right after the baby is born, however now, we are blessed with an extended newborn stage. 

Silver lining. Extra sweet edition.

A minor setback


I’m really not sure what I said or did, but the surgeon I saw yesterday obviously has some kind of set idea of what kind of person I am. I came in with an infected, open wound in my abdomen, very tender to the touch. He had me lie down on a bed, exposed my wound, got some kind of blunt scissors instrument out, and said, “Maybe another patient I would give some local anesthetics, but I think you are fine?” (I’m adding that question mark there myself, hoping that he meant to pose this as a question, however in reality, there was no indication that he might be asking me, and actually, what followed pretty clearly suggests that he assumed I didn’t need numbing.) Without waiting for me to answer, he started tearing the rest of the wound open (yes, TEARING, with his instrument), and cleaning it out with hydrogen peroxide (which STINGS!) and gauze, all the while instructing his students, hovering around me, to not “be afraid to make contact,” (Ahh! You’re RUBBING the INSIDE of me!) and exclaiming, “Yes, this bleeding is healthy because it means the tissue is viable.” (you’re making me BLEED?!) My moans and silent protests were ignored. Eventually my surgeon was satisfied with his students’ reactions and questions/answers and covered my wound with gauze (wet-to-dry).

Imagine, I get to go through this EVERY DAY for the next 10 days to 3 weeks (at which point, hopefully, it will have healed enough that it can be permanently closed). I’m hoping that as the infection goes away, my wound will be less sore and it won’t hurt as much.

As bad as it is though, I like my surgeon’s attitude. He called my wound opening up a “minor setback,” especially with my “special case” in mind, and “considering other possible outcomes.” (Oh, you mean, like, death?)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Can't. Catch. Up.

To be honest, since the birth, I haven’t been able to do much of anything besides taking care of my body – and only in the most basic way, as in ‘change my wound dressing, drink water, take medication and sleep’ – and taking care of the baby. Everything else – the older boys’ bedtime, daily routines, rooms, clothes & shoes (I just noticed that Abraham’s sandals (the only pair of shoes he owns) are too small AND broken!), hygiene, nutrition, school - has deteriorated and/or got out of control, and what little I am able to get done between gauze changes and nursing, is more like damage control. I feel like I'm always two steps behind.  

Except for on days like these, when I feel like I'm three or even four steps behind.

I've been redressing my open wound every day, following doctor's orders and doing quite well, if I may say. When I got an infection above the open wound last week, I took antibiotics, and it seemed like it was getting better. This morning when I woke up however, the incision above the wound had opened up and was oozing pus. Followed another afternoon in the ER and a visit with the surgeon who worked with my OBGYN during the surgery.

The good news is that it can only get better from here on, since all that could go wrong in the healing process pretty much went wrong between the surgery and now. The bad news is that it's going to be another 2-3 weeks until I'm healed, and in the meantime, I have to go see the doctor once/day, every day.

Thank God for a helpful husband, great friends, and lots of summer days to make up the lost school work.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

A preemie thing?


Our sweet baby - 3 weeks old today - is still a little yellow, but is eating really well, sleeping and pooping/peeing. He’s so very fetus-like to me; he really doesn’t do much else that these basic three things, and he’s all curled up all the time. I don’t feel like he’s very aware or in control of anything
either; everything he does is either an unintentional reflex (he is a noisy sleeper, and moves, squirms, twitches and jerks a lot – although when I touch him he seems to gain some control and stops), or by instinct (like rooting for a breast or sucking, and waking up to feed). It’s hard to explain what exactly I’m expecting him to do at this point, but there’s something slightly different about him compared to my other boys when they were a couple of weeks old. I haven’t looked much into it, but I’m hoping these are all part of a normal preemie behavior. (He does turn his head towards exciting noises and light, which I guess is a sign of… something.)

He does still have another week before he was supposed to be born – perhaps after his due date he will act more like a (newborn) baby?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Still struggling


I still have a disturbingly large hole in my lower abdomen that I have to stuff with fresh wet gauze every day and cover with an oversized band aid. My open wound is definitely smaller than it was when the staples were first removed, however this week I had another setback when my incision site got infected. I developed a fever, chills, my scar got red, swollen and tender, and the discharge… changed (I will spare you the details here). My doctor put me on antibiotics. I’ve spent the past few days trying to recover from this, wondering what else – possibly - can go wrong.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

...and we're back!


It has been almost two weeks since our sweet baby's birth. I wanted to post our birth story earlier, but… you know what it’s like, I’m sure, and as you will find out, things kept coming up in the way of my recovery (and writing). 

Anyways; since Thursday I have finally got to stay home and rest with the baby, and have been able to put something together. I am “back-blogging” our story, so if you want to read the whole story from beginning to end, you should start here (the day before the surgery) and read forward (by scrolling up) in time.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Open wound care and a jaundiced baby


I was sent home from the ER with very clear instructions: take a shower every day, and redress your wound right after. Call us if you see or feel any sign of an infection. 

That first shower felt really great – I had not been able to shower properly before this due to the catheter – but when I attempted to redress my wound, the whole situation became too much – I might have just realized that I was stuffing an inch and a half-deep hole in my abdomen with wet gauze - and I just about passed out. My husband, not much more confident, had to step in.

Please keep in mind that this whole time – from a few hours after surgery – all I ever wanted was to rest with my baby. But first I was in the hospital with all that this entailed, and then once home, there was a constant interruption for paperwork and check-ups. But things were about to get even more complicated. 

At our baby’s first check-up, four days after we got home from the hospital, the pediatrician noted how yellow he looked, and ordered a blood test. She called back an hour or so later with the results: his bilirubin level was 17.2 mg, and she wanted us to go to the hospital immediately to get him admitted for 2-3 days of light therapy. 

Now, I was a bit concerned too about our baby’s color, however not overly so, since all signs told us it was normal physiological jaundice that could be managed with frequent breastfeeding and some sun. His bilirubin level was high but I felt like I was just getting the breastfeeding going properly, and that if we could just have some rest and peace, everything else would follow. 2-3 days in the hospital would not only be very hard on me physically (the last place a person with an open wound should be in is a hospital, and I would not be able to get my much needed rest there), but would completely disrupt our breastfeeding progress, and hence have a negative effect on our baby’s health. 

Too tired to argue, I had Courtney take this discussion as well: “Yes, I’m afraid we are going to go against your medical advice here, doctor.” We did have to agree to come back the next day though to retest, and if his level had gone up further, that we would consider admitting him for light therapy. 

Followed 24 hours of marathon nursing – every 45 minutes to one and a half hours – accompanied by some naked time in the sun. It was tiring, but I figured that it would be worth it, not having to go to the hospital. 

The blood test the next day showed a bilirubin level of 13.4 – my effort had paid off. The doctor called back with the results and advised us to “just keep doing whatever it is that you are doing.” (That's sound medical advice, right there!) Taking care of our baby, that’s what. 

And that’s what we are going to spend Easter weekend doing, at home, in peace.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Open wound


Seven days after my surgery, my husband looked at my wound and suggested we contact my doctor, since it really didn’t look like it was healing properly (I still couldn't see the lower part of my belly properly, so I had not noticed). He confirmed that indeed, something was wrong, and told me to go to the ER. There, a few of his residents examined me, consulted my doctor, and then sent for the plastic surgeon on call. She examined my wound and told me the inevitable: there was no return – this wound had to be opened (staples removed) in the lower part, and I would have to exercise “Open Wound Care” for the next four weeks. 

Don’t know what open wound care is? My advice to you: if you type in the search term in Google, make sure you don’t accidentally click “images” or “videos” – it will scar you for life. 

Once my wound has somewhat healed, they can go in and stitch it up to make it look better, but the surgeon was very clear: it has to heal from the inside out first.

Oh boy.

To make me feel a little better, my doctor’s team removed my catheter (a day or two early), but it was little comfort since my main concern was the recovery time, and it had just been prolonged by four weeks.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Trying to recover


I can’t believe it has almost been a week. Having a baby really is like being in a casino: you lose track of time. 

All three older boys left for a sleep over last night and didn’t come back until dinner time today. I spent most of the day in a reclining position watching movies with the baby. My incision is still bleeding in the lower part – I think because I keep putting pressure on it while sitting up nursing – and I was hoping that if I took it extra easy today, the bleeding would stop. 

Part of me feels really bad for not doing anything around the house – most of you know how active I usually am, and so you can imagine how difficult it is for me to just sit still! – but the fact that I’m physically constrained by my catheter and that I currently have a body that is just begging me not to move pretty much make any of my efforts to do something futile.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Day 5: First day at home


Two major events:

Removal of incision site pad. Wow – I really do look like Frankenstein. When my doctor said he had to close me up quickly, he wasn’t kidding. But it doesn’t matter. And he knew it wouldn’t. The baby I have in my arms is worth every scar.

First post-op bowel movement. If you’ve ever had abdominal surgery, you just closed your eyes in silence, and suffered with me for a moment, remembering how excruciatingly painful it was. If you’ve never had abdominal surgery, I hope you never will have to. Your abdomen is inflated with carbon dioxide gas to facilitate visualization, and for two weeks after surgery, your body will have to get rid of this gas – it’s unbearable.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Day 4: Going home


Baby and I were discharged in the late morning with a long list of medications and instructions, the most complicated ones relating to my catheter care. I had feared before the surgery that I would have to leave the hospital with a catheter, but once I was on my way home, it didn’t seem to matter. I was alive, I was going home with a healthy baby, and I had a bladder that might need some time, but that would recover 100%.

The paperwork was not too difficult (actually, it might have been, but my husband took care of it), and campus security took us through campus in a car, all the way to our house.

Best thing about being home? 

My boys! Finally, all four of them united, and our family reunited, as it should be. 

Also; free access to our Nestle water cooler (in the hospital they kept filling up my water bottle from the water fountain in the hallway, and really, although it might be safe (at least I hope it is), it’s not very tasty water. 

Oh, and decent food. It’s true what they say. Hospital food is horrible!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Day 3: Backlash


I’m not sure how, but I kept going like this - walking back and forth to the NICU to nurse our baby - for about 24 hours. When I returned to my room in the early morning on the third day however, my incision was bleeding profusely, and I collapsed on my bed. My doctor told me I should stay in bed, but at the same time, he understood what I was doing, and knew that as long as our baby was in the NICU, I couldn't focus on my own recovery. I begged him to interfere, somehow, so that I didn’t have to walk across the hospital to nurse a perfectly healthy baby any more, but we both knew that sadly he couldn't do much.

I was in horrible pain too - to go over to the NICU I had to remove my IV, which meant I was just taking paracetamol in tablet form against the pain – not very effective when you've just had your stomach split open. 

My husband was supposed to teach this day, but I called him and told him I needed him. He came, and worked hard on discussing with every resident he could find, and argued with the attending. I don’t know why this particular expired professor was so adamant about keeping our baby in the NICU, but sadly we had to suspect that it was a matter of proving himself right in front of his students (we overheard him teaching on several occasions, and it was obvious he was no longer up to date or even remembered basic facts). Here’s an actual conversation that took place during one of the discussions:

Attending: “We need to keep him here because he has lost a lot of weight.”

My husband: “Um, he weighed 3100 grams at birth and now he weighs a little over 2900 grams, which means he has lost 200 grams.

Attending, with a serious and concerned voice: “Yes, that’s right. He has lost 200 grams.”

My husband: “That’s about 5% of his birth weight.”

Attending: “Yes, 5% - he has lost FIVE PERCENT.”

My husband: “Normal weight loss after birth is 10-15%.”

Attending: “Yes, that’s correct; 10-15% is normal.”

…OK…? 

Then, when there were no more medical arguments left, the doctor claimed that it was impossible to transfer a baby from the NICU to the nursery. There were no protocols for this kind of action. All they could do was to discharge the baby. But I was not in a state to be discharged. Things took a twisted turn that ended with the chief, who was abroad, being contacted to OK the transfer. 

In the end, towards early afternoon, I couldn’t hold back the tears any more, but cried desperately in my bed, too exhausted to go back. “Just get my baby here,” I sobbed to Courtney, and he went over, more determined than ever. I’m not sure what else went down here exactly, but within an hour, I had our little baby in my room.

He is here, he's great and I'm alive!

7 Lbs, 19.6 in. Only a little bit of a wet lung, which cleared right up. 5.5 hour surgery. More details will follow...


Monday, March 18, 2013

Day 2: Baby care - the day after my surgery


I should have spent this day reclined in bed, recovering, while nursing a new born. 

Because of a stubborn neonatologist who really should have retired years ago, instead I spent it walking back and forth between my hospital room and the NICU, and sitting in the worst chair possible for a post cesarean patient, trying to get started on nursing a sleepy preemie, full on glucose IV.

By morning the day after birth, there was nothing wrong with our baby any more - he had recovered from his wet lung completely over night. He was off the oxygen and all his levels were perfect, however the attending wanted to keep him “under observation” for an additional 12 hours. Really?! Our pleads that the best thing for the baby at this moment would be to join his mother in her room were futile. Telling the doctor about my difficult surgery, and how hard it was for me to walk back and forth, had no effect. "Why are you coming to nurse him so much? He's fine, since he has the glucose IV,” was the answer we got.

The sad thing is, all this time that I spent in the NICU, I never saw another mother feed her baby (and there were plenty of babies there). In fact, during my entire stay in the maternity ward, I never once saw a fellow nursing mother. I guess it's a matter of culture here.

But I have certain beliefs when it comes to baby care, and one of them is that "breast is best," so I set my alarm for every two hours and made the trek. Breastfeeding was difficult at first because it had been 24 hours since the birth, our baby was not hungry due to the glucose he was being administered, I was in pain, and holding the baby was a challenge due to all the tubes, IVs and monitor cables. Also, when Courtney went over to check on him in the early morning, our baby had a pacifier in his mouth, despite our specific request not to give him one. 

It took me a few hours and several attempts to get him awake enough to latch on and then even more time to get him to actually start drinking. I can't count on my fingers the number of times the staff offered me formula and/or pumping "for supplement," during this time. At best they thought I was crazy, making things so difficult for myself. I never had trouble like this before, but my experience helped me endure and I just kept trusting my and the baby’s instincts. Finally in the afternoon he really started sucking and I could hear little swallowing noises. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Day 1: Birth and surgery


This was the plan: 

1/ have six units of blood on hand, in case things start going south; 
2/ vertical incision from about 2 in. above my belly button, so that the placenta would not be disturbed in any way when delivering the baby; 
3/ separate out (dissect) uterus with placenta intact, and completely remove it, along with the cervix; and 
4/ carefully stitch me up as pretty as possible (a promise my OBGYN had made to me).

I was woken up by my husband around 7 am, who came to be there for me and the baby during the surgery. He wouldn’t be allowed into the OR, but wanted to stay just outside. He was tired and very serious. We were happy, of course, that the end of this high risk pregnancy was near, and very excited to finally meet our new baby, but the seriousness of the surgery was on both our minds.

We were brought down to the OR floor (me in my bed) where we got to chat with the anesthesiologist, who had a very elaborate plan. Since I really didn’t want general anesthesia (it makes the baby sleepy and it makes recovery take longer), she was planning to use a spinal block followed by an epidural. She was really sweet and what a great doctor to accommodate a patient like that. 

After a while I had to say goodbye to my dear husband (it was harder than usual, since 7% of our “good bye” was of the more lasting nature – we are not dramatic people, rather factual; but since there was an actual 7% mortality risk involved in this surgery, we had prepared for the worst, practically, and wanted to make sure we had said what we wanted to say, should these be our last words - better safe than sorry, right?), and was brought into the actual operating room, where I was transferred to the operating table. Since it’s very cold in the OR I was covered by a warm blanket. Then I had to sit up so that the anesthesiologist and the senior doctor could administer the spinal block and epidural (which they would start once the spinal block started wearing off: my fourth (and hopefully last!). If you don’t think about what they are doing – sticking a needle in YOUR SPINE – it’s not that bad, and it doesn’t really hurt. After I lay down again I could feel the numbness starting to spread down my legs. My arms where spread out and fastened (so that they wouldn't fall down when I was sleeping), and the anesthesiologist numbed my left hand (I already had an IV in my right hand, remember?) to put an ENORMOUS IV in (it's so large they numb your hand to put it in - think about that) – the one that would potentially give me blood, if needed. Then she put up my hair using a surgical glove, and put a surgical cap on me. In the meantime, my doctors put in the Foley catheter, cleaned my vagina on the inside (I couldn’t feel anything at this point, thank God) and prepped my belly for the incision. I was chatting with the anesthesiologist and her attending, who was a very sweet man as well (in fact, I have yet to meet an anesthesiologist who is not sweet and caring), and they asked me about my previous cesareans. I told them about my experience in Belgium and Cairo, and then felt like I should mention that I usually cry a bit during c-sections, so that they wouldn’t think there was something wrong when I did. For some reason this quite upset the senior attending, and as I took one last look at my smooth, even pregnant belly before they put a screen up to cover my view, he kept encouraging me "not to cry on a Sunday." 

At this point, the doctors asked everyone to be quiet and focus on the operation, and they began their work. Of course, as always, I could kind of see what they were doing by looking at the huge lamp above me, where my body was reflected. I watched them cut my stomach open (it's not a very clear reflection, but rather gives you an idea of what is happening), poking around for a while (I could feel quite a bit of tugging), and then I heard a cry - a strong, beautiful cry, and watched our baby being lifted out of my abdomen and handed to the neonatologist. “He’s perfect,” my doctor assured me, before continuing his work (this was really where the serious part began for the surgeons). The neonatal team had their table set up right next to me where I could see everything, and I watched as they suctioned our baby and gave him his first check-up. “This is when I cry,” I told the anesthesiologist, and he replied, “Ahhh, these are HAPPY tears?! Yes, yes, that is very good then!” He was a sweet, funny man.

Born at exactly 36 weeks, our baby weighed 3100 grams and was 50 cm tall. His Apgar was 9-10 and 10-10 after five minutes. He kept screaming the whole time they checked him, until they wrapped him up in a blanket and brought him over to me for a kiss. He looked perfect, his cheek was so soft, and I cried. I was so happy. Then they left with him, and the anesthesiologist sedated me. 

For the next five hours, I was completely out.

When I came about, I was in recovery, and my husband was there by my side, in a surgical gown. I was alive! But what else? What had happened? The anesthesiologist was there as well, and some intern who insisted I needed more morphine. I tried to tell him I felt fine, and that I didn’t want morphine because I wanted to nurse, but I couldn’t talk. My voice was half gone and all I could do was slur like a drunk. Thankfully, both my husband and the anesthesiologist stepped in and helped me. I could feel my legs, which I thought was very weird, since I know the epidural lasts for at least three hours, but I wasn’t really in any horrible pain. (I got the answer to this riddle later, when talking to my doctor.) 

After a while I was brought up to my room, and informed that although our baby was doing well, he had been admitted to the NICU for a bit of a wet lung, and would need 12-24 hours to recover. Just like Abraham. I was really sad that I couldn’t see him right away, or nurse him, but to be honest, those first 12 hours after surgery are a bit of a blur. As it turns out, the operation had been a lot longer and more complicated than anticipated, and I had lost quite a bit of blood.

My husband told me that when the surgery was over, the doctor showed him pictures of my uterus and from the operation (yes, they took tons of pictures for their study). He told him that once the baby was out, what they had seen was worse than they had ever imagined. My doctor has been working with cases like these for 15 years, and the senior oncologist has at least 30 years of experience, and neither one of them had ever seen a worse case of placenta percreta. The entire bottom of my uterus was just placenta, which had grown through the wall completely, and reached out to my bladder. Instead of 2 ½ to 3 hours, the two doctors had to work non-stop for 5 hours to dissect and separate out my uterus, which they then according to plan, removed intact with the placenta along with my cervix (since most of my blood was going to the placenta, trying to remove it from the uterine wall would have been – most likely – fatal). Then followed a repair of my bladder.

This is what my doctor told me later: at this point they had to make a choice. My doctor had promised me that since they were making such a large vertical incision (to deliver the baby from the top part of my uterus as not to accidentally run into the placenta (good call!), he was going to take great care when stitching me up, for a beautiful scar. However, since the spinal had worn out, and then the epidural, they were faced with either quickly finishing up on a small but effective dose of morphine, or having to put me under general anesthesia. My doctor, who – as it turns out - has got to know me quite well, made the call, and grabbed the stapler.

Think Frankenstein.

I didn't really care, and he knew it - the baby's health came before everything.

I went to sleep early that evening, and only woke up a few times for pain medication and when the nurses came to check my vitals. I slept all the way until 8 am, when my doctor came in and told me I could start walking a bit. As soon as I could sit up, I had a nurse take me over to the NICU in a wheel chair to see our baby.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Day T -1 to surgery


This is the day before my surgery. After check-in, I quickly got hooked up to an IV and clad in a hospital gown. I then spent the late afternoon/evening watching movies on my computer, trying to relax. I knew the doctors’ plan: to fill me up with fluids to ‘dilute’ my blood, so that when I lost blood during surgery the next day, it wouldn’t be as concentrated and I wouldn’t lose as many red blood cells.

After August’s piano concert that evening, my husband stopped by and showed me the video of August performing. I can’t believe I had to miss it! Of all the nights. He did so well, and I might have shed a tear while watching it on William’s iPod.

It was hard to sleep, that first night in the hospital – sleeping with an IV in your hand takes a bit of getting used to, and I needed to use the bathroom every other hour (I was still pregnant, remember, and had a large amount of liquid per hour entering my body). I might also have been a bit emotional about all kinds of things - having a baby the next day, saying good-bye to certain parts of my body that I knew would be removed, and my smooth, round belly, which would never look the same again. I missed the boys too, knowing that due to hospital policy, I might not be able to see them for several days.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A very bizarre evening


This is long, and I apologize for that, but it's quite a roller coaster story, so if you're into that kind of thing, read on.

Settling in at the hospital

Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I headed over to the hospital for me to be admitted. The c-section/surgery was supposed to take place today in the afternoon, but as I might have mentioned before, they wanted me to go through some preparatory treatment before the surgery, so we needed to come in a day early.

The feared paperwork was slightly unpleasant but bearable, and only took about an hour. The room I was given was clean, with space for two beds, but only my bed was in there. There was a phone, internet (after a couple of phone calls), and a TV. My doctor’s residents came in a small group and took my history, performed an ultrasound, a nurse came and chatted and explained routines, and a lab assistant came and took blood samples. I was hooked up to a baby monitor. 

Blood!

It all seemed pretty normal until the blood bank requested that my husband go down to their office to “make arrangements for the blood.” When he came back he was in a slight panic. As it turns out, the blood bank will only release two units of blood unless somebody donates blood in your name. My doctor had requested six units, so when my husband appeared at the blood bank, they basically asked him, “Where is the blood?” When my husband did not present them with six units of blood, they gave him a couple of phone numbers to other blood banks and advised him to start calling - including family and friends - and told him they had to have the blood by 10 pm.

So there we were, using the hospital phone and our cell phone, calling around – strangers and friends – trying to find people that could come donate blood in my name. It was bizarre. An added challenge is that my blood type is not the most common one: A-, but what proved to be the biggest obstacle was the fact that most people don’t actually know their blood type. We found one person, and a very blessed friend with connections found three. One of those three went to the blood bank and was turned down “because she’s European.” Turns out, they don’t take blood from Europeans, due to certain illnesses. Tell me the logic of that. I am European. You’d think I’d be more compatible with a German’s blood than any other nationality’s blood.

One of our friends, while giving blood, asked the blood bank what people usually do to find blood, or if there’s a big accident, and they told her that they never have any problems, because as soon as something happens, everyone’s uncles, cousins, siblings, aunts, etc. show up. Of course. My aunts, cousins and one sibling all have my blood type. Unfortunately, they’re thousands of miles away, plus, you know, they’re European so they couldn’t have donated blood anyway.

My husband's meeting

In the middle of our frenetic phone calling, my husband – who to top things off, is still suffering from the flu with pretty severe sinus headaches, a bad cold and fatigue – had to go to an important meeting. Now, he is in general a laid back person, but when it comes to things like these, he doesn’t have my “It will all work out” attitude, and was quite worried. So, although he really wanted this meeting to go well - instead of appearing serious and composed, he now ran in there asking people about their blood type, and then suffered through most of it, constantly blowing his nose, losing his voice, and worst of all, his trail of thought.

I didn’t know exactly how his meeting was going, of course, but I knew he was upset and that he would have trouble keeping focused the way he had wanted to. So when eventually, after a lot of phone calls back and forth in our little community, a friend of Abraham’s father, who is a doctor at the hospital, went over and talked to the blood bank, and they told him that “all was OK,” I couldn’t wait for my husband to come back to the hospital so that I could ease his mind, and tell him that the blood issue was taken care of.

The surgery is postponed

Then right before he came back, one of the residents came in and told me that the other surgeon who was going to participate in the surgery together with my OBGYN, was stuck at an airport in Europe, and was not going to make it by today, “Unfortunately, your planned cesarean/surgery will have to be postponed.” I was free to go. Incredible.

Habemus papam

Just then, I glanced at my Kindle, and saw a picture of the Sistine Chapel chimney with white smoke pouring out of it.

Discharged, still pregnant

My husband came back just moments later, and we were discharged. Home by 9:30 pm.

Traumatized four year old

Before we left home that afternoon I had sat down with Abraham and had a long talk about how I was going to stay in the hospital for many days, and how he might not see me for a while since little kids are not allowed to visit the hospital. He was not happy, but seemed to understand that he would be OK with “his boys” at home, and grandma. I shed a tear when I left, knowing it would be hard for him who has never been apart from me.

Now here I was, a few hours later.

He gave me a big happy hug and asked me about the baby, so I told him the whole story of the doctor stuck in a snow storm. Then he asked if I was going to lay down with him, so I did, and he went to sleep. He obviously thought nothing of the fact that I had told him I would be gone for a long time and then came right back: it was like he hears stories of surgeons getting stuck in snowstorms and surgeries being postponed, all the time.

Sum it up!

So there you have it. First we’re hit with this whole blood bank affair, then our surgery is postponed, a new pope is announced, and our four year old is slightly traumatized. All in one evening.

Now what?

This morning I found out that the doctor will be back tonight, that they expect me to come back in on Saturday, and that the surgery will take place on Sunday. I told my doctor, “I’m not going to hold my breath,” but he was not in a joking mood. He let me know that he too is worried, and I appreciate that, of course.

I’m spending the day performing what can best be described as a reboot of my brain. I didn’t realize how much mental preparation I had done for this surgery until it was postponed, and now I have to work up to it again. In the meantime, I must admit I’m actually relieved, since this delay means the baby will be past the crucial 36 weeks gestation when he is born.

Tomorrow I will take my mom to the store, have some nice food, and then we go again. Are you ready?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Homeschoolers' sleep pattern promotes learning

This article discussing a new study made me not feel as bad about letting the boys keep a later evening and morning schedule.

The quilt

Isn't it lovely?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Getting ready for surgery


My friends threw me a baby shower yesterday. It was a lovely high tea party, and the gifts were fun – everything from onesies to nipple cream. The greatest gift was a quilt that my book club friends had made, each contributing a square. I’m amazed I didn’t cry when I received it, but maybe I was too shocked: it is beautiful, and what a great memory!

So, here we are; last few days of calm before the storm. My doctor is expecting me at the hospital on Wednesday so that I can get ready for the surgery on Thursday. As he explained it, I will be hooked up to an IV as soon as I come in and pumped full of fluids, so that when I “lose a lot of blood, it’s diluted” and hence I “don’t lose as many red blood cells.” Sounds lovely, no? 

I feel like I’m getting ready to be in a terrible car accident.

Post illness- pre birth school work


School was a complete disaster this past week due to illness. The boys read quite a bit, but I could not get them to do anything else - not even heavy reading. Yesterday morning finally, everyone was fever free and nobody had thrown up or had diarrhea for days. Only the bad colds remained. Then William went outside for a couple of hours to see his friends, happy to be back playing, and when he came in he was exhausted, and his fever back.

So I let them sleep this morning. Later and tomorrow we’ll do some history and writing projects, and art – things I know Prof. Husband will not do with them while I’m in the hospital. 

Then they’ll start on their three week “light program,” which entails basic, independent every day work: Math, English (grammar, spelling and reading), Rosetta Stone and music practice. It's all written out in a neat schedule. They have assigned readings every day that contain sections from history and science, but there is no substantial project work planned. We can do that this summer.

Sounds good?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Last post about illness, I hope

They are still sick. Sort of.

Abraham spent most of yesterday drinking water and then throwing it up. It went on for hours, literally, until he passed out from exhaustion. This morning he got up, had a big drink of water, and then threw it right back up again. I decided to take him to the doctor (for fear of dehydration), so I brought him in the shower, and then attempted to feed him pancakes before we left. He ate two large plates, and had a huge drink of milk. Then he sat down and played blocks, showing no sign of illness. So we didn't go.

William spent yesterday sleeping, and most of last night coughing. This morning he had an egg, and then he assumed a horizontal position on the couch. He hasn't eaten anything else today, and spent most of the day asleep. If he's not better tomorrow, I might have to take him to the doctor.

August seems fine, actually. I'm glad.

Prof. Husband woke up with a scratchy throat, a temperature, an achy body and extreme fatigue. I sent him back to bed, asking him to call me when was ready for a barf bucket. He has been asleep since.

At least when they're asleep, they're not throwing up, right?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Degrees of illness this morning


38.8°C: This is William, who seems to be on the mend, slowly recovering.

38.7°C: This is Abraham, who had a rough night, drifting in and out of a fever haze, delirious, and then threw up as soon as he woke up. I’m pretty sure his actual temperature is much higher, since he basically held the thermometer between his teeth with an open mouth. Judging by general appearance and behavior though, he’s definitely fighting the flu.

38.9°C: This is the new runner up for the flu, August, who is just starting to feel bad this morning. I don’t have a good feeling about it.

37.1°C: This is me, feeling a bit under the weather, trying to stay away from the full-fledged flu. Alcohol spray is my friend.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

They are returning to life

It appears the four-year old got away with a 24 hour mild episode, however my nine-year old pretty much stayed in the position you see in the picture (from early this afternoon) for 48 hours. White face, red cheeks, hot body; coughing, blowing his nose, barfing, but mainly sleeping - drifting in and out of a fever induced haze for two full nights and two full days.

Sometime tonight he rose, got into the bath where I washed his hair and rinsed him off with warm water, and then he came out in a fresh set of pajamas and had some food: crackers, apple, pomegranate, potatoes, and eventually some chicken.

I think tomorrow will be better.

Do you remember that show?


Sometimes I visit an internet birth group with women all due around the same time as I am. Occasionally I find some useful information, and it's nice to hear from other women in the same situation as myself. Usually though, I can't really relate. Most of the other women are very young and this is their first baby. A lot of them are recently married or not yet married. Many of them - sadly -have relationship problems, and a post such as this one is not uncommon:

“I’m 34 weeks pregnant and just found out that not only has my husband been cheating on me while I’m pregnant, but today I found out that he has given me genital warts and chlamydia. What would you do if you were me?”

I call these 10 minutes of my day, my “Jerry Springer Daily.”

Breaking a toe and catching the flu, all within one week


My nine-year old is not in the best of worlds right now. Beginning of last week he got up from the couch and stubbed his toe on the coffee table (not the one that went to the market, thank goodness, but the one that stayed home). It wasn’t your average general stubbing, but a very violent one, clear-cut, and after thorough examination by both me and Prof. Husband, we concluded it was most likely broken. William is by far the most active member of this family, tough and strong, but the pain that this toe injury caused – even with pain relief - brought tears to his eyes for days. Not only was he in pain, but he couldn’t go out and play soccer, tag, pig, whatever games they play outside every day, and he had a couple of really rough days.

Just when his toe started to feel much better, around Sunday evening, he started feeling bad. It was a general uncomfortable feeling with some chest pain and aches. As the mean mother I am, I dismissed it as a mild case of Dontfeellikeschoolititus. By Monday evening he didn’t seem like himself though, and when he said he felt dizzy I got out the thermometer: 103°F!

I left the house on Tuesday morning with a friend who so generously had offered to take me mega-shopping to prepare for baby’s arrival. We were going to three stores, and we had just entered the first one when my husband called, stressed (he was getting ready to go to work): William had just thrown up all over the carpets in the living room, and all my husband had time to do before he left was put William in the bath and the carpets on the balcony. My relaxed and organized extensive shopping trip turned into a “grab what you can” marathon through Spinney's, and I came home to a house of chaos that took me most of the rest of the day to sort out. By evening, our four-year old seemed to have caught the bug, and towards bedtime, both my husband and I felt bad as well.

William hasn’t been able to keep anything down since Monday night, and has been more or less asleep for 36 hours now. It's the worst kind of flu; it includes bad body aches, high fever, a cold with a very sore throat, AND a stomach bug, all in one. I actually can’t remember ever seeing him this sick. My poor baby!

I just hope this virus is gone within the next few days (and that nobody else gets it as bad), as we’re counting down to baby’s arrival: T-8 days.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Thank you for being there


As scary as my condition is, I don’t notice it at all. In fact, I feel really good, and this pregnancy is, in all appearance, no different from any of my other pregnancies (which were all pretty good). I strive, perhaps with a little more motivation, to take it easy, take care of myself, and eat well, but that’s about it. There’s not really any effort involved, since my body is pretty much running the show - and it’s annoyingly wholesome.

Anyways; so when people – you blog readers, friends far away or near - offer me prayers or help, “What can we do to help?” I don’t know exactly what to say. I am very worried, of course, about all kinds of things (the surgery, the baby, the boys, the professor's work, the paperwork – oh, the paperwork!), but at the same time, I don’t feel like I need any extra attention or help, because, you know, I feel great. I realize that I probably will need help – or rather, our family will - but at the moment it’s difficult to imagine what that might be.

So for now, I just want you to know that I am very grateful for people around us who care. Thank you.

Pregnancy cravings

Early on in this pregnancy I decided that - this being probably the last time in my life I didn't have to count every calorie that goes into my mouth - I was going to give myself a "free pass." Enjoy something extra, while I can. I even bought treats that I usually enjoy - chips, chocolate - to accommodate my prospective self indulgence.

But then the most annoying thing happened. Feeling a little snacky, I would go into the kitchen and offer myself anything I desired, eyeing the Cadbury bar and the pretzels, and tune into my cravings. They would completely let me down, every time. My body hasn't wanted any chocolate or chips during this pregnancy, but craves fruits and calcium. All I ever desired, standing there in the kitchen - even craved - was a large apple, a banana or a tub of strawberries. Sometimes a berry smoothie.

I've eaten less sweets or crisps these past nine months than ever.

So disappointing.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Not for the faint of heart


There it is – the results of my MRI and the level 2 ultrasound are conclusive: I have placenta percreta (wiki-link here). To make a long story short, this means our baby will be born at 36 weeks gestation, and I will have some pretty extensive surgery along with the scheduled cesarean section. It will not be pretty, or easy – the surgery alone will take a few hours, and I will be spending a lot more days in the hospital than anticipated.

Not exactly how I envisioned the birth of our fourth child.

My mother is coming to stay with the boys so that Courtney can stay with me, but I still feel bad that I will not be there for them. I will miss their taekwondo belt tests and a piano recital, and Abraham will have to go to sleep without his mama for the first time in his life.

I worry about the baby. 36 weeks is awfully early for a baby to be born. What if his lungs are not ready or he has trouble nursing? The good news is that this baby seems to take after his brothers, and already weighed 2.5 kg at 33 weeks, which means that, if he adds at least the average 1 oz/day over the next two weeks, he’ll weigh around 3 kg (6.6 Lbs) at birth. Not bad for a premature baby.

I also worry about those first crucial hours after birth. If our baby is fine and doesn’t have to go into the NICU, then Courtney will take him and hold him until I come out of surgery. Hopefully I’ll be able to nurse him immediately. If there are issues, then… I don’t have a plan.

This might just be one of those situations where I’ll have to acknowledge that I cannot be in full control, but am left to trust my body, rely on my husband’s judgment, and [cringe] trust my doctors (who I’m seeing, one on one, next week). Oh, and have faith that God’s got my back.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The things a four year old wonders...


Today Abraham came up to me while I was finishing up in the bathroom, and noticed one tiny, but very blue spider vein on my belly. 

“Why do you have a blue mark on your belly, mama?” 

I told him it was from carrying the baby in my tummy. He looked shocked and asked, 

“The baby drew that mark with a marker?!” 

which made me chuckle. I explained that the baby doesn’t have any markers on my belly. Then I told him that babies can’t really use markers for a while, even after they come out of the belly, since first, they can’t hold anything, and then second, once they can control their hands, they put everything in their mouths. I told him how William got a hold of one of daddy’s red ink pens once when he was 1, and how he put it in his mouth and walked around with red ink all over his face for days. Abraham though about this for a while, looked at me, and then suggested, 

“Maybe when the baby comes out of your tummy, there’s another baby inside the baby?”

…eh, OK…?

Homeschooling challenges during a high risk pregnancy


I’m still here! Everything is fine, though I’m trying not to get overwhelmed by all that is going on right now.

The boys’ schoolwork is, considering the circumstances, going quite well at the moment. They seem to understand when the situation requires them to work independently, and have stepped up to be the big, responsible boys I always wondered if never doubted they are. When they do their own individual work without me having to “police them,” we all enjoy our common subjects so much more: our session where we work on history, science, Latin, art and logic have become the highlights of the week – the time we all sit down together and read, learn, create, think. Everyone’s day, in fact, is so much more pleasant when the work is done well, and the boys have picked up on this.

Still there are days when we get nothing done, of course, and it’s easy for the boys to fall into a lazy pace, where they – instead of work hard when I’m at a doctor’s appointment – take advantage of the fact that I’m not home and spend the morning playing around. Prof. Husband tries to apply his authority, but often he has to work or he’s at the appointment with me. These are the times that I feel guilty and think, “if they were students at ACS they wouldn’t miss a moment of education because of me,” or, “maybe it’s just not possible to be your children’s educator AND mother.” I know this isn’t true, of course. What they learn those mornings – what they are learning from all this - might not be written in their math book, or even biology book (although some of this is), but I know that every day they learn something useful that they will benefit from one day.

And believe me; we are making a learning experience out of this. The boys are not just learning about the facts surrounding conception and birth, but everything that it entails as well, including scientific research, insurance- and paperwork, cultural differences, etc.

I usually cringe when I see one of these (see image), but the other day it made me smile, because I know that our boys will graduate from high school one day, having learned all of this, along with the Pythagorean theorems, the historical facts surrounding Pythagoras, and the etymology of those words.

Oh, and the boys just watched me finish our tax return, so that's covered, I guess.