Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I thought I would be better...

Because I am a nurse, I naively assumed that when my babes were sick, my professional side would kick in and I would be calm and steady while I checked fevers, looked at symptoms objectively, medicated appropriately and called the doctor only when my own skills were exhausted. Instead, when I ended up in the ER last night with sick baby boy, I was crying almost non-stop and asking the doctor ridiculous questions such as how high did his fever have to go before they discharged us. (what?!)

Grant left for Pittsburgh on Sunday to start his new job and because the closing on our new house was delayed a week, I stayed in State College with the babes to finish up the move and wrap things up with our life here. To help with the chaos of packing and solo parenting, Purslane decided this would be a great time to start crawling out of her crib. This marvelous development = almost a hundred (we counted) times in two hours returning her to her bed and a frantic internet search to get advice from other parents on the best way to handle this. Of course, most of the blogs talked about children who got out of bed "almost a dozen times!" and parents beside themselves. Grant and I just looked at each other and shook our heads. Pursy has always been an over achiever. The first night was pure hell but we stayed firm, kept putting her back in bed and drank more Diet Coke (for Grant)and coffee (for me).

So yesterday as we were winding down a day of packing and trying to keep Pursy entertained with empty boxes as her toys are all packed, I noticed Little Man was flushed and just kind of lying in his swing staring into space. I checked his temp and he was 102 rectally. Of course the parameters that I had memorized at the pediatricians office went out of my head and I grabbed the internet. Anything more than 100.4 for babes under 3 months get a call to the doctor. I wasn't taking any chances. I grabbed Pursy out of her high chair where she was calmly eating dinner, threw her in the car after shoving snow boots on her feet because they were the first things I could find in the disaster that is her room. I called my dear friend Ann on my way out the door and told her to meet me at the hospital to pick up Pursy. I got in the car and forced myself to drive slowly. All I could think of was bacterial meningitis, RSV and other horrific unlikely causes of an infant's fever. I was terrified. All I wanted to do was talk to Grant but he was too far away to do anything except worry. So I turned on the Indelible Grace CD and listened to the hymn Dear Refuge of my Weary Soul and prayed hard. I was at the end of my strength and just asked God to be with my baby boy.

Becki met me at the hospital and stayed with me the whole time. Ann swept Pursy away and it was amazingly wonderful to know she was taken care of. Three hours later, we were being discharged with a reduced fever, normal lab work and unremarkable chest X-ray. Purslane had been dealing with a cold for the past week, and the doctor think his little body just couldn't handle the virus. He went through a normal work up and handled everything like a champ-except the lab draw during which he cried so hard his little mouth was wide open and no sound was coming out. My heart was literally breaking and all I wanted to do was grab his little body and run for the door. But we got through it, and one by one all the tests came back normal and his fever went down to normal. The nurses, techs and ER doc were wonderful- talking to him and giving me information.

We got home and Pursy was asleep in the car after playing hard for three hours with Ann and Dan. She stayed asleep while I transferred her to her big girl bed- and stayed asleep until 5AM. Thank God. I brought Knox into bed with me, propped up on his Boppy pillow where I could watch him breathe all night long. He slept soundly, waking up only to eat and go back to sleep. I finally talked to Grant and let him know that all was well. First trip to the ER over with.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Purslane and Knox: My favorite things

My delicious babes, here are my favorite things that you do or say right now.

Knox, you are a snuggly little man. When I pick you up from your bassinet or bouncy seat and you are still a little asleep, you hold your legs up close to your body, which always makes me call you my Little Mushroom. When you are nursing and your arm is down against my body, your little fingers stroke the skin on my side. After your belly is full, you love sitting in the bouncy seat as long as you are in the room everyone else is. You sit there and make sweet noises with your mouth wide open like you are just taking in the whole world at once. You laugh in your sleep like you are having the greatest dream- I love when I catch you doing this one. Of course my favorite thing you are doing right now is smiling at us. It is getting easier every day to get one out of you- sometimes all I have to do is look at you and it's like you were just waiting for the chance.

Purslane, you continue to be a fantastic and crazy little girl.Your language acquisition is astonishing and I love watching other people's reaction to you saying things like "mayonnaise" and "I have poops". You are not supposed to be able to say three word sentences yet, but there you are clear as day knowing exactly what you mean. You came running out of the back bedroom today and informed me of a "mess"- which I found was an entire pack of notecards you had taken out and strewn all over the room. You hate having shoes and socks on in the car and they come off as soon as you are in your car seat- your intensity is cute but I do hate having to hunt them down when it's time to get out. In the morning after you finish breakfast and I am still drinking my coffee, we watch Sesame Street or Muppet videos on You Tube. They are only 2-3 minutes long, so it isn't very relaxing for me but I do like hearing your one word commands for which video you want to watch. "Tar" is Adam Sandler playing a song to Elmo on his guitar, "Papaste" is Drew Breeze measuring Elmo with a tube of toothpaste, "Apple" is Amy Adams teaching us the word Ingredient, "Baball" is Carmello and Lamar teaching Grover about the word Compare and of course the ever-lovin "Feis" singing 1,2,3,4. Your other favorite media activity is the Lion King, which you have been watching way too often while we are trying to pack up the house. You love the scene where Timone, Pumba and Simba eat bugs and at least once look at me with your little nose wrinkled up and say "Eww Gross". You still love puzzles and books, looking at pictures on Mama's cell phone and playing with "Whit Miles Whit". You have recently started dancing and love to show us your "moves". You also are a fan of getting "dizzy" and seem unfazed when you bounce off walls or people after a few spins. I could keep going but am starting to sound like "that Mom"...

I am so proud of both of my babes. I can't wait to teach you all kinds of more great stuff. And once we hit Pittsburgh we can spend our days at the Children's Museum, Carnegie Science and History museums, Frick Park, the Andy Warhol Museum, the Zoo...  Your Dada is going to wish he had decided to be a stay at home Dad instead of getting this silly little PhD... but we will call him Doctor Martsolf for a little while to make him feel better.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Marital Bliss?

Because I try to be as candid as possible on this blog, I am writing today about married life post-babes. This is not always wine and roses. Or frequent romps in the hay. Or kind words and sweet kisses. Or romantic dates with hand holding and long conversations. Or homemade meals and folded laundry. Or even wanting to be in the same room together. Some days I am so tired from taking care of two babes all day that when Grant walks in the door from work and asks for a glass of water, he gets a "get it your damn self" from his bride who promised to always cherish and respect him. Fortunately those extreme moments are few but there are more days then I would like where we fall into bed without really even talking about anything other then the kids.

My older brother gave me a book before I ever met Grant called "A Severe Mercy". If you have never read it and are in or ever planning on being in a long-term relationship with another human being- stop reading and go out and buy this book. It was written by a man named Sheldon Vanauken, who was a friend of C.S. Lewis. The book is about Sheldon and his wife Davy and their journey through life, love and eventually death. Throughout the book, Sheldon speaks about something he and Davy called the "creeping separateness" which they considered to be the greatest threat to their marriage. It is the idea that very rarely does one big event cause the end of a relationship. Even things like stepping out come after months maybe years of the individuals becoming more and more comfortable with not sharing everything with their spouse. The slow steady rise of individuality and the decline of the couple.

When I read this book for the first time as a single woman, I did not understand how two people who were wildly in love and enjoying all the benefits of life lived WITH someone could let themselves gradually fall apart. When I met Grant and he pursued me as he did, I knew I had found someone who shared my same desire to be together on everything. And over the past 8 years we have heard from numerous people that our intimate relationship is both enviable and annoying. We literally do not make any significant decisions without the other person. We decided that we would never do things like go out to lunch or spend any significant one on one time with someone of the opposite sex. This has caused tensions in both of our work situations because not everyone shares this commitment of boundaries. But we have seen too many relationships fade away because it is too easy to find comfort elsewhere when life is messy at home. So we accept the criticism and enjoy the trust that exists from knowing exactly who each other is spending time with. My male friends are all friends of Grants as well and vice versa.

Having children was the first time I began to understand how the creeping separateness could creep in. Grant is a very involved father but even he can not understand what my days are like at home. I went from a full time Cardiac nurse working 40+ hours/week in a high stress job to being a stay at home mother of 2 in less then 20 months. Sometimes the most difficult task I accomplish all day is figuring out how to get breastmilk stains off the couch. And even though I may not leave the house all day and still be in my pajamas at noon, the work I do at home is more intense then any shift in the ICU. I am raising children and there are no lunch breaks or vacations from that. I am ON all the time because if I lose my temper or miss opportunities to teach Purslane important life skills, it affects her. And I don't expect myself to be perfect but I am keenly aware that I always have eyes on me.

So when Grant comes home and wants to talk about his dissertation committee, I don't always have the attention span or the energy to listen to him. In the evenings when he wants to play cards or even spend time just listening to records and talking- I want to either watch TV or go to bed. Let's not even talk about the logistics of jumping into bed together. With a 7 week old sleeping at the foot of our bed in his bassinet and Pursy needing at least 5 songs sung to her while being rocked to sleep, the magic hour of having sex often disappears in exhaustion or just not connecting enough to want to be intimate. We decided not to move Knox to his crib until we move because we didn't want him to have to adjust twice in three weeks to a new sleeping situation- which was a kind decision for him- but came with repercussions for us as a couple having any privacy.

It is hard. Hard to find time to be together just as Grant and Christy- married people. Hard to find the energy to find out what the other person has spent their day doing and TRULY care. Hard to connect on things other then being Knox and Pursy's parents. And that is an important part of who we are right now, but that won't keep our marriage together. At our core we are still those crazy in love kids who think the other person is the bees knees, we just don't always have the energy to show it. And it is hard when I realize I haven't kissed Grant all day or I listen to myself snarking at him about leaving his shoes on the floor.

So we just keep talking. And sometimes all I can muster up is to tell Grant that I WANT to have the energy to sit up with him after the babes are asleep, but I just don't have it in me. And the great guy that he is, he kisses me on the forehead and tells me all he needs to know is that I want to.

We will fight the creeping separateness and his will be the hand I am holding when I am 85 and can't remember what my name is or how I got here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Santa Claus is better than Jesus (c)

I wanted to copyright the title of this blog post just to annoy my dear friend Becki who made me promise I wouldn't write about why Christians hate Santa Claus. I am doing this for one purpose; I am going to force her to start her own blog so other people don't steal her good ideas. (by the way, for those of you who noticed my brilliant semicolon, I quote Kurt Vonnegut who said "Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college").

Life has been good around here. The move to Pittsburgh grows ever closer so my days are filled with packing and hanging with our people. I try not to say goodbye too many times, as I hope that most of my friends will come to visit us before too long. I am not above guilt and shame to make this happen... And it shouldn't be too painful... we will have the Children's Museum, Pittsburgh Zoo, good Thai food and the Incline, after all. (oh, Amanda and Kim?? You read my blog? How convenient... see you soon!)

Ever since I got my big girl camera, I have been trying to capture every adorable (and not so adorable) thing Pursy and Knox do. This has made me a little into the annoying "wait right there!" amateur photog who runs for the camera dozens of times a day. It's totally worth it though, when you capture things like this:

 Aw, shucks...
 Little Man started smiling!!!
 A little light reading on the potty.. this is Grant's Economist. Reading about the economy in Greece if I remember correctly...
 Knox and Monroe take on the world together...

 Pursy with egg on her face...

 I was wondering why Pursy wasn't complaining about nap time until I snuck to check on her...
 Regress much?...
 Cozy on the couch watching Lion King..

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Birth Story

I cannot believe my little man is six weeks old. I feel like he has been part of our family forever.. or maybe just because since the night I saw that little pink plus sign I wanted him to be here already. The intense way I anticipate the arrival of my babes neither one of my children can ever accuse me of not wanting them. The entire last trimester of my pregnancy with Knox I was longing for sleepless nights, poopy diapers and the return of those horrendous nursing bras. I LOVE my babies and even love the newborn mushroom stage- where all they do is eat, sleep and cry. And I thought I would love love being pregnant- that I would become the calm and nurturing earth mother who endured all inconveniences with a quiet whisper of thankfulness for the sacred vessel that is my womb.

Anyone who spoke to me for longer then 10 seconds while I was pregnant is already laughing. I hate being pregnant. The only good thing about it to me is the gorgeous prize at the end. So here is the story of the arrival of my second gorgeous prize- my son: Knox Thomas Steele.

My EDD (estimated due date) from my doctor was October 15th. But being a nurse and a lover of gathering information, I had convinced myself that because this was a second pregnancy and MY calculated dates had me at 40 weeks on October 1st that my babe would arrive the first week of October. Therefore I started preparing for the start of labor the last week of September. Basically, I set myself up for misery. Every day from September 26th on was like a Christmas morning that never came. I woke up every morning crushed that I did not have a baby overnight. I started with weekly OB appointments the middle of September and every time the doctor checked my cervix, I was convinced they would tell me (in a shocked voice!) that I was almost 10 cm dilated and needed to get to the hospital immediately. This never happened and my due date came and went. I literally sat on the couch like a beached whale whimpering about the cruel, cruel universe.

Grant's parents came to visit the weekend of Oct 15th, partly to hang out with us for homecoming weekend at Penn State and partly to meet their new grandchild that I had convinced everyone would be here waiting for gifts and adoring. Saturday my dear friend Becki brought me over her old wives tale- eggplant parmasean- that she had refused to bring before my due date. (When she told me this, I almost broke up with her) I love vegetables of all shapes and sizes... except one. I hate eggplant. But guess who ate every bite of that disgusting meal?? This desperate pregnant woman. No baby.

Sunday morning I woke up with contractions that took my breath away. We waved a happy good-bye to the grandparents, Grant threw me in the car and we drove to the hospital. I should have known it wouldn't end well when I had the clarity of mind to yell at him for not running red lights on the way... not because I was in such hard labor that I was afraid of delivering en route, but because I wanted breaking the law to be part of Knox's birth story. *just a note to girls who have never gone through labor- when true labor is going on, you are not thinking about telling the story later- you are just trying not to die* We arrived at the hospital, by which time the strong contractions were long gone. But we went upstairs anyway and one disappointing hour later, we were walking out the front door led by my enormous 40 week+1 day belly. I was so upset that Grant offered to take me to Cracker Barrel for breakfast.. only a pregnant woman can dry her tears on pecan pancakes and feel better.

I decided to wait him out. I started the new week determined to enjoy my last few days with Purslane as my only babe, so we went to the library, the park, the farmer's market, read a million books and put together a thousand puzzles. I spent lots of time with my hand on my belly feeling little man move around. As much as I wanted to meet him, I knew that he and I would never be this connected again- literally sharing a body. So I tried to enjoy it.

Wednesday morning at 1230AM I was woken up by contractions that, again, took my breath away. I walked into the bathroom where I discovered that (I thought) my water had broken. Having been to this rodeo once before, you would think that I would remember that some things are hard to miss- like your membranes rupturing- but being 4 days past dates and desperate to go into labor, I decided it was the real deal and woke up Grant. We waited a little bit, not wanting a repeat of a few days ago, then when the contractions intensified and got closer together, we started calling our list of peoples who had agreed to be woken up in the middle of the night to come stay with Purslane while we went to the hospital. Five calls later, no one answered their phone and we got desperate. We started calling college students. First try, Grant's cousin Rachel answered the phone in her sweet (and very awake) voice and was at our door in 5 minutes. I started to give her instructions about what to feed Pursy for breakfast, and she shooed me out the door. I hadn't realized until that moment how panicked I was about leaving my baby girl- she was my only child thus far and even in labor I didn't want to leave her. But off we went.

The 10 minute ride to the hospital, the contractions stayed consistent and strong. I was still able to be excited inbetween them, and I squeezed Grant's hand as we talked about what a great birthday October 19th was going to be. We hit the ER doors, and... everything stopped.

As the ER nurse escorted us through the halls to Labor and Delivery on the 4th floor, I tried to will my body to start contracting again. I walked faster, breathed harder- hoping for something, anything. I could not believe we were about to have a repeat episode of false labor and I was going home with no baby. The nurse met us at the door, escorted us to L&D room 5 and hooked me up to the monitor. 20 minutes later, I had 2 nice contractions that I only knew I had because the little tracing line on the monitor told me so. The nurse came in and told me that the doctor recommended I walk for an hour to see if anything started again,and if not she was going to send me home... again. I took one lap around the unit then told Grant this was ridiculous- I had been walking miles a day for the past month without going into labor, why did I think walking in the hallway was going to do anything? I started cursing like a 15 year old boy, ripped off my hospital gown and got dressed. Halfway down the hall when Grant caught up with me, he told me I needed to at least let the nurse know I was leaving. We told her our plans, and she asked me to sit tight for another minute while she called the doctor again. Twenty minutes later, the doctor was sitting at the foot of my bed while I told her if she didn't break my water I would do it myself. She advised me to wait... reminded me that my first labor was quick and natural and mother nature often knows best. I told her I was done and was willing to have a c-section if it meant this was the last minute I would ever have to be pregnant. I think she knew I meant business at that point, and agreed to break my water- with the understanding that if labor did not begin naturally after that then in 6 hours she would start the induction process, which meant pitocin, maybe cervidil and more then likely pain medications to manage the intense pain of induced contractions. I agreed, she broke my water and I settled in.

By settling in, I mean I put on my slippers grabbed Grant's hand and we started walking the halls. A solid hour of walking and some small contractions had started to return. *this is the point in the story where I start to get a little hazy about details* Another hour and we were stopping to breathe through the contractions. Around 5AM I got back into bed to be checked and monitored. At that point, I was 5 cm dilated and contractions were about 3 minutes apart and growing in intensity. 30 minutes later, I told Grant I needed to go to the bathroom NOW. He looked at me suspiciously and asked "do you have to poop or push?". I said I didn't know. He ran into the hallway and yelled for the nurse. When she came in, he told her that my labors progress quickly and she should check me again. I was 8cm and labor was in full force.

I do remember the recessed lighting on the ceiling of the delivery room, because that was my fixed point to stare at while I rode the contractions. I also remember Grant holding my hand and coaching me through every one- reminding me to stay relaxed, breathe and encouraging me that every contraction brought our son closer to our arms. The pain of labor contractions is so consuming and unbelievable- I had forgotten my labor with Pursy until this moment and then all I could think about was getting through each excruciating rise and fall when I would have at least a few seconds of relief.

When the doctor came in, she checked me and I was 8 1/2 dilated but the urge to push was so strong, I couldn't stop myself. Because she was afraid I would tear my cervix pushing past it, she manually stretched me through the last 1.5 cm of dilation. That was the most intensely painful thing I have ever experienced. By the time I was fully dilated and every push was a desperate attempt to push him out, I could not handle the pain anymore. I remember feeling desperate and frantic. Grant had one leg and the nurse had the other, and they were holding my knees to my chest while I put everything I had in me into every push. I remember being afraid of the screams coming out of me at one point- they were feral and completely out of my control. I have heard some women say delivery is an out of body experience, but not for me- I definitely was right there. And then came the blessed release of his body leaving mine. It is a beautiful emptiness because a moment later, he was on my chest. I could hold him, feel his little body and touch his face. Grant was right beside us and the three of us were together at very long last. They let me hold him for a good hour before taking him to the nursery to be bathed and weighed. It was a precious hour- everything still so fresh and brand new- both of us exhausted and so crazy happy. We had a son.

I wrote Grant a letter the night after Knox was born. The husband of a woman going through natural labor deserves all the praise in the world. He was my solid place and no words will ever describe how much I love him.Our family feels complete with Purslane and Knox and no woman was ever so blessed.

 Yeah... If you look like this you probably aren't in labor...
 The first few moments.

  Knox Thomas Steele. 8 pounds 9 ounces of pure baby boy happiness.