Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Update

It looks like we will be able to get him in to see some good doctors in a timely manner. Thank you all for your wonderful support. It means so much!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Stroke

Mostly I'm tired of communicating with everyone--telling them all how he's doing, what he's been through, what the doctors say. Not you--not any of you. (I'm serious.) But there are so many people who, of course, want information. And it's not like you can just write on facebook, "My husband had a stroke. We're ok." Only of course, we're not--my husband is a writer, possibly the most beautiful writer in the world, and the stroke affected his speech and writing and language. And he will recover, but we don't know how long it will take and we don't know how much he'll recover. Everyone is optimistic, but maybe they're always optimistic? Or maybe they have no idea how intelligent he is and what a great writer he is and they just think he's average? So he's probably back to average already. But I want him to recover back to extraordinary, which is what he was before. How does this affect his role at his job? His future career directions? We don't have a clue.

And I'm tired of my three-year-old who has been through so so much--a new sibling, mama in the hospital, mama recovering, all of which we prepared him for as best we could. And now this, for which we haven't--couldn't--prepare him. For which we were not ourselves prepared. Daddy in the hospital, recovering. Mama on her last nerve even more than usual, yelling at everyone when any little thing goes awry.

And I'm tired of talking to, consulting with, calling doctors.

And I'm tired of nursing my newborn--constant nursing, all day and night. Picking him up to burp him when my whole body aches. Sticking him back in his bassinet. And all the other newborn things--I have the best breast pads in the world and even they are leaking. My other pads are leaking, too--it turns out it's nearly impossible to buy pads in a hospital, oddly enough.

But I don't mean to be too negative, because we've been counting our blessings, too, as they say.

Last Saturday, I was rounding up the kids for our first family outing--we were going to go to the farmer's market. I dressed them in matching green Little Brother/Big Brother shirts, a gift from their grandmother, which I can't look at now without getting sick to my stomach. After a family breakfast with Nana and Papa, Francisco and I were the last two at the table. He started trying to tell me that he didn't feel well, but he couldn't get the words out right. He poured some water out of the wrong side of the pitcher, into his milk glass. I immediately called to my dad to get him to help Francisco lie down in a bedroom to rest. My father works with stroke patients and asked Francisco, "Has anything like this ever happened before?" "What month is it?" He couldn't answer. He just kept saying, "I'm ok; I'm ok," which was the furthest thing from the truth. After I sent Chester out of the room, then calmed down his tantrum from being sent out, I asked my dad if he thought we should go to the hospital and he said yes. He drove Francisco and I drove the baby. When I saw my father again in the ER, he had tears in his eyes.

They immediately saw Fransciso in the ER (the neurologist videoconferenced in--and the nurse or LPN originally read off someone else's stats to her--glad they caught that) and administered TPN, which breaks up the clot. They sent him via ambulance (the weather was too bad for a helicopter) to the bigger hospital 40 minutes away. He was strapped to a stretcher and couldn't really speak--at least not anything that made sense. When we arrived at the next hospital, they immediately took him into the OR and gave him an angiogram (through a catheter in the leg), which could physically break up the clot, if necessary. (I had to give them consent that I knew a whole list of things might happen including death.) (And by immediately, I mean after 6 or 7 doctors, nurses, etc. came in and asked him the same questions, which he couldn't answer, which was difficult to watch. And also like something off of a television show.) But the medicine had done its thing and the clot was broken up--a small piece lodged somewhere where they couldn't reach it. I don't know if this is good or bad, but I think it's what strokes do.

This whole time, Francisco didn't know his name. He couldn't say what pictures were of. He couldn't touch his nose when they asked him to. But he could look at me and hold my hand and so that was the way we communicated. We understood each other, and it all happened through holding hands and looking at each other with love.

Tomorrow morning is Saturday and I don't want to go down for our regular family breakfast.

By the end of that first day, he remembered his name and my name and our children's names. All I could think about that first day was how sorry I was for ever being mean to him and how I would never be mean to him again (yeah right--I lasted six days). How happy I was that he was alive and beside me. And how much I love him.

We spent four days in the hospital, as they ran tests, trying to figure out why this might have happened to my husband, who had no risk factors for stroke and is very young. Francisco made more jokes than ever in the hospital, as a way to make it through a trying time--and I've never been more grateful for his sense of humor. They found a hole in his heart--a PFO--which 30 percent of the world has and which might have been the reason for his stroke (88 percent chance, according to the doctors) and which we now have to figure out whether or not to have closed. (As far as we understand, the literature on these procedures is controversial.) We want to see better neurologists and cardiologists than the ones at this hospital, but the ones we called up in Philly are scheduling into January and the procedure should be done in October. That's something that we still have to sort out. (Dear reader, if you have an in with any excellent cardiologists or neurologists at highly ranked hospitals--such that you could get us an earlier appointment--we are all ears!)

We were staying with my parents for my maternity leave, and we were more grateful than ever for that decision and for their help: Dad and other friends took care of our three-year-old, while Mom came to the hospital with me to hold our new baby so that I could nurse him in between talking to doctors.

(The ICU nurse made me feel like a bad mother for taking our two-week-old to the ICU, but what was I supposed to do? He doesn't even like pacifiers, so I don't know if he'd even take a bottle. And pumping every two hours would be way more stressful than nursing him. It sometimes felt like I was deciding between my baby and my husband. Thankfully, he didn't get sick from the hospital. And also, thankfully, he's a dream baby. And I'm also grateful that the baby's birth and my recovery were easy. And that the stress of all this didn't make my milk dry up--the baby seems to be gaining weight at a record pace. Boy, it is hard to get enough food in the hospital though--my mom mostly made sure there was enough there for me to eat and drink, but the day I did in the hospital without her involved a long trek, carrying the baby, to the unappetizing cafe where I just bought all I could to make it through the day--and sadly I didn't even make it there in time for breakfast; I had really been in the mood for calorie-laden breakfast food. I lost weight in the hospital, despite my best efforts.)

The day before Francisco's stroke, my parents had decided against a weekend away after my father had trouble sleeping the night before--we were so glad that they were in town when it happened. My parents are an incredible support--we simply owe them everything and could never repay them. They made it (and continue to make it) possible for me to devote most of my energy to Francisco. We are very fortunate to have parents like these.

I'm sure there's a lot more to say about the longest week of my life--a week that was also full of love. I don't think I've ever loved Francisco more. But there's a lot to do, so perhaps more later.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Loving Pennsylvania

Besides Chester being spoiled by lots and lots of time playing outside and making crafts with Nana and visiting the neighborhood horses with Papa, some of the other delights of (temporarily) living in PA, in the house in which I grew up:

1. Chester gets to read many of the same books and play with many of the same toys I played with as a kid because my mom saves everything. And listen to the same kid's songs played on the same tapes!

2. We are living in the apartment in which I lived until I was 14, drinking coffee out of the same cups each morning that my parents used.

3. The kid gets to play in the same creek and woods that I played in as a kid. He even has his own "secret place," which was something we all had as kids.

4. The green beans from the garden are incredible. I think I would be happy if they were my only food. And the raspberries from the garden and the black raspberries that Ilana picked.

5. I got to give birth in the same hospital in which I was born. And after the birth, friends and relatives came to visit--bearing gifts! What a joy to have support and friends to visit with.

And endless other things.

Friday, August 10, 2018

A Random Assortment

~ On Madrid's Plaza Mayor. It's been too long. 

~ I love basically everything Alan Jacobs writes:

The general failure to understand this point leads to a pathology of thought that is extremely common but rarely acknowledged for what it is. You see it when people say that they’re all about empowering women’s voices, but of course pro-life women aren’t really women at all. You see when people who advocate for true freedom for black people in America say that a black person who supports Trump isn’t reallyblack at all. You see it when Republicans call other Republicans RINOs. You see it when people say that Catholics who don’t support the Pope against ancient tradition aren’t really Catholic, and when others say that those who don’t support ancient tradition against the Pope are the ones who aren’t really Catholic. You see it when people want to celebrate the beautiful unity of Christianity, but those who don’t hold our views about sexuality aren’t really Christians at all. “Of course we mean not tolerated ——, that we extirpate.” 

~ I love basically everything Alan Jacobs writes. (On the public and the university.)

~ "Motherhood in the Age of Fear"

~ Must read Elizabeth Hardwick

~ Watched the first episode of Making It while in labor and thought it was great.

~ Fascinated by this nationalized response to loneliness in England.

~ I love Kate Wagner (and rooms!):

Nothing is more maddening than trying to read or watch television in the tall-ceilinged living room with someone banging pots and pans or using the food processor 10 feet away in the open kitchen. 
The best thing about the closed floor plan? It offers what it has always offered: aural, olfactory, and spatial privacy. Humans have always needed the sense of comfort and refuge that defined rooms provide. That may explain the rise of “man caves” and “she sheds”—closed spaces that rebel against the open concept. 
Instead of these—space-wasting, specialized rooms that are used relatively sparingly—why not just build common rooms with walls and doors? If you want to escape something unpleasant, you can do so without feeling banished or isolating yourself from everyone else. Sometimes, true freedom means putting up a few barriers.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Birth

What a strange birth experience.

I had experienced contractions from approximately 34 weeks--sometimes two or three days a week I would have contractions and then nothing on the other days. Some painless, some uncomfortable, some really hurting my back. All intermittent. The midwife said when they don't stop, you'll know it's labor.

On the day of baby's birth, I had a bunch of contractions over breakfast, which led to me being a really difficult mother to my child and really drawing some hard lines I shouldn't have drawn. Lots of tears--I insisted on one spoon rather than two and didn't allow extra honey.

The rest of the day I had contractions on and off--sometimes every twenty minutes, sometimes two an hour.

I did the Miles Circuit to try to put the baby into a good position and leaned on an exercise ball while reading the first half of A Memoir of Mary Ann, which I think fortuitously showed up in my online library account that day. So good--and so good to focus on people who have a much more difficult situation during one's own difficult situation.

At 5:40 I went down for dinner and suddenly my contractions were 3 minutes apart for about 20 minutes. I left the table to have the contractions in the hall in between meatloaf and green beans and yellow squash. Some of them were intense, so Francisco finished his half (!) meatloaf quickly and we went upstairs to call the midwife.

I finished packing quickly while I thought he was calling the midwife. It turns out he was finishing up some work emails. Miscommunication. I yelled at him (long suffering husband), and he called the midwife. She was very calm, and I wasn't really having more contractions--she said I could come in and she could take a look or I could stay home and labor as long as I liked. She suggested a bath and some positions on the exercise ball to move the baby as I was having back labor again (it seems like that's just how I feel contractions). I got some really big contractions that I didn't know what to do with. I didn't know how to let Francisco help me, either (last time we were in labor together for days and we had the contractions down to an art).

I hopped in the tub and there at the end of a contraction, I felt the urge to push. I thought, that can't in a thousand years be right--my mind is playing tricks on me because the urge to push came in a bathtub during my last labor. But I got out, dried off, got dressed, and ran to the car, where Francisco once again called the stupid answering service (which takes 10 minutes) while driving to let them know we would be arriving.

I remember thinking, I do not want to get into the car feeling like this, but I don't really have any choice. So I got in. I remember thinking, why is he only going 45 (the speed limit) and not 50, but as I yelled, Francisco soon became aware of the gravity of the situation. He drove faster, I think passing someone on a one-lane road, turning left in front of some other cars, running a stop sign, and pulling into the one spot reserved for people giving birth in front of the hospital. He got a wheelchair, bumped me through the automatic revolving door, pushed me through the lobby as I yelled at the top of my lungs and (he tells me) people turned to stare (I don't care). He pushed me onto the elevator and, straight out of Grey's Anatomy, a gaggle of people were waiting to show me a room, help me into bed (after that contraction was over) and tell me immediately and unrelentingly to push. I was so confused--it's really time?

Oh, I forgot to mention that in the car, there was one especially enormous contraction where my water broke everywhere. We need to remember to clean up the seat.

Back to pushing--we left for the hospital at 6:45, arrived around 7. The baby came out at 7:27. They intensely told me to push and push and then the baby came out. And they had me reach down and help catch him. He came out all grey and vernix-y and smelled oh so wonderful--I had them not wash it off and am glad I enjoyed that smell that told me he was mine for two days. And they gave him to me for an hour of nursing and holding and this was just a way better birth than last time. I was definitely not overwhelmed by love and happiness and all positive emotions, but also not just barely alive and only able to tend to my wounds. I was happy to meet my baby and I like him--so the emotions are basically far, far more positive than the first time around.

Of course, I slept max 2 hours at the hospital because that is just a whole lot of stuff to process really quick. Plus, I was interested in not hemorrhaging again, so I peed compulsively every two hours. Plus, the baby kept pooping and making baby noises. Plus, the nurses woke me up three times overnight--including for a superfluous blood draw at 5:30 a.m. that I'm still mad about. All that to say, when I would finally fall asleep for thirty minutes, someone would wake me up. But they let us go home after 24 hours for good behavior, so we got to sleep in our own beds the next night. The baby only woke up twice the next night, which made me the happiest (and far more rested) mama in the whole world. Now for newborn life together.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Pregnancy Diary

30 weeks

He's suddenly gotten enormous and his kicks ripple across my whole belly. 

I'm waking up very easily at night now and having a hard time getting back to sleep. It doesn't help that all this travel means Kid #1's sleep is very fragmented, too. 

I can tell my lung capacity is diminished because I can't make it all the way through a hymn.

31 weeks

Don't like my new OB. (Need to chill and wait to see if I like the midwives in the practice, who I hope I'll be dealing with anyway.) Talking about this with some friends and relatives means that I'm actually thinking about the reality of giving birth. I've decided instead on an elective c-section, because I'm petrified about going through the birth process again. Truth: I'm super stressed. But not true that I'm having an elective C. 

Can't count the mornings that the kid who is out and about in the world has woken me up at 5:30 or 5:45. I can usually get him to go back to sleep, but not myself. This is truly unpleasant and makes me panicky about the possibilities when the new baby is also out and about in the world. I guess sufficient to the day is the evil thereof, right? 

32 weeks

We are useless at names this time around. I'm starting to get worried!

I think I need to call it with tennis from here on out--so much pain and pressure afterward and the next day!

​I have to pee every 5 minutes. ​

33 weeks

Nothing like waking up with a muscle cramp! Also waking now to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I guess the sleeplessness, which I anticipate continuing for a year and a half, has begun. 

A follow-up ultrasound shows everything normal after the previous ultrasound, where they wanted to keep an eye on the baby's kidneys. 

The baby is head down and has been most of the time for a while, which is reassuring. Of course, he is also turned the way he was last time that led to a long, slow, painful back labor. Need to get him to switch to the other side. Supposedly this involves never reclining on a couch, which I don't seem to be able to move away from. 

10 p.m. Should I have a drink of water to quench my parched throat? Or does the fact that by doing so I'm signing an absolute guarantee that I'll wake up to pee mean I should be thirsty all night instead? (Had the water--still thirsty.) 

I vacillate by thinking I look like the goddess of fertility, like Beyonce, and feeling incredibly put out whenever I have to get up from laying down. 

​34 weeks

I'm contemplating voluntary bed rest for the duration of this pregnancy so I can focus my attention on gestating, and an elective c-section at the end of it. All I think about is the impending labor, and there are so many bad memories from last time that are all coming back. ​

So much anxiety about labor and delivery--this is the second night I've had bad dreams about it. It doesn't help that I'm not thrilled about where I'll be delivering, and that they don't seem to be super interested in informing me about their procedures. I guess that they make you get monitored and hooked up to machines for about twenty minutes out of every hour. I don't think this will work for me--the only thing that let me make it through last time was one position that gave me less pain than the others. If I were forced to be in or around a bed, it hurt way way worse. The only alternative to this hospital in this area though is a certified nurse midwife who works out of her home. This makes me nervous, too. It's frustrating not to have good options. 

Lots of contractions this week on vacation. Definitely don't want to give birth far from home--and some of these contractions hurt! Walking in the sand really kicks then off.

35 weeks

Oh my sleep--between having contractions at night and so drinking to get rid of them, then waking to pee, then not falling back asleep, then being awakened by the thousands of people who live downstairs and my husband moving around in his sleep and the baby moving around in my belly--this is torture. Especially because I normally do not have any problems sleeping. I just need a sound proof room in which to lay in a bed and grow this baby. 

More contractions--including ones with back pain. So much anxiety that the kid will come early. Need to chill out. Also the baby needs to stay in till I can get this paper written. 

36 weeks

​Me: Super duper grumpy and uncomfortable and needy. 
Francisco: Is it possible you're further along than we thought? 
Me: No. ​

So many early contractions. For an anxious person, constantly being on baby watch is stressful. Also, I haven't yet sorted through Chester's old baby things, nor bought diapers, etc. Must prepare. Must finish this paper. If I don't prepare, the baby can't come, right?? Also--I forget what to pack for the hospital. 

37 weeks

Acid reflux. Trying out an afternoon ice cream alternative to avoid it in the evening. (Not that ice cream has ever given me reflux--it's usually the magic sweet food in this regard. But I've been waking up several nights in a row to sleep-eat a Tums, so am willing to try everything. Also, why would Tums contain sugar? They need a tooth-friendly alternative.)

Is intensely disliking all people and wanting to be alone a pregnancy phase or just an aspect of my personality? 

Francisco has decided the baby is coming soon. Why?! It could be anytime in the next month or so!

38 weeks

Acid reflux, hemorrhoids, moving slowly and lots of resting. Life is much better when I can stay in the AC. Not really sure how people lived in the olden days (and had many more children than two). I've gotta be the wimpiest pregnant lady ever. Still, better in than out--I have no illusions that all will be better post-birth!

​Woke up three times from contractions last night but this morning all is still. Weirdest lead up to labor ever. Contractions don't even make me think anything is happening anymore. ​

39 weeks

I made it to whatever 39 weeks is--full term? Gonna start getting anxious for the baby to come out in a week, I bet. I think I'm pretty crabby though--having contractions and never knowing when it's going to start for real is pretty emotionally exhausting. Thank goodness for patient husbands. 

Everyone wants to know when the baby is coming. Which would be fine, if I knew. I think I just want to be like a cat and slink off to the woods, away from everyone and come back with kittens. I guess our neighbors asked Francisco this morning as he went out for a run if he drove me to the hospital this morning, since they saw Nana waving at the car. Hilarious. I was taking the kid to preschool. And, Francisco pointed out to them, he wasn't planning to drop me off at the hospital and return home, but to stay there with me. 

​I'm at the stage of pregnancy where none of my maternity clothes fit--only about three shirts and two dresses--one of which is a housedress that I would never let anyone outside the house see me in. So frequent laundry. 

I'm so done with this--I'm not really doing anything except existing as a non-helpful blob. I think an induced coma would probably be better for everyone. ​

Sick. I think Francisco and I have a mild case of the stomach flu--it's lasting me 4 days, though, which is just adding to my fatigue. 

40 weeks

A facebook acquaintance due after me had her baby before me. This is deeply unfair, should be prohibited, and of course led to tears. 

I wish there were a baby name we liked. 

We celebrated due date date by going out for pad thai, which I've been craving, and which was a mistake in the (otherwise charming) town in which we're currently living. It was gross. But it was nice to celebrate rather than just cry. 

I'm reading a lot about Auschwitz at the moment for work, and it's really helping me keep impending labor/life with newborn in perspective. 

40+2 

I'm trying to relax and realize that wishing for the baby to come won't do anything and to trust that the baby will come when he's ready, but boy oh boy--this is just too emotional. This morning started with my cervical plug and an hour of close contractions (very painful in my back) and now absolutely nothing. 

Yeah--this is probably it--and it's probably exactly like my last labor--excruciating back pain from the beginning, proceeding ever so slowly and going on for days. Just had a long cry in the shower at the prospect of another labor like my last. Now to spend my day relaxing. (I already ate all the ice cream.) 

To be continued...

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Rom Coms

We've been on a romcom kick lately and it's been very enjoyable:

The Bridget Jones Trilogy


Eminently watchable. I'm pretty sure this is the second time I've seen them all, and this time I watched them in reverse order and they held up well. It helps that I have my own Colin Firth to watch them with.

Maggie's Plan



It starts out totally predictably, but adds a few unexpected twists. It's endlessly talky, which is just really too much. (How could a movie with Greta Gerwig and Ethan Hawke be otherwise?) Julianne Moore is truly, truly terrible when she's doing accents. (I think she's just one of my least favorite actresses ever. But especially when she's doing accents.)

Moonstruck


I'd never ever heard of this and ended up liking it a lot. It's sort of novelistic in its repetitions and patterns. Cher and Olympia Dukakis are great. And the filming is artistic and interesting. This one was a really unexpected treat.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Quote

Gotta love when the readings remind you of your impending doom:

"Quaking seizes them there;
anguish, like a woman’s in labor,
As though a wind from the east
were shattering ships of Tarshish."

Friday, July 13, 2018

A Random Assortment

~ On declining fertility rates in South Korea.

~ "The Basic Decency of Republican Self-Government," on TME.

~ On Donald Hall.  (I didn't know that The Ox Cart Man, which we love, started as a poem! We also like The Man Who Lived Alone.)

~ "Everyone is cancelled" reminds me of Tocqueville.

~ Wow--I love her: LeGuin on conflict/change.

~ The U.S.'s Opposition to a WHO Breast-Feeding Resolution is deeply disturbing.

~ I love this and really hope that when we buy a house it will be a nice little house.

~ "Why people with disabilities want bans on straws to be more flexible" (via Sayers) and "Starbucks bans plastic straws, winds up using more plastic." It's great to take responsibility for our use of plastic, but we do realize that fixating on straws is not the answer, don't we? Like we use a lot more plastic than just straws in every aspect of our lives.

~ I love Capitol Hill Books.

Friday, July 6, 2018

On Marriage

In the midst of all the adjustments and difficulties and frustrations of marriage, I feel really fortunate that Francisco and I are able to talk and think together about what's best for our family in the midst of oftentimes big changes. In marriage more than anything else I have experienced what Aristotle describes as politics: Through reason and discussion, we reflect on and work together toward what is just and advantageous for our little community. We often talk and deliberate and discuss till we're exhausted--for cumulative hours and hours. But by now I trust that we'll agree at the end because we both seek to understand each other, and we both have the best interests of our family at heart.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

To Kill a Mockingbird


In my continued effort to read all things PAL, especially in the Southern Stoic tradition, I reread To Kill a Mockingbird as we had another nice few days at the beach. What a wonderful book, if a little overt--between Tom Robinson and Boo Radley and The Gray Ghost and Mrs. Dubose. And the stoicism sure is there--in Atticus' consistency in public and private and his refusal to choose his family over his public duty; in Mrs. Dubose's determined choices as she neared death.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

13 Clocks and Mr. Poppers Penguins

Summer has been delightful for reading more and longer books.


I'm sure I'm forcing long books down Chester's throat at way too early of an age, but don't worry--I still read him picture books, too. And I've been waiting for this for ages. 

The 13 Clocks is delightfully hilarious and clever. And the kid giggled and giggled whenever Thurber writes, "I'll slit you from your guggle to your zatch!" Wordplay is Chester's favorite thing--you should hear him try to rhyme! And Chester loved the idea of invisible characters. It is also cute to have him recognize and clarify with me which characters are bad and which are good. 


And Mr. Popper's Penguins! Is there anything better? Mr. Popper is charming, although I would not like to be married to him, and what an imaginative story. 


Now I am just pushing my luck too much with The Happy Prince and Other Stories and losing the kid entirely. (We love "The Happy Prince" and "The Selfish Giant" and I love everything Oscar Wilde, but there's a reason that some of these other stories have not been made into picture books--they are just too boring for little kids, although the irony and the sarcasm are just too good to be true.)