Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I dunno...

Ah. Here we are, naptime and back at the computer...having spent the first hour of naptime almost comatose, flipping through MSN articles and friends' blogs. Knowing full well that I have a whole list of crap to get done before our weekend guests arrive. But after slamming through a highly productive first two days of the week, I figure I can zen out on a little sugar, caffeine and internet blitz.

After reading two of my friends' blogs a few minutes ago, I'm a little lost as to what to say. Because they covered it:
  • Change.
  • Second children.
  • Pregnancy.
  • The effects of motherhood on one's body and appearance (Suave couldn't have come up with a better marketing ploy).

Although that's not all I have to talk about, these items are frequently at the forefront of my mind. Or the back of my mind. Ah hell, it's somewhere in there...difficult to tell what's front and back these days. Especially the last item on the list. Living here in Southern California does give a "normal Midwestern girl" (who wears t-shirts and, at her make-up most, pencils her eyebrows) pause when it comes to the looks department. These CA moms, as my brother-in-law so delicately calls them, are MILFs. I mean, they either work out all day or they don't eat or they have a nanny come in two days a week so they can keep up with their spa schedule. I'm baffled. It took me a good six months before I stopped feeling like a slob, mostly because I started hanging out with the right people but also because I just stopped caring. It takes a truck-load of energy to look sexy when you spend a good portion of your day crawling around on the ground, usually have a toddler hanging on your leg (wiping his nose on it), a shirt shiny with the afore-mentioned snot and broken crayons and cheerios rattling around in your bag. And really, who wants to do that in designer clothes?

To the litany listed above, I'd like to add:

  • The Effects of Motherhood on One's PsychoEmotional State
  • How Motherhood and Womanhood Can CoExist

The former embraces the multitasking ability and super hero hearing that seem to be birthed along with the child. I can hear Ari make a small cry in his crib with his door shut, a towel jammed in the crack and Lost blaring on the TV downstairs at normal volume. Baby monitor, we don't need no stinking baby monitor. Well, Sascha might. Add to that, the ability to think 10 minutes ahead of your current position...and cataloging the steps it will take to get to the desired 10-minute-ahead location...all the while wiping noses, pulling up droopy diapers, brushing my hair, making sandwiches and putting random objects away as we move along. This can also be called, "Trying to Get Out The Door On Time".

On the topic of How Motherhood and Womanhood Can CoExist, I haven't the foggiest. I'm still trying to pick up the slop left behind during "hospital week". And, frankly, at this point I don't even give a damn. I'm just glad my little boy's getting healthy, that his post-treatment Tantrums of Rage have diminished and that he's laughing and playing like he did before the fevers started. So, womanhood be damned for now, I'll focus on the mom part until it seems a little more under control. However, because I'm a research junkie, I did find this article on the subject (another nod to Suave). Someday I'll get around to reading it.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Very Long Week

It's quiet in the house now. Ari and Sascha are both napping in our's the only way Ari can sleep with peace lately. With us. I'm enjoying a couple hours of quiet peace myself, having had my first shower in four days...but I think I finally got the hospital smell off me.

Almost three weeks ago, Ari had a vaccination shot and well-check at his pediatrician. That afternoon, the fevers started. Low grade at first, so I though it was simply a reaction to the shot. But they kept up. So I assumed he had caught a bug. Almost two weeks later, the numbers shot up past 104 and would reappear whenever the last shot of Motrin wore off, every six hours. Needless to say, worry set in and I took him to the doctor immediately. Two blood tests, a TB test and two antibiotic shots later, we were still clueless as to what was happening to our son...and the fevers reached 105, taking three hours to come back down.

Our doctor sent him to the hospital. With another burning fever, we arrived Wednesday evening, sparking off a series of traumatic and intrusive events that have taught our son a new thing. Pain. He knows pain now. Which breaks my heart. Several attempts at inserting an IV into a terrorized, tiny hand...the blood vessels shrinking into his body with his increasing anxiety. A blood draw. A catheter to catch a urine sample from a bone-dry bladder. Over a dozen vital checks and examinations. A bleeding diaper rash from antibiotic-induced diarrhea. A cystic fibrosis test. Two throat swabs and a nasal scraping. A chest x-ray. Another blood draw. The kid has track marks now.

A team of doctors (it's a teaching hospital) was assigned to our "complex case" and since test after test for different viruses kept proving negative, they began discussing fearful things such as autoimmune disease, rheumatic fever, cancer, even a mention of HIV. The Infectious Disease team was called in and asked question after question. A quarantine was placed on Ari's room and several people began wearing masks and yellow smocks when they walked in. Ari wasn't allowed to leave without a mask, which meant he would not be leaving the room. He doesn't like masks.

At some point Thursday evening, things began to shift. Ari came down from a sweat-soaked fit, let out a series of huge toots, looked at me, gave me one of those sweet Ari smiles and started digging into his toy bag. We laughed and played for two hours. That night, his fever didn't even reach 103. It took 13 hours until the next one hit, not even reaching 102. His mood improved drastically and he ate his pancakes for breakfast Friday morning. The medical team came in and discussed plans for the day, which ended up including a throat swab (again, for strep), blood test (checking for rheumatic fever), an EKG, an echocardiogram and a CT scan. The swab and blood test came back negative and one by one, the remaining tests were canceled, falling off the to-do list like chips of bark from an aging tree. Especially since his fevers had all but disappeared, it was determined that he did not have a serious condition and the theorized contagious pathogens they kept testing for all came back negative. The quarantine was removed and Ari bolted from the room with his IV tree flying behind him.

We could go home.

The nurse removed Ari's IV and brought his discharge papers, which I happily signed as we packed up the toy bag, our sweat-stained clothes and the diapers they had given us (door prize). At first, the act of undressing sent Ari into another fit of terror. He clung to his hospital gown and wouldn't even let it go once he was dressed in his own clothes. Ironically, he wouldn't leave the room...until I asked if he'd like to go bye-bye, see all of his own toys again and go for a car ride. "Jyeah." That means 'yes'. We walked to the car, being congratulated by the hospital staff (no doubt due to the weary grins on our faces) all the way...Ari's dirty hospital gown clutched in his adhesive-striped hands. He snored all the way home.


So what are the things that I've learned from this week? I guess there are several.

First and foremost is that the little boy sleeping in the next room is the most important thing in the world. I read recently that our parents are our link to our past and our children are our link to the future. Duh, right? But it takes on a much deeper meaning when you fear you are in danger of losing one of those links. The internal void I felt at the thought that this could be very serious; the panic that shot my stomach into my head when I heard the word "cancer"; the mother-bear fury that almost sent me tearing into the nurse during the catheter and IV session; the helplessness and sorrow as my son screamed and screamed during his night terrors, panicked to get the IV restraints off his hand....All of this solidified and reinforced within me that I am a mother more than anything else in the world. Before a daughter, before a wife, before a massage therapist and independent woman, I am a mother. And that instinct and fury and love will drive me for the rest of my life.

Second, I learned that nurses can make or break your time in a hospital. We had one that caused much frustration but we had two that I'd like to adopt into my family...for their understanding that sometimes a parent knows best and for their confidence to stand up to doctors when they see orders are leaving a patient hurting. We had two doctors, as well, that I'd like to put on my New Years card list...for their compassion, their tenacity and their ability to look us in the eye and explain the good, the bad and the ugly for as long as it took us to understand.

Third, I learned that even though a 20 month old boy will fight his IV-wrapped hand all night, he will embrace it with wonder when his Mommy and Daddy express massive delight in it the next morning - and call it his "Magic Hand."

I have learned that children can develop a new kind of scream when they are terrified and hurting.

I have learned that kindness can come in the smallest of ways...the refusal of our attending physician and one nurse to wear a mask when entering Ari's room.

I have been humbled by the prayers sent out around this country for our son. And, as his symptoms subsided, as the tests dramatically became no longer necessary and as his smile resurfaced, I learned that prayers can change things. Thank you.

I have learned that a hospital crib can hold a fully grown adult as well as a toddler. Although a full night spent there is not very comfortable for the adult.

In the minutest, fraction of a way, I have a bit of an idea what parents go through when their child has a serious disease.

Finally, I have learned yet again how grateful I can be for the people I have and the place I am in in this life.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Just skip this one.

Nine months now, since we've come here. Enough time to have conceived, carried and birthed a child. In that respect, it seems like a considerable amount of time. In the comparison of years, it seems ridiculously small.

My thoughts less and less frequently turn to home. At least not with sorrow and missing. And, I'm proud(ish) to say that I no longer think of our old house with a sense of panic and sudden, intense grief and loss. That's how it felt in those first few months here...intense, sudden grief and panic upon the continuous realization that This. Is. Permanent. Very close to how it feels when you lose someone you love. Grief...knowing I've forever lost something in which a part of my soul resides. And Panic...that sudden swelling of internal movement up from your small intestine and ending in your throat, which says omilordno. And knowing there's no going back. I'm ashamed to say this, knowing full well how it feels to lose a loved one...and also knowing full well that it is so hurtful to compare a house with a person. And yet because I hold both experiences inside me, I can honestly find a similarity in those first tiny moments of realization. The irony of this does not escape me.

Those of you who have lost know that those "realizations" sneak up on you, and they happen over and over if you didn't quite get it the first time around. Which, given the circumstances, perhaps you didn't. To those of you who haven't experience close loss...I'm so happy for you but there is no way I can ever explain this. This is something you have to learn through experience.

It seems that my posting here has morphed into an essay on grief rather than an update on my relocation thoughts. And I suppose that's appropriate. The two are inextricably linked for me...a fact I learned all too late. I could have saved myself a lot of internal questioning and self-loathing had I journaled my way through this odyssey the way I'm starting to now.

And so..."inextricably linked" (pulling out the big guns)...that house (the loss of which I so insultingly compare to true grief) captured a piece of myself that cannot be extricated upon leaving. It's like the door knocker I installed the summer After. I drilled the holes through the two inches of century old wood, all the while wondering how hot the bits would get...especially in July. So after I pulled the bit out, I tested it on my wrist. I still have the scar. Carefully, I tucked my note inscribed with dates and a rare show of literary strength into the hollow body of the knocker and screwed it into the door. That door knocker stays with the house. A piece of me stays with the house. So much life happened to me there and so much change occurred there (to me and to the house...inside and out...for both) that I felt a tearing happen when I locked the door for the last time.

I think that's why it took me so long to settle here. I had to go through grief (for more than a relocation) all over again. And I still am. But at least I'm aware of it now.

It's not just the house, of course, it's leaving dear friends and the little boys who would have been Ari's schoolmates. It's leaving the charisma of Ann Arbor. It's leaving what-you-know. It's leaving Family. All of this is whirled into a rainbow roller coaster of tears, laughter and love. The trick is to know which color, or lack thereof, is causing you pain. Well, I've identified one of them. And perhaps the rainbow will someday lead to that effin' pot of gold (I know Sascha'd like that).