Bea: Part 2

Click here for Bea: Part 1

These two posts are edited versions of my journal from the end of November until the middle of December.

 

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Friday, December 2nd, 2016

I started pumping Friday morning. The pump the hospital provides looks like something out of a steam-punk graphic novel. It weighed 75 pounds and had steel parts encased in a glass dome. It looked like it would suck the nail polish off my toes if I turned the dial too far! I was able to get a decent amount of colostrum immediately, but dried up on Saturday.

Bea’s white blood cell count was in the 40,000, which is really high for a newborn, although it doesn’t necessarily indicate anything bad. She was put on a CPAP machine, and started TPN.

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Bea on CPAP. I found the Minnie Mouse figure in the bottom of my purse. We gave it an alcohol bath so she’d have something from her sister in the NICU. Her diaper was a newborn size, folded down twice to fit.

Saturday

At our request, I was able to check out on Saturday. I just wasn’t able to rest in the hospital; between the nurses coming in and out of the room all the time (plus my “friend” in housekeeping, who barged in while I was pumping— she walked right past Asa who was blocking the door and said “Oh she won’t care, we’re friends”).

Asa and I had to drive all over town that afternoon in the rain to pick up parts for my pump, since I wasn’t able to get any of the new supplies beforehand. I pumped every three hours and I didn’t get a single drop of colostrum that day.

The nurse told me that all they needed was just a little amount and that they were just swabbing her cheeks with it, so they were fine with the amount I had pumped in the hospital.

Sunday

A new nurse was on that day. She told me that the doctors wanted to feed Bea but didn’t have any of my milk, so they were unable to feed my child due to my lack of milk (This was our first experience with how the plan of care is totally dependent on who the attending is at the time). She said that she knew I had other things going on in my life, but that I needed to prioritize and pump as much as possible. I wanted to slap the nurse. What else did she think I had been doing?! I had just been told the day before that the 1/2 mL I had given would be more than enough.

I was completely devastated. As I stood over Bea’s incubator, tears running down my face, I looked up to see the grandmother of another NICU baby motioning me over to her. She enveloped me in a hug and told me that it was going to be ok. Her daughter had had the exact same issue I was facing, but her supply came in 12 hours before, and she was now nursing her baby. My mother walked over and we all cried and hugged again; complete strangers, and yet bonded by the NICU.

Mom asked me what I was craving, which resulted in a trip to Smoothie King, the liquor store, and Krispy Kreme. I came home, drank two glasses of wine, ate a plate of pasta, and my milk came in that night. I went from producing 3 mL/session to 50 mL. I’ll never see Krispy Kreme donuts without thinking of Bea, now… I ate two dozen in about four days.

Monday (12/5)

Bea was taken off the CPAP machine and did great. They increased her feedings to 3mL/3 hours, and I got to hold her for the first time while she was still in the incubator. They were keeping the humidity high to keep her warm, so I had to wait until the humidity was at room level before I could hold her outside of the incubator. It seemed that the leads and wires attached to her doubled her weight; I had trouble weaving my fingers through all of them to hold her.

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The tube inside her mouth is an OG tube; the nurses would use a syringe to squirt small amounts of milk down it to feed her. The goal was to move to an NG tube (through the nose) once she was old enough to have a swallow reflex. Then, I would be able to attempt bottle feeding her and they could still get her milk through the NG tube.

Tuesday

She was still doing really well off of the CPAP. Looking around the room, it really made me appreciate just how well she was doing. She was four days old and was already breathing without a ventilator or CPAP, and she was tolerating feedings. Those seem to be the big milestones that can take a long time for babies to get to.

Wednesday

Asa came up to visit Bea; we had some concerns about the doctors putting in a PICC line. It’s much more invasive than a regular IV, and they needed access for the TPN. She had an umbilical line placed the day before, but it was going to dry up soon. We told the doctors that we gave our consent if she needed it, but that it was a point of concern. The attending called us that night to discuss a plan of action and why the PICC line was important, even though it could mean she was going to be susceptible to possible infection after it was placed.

My husband took me home to Brookhaven so that I could get my car and pack my own clothes, since I had been living in things that either he or my mom brought up from the house.

The reality of everything hit hard when we drove back into town. Since moving there, I had found a routine and everything had been so simple and uncomplicated. What had happened over the past ten days was so out of left field, and so unexpected, that I didn’t have a frame of reference for it until I came home and compared it to what things had been like before.

Thursday

I arrived mid afternoon to the NICU and Bea didn’t have any extra wires or tubes attached to her, which was odd since I assumed they had placed the PICC line the day before. Turns out that a new attending had rotated on that morning and the residents told her that we were concerned about getting the line placed. She ran the numbers and said that a PICC line really wasn’t necessary, since they were planning to decrease the TPN in a matter of days!

Bea’s feedings were up’d to 9mL and they continued to lower the humidity.

Friday

I got to the NICU right when they were rounding on Bea. Everything was continuing to look good. She was officially off the humidity. The attending asked if I wanted to hold her! My husband was coming into town for the weekend that night, so I told her that I wanted to wait until he was there. She still needed to get her umbilical line out, so they asked to wait until after 5 pm. We went after dinner. The nurse handed me Bea like she was a puppy- one hand cupped under her bottom, the other wrapped around her torso. She slept the whole time, and I wasn’t able to get to see her face because she was placed so far up on my chest, but it felt wonderful to hold her.

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Saturday

We met Maggie, Mike, and Gracie in Grenada at a burger place. When Gracie first saw me, she called out and started running towards me… and then face planted right at my feet. I hadn’t seen her since I left for the ER almost two weeks prior, and I didn’t know when we would all be under the same roof again.

It was wonderful to see her, although she told us to “go home” several times. It’s all rice cakes and manual labor at our house, apparently. I sobbed when we left her; she was too busy playing with the stuffed animal she had won on the claw machine.

I kept telling myself that she is too young to remember any of this, but it didn’t make being apart in the Christmas season any easier. I had been looking forward to this time of year with Gracie and being in our new hometown so it been hard to have all my expectations unmet.

Sunday

Bea was up to 24 mL/3 hours and officially off TPN. They still supplemented with some other concoction but they were also able to remove the IV they placed on her head, which meant I could hold her again. The nurses said that she was very alert earlier that day and they would walk by the incubator and she would just be looking around at everything. I’ve yet to see her really alert so I hoped I would catch her at the right time soon.

Monday 12/12

I walked into the NICU with my heart in my throat. It  was the tenth day- which meant that Bea was having her brain scan. It’s quite common for premature babies to have brain bleeds. There are four levels- one and two are usually fine; they resolve on their own and there isn’t any lasting damage because of the elasticity of the brain. A level three or four is worrisome; while sometimes they can resolve on their own, there is a higher chance of damage.

A dear family friend had sent us several blankets for Bea that were similar to the ones that Gracie sleeps with every night. We placed a bee-themed blanket on top of Bea’s isolet to give it more of a “homey” look in the NICU. Everything is so uniform and sterile that it helps to have something from the outside to remind you that there’s going to be more to your child’s life than being in the hospital.

The blanket also helps you spot where your child is- there are roughly 50 spots on each side of the NICU. So, on Monday, I walked to where her bed was and noticed about 50 feet away that the blanket was missing, and then got closer to find her bed completely empty. I was a basket case already, so I just stood there and started babbling to the closest nurse that I needed my child, that I couldn’t find her, where have they taken my child. I’ve always newly-empty hospital beds with death, so I was trying to fight off the completely illogical fear that something had happened. As the nurse went off to talk to the charge nurse, and I turned and spotted the black and yellow blanket across the room in a back corner. IMG_2943

I was able to calm myself down in time for the fellow to update me on the brain scan- everything came back normal. She said that if weren’t for Bea’s gestational age, they would move her up to the transitional nursery.

 

December 12th is the last entry in my journal. The stress of the situation and my lack of energy caught up with me, and I wasn’t able to sit in front of a computer without crying. So, I can’t remember the last four weeks in the NICU with as much detail as the first three. Thankfully, I have some pictures, so I’ll finish Bea’s time in the NICU with those.

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December 29th: Her NG tube was placed in and they were beginning to bottle feed her. Her hat was a preemie-size hat that said “My First Christmas”.

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January 2nd: This is the last picture I took of Bea at UMMC. She was in the transitional nursery and I was sending this to my husband to show the umbilical hernia. He quickly informed me that they are completely normal in preemies and that he would “keep an eye on it”. She still has it (it’s actually REALLY large now) but since her dad is the one we’d see to get it fixed, he just pokes at it once a week. If it doesn’t reduce on its own by the time she is 2 years old, she will need surgery.

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Bea arrived at our home hospital shortly after the new year. Often times she was the only baby in the nursery, which was a HUGE change from being one in 75 babies! Her bed was right by the observation window, so she had a constant stream of visitors checking on her throughout the day. This was taken while her daddy gave her a bottle for the first time… there was a crowd of about 6 people watching him (and documenting it for me while I was with Gracie!).

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January 12th, 2017: After 42 days in the NICU, Bea came home! And this picture of Gracie offering Bea an orange just about sums up our homecoming.

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Bea at one day old, and Bea at 15 weeks old. She weighs 3x her birth weight (9 lbs) and at almost four months, is FINALLY fitting into her newborn clothes. The doctors say she will more than likely be developmentally delayed until she is two years old, but there are no lasting effects of her early birth date! Praise the Lord.

Family Tradition (The Hank Williams Jr Version)

One of the greatest blessing and curse in my life is that Gracie has turned out to be just like her father.

It’s a wonderful blessing because I married him, therefore I generally like his personality and quirks. Having two in the house makes things lively and entertaining.

It’s a curse because neither the child, nor her father, need a lot of sleep; they’re extremely strong-willed, and never sit still. These characteristics have served her dad well, as he’s in a high energy job that requires strong decision making skills during the long hours on his feet.

These characteristics in a toddler? I would laugh but I’m too tired.

It’s part of raising kids. We don’t get to decide what traits are passed down and which ones skip a generation; it’s the biggest dice roll (or game of russian roulette, depending on how you look at it) we have as parents.

Unfortunately for me, I inherited one of the greatest negative traits that has plagued my father, and now me. It’s haunted me through high school, college, and now as a youngish adult.

In the summer after tenth grade, I checked out Alexander Dumas’ Ten Years Later, the fourth installment of his Musketeer series. We took a family vacation to Charlotte, North Carolina for the PCA’s General Assembly. Somewhere on that trip, I lost the book. I still don’t know where or how, but when the time came to turn it back in, I couldn’t find it.

It was checked out from the Alabaster library. Thankfully, we lived about the same distance from the Pelham and Helena libraries. Once the fee got above the allowable amount to continue checking out books, I moved to another library. When I had racked up fees at all three, I would pay the minimum, and the dance would begin again.

I think the person that coined the phrase “If looks could kill” was referring to a librarian. Now, I may just be projecting, but there were two in particular at the Alabaster location that truly wished me evil every time I walked by the circulation desk. No words were ever exchanged; silence is treasured in a library, obviously. But the glances shot at me with sniper-like precision (above their bifocals) found their mark every time.

Unless there was a particular title or movie that I desperately wanted, and I couldn’t get transferred (yes, I was sneaky and would request interlibrary transfers from two libraries 3 miles apart to avoid paying a fine at one), I avoided the Alabaster location as much as possible. When I finally graduated high school, I had over $30 in library fines at that location alone.

But it was going to be ok; I was moving on campus at Belhaven, and college is all about a clean slate, right? Getting to create a new persona, leave the baggage of high school behind, and all that.

What I failed to realize is that college libraries have a much greater hold on you than city libraries. There isn’t a huge negative consequence when you have fines at a local library, other than being banned from checking out books. It’s not like the librarians can put a warrant out for your arrest.

College libraries have a close working relationship with the registrar. So you’ve been keeping that AP Manual longer than you intended? We’ll just put a hold on your grades for the semester, they say.  But you need it over the break to double-check capitalization requirements for a feature piece, you say.

I found a way out of that one, too. Turns out that they’ll still send President’s and Dean’s list letters regardless of if your grades can be posted or not. Outside of spring semester sophomore year (thanks, Chem II), I was on one or the other, so as long as I got a letter, I was golden.

Thankfully, the library at Belhaven knew that most students didn’t have the money to pay the exorbitant fines at the end of the spring semester. Each April they would hold a canned food drive and for each can, $1 of your fine would be removed. My brain quickly calculated that if I bought the absolute cheapest cans, I’d get 50 cents to the dollar. Which is why the local food pantry received 10 cans of creamed corn that spring.

The summer before my senior year of college rolled around, and I was home for a few weeks before my summer internship started (which I got thanks in part to those features I wrote between school breaks, take that Belhaven Library). My family was packing up for a quick trip to Jackson, because my dad had finished his Doctorate of Ministry and we needed to attend his graduation ceremony.

The phone rang five minutes— I’m not making this up, I remember the timing exactly— before we were to get in the car for the trip. I remember my mother answering because the caller ID said it was Reformed Theological Seminary.

“Jeff”, she said. “It’s the RTS Library”.

Our trip was delayed by about two hours, once my dad got off the phone. Due to his outstanding library fines, the seminary would not be bestowing his diploma until he either returned the books, or paid the fines. We waited patiently while he scoured the house and the church office looking for the 9 missing books.

I got my dad’s nose, his sense of humor, and his inability to handle library material responsibly.

That’d be a good place to end, but unfortunately, what triggered me writing this post is something that has happened more recently.

It’s important to note that I had a peaceful time of life from 2009-2016; my parents gave me a Kindle in hopes of breaking the cycle. With the exception of some fees from late audio books from my 2010 admission travel season (thankfully another canned food drive at the Brandon Library saved me),  my love of books wasn’t hindered.

It had been so long, in fact, that I had checked out a book, that I had completely forgotten that I had this trait. That’s the thing about personality traits- they may remain dormant, but they’re always there, ready to rise up and strike at the worse times.

My driver’s license was changed quickly after the move to our new home, so I could register to vote. Gracie was beginning to enjoy books, and I had spent way too much money the past two months on Audible books to get me through the long car trips and unpacking. One Tuesday morning last month, I carried Gracie proudly into our new library and told her this was a magical place, full of learning and adventure. We walked out with Gracie screaming, as usual, but I had a shiny new library card.

The first audio book I checked out was returned with a disc missing. Or so I’ve been told. I swear, that disc was in the box when I turned it in. I’ve received two phone calls from very stern women asking me to “keep looking for it”. The only place I kept the book was in my car, and I’ve cleaned it out twice looking for that dang Carol Higgins Clark CD.

I did find the third disc of a John Grisham novel, though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our First Halloween

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016. The morning came too early and the sun was too bright.

I stumbled into the kitchen and poured myself a cup of coffee. Gracie was still asleep; I had about twenty minutes before she would start her “Momma! MOMma! MOMMA!” chant from her crib. I grabbed my bathrobe and walked to the front door, took a deep breath, and opened it.

It looked like a fraternity party had taken place the night before, if all the participants were under the age of eight. Candy wrappers were sprinkled all over the grass. A Doc McStuffins handbag was propped up against an oak tree. My front porch had glow sticks and leftover sweet tea next to the rocking chairs. If only we had an empty keg of Kool-Aid to complete the picture.

The scene was repeated in just about every yard on my street. The ones who kept their lights off and houses “empty” had relatively clean yards, but no one was immune to the leftovers of the biggest event of the year on our street: Trick or Treat.

Moving to a small town, and especially having renovated a house that had been vacant for so many years, it comes up in the conversation of what street we live on. While it’s a quiet neighborhood, the road in front of our house is used as a cut-through to get downtown, so most people have passed our house and observed the progress since we started in January.

“Y’all know about Halloween, right?” Most, if not 99% of the people would ask us, voices slightly lowered, with a concerned look on their faces. As if we would casually walk out our front door after 5 pm on October 31st, take one look around, and run screaming back into the house. Which is exactly what we would have done if we weren’t warned.

Which is why I, despite some well-founded fear and trepidation, began preparing for the trick-or-treaters in August. Each trip to Wal-Mart, I threw a bag of candy into the buggy. I thought this was brilliant, as it would spread the cost out over two months. I’d bring the bags home and immediately stick them on top shelf of the pantry- out of sight and out of mind, eleven feet above the ground.

… but I’m pregnant. So began my daily ritual of climbing on the shelves (like a ten year old) and grabbing a Three Musketeer… or two, or three. I discovered Gracie climbing on the shelves last month and realized that she really does copy everything I do.

After a month of that, I caught on, and started buying candy that I didn’t like. Perfect. I had four bags and I was planning to get another five or six, and we would be good to go. That’s like… 600 pieces. Surely that would last us.

Thankfully, my Bible study small group staged an intervention and helped me see that it would be foolhardy to turn our porch light on without at least 1,000 pieces of candy. One simply does not walk into a battlefield with a squirt gun. A fellow compatriot/neighbor suggested Dum Dums, as the price per unit is significantly lower, and the price of chocolate had shot up recently (Rosland Capital á la Fox News should take note; the people on our street keep an eye on chocolate prices, not gold or silver).

Three Prime days later, I received thirty pounds of Dum Dums in the mail.

Two days before Halloween, I was hit with the infamous Pregnancy Cold. I sent my husband to Walgreens to pick up the sugar-water strength medicine I’m allowed during this symbiotic existence. If my head had been clear, I never would have allowed him to go. You see, sending my husband to Walgreens is like going to an urgent care center with a head cold, on a Monday morning, during flu season. Sure, you’ll get what you need, but you’ll probably bring home something even worse, wishing you had just stayed home and suffered.

Case in point: Christmas 2012. I sent him to get creamer; he came home with my Christmas presents (FYI, this was our first Christmas as a married couple): a pair of Christmas-themed boxer shorts, and a box of Werther’s chocolate. Should of just drank my coffee black.

Halloween 2016: two strands of orange lights, and a light-up Mickey Mouse Jack o’ Lantern. He proceeded to wrap the lights around half of our porch (not the whole, just half) and plugged in the Jack o’ Lantern; our house looked like it had been possessed by a hungover Sigma Chi who decorated last minute for a Halloween mixer.

The weather wasn’t cooperating, either. I had gleefully planned our inaugural family img_2694costumes; Gracie was a T-Rex, and I had found adult-sized T Rex fleece onesies on Amazon. I even bought dinosaur feet slippers for us to wear, and face paint. Five o’clock on October 31st, it was 85 degrees outside. Was I going to walk up and down our street, still with a disgusting cold, in a fleece onesie, while pregnant? Shorts, t shirt, Gracie’s fairy wings, and some Urban Decay eyeshadow was my backup, and my husband wore scrubs. The slippers, ironically, are still en route from China, and although the onesies did make it in time, they are now relegated to Christmas morning pajamas. Sorry Hanna Andersson, maybe next year we’ll open gifts in matching fair isle PJ’s.

Our doorbell rang at 5:15.  Superman and Wonderwoman needed candy. They each received one Dum-Dum. I felt like a Regions Bank teller, but I knew that if we didn’t ration the candy, we’d be turning kids away before the sun set.

We moved the bowl of candy outside, grabbed glasses of sweet tea, and sat on the porch. My husband had moved his laptop outside, too, and hooked it up to stereo speakers, so we had a Pandora Halloween station playing.

Gracie is still too young to realize what candy is, so she ended up being a great helper. Her dad would hand her a piece of candy, and then she’d very intently drop it in the bag of whoever was standing closest to her. If I ever had any question on whether she was an extrovert, my uncertainty was put to rest. Between my husband teasing the kids, and Gracie’s laughter and jabbering to whoever would make eye contact with her, they more than made up for my cold-induced lack of conversation skills that night. We did have to become more efficient as the night went on, as the line from our front porch stretched down the sidewalk and across the front yard.

Our street, which is approximately a mile long, was lined with parked cars on either side. Trucks with hay bails in trailers drove up and down the street, dropping as many as twenty people off at a time. The only thing louder than the laughter, greetings, and my husband’s choice of music that evening were the train whistles on the tracks one street behind us.

We’ve lived here for two months, so long enough to recognize some faces and get to know some names, but not enough to know everyone that came to our front porch. While most people were still unfamiliar, it did make us feel a part of the community, especially some of my husband’s patients dropped by, friends from church, our electrician, and some of the nurses from the hospital.

The reason I didn’t recognize most people is because most of the kids that trick or treat on our street drive in from the country and the surrounding rural counties. So while we had the equivalent of a third of our town’s population walk up our sidewalk, most of them don’t live near us. They didn’t know we had just moved to town; for all they knew, we had lived there for years (ok, slightly stretch of imagination, given we still have construction cones in our front yard). What I’m trying to say is that it gave us a chance to show some hospitality, even while we’re still experiencing it as transplants. We were able to take part in a tradition that has made our street known throughout the state as the busiest on Halloween… because it’s our street now, our home.

Two hours and 1248 pieces of candy later, a group of three kids walked up. I ended the night with giving the last two pieces of candy out, and the third child the glow bracelet off my wrist. We made a hasty retreat before we were asked to give the pumpkins and lights away from the others walking up the sidewalk.

An hour later, after putting a screaming Gracie (she discovered M&M’s! Crap!) to bed, and after blowing my nose for the umpteenth time that day, I turned to my husband and said,

“I bet they have smoke machines on sale at Walgreens tomorrow. Wanna get one for next year?”

 

 

 

 

 

Reformation Day

It was early fall in Alabama. The leaves had quickly gone from green to brown (no golden orange for us Southerner’s) and my family was taking time out between football games on television to braid rope.

Dad was standing in the middle of the den, desperately trying to listen to Eli Gold and peek through the rust colored fabric Mom had draped over head, while Mom quickly cut a hole for his head before he missed another touchdown. She had come home the day before with the brown fabric- enough to make monk robes for the whole family. It was my job to braid belts out of the wiry rope that she had bought along with the material.

Reformation Day was coming, and we needed to be properly attired.martin-joke

For those of you not of the Reformed tradition, Reformation Day is October 31st. It’s the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the town church in Wittenberg in 1517. It’s commonly believed that his writings (in this case, regarding the sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church) began a religious reform that is now known as the Protestant Reformation. It’s because of this that most protestant denominations exist.

Luther chose All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) to post his writings on the church door because it was a popular day for the common people to view relics in the church, and get brownie points towards eternal life.

I grew up the daughter of Presbyterian pastor and a history major. Add to that a healthy eleven year stint as a homeschooled student, I was raised not only to recite the Westminster Shorter Catechism (both versions), but to also know the history behind the various creeds, councils, and acts of reform in the history of the Christian church.

Reciting the decisions made in the Council of Trent made for an excellent party trick later in life, if I knew my audience.

I can’t quite remember when the tradition started for my home church, but sometime around fourth grade we began a Reformation Celebration on October 31st. It was our own bizarre-Presbyterian-style take on the Trunk-or-Treat/ Fall Festival event. I say “bizarre” because we were the only Presbyterian church of our size in the surrounding area and the general population didn’t really know or care about Luther, Knox, and the Anabaptists. It may also be because when people drove by the church, they saw families walk in dressed like Franciscan monks.

Not everyone dressed like they had taken their vows; we had a loose dress code but most luther-cakepeople stayed in the spirit of the event and dressed like great men and women of the church. After a few years of dressing like a nun or German peasant, I sweetly asked if I could dress as the beheaded Mary Queen of Scots. I was promptly denied, and had to settle for Anne Boleyn.

We had different Sunday school rooms redecorated to represent 1500’s Germany, Scotland, and the city of Geneva. My dad, if memory serves correct, was always Martin Luther. He transformed his office into a monastic cell and gave a short lesson on the significance of Luther’s work and how transformative a belief in sola fide, sola scriptura, and sola gloria can be to a person who thinks they earn their way to heaven.

As the years went on, the event grew bigger. One year, an obstacle course was built in the fellowship hall and we had to carry Bibles through it like the smugglers did to get the first English copy to England. Another year, the smuggling became more intense and we had several elders capture anyone carrying a Bible and put them in “jail” for 5-10 minutes. Usually candy was involved; the cliche fishing game was turned into a reference to Katharina Von Bora’s escape from a convent in herring barrels.wittenberg

Usually at the end of the night, we gathered in the sanctuary and anyone who wanted to explain who and why they dressed up we given the opportunity. We were able to spend about forty five minutes to an hour learning about different people who gave up their lives (or their tongues, fingers, feet— the Reformation was a truly brutal time of persecution) to show others the gospel that we took for granted on a daily basis. Each year, we tried to find new reformers that hadn’t been focused on the year before.

From the outside looking in, it really was an odd night. But it gave us, as a community, a chance to honor simple men and women who aren’t commonly known about in today’s culture.

At the heart of dressing up in a character’s clothes and makeup is the desire to emulate characteristics they possess. I dress up Gracie as a princess so that she knows she’s special, and that she can wear pretty dresses and a crown. Gracie wants to be SharpTooth from The Land Before Time this year… and while it’s the villain in the 15-part movie series, she likes to run around and roar at the dog and random people.

My parents, and others in my home church, took this concept and used it as a teaching tool for their children. As we were dressing like Luther or Boleyn, we learned about what made them stand out in history. It wasn’t because they were special by birth and wore a crown- Luther was poor as dirt and spent most of his life being hunted by his enemies. And while Anne Boleyn did wear crown, she used her power to help others in need. We learned early in life that it wasn’t what we wore or some magical powers that made us stand out in history- it was the small actions that can often cost us friends or social status.

And that’s why Gracie will be SharpTooth and Anne Askew this year.

 

 

 

 

When Motherhood is More Than Just Difficult

Here are three ways I wish I could begin this post:

  1. I was laying in a hammock with my Bible and journal, and a small inward voice spoke to me.
  2. I was at a women’s conference and responded tearfully to an altar call.
  3. I was reading a self-help book (not just one for Bible Study!) and a particular chapter convicted me.

Here’s what actually happened.

jane-the-virginI was binge-watching Jane the Virgin. Gracie and I had been living with my parents for about two weeks at that point, with at least a month to go before we joined my husband in our new hometown. Catching up on season 2 of the show was my get-away during the golden 90 minutes between my child and my bedtime.

In this particular episode, one of the secondary characters gave birth to twins. She didn’t bond with her girls and all she wanted to do was go back to work.

I thought, “Hey! It’s a character just like me!”

The show continued on and the character’s struggles mirrored what I had gone through with Gracie.

Towards the end of the episode, it was revealed that she had postpartum depression, and I was sobbing.


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As you’ve seen through most of my blog, residency has been very difficult. It’s difficult no matter what speciality or stage of life or level of involvement you have. I have tried (oh how I have truly tried) to find the humor in each stage, but sometimes it’s just. plain.hard.

The hardest situation we faced in residency was the birth of Gracie. I was working a job that I truly loved, albeit a long commute, and my husband’s schedule was insane. Our first year of marriage was nothing like we thought it would be (just like everyone else’s first year of marriage). We had planned to get pregnant during his last year of training; I would give birth right before we moved for his first “real” job, and he would be around more to help with the adjustment period of having a newborn.

Thirteen months following our wedding day, I found out I was pregnant. I had suffered from severe endometriosis that had gone undiagnosed for a decade prior to treatment, and we weren’t even sure I could get pregnant.

Well, I did, and we were scared. Mainly me- my husband was his usual brave self and said we could handle whatever got thrown at us. All I could focus on was that my freedom- and the precious little time I was going to have with my new husband- was going to be taken away.

By the time Gracie was born, God had provided a way for me to continue working; I had a wonderful woman who would take care of Gracie at her home, and my pay was allowing me to make a small profit at the end of each month.

My initial joy after having Gracie was not because I got to meet her. It was that I finally had my body back, I could eat sushi, and was able to sleep on my stomach again. I had been told that I would feel a surge of endorphins, be instantly connected with my child, and would prefer her company over anyone else’s.

All I remember going through my head when the nurse would bring Gracie in to be fed those first hours in the hospital was the thought, “You made this. It’s time to be an adult; take care of her or no one else will.”

Family came to visit me in the hospital and all I wanted to do was scream at them to go away, but desperately afraid they would leave me alone. I fought tooth and nail to mirror the joy everyone else felt, but inside I just felt emotionless and empty.

I assumed it was how I was wired. My career and passion revolved around working with teenagers, so it made sense to think I wasn’t a baby person. Everyone warned me that the first few weeks would be hard.

But those weeks turned into months. Sleeping when the baby slept- that wasn’t happening. I had an overwhelming sense of anxiety, and I couldn’t pin-point what was causing it. Sitting still just made things worse, so I was continually doing busy work around the house, which in turn exhausted me even more. Gracie was never a good sleeper at night, so I didn’t get any rest at night, either.

I mentioned my struggles to my OBGYN at my 1 month check up. He told me that they didn’t start treating PPD unless the symptoms lasted more than six weeks. Even though I wasn’t feeling any better at six weeks, the thought of trying to schedule an appointment around my work schedule, Gracie’s schedule, and time in the waiting room, nursing her at the office, and paying another co-pay gave me enough anxiety on top of what I was already feeling, that I told myself that I was getting better.

I learned to hide it really well. My husband and mom saw through it most of the time, though. I used humor to talk about my struggles without actually admitting how bad it was. I poured my energy and focus into helping my students. While the stress and exhaustion of my job probably exasperated the problem, it was also my saving grace in many ways. It allowed me to still feel a bit like my “old self”– I was good at my job, even though I felt like a failure at home.

I started seeing a light at around six months postpartum. Gracie began going to sleep around 8:30, which gave me time at night to regroup (even though I would  be up with her multiple times later). I also stopped breastfeeding. My hormones began to even out. I can pinpoint the exact time I started feeling more like myself— it was the first time I sat down to watch a television show after Gracie had gone to bed. The anxiety and depression didn’t go away suddenly, but it lessened and eventually faded.


 

The first six months after residency is similar to the time following a battle, I think. Once you realize you made it out alive, and your adrenaline wears off, you realize that some of the cuts and scrapes you accumulated are actually bullet wounds and deep gashes. When you’re in the middle of it, you don’t have the emotional luxury to have a deep wound. If you’re not dead, you keep going.

My second pregnancy has brought my experience back into the forefront of my mind. I am so very, very scared to go through it again. My mom always tells me that our emotions don’t dictate our reality. So I tell myself that my life circumstances are completely different from what they were the first time around.

Through a conversation with my new OBGYN, I’ve learned that my lack of sleep through the first six months (and beyond) were probably what intensified the PPD. She said that it’s extremely important for moms to get at least 4 consecutive hours of sleep every few days; I didn’t get that for… three months? Possibly longer? My husband is around more, so we are going to work on a plan that will allow me to recharge more often. I also talked with my OBGYN about treatment options, including medication.

I’m also getting counseling. My first appointment is in three weeks, and I’m hoping to have a joint session with my husband some time before the baby arrives in February. Knowing that he and I are a team- even though I’m the one physically feeding and taking care of the baby the majority of the time- helps so much. Now that we are out of residency, he’ll be able to be there for me emotionally and physically more so than the past.

Writing this has been a sort of therapy, too. The lack of sleep and craziness of that time in my life means that my memories are like fireflies in my mind. Taking the time to catch a few and put them in a bottle— this blog post— has given me more clarity as I look back. It’s taken about a month to write it, too. Sobbing hysterically while typing was not something I could do with workers in my house. I also had to take breaks to go hug and kiss Gracie, because I am overwhelmed with gratitude at how much I do love her, compared to where I was eighteen months ago.

Admitting openly that I had trouble bonding with Gracie is unnerving. It’s not something that is brought up in conversations, even when you talk with mom friends or when people ask how you’re doing. It’s ok to say it’s hard, that you’re exhausted , or that you miss your life before kids. To say you don’t particularly like your new bundle of joy (or six month old…) isn’t kosher.

But it’s what I felt, and it’s a sign of PPD. And if I had read something about it when I was in the middle of it, I wouldn’t have felt so alone or scared to talk about it. The fear of hearing “It’s what all mothers are going through, and you’re just weaker than most,” kept me quiet, while hearing “It’s a chemical imbalance, and it in no way reflects you as a mother” would have freed me in so many ways.

Chances are, this won’t directly affect most people who read my blog. It’s not as entertaining as pictures of our renovated house, that’s for sure! But postpartum depression is something that affects many, many women and still has a stigma around it, mainly because it’s not talked about enough. Through my experience the past few weeks, and talking about it more openly, I’ve learned that quite a few women I’m very close to experienced it themselves. So it’s something I’ll be talking about from now on. It’s a battle scar, and it’s part of my story.

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Renovation Update, Part 4

Short post with mainly pictures, since Gracie enjoys watching the action too much to take a decent nap these days. I have about 99 other things to do in the hour of childless peace I get today.

I’ve taught Gracie to say “excuse me” in an effort to help her learn to stay out of the workers’ way… although she’s taken it to mean a form of greeting, so she’s constantly running up to a painter or carpenter and saying “‘SCUE ME”. Between the workers and the “tradtor” we haven’t much need for the television.

I also have a painter looking through my window at me as I type; they’re taping the windows for the final coat on the trim.

Privacy is a luxury these days, but as an extrovert in a new town, it just gives me more people to talk to. I had a customer service issue this morning and two painters listened patiently to my rant since Husband was in surgery. Last week I had an extended conversation regarding the size of roaches with the plumber.

On to pictures. Taken Sunday, I’m excited to say there’s been some major landscaping progress since then. We have eight piles of sod, stacked taller than me, that are being laid today.

 

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The front is being finished up as I type, and we’re still debating a door color.

 

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Side yard, which has turned out much bigger than I thought it would. We’ll probably end up spending a lot of time in this space.

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Bay window contains kitchen table… single pane window is above the kitchen sink.

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Back door, window of my laundry room/office, and sun room.

 

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Back yard

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Future home of carport and guest quarters, phase 2

(Stack of bricks on far right: landscapers found even MORE bricks. Hoping to use them for part of the brick patio.)

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Dining room windows

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Closer shot of front porch, with potential door color. The porch will also get resealed in a dark grey.

Renovation Update

I’ve been hesitant to post too much about our house renovation. I don’t want to come across as “Look at all this amazing work we have put into our house” because, well, we’re not doing that. Our contractor and designer are doing that. They’re the ones at the house multiple times a day, handling all the unforeseen problems, creating an amazing floor plan, etc etc. We’re just footing the bill.

Which is the other reason I’ve been hesitant. I also don’t want anyone to think that I’m bragging or showing off that we have found this diamond in the rough. God put this house in our path, and also gave us just the right people at just the right time to help us. Even though I joked about this house being our “Isaac”, I know in the core of my being that God provided this house… this town… this new life. It’s why Abraham called Mount Moriah “Jehovah-jireh”: God will see to it (or He Provides). If you have some free time, read Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7, and 22:1-19. Goodness, I love that story. It makes me thankful that my God still provides for me even when I laugh at Him in unbelief.

Back to the renovations.

Here’s the house as of three weeks ago; nothing much has been done to the front. As you can see, we are expanding the left side of the house where the wrap-around porch was located. This will give us the extra space for the dining room. The skirt of the house will be the checkered brick pattern between the foundation columns (see right side). We’re keeping the spindles and other Victorian/Gingerbread architectural details. The house will eventually be an off white with white trim and a dark door, window frames, and roof. IMG_0927

Before and after of the porch.

Inside, to the left, the two bedrooms have been cleared out, and to the right, the two bedrooms, bathroom, and kitchen were cleared out.

The floor plan will have a dining room, living room/ open-concept kitchen, laundry, and playroom on the leftside of the house, and the bedrooms on the right.

Here’s standing in the front door, pre-reno

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Here’s standing in the middle of the left side of the house, looking towards the front door. Breakfast nook is in the right foreground and the porch expansion is in the right background. Front door is on the far left, hidden by framework. The picture was taken almost exactly where my kitchen island will be located.

Turning around, here’s the back part of the house. It used to be an enclosed porch. It’s the best view of the backyard that I have on file. The rest of the kitchen, back door/mud area, laundry room, playroom/sunroom will be here.

Outside to the left will be the driveway and carport. That’s a crepe myrtle, fyi, which I have sworn to my aunt that I will not butcher, as many of them are. One of my most vivid memories as a child is seeing my mother and landscape-architect-aunt bemoan and weep over maimed crepe myrtles, causing me to pray that I would never commit such a crime against any flora. I digress…

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Side note: see the pile of bricks on the right, in the shadows? They found stacks and stacks– a full pallet’s worth— hidden under ivy in the backyard. Add the bricks from the fireplaces, we have enough to shore up the foundation and brick in a patio.IMG_0024One of many pile o’bricks.

Outside shot of the back porch. The roof line posed some drainage issues, but our brilliant contractor and his team found a solution. I’d go into detail, but I have no idea what it is.

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Pre-reno back porch

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Here’s the framework of the bedroom side of the house. The hallway is between the two bedroom’s— Gracie’s and No-I’m-Not-Pregnant-But-Lord-Willing-If-He-Wants-To-Bless-Us-With-Another-One’s *takes a deep breath* room. We’re adding on to the back of the house for the master bed and bath.

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I had been hearing from multiple people about our amazing hardwood floors… they were covered in sawdust so I spit-cleaned a spot (I’m still a lady– I didn’t spit directly on the floor!) They really are gorgeous… and they’ve never been sanded. That fact didn’t mean anything to me, until I was told that old wooden floors are sanded down throughout the years, so they eventually become too thin to use. Our floors are over 100 years old and are thick enough for another century of use (slight hyperbole).

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It’ll be a lot easier to post pictures once walls start going up and I know what I’m looking at (this has taken an hour so far because I keep loading and captioning pictures, only to realize it’s a completely different part of the house).

Thank you for all the encouragement and well-wishes you have given us since the announcement of our move and home purchase! I’m excited to have a place to show some good Southern hospitality in a few months. Can’t wait to have y’all come visit us. I’ll have a pot of coffee and some store-bought baked goods ready for whoever wants to stop by.

 

 

 

 

My Social Media Creed

I’m a social media purist.

September 11th, 2005, I got off the waiting list for Facebook and officially joined the social media world.

I used it for the next five years to find out who was single and who was in a relationship.

In the early fall of 2009, I joined Twitter.

I used it to complain about work.

Two hundred and thirty-four weeks ago, I joined Instagram.

I used it to post pictures of my life, trying to find the best possible filter and lighting to make my plate of food look good.

I have actively tried to use these social media platforms for what they were originally intended. Narcissistic mediums that allow me to humble-brag about my life, putting it in the best 140-character filter possible.

At its center, my social media thesis statement is to find humor in the ordinary.

What I have intentionally chosen to NOT do, is get involved in political posts, which seems to be about 85% of what my news feed is made up of these days.

Trump Hugs Rubio at Rally… AND YOU’LL NEVER GUESS WHAT HAPPENED NEXT

Hillary’s Emails For Sale on Craigslist… AND THE PRICE IS UNBELIEVABLE

Out of the Mouth of Babes… Toddler Disses Trump AND YOU’LL BE BLOWN AWAY AT HIS RESPONSE

I have friends who post excellent articles about the election and current events. My mother is one of them. I have very rarely (as in three times in as many years) posted articles about moral issues— the Planned Parenthood scandal and the refugee crisis— but I carefully read each article and made sure that I agreed with it in its entirety, and confirm that it used correct sources… in short, that it wasn’t yellow journalism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_journalism)

What I have seen, when my friends post hot topics, are inevitable Facebook comment debates. We live in a world where our thumbs are quicker and sharper than our tongues. It is much easier to type out a scathing response while looking at someone’s profile picture, than formulating a response in real time in a face to face conversation. What we don’t see (or refuse to acknowledge) is that behind every comment is a person with a life story… experiences that have molded their worldview. That person who attacked you for posting a story about Trump’s “Wall”? They may have family members in Mexico who are stuck in a city torn apart by drug wars. That person who attacked you for posting the article about the desecration of the White House when Obama lit up with rainbow colors? Their father might be gay.

So, here is my social media creed: If I post something political over the next year, and you disagree with it, please comment and let me know. I will send you a private message with my cell phone number (if you don’t already have it), and we will discuss it either face to face, or over the phone. Because if I am going to post something, I should be ready to back it up in real-time— not between running errands or during nap time when I have a chance to find yet another article to back up my point.

I also will want to understand your side of the argument– and the circumstances in your life that lead you to believe what you believe. And I will share the same with you.

Because I like to keep my friends on social media exactly that- my friends.