Sunday, February 24, 2013

We Love Him, We Love Him Not

Of all things baby related, the thing I was most excited for in bringing Timothy home was letting his brothers and sister meet him for the first time. I had been a bit disappointed in the hospital that the kids could not come and see him - they had been so excited (especially McKenzie).  But they seemed to be fine with the delay and were eagerly awaiting for Tuesday afternoon when they would be able to touch him and hold him and kiss him for the first time. 

And, oh... McKenzie and Carson were instantly wrapped around Timothy's little finger.  I did nothing more than move my body around and click the shutter button for these pictures, and they are so filled with tenderness... and, bonus, they all happened to be wearing coordinating green outfits!


This little girl has earned the nickname 'little mama' because of the sweet, patient way she cares for baby Timothy.  I knew she would be helpful... but she has been so much more.  I know when Kenzie has Timothy that he is happy and feeling adored.

She also took great pride in going from this:

to this:

in just a few minutes.  I'm starting to realize that one of the reasons some parents survive having large families is that the older ones start helping.


Carson was rather indifferent and/or slightly pessimistic throughout my pregnancy about welcoming a baby into the family.  "They kind of cry a lot and need to be taken care of," you see. So his tenderness towards Timothy surprised me.  I hope I can forever hear his little giggle in response to Timothy's little grunts and stretches.  I pulled the video camera out for this first meeting, too, and could not turn it off.  I'm of the opinion that many short home videos (less than two minutes) is immensely better than a long one most of the time... but I found myself still rolling the camera after 20 minutes - mostly because of Carson.  He seemed to have been transported to another world... one where only he and Timothy existed. Precious.  Precious and priceless.  You can even see the dreamyness in Carson's eyes in this photo:

Yes, McKenzie and Carson were delightfully swept away in the calm and gentle love that only a brand new baby can bring.

(Love Carson holding Timothy's hand in the background of this next one)


So, where was Miles in all of this, you might ask.  Well, poor Miles was not smitten.  He didn't seem to be angry (and this boy knows how to do angry) or jealous, which is rather common among siblings this age.  He didn't seem to be resentful or hateful towards Timothy either.  He was just... sad.  Sad and a little frightened.  He sat against this wall and tried to play Go Fish with Daddy while Kenzie and Carson oogled over their baby brother... but mostly he cried. 

He had met Timothy a few hours before, and the meeting had not gone as expected.  He had been giddy and excited the whole time Timothy and I were in the hospital "Mom!" he said over the phone one day, "Listen.  Tim-fy.  See!  I can say his name!  Tim-fy!" and Brian said he had had the same excited attitude all the way home that Tuesday afternoon to meet the baby.  I watched Miles skip up the back steps in that excitement and then, just as Brian put his hand on the doorknob, I watched the excitement disappear.  His shoulders slumped, his head dropped and he needed some serious coaxing by Brian to come into the house at all. I disappeared into the living room holding the baby and called to Miles, "Hey buddy!  Come see if you can find Timothy!"  but when he rounded the corner, he refused to come in.  He sat down just outside the room with a strangely sad and pouty face.  And when I came closer to him with the baby in my arms, his eyes widened in a sort of fear and he started scooting away backwards.  Eventually he turned his head when he could scoot no further.  We were careful not to push and I gave the baby to Daddy.  "Hey, Bud," I said in a casual sort of way, "let's go play memory!"  His favorite game.  But, for the first time ever (ever), he did not want to play.  Instead he sat.  With a sad face and pouty eyes.  With a bit of persuasion we got him to agree on playing Go Fish, though his heart was never in it.  The only way we found over the next few hours to get Miles to even acknowledge Timothy's presence was when I asked him to take a picture.

But that was as close as he got.
For two whole days.
If anyone even came close to him with the baby he would run away with a fearful look in his eyes.  
On Thursday of that week Brian made it his personal mission to get Miles to hold Timothy.  And, after much patient work, they all ended up on the same couch together... and Miles started (tentatively) looking at the baby.

But (after all that patient work) when Brian offered to let Miles hold Timothy, panic struck Miles and he fled.

As far away as he could think to go.

I asked him what was wrong, but he didn't feel like talking.

Poor Miles.  I suggested we leave him alone and not push any more, but Brian was on a mission, remember?
And that is why the bribe came out.
"Miles, I'll give you a piece of gum if you hold Timothy," Daddy said when Miles bravely entered the room again.  His little mouth turned down in a frown and his eyes welled up with tears.  He wanted the gum... so desperately... but was scared (maybe even terrified?) to hold the baby.  
Miles carefully crawled back onto the couch but made no effort to take the little bundle.  And when Daddy tried to place Timothy in his lap he refused.
"Don't you want gum?" Daddy asked.  Again, the frown and teary eyes made their appearance.
"But," oh how he was trying to control the wavier in his voice (heartbreaking), "he will cry if I hold him," he whispered.  
"Nah," Brian said.  "He's asleep, see?  And, even if he does cry, I'll take him back from you.  It's okay when babies cry... they just do that sometimes because they can't talk yet.  That's how they tell us that they want something."
Miles wiped the tears from his eyes and stared at Timothy.
"Here," Daddy said, scooting closer to Miles, "we'll hold him together.  And then you can have a piece of gum."
Miles held up two pudgy fingers, "Two pieces of gum?" Smart boy.
"Deal," Daddy agreed.  

After Brian got Timothy settled in Miles's arms, he gently started pulling his own arms away.  "I'm going to go get your two pieces of gum," he said.  "You hold Timothy while I get them for you."  Miles was anxious as Brian stood up, but then realized that he was doing it!  And, my favorite, favorite picture:

That proud little face trying to hide behind that grin is perfect.  Proud, he might have been... but certainly not content or even happy.  He watched Brian with all his attention until he returned with the promised gum.

And then anxiously gave Timothy back.  
Over the last two weeks, Miles has only gotten mildly better.  He still has not held Timothy again, but he did gently rub some soap on his head this morning in the baby bathtub.  And two days ago he said, "It's okay, Tim-fy," when he started fussing in his crib.  

You watch - these two are going to be the best of friends... someday. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Welcoming Timothy

"You're kind of thinking this is it, aren't you?" Brian said.  I backed up to the bed to sit down before I nodded my head and broke into silent tears.  "Linds!"  He couldn't hold the excitement back as he rushed to my side and put his arm around me tight enough that I had no choice but to cave into his shoulder, the affection making me break down further.  "Linds," he repeated in a gentle excitement, "it's okay!  This is fun!"
"Yeah, but..." I pushed through the tears, "we're not ready yet.  Bri, we're not even close."  It was 4 weeks and two days before my due date and I had not even begun preparations to welcome our new little boy home.  I was still focused on Brian's recovery and, more recently, in gutting out closets and staging our house to get ready to sell and, most recently, spending the entire week zonked out on a reclining chair with a box of Kleenex, a bottle of Tylenol and the flu.  The carseat was sitting in the dusty attic next to the big red bin marked 'boy clothes 0-6 months' which was next to the boppy and the baby swing.  We had taken both our crib and our pack 'n' play to the junkyard (trust me... they needed to go) and the new pack 'n' play that would hold our little son until we moved remained only a plan.  Plus, we were still far, far away from deciding on a name.

Yet, over the past several hours I had become certain... there must be a small tear somewhere in the amniotic sac.  And over the past several minutes the Braxton Hicks contractions that had been my constant companion for the past two months had started to hint of pain.  We needed to go.

I had spent my whole day in a confused, frustrated state.  I had dropped Miles off at preschool at 9:00am and headed to WalMart to get a few things before my scheduled doctor appointment at 11:00.  I noticed something was... different... on the drive out to preschool when, without providing unnecessary details, what you might expect to happen if a large sac of fluid started leaking inside of you with only one way out, started to happen.  But the tear must have been quite small because I was not entirely sure.  I had been coughing awfully hard for the past week through my sickness, and I had been coughing plenty during the morning, and... I had heard of pregnancy incontinence before...  I wondered if I had developed yet another embarrassing side effect of pregnancy.

I was slightly successful in WalMart in finding some interesting items with which to stage my house, and even snagged a box of my favorite newborn diapers because, well, I didn't have any and because, well, something was different.  By the time my appointment rolled around, I had made up my mind to discuss my new development and was dismayed to find the doctor I was seeing was one who had not historically been very respectful to any concerns I had had.  Sure enough, she didn't even ask how I was doing and I had to bring it up on my own.
"So," I began.  I explained the dampness that had developed over the past couple of hours and acknowledged that I had been sick and coughing (giving merit to the incontinence possibility).
"Well, you're not far enough along where I would think your water had broken," she dismissed.  "I'm sure it's just incontinence."
"Probably..." I humbly admitted.  "But, is there some sort of simple test you could do just to make sure?" I do have a very strong bladder.  I wanted to add.
"Um.  Well..." clearly she did not like this idea.  "There is a test.  It's not a simple one..." she paused long enough for me to realize that she was finished talking.
"Could we do it?" I pushed.
A curt nod.  "Alright.  But when you hear hoof-beats behind you, you have to think it's a horse.  Not a zebra."  Um.  Okay.

The test was, indeed complicated and consisted of a yellow strip of paper that turned blue if it came in contact with amniotic fluid.  So, I can understand the hesitation... who wants to watch a yellow strip of paper turn blue?  Whew.  Com.pli.cate.ed.

Didn't matter, though.  Test came out negative and I went home feeling belittled from the doctor and hanging my head in acceptance of my new incontinence problem.  Things got worse, though, and by 3:30 I was thinking again along the lines of ruptured sac, despite the negative test result, and called the doctor back.  I left a message with my phone number and when I hadn't heard back by 4:00 decided to just jump in the car and drive back over.  As I pulled into the parking lot, Brian called from the house with the news that the doctor had called back and was on the home line... so I sat in my car, listening through my phone as my husband talked through another phone to the doctor who was just inside the doors I was staring at.  She was just as curt and dismissive to Brian on the phone as she had been to me and refused to see me because they were closing.  "If you think things have gotten worse," she told Brian, "you'll have to go to the emergency department.  If her sac has ruptured, I'd just send her there anyway, and they can do just as good a job providing peace of mind if it has not."  If I was a different person, I would have marched right up to the doors and asked if I could just have a piece of their magic yellow paper to test it myself... but I am not a different person, and my fear of awkward encounters prevailed.  So, for the second time that day, I drove home from the doctor's office with my head hung in frustration.  "Well, I'm not going to the emergency department," I told Brian.  "That would be, like, a three hour ordeal when all they need to do is use their yellow paper."  Plus, I wasn't that sure.  And, again, the first test really had been negative...

So, I ignored the problem again and continued working on digging out the closets I had been working on that day.  But, even with the pads I started using, I was quickly running out of pants to wear.  I got more and more confused and then more and more sure that this was not incontinence - so halfway through our family movie night of Up, I stood up and walked away whispering to Brian that I was going to go take a shower and that I would be back.  I love family movie nights, and hesitate to even get up to grab more popcorn on a normal night.  I love snuggling down with my husband and kids with the lights low; I love listening to their laughter; and I never want to break the trance.  So, Brian knew things were getting more serious in my mind and he silently followed me and started packing a hospital bag while I showered.  "I'm calling the Larsons, Linds," he called.

I took a deep breath.  Oh boy.  If my friendship with Becky lasted through these months, it would be a miracle.  She had been my right hand all through Brian's hospital stay and much through the recovery, and now I knew I would need to depend on her again...  Not only did my children need a place to sleep that night, but McKenzie's 9th birthday party was the following day.  12 kids were going to show up at the museum by 12:30 with brightly wrapped gifts and birthday wishes.  I needed to go buy some decorations and decorate the room... I needed to order and pick up the pizza and drinks... I needed to get the cake and take the pictures and be the Mom... but I was going to the hospital; and I was becoming more and more sure I was not coming back home that night.

But, Becky is Becky and she opened her front door with an excited smile to welcome my kids into her home for the second extended stay in less than two months, and then threw her arms around me.  "I'm so excited!" she said.  "And... if this ends up being the real deal, I will throw a birthday party for McKenzie tomorrow afternoon."

I didn't even have to ask.
What a dear friend.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  I had spent most of the day staging the kids' room.  Well, I had actually spent most of the day googling pregnancy incontinence and ruptured sacs, but in between my research I had been (slowly and carefully (dang back)) moving furniture, hanging artwork, clearing out closets and, Carson's favorite, placing new, coordinating sheets and blankets on the bunk beds.  In the end I found it beautiful.  But I also found myself hurdling over piles of stuff to get through the hallways in order to participate in the conversation that was starting in the playroom.  Movie was over and the kids were standing in a half circle around Brian's sitting body.  I didn't make it in time to hear him say we were going to the hospital, but I saw the precious reaction to the news from my 9-year-old daughter.  It wasn't just excitement, though that was certainly the biggest component, it was also mixed with a beautiful wonder and awe.  Mouth agape, she practically glided up the four steps to my side to wrap her arms around me.  "Oh... Mom..." she said reverently.  Carson, on the other hand, sauntered up to me and pushed his palm into my belly.  "Oh, yeah," he confirmed in an all-knowing tone.  "That is really hard."  He was referring to the talks about contractions we had had in the past and I recalled telling him at some point that the contractions would help me know when the baby was coming.  I saw no point in bursting his bubble and telling him that I was not, in fact, having labor contractions.  I quickly explained that babies sometimes trick their mamas and that we weren't sure we would be having the baby tonight - we just wanted to check.  McKenzie hurried to get her pj's on and helped the boys get into theirs, frequently patting my arm as she walked by.  I think she was nervous about the pain labor causes... she has been very curious and inquisitive about the whole process, particularly the painful parts, lately.   On the way out the door I watched McKenzie hop with excitement and saw Carson's shoulders slump.  "Oh well..." he said in a melancholy fashion as he shuffled to the sliding doors.  "I guess this won't be the first night I get to sleep with new sheets and blankets..."

"Mom, are you going to get that medicine thing in your back so you won't hurt so much?" McKenzie called from the backseat.  "Um," I hadn't thought much about it yet, "probably."
"Are you a little scared about it?"
"Well, I don't like it... but it is less painful to get the medicine than it is to feel the contractions - and, really, I'm going to be so excited about the baby coming that I won't even care much."
As Brian and I approached the sliding hospital doors I hedged a bit.  "Brian," I grabbed his arm for comfort, "I'm not ready for this."
"It's okay, Linds.  We'll get everything ready in time."
"No..." how do I explain this?  "I mean, emotionally.  I haven't mentally prepared myself for labor - and... it's really not that easy, you know."

But the time for preparation had passed and there was nothing I could do about it (I see a metaphor in here somewhere).  The check in took forever and I had to pee like crazy ('No, you can't use this bathroom down here' they said 'because you think your membranes have ruptured... we don't want you to go into active labor in the bathroom, so wait until you get up to the labor and delivery floor' because, apparently, going pee has the effect of making women with ruptured membranes go into active labor.  Except that it doesn't).  Eventually, though, I was able to... make myself more comfortable... and then sat back in the hospital bed for the intense round of questioning.  The nurse was sweet and grandmotherly as she small talked and then went through the standard questioning.
"Do you know if it's a boy or a girl?"
"Yep - it's a boy."
"Do you have a name picked out?"
"... Uh.  No."
"Do you plan to have an epidural?"
"... Uh.  Maybe.  Probably.  It'll depend on how fast the labor is progressing, I guess," I managed.
"Do you have a birth plan?"
"... Uh.  No.  I guess not," I said, trying to think about whether or not I had strong opinions about anything this time around.
"Our birth plan," Brian interjected, "is: Get The Baby Out."
We laughed.  And I nodded because it was true.  That's about as far as we'd thought. 

Not really surprisingly, this time the magic yellow paper turned undeniably blue and what I had begun to suspect just a few hours before became a reality.  We were having a baby.  I closed my eyes as the on-call doctor (who was very nice) and nurse shut the door behind themselves.  I willed away the tears that wanted to sprout and felt two big hands cradle my cheeks.  With my eyes still closed, my face scrunched up in a pained expression.  This isn't how I wanted this to go,  I thought.  I'm not sure how I wanted it to go... but not like this. I at least wanted to be excited...  I opened my eyes and my anxiety melted into surprised laughter as I looked into Brian's face, just inches from mine.  His eyes were literally sparkling with excitement and his grin was bigger than I'd seen since the heart attack.  "We're having a baby, Linds!" he whispered excitedly.

The night went well and my body began to labor on its own at about 2:00 in the morning.  By 4:00 the contractions were painful enough to not be able to speak through them and were coming every three minutes.  By 6:00 I was exhausted but, interestingly, something in the pain of the previous four hours had sparked a growing excitement in me.  The epidural came shortly after (I had only dilated to an 'I'll give you 4 to make it sound a little better'), but instead of falling asleep, I stayed awake and listened to the baby's heartbeat on the monitors.  I thought about him, the actual baby that was on his way, and found that when I stripped away all the major stresses of my life from these last couple of months (back pain, worry about Brian, adapting to a recovering husband, getting a house on the market without said husband, relying on so many others for help, pregnancy fatigue and general pregnancy fogginess), the excitement of a baby was there.  And strong!  I lingered in that feeling and was incredibly grateful for modern medicine that took away the pains enough to let me explore and find the home of that excitement.    There was one little blip a couple hours later when the baby's heart rate started dropping through the contractions, but he always recovered when the contraction passed and, thankfully, no c-section was necessary.

And, wouldn't you know it... out of twelve or more possibilities, the doctor who waltzed in at 7:00 in the morning after the shift change was no other than the same one who had turned me away and made me feel silly less than 24 hours before.  How ironic, I thought, that she will be delivering my baby today...  "Well, well, well," she said and she snapped a glove over her left hand.  "I'm glad you ended up going into the emergency department."  It was kind, her tone - and she was wonderful and respectful throughout the rest of the morning.  Later I wished I had thought to say, "Looks like it was a zebra this time."

Little Timothy was born at about 10:25am (so much was happening around that time and I forgot to look at the clock...), cord around his neck (which is probably why his heart rate was dropping), but wailing, and was quickly whisked away to be cared for by the team of special nursery pediatricians that had been present for the birth.  They were all chipper while they worked on him and gave me no reason to worry from the very first moment, and soon he was placed in my arms.  The pediatric team hovered around and explained to me that they needed to get him back into the special care nursery to start some antibiotics... that he would need to stay there for at least 48 hours... that it was best to start now.  I was disappointed when they left with him minutes later because my favorite part of the birth experience (snuggling alone with my new baby and husband for the first hour of life) was taken away.  The nurse seemed respectful of my feelings, but firm in her opinion that this little pre-term baby needed some assistance.  After they left I tried to focus on my thankfulness that he seemed healthy and, though early, was able to be held by us for a little while, anyway.  How much worse would it have been if they had swept him away in an emergency.

And I slept.

Thankfully I was able to go sit with Timothy as often and as long as I wanted over the next three days.  I could touch him, hold him, feed him. I just couldn't take him out of the nursery and away from all of his monitors.  I spent a good amount of time holding the arm that the IV needle was in - they had it boarded up so he couldn't bend his elbow, but the board did not work very well and often was shifted to the side just enough to where he could still bend and jab himself over and over again.  I hated that...

And, I finally tracked down his birth numbers.  Weight: 6.05 lbs.  Height: 19.75 inches
I've always wanted a small one.

He continued to thrive.  They tested his blood sugar every three hours by pricking his heel to collect a drop of blood. Which I also hated. And so did he.

McKenzie has been fighting a fever/cold for the past week or so (so scary after having to hospitalize Miles for getting a fever when he was brand new), and came home early from school one afternoon.  Brian was on his way to the hospital and decided to bring her along to take a look at her new baby brother.  Children are not allowed into the nursery, but I pulled the blinds up on one of the windows so she could see.  Love at first sight.  "He's so tiny... I didn't think he would be that tiny," she said.

The third night he was there he graduated into being able to sleep in a co-sleeping room with me.  His IV was removed and the only cord we had to fight with all night was the one that connected his heart leads to the monitors.  He kept me awake most of the night with the beeping monitors (he kept kicking the leads off of his chest) and his feeding schedule, but I didn't mind.  I was happy to hold him all through those early morning hours.

Tuesday morning came along and it was finally time to go home.  I was happy to get at least a couple of traditional hospital pictures before we left with real window light instead of the artificial lights in the special care nursery. 

And, yes, I have the funny cry-at-odd-moments problem after I deliver a baby... and this cute little monkey bum held in Brian's hands had me swallowing back the tears from the cuteness of it all.  Isn't he just so tiny and precious?

All bundled up in the carseat, ready to go home. 

Welcome home, little one.