Wednesday, September 30, 2015


In a private group I'm in, girls have been sharing their most recent birth stories and naturally that's got me reflecting on my two births, and I've never shared Elliot's here or there, either.

I spent Thursday, March 29th, 2012 exchanging baby shower gift doubles, two Target locations, two Walmarts, Fred Meyer and Ikea all saw me waddling up and down, and in half of the stores I had to leave my cart and go, um.. you know, really bad.  Because I have Celiac disease I thought maybe I'd been glutened, but couldn't think of what it could've been.  I was also hoping to find something that would fit over my enormous belly that was prettier than what I had for Papa's best friend's wedding. 

Friday morning I woke up around 8, ate breakfast and after getting dressed and making the bed I got this overwhelming desire to crawl back into my freshly made bed.  In fact, I did it, but as it was only 10 and way too early for a nap and I had way too much to do, I jumped up and switched off the light.  How I would later regret not taking that nap!  

 My water broke in a gush of disbelief as I talked on the phone with Nana Eve.  "Water doesn't just break, like in the movies!" we said.  It does. I was getting ready to go to Chase and Dara's wedding rehearsal dinner and there I stood; hair curled and water coming in gushed on the floor, my pants, the rug.  I sat on the toilet and called the midwife, Nana Eve (back to tell her what the midwife said,) Papa (don't rush home now, but don't go to the dinner...) and Auntie Katie (help, I'm stranded on the toilet and water's gushing... are you busy??) 

Sam the Midwife said we could come in any time but definitely in the morning.  Katie rescued me from the toilet around 5:30pm.  The first contraction came around six. They weren't bad and I managed for awhile.  Papa came home at 7:30, and they had gotten a little stronger and more regular.  We had a snack, I showered and we decided to go in, because we had slept on our brand new mattress one night. There was no way I was going to get amniotic fluid on that, especially because it still came in gushes as you or I moved. 

Off we headed, around 10:30pm,  excited, nervous and feeling quite unreal.  We got checked right in, because my "membranes were grossly ruptured," yes, that's what I had been telling them!

Things were starting to amp up as we were admitted, I remember hanging on to the side of the bed as hard as I could while Papa put as much pressure on the small of my back as he could.  In retrospect, this was by far "not bad" or at least, not as bad as it would get, but what did I know, this was my first time!

Sam, the midwife came in and said hello, offered to check our progress and start some pitocin if we wanted. (we didn't) Once the cervix is checked the clock starts ticking for a delivery within 12 hours.  The night was spent in fits of contractions, and promises to myself, "in an hour you can have a hot bath," and I would manage through an hour and take a bath. I remember once in the wee hours Papa was asleep on the couch- he'd worked 12 hours that day before, remember- and I was alone in the tub, so tired and the tub felt so claustrophobic I jumped up and begged Papa to please wake up, wake up please, come help me! I found myself swaying my hips in wide circles like I had thought was weird when I saw women do it in birth videos I had watched.  It was just instinct, I guess. 

Around 5 am, after lots of walking the halls, the one warm bath which gave Papa the only sleep he would have and a shower, Sam came and did the check.  I was dilated to 5cm, and I felt so cheered, surely our baby would be here soon! Surely we would be done soon!

She came back just before her shift was over at 7 (another promised bath after she left) and I had dilated to 7 centimeters.  She said maybe things would really start up, and that it should take an hour a centimeter after 5 (by the textbook, anyway!)  This news cheered me even more and I continued on, doing everything I could think of to cope.  They pulled out and prepped the delivery cart.  

I don't remember when we decided it, but I asked Auntie Emmy to come be at the birth with me, since Nana wasn't coming for 10 more days and I had been at her birth with Meredith.  I called her after the 7am check, and she raced down from Kalama worried to miss the big event.  How glad I was and am to see her, and to have had her there!

The shift changed and our pregnant night shift nurse went home (and incidentally went into labor and her baby was born before you, Elliot!)  Galina came on duty, and I at first didn't love her and misunderstood that I was her only patient.  I quickly learned how sweet she was and how patient!  The kindest angel of mercy; whatever I needed through that long long day she would fetch, do or ask, anticipating needs before I could think of them, ensuring Papa could eat while she took over the counter pressure on my back or would get ice chips.  She probably heated the flax pack (hospital issued and a life saver for sure) over 50 times.  There was also a student nurse in there and we thought that it would be a great learning opportunity to see a natural, unmedicated birth and labor process. 

At 10am or so we met Lauren, the midwife on duty who I loved.  She was a little amazonian, but calm, gentle and encouraging.  She checked me and there was a little progress, maybe dilated to an 8.  The labor seemed to stall there, though the contractions kept coming.  I hadn't slept since the night before and all day I marked time by thinking, "if we had our baby in an hour, that will leave Papa x amount of time to shower and make it to Chase's wedding for pictures...he can show off pictures of our baby and bring me wedding cake after!

Around noon, which is when Papa started missing picture taking, I'm sure I was in transition.  Nothing felt good.  Breathing instruction irritated me and I felt grumpy and caged.  Come OUT, baby, please please come out. I begged more than once. I bounced around the room, from couch to bed, to rocker to birth ball to toilet, barely settling in when a contraction would send me flying to my feet, on to the next thing.  It was so intense, the pain in my back relentless and I just wanted to DO SOMETHING,  for goodness sakes. I could see the privacy hedge out the window and thought to my self, if I could only touch that shrubbery, go out that window, then maybe I could leave my body and this terrible pain behind.  Pushing would've been a welcome relief.  I said so to Lauren, who checked me and I was still dilated to 8 and only 90% effaced.  She strongly suggested pitocin to strengthen and regulate the contractions. 

I knew the pit would only "worsen" everything and my coping skills were not only wearing thin, they were wearing through.  I remember looking at the little "Baby Wilson" bracelet and thinking with disdain that there would be no baby... they had gotten everything ready and there would be no baby, only this awful purgatory of pain and crazy thoughts.

I cried talking to Nana Eve, telling her how tired I was, how badly it hurt and how disappointed I was.  Papa and I decided to have this baby I'd better do the package deal of pit and epidural.  It took awhile, but the anesthesiologist came in- a real jerky guy with a crude, crass manner but supposedly the best at his job.  

For various reasons, reading too much and having an overactive imagination among them, I was terrified to think of that big needle sliding into the epidural space, but at the same time, the three contractions I had while waiting for him were the worst yet.  Or maybe it was because I knew I didn't have to hang on much more so it felt even worse.  The epidural slid right in, but rubbed a nerve and  my right leg shot up in the air and the doctor yelled at me for moving.  I explained and he said sorry, and we had to start all over.  

Once it was in, I was "trapped" in bed, but was finally able to rest.  That was 3pm.  When I woke up, I could feel the pressure of a contraction but the pain was gone.  It was 5pm and when I looked at the clock I cried and cried, knowing beautiful Dara was walking down the aisle, Papa was missing his best friend's wedding and I felt so responsible- why wouldn't my body have this baby, already?? I was powerless.  Lauren came in and checked me and we had dilated to a 9 and were 100% effaced.  I suspect that if either number had not budged she would've put a c section on the table.  Your heart rate was also stable and strong after contractions and that helped our cause a lot.  

Around 7 pm I was almost complete and ready to push,  Irene, who had checked us into triage the night before was our nurse and she was tiny but mighty in kindness and cheerful helpfulness.  We got Nana Eve on skype so she was there, Emmy manned our camera and around 8:30 I stared pushing. 

It was the hardest work I have ever done.  It felt ineffectual, and I almost couldn't believe Irene or Lauren when they would tell me you had moved down or they could feel your head.  It sounds disgusting, but once they got me a mirror  I could see they were telling the truth, and it really helped me push longer and harder. Midway through I was getting heart burn again which I had almost constantly the third trimester.  It was so bad it was making me throw up and that was definitely holding up progress so Lauren ordered a shot of hydrochloric acid, and Irene, the nurse backed away, sure I'd spit it out on her. I gagged it up and swallowed it down probably three or four times before I got it down for good and it did the trick almost instantly. I was able to keep pushing and then.  At 10:32pm, March 31, 2012, after two hours of pushing and 30 hours since my water broke, there you were.  So beautiful and blue and scowling fiercely, the biggest cone head we'd ever imagined. Early on in my pregnancy we'd decided on Elliot Oscar "if it's a boy."  They lifted you up on my chest and I felt something inside me click into place and turn on.  "It's a boy," someone said, but I already knew you, and I said, "hello, Elliot, we have been waiting and waiting for you."  because we had been, and nothing felt as right as holding you in my arms does.   I'm your Mama, you see.

You came out sunny side up, with your hand near your face and you were tearing my body before you even came out, Lauren the midwife later said the repair she did on me was one of the most extensive in her career.  It didn't heal for months and all I can remember from the first months of your life is being deliriously happy and in incredible pain. I don't think I could've handled it without being so in love with you, little boy.

I'm still a little sad to have missed Chase and Dara's wedding, to have robbed Papa of the privilege of standing up as best man, but your birthday and their marriage are now always entwined, which is part of why we picked them as your God Parents.  

Your birthday was also the one day Nana requested we NOT have our baby, because 11 years before her little boy flew away  to Heaven on March 31.   We all dreaded that sad day, and missed uncle Benny, and we always will.  But God has given us that day back, Mr. Elliot, because I love to celebrate your coming.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Juniper Kate, or a lesson in trusting God- a birth story.

Long before you were even created, little baby, I was hoping I carried you around and I didn't. I wasn't crushed, and then, a short week or two later I was down right relieved that God knows best, that it wasn't the right time for you to be on your way, that your Papa was so hurt and I was so busy, and our family was healing and we would need time to be whole before you came. I thanked God that you were not on your way, I thanked God that you were not here yet and I prayed that God would give you to us when the time was right.

All that terrible month of May in my mind I would savor the thought of you, though. I would dream about your birth, your birthday, and in my mind every detail was perfect, and the best part of that day dream was that it meant your Papa was healthy, that things were normal, that God had answered every prayer, that we were able to make you and God knit you together under my heart.  I looked forward to you like I hadn't known to look forward to Elliot, though I love him as fiercely. I didn't know what that love felt like, but I did before you came. Every Mama I saw with her tummy round with life I would gaze at happily, dreaming of when our life was normal, when Papa was normal, when we would be anxiously awaiting for you.

And. One day, towards the end of summer, God answered those prayers and I knew there was someone new coming to our family. I was so excited I took a test as soon as I could and I could hardly keep the news to myself.

Through the last year or so it seemed like one after another I heard of Mamas who had babies who were going to die when they breathed air- if they made it that far- of Mamas who carried babies with holes in their hearts, Mamas who had holes in their hearts for the children their bodies would not and could not bear, and you seemed more of a miracle.

Because, you are a miracle, Juniper. If Papa had died like he almost did- twice- if Papa had not returned to himself- which he did- there would have been no chance to make you, there would be no you, and I would just have Elliot. It was as though God wanted you to be made, and he did.

Through the weeks of laying on the couch reading Mr. Brown Can Moo infinite amounts of times without the energy to get off the couch, of willing myself to get out and exercise, of running my first 5K when you were just 12 weeks inside of me I thought about how lucky and blessed I was to have you.   And I tried not to think of what could go wrong.  I had just learned that bad things happen- that God is still good, that He is still God- but very bad things can happen, and I was so thankful every time I felt you kicking and rolling even if carrying you turned my joints to jelly and my back into knots. I was one of the lucky ones, I know, to have my health, to have the ability to carry you, part of me, part of Papa.

Around twenty weeks it seemed I could hardly walk to the end of the road without my joints feeling like they were spontaneously combusting so there went my long hikes and walks. I tried cheering myself up that as soon as you're born and I'm feeling better we can get back out there again and I'll lose all the weight I would inevitably gain, and I thanked God for you, and the privilege of carrying you. 

I read every book I could get my hands on, determined that this birth would be different than Elliot's, that it would  be a shorter, natural, water birth, with my mom there, and Papa there, and I knew how it would feel to be in the birth tub with you, I went over it so many times in my mind. We took a water birth class and I got really excited to meet you, and I knew I was making the right choice for our family.

Late in my pregnancy I had a few tickets to use up so we flew to North Carolina to see Nana Eve and Buppa Joe and the aunts and uncles there and an even quicker trip to South Dakota to see Emmy and Burdette.  Both trips went so good, Juniper, even though you really cramped Elliot's lap child space, but I was so worried you might want to come early, because I knew it could happen.

I breathed a big sigh of relief being back home and nested like you wouldn't believe. I painted the hall way, Elliot's (and yours, when you're older!) room, the bathroom and stairwell. I decorated, sewed, made Etsy sales, cleaned every closet, nook and cranny and often made two dinners per night. One for now, one for after baby. Elliot had come two weeks early and I was vastly unprepared. I wasn't going to let that happen to me twice!

On his birthday I had really strong, frequent braxton hicks and I called the clinic, hoping they'd let me just be checked at the clinic... it was too late in the day so we went to the hospital, wondering if we were going to meet you.  It turned out I just had an "irritable uterus" and we did the walk of shame back home. It turned out that I knew nothing about being pregnant, being in early labor or when you would come.  I was relieved you wouldn't share a birthday with Elliot, but grumpy for even having called- they always say to come in- and wasting Elliot's birthday evening.

Our house was spotless the night of his actual birthday party, and I kept it up, because a few weeks after was when Elliot had been born. Every night I tidied up and cleaned the kitchen- just in case.
The weather was unseasonably warm and every day me and Elliot headed outside simply because I didn't want to make a mess, my Etsy shop was closed and there was nothing to do but wait for you, little honey!

Nana Eve and Jubilee- who has been saving her money for two years- came when I was 38 and a half weeks, Elliot was already three days old at that point, and we thought for sure you would be coming any day. That whole week every twinge I hoped and thought "maybe this is it!" and I'd time the contractions and wake up still pregnant with nothing new happening. Two days before she left I woke up at four in the morning, any activity I'd been having the night before stopped and I cried and cried because there was nothing I could do to make you come. It seemed so unfair that other girls live close to their Mamas and it's not a big deal for them to be at the baby's birth, or even handy- they just call her up, "Mom, it's time," and they drive over. The day before she left I called the clinic hoping to be seen that morning instead of the next, because she'd be leaving a few hours after the scheduled appointment. It worked out, and there didn't seem to No change since Elliot's birthday, so it sunk in there in the clinic. My mom was going to miss your birth. I cried again, but it got a little easier because I couldn't hope for it any more and just accepted it.

"Expectation is the root of all heartache," Sweetheart. William Shakespeare said that and it's true.

To my relief, you did not come immediately after Nana Eve left, that would've made it harder, had she missed you  by hours not days- or what actually would be weeks.

I've been a person to say I wouldn't induce labor at 39 weeks just because, or that going overdue isn't a bad thing, and I had to really see if I believed that. It's easy to say when you've gone two weeks early! Every day I woke up, still pregnant and it was almost laughable. I was happy to find that I didn't mind being over due, after all.  It struck me that I didn't know when I might be this pregnant again, that who knows what the future would hold or if there would be other babies, and for certain, I would never again be pregnant with you, once you came out. So I cherished being just Elliot's Mama a little longer, and enjoyed feeling you kicking and swimming around.  Nature has shown that no one has ever actually been pregnant forever, so you would come out; though I stopped believing that after awhile. I would be that person to be pregnant forever, I knew it.

Monday morning, May 5, I got a call to go to a different clinic location, the  midwife was a a birth at Legacy Salmon Creek, could I go there instead, so off we went, Me, Papa and Elliot. I was still dilated to a two, very high, you were swimming and not looking like you were going to come out anytime soon at all. I laughed and said, well, I can't do anything about it!  I knew that from Nana's trip- we had eaten spicy foods, taken evening primrose oil, walked 4 and 5 miles, bounced on the exercise ball, pushed pressure points- literally, everything we could think of to encourage you to come out. Me and Elliot even would march around and chant, "Rum Tum Tum, Baby Come!" which he had gotten from a library book. We talked to you and told you how nice it was out here and how much we wanted to meet you, but you didn't want to come out.

We discussed our options with Kate the Midwife, the Vancouver clinic only lets you go to 42 weeks so my induction was scheduled for the next Monday.  Though, "Hardly anyone actually makes it to 42 weeks," she reassured me. I agreed to do a non stress test that day, the ultrasound testing on Wednesday and then on Friday another non stress test. I wanted you to stay in as long as you needed to, so I said sure.

Papa took Elliot to the waiting room and I was escorted down the hall. A nonstress test, it turns out, is just hospital monitoring of baby's heart rate. I sat there for the required twenty minutes after which the nurse returned and asked if you hadn't moved, it turns out the "call light" she gave me was to track fetal movement though she didn't tell me. She looked at your heart rate and I could tell by her face she didn't like the look of it. She went out and returned with the same funny look on her face and asked if would do another twenty minute session because things weren't "adding up." She gave me apple juice to drink and I sat there again, waiting, and trying not to worry.  After the final session she took awhile to return and when she did she said the strip wasn't "like baby needs to come out, but it isn't necessarily like baby needs to stay in much longer, either."  She had talked to Kate the midwife and could we please go to the hospital for further testing.

I found Papa and Elliot in the hallway, and thought maybe someone had told Papa but they hadn't, so he was a little puzzled and I tried to allay his fears though mine weren't quite to rest either. It's just a precaution, I said. We brought Elliot to Grandma's, telling her we'd probably be back home to fetch him in a few hours.

At the hospital I was hooked to the monitors and we sat there all afternoon with much of the same results. Around four, we had the ultrasound we were supposed to have Wednesday and you wouldn't really cooperate there, either, you funny baby! You were moving like you should, and there was enough amniotic fluid so the placenta was fine, but you just wouldn't do a practice breath long enough. The nurse had kind of explained that the midwife would probably want us to stay if you didn't pass your ultrasound with flying colors, so as I watched you breathe for 20 seconds- and stop- I hardly knew if I was hoping for you to keep going or stop.  I was ready to meet you, especially watching you suck your wrist oh so adorably on the ultrasound screen, watch you move your little feet... I wanted to watch those feet not on a screen, and kiss your little face!  I asked how big she thought you were and she said mid sevens to high eights- that there was a lot of water but you weren't too big. Just that morning I had told Papa I just "knew" you were going to be big, bigger than all your cousins, especially since Elliot was 8 pounds two weeks early and here we were three weeks after that! The nurse left to call Kate the midwife, who wanted to talk to me when they finished.

I was pretty sure of what she would say, and it was no surprise that she was uncomfortable sending us back home, though she could kind of fudge the numbers if I really wanted her to, and come back the next day, and the next... until you wanted to come out.  Honestly, I was tired of being pregnant, I didn't want to find places for Elliot everyday for an hour, and most of all I didn't want to go home and worry about you until the next day. My mind was already racing with thoughts of Papa being on antiseizure medications when I got pregnant, and what if-?

With a feeling of unreality I told Papa we were staying, we're going to have a baby, I said!

Papa ran home to collect everything and get a bag together for Elliot so someone could stop by and get it to bring to him at Grandpa and Grandma's house.  Meanwhile I was transferred from triage over to a room and dinner ordered.

By the time Papa came back an IV was in and the night shift coming on. I had him take one last belly picture, and before I knew it I was hooked up to a bag of Pitocin, my archenemy of Elliot's birth. I'm sure that's what helped him be born, but by the time I needed it last time, I had been in transition for hours and wasn't coping, the Pit seemed like the last straw and I had wanted to avoid it this time. Our game plan was though, with you so high- rascal babe- was to go on Pit and walk long enough for you to drop low enough for her to break my water and hopefully get off of it. It was really unreal walking the birth center with the contractions not bad at all- I felt like an interloper, that any moment someone would come running up yelling, "You don't belong here! Go home and stay pregnant!"

The walking didn't last long because the monitor kept slipping because of my enormous belly and would pick up my heart rate and lose yours, Juniper, so we resorted to bouncing on the birth ball in the room.  That worked, and Papa and I watched Despicable Me 2. The contractions were clearly not bad because I thought it was funny, even.

Kate came by to check on us around ten, and as we were chatting and I was saying the contractions were only uncomfortable at the very top but I was managing well without pain medication when she said, you know, lets just check you! So she checked and I was dilated to a three with a "mushy" cervix, almost completely different than in the clinic that afternoon- AND you were low enough to break the water! I was infinitely grateful we agreed to check. She broke my water and it gushed and gushed and gushed, and for some reason it struck me as funny.  Maybe because I was so relieved to actually know there was no going back- we REALLY were going to meet you soon- and also because her finger was up there slowly letting water out and it was dripping on the floor and it was such a strange tableau we were participating in that I started laughing and couldn't stop which made the gushing worse. I think Kate even had to go change, I guess you could say I wet her pants.

The first contraction after my water was broken was much stronger and I thought, that's the real thing! It stopped being as funny after that.

Kate left to take a nap, telling the nurse to page her at one and she'd come check on us. I really liked our nurse that night, she was from Oklahoma and had a sweet drawl that reminded me of home.  She was tall and thin and had five kids!

As I alternately bounced on the ball and took contractions standing they got worse and worse and the pain in my back started up big time and I needed Papa to come push on it when the contraction peaked. I would say, "Thank you God for this Baby, Thank you God that I'm in Labor!"  or "Okay, okay, okay" over and over until it was done.  Then I would start reciting bible verses, the loosely paraphrased, "the joy that is coming can't compare to pain that you've been feeling," 2 Corinthians 4:17 even though when we were talking about it before  hand Papa said it was a stretch, but I said it applied.  Around midnight I asked Constance if we could set up the birth pool, because much to my delight they had planned ahead and given us a bigger room and gotten all the supplies ready for my water birth. I had worried with the induction it wouldn't be possible to even try for a water birth, but here they were so prepared- it was quite cheering! I felt like it might help, and I definitely felt like I was coping less well.

She ended up paging Kate a little early, I think it was 12:30 when she came in, rumpled and sleepy eyed and found me dilated to a five and ready to dive into the tub headlong. She sat on my bed and she, Brian and Constance chatted amiably in between contractions.  She's best friends with the midwife I normally see, so she was telling me about Lauren and how Lauren had bossed her during the birth of one of Kate's kids.  She thought it was hilarious I compare Lauren to Chummy from Call the Midwife when I recommend her to people, but that it's totally true. (In all the best ways!)

The water was different than I thought, it didn't give immediate relief, but it did help. It was also awkward because Papa wasn't in the tub and the contractions were coming so fast I don't think I would've let him leave me long enough to put his swim trunks on, but he couldn't reach my  back very well which was still the worst during every contraction. They started joking because every time I would have a contraction I would say, ""Honey, Push on my back as hard as you can- as hard as you have in your whole life!" I kept adding that last part because I think he was a little hesitant. After 20+ hours of back labor with Elliot he left my back bruised and his arms sore, but the pressure felt so good it never seemed like he could get it hard enough. One time, as a contraction started up Kate said, "Now Brian, as hard as you ever have in your whole life!" before I could get the sentence out. Though, in my mind I only said it once or twice. 

They were getting harder and closer together and I felt myself losing control over and over, motor boating my lips like Donald Duck seemed to help, but it was all I could do. The contraction would slow and stop and I'd feel okay and another would start up. I can't do it, I can't do it, I can't do it. and even worse, I don't want to do this I don't want to do this!   I wished I could crawl into bed and sleep for awhile but I knew that would make me feel worse, I just wanted the pain to stop, to be done, to be holding you! I even wished we hadn't started this journey last summer.  I even said, "Honey, lets only have two kids. Two kids is good, right?"  and Papa said, "oh, did you say two more?"  Of course I didn't mean it I quickly have resumed saying things about "next time," but transition will make you crazy.

Finally the tub was the last place I wanted to be and I felt like I had to have a bowel movement and said so- I could tell I was in transition by the things I was saying, and how out of control I felt. Papa later said I was crazy and he didn't know me and I said I was crazy and I didn't know me, so why would he?  I would stand on my tippy toes hoping the contraction would maybe leave me but being so tense didn't help, and Kate would remind me to relax.  One time I said,  I know, I'm trying, but how can a person that's trying to be in control relax? It's really hard! She checked me when I got out of the tub, 7 centimeters, and I had some contractions standing next to the bed with her, I think I wrapped my arms around her a few times and hung on to her I was that crazy. She had me put a foot up on the bed, leaning into the contraction and it hurt so bad I just yelled Open-open-open-open because I've heard saying those kind of things out loud might help.

I felt like I might have to go pee, so I sat backward on the toilet- I had read somewhere that can help everything open up too- so I did that, and to my extreme surprise with one of the next contractions I started grunting and pushing. I leapt up and said I felt like pushing and Kate said,

Okay. Go ahead.

and I said,:  I.can'''!

and she said ever so calmly,

Things change, you can push.

I walked into the room and she checked one more time and had me push a little and then said I was all set and I said again,


You've done it before, you can do it again!'t.feel.this.part.I'',and.I.don' it.

and then before I could argue much more a contraction came and my body just started pushing you out, Juniper, and it scared me so much because it was hurting so much but not pushing was hurting more!

So I said, Maybe I should get into the pool, still romanticizing about my water birth, apparently,  but Kate said I was squatting and would probably like that better. As she said so she gestured and they were quickly getting the squat bar and putting it on the bed.  It was barely on there when an another contraction came, and I just grabbed it and hung on and possibly bit the foam on the handle because I just wanted to push so hard.

After that one, Kate said,

You can't have your baby down there, because it'll land under the bed, and I can't see what's happening, so come up on the bed. And hurry, if you're in a bad spot while you have a contraction you won't like it.

I knew it was true, so I ducked under that bar as fast as the IVs and my belly full of you would let me and rolled over just in time.

The ring of fire isn't called that for no reason.  It was burning and burning and burning and I said,


Which of course sums up the dilemma of childbirth.  I grabbed up a washcloth from the bucket of ice water they'd been using on my forehead when I was in the pool and slapped it on myself. I think it helped.

The next contraction was as big as can be and it burned and burned and I looked at Papa and said, I can't believe I'm really going to do this. I'm really doing this.  And he looked so good in his black v-neck tee shirt that I love when he wears and so clean and composed and he was so proud of me I could see it in his eyes, smiling so sweet and he said, yes, yes you are!

And the next push, at 2:40 am there you were! Less than fifteen minutes from getting out of the pool, wrapped in cords and out.  I couldn't believe it, I had actually done it, it was really over, I wasn't pregnant anymore! My hand slipped between your legs as I lifted you up and I couldn't believe you were really a girl- our sassy little Juniper Kate! I cried and laughed and kissed your funny little face and you howled and howled and the nurses were laughing and Kate the midwife was laughing and Papa was laughing and we were all so happy and relieved. Because, you're a miracle baby, Juniper, and you were healthy and alive and I was so happy to hear how mad you were.

After a bit I gave you to Papa because to my disappointment I tore again, almost like with Elliot and it hurt so much.  I had counted on that pivotal moment of joy, and that the pain would end with the placenta sliding out, but it didn't. It hurt and hurt and hurt, and burned. And even though I had just went through three hours of intense labor and pushed you out without any pain medication it was too much to bear. I lay my head back and cried and told Kate the Midwife that she was hurting me, though she'd given me two doses of IV pain medication and local lidocaine.

The baby nurse took you and weighed and measured you and I couldn't believe my ears you were under 8 pounds- seven pounds, fourteen ounces, so I asked them to say it again! You were so tiny, little love! That's the thing about pushing out babies- you don't know how big or small they are until after you've done it, so you can't make it out to be worse than it is or isn't before hand. It's all over when you hear how big or small your baby is, and you've already done it.

 God has shown me things about Himself with you and your birth, and I have learned to trust his timing, trust his judgement, trust in Him.  Two of my biggest fears were realized- an induction, and by pitocin no less- and they were not only "not that bad," but I chose them.  You needed to stay in as long as you did because you would've been tiny if you were born three weeks before! My other worry, that you were going to be huge, was also unfounded... you just needed a little longer to cook!

That's the way of it, Junie Kate, things rarely go  the way you think they will.  I didn't have that glowing water birth that I had dreamed of for a year, my mom wasn't there, it wasn't euphoric, but that's okay.  Your Papa was there, and he was so whole and beautiful that night.  And you- you were there, and you were just as whole and beautiful, with the fluffiest hair, and longest fingers, with a sweet sweet cry. Welcome, my love, we've been waiting for you.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

In addition to honestly being quite busy- and we're having a new baby, so I've been spending a lot of time alternately lethargically laying on the couch or trying to keep up my house and laundry- I've been putting this post off because it really was the worst day, at least near the top. But I do want to  capture everything and then maybe I can use this blog as I've always dreamed I'd blog, for recipes and crafting, cute picture of my (TWO babies) and maybe a book review or two.

Early on Mother's day this year, Brian called me, which was as much of a gift as he could give.

Hello? Hey baby. I was wondering if you could bring me a Vannil-la Llllatte.

I said I would, as soon as I could get there. 

No rush, I know you have things to do.

My mom was just getting home, as she had went to visit my brother's grave, early, and she brought flowers for me and chocolates. It was a sweet as could be.

We left early, meeting Mum and Dad Wilson at the hospital to do church with Brian. I stopped at Dutch Bros and got Brian his requested latte. Free drinks for the ladies, so me and Mom got drinks too.

Brian was happy to see us (and his coffee) and eager to get outside.  He also got the okay to take his first shower, so I was going to help him with that, but he said he wanted to go outside first and then shower later.

We had a lovely church service down on the beautiful patio at the hospital. Brian had a few things he wanted to add, but couldn't think of the verses or the certain version of a song he had hoped to sing. He kept looking to me, but I wasn't sure which one he was thinking of, since all he could offer was "It's by Page CXVI." They sing a lot of different versions of hymns.  It was frustrating sometimes because I couldn't read his mind like he wanted me to and things were so jumbled that he couldn't get out enough clues for me to guess what he was thinking.

We had company all day, and around lunch time Liv and I went and picked up some Thai food from me and Brian's favorite take out place down the road. Brian was still having a hard time chewing so the take out was for me and since it was mother's day I let myself have a treat.

We had first went there when I was still working, belly swollen with Elliot, and too tired to cook, it was "right on the way home."  It was so good we went again, later that week. When Elliot was days old and needed to be readmitted to the hospital, and we were sent out to get dinner, that's where we went. Tears leaking because I'd just left my tiny baby in the hands of strangers and it already felt so naked and strange without him and my body was still firey with the pain of having him. And here, more comfort food. It strangely felt right to go when Brian was left at the hospital, celebrating being a Mother. I couldn't help but remember the sweet card Brian had picked out and the sweet words he had written in it to me, the peony bush I had all but begged for AND an orchid the year before. I knew all the words were true this year and I read them again.

That evening, Trenton made his famous Creme Brulee- I've yet to have a restaurant compare- it's a perfect blend of cream and sugar, exactly toasted to a burnt sweetness. Brian ate two bowls with someone's help, and he needed all the calories he could get! At the same time, we hadn't really eaten dinner so my Mom went and got Burgerville with her aunt and uncle. The waiting room was packed and Brian wanted to (again) go down stairs. Once he signed the voucher to go out side (usually reserved for smokers, but Brian just wanted fresh air) he was downstairs as much as he could. I think maybe because it was something he had control of, and of course the hospital room wasn't too interesting.

Upstairs in the waiting room lobby, I fed Elliot little pieces of hamburger bun and patty, cutting it small and he toddled from one couch to the other as he ate. He'd had a cold, and coughed while he swallowed once and couldn't recover. I thought he was choking so I snatched him up and held him upside down over the trash can and then sink, pounding his back with the heel of my hand, trying to remember if that was the right thing to do for the Heimlich on babies.  He coughed and coughed, and couldn't seem to get it up or down.  I gave him water and that didn't help, tried nursing and that didn't help, he just kept coughing and crying. I thought maybe if we went outside it would help cool him off, since he loves being outside.

As we got there, we met my mom and aunt and uncle who had went to dessert after delivering dinner, as well as a hoard of people already down with Brian, I can't even picture who it all was, brothers and friends and cousins, I think. My mom picked up Elliot from the stroller and he stopped crying almost immediately, which was a little relieving, but he relaxed and his face went kind of gray. I was explaining to her about the choking and I couldn't tell if it was the fluorescent light or if he really did look funny.  After a whole day of being passed around and crawling at the hospital he was down to his jeans and a onsie. Matt was right there, and rubbed Elliot's foot which went white and then gray.

He doesn't look right.

I again explained the choking and suggested again the lighting, but Matt said it again.

He looks funny.

Well. Let's bring him upstairs and check his oxygen levels, I said, planning on using the machine in Brian's room.  Again, thankful I knew my way around those rooms and machines.

I was happy we had so many visitors, and Brian was thriving on all of the attention, but I also felt tired and weary and looking back maybe it was too much. As we headed upstairs we met Phil heading out, he hugged me and must have saw as much on my face because he mentioned it. I said it was okay, I was okay and I'd see him tomorrow.

When we got to Brian's room it was me and my mom and Gwen there, and Elliot's oxygen levels were in the low 70s.  That kind of worried me because they should be 90s minimum. Knowing the nurses had just changed shift and were busy checking on their patients I found the charge nurse and asked if she could please take a listen to Elliot's lungs and maybe we could decide what to do from there.  She listened and said maybe we could have someone bring his inhaler but she would probably walk down to the ER.

I looked to my mom and then Gwen, hoping someone else would tell me what to do, wishing Brian could listen to him and tell me what he thought. I'm the one usually freaking out and he's the one rationally thinking things through. They both looked at me, You're the mom. You make the call.  Their eyes said the same thing. I looked at Elliot, who was lying still on my mom's shoulder.

Let's take him over there. We've already maxed out our insurance, so it can't hurt. 

The charge nurse called the ER charge and told her we were on our way down, and I tried to gather my wits about me as we went down.

They took us right in, I'm guessing the phone call helped facilitate, and Elliot's oxygen levels were still really low.  At his one year check up his pediatrician had said he sounded like a "kid who could wheeze" though he couldn't diagnose him with Asthma until he was having an attack or listened to him while he WAS wheezing. Remembering that, I thought he was maybe having an asthma attack, and maybe it was a good thing so we could get a firm diagnosis. They ordered and then did a chest x-ray, putting the film between me and Elliot but letting me hold him the whole time.

He was crying a lot and I was holding oxygen to his face which he didn't love, but helped keep his levels up. He finally relaxed and slept in my arms when the Doctor came in and said that the chest x-ray showed Elliot had something in his lung, and they'd have to transport to OHSU or Emanuel.  The OR at Southwest was not equipped for pediatrics so we needed to go to a hospital that was so outfitted. I nodded my head, saying I had no preference, and somehow we decided on Randall Emanuel children's hospital. I remember feeling again, far away, wondering how we were there, wondering how long they'd keep Elliot. He left, to arrange transport and I collapsed.

Mom, Put it on facebook. I need people to pray. I handed her my phone and cried. Almost exactly two weeks later and we were back in the ER. My heart vacillated between my two guys. If they wanted to keep Elliot even a few days, I knew I physically couldn't be in two places at once. I wanted to be there for Brian, to tuck him in, to be there in the morning, to help his brain remember things, to jog it, to help him feel more normal, to shield him from people who may be unkind. I wanted to help him take his shower and go to the bathroom and get dressed, so no one else would have to do it. I wanted to take him for walks and see how his eyes would get clearer and maybe tomorrow would be the day he would come back to me. And now this. I couldn't leave Elliot with anyone else, even Grandma or Nana, he needed his Mama in a strange hospital, with strangers poking him and prodding. I was weary in every way, my arms ached from holding Elliot so straight and still, my head ached from being awake so long, my heart ached from the worry of the last two weeks, the loneliness of Brian's indifference and there was nothing I could do about any of it.

My cousin Katie came down to bring our diaper bag and my two mamas wrapped their arms around me and Elliot and Katie and they prayed so hard and real and sweetly that I felt I could keep going when they finished. when we opened our eyes the sweetest red haired nurse, eyes pools of kindness squeezed my leg, asking what church we went to and that she was praying for us, too.

See, the body of Christ. Everywhere. In action.

I realized I had to go the bathroom, bad, and didn't want to be stranded when the transport got there, so I handed Elliot to Gwen who climbed into the bed and I went to the bathroom, using a paper towel with cold water on it to wash my face and try to calm my puffy eyes.

Katie left and I took Elliot back while Gwen went to get our car seat (for when they discharged Elliot,) check on Brian and tell him what was happening and call Phil. She and my Mom were going to drive my car while I rode in the ambulance with Elliot.  She got back right before the transport got there and reported that Brian said,
That's okay, Mom, you go with them. I'm going to sleep.

It helped and made things seem worse. It showed how much Brian wasn't there with me. Normally, he would be right there, worried and annoyed he couldn't be there. It did help that he wasn't fretting and that he was resting, which would help him get better. The  best night nurse did say to keep them updated if Brian asked they could tell him.

The transport team was the EMT driver, a respiratory therapist and a nurse- in case things went south while transporting they could help. They had a stuffed dog for Elliot and stickers and little tricks but Elliot would have none of it and cried and cried, especially when he had to strapped into the little car seat by a stranger, out of my arms. We walked back to the ambulance bay, and could feel the eyes of people in the hall way. They were glad to not be me, and I could tell. I would be, too.

As I walked under the huge awning and they wheeled Elliot's stretcher/car seat into the back I could see my mom and Gwen and I waved to them and got in the front seat.

I wanted to sit quietly, and I could hear Elliot crying all the way across the river and just before Emanuel; but the driver made conversation which was a distraction and probably better. He said he had heard Brian's ambulance drive by when I told him what time and he couldn't believe our circumstances- neither could I- but I could honestly tell him I was at peace with Brian, and only happy this whole thing with Elliot had happened at the hospital. I might not have brought him in if we were at home. You never know.

When we got to Emanuel, I tried staying out of Elliot's sight since he had stopped crying, but as they turned the last corner and wheeled him into the ER room, he saw me and the waterworks started up again.  Not long after they got report they let me have him after checking his IV site that had been inserted at Southwest, and left us alone. The Nurse there was great, doing baby sign and distracting him with a whole bag of tricks while the blood pressure was checked.

There was a bit of a mix up about which "Peace Health" we were coming from so the Doctor or Anesthesiologist thought they had 20 more minutes since St. Johns is even farther north, so they weren't quite ready for us. That was okay, because it gave our Moms time to get there and the ENT Doc came in and explained the procedure and had me sign consent. He was very thorough with his explanation of how minor it was and how probably the worst that could happen was a sore throat. I think he expected me to be freaking out a bit more- though my eyes had to have been red and swollen still- but I had just signed consent for not one, but two brain surgeries. This really was minor, Elliot really was going to make it, and was in the best place to be if he were to try to "not make it."  The strange part was how little I was actually worried for Elliot's physical well being. I was just worried sick about how the next few days would look and driving PAST Brian's hospital to go to Elliot's and what would happen.  However, in the same speech, the doctor said we could go home as soon as Elliot woke up.

We can go home?

Or you can get some rest here and discharge in the morning, he said misunderstanding my question, up to you. 

After that, I felt great. We were going to be fine. They were going to let us go home! We could all go see Brian tomorrow!  A huge weight lifted off and by the time my mom and Gwen found us I was doing much better.

They kept me on the stretcher holding Elliot as the wheeled us to the OR and waiting room.  We made Elliot balloons out of rubber gloves and he had fun batting them around. He was feeling better, too.   The anesthesiologist met us, telling us how CUTE Elliot was. (Duh, I said) and gave him the medicine right there in my arms. I handed him off and he cried a tiny bit but stopped almost instantly as it took effect and we were shown to the waiting room.

It was in the bowels of the hospital and I was so thankful that's "all" we were there for, imagining the hundreds of thousands of parents who had sat vigil in that same waiting room, anxiously watching the screen as it automatically showed the patient numbers moving from pre op, to OR to recovery, unsure of what the doctor would say when he or she emerged. I remember I thumbed through Latina People (severe lack of magazines) and we bought some snacks from the vending machine. Cheetos and Pepsi, midnight snack of waiting room champions.

It was only maybe 30-45 minutes in which time I called Brian's wonderful nurse, Steve, and updated him, and then the doctor was back.
They didn't find a thing.

I could hardly believe my ears, but I was so relieved it was all almost over and they let me go back into recovery, where my tiny boy lay sleepily waking up. He was pretty happy to see me, and I was pretty happy to see him and we were soon wheeled up to the recovery floor.

The walls were covered in this lovely wooden paneling and life size outlines of frolicking lambs were softly illuminating the hallways. It was soothing, and calming and I couldn't help but if you were a little child, scared and in pain that the gentle lighting and lambs would make you feel a tiny bit better. The room was wide and spacious, a couch, rocking chair, hospital bed crib, bathroom, all tastefully decorated and the nurse was casually dressed and pretty.  Her baby was a month older than Elliot so she was especially enamored.  They offered to let me sleep over, but that seemed silly since someone would have to drive home that night- there were three grown ups and one couch- so we decided we would discharge home as soon as they let us.

We got down to the parking lot and I took my contacts which had suddenly turned leaden and sandy in my eyes and threw them in the garbage. It was almost time for new ones anyway. We buckled our sleepy guy in his seat and Gwen drove us home. I know she talked the whole way, probably to stay awake it was 2 or 3 in the morning, but I can't think of one thing she said. I was asleep almost before we hit the freeway.  She "accidentally" drove us straight to my house so she took my car home, promising to pick us up sometime the next day.

Just sleep in, and take your time.

And that was that. I brushed my teeth, carried my precious boy upstairs, deposited him on Brian's side of the bed and lay down next to him.  I marveled at the events of the last few hours, of God's goodness, and the turns my life had been taking. I didn't marvel too long because I was fast asleep before long.

Happy Mother's Day.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Mr. Wilson Wakes Up.

When we had left Brian the happy night before, we debated if he would need a "Brian-sitter" since he hadn't really been alone in the ICU and was getting more awake and active.  In the end, we decided a little reluctantly to see how he did alone and play it by ear.

Playing by ear resulted in Mr. Wilson waking up around four in the morning. He pulled out the dubhoff feeding tube Marisyl had meticulously placed the day before, removed his cervical collar (neck brace for the fracture there) and said, "I want to go home."

His escape efforts were rewarded with a hospital paid CNA sitter to make sure he would keep his collar on and not pull anything else. They called me early to keep me in the loop and again, I got there as soon as I could, already awake hearing one of the marvelous work crews that got busy doing things that neither I nor Brian would be able to.  That day was a landscaping crew who mulched our flower beds and dug a trench to the garden to lay a sprinkler system there.

I found him sound asleep and the night shift gal had stayed over two hours until I got there. I thanked her profusely and sent her on her way. I wanted to be involved in Brian's care and if I was there already it didn't make sense for them to be paying someone to sit with us.  The charge nurse and I agreed they'd provide a night sitter and we'd be the day time sitter.

Brian slept and slept and they sent him down for another CT of his head, thinking maybe he had another bleed or something going on since he wouldn't be roused.  Of course, they told me this later so I didn't even worry or fret about it, thinking his sleepiness was "normal," still working off the cocktail of drugs he'd been given in the last few days.

It was stable!

Mid morning Brian walked to the door with PT and then worked with OT, writing a chicken scratch version of "B-R-I-A-N" (woo hoo, that parts there!) and doing some other pattern/sequence work.  It was so simple, matching A-1 B-2 C-3 D-4 but after the D and 4, he skipped a letter and couldn't get it to match up.  It made my heart squeeze seeing that.

Before he woke up I would tell myself that he was just asleep.  That he would wake up and be himself, that there wouldn't be anything different and if we could just get him to wake up everything would be okay.

I was quickly learning what everyone meant by this being a marathon and not a sprint. I could see how hard the simple worksheet was for him, and it made me realize to a small degree how much work we had ahead of us.  In some ways I would just focus on what we were doing that day, what Brian was doing and not think about the next day or weeks or months to come. Today was enough.

One of the evenings on the seventh floor one of our beloved Trauma PAs, Liz, had sat our family down and kind of gave us a lecture about what we could expect with a brain injured family member.  I remember wincing as her words hit my ears, and my self shirking back, not wanting to experience what she predicted.

We don't know how his brain has been affected and won't know until he wakes up and begins to recover.  We do say that at 24 months there will be no more measurable recovery.  You are as good as you will get around then.  Brian might be very impulsive and not think things through- which will be very dangerous at home, you'll have to watch him all the time.  Brian will experience mood swings, go from happy to sad to furiously angry, he might take it out on you, Rosa, or the rest of you. It's not Brian, it's the injury. He will have no control of those as his emotions wake up and you'll need to be understanding and patient.  He might be back at work in 12-18 months, but of course we don't know.  Take care of yourselves, you'll need it. 

I remember nodding, I know some about Brain Injuries having taken care of a few here and there. I knew that they can be unsafe and in a hurry about things. And I knew that it would be awhile before my sweetheart would be back to himself and then to me. And I wanted to run away.

Of course I wouldn't. I wanted to, but I wanted to be there, more. Like contractions when laboring for a new baby; at the time, in the middle of them you want them to end, to be over, to be anywhere else, to escape. But you muscle through, as best you can. No one else can do the work for you, and the quicker you go through it, the faster it's over with one of life's sweetest treasures in your arms.

I wasn't laboring for a new baby, but for my husband.

So I inwardly shook my shirking self and told her to get a grip, and for goodness sake: buck up.

After Brian had worked with OT, I helped him take a bath and changed his gown and the sheets on the bed.  I was so grateful for that time with him, to be able to physically do something as if by changing his sheets I was getting him better faster. Of course I wasn't, but it was better than sitting idly by.  It was the first time he was awake enough and with it to chat, so we had a lovely visit.  I (again) going over the accident, who was here and there and what was going on. I asked him if he knew what had happened and he said: My brain is all messed up.

He could tell something was scrambled.

The whole time he was up in the chair he would keep reminding me how hungry he was and he wanted a "Vannnillla En-Shure." It's hard to convey the slow, slurred cadence his speech held, but it reminded me of a person that maybe has cerebral palsy or something.  Our Trauma team that day said Brian could have as many Ensures as he wanted after he passed his swallow evaluation.

We kept him in the chair till Elliot got there with his Nana and Grandma and Brian again tried reaching him saying, Hey Buddy

Photo: I keep a close watch on this heart of mine, I keep my eyes wide open all the time. I find it very, very easy to be true
I find myself alone when each day is through
Yes, I'll admit that I'm a fool for you
Because you're mine, I walk the line. love you babe.

Brian passed his swallow eval with the qualifier the liquids were thick and begged to eat: everything.  He told his dad a hamburger sounded delicious, cereal "perfect" and ate two bowls of thickened cream of mushroom soup, licking his lips and exclaiming how delicious it was.  There was nothing more disgusting sounding than the greyish lukewarm goo I spooned into his mouth, but he loved it. (He still can't believe he happily ate it.) 

We lay him down for the afternoon and he slept alot, as he would be wont to do in the days to come. "I'm done with you now," he would say, or "I'm going to sleep."

The next morning I got there early and joked about us watching Twilight. Since we haven't participated in the vampire craze, I knew he was off when he sweetly agreed that it "sounded nice." Since Saturday was a big work day at our house I planned on not being home really at all. For one thing, it seemed awkward to be there "bossing" people around to work on our shop/yard/garden and for another, I of course wanted to be with Brian.

We spent the day quietly, as most of our close family and friends were at our house working hard. I again helped him take a bath and we chatted a few times, but he mostly rested which is what he needed. He also walked to the door which tired him out.

I made plans to take our Moms out for dinner in celebration of Mother's Day since I obviously hadn't thought about cards or gifts for them, but they had both been so supportive and all around awesome.  It was kind of fun to plan to do something else and get away from the hospital when it was still daylight. We went to Who Song and Larry's on the waterfront and our waitress was as sweet as can be, giving us dessert on the house after learning about Brian's injury.  When he's well again and you come in, I'll give you dessert again, in celebration.

Photo: We are so blessed by our two Mamas every day of the year, but we have leaned extra heavily on them this week! Thank you Jesus! Happy Mothers Day!

When we got back to the hospital, some good friends were visiting and Brian remembered where we had been in our Bible Study before the accident, recalling Paul being in prison and some of the specific verses.  We had some good laughs as Brian also remembered Sandy talking about "sand paper people" (you know, those people who rub you the wrong way but you have to live with them?) he assured her she wasn't one of his. He also asked for that Spanish food... Hornitos? We figured out he was asking for Doritos but didn't think he could have them since the fractures in his mouth still made eating a painful process.
 He reminded me of that nursery rhyme about the girl with the curl down her forehead, but Brian's was when he was tired, he was very very tired and when he was awake, he was wide wide awake! It was as if he knew he had been asleep for almost a week and he wanted to express all the thoughts that had been locked inside. He would launch hour long monologs, waxing poetic on any and all subjects, often loosing his train of thought or not knowing the word for things and would need help remembering. His speech, like I said, was slow and sleepy, it definitely reminded me that it wasn't my Brian, but I was still so happy to hear him expressing himself after his week of silence and knowing that he really was in there.

We left him with plans to return and do a private church service with just our parents.  When I got home I could hardly believe my eyes.  The outside of our house and lawn were immaculate. Not a blade of grass was out of place.  The moon was bright and I could see the gutters had been cleaned, the flowerbeds weeded and a garden painstakingly planted. Not to mention the work that had been done on our shop, electrical wiring put in, things that I didn't even know to look for had been lovingly cared for and tended to. I went to bed, amazed again at God's goodness itself and then the ways it had been shown to us by His people.
Here's what I wrote in my journal that night:

"Eucharisto always precedes the miracle." (Ann Voskamp)  This last week as I have counted gifts through one of the most emotionally draining, heart rending and exhausting weeks of my life, I have found that God is already there, and you can rejoice in the midst of suffering, because He is good. Here's my list of gifts today: 
1.Little fat brown boy smiling and happy to wake up, at home and with Mama 
2. Brian so happy to see me first thing 
3. Napping on the couch and listening to my beloved breathe- sweetest sound 
4. When we went walking once he hugged me twice, AND started calling me Dear again
 5.Dinner to celebrate my two Mama's with Elliot- dessert on the house, thanks to our sweet waitress 6. Brian's slow and sleepy voice, wanting to share his thoughts after a week of silence
 7. Sweet visits with friends from near and far 
8. Jesus being so present and near 
9.Balmy summer air
 10.Our house and shop and yard: perfectly tidy, filling my heart with gratitude.

God is already where you are, and you can rejoice in your suffering, because He is good.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Penthouse Suite, Communication and a Good Night Kiss

As would become our custom while my mom was here, I again went in as early as I could while still getting a decent amount of sleep, and she would give Elliot a chance to be in his own environment before having to go to the hospital. I really wanted Elliot to be there as little as he HAD to be, but also spend some time with me, his Mama, and see his Papa though as of yet he hadn't. 

  The ICU rules said 12, even immediate family, for both the visiting child's health and the patients.  If something were to happen and the patient need resuscitation or emergent help it would be easier if there weren't children under foot and having to deal with a scary situation. The ICU is also home to a lot of "super bugs" and it made sense not to expose the little guys to that.

As we hung out in Brian's room, him mostly asleep, I caught up on email and facebook, the messages continued to pour in, and I relished reading every one. In the first few days I quickly realized it would be impossible for me to personally reply to every message or email, which I still wish I could have.  They really meant so. much. 

Brian was responding a lot more and even communicating though his voice was still really quiet and whisper like. Our sister Rachel stopped by meeting Grandma Gwen who was watching her boy Henry and we showed Brian a picture of himself- we were unable to procure a mirror that would reach his face since the collar prevented him too much movement. He grimaced to see himself, and I again explained what had happened and his injuries.

My aunt Karen came and visited until Elliot got there with Nana, Grandma, Lana and Henry.  She then took him for the day with plans for him to come back that evening with other friends. He did a lot of car hopping as well as people hopping! Praising God for Elliot's patience through everything! 

We spent another day camped out in the waiting room, relinquishing the private room for another family.  It was strange to think about other families who had been there for days watching US be the newbies and hear all the news, the doctors coming in and shutting the doors to have a conference and the faces emerging, drawn and resigned. Having worked there, I recognized the bereavement package the family emerged with. It was so hard to watch them walk past us to the elevator, their shoulders slumped, pain tangible. At the time, I don't think I realized how close we had come to getting the green booklet ourselves. 

The trauma doctors came by on their daily rounds and dangled the possibility of transferring to the floor and out of the Intensive Care Unit. They were concerned where to send him because the floor that usually takes head/neck/spine traumas was the seventh floor, Brian's home floor.  His coworkers would be taking care of him, and they wanted to respect Brian's privacy and make sure he was comfortable with that. I asked him several time, rephrasing several times to make sure he understood and every time he said he would go there. I agreed, they're the best at what they do, and I would rather go to a floor that knows best how to care for Brian's injuries than to a different floor for privacy. I assured Brian I would be his CNA and that it would just be Nursing care he would get there. I wouldn't want MY coworkers helping me bathe! 

 Brian worked with OT- standing up, even- and asked me to help him brush his teeth. I had been pretty vigilant with the teeth brushing, being a bit of a fanatic myself, but it was good for Brian to take the initiative. Before we were married I had made Brian promise if I were ever in a wreck or a position where I couldn't do it myself that he would come brush my teeth and wash my hair. He said he would, and I agreed to marry him. And repaid the promise. 

That afternoon, when spending time with Trenton and his Mum, Brian was trying very hard to get something across.  He finally rubbed his stomach and got eat out with his voice. They rang the nurse and he got to "eat" an ice chip and try a drink of water. Both made him cough and cough, and the nurse surmised he wasn't QUITE ready to eat real food or even be evaluated by speech therapy. I think the concern was a combination of having been asleep for five days, and intubated, his throat may have "forgotten" how to swallow, and on the other side of the coin, that it's impossible to know if that part of his brain was injured in the fall: maybe he didn't know how to swallow any more.

As we were waiting in the lobby, one of the social workers I knew from my employment walked by and stopped to check in on us. She explained that she thought all employees automatically qualified for short and long term disability after the hospital merger, instead of having to opt in like before. I had wondered how I would find out if Brian had checked that box on the benefit form last November.  Stacy promised to look into it and get back to us... and it was so!  I could only sigh with relief! God was so good!  She could find that out because she had the same benefits, and Brian worked there, again, I was so thankful we were at Southwest, and that it was automatic!  It wasn't his whole salary, but it was something. I couldn't even imagine how the bills would pile up and I knew I would be willing to go back to work if I needed to, but hadn't even thought that far ahead.

After we were all sure Brian understood what we were asking and what he was saying, we got the okay to move up the 7th floor and the best view in the world.  Marisyl was there again, and she got everything ready for the transfer, but we waited for a bed to open up and didn't actually end up transferring until late in the afternoon. She didn't mind, since Brian was doing so well and she'd been there now four days in a row.  Before we left, she inserted a nasogastric feeding tube, going into his nose and down to his stomach to give him some nutrition. His last real meal had been Friday night, since we were going out for breakfast, and it was now Thursday.  No wonder he was so hungry! He had also lost quite a bit of weight, down to 120 and they were worried about his recovery if he couldn't regain it by eating regular foods. 

   Some of my ex-coworkers had been floated to help transport patients and it was crazy to see them after almost a year off, and they were so sweet in helping scoot Brian over to the seventh floor bed and carry buckets of stuff upstairs.

Where we were met graciously and taken the best care of. We got the room with the best view, and here's the best thing: We were shed of the volunteer wardens and Elliot could go into the room.

 As soon as he was settled and everything in place, I went to the waiting room and got Elliot from my Mom, and we three went back. 

 "Look, Elliot," I said. "Papa has owie. Poor Papa, has an owie!"

 Elliot signed "pain" and then "pain" again with "more," seeming to understand his Papa had a really bad owie, and more than I thought he would. Brian tried to reach out and pet him, and his mouth worked to get the words out  
"Hey, Buddy."  
 I hadn't thought to worry if Brian would know Elliot or not. 
Of course he would. But when Brian did know him, relief filled my every pore. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesus.
Photo: Yay! The whole family together for the first time since Saturday morning!!

We tried to keep the number of people in his room to a minimum, and our nephews, Ethan and Espen, were pretty pumped to be able to go finally see one of their favorite people, thought disappointed to find the waiting room to look almost exactly the same. They were really intrigued with the staples on Brian's head, a little apprehensive but also curious. 

We spent the evening taking turns going back and forth visiting Brian and finally packing up the waiting room. There were bags of food, Elliot's stroller, diaper bag and car seat which got a lot of mileage being brought from car to hospital to different car to hospital and back to my car. We had our little laptop, our big camera, my backpack of snacks and guestbook, paperwork that seemed to grow daily- Brian's leave of absence paper work and checks I hadn't deposited. We would pack it all up and make a mass exodus to the cars, usually myself, my mom, Elliot, Mum and Dad Wilson and Lana, with a few stragglers. 

That night I went back alone to say good night, and told Brian I was going to bring Elliot home for the night, and he nodded, saying, "Have a good night." and then.

He puckered right up. 

It was the sweetest kiss I have ever had. Even the first one, on our wedding day couldn't compare. It went from my lips straight to my heart and settled there, making it swell and swell till I felt I would burst with its wonder. 
As we walked to our cars, the air was balmy and warm, Elliot was solid and sweet in my arms, my Mom was there and the sweetest in laws a girl could have, and the magic of my first kiss in a week still lingered.  My heart felt so light and happy, I let out a woop.

And it felt so good, I did it again, and me and Elliot and my Mama went wooping with happiness, twirling with joy like crazy people in the warm evening. 

I was so happy. 

God is so good! He had already done so much! I couldn't wait to see what He would do next.

Every evening when I got home, I would get the mail, sort out the piles, cards, junk, bills, carefully recording people's gifts and recapping the day for Brian, when he wakes up. I usually put some laundry going, and tried to tidy things up a little bit. I would have a little snack, lay Elliot down and drag myself to bed around eleven. 

Thinking back, I see that was all I could manage. It didn't feel hard, but I couldn't do anything but go straight to the hospital and come straight home. Anything else made me feel panicky- what if I missed something with Brian? And I was on autopilot a lot of the time, doing what I needed to and little else. They were sorting through my sweet sweet great grand parents house and I so badly wanted to go there, to see it, to help, pick out a treasure to remember them by for myself, but every day I would tell myself: I could go on my way to the hospital, but the next morning the need to get to the hospital and see Brian was too great and I could only go straight to the hospital and see him. 


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Alive in Christ, Breathing Alone, and a White King Tut

Wednesday morning, May 8,  I woke up with a smile on my face.

For one thing, we had been pretty much been guaranteed that Brian would be taken off the ventilator which was an exhilarating thought.

For another: My mom was already in the air, winging her way west to us.  

I remember after I had Elliot, exhausted emotionally and reeling from an especially hard delivery, I would tell myself, Everything is going to be okay when Mom gets here. If I can just hold things together till she gets here, everything will be fine. And it was. She was as in love with our little newborn as we were, and she made breakfast, lunch and dinners, would bathe Elliot and dress him while whispering sweet nothings in his ears while I tackled the momentous task of simply showering.

It was different this time, I wanted her there, more for Elliot's sake and with that my peace of mind, knowing his Nana would be there with him, taking him on walks and reading books and doing baby sign. If there is anyone in this world I would defer Elliot's care to it would be her.  But I felt okay emotionally, and wondered if I would collapse on her, even if I felt okay.

The night before we had a bit of trouble finding someone to stay with Brian. I wanted to make sure they didn't need to restrain him and I was willing to find people to stay over, however, we had a 2 hour window between 6 and 8am  that was uncovered. Including the ventilator-which he SHOULD NOT pull out, he also had a central line- leading to the vein near his heart- another IV site, a foley catheter and neck collar. A determined patient can do a lot of damage in a short time! Brian's good friend Brandon came in "on his way" to work and sat with him. 

I drove in to the hospital early, as Gwen and Lana had Elliot, wanting to be there when the Trauma Doctors rounded and, if possible, speak on Brian's behalf to convince them to extubate. I knew it would be a long hard day if he was again, awake, and wanting the tube out.

I made it in time, and Marisyl was there again, her bright smile and musical accent a welcome sight and sound. She explained that she had turned the ventilator down to "almost nothing" and showed me how to read the numbers- it could see how much of the breathing work Brian was doing by himself and how much of the time his lungs were "riding" the vent. It was so weird to think of my young, healthy husband's body getting "lazy" and not knowing how to breathe for itself. He was doing pretty well, but still not 100%.  I talked to him, and told him about his injury as he kept touching the collar.
At first I thought he was tugging at it and after a few times of me saying (as I would to Elliot,) "No, no, Honey, don't pull on that" and him giving me the stink eye I realized he was trying to figure out why he was in a collar he was so familiar with. I explained his injuries as simply and gently as I could and told him how great he was doing and how happy we were to see his eyes.  I read to him what I had been reading that morning, changing the adverbs to fit from me to him.

Always be full of the joy in the Lord. I say it again-rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do, remember- the Lord is coming soon! Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and Thank Him for all He has done.  Then, you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your heart and mind as you live in Christ Jesus, and now, dearest one, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable and right and pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise... And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches which have been given to us  in CHRIST JESUS. Philippians 4:4-9,19

It made me teary to read "as you live in Christ Jesus" as I felt so keenly how close Brian had been to death.  God wasn't done with him on earth, and we truly are living in Christ Jesus, how else can one live? In Him, we live and move and have our being.

One thing that I found interesting about being in a coma was that Brian definitely had "sleep" and "awake" times.  There were periods of time where he was more responsive and would open his eyes readily and other times where it was almost impossible to rouse him.

Before I had been there an hour, the Respiratory Therapist came in to turn the vent down even more and measure his breathing and see how he would do before they actually extubated. The trauma docs came in shortly after and I was happy to see Cassandra Sappington, one of the PAs that I knew from before and Brian works with her husband.  She said, "Oh! I do know you!"  It made me feel better that even though Liz, who had been following us closely wasn't there it was Cassie who had an equally personal relationship with both of us.

Brian woke up when he was hollered at a few times, grudgingly going through the trial of tests normal to an assessment: "Open your eyes, Look to the Left, Look to the right, Squeeze my fingers, Push up on my hands with your feet, Can you give me a thumbs up?"

They were worried with how drowsy he still was, and I was glad Andy had sedated him so he could rest the night before. Cassie asked him if he'd like the tube out and he nodded as well as held up his one finger "yes" signal.  She expressed her concern about the depth of his breathing which was in the 600s on the vent, saying they might have to come back later in the afternoon after he'd have a chance to wake up more.

At that news, I saw a look of steely determination cross Brian's face and I saw him gathered every ounce of strength in his weakened body.  On his next breath, the numbers shot up to over twice that to a 1300.

Cassie and Dr. Dulabon laughed and they agreed they would extubate, since the patient was so determined.

It was a little disturbing and a little gross to watch the extubation, but I wanted to be there as they checked his airway and pulled the long tube from his lungs and... out! He coughed and coughed which was "good" and he continued to all day, spitting out the mucus that had collected on the tube for four days.

It was so awesome to see his beautiful face without the tube tugging on his bottom lip and the straps further distorting his already swollen cheeks. I was concerned about his lips being chapped since he's a little of a chap stick guy in regular life, not to mention in the dry hospital with his mouth being held open for days.
 Photo: The most handsome guy I know is now breathing like us! (almost) so proud of my strong gutsy guy! Praise with us the God of Grace! Pray for Brian emotionally, physically, mentally and of course spiritually. You are all the bomb diggitty! Couldn't do with out you!

My mom and our friend Renee, who had picked her up from the airport, came straight there while I was back with Brian.  It was so wonderful to hug her and look in her eyes and I think she was glad to see I really was okay and be able to "talk" to Brian and say hello. She was so sweet to him and he was really happy to see her, in his sleepy way.

That evening, I expressed my desire to shave Brian's hair and get him all cleaned up. The cervical collar and pads had been on since Saturday and were covered in blood and sweat and spit, and I hadn't had a chance to give him a real bath. He gave me everything I would need and said he'd try to get the hair shaved before morning. I cleaned him up, even brushing his teeth and trying my hardest to get the blood out of his bangs.  Carmelle came by after work and came back to see us. While she was there she offered to help the night nurse, Jack, to maintain C-Spine precautions while I changed the sheets and while he could get to the back of Brian's hair and switch out the collar pads.  He thought that was a novel idea while we were all there, so that's what we did.

I winced as the hair came off, knowing how Brian had loved his hair longer, and remembering how I had planned to leave it when it was half shaved, thinking he'd like a say in it got shaved or not, and that he might get a kick out of the punk rocker look. But this, this had to go. there was about a two inch wide swath of hair around his whole head that had been trapped under the C-collar or missed by the OR barbers. There was a shaved circle where the first surgery had been preformed and then as the incision went at a right angle toward the neck another patch of hair was gone. It was like a very bad marriage of mohawk and monk.

And to my surprise- and contrary to Brian's earlier explanations about his oddly shaped head- he looked so HANDSOME! With his high cheekbones and the C-Collar holding his head up high he reminded me of a regal Egyptian.

His voice when he tried to talk was barely above a whisper, having a bit of a sore throat from the tube and over all weakness, but he did talk and some of it was his normal, witty remarks and it made us all giddy with delight to hear. 

Here's a list of Day Five Highlights I wrote in Brian's guestbook.

2.Waking up... slowly.
3. Spending more quality time with you
4. My mom came!
5. You sat up on the edge of the bed with Occupational Therapy!!
6.You are "figuring out" what happened though I wonder if you remember what I say.
7.You nod and shake your head "no"
8.You said, "weeeeellll" (a famous Brianism from before) after I asked if suctioning felt better
9.You mocked Carmelle saying, "Oh My" In a very derisive tone gave me quite an eyebrow raise when I asked if you knew I was your wife. In my mind, I could hear your voice saying, "Dear...!"
11.Clean DeRoyal, bath, teeth brushed, sheets changed and
13. Jesus has given me so much peace
14.I am so happy to serve you
15.I am longing for you to call me dear or

... He has done exceeding abundantly above anything we can think or ask. xoxo

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Blessings all Mine with Ten Thousand Beside

I've now gotten you through the first (and in someways worst) part of things, and I think continuing on in a chronological day by day litany might get boring. Sometimes the days dragged and not much happened for me, so if they were boring then, over a month ago, they'll still be boring now.

I'll leave out some parts and maybe just share what sticks out in my mind.

One highlight actually happened on Monday, but it seemed like another whole day and didn't notice until I was looking back in my notes. (My memory is not quite as good as I had you all thinking it was.)  Since I have it handy, I'll copy what I had written to Brian that evening.

Day 3 May 6, 2013

...It's so unreal to think my sweet sweet LOVE is unconscious in the ICU and you aren't just around the corner.  I keep wanting to talk to you, tell you and ask you things and listen to your smooth as honey voice. Really miss you, BFF.

We let you rest this afternoon, and Chandra Urban came to sing and play guitar with us... I KNEW you would love to hear that.  (She was out in the Lobby though, and I don't think you could hear where your room is.)  It was SO peaceful and refreshing. You have an AWESOME haircut, Babe, and I love you so so much. You are loved by so many and prayed for by even more. xoxo

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with thee.  Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not, as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, BLESSINGS ALL MINE, WITH TEN THOUSAND BESIDE! 

Great is Thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed, thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me. <3

I have always loved that old Hymn and the words really resonated.  How could anyone walk such a path without His own dear presence, cheering and guiding?   Without friends and family encouraging and telling you ways He has provided strength for the day, hope for tomorrow in their lives? I can't imagine, and know that it was God alone Who gave me the courage and fortitude to keep on keeping on, doing what I needed to and what Elliot and Brian needed me to do.

I'm better friends with Chani's brother and his wife, but we're friends too. She had texted asking if she could come serenade and it was a beautiful gift. She has this full rich and beautiful voice that reach down to your toes and give you goosebumps.  We sat in the Lobby and sang one worship song after hymn, and the music really did restore my soul. There was a guy waiting to go into the ICU to see someone, he was standing near the phone you have to use if the volunteers are gone and he stayed waiting the whole time, listening.  Like I've said, people have such amazing gifts and are so creative with their giving. Thank you, Chani!

That night Brian's cousin Kirsten had written in his guestbook, "I can hear your voice singing along with us-because I know you would be." She hit the nail on the head, and I could hear him too.

The next morning I got a call from the hospital as I ate breakfast, and because of the call yesterday I answered with trepidation.  Please Lord, not another surgery. Let it be good news!

And it was.

Please come sit with Brian, who is waking up and getting wiggly.  So wiggly, in fact, they would need to restrain him if we weren't there to be with him.  I didn't want him to wake up confused and restrained so I told Marisyl we'd be there as soon as we could. We again threw things together and raced to the hospital.  

I think it was Sunday night that they had turned the sedation down.  Brian had opened his eyes and the wide open panic in them was gut wrenching. I couldn't imagine waking up, intubated and not knowing where you are or what was happening. We tried talking to him, but then it got worse. He started throwing up, and we were asked to leave while the nurse tried to get the suction turned on and get the vomit out. He hadn't really been awake after, because the other time they tried to turn the sedation down his blood pressure had jumped and they turned it back on.  But this was different! He was waking up!

Maybe he would talk to us today.

I spent most of the morning back with Brian, holding his hand and telling him where he was and that I was there. He squeezed my hand and his Mama's hand, which of course made her day- both of our days!  He would open his eyes when we talked to him and it was so exciting.  There was talk of getting the tube out, but those plans never materialized since he was still pretty sedated by 3.  The trauma docs don't like to extubate too late in the day in case things go south and they need to reinsert.
We had a lot of company that day, people stopping in on their lunch breaks or if they were in the area and some of my dear girl friends. We had family supper that night in the waiting room, chef salad, which was delicious after all the fast food and snacks we'd been eating.  (Thanks Elva!) Oh, and she even brought Gluten free Cupcakes: a true treat!

That evening, brother Matt and Liv got trapped back in Brian's room during shift change- no going in or out from 7-8pm, and when Liv came back she was all smiles. Brian was so interactive! Matt told him his feeding tube was mashed potatoes and Brian rolled his eyes.  He then "begged" them to take the ventilator out, clasping his hands and imploring them with his eyes.  I of course hurried back, hoping for something. 

When I got to his room, he was more awake and using one finger for "yes" and two for "no" communicating very emphatically that he most certainly DID want that tube out.   It was the same viking like night nurse, and she was so sweet in explaining that we should probably sedate him so he wasn't so frantic and frustrated and could rest.  If he was up all night he would be too drowsy to get the tube out the next day when the trauma doctors would round. We could convince them at that time to extubate right then and there if his lungs were clear and he was able to prove he was awake enough to remember to breathe.  Brian was so bummed to hear that, and he wouldn't even look at me (agreeing with Andy) but turned instead to his beloved big brother, again pleading with his hands  and eyes.  I'm guessing he thought I was no help and maybe Matt would knock me and Andy out and take it out himself? He's got a lot of faith in you, Matt.

I left shortly after Andy administered the Versed and Brian visibly relaxed and fell asleep.

I went home feeling down right giddy. We really were on the right track! It didn't matter what tomorrow would hold, or what had happened yesterday.  Today had been a good day, and that was enough.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done Philippians 4:6