A Mother’s Day In The Life

(This was written in June of 2008, when I had been a mother for less than a month. My son was in the NICU, and both my husband and I were working full time. As I have been reminiscing about my son’s birth, health care, and health insurance, I ran across this journal-of-a-typical day. As today is Mothers’ Day, a day that I do not care for, I thought I’d dedicate this next week to continuing the story of  my son’s birth. Complete, I hope, with new book reviews of some Golden Book CLASSICS.)

There are not enough hours; there’s not enough time. Especially during the week. I was sitting at my desk at work a couple of days ago, realizing that I need a new schedule, a better plan, a more workable routine for the week, and I started to wonder what the actual routine looked like on paper. I decided to keep track of a day.

This is June 17, 2008:

2:40 -3:16 a.m. Wake up and pump. This includes assembly, pumping, disassembly, and cleaning.

7:00 a.m. Wake up and pump.  I had trouble getting back to sleep after my mid-night pumping because I was thinking about everything that I have to do.

7:30-8:15 a.m.  Poop, wash face, get dressed, put dishes away, drink tea, cancel catalogs through catalogchoice.org, check email, update blog, check local headlines, check two social networking sites (myspace and Facebook).

8:20 a.m.  Leave for hospital
8:25 a.m.  Drive to hospital (I don’t know where that five minutes went, but I would have been able to use it later)
While Pete drives, I do stuff. Today, I brushed my hair and filled out the FMLA form that my HR department has been asking about and that we keep forgetting to leave at the hospital for the doctor. Also, Pete has been nagging me to fill out part of it, even though the doctor is supposed to do it, and I have said more than once that I don’t have the time, and that it’s for the doctor to do. He won’t let it drop, so I decided to do it. Unfortunately, he did not notice the pouty, huffy way that I did it. Turns out, I didn’t know what to put in most of the boxes and no one needs to fill out the majority of the boxes, anyway.
It was not a good start to the morning. I also realized that I forgot my knitting and would now waste a whole 8 minutes in the car during which I could have been doing something. I can’t justify knitting when I am at home, so the only time I get to knit is in the car or while Pete is having cuddle time with Finn, unless I have something else I am working on in those moments.
8:33-8:37 a.m. Sit in car and stare; wonder why people still insist on using weed killer; realize that I have not even kissed or hugged my husband yet this morning. Maybe if he had just let the FMLA form issue drop. Just kidding.

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Half-million Dollar Baby?

(Like many Americans, I am thinking about health care and health insurance lately. I’ve really only ever had one major run-in with health issues and the health system, and it was intensive, both literally and figuratively. I had a baby that was born at 25.5 weeks in 2008. He’s a blooming, Minecraft-and-Star-Wars-loving almost-nine-year-old now, but this experience was harrowing and involved. Since my pre-existing conditions are pregnancy and premature labor, and I am guessing I have handed the latter condition down to my boy, I thought I would retell the story. I wrote about it as it happened, and it has been shared on an old blog. Part onePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart Five. At this point, I am moving toward my health insurance portion of the story… It was July 19, 2008, and our boy had been in the NICU since May 29.)

How on earth someone could have a premature baby and either be underinsured or uninsured is beyond me. So far, Finn’s care has cost a total of $237,732.38. That does not include my prenatal care, his actual delivery, or my hospital bills. We are fortunate–our coverage is excellent. So far, the only bill we have received is for the breast pump rental.

We’re half way to half-a-million.

A Birth Story, Part V

(Like many Americans, I am thinking about health care and health insurance lately. I’ve really only ever had one major run-in with health issues and the health system, and it was intensive, both literally and figuratively. I had a baby that was born at 25.5 weeks in 2008. He’s a blooming, Minecraft-and-Star-Wars-loving almost-nine-year-old now, but this experience was harrowing and involved. Since my pre-existing conditions are pregnancy and premature labor, and I am guessing I have handed the latter condition down to my boy, I thought I would retell the story. I wrote about it as it happened, and it has been shared on an old blog. Part onePart TwoPart Three. Part Four.)

Happy Birthday Part V: Interior Decorating

Remember when I mentioned that my doctor said “What is that?!” during my second ultrasound?

Yeah.

That was cool.

On Thursday night, I had a visit from a urologist. He appeared in my darkened room while I was dozing off. He explained that he had been referred to me (the doctor had told me he would do this), and wanted to know if I wanted to have the cystoscopy while I was in the hospital or would I rather come back. I decided that I might as well get it over with, so we scheduled me for 11:00 the following morning.

This was a bit terrifying. What if there was something wrong with me? What if it was cancer? What if I needed surgery? What if, what if, what if…? I thought that perhaps Pete and I had plenty on our plate without a sick mommy to add to the mix.

On Friday, they wheeled me down to pre-op, gave me a lovely paper robe that hooked up to a warming air hose, nurse after nurse came to ask me the same questions for their system of checks, and then I waited. Finally, they wheeled me to an operating room through a white fluorescent labyrinth of hallways, and got me onto an operating table. I had not realized that the procedure before the procedure would be so surgical. The doctor had mentioned doing these “in his office all the time.” Here I was in a clinical, cold, rather large operating room, trying to relax.

The doctor came in, they got the camera all hooked up, and in it went, through the out door. As unpleasant as I had always assumed it would be to have anything going into one’s urethra, after two unanticipated visits to that area by first the catheter and now a camera, I would have to say that it was not as bad as I thought it would be. He looked around in there for a few minutes, said that it all looked good and that he did not see anything, and it was done. He recommended that I have an ultrasound in about two weeks to double check.

I just wish that they would have put the camera view up on a monitor. After all, it’s not every day that a person gets to see the inside of his or her own bladder.

Thank goodness.

A Birth Story, Part IV

(Like many Americans, I am thinking about health care and health insurance lately. I’ve really only ever had one major run-in with health issues and the health system, and it was intensive, both literally and figuratively. I had a baby that was born at 25.5 weeks in 2008. He’s a blooming, Minecraft-and-Star-Wars-loving almost-nine-year-old now, but this experience was harrowing and involved. Since my pre-existing conditions are pregnancy and premature labor, and I am guessing I have handed the latter condition down to my boy, I thought I would retell the story. I wrote about it as it happened, and it has been shared on an old blog. Part one. Part Two. Part Three.)

Happy Birthday, Part IV: First Visit

According to the books, at week 26, the fetus’ eyes are still closed, but it has eyelashes and eyebrows as well as hair. At 25 weeks and four days, our fetus became a baby, and at least one eye was open when they took him to the NICU.

I was scared to go and see him. I certainly was not going without Pete, and I preferred to go only with Pete, so he asked the nurse if he could wheel me over by himself.

Abbot is connected to Children’s by a tunnel, which is convenient although not very cheery. The NICU is on the second floor, and it’s quite large. The website says that between the St. Paul and Minneapolis campus, there are 154 beds. And, at least in Minneapolis, they all seem to be full. Now that I think about it, it sure seems that premature births are more common than I could have believed. I guess it’s nice that we are not alone, but I wonder if the rates are going up, and if so, why?

One of the things I have learned from this so far is how adaptable humans are. Or, how adaptable they can be. I grew accustomed to being in labor for the whole 11 hours it lasted, and it did not take me long to grow accustomed to the NICU. When I first came in to see Finn, it was 6:00 a.m., and I had been up for 24 hours and had not eaten or drank anything for 23. We had just been through a surprising day, and I was most likely in a bit of a haze. When Pete wheeled me up to the isolette, and I saw him in there, so small and hooked up to monitors, it was the first time I cried. Pete and I were helpless; there was nothing we could do for him. Was that my baby? I was used to my firm, moving stomach. I was used to him being in there. I was not enjoying the flaccid tummy that I now had.

I learned the ropes: wash hands, dry hands, use alcohol foam on hands. Then we could touch him, without gloves. I held his little hand. The nurse asked if we wanted to take some pictures, and we said that we did not have a camera. I did not have my purse, where the little camera lives. I have that stupid camera with me all the time, usually, just not for one of the most important moments of my life so far. The nurse got a camera and took a few photos for us.

We were now those people you hear about: the couple in crisis. We were a story I would hear and wonder “How do people get through that sort of thing?”

I guess you just do. You have to because you can’t change it, you can only accept that this is the path you are on and make the journey, picking up experience, wisdom, and, apparently, cliches along the way.

A Birth Story, Part III

(Like many Americans, I am thinking about health care and health insurance lately. I’ve really only ever had one major run-in with health issues and the health system, and it was intensive, both literally and figuratively. I had a baby that was born at 25.5 weeks in 2008. He’s a blooming, Minecraft-and-Star-Wars-loving almost-nine-year-old now, but this experience was harrowing and involved. Since my pre-existing conditions are pregnancy and premature labor, and I am guessing I have handed the latter condition down to my boy, I thought I would retell the story. I wrote about it as it happened, and it has been shared on an old blog. Part one. Part Two.)

Happy Birthday, Part III: Thursday

“I have not read this far in the books, so I really don’t know what I am doing,” I told the nurse and doctor. After all, we had just registered for our classes at our chosen hospital, and I was mostly reading along with my progress, just about to delve into the third trimester/labor parts of the literature. But for this test, there would not even be any last-minute cramming. This would be like taking your driver’s test before you have ever sat behind the wheel of a car. Except the car is my uterus and the trickiest part is not the parallel parking but the safe arrival of an infant.

They wheeled me down the hall to a delivery room along with Pete, the doctor, the nurse, and a surgery technician, just in case. The room was very bright, as you would expect, and perhaps a bit cold. Next door, the NICU team was assembled: 4 nurses and doctors ready to receive the baby once it came out. It was a good set up. There were only three people attending me, including Pete; I knew that they were ready just next door, and though I could see them, I was isolated from the bustle and business of receiving a premature infant.

It was a little after 1:00 a.m. when they started moving me from the hospital room to the delivery room, and I think that I started pushing a little before 1:30 a.m. I could feel my contractions, so I knew when to sit up and push, but I could not entirely feel everything that was going on. I was concentrating on the actual pushing and on my breathing, which was basically just my yoga breathing (Thank you, yoga. It came in handy throughout this experience), and trying to concentrate on where to bear down so that I could focus that energy where it needed to be. Whenever I had to sit up and push, the doctor would use his fingers as a focal point for the pushing, and the nurse and Pete would hold my legs up, and I would hold onto the bottom of my thighs. The baby would move a little bit each time, and Pete could see when the head appeared. I could not see over the towels that were laid on my belly to receive him, but I had my eyes closed, concentrating in any case.

I think I pushed through four or five contractions, and the baby arrived at 1:56 a.m. The doctor put him on my belly, and I was surprised at how big he was. I have never been very good at envisioning how much a weight number would translate to in “real goods,” so when the doctor had said that he thought the baby was about 2 pounds, I was expecting something shockingly small. This was a baby–a baby boy, they told us–just very little, and very red, with a little bit of blue and purple, and as the doctor cleaned out his mouth with the little squeezy ball, he made a few crying attempts, which also surprised me, and then they handed him off to the NICU team. The doctor asked Pete if we had a name, and Pete said “Finn James McCauley,” and I had a moment of surprise, but I overcame it quickly. That would be his name.

We waited while they stabilized him, and before they took him over to NICU, they wheeled him in, inside his second womb, so that I could see him. I even got to touch him on his tiny hand, and one of his eyes was open. Pete went with the team and our new little man, and they got me ready to go back to the room.

It happened pretty fast. The nurse asked if I wanted to get ready and go right over to see him, once they had checked all my vitals and disconnected me from tubes and wires. I would be moving to a new room momentarily. I did not know what I wanted to do. I wanted them to get him all set up, I did not want to be in the way of that or perhaps see upsetting things. I wanted Pete to be with him, and then I wanted to go back over with Pete so that we would be together. The hospital room and my nurse were familiar at this point, and going over to the NICU would be unfamiliar, and I wanted to be with Pete. When he came back and said things were going well, they moved me to my new room, and Pete and I got ready to go across the way to Finn’s third womb and first home.

A Birth Story, Part II

(Like many Americans, I am thinking about health care and health insurance lately. I’ve really only ever had one major run-in with health issues and the health system, and it was intensive, both literally and figuratively. I had a baby that was born at 25.5 weeks in 2008. He’s a blooming, Minecraft-and-Star-Wars-loving almost-nine-year-old now, but this experience was harrowing and involved. Since my pre-existing conditions are pregnancy and premature labor, and I am guessing I have handed the latter condition down to my boy, I thought I would retell the story. I wrote about it as it happened, and it has been shared on an old blog. Part one is here.)

Happy Birthday, Part II: The Rest of Wednesday (May 2008)

When we were getting out of the car at the clinic, the clinic called. The nurse said that the doctor who had reviewed my file and who was going see me wanted me to go straight to the hospital.

“Well, I’m here,” I said.

“Oh. OK. Never mind; come on in.”

I checked in and waited until my appointment time… 20 minutes, which was bothering Pete, as they just said that they wanted me to go to the hospital. I was trying not to get upset about anything at this point. It’s just not helpful. They brought me in and weighed me (165 pounds), and put me into a little room, just like at a usual appointment. The nurse took my blood pressure, and had me wait on the table in my socks and shirt with a drape over my legs.

Waiting is fun. [Read more…]

A Birth Story, Part I

(Like many Americans, I am thinking about health care and health insurance lately. I’ve really only ever had one major run-in with health issues and the health system, and it was intensive, both literally and figuratively. I had a baby that was born at 25.5 weeks in 2008. He’s a blooming, Minecraft-and-Star-Wars-loving almost-nine-year-old now, but this experience was harrowing and involved. Since my pre-existing conditions are pregnancy and premature labor, and I am guessing I have handed the latter condition down to my boy, I thought I would retell the story. I wrote about it as it happened, and it has been shared on an old blog.)

Happy Birthday, Part One: Wednesday Morning (May 2008)

 (This is where I was on Wednesday morning. I had actually posted this entry for all of 30 seconds before I realized that it would probably not be a good thing to leave people hanging if they happened to check in… I’ll put it back up now as it was and then get Pete to help me remember the whirlwind that followed.)

Pregnancy Makes You Sexy

It’s amazing how something that comes from sex can be so unsexy.

Have I already mentioned this?

Well, I just can’t get over it.

Of course, Pete thinks I look beautiful and tells me so every day, but he’s just trying to get laid.

Just kidding. He really seems to think so, and for the most part, I think I am holding up OK in the physical appearance department.

It’s the other stuff that is rather unsexy and sort of revolting at times. Constipation, burping, farting, and acid reflux are not stops on the path to a romantic evening. Not to mention that I feel like a 13-year-old today (stop here if you are a guy or are otherwise uncomfortable with talk of “feminine issues”) because I am wearing a pad. Yes, it’s just like that day when I had to walk into the bathroom and tell my mom that I had gotten my period for the first time, and she got out a box of pads. Mortifying. But I finally decided that this was better than trying to hold things in while I walk or shift in my seat or lay down. I can control my urethra, at least, for the most part, but the other thing, well… not so much.

I seem to be adjusting well to the change in my center of gravity due to the water balloon in my belly, so I don’t need to be walking around like I have a stick up my butt.

But it did just occur to me that perhaps this leaking is abnormal. I had a problem with it in NYC, especially on Sunday night, and now today again. I called the Baby Line, and I am waiting for my clinic to call me back. I don’t want to be a freak about stuff, but were this to be amniotic fluid, then I should find out right away. While I am waiting, I have been instructed to drink something sweet and monitor fetal movement. Squirmy* has been pretty quiet today. Which can be worrisome when I am used to it** being so active.

So I am going in at 2:00 to check things out.

*I called it “Squirmy McFetus,” much to the delight (not) of my mother-in-law.
**I also called it “it” because I did not know what it was, aside from a human fetus (I hoped).

Stand Up, Keep Fighting (Paul Wellstone: A Reminiscence/Stand Up, Keep Fighting)

“The future will not belong to those who sit on the sidelines. The future will not belong to the cynics. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” -Paul Wellstone

Preface: I volunteered on Senator Paul Wellstone’s last Senate campaign. On the most recent anniversary of the plane crash that killed him, his wife and daughter, three staff members, and two pilots, I started writing up my thoughts and memories, but the sort-of-writers’-block I’ve been experiencing meant it languished in my drafts folder with so many of its kin. This week, I dragged it out as self-care, and as a place for me to place links on how to resist the regime that is now in place in the United States of America.

passionate resistance sm

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Post-Election Messages to our School Kids

he-sidewalk-collage

Pretty much the only place I have been able to string words together this past week is on Twitter. But my son’s public elementary school community gathered together on the weekend to write messages of love, hope, and inspiration to our students and staff. His school has a high percentage of students of color and kids on reduced and free lunch. They have been expressing fear to our school social worked since last spring that “Donald Trump is going to make all the Black and Brown people leave if he’s president.”

We are busy working hard year-round, advocating for these kids both in his school and in the many other St. Paul schools, which have the same demographics, but that’s behind the scenes, and it involves meeting after meeting, emails, hand-written correspondence, relationship-building, creating strategy, lots of ground work, and did I mention meetings?  We wanted something that will greet them when they arrive at school, so they know that they are safe and they are loved.