Monday, August 25, 2014

Miracles

Miracles aren't easy and they don't come cheap. Even with modern medicine, miracles still happen. Miracles are necessary to teach us there is more to learn, more to believe, and more to have.

Miracle-- it's not a word that I use often or take lightly.

Traditionally, a c-section takes place at the bottom of the uterus, having a transverse incision made about the length of an open hand. This is the modern way- the safe way- the planned way- the normal way. The transverse incision is easier to heal and involves less blood loss. But, when the c-section is emergent, when the doctor has to "get in there" or things are not going well- they, instead- make a vertical incision, running from below the diaphragm down... down... down past the belly button.

Disclaimer: This is my knowledge, I have not consulted Husband on this information (or even Dr. Wikipedia); this c-section information is more to paint the picture of Thursday. 

Mama Bits on the operating table, splayed open- they determined a hysterectomy was not necessary. That being said, she still had a large vertical incision that had to be dealt with. Warrior delivered and off to the NICU, the doctors set in to handle the repairing and the closing.

After hearing the good news and rejoicing- there was a blip. A second. Just a glimmer of a moment when I remembered that "up and down" incision instead of the "left and right" incision. In my head and out of my head it went. The news was too good to not focus my whole heart on. Tears of joy, relief, and exhaustion- our tribe continued to call and text in disbelief.

But then the radio silence set in. News was sporadic and sketchy at best. It was not purposeful, rather there was a lot going on in that hospital. And they had a lot to do. The word "intubation" trickled our way.

Mama Bits hemorrhaged in the recovery room. Fortunately, the doctors had physically prepared her for a high-risk hysterectomy and flipped the switch on her arterial catheters to curb the massive bleeding. How bad was the hemorrhage? Bad.

Stabilized, they gingerly relocate her to the Traumatic ICU for the evening. More hemorrhaging and passing of clots. The doctors contemplated that hysterectomy and intubated her.

"Mama, what's in-tah-bait?"
Just a second, LMC, let me finish talking to Daddy and I will tell you.

Fifteen units of blood and blood products later-- read: that's two oil changes-- Mama Bits was stable, safe, and out of the woods. As her anesthesiologist extubated her, he looked at her as she awoke and said, "You are a miracle. It is 100% a miracle you are alive and survived last night."

"Mama, what's X-tah-bait?"
We are almost done, LMC, thank you for being patient.

Since moving out of the TICU, she is back in her old room. Not only has she laid her eyes on Warrior in his little incubator, she has held him- kissed him and loved him in only the way a mother can. She might still have her womb, but her birthing days are over. Warrior will be held a little longer, kissed a little more, and snuggled by three older siblings. And why not? After the war he fought to get here, he deserves it.

They are discussing discharge dates- sooner, rather than later. I am humbled. Eternally, I am humbled by this woman, my friend, and her ability to fight, to love, and to live.

"Mama?"
Sorry, honey. Okay- intubate: Somebody like Daddy takes a long tube and sticks it down Mama Bits' throat into her lungs so her body can have a rest. The tube attaches to a machine and breaths for her until she can do it on her own. When they extubate, it's just a fancy word for taking out the tube. 
"Like a snorkel?"
Yep, kinda like a snorkel.

Again, I send my thanks to you and am constantly amazed at the good in people. Adding this stranger to your church's prayer list in North Carolina, sending words up to your Higher Power, crying with me as you read my words, doing all those little things add up. They add up to miracles.

And that is not a word I use often.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

More than hope

Yesterday was hard.
Last night was tough.
This morning was impossible.

I went to the chapel of Perpetual Adoration after dropping off both children. I  picked up the Rosary my cousin gave to my daughter- Senior Bennie's Rosary from Malta, blessed and ready to work a miracle. The smooth wooden beads in my tepid fingers, I kneeled, bowed, and prayed those forty three Hail Marys as the minutes ticked by.

Finishing the Rosary, I looked at the card beside me- realizing I had forgotten a prayer or two- started again, reading the prayers whose words had left me long ago.

The silence gathered around me and I found myself trying to be busy with a box of nothing. Lunch with my sister-in-law and an abundance of text messages bouncing around through the tribe scattered from DC to Georgia.

Updates? Fears? Pits? Pains? Worries? Blessings? Prayers? We confessed it 140 characters at a time and shared amongst an intimate seven cell phones.

It is hard to explain what was going to happen once those operating doors swung open. She was a "VIP case" and over twenty doctors would be in the OR to observe her surgery; more in the observatory.

Start here
And then pick up here

This warrior was not going to make it. He wasn't there in the beginning. And then, suddenly- at the eleventh hour, with the D and C in the wings-- he was. Then, she hemorrhaged. And again. And a third time.

Bedrest.

An ambulance ride to the hospital.

Discharge.

A second ambulance ride to the hospital.

Bedrest + eight weeks in the hospital.

A planned hysterectomy to save her life.

All of this to lead us to today-- this day. This day with an anticipated eleven hour surgery and a baby heading to the NICU, 34 weeks gestation... six weeks premature. A gynecological oncologist to remove her womb and detach the placenta from her bladder.

Because the placenta had gone through her uterine wall and attached its tentacles around her bladder. That was a known fact. 57 high definition ultrasound images confirmed this. Weekly ultrasounds in the hospital continued to show this as the truth.

But the truth is funny. And it is not always black and white-- like an ultrasound is.

Saying my Hail Marys this morning, I was one of many. One of so many people who know this woman and those who only know her through my meager words. Sometimes, words are not enough.

But prayers are.

Aunt Betty, in Alabama, messaged me with her phone number and I promptly called her- having my phone glued to my hand all day.

Mama Bits delivered a healthy five pound seven ounce bouncing pink baby boy- full of life, lungs full of air as he made those first screams.

As the twenty something doctors looked on at my friend splayed open on the table, there was something that could not be missed. That placenta... that placenta that kept Warrior alive and put Mama Bits' life at absolute risk. The placenta that led her to have her Last Rites performed and inspired this reformed Catholic to pull out a Rosary. That placenta was where it should be... fully in tact inside her fully in tact uterus.

I like to imagine that the doctor smiled, her husband kissed her forehead and those new parents of four sobbed happily, overwhelmed with the emotion of the moment. I like to think the twenty something doctors cheered- and were they not sterilized- high fived each other. This is all in my imagination, but it is how I paint that moment in my head.

For the past 18 months, we have hoped for our friend. We have been with our friend. We have prayed for our friend. But, sometimes having hope is not enough. You never know what the Bigger Hand has up his sleeve- and he had a trick or two left in that operating room this morning.

Thank you for letting me openly sob with an almost stranger in Alabama. Thank you for her family, her children, her doctors, and for her. For her faith. Her love. Her strength. Thank you for you. Strangers and friends. Thank you. I am humbled. Eternally, I am humbled.

I talked to Mama Bits' mother after speaking to Aunt Betty and I admitted that I had not prayed a Rosary in many, many years. Her response? "You won't be so shy about it next time, will you?"

You're absolutely right, I will not.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What tomorrow holds

Maybe tomorrow I can get my words together and write what I want to say. Maybe tomorrow, while my friend is in surgery delivering a baby to the world- and to the NICU- and having her life saved by brilliant doctors I can convey what I want to say.

Maybe tomorrow my thoughts will weave words together and my head will be clear.

Maybe tomorrow will end in both a happy and sad way- a baby in this world and Mama Bits healing in the intensive care unit. Her children encapsulated in love with grandparents and her newest being cared for with his father by his side in the little plastic incubator.

Maybe tomorrow will be a good day- albeit sad while incredibly happy. It is always a good day when a baby is born.

I hold no crystal ball. I know nothing of what tomorrow will be like. But it will be filled with love.

With prayer.
With hope.

With absolution.

I pray for Mama Bits to see the end of the surgery, see the beginning of her new life, and for love to be enough.

She is strong; her faith mighty. Maybe tomorrow, those two things will be sufficient- just for tomorrow.

I hung up the phone with her a few minutes ago- we spoke of love, faith, God, and new babies. Just for tomorrow, let that be all there needs to be.

Please. Just one day. And let that day be tomorrow.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

School Days

I have been asked on several occasions how LMC did on her first day of Kindergarten-- but more importantly how I did. 

I was a rockstar. A few days before school started, I asked someone if they thought I was a bad mom for not being upset about her heading off to school? Nah- just excited for the excitement. School is so much fun. It's where you make friends, enemies and learn about life. School is so much more than just books. It is where you learn "playground rules" that you will need throughout life, because those rules don't change. Bitches will always be bitches. Bragging will get you no where. If you're the fastest runner, you won't get caught- but it's hard to play.

Everyone is different and different is good. Identical personalities do not lead to creativity, rather simplicity. 

So, LMC started Kindergarten at the beginning of the week and I had the mindset to revel in her maturity and be excited about her impending adventures. You can't stop time and being sad can't slow it down. Like I said, I was a rockstar. We jumped out of bed when the alarm dinged in the pre-dawn hours... pre-dawn being before 7am. 

Someone was a little slow to find her morning eyeballs...




But, I was ready for it- and had everything already laid out for the first day (and for the week-- four more white shirts under four more jumpers with four more sets of knee socks were already hung in her closet).


Kisses from Prince Charming helped Sleeping Beauty...


We have been trying to establish a routine (all summer) for the mornings- we wake up, go to bathroom, brush our teeth, brush our hair, and then get dressed before heading up front for breakfast. All summer long. Honestly. And you know how we did by the end of the summer?

Let's just leave it at 'not well.'

Dressed and ready to rock, she headed up front for breakfast. You can't see it but we told her she could "sneak a little pink." Her Hide-ees have pink ruffles and she la-la-loves them! Ever the first child- she did not want to get in trouble and made us promise not to tell the teacher about her pink.


Breakfast of champions... an Eggo and OJ before we loaded up ....


and drove the two miles to our parochial school. This was the same school that my brother and I attended when we were kids. Brother told mom before he went into first grade, "Mom- I can't WAIT to be a Blue and White kid! They're the coolest!" The uniform has evolved since then- blue and white are still the dominating colors, but these jumpers are new to me.


Husband is currently in Chicago- but he was able to go with us on her first day. Mama kept Bennie so we could be unencumbered and focus on our first born on her big day. Husband-- ever the rock, ever placid, and ever wonderful was not quite the rock I thought I he would be. No tears were shed, as far as I knew, but I was surprised at his emotion. Even my dad-- of course my dad cries at the Star Spangled Banner-- but even my dad came over in the morning to get a picture of LMC on her way to school.


 We navigated the wide halls full of taller people and her intimidation set in. This was a little different from pre-school.


But, a few turns later- we were in the primary building and she was again an average sized citizen.


She set right to work. Every mom, grandmother, and dad had their phones out snapping a hundred pictures and videos of their own cherub.


You can't see it, but on her name card- I drew the smallest heart and told LMC that if she ever missed me or felt sad- to look at the heart and she would know...

"THAT YOU LOVE ME!" she said with a smile on her face.


At a parochial school, there are prayers. No moments of silence-- straight up-- prayers. They pray a lot here. Hail Marys, Our Fathers, something about vocations, Glory Be-s, all kinds of Catholic prayers for these little Catholic children.

Husband and I were in a debate about where our children will go to school. He- a product of Public education and I- a product of Private education. Public schools have character classes while private school have religion classes. We attend church (almost) every weekend, but that is only one day a week. As Catholics, we have this wonderful opportunity to give our children an education that has a foundation in our faith. Something I was fortunate to have in my childhood- it put a foundation in me that I did not even realize was there until I was an adult.


I'll get off my soapbox before I get too pious....


There were some familiar faces in her class--


And some new ones, too-- like this kid who did not look too impressed that he did not get to hold the class flag...


But, for the moment, they were terribly innocent on the first day having spent a quick five years on this earth. They know nothing of those playground rules.


And are still learning what to do with their hands as they pray... or as they sing the National Anthem.


Even the adults are not really sure which way to stand...


It was a good day. I picked her up from school on Tuesday- her first full day- and she said, "MOM! Parochial is THE BEST!"

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Wilbur

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to wake up to a snake? I mean an honest to Betsy snake. We are staying at a friend's mountain house. Shortly before we left, the owner called my dad and mentioned that there was a snake sighting by the last people that stayed here.

A. Snake.

Not just around the house, but in the house. His children are all teenagers or older- so he was not too terribly worried about this possible King Snake, but wanted to mention Wilbur and the fact that he likes to hang around inside the house.

Inside.

Dad pulled Husband aside to let him know about this little situation that they {AKA- the snake charmers} needed to be aware of and the plan of attack. Oh, and don't tell the women and children. We might get the vapors. Two cars traveled up the mountain- one armed with, well, us and the other armed with two grandparents, three grandchildren, Brother, and an armful of organic, non-toxic, blah-blah snake charmer evaporator GARE-AHN-TEED to rid the area of snakes. 

After unloading the cars and the kids getting wind that Wilbur was not a cat, rather a snake, they were very interested in helping out and even more interested in not finding the snake. The men of the house scoured the corners for about fifteen minutes, until Brother pulled back a curtain to see something long and black hanging in the shadows with his cataract stricken eyes. 

The grandchildren pile in the car with Brother clipping their heels, making no bones about the fact that he is not a snake person. A quick discovery thanks in no part to that long black vacuum cleaner hose.

Dad cut the televisions on and cranked the volume. Husband checked the towels and dark crevices. Dad took a pot and wooden spoon, walking around banging the pot. I pictured the scene with the future-evil-step-mother from the Parent Trap trying to scare off the mountain lions. Bennie clapped her hands and started dancing to the make-shift music while she and I played in the driveway, the older kids and Brother long since gone with Mom. Husband slithered on the ground lifting bed skirts and moving rugs, Whacking Day Stick in hand. 

Nothing.

No snake. 

Husband said it best, "I think it is more disconcerting that we didn't find Wilbur."

But, there were signs- like the skin on the wall. The very-long-folded-over-skin-on-the-wall. Oh, and that baby snake Husband found in a bucket by the fireplace.

And you know what they say about baby snakes? The same thing they say about baby bears-- Mama ain't far off.

Husband took the snake outside for the grandkids to see. He taught Nephew a lesson about snakes and that they cannot move more than 60% past their body. Read: short snakes can be held by short people and not be bitten. Long snakes cannot be held by short people with the same conclusion. They were fascinated with the snake charmer that is my husband.

Brother scooted a little farther away. I laughed (a little too mightily) and casually made my way back inside. Not for fear- certainly not- rather I had to... do... something... anything other than watch Husband with the baby snake. 

That night, I climbed into my big bed while the rest of the world continued outside. By myself. Bennie was in her crib across the way in my room and I gingerly pull back my covers, peering down my nose at the dark covers, waiting to see a random movement between the sheet and the mattress.

Nothing.

And still disconcerting, I saw nothing to say there was or was not a snake in my bed. With no false courage coursing through my veins (like the rest of the house), I send up a prayer to the Whacking Gods and curl my toes closer to my feet as I gingerly shimmied down between the sheets. They were cool and dry to the touch. No leathery scaly skin. Slowly and carefully, I move my legs around and my arms making snow angels and wiggling this way and that- saying my Hail Marys to the Whacking Gods before I deemed my bed safe-- for the moment.

Very haltingly and very painfully, I drifted into a fog of sleep. What I didn't know, what I should have known, what I needed to have paid attention to was that snakes like warm bodies within cold places. They are reptiles and reptiles cannot maintain their body temperature without external heat.

Like a pregnant person who emits warmth as if she were asphalt in August.

Slowly under the blanket, I felt my covers lift ever-so-slightly... just ever-so. Not enough to pull me out of my fog, but enough to stir me. A very cold, very clammy, very not normally in my bed thing made it's way into my bed to find the source of warmth in this cold house.

It wiggled over my top sheet and then under. It found my toes and before it could slither under my leg, I am up.

Up and out of bed.

Wind in my throat, scream at the cusp of my lips, walking on air kind of out of bed. Eyes like saucers, debating between my safety and the safety of my baby across the room kind of awake.

I am trapped amongst pillows on the floor and am a one armed man hanging wall paper trying to get through the swamp of pillows and blankets. I am blinded by the thought of this snake. Blind and deaf.  Until I hear little LMC say, "Mommy, what are you doing?"

I look over and there she is, tucked under my top sheet, wiggled down safely where I was just sleeping- in the warmth of my bed.

I breath a sigh. Thankful that I didn't scream and wake the house. Thankful even more that she was the Wilbur in my bed and not the actual Wilbur.