Just Before You Start

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“The scariest moment is always just before you start.
After that, things can only get better.”
Stephen King

You know what already worries me about my upcoming C-section? I’m terrified of the back shot.

You’d think repetition would inure me to the experience. But I’m so ticklish. What if I jump at the wrong moment and end up paralyzed? And the side effects! Hot flashes, nausea, inability to swallow—I’ve had it all.

These were the fears that kept me awake the night before my third child was born. While Christian slept, I tossed and turned. Past midnight, I couldn’t have water. Misery. Sometime close to 1a.m., I finally drifted off.

Moments later, I woke to piteous moans. I found Christian rolling around on the bathroom floor, clutching his stomach. I thought he was dying, four hours before I had to deliver a baby.

I called 911. The ambulance whisked him to the ER; I followed. The night attendants said blankly, “Wait a minute. You’re having a baby, and he came in the ambulance?”

3 1/2 hours later, Christian lay sleeping on a bed of two vinyl chairs while I tossed and turned on a hospital bed. Three months of nausea that intensified on insufficient sleep. You can’t get much more insufficient than zero…and now it was time for a spinal?

The door opened, and a gentle-faced man came in. “I’m the nurse anesthetist,” he said. “Can you tell me what your experience of a spinal is like?”

I started crying. He patted my leg and said, “Don’t worry. We’ll take care of you. Just tell me whatever you’re feeling, and we’ll take care of it.”

An hour later, beneath bright lights and gentle hands, I said, “Are you ready to put it in?”

“It’s done,” he said, and I felt the familiar warmth flooding my legs.

And I knew then I was going to be okay.

Standing at the Precipice

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Amazing, how long it takes to write 97 words. Ten days of near-constant brainstorming, while driving, washing dishes, walking, putting kids to bed, lying awake, showering… And that’s a quick write, for me. But it’s done now, and I get to go on to the fun part—writing out the musical arrangement.

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I spent this weekend focused on song text and special needs. There are some local issues that, while they won’t affect our family directly, have set my blood boiling. So I’m working with a group to advocate for kids with special needs. I was asked to write an introductory paragraph that gets people’s attention without ticking anybody off. “Oh, sure,” I said blithely. “I can write a couple of sentences in ten minutes!”

Uh-huh. Two days and a dozen attempts later, I finally got it done.

Nicholas turned 4 months yesterday, and as I was thinking about how quickly the time is passing, I was astonished to find that I remember Julianna’s birth with far more clarity than Nicholas’s. There are moments in every life that I call “precipice” moments, when everything is turned upside down and you find yourself reeling at the edge of a proverbial cliff. It’s actually a physical sense, this loss of balance. The feeling that everything you once knew to be true cannot be trusted; you have very little to hold on to and feel certain of.

Over the weekend, I learned that a friend has a prenatal…not so much diagnosis, as suspicion, of DS. Or at least, some “chromosomal abnormality.” As we talked, I tried to remember what it felt like to be in her place. And I realized that she didn’t need information; she needed affirmation. The most important things to hear when receiving a diagnosis of Down syndrome are not medical. That stuff goes flying over your head; in the first hours and days, there’s nothing in your brain but this stark raving terror screaming over and over, “I CAN’T I CAN’T I CAN’T I CAN’T I CAN’T NONONONONONONONONO!” Just to filter that out enough to carry on a normal conversation is no easy task. The effort required to understand medical jargon is nothing short of epic.

There are only two things a new parent needs to hear, and unfortunately they probably sound condescending except from the lips of someone who’s stood in their shoes. So I share them today in the hopes that this post might reach someone who needs to hear them:

1. It’s going to be okay.

2. A newborn is a newborn is a newborn. A baby with Downs is not born delayed. It starts in exactly the same place as every other newborn. All babies are helpless, all babies do nothing but lie there, sleep and eat and making diapers. This is a universal truth that applies to children with Downs, too (barring some immediate medical emergency). Delays are a topic for later. That’s the beauty of God’s plan. If, at the moment of our children’s births, we knew everything that would ever cause us grief, none of us would be able to handle it. Delays, medical issues, and understanding unfold slowly, in manageable bites. Even if it doesn’t always feel that way. So take a deep breath and parent this baby one day at a time.

Going Home

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Today’s the day that the Basi 5 go home. Christian has had an interesting couple of days corralling two kids by himself. He’s used to it for a couple hours at a time, but not the whole day…and night…two and a half days running. 🙂

Meanwhile, I’m just trying to take care of myself post-op. And Nicholas. When you’re nursing, those two are one and the same thing. Snuggles and snoozes with a baby against my chest…mmmm, heavenly. A phone call from the rest of my family, all snuggling in bed together…completes the picture. Engorgement/plugs…not so heavenly. :/

Or was that Too Much Information? 😉

Addendum from home: I have learned a couple of things about going home from the hospital–at least when it’s a 2-hour drive…

1. The 4-year-old will use the bathroom in the hospital room and STILL need to go again 5 minutes into the trip (literally).

2. No matter what you do, you will never manage to time nursing right for a 2-hour drive in the middle of milk coming in. OUCH.

As promised

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The munchkins are due here with Grandma and Grandpa in a few hours, so I will be losing my husband to kid duty later today. So I decided to upload a couple of pictures early, while I might still have some help with techhie stuff (wireless connections are so spotty!) Sorry I don’t have too many; I’m still confined to bed, mostly, and it’s hard to get good angles on him from the bed. That should change today. I’ll probably add some more  later, after the kids arrive. I am sure they’ll be just too cute with Nicholas. Alex got to be the one to tell Grandma and Grandpa that he had a baby brother. He was so excited. 🙂

Nicholas and his cousin Elise (6 weeks)

Nicholas and his cousin Elise (6 weeks)

 

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Lessons

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Two years ago, when Julianna was born, I wrote an essay reflecting on the lessons God has taught us through our experience of childbearing. I wondered…apprehensively…what the lesson was going to be the next time around.

With Alex, the lesson was: God’s time, not ours. The years of infertility culminated in a long, beautiful, but difficult stay with my grandmother waiting for labor to begin. I will always treasure those weeks, the time I got to spend with this marvelous woman, but there’s no denying the fact that those weeks were also very difficult. My body just would not go into labor. A week past the last possible due date, we induced. Still, my body didn’t want to give up its prize. Twenty-four hours after Cervidil, and sixteen after the onset of labor, we had our first C-section.

With Julianna, the lesson was: accept God’s gifts. The experience of coming to terms with Julianna’s diagnosis of Down syndrome was, again, beautiful, though difficult. I remember vividly the moment when things began to turn for me. It was Sunday morning and no one, even the nursing staff, had yet come into my room. I began to pull the writing desk over to work on something when a still, small voice said, No, Kate. And I knew I needed some time just to sit and allow myself to feel, to grieve. I had about half an hour that morning in which God and I said everything that needed to be said. I cried. I prayed. I cried some more. And by the time the nurse came to take vitals and flush my heplock, I had begun to heal.

The lesson this time around? Total dependence. Weeks of low-grade nausea, and then a cold with a nasty cough. I couldn’t even take a Benadryl last night to help me sleep, because we weren’t sure about mixing it with Z-pac. In the end, though, that was for the best. Scarcely two hours into the night, I woke to the sound of Christian moaning and crying for my help. He was in agony, rolling around on the floor. And so, instead of him babying me through the last night of a difficult pregnancy, I was flying around my grandmother’s house, calling the ambulance, throwing things into bags and following the ambulance to the emergency room, my mind a blur of terror, thinking of what life would be like without him.

Thank God, it turned out to be nothing, but the four hours we spent in the ER left me feeling even more queasy and cough-y than ever.  35 minutes before I was due upstairs for surgery prep, we were discharged from the ER. I felt as bad as I had felt at any point in the last two months., and I was about to have a spinal, which last time around was a long, horrible flirtation with nausea and hot flashes.  And I knew that I couldn’t get through this myself, with or without help. The only thing I could do was throw myself on the mercy of God: Carry me, God. Just get me through this.

Naturally, God provided far more than mere survival. After all the prep work, we had some time to rest. And then there was the truly amazing anesthesiology team, who listened to my previous experience and prepared so well that this time, the spinal was, if not a pleasant experience, certainly not the nightmare I’ve been dreading since Feb. of 2007.

Yes, God continues to use childbearing to teach me. But just because God’s lessons build upon each other does not mean that they must grow more traumatic every time. Perhaps the ultimate lesson I learned from the birth of my beautiful son Nicholas is that “God does not always chide,” as Godspell says.

God is good. All the time.