The Only St. Patrick’s Day I Remember

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St. Paddy’s Day is a complete non-event for me. Like April Fools, to me it is a time for people to do obnoxious things to you (i.e. pinch you) for no good reason. But it does have one claim on my heart. It’s the day Julianna was baptized.

We’d had it planned since before she was born, I think–a Saturday night Mass with family coming in from the East Coast and from places around the Midwest. Then she got sick…then she got very sick…then she went on the vent…and for about four or five very long days, her oxygen saturation kept plunging into the 40s. (FYI, 95% is the threshold for hospitalization for a child.) So we decided we weren’t about to put it off any longer. That was about the time the snow started on the East Coast and Julianna’s godparents got stuck at their connecting point and couldn’t get here at all.

We’d talked all week with the PICU staff about what to do about the baptism. There was a rule that said only two visitors at a time, you see, and priest plus parents is already beyond that.

The staff was amazing. When Julianna finally made an upturn later in the week, they said they’d move out all the furniture and make an exception so that the adults could come in, at least. They dressed her in the gown her daddy’s grandma had made. They covered the little hospital crib with the beautiful blanket a family friend had made. And they called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, which usually only comes to capture moments for babies who are not going home. The black and white shots below come from that photographer. I can’t tell you how much I wish I had been in an emotional state to remember her name.

You would not think a baptism in a pediatric ICU could possibly be a beautiful experience. Not with all the hissing and beeping and alarms going off, and having to pipe the godparents in by horrible cell phone connection from a thousand miles away. Not with the fact that we couldn’t hold her, or even light the baptismal candle (because, hello, oxygen).

And yet it was. It was so beautiful, and so memorable.

And that’s what I think of on St. Patrick’s day now.

(Note: I like to joke that since Julianna was the only one of the kids not to be baptized at our home parish, she decided to do it herself when she was three years old. And yes, if you don’t know that story, you really need to click through.)

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7QT

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Hospital

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You know you are a confirmed scrapaholic who has been in the hospital wwwwayyyyy too many times when the doctor calls an ambulance to transport your child to the hospital, and your first thought is: Man! I don’t have the camera!

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Yes, Michael and I in the hospital…again. He took the cold we’ve been passing around and added a few degrees of drama to it. However, we are not in the ICU. And it’s a very different thing to simply be in the hospital, rather than in the ICU. For one thing, I’m expected to change my own baby’s diapers. (Boo.)

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I actually feel better now that we’re in the hospital. After the week of Sick

, in which I commented that we have entered some Bermuda Triangle that sucks up both good health and rest, I didn’t know whether to trust my skyrocketing anxiety level. Was it mother’s instinct talking or lack of sleep? Michael perked up and began eating, at least a bit, as soon as he got some oxygen in him. And this morning he’s not on oxygen at all and is doing much better. So I am reassured in my instincts.

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But I also question this crazy lack of health in our family. We are generally really healthy people. Did we really have these kids too close together? Is that why we have such a poor record of health, so ridiculously many hospital stays? Or am I overreacting? After all, most of the hospital stays have been Julianna’s. But really, we’ve had illness after illness upon illness for two full months. Looking at the state of my kitchen this week I’d blame my housekeeping for the germ breeding ground, but the fact is that the dishes didn’t get done this week because I had to hold the baby so much, and when I wasn’t holding him I was trying to make up lost sleep. Nonetheless, all you people who say “dust bunnies can wait, enjoy the kids”–our experience makes clear that cleanliness cannot be sacrificed entirely!

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Escalating the Month of Sick to hospital levels adds marital stress that we didn’t need. Nothing can make you feel quite so disconnected, and breed so much conflict, as being on call 24-7 and being forced to devote every second of couple interaction to the business of co-parenting. We had to cancel a date last weekend and reschedule for this, and now I’d say we’ve lost it this weekend, too. But at least this time we’re local, and I can actually leave for a couple hours and help get kids up (as I am doing this morning, which is why I have internet access).

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This week, as I wrangled a very sick baby and a recovering toddler, it occurred to me how creative we moms of young’uns become. For instance, how many of you, like me, use your mouths as an extra appendage?

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And last but not least: Here’s a video of an interview I gave about Bring Lent to Life. I look at myself, hugely pregnant, and I wince. It’s amazing how much the human body can stretch. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a signed copy!

UPDATE: Should’ve done this much earlier, but Michael came home on Friday afternoon–he just needed some oxygen & fluids to help him over the hump.

7QT is over at Hallie Lord’s today.

Hospital Reflections

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It’s been just over two years since Julianna’s last major hospital stay. (19 months since the last “observation” overnight.) I woke up this morning thinking, not about that illness, but the first one. The one that more or less kicked off this blog, back in 2007. Thinking about how the staff told Christian to prepare himself—and how they didn’t say that to me. Truthfully, I’ve often wondered if Christian interpreted something they said in a more dire manner than they intended it. (He’s a worrier, my husband.)

But then I think of myself at that time—in my postpartum hormonal fog, complicated by grieving and reorganizing my expectations. I think of myself, hauling in a big rollaround scrapbooking organizer and sitting in the vinyl chairs under the windows day after day, of the cardiologist coming in at 10a.m. and laughing at me: “Have you moved since yesterday afternoon?” Especially, I think of the moment when someone had come to visit, and the alarms started going off and the room started filling with people trying to get my daughter’s sats (blood oxygen saturation) to leave the 40% range and get back to something halfway acceptable, like 85% (95 is normal). I said, “I don’t need to see this,” and took my guest to the visitors’ room, where we chatted unconcernedly for twenty minutes. We’d been through this drop in sats so many times, and not once had it ever occurred to me that when an ICU room fills up with people, that’s a very bad thing.

I wonder now if God was shielding me from full understanding. I was a nursing mom—even if all the milk had to be pumped and fed to her via NG tube. The stress of the hospital stay was enough; could I have held a milk supply at all if I’d had to cope with the fear of losing my daughter?

Two years later, Julianna was in the P-ICU again. They never indicated that she was in danger this time, although they didn’t pretend that pneumonia was no big deal, either. For several days of that hospital stay, the room next door was occupied by an infant—all but newborn. For the first three days I never saw a parent in the room. I never asked, because I knew the staff couldn’t tell me anything, but the only things that stopped me from begging to go in and hold that baby were 1) I already had a baby living with me in the P-ICU, and 2) my daughter was gravely ill, and I didn’t want to pass it on.

I never knew why that child was in the ICU, and I’ll never understand why the room remained so bare. When you’re in the hospital for an extended period, the room grows decor: coats get brought on a cold morning and tossed on the windowsill, where they get left behind when the weather warms; books wander in and never seem to get taken home. Some of the kids who were out on the main floor, staying for months on end, had posters on the wall and curtains on the windows; you could barely navigate the floor from door to hospital bed. But this room, the room next to Julianna’s in the PICU, the room with a newborn child—this one was nothing but a hospital room with a baby in it.

There is a certain drama inherent in crisis points. Once in a while I find myself feeling nostalgic for those hospital days, missing the intimacy with the wonderful doctors and nurses there, and wondering when we’ll be there again. Then I shake myself and think, Are you kidding? And I hastily thank God that Julianna seems to have outgrown her propensity to land in the P-ICU on a ventilator.