Sunday, August 31, 2014

On Hospital Bed Rest

Following 24-hours that Wally and I would be okay not re-living, I'm now on full-time hospital bed rest, indefinitely suspended halfway through labor. The gestating of babies and cocktail of drugs hasn't left much mental capacity, so I'll just describe my current home:

The Bedside Cache

Meds: I brought my own CVS-brand saline spray, but the hospital pharmacy replaced several of the drugs I brought with their own versions. (I guess they missed the self-pay disclaimer on my admissions form!*) Anyway, now I have fancy sea salt nasal spray. I wish I could tell you it's made all the difference. But I can only conclude salt water is salt water.

Phone: Our boys are spending a good amount of time at Mommom and Poppop's house now, a marvelous place of more toys, fewer rules, and the great outdoors, pretty much utopia for preschool boys. Mommom taught Joseph, our 4-year-old, how to auto-dial me at the hospital, so I've enjoyed several stream of conscience phone calls, interrupted by the 3-year-old's one-sentence updates ("I found a rock today!") as the phone gets passed back and forth. 

Laptop: I have found the end of the internet. 

The Stage Lights

Yes, stage lights. Because if you haven't lost all sense of privacy through the birthing process to this point, let's gather an audience of nurses, residents, doula and doctor to the foot of the bed and flip on those spotlights. I felt like I should break into song and dance. 

The Video Camera

I'm pretty sure that's a video camera -- the little black circle between the stage lights. So no matter how closed the partition is, no matter how few people are in the room, I can't get over the thought that a crowd is gathered at the nursing station monitors watching me live out life in a hospital bed.

The Leg Cuffs

Since I can't get regular exercise or blood circulation, the hospital has air-filled cloth balloons that alternate inflation on my calves. It's supposed to prevent blood clots. They don't work well with bed pan use.

The Baby & Contraction Monitors

There is nothing sweeter than the background noise of babies' heartbeats overlaid by kicks and hiccups.  But the little ultrasound discs that are gelled and tied all over my belly can only work as long as the babies aren't moving, which is just not Jonathan and David's style. So the nurses are constantly having to come in and get them back on the monitor. Thankfully, I don't worry about heartbeats when I've got babies rolling around like crazy. 

The New Hobbies

Everyone's biggest concern seems to be boredom. Even the nurse tried to help me come up with a new hobby while I'm here. Honestly, doing nothing is great. The last couple years haven't budgeted enough time for staring out the window. And reality, bottom line: all the reading and crocheting in the world can't replace the only thing I want to be doing, which is living life at home with Wally and our boys. All the other options seem pretty lame.

Things I'm Missing At Home

The Challenge

As mentioned earlier, I don't have the mental capacity to do much more than describe my surroundings, but there is a very serious need in hospitals everywhere that maybe you could help with. I'd like to extend a challenge and a plea to everyone who reads this: design a better bed pan. 

At this point, a coffee cup from Goodwill could be considered an improvement. 

*Don't panic about our self-pay status. We're part of a healthcare co-op that's pretty awesome. They've got us covered.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

#8: An Ebenezer Scrooge Anniversary on Bed Rest

When we found out our surprise twin babies were "high-risk," we were only 21 weeks into pregnancy. I remember thinking, if we can just make it to the Feast of the Assumption on August 15th, everything will be okay.

Eight years ago, on this feast day, Wally and I went on our first date: August 15, 2006. And every year since, we've found a way to celebrate again. 

This year I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge, spirited around to anniversaries past, present, and future, as I lay on the couch, under doctor's threat of pre-term delivery or miscarriage if I do anything more than roll over. And I was quite the Scrooge. Grumpy from lack of sleep and lack of movement, an influx of artificial and natural hormones trying to regulate this pregnancy, and the frustrations of being a do-er relegated to observer status in my own home. 

I watched Wally get up early to eat breakfast, put away the dishes from the night before, make oatmeal for our preschool boys, get them up and dressed, humor them into eating, all the while re-filling water cups, coaching "please" and "thank you," wiping noses, packing lunch, cleaning the breakfast dishes, chatting up next week's first day of school, banking the 4-year-old's pennies for evening Mass, an impromptu treasure hunt for the 3-year-old's rock collection, crisis toddler shoe intervention, and a swirl of chaos as they all swept out the door to play at Mommom's house while Daddy went to work. 

With my body measuring at 39 weeks gestation for a singleton birth (while at 28 weeks gestation with the twins), I really thought bed rest sounded nice. Walks with my kids were already a tortoise affair, house chores were borderline ridiculous/creative, and evenings were pretty much crashed out on the couch anyway. But I didn't realize how important those moments were, until I couldn't jump in to fix a snack or clean up a potty-training accident or run to the store for milk and bananas. Bed rest feels pretty useless, aside from the whole gestating babies thing. 

It's hard watching Wally do everything around here, especially since he does it with such a natural, unassuming attitude. I mean, sure I've taken over care of the kids for a couple days, when he's been sick or in a busy season at work, but I make sure it's proclaimed with a healthy dose of martyrdom and performance theatrics. Wally just does it, and still manages to raise an eyebrow and keep his sense of humor when our four-year-old panics about an empty water cup, finally gets the "please" out to secure a refill, and then wanders off mid-tantrum without a second thought. 

In his late afternoon transition from work to picking up our boys to taking them to evening Mass, Wally surprised me with anniversary roses and Sonic drinks. His few minutes of downtime were spent bringing in the mail, adding automatic cleaner to the toilets, and preparing little vases with roses, so the boys could bring flowers to Mary on her feast day. A quick kiss and he was out the door again, into the craziest part of the day.

Meanwhile I rolled over, used my evening bathroom pass, unstitched all my crocheting from the day before, watched "Shark Week," wondered for the hundredth time if it was labor or just a cramped muscle, re-read the internet, tried to explain to the dog why I couldn't feed her, and hoped Wally was surviving evening Mass with both boys. 

Then there was a rush of hyper, happy excitement as everyone crashed through the front door -- a day's worth of stories in five cacophonous minutes: flowers, lotion, pennies, singing, a playground at the mall, more lotion, fishing, trains, a search for the ever-missing rock collection, and then Wally had the dog fed, and dinner ready on the table, and both boys calmly eating. 

The eighth anniversary of our first date wound down with the boys' impromptu reenactment of Mass in our living room, followed by their ever-lengthening bedtime routine. I re-located bed rest to the floor of their bedroom, grateful for these calm moments together (some evenings not so calm), as we read our Bibles and prayed our prayers and sang our lullabies.

When I came back to the living room, Wally asked what I'd like for dinner, and I said nachos sounded good. Without hesitation, he pulled a hot plate of nachos from the microwave, passed me the dinner he'd just prepared for himself, and pulled leftover pot roast from the fridge to replace it. I tried to protest, but he just passed me another Ensure (flash forward 50 years), and asked what movie we should watch.

Our 3-year-old's ever-missing rock collection (currently in the toy oven)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Signing Out of the Rat Race

Last weekend, for the first time in years -- even including vacations -- I turned off my work email. It was an unceremonious transition, my work laptop passed to the replacement executive assistant, a few final good wishes, followed by the usual commute home. 

For five years, I've been in this rat race of commuting, running late, overachieving, impulsively checking in with work around the clock, shooting midnight and 5 am emails to all the other Dallas EA's, and like a hopeless crack addict, I spent the past weekend logging into my work email, checking on situations that no longer affected me, deleting the account, and then re-installing it again just to be sure. I finally realized that without the laptop, I couldn't accomplish much anyway. 

Leaving my job was a somewhat reluctant and unplanned decision (kind of like getting pregnant with twins). Never one to let go lightly, it took a series of reality checks over several months to realize "Super Mom" is a delusion, and I can't actually do it all. 

Leaving is full of uncertainty. We've re-run the new budget so many times this week, an exercise that usually ends with shrugging our shoulders and saying, "God's got this." (Or, as so many of our conversations end, with shrieking preschoolers calling us to the other room.)

What's surprised me is the joy.

In the last few days, I haven't held up my hand, asking my kids to be quiet while I finish a call. I haven't indefinitely prolonged reading "Thomas the Tank" or a hike to the park while sending a work email.

The opportunity to work part-time from home over the past year has been really great, but in only three days, I can see how work-life boundaries didn't exist (which is why it was such a good set-up for my company). I didn't have the freedom or the discipline to set limits or hours, thinking my physical presence at home with my mental presence at work was enough to satisfy everyone. 

As young kids do, they adapt, make the best, overlook any faults in their parents, and they love. 

But the past few days, sans email and laptop, have overflowed with small moments and seemingly insignificant joys.

"Mama, since we are so happy, I'm going to give you something," my four-year-old said spontaneously, and then reached little arms around my neck to gift me a hug. 

Six months pregnant with twins (both of whom are on the normal-to-high weight range for singleton births -- so much for small babies), I'm slower and more limited than I've ever been. But I'm here, mentally and physically present with my family and beginning to think the work stress has all been for nothing. 

I'm frustrated with myself for chasing the financial "American Dream." I feel like a pawn in someone else's game -- striving for accolades in a system that reinforces wealth and materialism, so I can mentally crash at the end of each day and then wake up too early to do it all again. 

Transitioning to one income might bring us financial crisis. We certainly weren't expecting this turn of events. And the fact that it coincides with the high-risk pregnancy of our unplanned twins is legitimately concerning. 

At the same time, I'm surprised by a calmer peace of mind, a happier home, and re-discovering so many moments with my husband and kids. 

I'm hopeful. 

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9