This is it. Today marks only five months left to enjoy being in my thirties. Not sure why it matters to me, but it does. It doesn't matter that I am turning forty. I am perfectly accepting of that. What matters is that I am not sure I have truly done justice to my thirties. Did I put enough in? Did I honour my body? Did I make this world a better place for those around me? Those are the things that concern me.
I think I need to take stock of what has happened in this first thirty nine and a half or so years of my life. I mean, there has to be something there, right? I'm a list person, so I'll make a list. 39 things I've done to make the most of this life. So let's get started…
1. The obvious… becoming a parent…
I was perfectly happy in my life and had no need to have children. After all, they whine, they cry, they have bad behaviour in social setting where people stare and judge you for your lack of parenting abilities. Cleaning up puke and changing diapers. Not so much thank you. Trying to shape a person to be a valued and contributing member of society, all the while never quite meeting society's expectations. The lifelong commitment. I had a dog. That was good enough. The never-ending stories of all the things my kids did. Scribble pictures on the fridge. Really, I didn't need that, right? Or at least that is what I thought. But then a funny thing happened…
I found myself pregnant with my first child. He definitely wanted to make sure that parenting was a challenge for us, from the very beginning. The pregnancy was relatively uneventful, well, okay, that's not exactly accurate. There was that triple screen, and the subsequent amniocentesis. Wondering what challenges you would present to us. Turns out the amnio was just fine, but lots of emotions going through that process. And then there was the broken leg….
Thank you Cronos for your nonstop although sometimes misdirected energy, as was the case the day you were chasing Zach and misjudged where he was and knocked me to the ground in the process, or maybe you and Zach were playing human bowling and you both got a strike cause down went Krista and I while the two of you kept running around the dog park. I'd never had a cast before, so I guess that was as good a time as any. Fluorescent pink. But getting to that point was an adventure. Trying to get in and out of the car, Krista herding the dogs who got out at each stop, walking on a leg that just didn't feel so good to walk on (no wonder, the bone was broken!!). The fear of telling the husband, who inevitably would be upset and somehow saying I told you so, who was then more upset that he had to hear it from someone else. All this while, the baby continuing to grow inside….
Yet that wasn't entirely normal either. I remember the ultrasound. The femur was measuring small. The first clue that things weren't quite the way they should be. Nobody mentions this about pregnancy. All you see are the happy pregnant ladies going about their day. Nobody talks about the parts that aren't quite normal. Like the part where the baby doesn't move much. (NOTE: if you are reading this and ever have a pregnancy and your baby seems to be moving less, get it checked out… not something to mess around with!!). We knew another ultrasound was coming, they scheduled that after the amnio results were in….
Baby is moving less. The mom-to-be is feeling stress. The husband wasn't allowed to take just a couple hours off for the ultrasound, it was the whole day or nothing. So he took the whole day. Good thing really. It's a date, first up the ultrasound and then physio (that darn broken leg that just wouldn't heal!!). And so begins the ultrasound. A little stressed since baby boy hasn't been moving a whole lot. But we get the student. Yay for learning. But the student needs a little help. In comes the tech. Hmmmm… something must be up cause the tech wants a more senior tech. Hello? We are the parents, and we are sitting here while you don't say anything but keep looking at something. There is a heartbeat. Got that, they keep checking it. Hmmmm… now this tech wants a radiologist. Again, we are sitting here, please say something, I'm starting to feel just a wee bit stressed on the inside. The doctor says she will say something once she gets a colleague to confirm what she is thinking. In comes the next doctor. More chatter between them all. Finally they talk to us…
Your baby is very sick. Your baby has hydrops. You need to make some choices. If you deliver the baby, the outcome is uncertain. There could be longterm ramifications, disabilities, medical problems, and that's only if the baby makes it, chances of that are not great either. Taking the baby this sick, at 28 weeks, is not ideal, especially as the lungs haven't got the steroids to help them along. You could continue the pregnancy, but the baby will die. I believe I remember the words fetal demise. Hmmmm… well, these are just great choices now, aren't they. This little baby boy growing inside me, cannot stay there unless we want him to die, but choosing to deliver him could have many unforeseen consequences. It's a choice between bad and worse. I believe in you little one, I do. I hope I am making the right choice. But what choice is there really? I am going to meet you today, under less than ideal circumstances. Life isn't seeming very much like rainbows and butterflies at the moment. Ugh, this isn't what they tell you in the books…
Off to the hospital we go. The husband is grumpy and traffic isn't helping. Honk. Trying to call my parents, but the tears won't stop falling long enough to get any words out. I am so very afraid. I've never been a parent before. This is not how it's supposed to go. I want you to be okay little one. Please. Please be okay. I need to call my brother. I have to tell him what's happening. I shout out his number for Jeremy to call. He needs to know what's happening. I'm scared. I just want baby to be okay. Everything is out of my control. I'm not good at this. I have to rely on everyone around me and that's not my strong suit. It's going to be an emergency c-section. The baby wouldn't survive a natural delivery. Wait. That means surgery and needles and ugh… so not ready for this. I still had another three months to mentally prepare. Or not…
Well, the one good thing about being so scared for the baby, I didn't really get stressed about all that was happening to me (not really a needle person here… yeah, really not). And the needle in the back, so not my favourite part. The nurse was amazing though. I remember that. She said the right things and made me feel a little more at ease while someone was sticking a needle into my spine. Ugh, that was a nerve, and it felt so icky gross. I guess that's normal. Lots of hustle and bustle going on in the operating room. Jeremy is drinking orange juice, cause that's what the dads do I guess. Of course most new dads aren't waiting to meet their baby three months early. You are doing good he says, I laugh, I'm lying there, doing my best not to freak out. Inside I'm just so afraid. I just want the baby to be okay. The whole thing is just surreal….
The operating room is full of people. There is a whole team of people there waiting for the baby. Wow, that's a lot of people that are there just for this baby. And there is the whole team of people dealing with me. Totally different focus for both groups. I'm grateful those people are there, and going to give this baby a chance. Be strong little one, be a fighter.
Soon enough the baby is here. There are no cries. His lungs aren't ready for this. He is intubated right away. They work to stabilize him so they can take him to the NICU. There's a word you don't hear every day. Come to think of it, I don't think I ever really knew much about a NICU before this day. I would learn though, oh yes, I would. Baby is stable, sort of. Time to get him out of there. Wait, says the dad, please let the mom see her son. They stop, hold him up so I catch a glimpse. My eyes fill with tears. He is tiny, but precious. And now he is headed out. They still need to finish with me. Jeremy goes with the baby. Someone needs to be with him. So he can know his parents love him, even though they are so afraid of what is happening.
He is not doing well. He is just so sick. No chance of seeing the baby yet. I need my legs to thaw out from the local anaesthetic. Oh, and let's not forget the broken leg. Things are complicated. Doctors come to visit. We get questioned on so many things. Drugs. What did I take. Nothing, I swear. Even with the broken leg, I didn't take anything more than a tylenol. Wow, this hydrops stuff is so serious. They are trying to find a cause for it. None of my answers match for an answer. I swear, there were no drugs really (they asked a lot). Genetics came, metabolics, cardiology, the neonatologist. They are trying to narrow down the tests to perform. Baby needs blood and ASAP but has so little blood to take, they can only do a few tests before new blood is added and then no more chance for tests….
This is really serious. We are dealing with this minute by minute, hour by hour. The time ticks so slowly. It feels like a nightmare I can't wake up from, only it is real life. How did this happen. Why did the baby get so sick. He needs a name. I want him to have a name. Right now he is just boy. That's what it says on his card. Boy.
Family starts to arrive. The locals first, and then the out-of-towners. It is so hard to keep it together. The expression on my mom's face. I know things aren't great, and they keep getting worse. Ugh. It's a weekend. They call in people to talk to us. More questions. Are they waiting for me to crack? I swear, I'm telling you everything. No answers found. Baby is getting worse. Needs a different ventilator. This one looks like it's from the last century. But apparently it can help. The settings keep getting higher and higher. There is another machine. They only pull this out as a last resort. And now he's on it. It's an expensive machine. This kid blows their budget. Up go the settings even further. There is nothing more to be done. If the baby doesn't start improving, the focus will change. Oh please little one, let the machines help you. We believe in you.
So many wires, so many machines. It is almost hard to see the baby there. Don't touch the baby. My heart is breaking. My first time being a mom and I'm not even allowed to touch my child. Helpless. There is nothing I can do. They ask if we want to call in someone from the church. Time to baptize the baby. Wait. Hold on one minute there. I know what that means. If the baby is baptized, he can go to heaven. I'm not ready to let him go. I won't do that just yet, thank you very much.
Night is the hardest time. My mind races. My mind plays through every possible scenario as I drift off to sleep. I wake up, trying to figure out what is real and what is imagined. Is the baby okay? My heart is racing. I'm totally panicking inside. I am so scared, tears are flowing again, quietly though. The mom in the bed beside me is struggling to feed her child. The baby is crying. I think how lucky she is. I wonder if she realizes it. Her baby is crying. My baby doesn't do that. My baby is being paralyzed right now so he can't fight the machines. Her baby keeps crying. Can someone tell me if my baby is doing okay? Anyone? I just want it to be morning so someone can tell me if the baby is okay….
Jeremy is the most welcome site ever. He checked in on baby. Still not doing great, but holding on. I am so grateful to hear this. He helps me down the hall again. Wash hands. A new ritual that is critical. Over and over again we will wash until the skin cracks from being so dry. Still just look at baby. No touching. That could make baby worse.
Rounds take forever. This is one sick baby. There is so much to say. It sounds so discouraging. Only one baby for the nurse. This baby is too sick to look after anyone else. The machines are all at their maximum setting. Come on little one. Please. Please. Please.
There are emails. Congratulations. It is guarded. People don't really know what to say. It isn't quite the joyous happy occasion that usually surrounds the birth of a baby. The emails are comforting though. Thanks for acknowledging the baby. He is tiny, but he is mighty… he has a long road ahead of him...
And that was becoming a parent. Kids chart their own path. Our oldest charted quite the dramatic beginning. Nothing like jumping in with both feet. It might not have been the typical introduction to parenting, but I will take it. Sebastian is a fighter. He overcame a lot. I've written about it before. I am sure I will write about it again. I am so grateful to every person who helped him during his very rocky beginning. Say what you want about the health care challenges in our country. It is because of the amazing treatment he got that he is with us today. I am grateful. I am so thankful. Every single day, I am grateful that he is with us. It's been over seven years. In some ways it feels like it was just yesterday, and other ways it feels like a lifetime ago.
Hmmmm… this was supposed to be a list of a bunch of things from my life… I'm still stuck on this one… it was a bit of a milestone. It consumed a big part of my life. Still does really. There are more, I know it. I mean, there was his brother too. Definitely less dramatic of an entrance for him, but cherished all the more because of it. I know his beginning gets overshadowed as it was not nearly so eventful. But I cherish him as well. Also, I did manage to see a bit of our world, worked at the happiest place on earth, graduated from university, and became an ironman… I guess I'll reflect more another day. For now, I stop… after all, becoming a parent is pretty epic… and today, I am so lucky to be a mom to two incredible boys. I love them both dearly. I love their unique personalities. I love that they inspire me to be a better person, so I set a good example for them.
For the most part, I think I've done okay with making the most out of life. I think the one area I could do better, is honouring my body on a more consistent basis. I have five months left to show that I can do that. So I am going to work harder at that. Putting better fuel in, working out my muscles and keeping my heart strong. Starting now… literally…. Here I go… off to the treadmill. Time to go for a run!!