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“Throwing The Kitchen Sink at This”: A Pregnancy Update

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 09/29/14 5:59 PM
CATEGORIES: Blog, Health & Safety, Prayers, pregnancy, Pregnant at 45

Last week was a bit of a milestone for us.

I delivered Ryan at thirty weeks on the dot so every pregnancy since I’ve celebrated passing thirty weeks sans delivery as an accomplishment. When I was pregnant with MK I vividly remember a family dinner where I confidently announced that Ryan would officially be our smallest baby.  I incorrectly assumed that since I carried MK to 32 weeks she’d be bigger.  Imagine our shock when she was actually 2 ounces smaller despite the extra two weeks of cooking time.

Mary Kate, 2008 at a whopping 2 pounds 15 ounces.

Mary Kate, 2008 at a whopping 2 pounds 15 ounces.

As I type this I’m sitting at 31 weeks three days and as much as I’d love to report that I’m cool as a cucumber about the remainder of this pregnancy the truth is I’m a bit jumpy.  Because of my history of early onset of HELLP Syndrome and other pregnancy related complications I’m on what I would call a close watch.  My doctor’s appointments dropped to every two weeks at 28 weeks and last week it was decided that I should be seen once a week for a non-stress tests (NST).  If you’ve read Inconceivable you know I hate non-stress tests because…well… they stress me the hell out.  As far as I’m concerned the notion they are called non-stress tests is an oxymoron.  In my opinion they would more appropriately be called “Let’s-scare-the-shit-out-of-this-pregnant-mother-for-kicks-test.”  I’m guessing that title wouldn’t fit on the contraption they use for the NST.

Anyways, I’ve realized that these last seven weeks are going to be hard.  I’m huge and tired.  Yesterday I schlepped the twins, a stroller, a bag full of crap and a chair to watch MK’s soccer game in 80 degree heat.  By the time I made it back to the car I felt like Chevy Chase in the desert.

chevy chase

 

Getting around is getting challenging.  I need to get better at gaging what I can and really can’t do.

In addition, every ache;  every little abdominal pain; every little twinge of nausea worries me.  It’s all normal–but it’s also how my troubles started during the pregnancies that didn’t end so well. As a result, I’m in a constant state of analyzing my physical well-being with a side of well earned paranoia.  I figure the only way to get through this is if I take it day by day.  Each day will be an accomplishment.  Which sounds like it should be easy.  But my days seem to long.  Really long.  With a lot of physical demand.  Luckily our schedules are going to lighten up over the next two weeks.  I think that will help.  As long as I don’t have the baby before then.

So, if you’ll bear with me over the next 35 days I could really use your encouragement.  My goal is very simple at this point.  I want to make it into November without a delivery.  If I can do that, I will have surpassed every pregnancy since my first.  The icing on the cake would be to deliver a baby without a NICU team being present.  Of course, that would require me to go all the way to 39 weeks, so what I’ll settle for is to avoid NICU time for this child.  If I could just have a baby that is categorized into the well-nursery…well…that would be a dream come true.

My posts are going to come more frequently as I get closer because I need all the hand-holding–real and virtual–I can get.

*****

Rest assured I’m in great medical hands.  In addition to the weekly NST’s I’m having bloodwork to monitor my liver enzymes, platelets, and red blood cell counts.  All of this information will arm my medical providers with the knowledge they need to spot trouble early.  In the words of my doctors, “We are going to throw the kitchen sink at this.” I guess I’m good with that approach even if it is scary.

Of course, if any warning signs appear we will hopefully have time to administer the steriod shots to help with the baby’s lung development.  It worked for Logan.  Hopefully it will work for this little guy, too.

Fingers crossed.

Five Candles

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 09/24/14 12:37 PM
CATEGORIES: Blog, Focusing on The Joy, Logan, Resilience

Blessings do not take away life’s pain, they just tuck it into a smaller part of your soul

September 24,2009 – I sat next to Carolyn holding her hand with full hospital garb on as she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, a boy we held as our own for a few precious moments.  I held him up to Carolyn’s face so she could capture a good glance and revel in his presence before the inevitable.  I departed that room with several nurses and the baby to a room which held the people who would leave the hospital with him for life.  An intensely emotional moment as I delivered Carolyn’s sacrifice, a newest of newborns to this exuberant mom and dad while the crushing blow of this loss struck our hearts.   Tears ran down my face as I saw the baby boy Carolyn had carried since February in the arms of another mother and I knew he was never coming back.  The moment was a gift of humanity to others wrapped in personal pain. Tonight I imagine there are five candles on his birthday cake as he celebrates an important milestone with his family.  With the passing of five years I decided to share some perspective time has given me about this sea change in my life.

The baby boy and his mom and dad are fortunate Carolyn is such a strong and principled person. Her determination to see the pregnancy through at her own physical and mental peril is the reason he lived and made it to September 24, 2009.  How many people given the same facts would have made the same choices?

Woman endure so much with their body and mind during pregnancy and to carry a child for complete strangers and voluntarily let go for life in the delivery room takes strength beyond my comprehension. I think that is why the world took notice.

Carolyn and I get a personal peek into Logan’s life a couple of hours one time per year. As he gets older we are uncertain if these opportunities will continue to arise, but Carolyn and I are grateful for any time with him.  He is a handsome boy with boundless energy who is loved by his parents .  As he gets older and learns of his entry into the world he will hopefully know the love Carolyn and I have for him.

My biggest surprise over the past five years is how little those around us ask of Logan or mention anything about the pregnancy or aftermath.  I am sure those who have experienced traumatic loss  can appreciate this phenomenon.   My advice is to not avoid these types of discussions.  The dark side of the moon is there even if you cannot see it.  Ask people how they are doing who have different types of pain in their past.  It is therapeutic to talk about it.

Although we received loving support from so many around the world as our story became public, there were those who showered us with criticism and hate.  I think that is to be expected when you publicly share your story.  Carolyn and I are Catholic and the Catholic people were great, but the Catholic Church simply abandoned us. I believe Jesus and His Mother Mary would have embraced Carolyn and I and said….  well done.

The personal blessings bestowed upon us by God over the past five years are more than we deserve.  Our gratitude for the blessing of Isabella and Reagan in August, 2011 through the loving support of Jennifer, who carried them, is beyond words.  And then our most recent unexpected twist of Carolyn’s pregnancy left me speechless.  I am so excited for our sixth child to arrive in November. We could have never imagined while in the delivery room five years ago that our family was only half complete.  Blessings do not take away life’s pain, they just tuck it into a smaller part of your soul.  I know I am blessed to be able to walk through life with Carolyn and have Drew, Ryan, Mary Kate, Isabella, Reagan and our soon-to-be baby boy as children.

As for Logan, I continue to wish him good health, happiness and love as we imagine him blowing out  five candles tonight.

logan birth 6j

Considering Being A Human Boob: Looking for Nursing Tips.

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 09/15/14 11:59 AM
CATEGORIES: Blog, Choices, pregnancy, Pregnant at 45, The Babies!

It’s time to face the music.  It’s not that I’m trying to avoid it.  It’s just that I have so many other balls in the air right now the actual task of preparation for this baby keeps being postponed.  My goal is to have all of my Christmas shopping done and wrapped before October 15th.  (My friend Amy would be SO proud.)  This week I have to clean out my entire garage–and when I say entire garage I mean ENTIRE garage!  Meaning by next Monday my garage has to be empty.  As in there can be nothing in it.

Because we are a little crazy we figured this would be a good time to undertake a major addition and renovation to our home.

Because we are a little crazy we figured this would be a good time to undertake a major addition and renovation to our home.

We are dropping our master bedroom into our existing garage and building a new garage onto the side of our house.

We are dropping our master bedroom into our existing garage and building a new garage onto the side of our house.

As a result, everything in that garage has to go in here...or into the basement.  May the force be with us.

As a result, everything in that garage has to go in here…or into the basement. May the force be with us.

So, baby prep has to wait.  Except I know that putting it off isn’t the wisest of decisions given my history of shaving a few weeks…or months…off of my pregnancies.  I’m really hadging my bets with this little guy, however.  Given how well I’m doing combined with the fact that I’ve had a very stern discussion with him about how he must wait until at least November 2nd due to his sibling’s schedules, I figure I’m kind of safe.  So far he seems like a pretty compliant boy.

Of course that could change at any moment.

Cue anxiety.

So, I’m dipping my toes into the waters of preparation.  Nothing crazy like recollecting all my baby gear that is in my friend Tracy’s basement, or God forbid buying baby clothes!  I need to start slow.  I figure doing a little research and reading is more my speed at this moment.  As a result, I’m looking for some informative resources about breast feeding.  I need a starting point.

Now, before anyone goes all willy-nilly in this space about the glory of nursing I want to provide my personal background on the subject. I’m not a rookie…but my experiences have been unique.

Baby #1 –  Drew was born full term and was formula fed.  At the time I made the decision to forego breast feeding for multiple reasons.  I was going back to work the minute he turned six weeks old; I wanted Sean to be able to bond with Drew through the act of feeding him; and, at the time, not a single person in my immediate family had done anything but formula feed.  It was the norm.  And, I’m happy to report that 20 years later he seems just fine.

September 1994

September 1994

Baby #2 –  Ryan was fed nothing but breast milk for his first six months of life.  I decided to nurse Ryan when I delivered him at 30 weeks gestation due to HELLP Syndrome.  Preemies notoriously tolerate breast milk better than formula.  Their under developed digestive systems need the gentlest nourishment nature has to offer.  However, I quickly learned in the NICU that the act of nursing takes a lot of energy on baby’s part.  It’s harder to suck milk out of a human nipple than it is to suck it out of a preemie bottle nipple.  So, I made the decision to pump the milk into bottles for him and never went back.  Ryan was never put to breast.  It was a lot of work but it was worth it.

Ryan at birth in the NICU.

Ryan at birth in the NICU.

Baby # 3 –  Mary Kate was eight weeks premature due to a milder case of HELLP Syndrome so I followed the same pumping regimen that I used with Ryan.  Interestingly, protocols had changed between 1997 and 2008.  So, not only did MK get breast milk, but the NICU insisted on mixing a specially prepared formula in with the breast milk to increase her caloric intake.  She did gain weight faster due to the added formula so we maintained that regimen for six months.  As a result, she was never put to breast.

Mary Kate, 2008

Mary Kate, 2008

Baby #4 & 5 –  Reagan and Isabella were delivered by our friend, Jennifer, who served as our gestational carrier.  As a result, they were formula fed with the exception of the ten days that Isabella was in the NICU after birth.  Her admission was extremely unexpected because the twins were full term, but nevertheless she had breathing problems.  It was then that Jennifer went above and beyond and pumped for her.  Isn’t that awesome?!?!  I just had to slip in this tidbit of informartion about Jennifer because it demonstrates what an awesome first mother she was to our daughters.  I will be forever grateful for what she did for our family.

Reagan and Isabella, 2011

Reagan and Isabella, 2011

Although two of my children have received the benefits of breast milk I have never had a traditional nursing experience and I want one.  I think.  Let me say I’m not hellbent on nursing.  I’ll do what works best for our son and our family, but as of right now, with no indication of him showing up early, I’m thinking I’d like to try and nix the bottles and simply breast feed.  There are some aspects of that decision that make me very nervous and that is where I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Intake

First, I’m nervous about not knowing exactly how much my child has eaten.  With bottles I could measure, record and track the number of ounces consumed at each feeding. And I did.  Neurotically.   The idea that I’m just supposed to rely on my child having wet diapers makes me uneasy.  Thoughts?

The Human Boob

Second, I’m nervous about being relegated to nothing but a human boob.  I have five other children who need my attention and I have visions of being on the couch all day with a baby hanging off of me.  I would love to hear from some moms who have managed to exclusively nurse and meet the needs of the rest of their brood.  Are there any tricks?  Equipment that was helpful?  Please share.

Bonding with Dad

Sean loves feeding our children and I love the bond that is created between him and his child as a result.  If I exclusively breast feed how do we foster that same bonding experience for him?  I’m especially curious if anyone has successfully pumped and nursed.  I’m wondering if I can pump a little into a bottle and let him feed the baby every once in awhile without causing massive boughts of nipple confusion.

The idea of not having to deal with bottles is very appealing to me.  The idea of bloody, cracked nipples: being the only one who can ever feed this child rendering me exhausted; and boughts of mastitis scare the crap out of me.  That’s why I’m asking for some feed back.

And, on that note…I don’t want this discussion to denegrate into a “breast is ALWAYS best” discussion.  Like I already wrote…I’ve formula fed and it was just fine.  To each his own.  I’m specifically looking for some resources that I can read so I know kind of what to expect.

Thanks in advance as always.  I will truly appreciate all of your thoughts and advice.  After all,  it was solicited.

Now….Go!

 

 

 

And Then She Fell in A Hole…and Pee’d Her Pants.

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 09/9/14 10:48 AM
CATEGORIES: Blog, From The Files of You Can't Make This Sh*t Up, perspective, Pregnant at 45, Shenanigans

I have the plague.

Okay.  Maybe it’s not the plague.  Actually I think I may very well have the “mystery virus” that is popping up all over the midwest.  Reports say that those primarily effected are children.  I know I’m not *a child* but I’m *with child*—er—so maybe that puts me in the high risk group?   Regardless, I have been sicker than I’ve ever been before with some sort of respiratory illness that has rendered me short on oxygen and energy.

In other words I’ve been a worthless sack of humanity this past week.  Hence my absence from the radio and this space.

Of course, the show that is the Savage household doesn’t shut down for sick days.  Kids still go to school, activities are still attended, and the to-do list still needs doing.  Of course, none of my chores have been slam-dunked this past week.  Instead, it’s all been a giant example of “half-assery”.  Well packed lunches were replaced with lunch money;  kids were a little less polished in both their appearance and preparedness; and chores?  Well, I resorted to a bare minimum to-do list leaving peripheral duties…like laundry… for the weekend.

I’ll be digging myself out for days.

Isn’t that how us mothers do illness, though?  We put ourselves last and come hell or highwater we can’t take a day off no matter how crappy we feel.  It’s both noble—and stupid. Noble because nothing will stand in the way of being present for our children.  Stupid because after we drag ourselves to these supposed watershed moments sometimes sickness prevails and we look plain stupid for not listening to our bodies and collapsing into our beds.

What am I alluding to?  Allow me to set the scene.

Drew had his first NCAA cross country meet of his sophomore season this past Friday.  The race was  in Athens, Ohio, a mere four hour drive from our home.  Knowing it would be an all-day commitment both Sean and I made the necessary plans to attend.  Friday meetings were rescheduled; babysitters were hired;  and rides home from school were arranged.   I thought my ducks were in row—until I got sick.

Sean:  Do you think you should go?  I mean, you don’t look so hot.

Carolyn:  I’m not missing this.  I’ll take some tylenol and rest in the car.  There’s nothing anyone can do for me here, anyways.  It’s viral.  I’m pregnant.  I have no choice but to suffer through it and wait for my immune system to kick in.  Plus, what harm could come from watching a running race on a golf course?

Little did I know.

Fast forward to the morning of the race.  My cough was epic causing me two very inconvenient issues.  The first was easily solved by a text to my midwife who gave me permission to use my inhaler.  The second, however, was bit more of a nuisance.  You see, I’m 28 weeks pregnant and my sweet little two pound bundle of joy is resting comfortably on top of my bladder.

My forty-five year old, warn-out, saggy bladder.

I don’t want to get graphic here, folks.  So, let’s just say that not only did my cough cause me to have to refill my inhaler but it also led me down an aisle of the drug store I’d never paid much attention to.  As I stood in that aisle I realized how little I knew about the product I needed and was quickly overwhelmed by the vast selection.  There were mini-pads, maxi-pads and full on under garments.  Some were designed for men.  Others for women.  All of them promised discretion and came with guarantees of absorbancy.

I studied the products and sized up my issue.  It’s only a little when I cough.  I need to catch it.  Not collect it.  I don’t think I’d classify the issue as a major leak.  Let’s categorize it as mild to moderate.  And with that, I grabbed something I thought would do the trick and scurried back to the tampon aisle–a place more befitting of a 45 year old woman…who’s not pregnant.

Oh well.

By the time we arrived at the race I was convinced I was prepared.  Tylenol had been swallowed;  inhaler had been inhaled; and any mild to moderate “spills” were guaranted to be contained…it said so on the package.  I was confident.  And all was going swimmingly.  The race started, Drew was off, and I commenced my waddle across the course to snap pictures where I could.

I was so proud of myself.  I was there despite the fact that I felt like hell and sounded like I had a fifteen-pack-a-day habit.

Everything was going great until Drew hit the third mile.  It was then that I thought I should make my way towards the finish line.  Sean had long abandoned me to run around the course encouraging Drew at different stages of the race, so I was alone.  Me.  The very pregnant mother of a sophomore in college.

And…about that.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again.  Nothing has gotten me more stares than the wondering eyes of my fellow collegiate parents.  I can practically read their horrified minds as they ponder going back to the days of bassinets, burp cloths and bottles AFTER having successfully booted one chick from the nest.  I’m sure maybe an iota of what I imagine is projected onto their private thoughts from somewhere deep in my psyche…but I have no doubt the looks of astonishment I get from that crowd are genuine.  And I understand them.  If it were someone else I’d be thinking the same thing.

That being said, I’m a little self conscious around the whole college parent scene.  And, on this particular day I was trying hard to look inconspicuous. It was going okay until I fell.

That’s right.

As I began my waddle towards the finish line I managed to find a well camouflaged, twelve inch hole and promptly fell into it.  My camera flew out of my hands.  My sunglasses fell to the ground.  As I was falling I remember thinking, “Holy hell!   Please don’t let anyone be watching.”

No such luck.

Unfortunately, the tumbling mass of pregnant woman managed to catch the peripheral attention of at least a dozen other bystanders who ran to help.

I wanted to die.

I wanted to die because it was embarrassing.  I wanted to die because drawing more attention to myself was the last thing I wanted.  And, I wanted to die because if hurt like hell.  I’d twisted my right ankle something fierce and as I quickly popped up and assured the growing crowd around me that I was perfectly fine I was thinking, I think I just broke my fucking ankle AND for the love of  God hold onto the one last shred of dignity you have and don’t fucking cry.

But it was too late.

I could feel the tears coming as my ankle throbbed.  Out of desperation, I made a last ditch desperate attempt to mask my pain by laughing—because you know—that makes sense.  So,  I laughed like what just happened was the funniest thing I’d ever seen–which under normal circumstances may have saved me and lightened the mood of the very concerned bystanders–but instead, given my current bought of what may have been the Ohio version of ebola, sent me into an immediate respiratory spasm.  Before I knew it I was doubled over coughing so hard I could see stars.

That’s when the horror set.

What happened next is somewhat of a blur.  I think my fuzzy memory of exactly how this went down is due to either oxygen deprivation from the cough or because the the human mind, out of self-preservation, is hard wired to forget traumatic incidents.

And traumatic it was.

Because with every cough.  Every contraction of my diaphragm.  I flooded.   I quickly thought about the packaging I’d so hastily read earlier that day as the words “mild to moderate” mocked me.  There was absolutely nothing “mild to moderate” about what was happening in that moment.

This was a catastrophic event.

*****

When I was sixteen I wrecked my mom’s car during my driver’s license exam.  When the secretary of state person drove her to the scene of the accident she gently told me something important as I sat in the back of the cop car explaining to the police officer that, “I can’t provide you with my driver’s license because I was actually taking the driving test when I disregarded that stop sign“.

She said I’d laugh about this one day.  At the time, I didn’t believe her.

But she was right.

*****

I have no idea if anyone around me truly realized what happened in that hole on that golf course last Friday afternoon.  After I eventually caught my breath, I thanked everyone for their concern, assured them I was fine and then pointed to the finish line.  By the grace of God, the runners were coming.  They all left which gave me a moment to take inventory of how bad the situation was.

Luckily I had a change of clothes in the car, and a cooler full of ice to plunge my ankle into.  As for my dignity?   Well, I admittedly checked that at the door during my first labor and delivery experience.  No harm, no foul.  And with that, I waddled to the ladies room.

Later on that evening Drew noticed something was amiss.

Drew:  Why are you limping, Mom?

Me:  I fell in a hole at the race.

Drew:  Oh man [horrifed].  Did anyone notice?

Me:  Yes, Drew.  Many people noticed. 

As for how much they noticed?  Well, hopefully I’ll never know.

*****

FYI…My ankle isn’t broken.  And, I’m happy to report my virus is responding to antibiotic treatment.  I guess it isn’t ebola.  I’m hoping to be back to my regular old self by the end of the week.

Of course, laughing…with proper protection…has helped as well.

Settling Into A New Season: Can This Be Over Already?

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 08/28/14 10:44 AM
CATEGORIES: Blog, perspective, saying goodbye

Around the middle of May my social media feeds were flooded with posts from parents who were”limping” across the finish line of the school year.  Pinterest inspired lunches were replaced with lunchables…or boxes of crackers.  Homework assignments that required parental assistance morphed  from over-the-top to, “What homework assignment?  Aw…just pull some scraps out of the garbage and glue them onto this posterboard…er…side of an Amazon shipping box.”   It seems that when the pressure of our busy school year routines build up, the light at the end of the tunnel known as summer causes us to wave our white flags of surrender.

We need a break.  We need to slow down.  Can this be over already?

Funny thing is, I noticed the same thing about the end of summer.  When school let out the first week of June I was ambitious.  Maybe even a little over eager.  I had a mental summer bucket list that included hiking in our metro parks; day trips to the shores of Lake Erie; and water balloons.  There were day camps and art programs;  swimming and tennis lessons; and backyard fires with s’mores.  My cupboards were amply stocked with sunscreen and bugspray.

Fast forward to the beginning of August.  Suddenly hiking, swimming and water balloons had lost their appeal.  And as for sunscreen?  Hell.  I was down to one bottle with a wonky spray nozzle that only squirted sideways.  Cloud cover quickly became my friend.

Making matters worse, I remember returning home from our week in Michigan and walking into the store to see aisles and aisles of happiness on a shelf.  School supplies.  Hallelujah.  It was almost time to dust off those lunch boxes and get inspired again.  I had two more weeks of time to finish off that bucket list with the kids but suddenly I was all, “Forget it.  You five need some alternative adult interaction in your lives.

That’s code for “Mama’s tired.”

Tired of applying bugspray;  tired of drying beach towels and scrubbing asphalt stained feet;  and tired of breaking up fights over squirt guns and cleaning up toys.  Suddenly I didn’t care as much if tennis was played or a swim stroke was perfected.  And back yard camp fires with s’mores?  Nope.   It was time for appropriate bedtimes.  For all of us.

We all need a break.  To slow down.  Can this be over already?

Sometimes I worry that I don’t live in the moment enough.   I don’t know if it’s because I have so many obligations–five kids;  a home and yard to care for;  a pregnancy to protect; and a publishing date…and birth date… looming on the horizon.  I often find myself thinking about what I should be doing instead of what I’m actually doing and feeling guilty about all of it.  I also admit to looking forward to the beginings of new seasons before the old season is complete.  But then, I wonder if that isn’t the way our culture is wired.  We are taught to prepare in advance lest ye be caught off guard once what’s on the horizon is actually happening tomorrow.   Back-to-school hype begins the day after the Fourth.  Stores have their Christmas stuff out already. And summer vacation dances onto our radar as soon as the Easter Sunday sun has set.

I think those subtle–and not so subtle–cues cause me to feel behind.  At the same time I kind of like it.  I look forward to change.  The thoughts of pumpkins and stuffing;  football games and cross country races;  I find the change in seasons is invigorating.  It motivates me to move on to something new and to turn away from my tiredness.

Change is my break.  It causes me to simultaneously slow down and wrap up–and push my peddle to the metal in a new and very different gear.

It keeps me inspired.

The girls are settled into their school.  Ryan is rocking his senior year, so far.  Erica has only been here for a week, but it seems like we’ve known her for our entire lives.  And Drew?   Well, his sophomore year in college and second season on the Bobcat cross country team seems to be off to a stellar start.

We are settling.

Time to get inspired.

Now onward.