Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bed Wrest

The new view from here.

I stepped into last week with the expectations of things going pretty much according to our new norms. There were two nonstress tests (NSTs) scheduled. A maternal/fetal medicine consult. An ultrasound to check amniotic fluid levels. My weekly progesterone injection. A day of Lego Robotics for the big boys. A possible outing to visit our local children's museum. Oh-- and a holiday.

Less than twenty-four hours into the start of the week, it was very clear that my plans were not God's.

At my NST on Monday, the machines picked up fabulous fetal movement and heart rates. The baby looked great, the nurses told me. But there was one little problem. In twenty minutes of charting, I had five decent, sizable contractions. 


A quick check of the amniotic fluid Baby is swimming in found it lower than the week before, but still within the realm of ".... yeah, we'll just keep an eye on that."

From there, it was off to Triage.

And that was where my plans for the week-- for the next three weeks, actually-- were completely derailed. 

Too much dilation, too much effacement, and too many doses of heavy meds designed to stall pre-term labor followed. I feel blessed that I only spent one night in the hospital, and am now sitting on my own couch, baby still safely inside, wiggling and kicking and reminding me every moment that the goal is one more day, one more day.

Still, you can't be the mother of a large brood  and not find bed rest somewhat limiting. I can knit to my heart's content-- and have quickly learned how to do so on my left side. I can address Christmas cards, fold laundry, edit our nonprofit's newsletter, read countless stories, play tea party, cuddle with the puppy. But I can't make dinner, bathe little bodies, help find a lost necklace, wipe dirty bottoms, put away groceries, make snacks.

I've been forcibly wrest from many--most-- of the duties that normally fall into the "mom" category.

Everyone here is stepping up beautifully. We had a gorgeous spread at Thanksgiving, thanks to Mr. Blandings and Jo. Mr. Blandings has taken on coordinating with friends for meals and running the ship in every other way. What I can see of the house is neat and tidy, thanks in no small part to Logan, who has taken it upon himself to be the clean-up crew. Jo made the traditional holiday kick-off shortbread yesterday, and it smelled heavenly. And Atticus has learned more about laundry in the past four days than I think I knew when I went off to college.

We've had no attitudes, no bickering, no rolling eyes. Just cooperation and a general spirit of "Let's get this done, guys" that is pretty typical for my crew. The difference this time is that it's not just casual helping. This is a real season of real need. This is, "Look, I need you to basically be a grown-up right now. I need you to put what you want aside and do the hard stuff. Can I count on you?" And the answer, the one that I always hoped I'd hear when the chips were down, has been a resounding "I'm part of this family. I'm all in."

Our goal at this point is to keep Baby Blandings inside until December 10. In some moments-- like when I think of all the Christmas sewing I'm not doing, or how heartbreaking it's going to be to miss out on the trip to the tree farm-- it seems so very far away. In other moments-- like when I count down the days until we wake up on Christmas morning-- it seems frighteningly close. There are newborn diapers to wash up, a cradle to ready, a car seat to wipe down, meals to freeze.

And here I am. On my left side, watching the fire in the fireplace, listening to the puppy snore, counting stitches as I knit, waiting for the family to return from church.

In any case, this is where I find myself. Still grateful that God has this. Very grateful that I am not on a constant magnesium sulfate drip (oral meds are much, much easier to stomach!) or, far worse, spending my days in a NICU ward. Biding my time. Waiting. Feeling grateful for the blessing of the people around me. And anticipating good things to come.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The view from here

Belly, anyone?

I am roughly 32 weeks into the physical journey towards this baby. While I can't say that I've embraced this pregnancy with the same awe-struck enthusiasm that I felt with Seven, I have still found things to relish. Late-night wiggles. Listening to the reassuring thwip-thwip-thwip of the heartbeat on the doctor's doppler. Watching my abdomen grow and fill with new life. The joy that each of the children has had in preparing to meet this new little person. Lounging in bed with my beloved and giggling with each other over how this baby likes to poke and kick him squarely in the kidneys. The amazement that, once again, I get to be the vessel that brings a new person into this world.

Sadly, the balance has tipped slowly towards more negative than positive. About a month ago, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. While that certainly hasn't been the worst thing to ever happen-- and doesn't even register on the "tragedy scale"-- it's been a hump of feeling yucky, balancing meals for a family and myself, and learning that sometimes, medication is the only way to go (which is hard for a natural-loving Momma like me). Just as I settled in to a place of peace in riding out the last few weeks before we meet this wee one with a couple of bottles of pills and a glucose monitor at my side, I got the less-than-encouraging news that my blood pressure is a tad too high, the amniotic fluid is a tad too low, and by the way, we really need to keep a closer eye on this baby. Twice a week, to be exact. And you should have childcare lined up for an emergency delivery on those days. Just in case.

Normally, I'd put up a bit of a fight here. I'm a huge advocate for myself in the area of health care. I know my body. I know how it performs. I know how I feel. And frankly, I am not reckless. I don't take risks on a whim. Those things that the establishment does see as risky behavior on my behalf (no IV during labor, no drops in my baby's eyes post-birth, passing on the hospital-recommended vaccinations before discharge, etc.) are born from calculated, careful education on both my behalf and Mr. Blandings'. There are some hills I am willing to die on, medically speaking. 

This time, though, I have peace.

Absolute, stunning peace. 

Really--considering that 24 hours ago I was sitting in on my second maternal/fetal specialist consult in three weeks, I'm doing fine. My labor and delivery might look nothing like what I have experienced in the past. I am becoming a greater and greater candidate for a c-section. My baby will need to have his or her blood sugar tested frequently during what will probably be a slightly extended stay. I may be whisked off to deliver with no warning after one of my twice-weekly non-stress tests and fluid checks. 

And I feel pretty good about it all.

Call me crazy, but my motto this entire pregnancy-- from the shocking realization of its existence to the less-than-stellar health record I am currently enjoying-- has been "God's got this." And if you've read my past few posts since coming back to the bloggy world, you know that I wrestled with this stance mightily this summer. 

But this ... this feels like God's hand. It feels like God's comfort. And it most certainly feels like God's careful working out of His plan.

So God has this. He has me. He most certainly has this baby. So the view from here-- clouded though it is by specialists and appointments and tests-- is pretty darn beautiful, after all.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The road to Philly, pt. 1

Oli enjoying a summer outing.

Asking God for clarity, I have learned, is nearly as dangerous as asking him for patience. Unless you are really, truly, ready to have yourself smacked upside the head with it, well ... don't go there.

Mr. Blandings and I have been asking-- no, begging-- the Lord for a vision for Oli unclouded by our hopes, our dreams, our shortcomings, our thoughts. Lord, just give us clarity. Who is this little man? What do YOU want for him? What are we to do, as his parents, to lead him to where you want him to go?

Yes, we pray these things for all of our kids. But with Oliver, I'll be honest, the path has seem more muddled and less sure than I'd like to admit. What does one teach a little boy just weeks away from his 6th birthday who cannot remember his sibling's names? How does one handle an elementary-aged child who regresses from even the simplest of acts (like remembering how to stab food with a fork) with seemingly no warning? And what on earth do you dream of for your child when so many of the "norms" seem unattainable on the worst of days?

While some seasons of parenting Oli have found us with our eyes set firmly on the positives ("Look! He's using the potty!" "Did you hear that? He said a sentence with four words!"), this past summer was a low spot that left us grasping for straws and leaning heavily on the fact that while we felt completely and utterly unprepared for the job at hand, we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had no such doubts about us and was fully expecting that, with His help, we would find a way to be the parents our special little man needs.

Some days, our prayers for clarity were quiet, hushed whispers as we watched beautiful scenes of blossoming unfold in Oli's life. Other days, they were agonizing cries as we fought hard to maintain patience and perseverance. But always, they were there. We ran like jackrabbits many days, pursuing new tests, specialists, therapists ... anyone who might give us insight into where God wanted us to be. And those days, we felt like we were doing something. Like we might just find the magic pill after all. Like God was going to show up in a white jacket and hand us the answer in the form of a prescription.

And then came the day that God answered. 

It was a gorgeous day, but one that had most certainly not found me at my best as Oli's mom. We had driven to Seattle Children's for yet another appointment, fighting hellacious traffic at an hour when both of us wanted nothing more than to be on the couch reading Curious George books. Oli responded to the stress by kicking me firmly in the forearm as I struggled to get him into his carseat, and then offering me his newest defense mechanism when things are not going his way: "I don't like you!" (I have never had another of my children say this to me, and it cuts me to the quick every time.) Mr. Blandings, at home with the rest of the crew, called me no fewer than three times on the drive to tell me that Seven had flooded her training pants, Atticus had lost his Teaching Textbooks math disk, and Mani seemed to have a fever.

And this was the day God chose to give me clarity?

After the long drive, I found myself shaking the hand of the endocrinologist. After his latest round of neurodevelopmental assessment, Oli had been referred through the matrix of medical offerings at Children's. Audiology for his hearing. Cardiology to double check the valve that had once been wonky. Hematology for more tests than you can shake a stick at. Radiology for diagnostic scans. And endocrinology to perhaps figure out why, once and for all, he is the size of a very small 3 year-old even at almost 6.

The endocrinologist met us in an exam room, a huge file at her side and a computer screen full of graphs regarding my son in her face. She clicked a few times, scrolled, then finally made eye contact.

"So, we met as a board to discuss Oliver's file."

"Oh," was all I could say. A board. Interesting.

"And we've looked at his thyroid testing, and his cognitive scores, and his iron levels, and the bone scans. All the testing you've been doing the past few months."


"And, we, well-- we can't help you. There's just nothing here that indicates anything at all that we can do. Medically, I mean."

As if on cue, Oli crawled into my lap from his spot beside me on the narrow little bench we shared. His feathery weight in my arms kept my head from spinning, but only so much. 

Because there it was, in plain black and white. In angering, full disclosure, I finally had the truth spelled out for me: There is nothing they can do. 




I expected a great many answers from God, but this was not one of them. If Oli had lead in his blood, had low iron, had a genetic something that we could point to and say, "There's the issue," then I would have been relieved. If someone, somewhere would finally (finally!) use a big red marker and scrawl "FASD" on his file, I would feel vindicated.

Instead, I got nothing.

But sometimes, nothing is exactly the clarity you need.