Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Surgery

Pretty much the last thing any patient wants to hear their surgeon say as they wake up from anesthesia is that they were an "interesting case".  My surgeon had originally thought that there were one or two large stones in my right kidney, but when he got in there with his tiny little laser, it turned out that I had some weird anatomical abnormality in my kidney. Tissue had formed a kind of mesh coming out of the kidney wall, and within the tissue mesh, 30-40 small kidney stones were trapped.  He was able to cut through the tissue mesh and release the stones, but there was so much blood as a result that he isn't sure that he was able to destroy all of the little stones with the laser.

The procedure lasted twice as long as anticipated--about two hours.  I woke up in the recovery room under one of those cosy warm blankets.  My vision was blurry, which they said was a side effect from the anethesia.  I vaguely remember the surgeon coming through to say that it had gone okay and that he'd see me later, and that I might be able to go home that same day.

A short time later, they moved me back to my room, where T. was waiting for me.  I spent the rest of the day in increasing pain, trying to drink water to flush out the blood from my kidney.  I have a stent in, which is intended to keep the ureter open and keep me from experiencing heavy pain from the passing of various pieces of stuff.

Side rant about medical care here:  My doctor is clearly highly qualified, with loads of experience.  I really like him, as I have with most of the doctors I have seen privately in this country.  However, the nursing/hospital care here just sucks.  As with my delivery with SB, the nursing care here (at a different hospital from the one I gave birth at) is not what I would have expected in a first world country.  And this is PRIVATE care, and not the regular socialized medicine system.  There is just no "care" in healthcare here.  As with my birth, the nurses basically never stopped by to see me, and took forever to respond to the bell when I rang it.   Thank goodness T. was with me to help me get between the bathroom and the bed during those early post-op hours, when my bladder was in rough shape and I felt I had to pee every two seconds.  I was on an IV, but the IV pole couldn't be rolled into the bathroom, so it had to be carried with me.  I can only imagine what I would have done if T. hadn't been there.  And pain med's. . .don't even get me started.  They basically gave me two options, Ty.lenol and morphine.  I didn't want the morphine, because it's not compatible with nursing, and I already had to pump and dump for 24 hours after the surgery.  But, the Ty.lenol wasn't controlling the pain.  The nurses just kept saying I should take the morphine, and telling T. I should take it.  Finally, I got a nurse who said that she's noticed that NSAID's control stent pain better than Ty.lenol, and she arranged for me to be prescribed some.  The only problem with that was that it took HOURS to get the prescription. Apparently at night there was only ONE DOCTOR on staff at the hospital who could write prescriptions.  How crazy is that?  So, I told them I needed more pain medication at 7:30pm, and didn't get anything for hours after that.  The pain wasn't well controlled until the NSAID finally kicked in at about 6am.  It was a rough night.

Funny note about private medical care here:  although it seems you can't get decent nursing care, the catering service at both hospitals I've been to has been excellent.  There are elaborate "room service" menus, and the staff stop by your room 834 times a day to ask if you want water/tea/cookies/lunch/can they take your order for the next meal, or the one after that, etc.  The room service menu at this hospital even had a quite extensive (and excellent!) wine list, if you can imagine!  T even commented that he couldn't believe how often they stopped by.

So anyway, I came home yesterday.  I'm still peeing blood, which is disconcerting, but the surgeon says that's to be expected.  I have his personal cell number in case I have any problems (wouldn't see THAT in the U.S.!).  I'm still on the NSAID's, which are controlling the pain, as well as antibiotics "just in case."  It was so good to get home to my own bed, and to my kids.  What a rotten way to spend my first night away from SB!  Last night, my first at home since the surgery, went okay.  I went a bit too long without pain med's, and paid for it in the middle of the night.  My stomach is also a bit irritated from all of the med's, but there's little I can do about that, given that I've been taking them with food.

I'm supposed to talk with the surgeon on Monday about where we go from here.  I'll need to go back under anesthesia in a week or so (boo), so that he can look around once the blood clears, and do any additional work necessary.  I'll also need the stent out.  I'm pretty bummed about the fact I'll need to go back in the hospital, and worried about how to schedule it around work (I'm supposed to go on a two day trip that is kind of a big deal).

And of course, I can't end this post without mentioning our Murphy's law luck:  Miss M woke up vomiting yesterday.  She bounced back surprisingly quickly, and by yesterday afternoon was back to her old self.  She's only been sick twice in her life, so it figures that she would start puking when I am less than 100%.  Fingers crossed that none of the rest of us catch the bug.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Because I Don't Like Medicine

So, my surgery is in the morning for the damn kidney stones, and of course I'm posting twice in one day instead of going to bed, because I'm anxious.  Have I mentioned that I'm afraid of anesthesia?  And also, of having a tiny hose snaked up through my ureter? And, of having a tiny laser snaked up inside my kidney and used to destroy things (which hopefully include only the kidney stone and nothing else)?  It all seems so unpleasant.  I really, really hate anesthesia.  It scares me.  There is a reason I've had two natural childbirths.

My mother, who hardly ever is difficult about most things, started pushing about just when I've had anesthesia and how I know it's not the greatest experience for me, and I didn't have the energy to tell her about my D&C, which I don't think I've ever mentioned to her.

I have to be at the hospital at 6:30 in the morning.  I should really go to bed.  But you know what?  I think I'll finish SB's birth story, which I drafted a few weeks after she was born, but never quite finished.  I'll set it up to post in the next few days.  That will distract me for a bit longer.

Ugh.  I really don't want to have surgery tomorrow.

Miss M at 29 Months and change

Dear Miss M,

Oh, how we enjoy you.  You are just full of boundless energy and joy.  You have a giant vocabulary, and you talk to us all of the time.  My favorite new word this week has been your use of "probably."  As in, "mommy, that's probably bacon on the floor," referring to a leaf that did indeed sort of look like bacon.  Upon hearing a noise in the house, it was "that's probably R."  I love hearing you use new words in proper context.  Your enunciation is much better now, and people can generally understand you.

The downside to this?  You occasionally say things that are a bit cringe-worthy, like loudly announcing in a crowded restaurant that "I am pooping."  Or, as we passed two women in the park in full burka, complete with niqab, announcing that they are "scary people."  Of course, you also say delightful things that make me completely forget the awkward ones, like "mommy, you are my best friend."  At bedtime, you've been telling me as I turn out the light that you are going to "go to sleep, and when I wake up, I'm going to have a good day."  I have no idea where your phrases come from sometimes!

You can now tell me what you've done during the day, like go to the park or play with your friends, naming the friends.  You have a good little memory.  When I asked you today what the rules are for the park, you said "stay out of the water" and "no running."  Excellent job!

The "no running" rule is a new one, because you keep falling and hurting yourself.  You have fallen countless times recently and hit your head on the pavement, which terrifies us.  You run so fast that your little legs can't keep up, and you fall so quickly that you don't even reach out your arms to break your fall, which is how you keep hitting your head.  Twice in the last week, you have put your teeth through your lip, which really upset your poor father, who was with you both times.  My heart sank when I saw the blood on your dress that night.  My poor baby!  So, we are working hard at teaching you to be a bit more careful.  You are your mother's daughter, I'm afraid. . .we both have a knack for minor accidents!

You are still a picky eater.  Your old favorite food, cheese, has fallen out of favor with you.  You'll still eat almost all fruits, with blueberries still a clear favorite.  You'll also eat toast regularly.  Pasta, chicken and beef all have a fair shot, too, and sometimes yogurt.  Beyond those things, we struggle.

We are talking about using the potty, but you are still not terribly interested.  You can, and do, tell us when you need to poop, but then refuse to go and use the potty.  We'll get there, though.  We read your potty book tonight before bed, and you were very interested in everything about it.

You love the zoo, and we go there frequently.  You call the male lion "Alex," after the lion in the movie Madagascar, and you talk about him from time to time.  You love the butterfly exhibit, and love running around.  Daddy had your face painted like a pink tiger a few weeks ago, and you were so proud of it when you got home.  Your face was just adorable.

You also love the playground, and will stay there for hours.  You also love to walk through the park.  We go for long walks many days, and you will walk over a mile on your own (and only stop because we make you get into your stroller at that point).  You also love to take walks in the woods on the weekends when we go hiking.  It makes us laugh when you refer to the forest as "a nice jungle."  Clearly, our city kid who watches Jungle Junction regularly needs to spend more time outdoors in the wild!

We have you enrolled in Spanish classes once a week.  You don't like to sit still for the parts that bore you, and wander around the room.  You are learning things, though--you know animals and colors in Spanish, for example.  I asked you to point to the "conejo" in one of your books the other day, and you quickly pointed to the rabbit.  I'm so proud of how you are learning!  You love the craft part of class, and pay close attention to that.  You also love to sing and play instruments.  You aren't crazy about story time in class, although you love story time before bed at night.

Speaking of story time, I love to tuck you into bed at night.  We have a little ritual, you and I.  I snuggle into your bed with you and read to you every night before you go to sleep.  You always beg for more stories!  When I finally tell you that it's time for sleep, we put on your turtle constellation light and your Tinker.bell nightlight and your sleep sheep that plays the ocean sounds, and turn out the light.  You sleep with about a million stuffed animals, which cracks me up.  I always have to fish books and animals out of your bed to make room for you.

You are a wonderful big sister.  You are so kind to your little sister, which makes me so proud.  You are always fetching her binky or giving her a kiss or talking to her, or telling us that "Baby S is SO CUTE!"  When I leave in the morning, I always kiss each of you goodbye, but if you don't see me kiss SB, you insist that I do it again to make sure SB got her kiss, too.  You love to be around SB, and are always trying to do things with her.  When we remind you to be gentle with her, you sometimes turn to us and tell us that you "just want to pet her," as though she's a puppy!  It makes us laugh.  She smiles big happy baby grins at you when you talk to her.  I think it is a mutual admiration society.  I am so excited to watch the two of you grow up together.  I am so excited to be raising sisters, and I hope you will always treasure that relationship between the two of you.

I love you, dear daughter.  You are an amazing creature, and I can't wait to see how your little personality unfolds from here.  You can accomplish anything, and you can be anything you want, little girl.  I want you to dream big, be kind, work hard, be bold, and live a happy life, and I will do everything in my power to make your life as wonderful and special as I can.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Life Changing

Over the last two and a half years, I have had two children, changed careers, and changed locations (twice).  These two plus years have given me many of the happiest days of my life.  I am literally living the stuff of my dreams:  amazing husband, fabulous children, great job, expat lifestyle in fantastic European city.  Still, I don't feel like I'm quite where I want to be.  As I prepare to make yet another change in September to another new city and to a new position with my company, I've been doing an internal check.  I've been thinking a lot about what makes me happy, what makes my family happy, and how to have a happy life.  I have come to realize that as much as external change is important and rewarding, internal change is even more vital and exponentially harder.

If you are unhappy with your life, often changing an outward circumstance is a first step toward moving toward a better life.  It seems insurmountable at first to do these things, like leaving an important relationship and dating someone new, or finding a new job, or moving to a new city.  But with hard work and persistence, you can indeed make these kinds of changes.  Accomplishing any one or all of those things feels drastically different (for a while), and can bring enormous happiness.  That's where I found myself across the last few years.

At first, it feels like it is enough to change your outward circumstances, because life changes can bring great joy in and of themselves.  But even when you accomplish major life changes like having a child after infertility or making a major career change or embarking on a new relationship, you still bring your old self with you.  I guess I thought that making major life changes would inherently, sufficiently, and automatically change my "self" in ways that would leave me fully satisfied and content with life.  But as they say, "old habits die hard."  After much reflection, I've come to realize that in order for me to move forward toward an even happier life, to "live my best life possible" (to steal from Op.rah), I have to work to make internal changes, too.  That kind of change does not just automatically happen on its own, no matter how many external circumstances you change.

For me, I have to learn to let go.  I tend to want to change the world, and charge ahead toward that end.  But the world doesn't necessarily want to be changed, and I'm not always capable of changing it on my own.  That tension tends to bring about dissatisfaction for me.  I need to learn to simply let that go.  I'm not always going to be able to light a fire under listless, uninspired people.  Doing the right thing doesn't always lead to the right result.  Life isn't fair.  Perseverating on these things, complaining about them, doesn't and can't change anything.

Looking back at the mistakes I have made in the last two years, looking at the things that have detracted from my happiness, I see in them old patterns.  It's clearly time to change those patterns, to live my life in a slightly different way.  It feels really hard.  I literally need to change my "self" in some fundamental ways.  But the outcome, I think, will be really healthy for me, and will result in an exponentially happier me.  The biggest impetus for making these changes and for holding myself to making changes are the two little girls who have made me so happy in the last few years.  I want to create a happy world for them at home.  This big world is full of enough uncertainty and angst.  The least I can do is give them a good start.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Train

I am sitting on a train, hurtling through the wee hours of the night back to the city that I live in. The train isn't scheduled to arrive until 2-ish. The city will be asleep. Almost no one has caught this train, the last one on this route tonight. A beautiful young woman sits across from me, oblivious to her natural beauty. You can see that she's had a hard life. The snippets of conversation I overhear tell me that she thinks she has limitations. Despite the hour, as we approach the city she's pulled out a makeup case and begun to apply elaborate makeup. It's not a bit of lipstick to meet a lover after catching a late train home, but rather full face: powder, blended shadow, blush, mascara, brows, lipliner. She's so young, in her Chuck Taylor's and skinny jeans and ironic t-shirt. But multiple tattoos peek out from her clothing and run down her arm. They're good quality art, but they give her an edge that is beyond her years. The makeup is expertly applied, but way more than she needs. She was gorgeous without it. She smiles at her texts, brushes her hair then begins to use a flat iron on it, and I wonder, where will she sleep tonight?

Sunday, June 17, 2012


I am exhausted.  I worked a 15 hour day yesterday (a Saturday), and finally dropped into bed at 1am this morning.  At 7am the kids were up and super chipper.  Since it was Father's Day, I felt too guilty to go back to bed and get some much-needed sleep, so I got up, and it's been go-go-go since then.  This is pretty much the last thing that I need with all of my ongoing health issues, but now that I'm back at work, I'm having a hard time balancing home and work.  [That's the subject of a whole other post.]  I really need to get more rest, but I'm not sure where to fit it in (Hmmm. . .perhaps by going to bed at night instead of blogging?!  In my defense, I need to vent, and the mental release of this will make me sleep better. . .or at least that's my hope.)

I talked to the surgeon this past week.  Healthcare here is so unusual.  I called the surgeon personally on his cell phone to schedule the surgery!  When I met with him, he spent over an hour chatting with me.  I really liked him.  But anyway, the surgery is scheduled for the end of next week and I am FREAKING out.  I had two natural childbirths because I don't like drugs.  The idea of anesthesia just really scares me.  I had a really bad experience once and thought I was going to die.  Guess what I'm afraid of this time?  I am struggling.

This is going to sound completely weird, but now that I have two kids, I am terrified that I am going to die and leave them motherless.  I have no idea why I am struggling with this.  Perhaps because I am also fast approaching my 40th birthday, and having these "old people" health problems.  I'm starting to feel the reality of my own mortality.  Someday, I won't be able to be here for them, and there is nothing I can do about that.  I am so looking forward to raising them and watching them grow up together.  I am just so happy to be their mother.  But I'm also really afraid lately that something bad is going to happen to me (again, possibly because one day I was fine, and then I had shingles, and then I had kidney stones, completely out of the blue).  Now that I have the life I want, it's like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for someone or something to take the happiness, the joy, all that I have to look forward to, away from me.  It's like, life can't possibly let me be this happy.  Typing this, I know it sounds really fucked up.  But that is where my head is at lately.  So when we throw anesthesia in the mix, I am terrified that I won't wake up and make it back to my family.  Terrified.

I think I am having a bit of a mid-life crisis overall.  My whole life, there have been major milestones ahead of me, major life events still out there waiting for me.  I never felt "grown up," fully, because there were still these life goals ahead of me.  When I was younger, it was college, then grad school.  As I got older, it was a wedding, then a career, then kids.  But now that we've had our second child, all of those major life events may very well be behind me.  I've long since finished college and grad school.  I've been married for more than a decade.  I've had a successful career, chucked it, and am now on career number two.  And now, with SB's birth, my childbearing years may also be behind me.  We haven't fully closed the door (and who knows whether we even can if we decide we definitely want another), but we probably are done with family building.  With all of these milestones behind me, I feel. . .old.  I feel like a huge chunk of my life is gone.  I feel like I'm on the downslide, and I feel vulnerable and weak.

The funny part is that I think I look pretty good for my age.  I've dropped just about all of the baby weight.  I'm wearing my "skinny" pants.  I have been walking a ton, so I'm pretty toned, and I feel really good (random kidney stone and weird phantom shingles pain notwithstanding).  I have no reason to be afraid.  But that's what I would have said before getting my two most recent diagnosis, and I'm sure that's what people say just before they get diagnosed with all sorts of major diseases.  It's like these relatively minor health issues, coupled with my current life circumstances, have resulted in a situation that has really shaken my confidence.

Okay, I really have to go to bed.  I'm not going to want to go to work in the morning.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

SB at 3 Months

Dear SB,

I can't believe that you are three months old already.  At the same time, I can't believe there was ever a time you weren't here.  It is like you have always been a part of our family.  You just showed up and fit right in, and we all absolutely adore you.  You are such a happy, mellow baby.  You have the same personality in person that you had in my tummy, when you kept making yourself comfortable by laying sideways--you just like to be comfortable, hang out, and go with the flow.  You hardly ever cry (but when you do, look out!  Boy, do you have a set of lungs on you.).  You have been smiling for many, many weeks now.  Anyone who catches your eye gets a giant, heart-melting grin.

I love to sit with you and make you "dance," because it makes you laugh.  I take your arms and sing "Y-M-C-A" while making the gestures, and you think it's hilarious.  Your laugh is a deep one that burbles up from inside you, and it's a joy to listen to.  I love it!  Nothing makes me happier than seeing your smile and hearing your laugh.

Your daddy is doing a great job managing life with a baby and your big sister.  He takes you to the park, hiking, and really everywhere.  You are so mellow that you just go with the flow.  As long as we are with you, you are happy to be anywhere and do anything.

You love your swing.  We hardly ever use the bouncy seat with you, because the swing is definitely your favorite place to be.  You are asleep in it right now, in fact.  You "talk" to the butterflies that hang down from the mobile on it, and get particularly excited when they suddenly stop (the motor is breaking on the swing!).  When we fix it so that they move again, you calm down and continue to watch them, delighted.  It's pretty funny.

You are a great sleeper, although you still wake to eat around 11, 1:30 and 4:30 am.  This week we moved you from your bassinet to the crib.  I didn't want to do it.  I want to hold tight to your babyhood, and I'd much rather have you snoozing in the bassinet right beside me.  But daddy decided that you move around enough in the middle of the night that you needed more room, and he raised the crib mattress and put the bumper pads in the crib so that you would be comfortable.  Sure enough, you move all around the crib at night, creeping down or up while you sleep.  You roll your legs up and around a lot even in your sleep.

You are close to rolling over, but can't quite get around the arm that is closest to the floor.  We know you'll get there soon, though!

You are a good eater, although you're only taking about 10 ounces while I'm at work during the day.  You still prefer your food direct from the source!  You don't eat as much as you once did, though, and your growth is slowing down.  The doctor says that you weren't meant to be a giant baby, so I guess that's for the best.

Your big sister adores you, and constantly says "baby S is cute!", and pats and kisses your head.  She talks to you, and you smile and laugh at her in return.  I love watching the two of you interact and enjoy each other, and am so excited to watch you grow up together.

I love you my baby, and I'm so glad you are here.


Friday, June 8, 2012

And The Hits Just Keep Coming

Thursday morning, I woke up at 4am with a slight burning/throbbing sensation in my nether regions.  I thought hmmmm, that doesn't feel right, and rolled over and went back to sleep.  When I got up a few hours later, it was still there, so I popped a Tylenol, got dressed and then headed for my train.  I was supposed to spend the day working in a different city.  On my way to the train, though, I developed severe pain in my back, and realized I'd better head for my doctor's office.  As I walked the few blocks I needed to in order to get there, I was sweating from the pain, and worried that I might collapse.  Needless to say, it was bizarre.

When I got there, they took a urine sample.  Even I could see the flaky things in the urine in the cup.  Uh-oh.  The test came back positive for tons of blood.  Double uh-oh.  Off to the urologist I went.  $2700, a CT scan, some bloodwork, and another urine test later, I got the diagnosis:  I have two kidney stones.  The tiny one, at 3mm, was about to pass (hence the pain).  The big one, at 17mm, is unfortunately not going anywhere without some help.  The urologist has referred me to a surgeon.

Seriously, what is up with the old people diseases?  How is it possible that I have gotten shingles AND kidney stones in a two week period?!  I joked with the doctor that I'm going to break my hip next.

I'm supposed to talk to the surgeon tomorrow.  Surgery?  I'm really not looking forward to this.