Tuesday, July 24, 2012

More Toddlerness

I am really, really enjoying watching Miss M's personality develop. She is just such a great kid. Not a perfect kid, by any means, but a great one. T and the girls met me tonight after work at a local park near my office. I fed the baby for a bit and T ran around with Miss M. After a while it was time to go, but Miss M took off across the park, straying much further from us than normal. I finally realized that she had spotted a balloon. After I caught her and managed to pry the balloon away from her, I had to physically carry her back to the stroller. She didn't want to give the balloon up, and she didn't want to get in the stroller. Tears ensued. Just before we left the park, a little boy scampered after the balloon that I had made Miss M leave. It turned out that he'd been in a time-out when she stole the balloon. We chatted on the way home about how sad he would have been if we'd taken his balloon, and about the importance of sharing, and about the pink balloon she'd had two weeks ago that popped. Ultimately, she asked for another balloon, and became quite persistent about it as we walked. Before I knew it, T had found a balloon in his bag, blown it up, and gave it to her. She was thrilled. A while later, while walking through a different park, we came across a little boy who was sobbing. His mother (the bitch!) had left him by himself in the park, while she went to get her takeout at her apartment that was about 5 buildings down from the park! The child could not have been more that 3. I couldn't figure out where his parents had gone, and I was walking next to him for quite a ways. A small crowd was starting to gather, as T and I tried to figure out where his family was. He walked out of the park and toward the street, which made me really worried, so I followed him. Finally, I spotted his mother, who began to yell for him, all the while paying the sushi delivery guy. Who leaves their toddler in the park alone so they can collect their takeout from the driver?! But anyway, it caused Miss M and I to have this exchange: Miss M: He's sad. The little boy is sad. Me: Yes, he is. Miss M: We should give him a balloon. How can you not just love that? By the way, there are no paragraphs in my recent posts because my laptop died and I'm using the iPad. Blogger seems to ignore my paragraphs on the iPad, and I can't figure out how to fix it.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Earlier tonight: Miss M, in all her two year old glory: "I wanna watch tv. It's my turn. Change the channel." (Ah yes, so glad to see that lesson about sharing has sunk in, at least in one direction.) Me: "What do you say when you want something?" Miss M: "You say the magic words." Me: "And what are the magic words?" Miss M (with great confidence): "Abracadabra."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Post Wherein I Don't Talk About My Kidney Surgery. Much.

Okay, let me just get is out of the way: they took the stent out this morning, and it really didn't hurt. The anticipation was the worst part. I really could have done it myself, as it turned out--it just slid right out. The craziest part was that it was a) blue, b) about a foot long, and c) kinda fat and looked like rubber. I was picturing something like two inches long, but as the nurse pointed out, it did need to stretch from my kidney to my bladder. I get discharged after breakfast. I've ordered pancakes and bacon. I had it last time I was here, and they literally sent me a platter of bacon (covered in a silver dome), and a side of two small pancakes. This is the unhealthiest hospital I've ever visited (but yum, bacon!!). When the doctor stopped by this morning to give me the "all clear" for the stent removal, I asked some more questions about the weirdness of what happened. He said that the entire kidney doesn't have the fibrous mesh-- just part. There is no reason to think the left kidney has this problem at all (and there were no signs of stones on the CT scan of that kidney). They don't know what causes it the weird mesh, although it's not very common. There is nothing to suggest that someone with this fibrous patch like I have is at greater risk for any type of more significant problem or other types of problems with the kidney. Finally, if I should ever develop stones like this again, he recommends the same method of surgery (laser going up through the ureter) as opposed to the surgery that goes in through the back. He said going in through the back would have been a "disaster," because he needed room to maneuver around and get to everything (fibrous patches to release then stones, breaking up stone fragments at the bottom of the kidney, etc.) which the percutaneous surgery doesn't allow. Okay, my breakfast arrived while I was typing this, and I indeed got a platter of bacon with a side of pancakes! TEN slices of American bacon, which is in heard of hear (local "bacon" is more like a side of ham). I was tempted to eat it all, but restrained myself. I wish I could figure out how to smuggle greasy bacon out of the hospital so I could bring it to T. (Did I really just type that sentence?) He would be so happy! In other news, can I just tell you how proud I am of my stepsister? When we decided to chuck our lives in the U.S and take this job, it was really important to us that our families and friends got to take advantage of this lifestyle, too. We've invited everyone we know to come and stay with us for a visit, and many people have taken us up on it. But we invited my stepsister to come and live with us, and she came and got her master's while she was here. She helped us with the kids occasionally, but we really tried to limit what we asked her to do, because we wanted is experience to be all about her doing things for her and spreading her wings, and not about her doing things for us. It turned out really well. She just got her first real job, and the company is going to sponsor her visa so that she can stay once her student visa expires. She met a great guy a while back, and they are going to move in together (next month! Tears!) She's such a hard worker, and had been living at home in a little town and putting herself through school working a bunch of different (unglamorous) jobs. If she hadn't come over here, given her major and the dismal economy, she may have been stuck in those jobs for a while. But she made a leap of faith, came over here, took advantage of the opportunity, got more education, made friends, traveled a fair bit around Europe, and built a life for herself here. I am so, so proud of her that she's done all of that. It makes me so pleased that we could be a part of it, too, and that someone else could get something good out of our move. It's just such a happy story. Now ignore this bit-I happened to have blogger open when the doctor called to advise on how long to pump and dump: Propofol, onz, diclo (antiemetic), Tylenol, voltarol, fentanyl. Oh, and that post title was a bald-faced lie.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Post-surgical Update, Número Dos

Look at me, posting three times in one day! Celebrating 500 posts, indeedy! The doctor stopped by and confirmed that in fact things went well. He had to cut some more stones out of some weird fibrous tissue in my kidney, but didn't have to go through blood vessels this time, so little blood and no pain. That's right, I am indeed in no pain!! The doctor also pulverized some more stones and fragments with his tiny little laser while he was all up in my kidney, and he says there is nothing big left. He's not sure what's up with the weird fibrous mesh stuff growing out of my kidney that had trapped the stones, but if I have trouble like this again, he thinks it won't be for many years to come. He knows we are moving to South America next, and he knows that I am concerned about the problem recurring there (because that would mean emergency medevac flight back to the US--yikes!!). He thinks that if I have trouble again, it will be long after I've moved from there, though. So, yay! I have a temporary stent in overnight. If all looks well in the morning, it will come out and I will go home and I will be done with all of this. I hope, hope, hope this is the case. The stent has stuff that looks like fishing wire coming out of it, which must run down my urethra, because it is taped to my thigh. It was a bit of a surprise the first time I peed post-surgery. T made a decidedly off-color joke when I told him about it. The doctor said that he will take the stent out by yanking on the fishing line, or the nurse will, or I even could. I am tempted to take it out myself, so that I can say that I did. Because how crazy and badass does that sound?

501st Post, or, How My surgery Went

Hey, that last post was my 500th! I was going to do something special, but I forgot, and then I had to have surgery, and well...the big special post got lost in the shuffle. So let's say I celebrated my 500th post by having surgery, shall we? I am out of surgery. I have been out for 2.5 hours, and I would love to tell you how it went, but I don't know. This is the problem with having surgery outside America without anyone with you. The doctor apparently stopped by twice while I was in the recovery room, but I was unconscious. Or at least I think I was. The orderly in the recovery room was unhelpfully chuckling about how chatty and "happy" I was before I remember gaining consciousness. God only knows what I said. The good news is that while I seem to have anoer stent in and I'm passing loads of blood, I don't seem to be in much pain. Which could just mean they loaded me up on drugs. I can't really tell yet. So, the nursing care continues to be stellar. Thankfully, the nurses shift switch is in another hour. I had the following exchange with my nurse just before they put me under. Nurse: so you are 42? Me: I'm 39 Nurse: So you had a baby in April? Me: I had a baby in March Nurse, so you had a stent put in two weeks after you had your baby? Me: No, I had a stent put in in early July, two weeks AGO. I'm starting to fear that she's consulting her magic 8 ball for my care, rather than my chart. Ooh, my dinner is here. Sketchy hospital food, but I haven't eaten in 11 hours, so it sounds delicious. But hey, where's my wine?!

Surgery, Again

I am sitting in the hospital waiting for my surgery. Ugh. I really don't want to do this. I am really hoping that the kidney looks good and all the doctor needs to do is remove the stent. But, there may be more stones that he needs to work on, or there may be more weird tissue that needs to be removed. I'm seriously hoping that is not the case, though. I had to come to the hospital by myself, which I'm really bummed about. I'm such a baby, but I hate being here alone. We didn't have anyone to stay with the kids, though--one of the major downsides of living so far from family is stuff like this. All of our friends are working, so we didn't have any other options. My sister offered to try to take the day off, but she just started her first "real" job and we didn't want her to do that. This hospital cracks me up, though (in a "what have I gotten myself into" kind of way). It's private, so the toiletries in the bathroom (yes, there are toiletries in the hospital bathroom) are Moulton Brown, and the room service menu (yes, there's a room service menu) has a decent wine list (yes, wine list. Post-surgical Shiraz, anyone?) But, they've clearly outsourced the nursing care, because my nurse is wearing the shirt of some local staffing firm. She didn't weigh me, but rather asked what I weighed (uh, don't they need that to be accurate to give me anaesthesia?). She asked what drugs I'm allergic to (dear lord, is is my second surgery here in a month-isn't that info in my chart), and when I told her, she WROTE IT ON HER HAND!!! When she took my blood pressure, there was obviously something wrong with the machine or the disposable cuff that she used, because it didn't deflate and my hand soon went numb. It finally spit out a number (117/74, I think), but I don't think it was accurate, since mine is never, ever that high. "Perfect!" she declared. She just insisted on doing a pregnancy test despite my protestations that there is zero chance that I am pregnant. She didn't seem to understand how it was possible I had a baby 4 months ago and haven't had my period. "You haven't bled?," she said, as though The problem was my lack of familiarity with the word "menses" when she originally asked the question. Obviously, breastfeeding isn't big wherever she is from (she is foreign, as are most of the nurses I've encountered here). And then she gave me a test tube to provide my urine sample in. I confess that my aim is not good enough to deposit a sample in something the diameter of my thumb. Oh, and she put a label on it, too, so that the lab could also enjoy the fruits of my labor. I removed the label before I proceeded to pee all over the container, then wiped the container off and replaced the label, because that's the kind of classy girl that I am. And finally, I got the room right next to the nursing station, where the staff apparently gathers and yells to one another. I think I'm really going to like it here. :)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

SB's Birth Story

Obviously drafted some time ago, but not quite finished until now. . .

So here we are, one month after the birth of our second child, Numero Dos, aka Little Star, aka SB for the nickname our oldest likes to call her. It has been a fairly blissful experience, from the birth through now. She is a HUGE baby--almost 11 pounds already, and it makes such an enormous difference in terms of just about everything--eating, sleeping, her strength in holding her head up and her arms and legs. She is mellow and calm, and already smiling, and I am smitten.

SB's birth. . .

At about 9:15 pm on March 7, I started having some contractions. I'd been having them for days, so didn't think much of them, except they started to get a bit painful. I told T that I thought I was in labor for real, so he decided to go to bed and catch a little sleep just in case. At around 11:15 pm, I was sure that the contractions were actual labor, and I called my doctor to tell her. She said that I could go to the hospital whenever I wanted to, but that she recommended waiting until my contractions were 3 minutes apart and 1 minute long. She said she had just come from the hospital and it was very busy, and there was no real need for me to be there before then. (It was, I noted to myself, to be a full moon here--loads of women in labor.) My doctor said that she had a number of patients in varying stages of labor that night. I agreed I would continue to labor at home and call her when things had progressed. She had previously agreed that as long as we were sure the baby was head down, she'd let me labor at home until the contractions were three minutes apart, and during my last visit, she was confident that the baby was low enough in my pelvis that she wouldn't/couldn't pop back up again and go transverse (again).

I let T know that I was really in labor, and he got up to tell my sister that I was in labor and that we'd need her to "watch" Miss M for us when we left for the hospital. It wasn't going to be any heavy lifting, since Miss M was fast asleep. After putting her on notice, T went back to sleep.

I hung out in our living room for the next couple of hours, messing around and just going with the flow. I can't really remember what I did other than write a blog post, as I couldn't really focus on anything for very long. Eventually, at around 1am, I decided it was time to go to the hospital. My contractions were about three minutes apart, although only about 45 second long, but I was uncomfortable enough that I didn't want to wait any longer. I was worried about being so uncomfortable in a moving car on the way to the hospital (especially since I didn't have to do that with Miss M, given that my contractions with her didn't start until we were at the hospital). Although we live only a couple of miles from the hospital, we needed to take a taxi, and I wasn't sure how long it would take for one to show up after I called them, and that was worrying me, as well. I called my doctor and let her know we were headed to the hospital. She said it would take her a bit longer than it would take us to get there, but she would meet us there.

I woke T up and told him we were going to the hospital. For some reason, he stood leaning on Miss M's crib, staring at me as I sat trying to dress myself.  I had to yell at him to hurry up and get dressed so we could go, in order to make him start moving. I called the cab and arranged for it to come right away. Surprisingly enough, it was outside within minutes.

I had everything all packed, my sister was on notice, I was dressed in yoga pants and a sweatshirt, T was dressed and ready to go, the cab was there. . .and all of a sudden I had to race to the bathroom. I barely made it to the toilet before the contents of my intestines exploded. For some reasons, even though I knew intellectually that every pregnancy was different, I still expected this labor to be like my first labor. With Miss M, my water broke hours before my labor started, and I never had gastrointestinal issues. Things progressed slowly and methodically, and nothing happened until I was at the hospital. I also had lots of bleeding with the start of my contractions. This time, no blood, no broken water, no waiting for the hospital. . .but unexpectedly and most decidedly empty intestines! Thank goodness it happened before I got in the cab.

After that, I made my way downstairs and out into the car. The cab driver could see that I was in labor, and he was incredibly kind. I thought he might freak out that I was going to make a mess in his cab, but he was warm and polite and drove slowly over the many speed bumps that pepper this city as we made our way to the hospital. I had three contractions in the car on the way to the hospital, and stayed as quiet as possible so as not to freak him out. When we got to the hospital, he helped me out of the cab and wished me good luck.

When we got inside the hospital, we had to check in at the front desk, which took all of two seconds. A security guard had to take us up to the labor ward in the elevator, and I could tell that another contraction was imminent. I was impatient to get upstairs and sitting down before it began, but he was checking with the desk about something, so I leaned against the elevator wall head first. He must've noticed my discomfort, because he quickly took us up at that point. When we got to the labor ward, a nurse had me sit while she found a room for me. It took just a minute or two, but I barely noticed, deep in the middle of another contraction.

We ended up in the room with the birthing tub, which I was happy about. However, I noticed that the tub was nowhere near ready for use--it was full of stuff, and I knew they'd need to sanitize and fill it if I wanted to use it. Given how close together my contractions were, I decided not to bother with it. I sat on the bed while the midwife monitored the baby for a bit (every patient gets assigned a "midwife" at that hospital, but it's really just a glorified nurse and nothing like an American midwife). The baby looked great. My doctor came in and checked me. I think I was four or five centimeters dilated.

Then, I moved to a chair. There was no rocking chair this time, but rather a hard backed chair with pleather surfaces. I asked T to fill my hot water bottle that I'd brought with me, as I thought that might make my contractions feel better (it did). However, we had a bit of trouble getting it filled with hot water. None of the taps in the room would produce water hot enough for the bottle, due to safety regulations. My doctor, who was amazing throughout, arranged for someone to boil water and mix it with cooler water for the bottle, and I was good to go.

I arrived at the hospital at around 1:15.  Over the next few hours, my contractions got closer and closer together, until I was having double contractions with no break in between. I would always get a break between the doubles, but I was pretty uncomfortable when I'd have to go through two without a break. With my first labor, I utterly ignored the clock and just went with it. This time, I was a bit more impatient. I remember looking at T's watch regularly, knowing that I was getting closer and calculating if I'd yet hit the mark where this labor would be half as long as my first (because in my head, this labor was going to be half as long as my first, and that's how I'd "know" I was almost done). When the double contractions started, I remember asking why there was no break in between, all the while thinking in my head "this is what I've read about--I must be about ready to push." That was basically my doctor's reaction to my rhetorical question.

The nurse/midwife had periodically monitored the baby throughout the time I'd been there. Each time, I'd ask if the baby was okay, and she'd tell me she was, and then the nurse would retreat to a far corner of the room. She'd monitor me by putting the monitor on my belly while I sat in the chair--utterly unobtrusive, and didn't interfere with my labor at all. My doctor was mostly in the room during my labor, sitting and watching. She left for a while to get a snack (and I later found out she returned an email to one of my friends, who is also her patient). When I mentioned the double contractions, she wanted to check me again, as she thought I was close. I scooted forward in the chair so she could check.

This is when we had a bit of a panic. I was 9.5 centimeters dilated, but she said the baby hadn't appropriately descended. I think she said something about her only being at -2. She said that she thought that the baby might be "a bit bigger than" Miss M, and that she could tell from the way the plates in the baby's head were already mushed together (my term--I can't remember hers) that basically the baby was stuck (again, my term). I remember thinking at this point that I was going to have to have a c-section. She was very calm, and I stayed really calm. She said that we needed to do something to try to loosen my pelvis and create some room for the baby to come down. She said she knew I wasn't going to like it.

She had me stand up and move over to the bed. She was on one side of the bed, and had me lean over the opposite side, facing her. She held my arms with both of hers, and she had me sway back and forth from side to side. As she held my arms, she swayed with me.  I was reminded of elephants, tail to trunk and swaying together.  As I was doing this, I got an incredible urge to push, and I remember saying "I'm really sorry, but I really have to push." She was like "that's fine--go ahead." I did this for a number of contractions, swaying back and forth with my hips and pushing as the urge hit. After a short time, she wanted to check me again, and then had me get up on the bed.

My doctor (have I mentioned how amazing she was?) said that we needed to make my pelvis as wide as possible in order to give the baby room to come out, so she was going to have me try to deliver in a somewhat odd position. I was on my left side, with my right leg up in the air against her. T help me keep the leg up in the air. I pushed against the doctor with it when I pushed, pushing about three times with each contraction. However, after a few pushes, the doctor had me stop. She said that I had "good skin," and that it wasn't stretching at all like it needed to, and that a tear was starting. She also said that she thought the baby wasn't lined up quite right. She thought I needed an episiotomy in order to get the baby out.

While delivering Miss M, my old doctor kept trying to give me an episiotomy. "One snip, and she'll be right out," she said. I refused it, as I didn't believe it was necessary. Indeed, it wasn't, and Miss M was out fairly quickly with no tearing. I had just a few stitches, and minimal healing. This time, however, I really trusted my doctor. If she believed it was necessary and was recommending it, I believed that she was right.  I could also just tell that something wasn't quite right.  I approved for her to do the episiotomy. Not only did I trust her, but I could actually feel that things were different this time. Whereas with Miss M, pushing had felt good, hadn't hurt one bit, and had felt like everything was lined up appropriately, with this labor, I could tell something was off. Things were pulling in weird directions, and I felt a strange pulling/burning sensation near my urethra that felt like I might tear in the front. I know that sounds weird, but it's the only way I can describe it.  Whereas pushing with Miss M had been productive, pushing with SB didn't feel productive at all.

The doctor gave me a shot, and then did the episiotomy. She later told me that she only had to go through the layer of skin, and didn't go any deeper. She asked, as she did this, who was going to catch the baby. I didn't even think about it--I was so focused on getting this baby out, that I simply said "you are" without thinking about it. In hindsight, it would have been great to have T deliver her. But anyway, on we went. I pushed through one or two more contractions, and to my great surprise, SB's head was out. At that point, the doctor told me to stop pushing. Because I was in such a weird position, on my side with one leg up in the air, I had a great view of SB's head, which was absolutely covered in thick dark hair. Miss M was basically bald at birth, so I was mesmerized. What I didn't notice, but T told me later, was that the doctor had me stop pushing because the cord was around the baby's neck and she needed to unwrap it. Then, I pushed again, and the rest of her body slid right out, and the doctor and I pulled her to my chest.  It was an amazing few moments, seeing her with all of that hair, and then pulling her right to my chest.

We have some funny pictures from right after she was born. My hair looks like a wild woman's, and I am beaming at our big new baby. It was sheer, utter adoration.  Although I don't remember it, I must've fixed my hair at some point, because in the photo that T. sent to all of our family and friends, I look much better!  My dear baby girl was born at 4:16 a.m., about seven hours after I went into labor and three hours after we arrived at the hospital. My first labor was about 13 hours from first contraction to delivery, so indeed this labor was roughly half as long. She was a very chubby baby, and her arms looked just like the Michelin Man's, with all of the newborn fluid. Her hands and feet were incredibly wrinkled, like she'd been in the bath far too long. She had chubby round cheeks, and was just so precious. We looked at her for a few minutes, and settled quickly upon one of the two names that were our top choices.

The nurse gave me a shot of pitocin in the thigh to help stop the bleeding and to quickly deliver the placenta. I don't think I had it with my firstborn, but it wasn't uncomfortable at all. I had an IV with my first baby, so I supposed they could have put it in there and I didn't notice (I don't think so, though, because I think it's given intramuscularly). No IV was even placed with this birth (they made me have one placed as soon as I got to the hospital with Miss M, although I negotiated to stay off the IV until late in the delivery). Shortly after I got the pitocin, the doctor delivered the placenta, which was intact. She then gave me stitches while we looked at our baby. I held the baby for a while, then the nurse took her and wrapped her in blankets and T held her for a few minutes while the doctor worked on me. The doctor gave me some sort of suppository pain relief, which she said I'd want once the shot wore off that she'd given me for the episiotomy.

Once the doctor was done with me, they gave the baby back, and I fed her.  She immediately latched on and nursed. She nursed for two hours straight! The doctor and the nurse just kind of hung out with me in the room during this time, leaving us to ourselves for a bit toward the end. They gave us tea and toast, so we could have a bit of nourishment while we enjoyed our new baby. They also weighed and measured the baby during this time. We were utterly shocked when they put her on the scale and she weighed in at 8 pounds, 10 ounces--26 ounces heavier than our firstborn! The doctor laughed when they measured her head circumference. I think she said the average baby's head circumference was 25 cm, and SB's head measured 27 (if I'm wrong about those numbers, then SB's head measured in at 2 cm's larger than the average baby). No wonder this was a bit more complicated of a delivery!

After a couple of hours, they put me in a wheelchair and sat my bags on my lap. T carried the baby, and the nurse wheeled me down to the elevator, then to my private room downstairs from the birthing suite. It was a small room, with a large private bathroom, but perfectly adequate. T hung out with me there until around 6am, and then headed home so he could be with Miss M. Luckily, he got home just before she woke up, so he was able to be there for her just like normal.

After he left, I proceeded to start in on my first day with my new baby girl. It was a long sleepless day filled with nursing, nursing, nursing. SB was and is a great nurser. She had a perfect latch right from the beginning, and wanted to nurse frequently. She went to the bathroom a ton, so no worries there. Unfortunately, the hospital provided only cotton balls and cups of water to wash the baby's bottom in. Have you ever tried to clean meconium with a wet cotton ball? Let me tell you, it doesn't work so well.

I wasn't crazy about the hospital. The nurses weren't overly helpful--they only did things if you asked. When I had Miss M, the nurses would come in and check on me, check my pain level, make sure I had food, see if I needed them to take Miss M to the nursery so I could rest, etc. None of that happened at this hospital. If I didn't ring the bell, no one came in my room. It was kind of weird.

T brought Miss M to visit, and it was really lovely. As soon as she walked through the door, her face lit up in a huge smile. She was so happy to see me, and so happy to see the baby. She wanted to, and did, kiss the baby. She climbed up in bed with me for a bit. She explored the hospital room, and pulled the stools and chairs all over, climbing everywhere and raising toddler chaos. We gave her a present from the baby, a cute book I found. It was overall really nice.  It was amazing to see my girls together for the first time, to have our little family together for the first time.

I feel like I have been given such a gift.  Two amazing labors.  Two amazing baby girls.  I am so blessed.