Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Steam for a Cure

The three of us huddled into the steaming bathroom, shower running behind the ducky curtain. Ten minutes in a steamy room is supposed to help clear up Avonlie's congestion. She doesn't mind. She loves the bathroom because she thinks it means she's about to have her bath: her favorite part of the day. I peer into the empty tub and look down at the white bottom, which was mostly grey and scummy when we first moved in. The can of Ajax and some "green" cleaning product stand beside the tub on the tiled floor.

"Have you noticed how I've brushed the dirt out of the tub?" I ask Dustin, looking back to him sitting on the toilet seat, baby asleep in his arms.
"Have you noticed how I brushed the dirt off my shoulder?" He responds.

It's conversations like this that make up our days. Thank God for our ridiculous dialogue. If not for it, we'd be waxing scholarship all the time! You know, cus that's what two Ph.D. candidates/ABDs do all the time! ;)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Avonlie has a Cold

I have a sick baby. I've never had one of these before so it's more than the awful it would, I'm guessing, ordinarily be. It's beyond awful...for me, not so much for Avonlie.

All winter long, we have squirreled this child away, making every effort possible to keep her from the cold, from the sickness that we know is lurking outside of our door throughout this season and we did a pretty good job of doing it. But it's not possible to keep her well forever and as of Friday, the day after her 9 week birthday, Avonlie has been enduring her first ever cold.

It started with a rattling in her throat, a little coughing here and there and everyone telling me that she was fine. While I'll admit, in the very beginning of these last nine weeks I worried a lot..."Why is she sneezing? Is it normal for her to be sleeping all the time? Is she going to get sick now that she has been running errands in the car all day long...etc.," I've definitely chilled out. I no longer stay awake all night long despite her sleeping through it, just to make sure she's breathing. When she lets out a pronounced "Waaah" I pretty much know what it is she wants and can hook her up with whatever it is. But when I heard the rattling of phlegm in her throat on Friday and the coughing that it caused, I knew she was on her way to getting sick.

And I was right. Avonlie has a cold.

By Friday early evening, Dustin conceded he, too, believed she was coming down with something. My parents, on the phone in New York, doubted it, still. My negative answer to the question "Does she have a temp?" seemed to them as if it should prove that, therefore, she was not "sick." But the rattling not only persisted, it grew stronger. Come Saturday, Dustin and I were suctioning out her nose with the automatic, press-button aspirator every hour. By Saturday night, it was more like twice every hour. I put out a subtle cry for help on Facebook saying that I hoped the coughing, sneezing and congestion didn't amount to more than a mild cold and my subtle hints and description of her symptoms brought on the much-welcomed advice from all the mothers that had come before me. The consensus? Vicks on her feet and a cool mist humidifier.

Dustin ran out for the necessities.

While D ran out for supplies, I checked her symptoms on every hit google presented. I searched "Vicks on baby feet," "2-month old baby with cough" and so on. The most helpful site was my own pediatrician's which gave symptoms and actions they called for, including "When to go to the ER," "When to call your doctor" and "When to call your doctor during normal office hours," among other options. This appeased me the most because, according to the website, we were nowhere near needing to go to the ER or call our doctor...ever. I feared the ER most thanks to the google hits that presented reader comments that read: "I took my infant to the ER and they had to give him a needle and there was SO MUCH BLOOD!!! SO MUCH! I never SAW SO MUCH BLOOD!" and "You'd never believe how much blood an infant can lose until your baby has to have a needle." "Oh. My. God." I thought, looking at Avonlie asleep on the bed next to me, surrounded by the mucus-filled aspirator, jumbo bottle of saline and digital ear thermometer. Panic rose inside of me as I imagined our trip to the ER. I grabbed my phone, texted: 'HURRY HOME WITH THE GOODS! NOW!!!' to Dustin, as if we would somehow be able to avoid a trip to the ER where they would inevitably drain our infant of all of her blood if he would just get home with the Vicks and humidifier in the next twenty seconds. Before I hit "send," I heard it. The distinct, unmistakable sound of my daughter laughing in her sleep. There, beside me, Av's little head swayed back and forth, her mouth wide open, exposing her smiling gums. Her cheeks spread wide, making room for the smile on her face. Eyes closed, belly shaking with joy, she slept: temperature free, a little congested, but happy.

Avonlie, sick, but smiling and laughing her way through it.

I deleted the crazed message and Dustin eventually came home. The humidifier was a bust, but the Vicks seemed to help. I was up all night, though Avonlie slept with a bit of restlessness from congestion, but soundly otherwise, straight through, only waking when her paranoid mother woke her up to suction out her nose or force feed her so she'd remain hydrated. It was like the first two weeks of her life all over again. Just when I was starting to calm down and settle into this first-time mother thing like an old pro, she launches me, unwittingly, back into paranoid, nervous wreck mode. I express this sentiment to my mother who is in New York with my doctor father (of course they're away when my baby gets sick and I whine that it's the time when "I need them most!"). I can hear her smile on the other end of the phone as she says, "Aaah, daughter. Welcome to motherhood!"

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What's in a Name and The Art of Burping

What's in a Name?

Honing in on 24 hours after I delivered, Dustin and I finally decided on a name. It's not that we didn't come prepared with a name or even a few of them, it's just that none of them seemed to fit our daughter perfectly. They either seemed too small or too weak to hold up to such a large and strong, yet delicate-featured little baby. We each made lists and poured over names, baby books, favorite characters, authors, words. We threw out possibilities like "Serendipity" and "Osprey" and "Quinn," palindromes like "Hannah" and "Ava," which we'd all but decided upon until we saw our little bundle. The only thing we knew for certain was the middle names, they were decided upon months earlier, but the first name was a whole different story. "Maya" would be her first middle name, named for my sister who passed away in infancy and "Victoria" would be her second middle name, named for her grandmothers--one who is named Victoria and the other whose confirmation name is the same.

Eventually, we made lists separately, then together, then separately again. Then we narrowed our lists and rated one another's lists saying things like: "Natalie reminds me of the girl who disappeared in Aruba. I can't think of anything but her when I hear it and I don't want to brand our daughter with that name" or "That name doesn't have enough syllables to sound aesthetically pleasing with our last name..." until we finally settled on Avonlie. Of course, then there was the issue of spelling her name. 


We counted letters, considered pronunciations and chose the last. We have since reconsidered, but there's no going back now, so "Avonlie" it is. It was only after her name was decided on that someone wrote on Dustin's Facebook page "Oh, like Anne of Avonlea?" Huh. Right. 

I first remember hearing the name "Avonlie" while waiting in line behind a girl at MU for coffee. The barista wanted the girl's name to write on the cup and she said it, spelled it, then said it again (a true spelling bee champion's trait!) "Avonlea" and so it was, forever branded in my memory, only to be born again while seeking the perfect name for our child. 

Needless to say, not everyone loved our choice of name, but she's not everyone's child, so we shrugged off the naysayers and complimented ourselves on finding the perfect name for our perfect daughter!

Avonlie Maya Victoria
The Art of Burping
We celebrated the new year from my hospital bed with the baby mostly asleep and the two of us toasting with a bit of champagne my family brought along to toast with earlier in the evening before heading off to their own NYE celebration in Hilton Head. I was properly disturbed by what remains of poor Dick Clark and even more bothered by the performance by NKOTB and some other boy band that we happened across while in search of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. When we finally went to bed, Avonlie arose so my night was shot until morning...I fell asleep just in time to meet the pediatrician for the first time, who appeared beside my bed looking well-rested and ready to go. 

While he and my husband went over some logistics and I tried, hazy-minded, to keep up, it occurred to me that Avonlie was asleep and I had a few moments where I could get to the bathroom. Hastily, I left D and the dr. to their discussion and slipped away for just a few moments. What I found when I returned baffled even my exhausted mind. The doctor remained where I left him, by the side of my bed with Avonlie draped over his forearm, head bobbing with each slap to the back he gave her. And there Dustin stood, behind the doctor, slapping his hand onto the doctor's back rhythmically. "Is that too hard? It seems like you're hitting her pretty hard? Is this hard enough?" Dustin was asking. I had stumbled upon my husband burping our pediatrician.

Later he would tell me that the doctor never actually told him whether it was too soft or too hard--the force of the blows he administered to his back while mock burping, but I would think about it and laugh again and again every time. (D definitely got the hang of burping...he could perform various methods, one of which would almost always yield a result, though my rate of success is much lower, despite how many techniques I try.) I had never seen or heard of a man burping another man. Our doctor had continued talking as if it wasn't even happening and no one seemed surprised, including me, as I climbed back into the hospital bed and watched the men complete their discussion. It wasn't until later we laughed about it.

That's what a lot of our hospital stay was like...not getting things until they were over and we were home. Only weeks later would I look back on the strange occurrences and wonder how I missed the humor in them at the time. This would especially hit home when tasked with learning how to deal with the Medela. If you don't know what that is, try google or wait for the next installment.

Monday, January 24, 2011

And then there were three...

Labor? and Delivery

It happened on a Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010.

After suffering a cold throughout the week (a cold bad enough for me to actually leave my office and work from home one day), I found out from my doctor that I was actually already in labor, as well, for perhaps two days. Inactive, beginning stages up until that Wednesday. Labor that would turn into birth on that Thursday.

Checking into the hospital just after noon.
On Thursday, we were instructed to head to the hospital. I had purchased a Cinnabon the night before with plans to eat it sometime on Thursday, but the move from doctor to hospital admission came with instructions not to eat, so the Cinnabon sat in the car.

We checked in at around half past noon and spent the next 7 hours waiting, breathing through contractions that inevitably led to the decision to have an epidural around 4 and the final instructions on "how to push" around 7:20 pm, followed finally by the birth of our 8 pound 3 ounce, 19 inch-long baby girl at 7:53 pm. When the summary of how many minutes it took to push out our girl was given to me, I wanted to find and tell the nurse who had told me just as I started to push that it'd probably take somewhere between 1-2 or more hours to get our baby out. "First mothers just about always take somewhere between 1-2, usually more, hours to push their babies out." So hunker down, is essentially the tone she gave me as she and a few other cast members shuffled around the room setting things up. Thirty-three minutes later, the doctor wasn't completely in her attire for the delivery, but the baby was mostly out and the nurse advised her to get on with the birthing while she (the nurse) finished tying her (the doctor) into her birthing gear.

And then she was here. Avonlie Michael (though it took us around 17 hours to come up with her name!)

She was a swollen, blue mass of fleshy wrinkles. Silent and observant. We didn't hear her make a peep for the first few minutes after her birth, but her grandparents (my parents and D's mom) cried from the distance beside her as they weighed her and looked her over carefully (ordinarily, they would have given her directly to me, but they found meconium--stool--in the amniotic fluid so they had to have a NICU dr. there to check her out thoroughly when she was delivered to make sure she didn't have any of it in her system and all throughout labor, they ran a saline solution flush into my uterus to clean out the meconium as best they could). So I didn't get to see or hold her until they were sure she was ok. Since I didn't get to see her and my dr. was still stitching me up, I sent D over, who was reluctant to leave me and even more hesitant to see our baby for the first time without me. I insisted he "needed" to go..."They're all saying how beautiful she is, D. They might be lying. Go see if our daughter is really as beautiful as they say. Lots of babies are born ugly. Go find out for real if she's one of them."

Of course I was mostly kidding. It's true that some babies are born super ugly, but I wouldn't have cared if she was one of them or not. I just wanted one of us to get over there to see her and since I couldn't, he had to!

So he went and she was. Beautiful, that is. See for yourself:

A Pledge and Some Observations

My brother, sister-in-law, my niece and nephew came in to see her soon after. Jacob, my nephew/godson, is only two years-old so he and Avonlie are ideally separated age-wise (in my estimation, that is, since my brother and sister and I are separated by two years and all seemed to work out nicely for us!). He was thrilled to be a new "big brother" even though, at first, he cried when they told him Avonlie was a girl, but there were no signs of those tears when he came in to meet her. Nothing but smiles. He was so solemn when he pledged himself to care for her as a big brother. Genevieve was shyer, which I expected, but both were thrilled to have a new cousin/sister.

Baby Girl celebration cake for me and Dustin!
Truth be told, I was totally surprised Avonlie was a girl. The entire pregnancy everyone insisted she'd be a boy and I was the first one to say it in the beginning. But Dustin was tried and true to his feelings: girl. He just knew it and it turns out he was right. The hospital brought us a tiny little cake to celebrate her birth when we made our way to the maternity ward. Avonlie stayed with us both nights in the hospital and all day long, only leaving our sights to be taken to the nursery for a bath, a hepatitis B vaccination and some check-ups. Otherwise, babe had on a security bracelet that would've locked down the whole hospital if someone had tried to take her out of our ward. Each time they took her, they checked her bracelets against ours for an identical identifying number all of our bracelets were branded with.

Identifying tags on her ankles (see the huge security one!?!) and her adorable little baby feet!
The First Night

Our daughter, who throughout that first night and most of the next day remained nameless, ate immediately following her birth until she fell asleep. The nurses swaddled her and put her in a clear, giant tupperware version of a bassinette that then resided directly next to me in the hospital room. They found a "cozy" cot for Dustin to sleep on and we were set for the night. "You might want to set an alarm for 3 a.m. or so," the nurse advised when setting us up for the night. "She should eat every 2-3 hours and will probably be very sleepy tonight and need to be woken. Also, someone will be in every hour to check your vitals."

They weren't kidding. Every hour, they were in to check me and the baby. I didn't need an alarm to wake me at 3 because the nurse did to take my vitals, which she then insisted were too low and had to be taken again. When my blood pressure and heart rate were "still low" (bp: 88/60; hr: 45) she had me get out of the bed to perform a few minor circus tricks ("Stretch your arms and walk around a bit..."). Let me just say that 1-getting out of bed after the epidural-numbness wore off was not fun or painless, nor were the tricks I was asked to perform and 2-even after performing them my blood pressure remained low (which I explained was not actually "low" but "normal" for me) and so did my heart rate (we got it up to 55, but my resting heart rate is ordinarily around 60). I tried to explain that these numbers were not out of the ordinary, but she was concerned and seemed to come back even more often throughout the night. No matter, Avonlie was also awake and no amount of feeding her sufficed. That babe was ANGRY and remained so for the majority of our stay in the hospital and our first night home.


Having not swaddled anything since my sister was an infant when I learned to swaddle the baby doll Mom gave me in lieu of allowing me to "have" my sister, (as had been the promise when they told me I was going to "have a little brother or sister," the baby doll being a disappointing substitution for the sister I was promised--a promise I would try to insist they make good on in the year or two following Sara's birth, to no avail. A promise that would inevitably end in me ripping my baby sister's arm out of her socket in her toddler years in my attempt to pull (aka-drag) her around by the arm since I had been trained to handle her on a doll instead of on the actual infant--a clear injustice to my child-self and, of course, my sister), I was out of practice. The way I thought we should swaddle was not sufficient and the blanket bunched in a mess around our daughter. She wailed more angrily with each failed attempt, as if lamenting the parents she'd been born to--parents who didn't know crap about swaddling an infant. Dustin and I looked at each other knowing she was right on this one.

Note the sleeping baby under the nurse's expert swaddle.
Finally, he asked one of the influx of nurses to teach us how to swaddle. She showed us twice, and magically Avonlie stopped crying immediately after she finished. "Do it again!" We were in awe of her magical swaddling prowess. She'd unwrap the baby, who would then cry, and slowly, step-by-step demonstrate and verbally explain how to swaddle our infant.

We felt confident we, too, could do this. After all, we are smart, educated people. Over-educated, some might say. We are both artists. We work with our hands to paint, draw, photograph, cook, write, sketch, and so on...all skills that require us to use our hands in various ways. We are comfortable with this ability. Generally, we are capable. But swaddling was not our forte and the blanket crumpled around her in anguish that reflected our daughter's feelings on being given up to our care.

Note the hand, making its way out of the swaddle, even as she slept.
It turned out, on some level, this was ok. Avonlie, its safe to say, quickly changed her mind about her feelings on swaddling as she flailed her little arms around when swaddled and found ways of maneuvering them out of the swaddle, liberating us from our swaddling obligations within the first 24-48 hours of taking her home from the hospital. She wanted those arms free to flail about and no amount of swaddling was going to stop her from getting them that way. "She's like a little Houdini," Dustin remarked in awe as we watched our mostly swaddled daughter turn bright red and scream bloody murder while ripping her arms out from the swaddle's vice grip. We eventually gave in and resorted to swaddling her from the chest down.