Friday, September 25, 2009

Please Excuse the Interruption

Work and life in general have been busy, and I have not been tending to this blog as I should. I will return to regularly scheduled programming as soon as possible, but in the mean time, for those of you with young children, this is important information.

If you use this product:

...please visit this website for IMPORTANT RECALL INFORMATION

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My Miracle Man - Part Two

***WARNING - This post includes frank and graphic descriptions of a medically challenging pregnancy and delivery. I'm talking blood, swear words, and (gasp) moments of doubt about my heart, my faith, and my desire to go through the whole ordeal. If you're going to be offended by any of these things, don't bother reading any further. Don't say I didn't warn you...***

I still get goosebumps sometimes when I look at my son and think about all we went through to have him here today. The fact that he is cute as hell doesn't hurt, of course, but that's just my

Following two instances at 6 and 12 weeks pregnant where health care professionals assumed I was in the process or on the verge of miscarrying, I wasn't taking anything for granted. The ER doctor who treated me at 12 weeks sent me home with instructions addressing my anemia (from massive blood loss) and orders to follow up later that morning with my own OB/GYN. He was not especially optimistic, quoting statistics that brought into focus the distinct possibility (or rather, probability) that this pregnancy was on its way out.

My husband and I returned home to our still-sleeping daughters (who were in the care of my brother-in-law and his wife, and I headed straight to bed. Every trip to the bathroom was a nerve-wracking experience as I feared what I'd see left behind. Fortunately, our mattress pad - and my husband's quick action - had done a good job of saving our mattress from what might otherwise ended up looking like the scene of an axe murder. Our sheets were a total loss though.
I called my physician as soon as her office opened and made an appointment to see her later that day.

Dr. M was supportive but cautious during our office visit. She did another ultrasound and was pleased with what she saw as far as the baby's position and that of the placenta. She could not ascertain the exact cause of my heavy bleeding, but suspected a subchorionic hemorrhage. I was told to take it easy for a week or so, and return to her office for weekly ultrasounds to check the baby's growth and the health of the placenta.

Now, with my first two pregnancies ultrasounds were major events, scheduled in advance. They were precious opportunities to nab a couple snapshots of the little one inside me, as well as a few moments of video footage. Truly valuable stuff. With Connor, I was to end up having so many ultrasounds I would eventually lose count. The staff at my doctor's office generously printed out sweet pictures of my little guy each time, and it honestly got to the point where (I can't believe I'm admitting this) I'd say a half-hearted "Thanks," and shove them in my purse. Seriously, I was getting tired of all the photos. I have an entire manila envelope filled with pictures of my gestating son, starting at 6 weeks, then 12 weeks, then every stinking week after that until 32 a couple more bonus shots between 32 and 37 weeks.

I had a grand total of 36 prenatal office visits just with my OB/GYN. This does not include the visits with the perinatologist who consulted on my case, nor the "routine" ultrasounds at the imaging center at specific stages of pregnancy (you know, where they measure all the important stuff and looks for indications of certain conditions or risk factors). Thank God for my husband's platinum health insurance package!

Other than earning frequent flier miles at my doctor's office (yeah, I wish) and collecting a ridiculous number of ultrasound snapshots of my growing son, the rest of my pregnancy was relatively uneventful. I did suffer from the most insane case of pregnancy-induced insomnia on the planet, but as far as physical problems, the pregnancy was pretty mellow from 12 weeks on. I was working full time as a 4th grade teacher, and I was 38 years old, but all things considered it went pretty well!

Here in Arizona, many schools take time off in early October as a "Fall Break". Considering that school starts here in early August, and that it's usually still in the high 90s come October, a week off is definitely in order. Well, my son's official due date was October 21, so I'd planned on working until Friday, October 5th. The following week was our Fall Break, so I figured I'd be able to wring an extra week of maternity leave out of the whole situation if I could just make it to the 5th. Connor had other plans...

I went for my weekly visit with Dr. M on Monday, October 1. She was a little concerned by the baby's heart rate, which was dipping somewhat, so she asked me to go to the hospital for a few hours of fetal monitoring. I followed orders and headed downtown for what was, quite possibly, the most boring two hours of my life. Since my husband was home with our daughters, I was alone in the hospital, tethered to the bed by those annoying fetal monitors. Fortunately, Connor's heart rate was in the acceptable range, so I was sent home and told to report back to the hospital in two days for another session. I did a little happy dance because there was a very boring-sounding mandatory meeting at work that Wednesday and I was thrilled to have an excuse to duck out. Come on, at the end of pregnancy, sitting in meetings just sucks!

I continued about my business, teaching and taking care of my family and trying to finish up all my lesson plans for the substitute teacher who would be taking over my class during my time off. On Wednesday morning, I walked my students to their music class and returned to my classroom. At one point it felt as though I had experienced a loss of bladder control, but I couldn't be sure. All you moms out there know what I mean. With my two previous children I never had a spontaneous rupture of my membranes. In both cases, the doctor had to break my water toward the end of labor. This time was different.

I had about twenty minutes before I needed to reclaim my students, so I informed the teacher across the hall that I thought something might be up. I let her know I was going to the ladies' room to check on things, and "If I'm not back in 15 minutes it means I'm giving birth in the staff restroom so could you please go get my students for me?" She laughed and told me not to worry about it.

Once in the ladies room it became obvious that something was up. I immediately informed my principal that I thought I was in labor (although I wasn't feeling any contractions) and would need to leave as soon as possible. Of course, I had all my lesson planning complete - copies made, resources gathered, books collected - for the weeks following Fall Break through late December (my anticipated maternity leave). I did not, however, have anything prepared for the two and a half days left in the week. I fully expected to make it until Friday, plus have a week or so off before the baby actually came, so this was not in my plans! Those of you who are teachers know that it's ten times the work to plan for a sub than to "do it yourself". Now I found myself running around (yes, with ruptured membranes) making copies and laying out materials for whoever was going to cover my class for the next few days.

The ladies in the office and copy room were yelling at me to JUST GO! I reminded them that my husband still needed to get back down this way from his work in Scottsdale (because I was not about to attempt to drive myself to downtown Phoenix while in labor), so I had a good thirty minutes or so before I had to go. They thought I was crazy. I later found out just how crazy I really was, and how very, very close I could have come to a very, very bad outcome.

More to come...

Friday, September 4, 2009

My Miracle Man - Part One

***WARNING - This post includes frank and graphic descriptions of a medically challenging pregnancy and delivery. I'm talking blood, swear words, and (gasp) moments of doubt about my heart, my faith, and my desire to go through the whole ordeal. If you're going to be offended by any of these things, don't bother reading any further. Don't say I didn't warn you...***

If there was ever a doubt in my mind as to whether miracles are possible, this little man erased them.

Connor was born in the fall of 2007, and everything about his birth - and the 37 weeks prior to it - was miraculous.

This was an unplanned, and unexpected pregnancy. Our daughters were approaching the end of elementary school and we assumed our family was complete. I was looking to make a career change, and adding a new baby to the mix was not part of the plan. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that, upon learning we were expecting #3, I was a little uncertain about my feelings.

At 6 weeks, I experienced cramping and bleeding that sent me rushing to my doctor's office. The nurse practitioner who examined me used terms like "what appears to be products of conception" while describing what she observed. In other words, it looked to her like I was having a miscarriage. I was frightened and a little disappointed, but I guess because I was still struggling to process the whole *holy crap, how are we ever going to afford another child and now I'm never going to be able to leave teaching and shit, we don't have family close by anymore and now we have to find daycare and jeez how expensive is that going to be and besides I'm too damn old to be having a baby and do we even want to be starting all over again with this baby stuff* thing, a teeny-tiny little part of me was thinking that God was letting us off the hook and not expecting us to take on more that we could handle.

Imagine the surprise and shock in the room when the NP brought out the ultrasound to verify her suspicions and instead found an itty-bitty, perfect little 6 week heartbeat. At that moment I started to cry, and I admitted to myself that I kinda-sorta did want this baby after all.

A month and a half later, the long Easter weekend was about to begin. I finished the work week on Thursday and was looking forward to having Good Friday off. I'd felt some little twinges at work on Thursday, but assumed it was that "round ligament" crap the doctors always talk about in pregnancy. We went to bed fairly early, and I didn't think anything unusual was up. At about 1 AM, something caused me to awaken.

I don't remember exactly what happened next, but I remember sitting up in bed and hearing my husband say, "Oh, Honey!" I jumped out of bed, from a pool of blood that extended from my mid-back to my knees. I was dizzy and my heart was racing as I grabbed the cordless phone and stumbled to the bathroom. I called my OB/GYN's office and stood on the cold tile by the toilet. As I spoke with the nurse on call, I told her I was afraid to sit on the toilet, even though I had the urge to use the restroom, because I was afraid everything was going to, er...come out. She calmly told me that if it was going to happen, there was nothing I could do about it. I needed to use the toilet, she said, to take the pressure off the uterus.

As I sat on the toilet, I could hear my husband stripping the blood-soaked sheets and mattress pad off our bed and filling the tub in order to try and salvage them with a cold water soak. He fumbled for his cell phone, calling his brother and sister-in-law to see if they could come to our house and stay with our sleeping 9 and 8 year old daughters. He knew a trip to the hospital was inevitable.

The on-call nurse advised my husband to call an ambulance, due to the volume of blood loss I was experiencing. During my first-ever ambulance ride, I remember thinking that I don't know how folks with gunshot wounds, broken bones, or large pieces of metal embedded in their bodies could tolerate the jostling and bouncing of the rig. Man, was it rough! I also recall hearing one of the paramedics. who was seated next to my hip, whisper, "Dude, she's losing a LOT of blood!" to his partner. Ummm...not reassuring.

I have never experienced such humiliation as when the nurse and assistant in the ER began cleaning me up prior to the doctor's exam. I realized in that moment how helpless and fragile the elderly must feel - those who are in nursing homes or even those being cared for by loved ones. To be totally dependent on others for things as personal as cleaning up your private messes, well, it's just hard. Really hard.

When the doctor entered the room and began examining me, I remember experiencing what felt like a huge gush. I recall hearing him catch his breath and say, "Um yes, there's a lot of blood and I'm seeing what appears to be products of conception". That damn term again. I guess it's supposed to sound kinder and gentler than "Okay lady, I think I see little parts and yeah, I'd say you lost the baby judging by all the carnage here..."

My husband started to cry and was saying something about us being able to try again soon. The doctor began what sounded like a textbook lecture on how nature recognizes when there's a problem and corrects mistakes when it's not meant to be. The fact that I was right around 12 weeks at this point indicated, in his opinion, that this was a case of perhaps a genetic anomaly or some other problem that would cause a baby to be unable to develop fully.

He ordered an ultrasound to check how complete the miscarriage was. As he prepared to leave the room and send in the orders for my scan, I asked him what they would do. He explained that I would - depending on the results of the ultrasound - be sent home to allow nature to take its course. I was petrified at the thought of being told to go home and lose whatever was left of my baby in the toilet. I was panicking at the realization that at this stage I might actually be able to recognize little body parts. I started to lose it. The doctor left and went to go call my OB/GYN and I was wheeled into ultrasound.

My husband was not allowed to join me in the ultrasound room. The tech who performed the scan told me I was not going to be able to see the monitor while he did his work. It was just policy. I figured it was done this way to keep hysterical moms from freaking out when they no longer saw a heartbeat on the screen. He had the sound turned off as well, so I was not able to listen for that little pock-pock-pock-pock you expect to hear.

After about five minutes of small talk and unreadable facial expressions, the ultrasound tech looked directly at me and said, "I'm not supposed to show you anything, but I think you'll want to see this," then turned the monitor to face me. There on the screen was my baby, bouncing around at the end of his umbilical cord, apparently unfazed by whatever else was going on in my temperamental uterus. The tech told me he was seeing what appeared to be a perfectly normal 12-13 week fetus, with no signs of stress and good blood flow.

The ER doctor met me back in the exam room within minutes and was stunned. He was convinced I'd been having a miscarriage and could not explain what was going on. He told me that I might still be in the very beginning stages of a miscarriage, and the next few days would be telling. I was discharged (barefoot, as I'd been brought in by ambulance and my husband never thought to bring shoes for me) and ordered to call my own doctor as soon as her office opened in the morning.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

I'm Sorry, But...HUH?!?!

Just one more reason why I'm grateful to be out of the classroom and no longer teaching in a public school setting.

I have always felt that politics should be kept out of the classroom. Note, I believe all US school children should learn about the political process, but I think the personal politics of a teacher have no place in the classroom. I also expected my students and their parents to treat my classroom as a politically neutral territory. I apparently did a pretty good job at this, because even now a majority of my former students (and the parents of those students) tell me they still have no idea what my political affiliation is.

Next Tuesday the President is planning to give American students a little pep talk, and already some folks are getting all twisted up inside about what the real motives of this speech are.

According to the Tampa Tribune: Jim Greer, chairman of the Florida Republican Party, said the speech would use taxpayer dollars "to spread President Obama's socialist ideology."

But again, according to the Tribune: "The president will speak directly to students around the country about the value of education and the importance of staying in school as part of his effort to dramatically cut the dropout rate," said White House spokeswoman Gannet Tseggai. "This is not a policy speech."

So, working hard, staying in school, and graduating are now part of the socialist manifesto? I don't think this sounds terribly political at all. In fact, it seems - quite possibly - the least political subject a US President could broach with school children. I'm so confused!

I'll admit, I am 24 hours post-surgery and still have codeine in my system, so maybe I'm a little fuzzy on some things, but at least I'm not the only one wondering what's really got people's knickers in a wad. Jen over at Thoughts from a Liberal Mom mulled over this same puzzle, only she was much more articulate (and likely, much less medicated) than I. Thanks Jen!