Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's a new day (I think) and yet I'm still "Mom"

Drowsily I awoke on Day 2 and was disoriented. Where in the world was I? Why was I lying on my back? Why was I so comfortable? Really. These were the questions I asked. If I were more mentally prepared to have been a mother and if my babies had actually been sleeping in the room with me, I may have had different thoughts like, "What the HELL is that sound?" or "Oh my God, I fell asleep and stopped watching the baby to make sure she was still breathing." But, no. Those were not my thoughts.

Honestly, I was exhausted and FINALLY comfortable. I didn't feel the need to vomit constantly (in fact I only vomited a few times that day) and I was lying comfortably. I remember thinking, "I CAN BREATH." But the weird thing about this day was that I felt something in my abdomen that I SWORE was a baby moving. I actually sat there in my drug-induced stupor and considered it. Is it possible that they could have somehow not realized that there were actually three babies in there all this time? And could they have accidentally left one inside me? (Ha ha ha) The thoughts seem so absolutely ridiculous now. But I assure you that I sat and sat and pondered the possibility. I'm not sure that I ever admitted these thoughts to anyone but I had them several times that day. Then the next thought (that I have had CONSTANTLY since that day) entered my mind, "I have to pump."

My breastpump and I have become bussom buddies. She goes everywhere I go. They say that I can borrow the pumps they have in the NICU when I go to spend time with Elizabeth but there is something about the whole being dependent on something to extract milk from me, without which I will suffer tremendously, that brings about this sense of dependence that I just can't shake. But on Day 2 I didn't feel that bond that I do today. Rather, I felt that the machine was bulky and inhuman. It didn't help me. It didn't comfort me. It irritated me.

So, I pumped and pumped and got nothing. Well--- maybe I got a bit of film. I wasn't entirely sure. But I dragged my sorry, relaxed body from the most comfortable bed in the entire world and went to the sink to wash out all of my pumping equipment. I did this every three hours. Religiously. Man, I hated having to wash out that pumping equipment all the time. It was exhausting having to stand at the sink and move my arms. I was just too weak.

I never made it to the shower on Day 2. I was just too exhausted. Just walking from the bed to the bathroom wore me out. I was honestly too weak to walk. I was given a ride via wheelchair over to the NICU to see the babies and I was able to actually see them for the first time. Elizabeth's abdomen was wrapped in some kind of gauze and she was lying still under some kind of bright light wearing some type of sun shades. Alexis seemed even smaller than Elizabeth even though she supposedly weighed more. She had reddish skin and looked so tiny. Both girls had a full head of hair, which surprised me until I flashed back to the past five months of unrelenting heartburn and thought that perhaps that old wives tale may have some validity after all. I attempted to stand but my legs were so shaky that I just couldn't do it. The NICU nurses rushed over and were concerned that I looked pale and then the room started spinning and I was whisked back to my room.

"Did you call for someone to bring you some milk?"
I got back just in time for my date with my pump. So, I spent my thirty minutes trying to pump and nearly fell asleep doing it. And then it finally happened---I had a couple of drops come out. I tried to suck those drips up with the tiny syringe and might have even gotten a little to go in. I was overjoyed. They had told me to call the nurses once I was done to have them deliver the milk to the NICU and that they could wash out my equipment for me. So, I called out for someone to come get my milk. About 15 minutes later a volunteer came in and brought me 3 cartons of 2% milk. I was truly puzzled. So I thanked her kindly for the milk but was certainly not in the market to drink milk when I was trying so hard to produce it. The thought of drinking milk was about as gross as feeding a cow a hamburger. Yuck.

Once the volunteer was out of my room I called out once again for someone to come in and TAKE my milk to the NICU. That was when the nurses aide came in. I explained that my milk needed to go to the NICU for my premature babies, which she begrudgingly acknowledged, and then I made the mistake of asking her if she would mind washing out my pumping equipment because I was just too exhausted to make it to the sink another time.That was when she went off. She told me I was lazy and needed to get up and walk. I needed to take a shower. I needed to get out of that bed. She told me, A PHYSICAL THERAPIST, that if I didn't get up to walk I would stay weak. I was stunned. I told her I just couldn't do it. I had been on bedrest for weeks (or months, actually) with twins, that I had had a C-section yesterday, and that I was a PT and was well aware of the need to walk but that I just couldn't do it. She stalked out.

This was the nurse's aide.
And that's when I became acute aware of my hormone shift. Because rather than realizing that her expectations were her issue, I balled and balled and balled. A while later an MD from my OB's group came by to check in on me and I tried to explain that I was so weak and nauseated that I couldn't do all that the staff wanted me to do. I don't remember WHAT she said to me but I thought it was inconsiderate, unhelpful, and cold. I finally broke down and called Heath at work, sobbing. I cried because I couldn't physically do it and because of the way I was treated. I cried because I was all alone there. I cried because I was too weak and sick to even attempt to touch either baby. Then I called my sister and repeated the story. I was an emotional wreck.  I was ready to check myself out of the hospital. If they weren't going to do anything for me but wake me up all day and night long and guilt/ coerce me into trying to do more than I was capable, I might just as well go home. I meant it.

The day ended with the unit manager and the OB coming back into my room to try to address the issues. I absolutely did NOT want to take this step but my sister was adamant that I get resolution, both to empower myself, and to prevent the issues from festering. To my utter amazement, both the MD and the unit manager agreed that I was not their typical post-op patient. I didn't need people coming in and out of my room to check my vitals every four hours, especially when I was getting up to pump every three hours. I didn't need grief about getting up to walk when I am an acute care physical therapist. And the notion that I have the stamina to shower was also debunked when they acknowledged that I had been on bedrest for months. They stopped and really considered that my hormones were in complete flux from my water breaking 10 days earlier. They ruminated on the fact that both babies were born prematurely and one has a very serious birth defect.

I don't know what the unit manager told her staff but from that moment on the problems with the staff were solved. Almost immediately it was as though the staff saw me differently. They started listening to me. They actually started to help me willingly. They really saw me as a person, someone who was exhausted both physically and emotionally. They saw me as a Mom.
Hormones can really change your outlook on a situation!

My lesson learned this day: I can find strength in my weakest moments, especially if someone makes me mad.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Who are you and why do you keep calling me "Mom?"

Okay, so I have only been a mother for just over three weeks or so (not including my warm-up session over the past year and a half with my step-daughter who calls me by my first name) but I distinctly remember going in for my c-section as "Cheryl" and coming out as "Mom."

This has been one of the most bizarre experiences I have ever had. Truly. Complete strangers changed the lyrics to a song that everyone in my life was singing without my being prepared or aware that this was happening. I was there. I clearly remember lying on that ridiculously narrow OR metal slab (it seemed narrow to me, at least, of course I had two stow-aways adding to my girth at that time) and feeling what was described to me as "some pushing" (Umm, no. That was not "some pushing." That was somebody jamming their man-hands up under my ribcage and attempting to gut me from the outside.) I distinctly remember what I recommended to them immediately following my vomiting all over the place: "WHY DON'T YOU JUST MAKE A LARGER INCISION SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO PUSH SO HARD? AHHHHH!" (Really, you can ask Heath, he was there.) I can remember Baby A coming out and the sound of her shrill cry (that I have come to detest, if we're being honest here) and Baby B coming out and NOT hearing the sound of her cry. What everyone heard then was, "SHE ISN'T CRYING! WHY ISN'T SHE CRYING? OH MY GOD! WHY ISN'T SHE CRYING?" I remember being told that there were two doctors and a slew of nurses from the NICU in the adjoining (stabilization) suite and that they were taking good care of her. And then it was lights out for "Cheryl." When the lights came back up, I was "Mom."

Our babies were carted off to the NICU, both on ventilators, due to their small size (about 4 #) and prematurity (7 weeks early) as well as Elizabeth's birth defect that we had been made aware of at 12 weeks gestation. I came to in the recovery room with Heath seated to my left doing something on his phone. That was how I knew it was him. His phone gave him away. I have NO idea what he was doing on there. I only remember that I received a text from my sister and I was unable to stay awake long enough to type out a simple text back to her. I awoke several times to Heath's laughter as I laid flat in the bed with my arms outstretched holding onto my phone. Nice. His taking a picture of this moment was special too. (Why the HELL he didn't just text her back for me I DO NOT KNOW!)

At some point I was transferred to a room on some "special" floor designed to put me closer to the NICU, at least that was the line they fed me. Immediately after getting delivered to this room a lactation consultant came by to teach me how to pump. HA HA. Pump? Honey, I can't even keep my eyes open. So, she came back in the afternoon and met mostly with Heath as my head bobbed back and forth like a bobble head mounted to truck on an old-fashioned dirt road. I strained to focus on any of the yellow plastic pieces she had in her hands but I just honestly couldn't focus and wanted her to leave me to hibernate until the kids were potty trained. After she was satisfied that I either knew what I was doing or what a completely lost cause, she FINALLY left. (I have grown to like her since... nothing personal, Diane :)

Heath and a nurse-type person then attempted to take me to the NICU to see our babies for the first time. As he wheeled me in (on two wheel, I swear!) I heard someone refer to us as "the parents of the Hessney-Foster twins" (which was odd since Hessney was my maiden name and only supplied to the hospital to prevent an issue with our insurance). After the mandatory 3-minute scrub down from the elbows down we finally made it to the bedside. "These are your babies," I was told. I barely noted the two incubator/ heat lap looking set-ups before vomiting again.

I was removed from the NICU and taken back to my room. I told Heath he should go home to get some sleep and I would see him after work the next day (he had all the animals to care for at home, including my VERY needy dog). I fell asleep and woke up sometime later that night and realized... "Oh crap. Am I supposed to be PUMPING!?" Seriously. I was disoriented, drugged, and alone. All I knew was that I was supposed to try to hook that machine to me and hope that something came out of a place it had never come out before. So, I called Heath. Why? I honestly don't know but he was actually able to walk me through how to pump over the phone which resulted in him being referred to from here forward as my "Breastfeeding Coach." I do remember being somewhat disturbed at his level of understanding about the mechanics of the pumps and such... but I was desperate. And drugged.

Every time I go back to that NICU or call on the phone I am referred to as "Mom." "Hessney-Foster Mom is here." It is so strange to me. Even as a step-mom to Sidonie I've been "Cheryl." But all of the nurses refer to me as "Mom." Not Cheryl or Ms. Foster. "Mom." It is so completely bizarre. Yes, I know I am their mother but these are complete strangers who call me "Mom." Even my OB came by and called me "Mom." Weird, weird, weird.

The past few weeks have taught me lots of things. I have already read the Preemie guidebook cover to cover and between the twins it seems they cover a majority of the topics. I will most certainly continue to learn things. Some things are so simple that I ought to be embarrassed. But, I'm not (for the most part). I'm learning. And I'm happy to record these things for other people's enjoyment, enrichment, or ridicule. I don't live my life by the manual... I own upwards of 50 cookbooks but get irritated trying to measure out all the ingredients and end up deviating nearly every time I bother with a recipe. Yet, I own them. I have moved them from house to house, and occasionally even buy more to add to the collection. Why? I couldn't say. Perhaps it's inspiration or perhaps it's the safety of owning them--- it's certainly not for their utility in my life. I do a lot of reading on certain subjects but other times I get the gist of the book or the research and that's the last time I look at it. Written directions... only get read IF I can't figure something out myself. Sure, it would be easier if I read through directions some of the time but most of the time the directions are wrong or lacking or just plain downright confusing and I spend more time trying to interpret them than just figuring the problem out myself. That brings me to the topic of motherhood.

Yes, I have several books on motherhood and expectations for the first year with a healthy baby/ twins/ a baby with special needs, sleep training, what to feed to whom and when, how to make everything from scratch using 100 of the world's best recipes (ha ha, see above) but after the first few chapters I'm done. I belong to a Mother of Multiples group and a Mommies network group as well as a Mothers of Omphalocele group and I routine read through the posts and often contribute to them as well. But, I don't actively subscribe to any one philosophy on anything, and it looks at though motherhood is no exception.

This blog is going to highlight the life lessons I learn down on the journey of motherhood. Some will (hopefully) be profound, some may highlight my naivete. Either way, I am willing to share the best of the worst with y'all and I hope that this blog will not only be entertaining to me in the future but it may actually be of some kind of value to someone else someday.

So, let's begin with the lessons learned. It will likely be a long and strange journey. I'm glad you're along for the ride.

Lesson 1: Immediately upon the birth of your children your identity immediately changes from a proper noun to a glorified pronoun: "Mom."