Sunday, December 23, 2007

Now We Wait ...

Waiting has never been my forte. So you can well imagine that 40-weeks of pregnancy has felt a bit like 40 years ... oh, I don't know, wandering in the desert waiting for the Promised Land? Actually, with all of the preparing: nursery decorating, furniture and gear "research" and selection, reading, reading, reading ... it hasn't really been that challenging to wait. Until we hit 27-weeks that is, and daily life became home bound life. Even THAT wasn't too tough compared to the last 11 days in the hospital.

THAT was some serious waiting.

Now we are home and the waiting continues. Our doctor has indicated everything is a possibility at this point from going into labor over Christmas, to a scheduled c-section next Thursday or Friday, to "waiting" into January. It's hard to wait with so many variables. At least for us.

Leon spent his days while I was in the hospital working, caring for me, waiting with me and then coming home at night to finish the nursery nesting "just in case". We're ready alright, as ready as two 30-somethings with ten-years of marriage under their belt but relatively little infant experience can be, that is.

Now we wait.

Obvious connections to this Advent and Christmas season and waiting are clear. And that has been unique conversation for us as we wait.

But it doesn't soothe the nerves; not "bad" nerves, just nerves, energy, and excitement. WHEN will we actually see our little Sydney?

One of the very special parts of the challenges of this pregnancy has been the "perk" (albeit for medical reasons) of seeing Sydney each and every week via very clear ultrasound. We've literally watched her grow and develop for the past 10 weeks and it has been incredible. We've seen her "practice" breathing in the womb (a truly awesome thing to see); we've seen her facial features take on definition; this past week, we even saw her sucking her thumb. We know she can "hear" and feel us; she always tries to bat away the technician's ultrasound wand! And she responds to singing, chatter and general "Hey, Sydney!" (that usually from Leon) ... We want to have her here, though. Safe and healthy and here.

And so we wait.

It could be a very big week! We'll keep you posted.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Pure Delight of a Full Liquid Diet

The Sydney Grace journey continues!

Hello from the third floor of Saint Joseph's Medical Center located here in beautiful, historic Saint Charles. Yes, that's right. Gretchen, Sydney and Leon are living the life here in Labor and Delivery ~ and no, Sydney is not "here" yet.

But, please allow us to tell you how we GOT here.

On Tuesday, we went (once more) for just a simple, routine obstetrics visit. We are starting to be really suspicious of "routine" visits, given how they seem to turn out for us these days! Leading up to this week's appointment, Gret had been having fun with the stomach flu, which got all sorts of things "going" in terms of the baby (contractions, etc.). Of course, we didn't realize this until our exam. Blithely arriving to Dr. Keisler's office, we were curious to know how things were progressing. After all, at 34.5 weeks, we recognize that "any time" really is ANY TIME, which alternately thrills and terrifys us!

In a matter of moments, Dr. Keisler was able to discern that Gret's body had progressed farther towards real labor. Added to this, Sydney is hanging out breech, with her little feet neatly poised to make an entrance into the world with very little encouragement! Dr. Keisler immediately sent us to a place we are starting to know well, Labor and Delivery.

We arrived. Gret was attached to the monitors (which Sydney really has come to loathe; she kicks at them with impressive strength!), and before we knew it ~ Gret was back on an IV of magnesium to stop what was progressing to a very active labor! (For those of you who haven't had the joy of magnesium, let's just say it would never be considered a "recreational" drug. It's absolutely nasty stuff and they had poor Gret on quite a dosage.) The specialist Gret and Leon have seen each week came in, and after an amniocentesis shared that the steroids little Sydney received all those weeks back did NOT help her lungs. In otherwords, Syd was not at all ready to be born. After another day on the magnesium, the contractions slowed and today (Thursday), Gret was put back on a lesser treatment of medication, but we have learned that the hospital is where she will stay until it's time to deliver Sydney Grace. Another amnio next Tuesday will let us know if the additional steroids received yesterday worked (and the doctor feels they will), at which time (next Friday) and at 36-weeks, we will potentially have a scheduled c-section to bring Syd into the world.

Of course, in the way of hospitals ~ all of that could (and doubtless will!) change in an absolute heartbeat.

In the meantime, Gret is getting into the groove of life here on Labor and Delivery. Leon has already spoiled the nurses station with daily cookies and treats and we are receiving just splendid care (and would be cookies aside, I am sure!). Gret graduated from a clear liquid diet, to a full liquid diet (she was all about the pudding) to REAL food earlier today and is learning the joy of being content with what is placed in front of you. (Truly, some of her best meals in New Orleans don't hold a candle to how she loved her beef broth and toast yesterday after 48 hours of little food ... and that's not a joke!)

In all, we continue to learn what it means to be Mom and Dad. Right now, our job is to keep Sydney safe. While the uncertainty is tough; and the tests and pokes and prods hardly ideal; and the hospital stay potentially over Christmas difficult to consider; and all the other "unknowns" make life a challenge, we remain convinced of God's promises. When we start to worry, try to own and dictate the situation, or rebel against the circumstances before us, we need to quiet our hearts and minds and remember that Sydney is God's precious child. He alone knows the plan for her and her tiny body and her life. While we won't lie and wish we "knew" how this would turn out, we are trusting in God. We beg you to pray for that understanding to continue to "surpass" our hearts and minds, while so many other worries and woes try to claim our focus.

More on hospital life, food and bed rest to come :) But the dinner hour is coming, and Gret needs to start reviewing her menu!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Just because everything is different doesn't mean that everything has changed.

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~Elizabeth Stone

Just this morning, I was contemplating change.

I was thinking about how for the past 8 months, the constant mantra I have heard from well-intentioned friends and family has been, “Your life is going to change in ways you can’t imagine.” Some people share this [fairly] obvious insight with a gentle smile, others with a knowing grin; a few deliver it with a devious snicker, and still others with a grimace of impending doom. The result has been that in my over-emotional, physically tapped mind I have started to fear change … which is definitely not my style. I have started to worry about change and to wonder if I am up for the task of facing (not just parenthood) but this whole notion of CHANGE that seems to be so paramount in the language of so many well-meant “advisors.”

I have also started to notice that some people say my LIFE will change, while others say I (my SELF) will change. Is there a difference? Me VS. My daily grind? Me VS. My priorities?

In preparation for Sydney’s birth, I have been talking to loads of people. I have been reading loads of magazines. I am subscribed to far too many blogs, Web chats and e-newsletters. Overall, source after source assures me that upon the birth of my child, my life will be forever stripped from me. That my own sense of self, my interests and my cares will be “lost” in the mad scramble of parenthood.

Lately, I have been reading these pieces of wisdom out loud to Leon with disdain in my voice. I then usually hurl the offending resource against the wall (laptop excluded). Where is this emerging anger coming from, I wonder (besides the obvious pregnancy hormones!) … Are Leon and I selfish people that we balk so adamantly against the suggestion that we will be ourselves no more because of Sydney? Shouldn’t we be “okay” with this? What kind of people are we to not willingly surrender our entire selves for the good of our baby?

Well ~ maybe we are awful people, but Leon and I are absolutely bored with hearing how we won’t have any time for our own thoughts; that we won’t have any sense of our “old life”, and that even our marriage will be forever stripped of what it once was by the presence of our baby. We are bored of it and we refuse to believe it!

Interestingly, while I think the point of most of these articles and blogs and ballsy advice givers is to suggest that a baby will be more than worth such sacrifices, the speakers never really get around to saying that as convincingly as they warn us of all we are about to lose forever in a vast abyss of toys, dance lessons, Mommy and Me classes, piano recitals and baby gear. I have been more and more troubled by the attitude expressed by so many that children stamp out, destroy, and even strangle personal hopes, dreams and wishes … the idea I hear and read and absorb from so many is that a child replaces any sense of personal or marital identity.

I think I am going to boldly suggest that can’t possibly be true. (And yes, I can already picture which of you dear readers is laughing into your morning coffee at my next thoughts, which will probably seem either endearingly na├»ve or innocently just plain stupid, but bear with me) …

Leon and I are walking toward parenthood with the idea that, after 10 years of married life, Sydney is adding to, not replacing our hopes and dreams and goals; that the change that everyone “warns” us to expect is a welcome change that we do actually understand more than folks might realize.

Do I understand the “realities” of day-to-day care for our baby? Of course not. But do I “get” that life is changing in ways I can’t anticipate ~ definitely; after 32 years of living I have rather figured out that life provides lots of stages where things change completely and this prepares us for the next stage …

Sydney is an added piece of our life; not our entire existence. She is a gift from God; entrusted to us for care and parenting. She is His and we have the opportunity to love and nurture her; and to provide her with opportunities for growth and joy and learning and faith.

Now, this doesn’t mean we won’t be guilty as charged when we behave like typical Gen X parents and hold forth about every little burp our baby makes. But we’ll try really hard not to obsess that way too often. And I am also not suggesting that we will be like sitcom parents (think Ross and Rachel on FRIENDS for example), whose baby never enters conversation and who is largely forgotten except for at “milestone” events ;-) (I always wonder when I watch these shows, where on EARTH is their baby??) But I think what I dare to suggest is that I will be a lousy parent if I lose my identity because of Sydney. What a road to resentment and what a tremendously uninteresting mother I would be!

I don’t want to be afraid of my daughter’s arrival because it means I am at the same time committing hari kari on my own spirit. And I don’t think I am missing the point of the sacrifice of parenting and motherhood to make that statement …

Maybe Leon and I are wholly wrong. Maybe in a year or two, someone will come up to either one of us and ask us to define our selves or to express our deepest goals, and we won’t even recall what those were before life with Sydney. Maybe.

But my guess is that even if and when those things do change, when the inner person shifts and is so redefined, it won’t be a mindless slide into a person-less oblivion … but considered and connected to who I was before my child and to who I plan to be with my child and who I would like to be when my child is grown … I suppose time will tell.

It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can't tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself. ~Joyce Maynard