Saturday, December 15, 2012

I looked them in the eyes and I lied

My kids are smart and they pick up on more than I ever think they will.  When I picked them up for school today Joseph casually remarked that there were a lot of pickups today. As we were walking out to the car we walked along with a friend of Elle's and his mother. His mother and I talked a little bit and both of us struggled to keep from crying. Joseph watched our faces and when the three of us got in the car he asked why I was crying.

I hesitated for a moment. I debated not telling them at all. Then I pictured what the kids might hear from other kids or on tv or on the internet and how all those things they hear might scare and confuse them. So I gave them a few of the bare bone facts. I toned things down and explained that the reason this was such a big story was because it happened so rarely. Joseph asked if something like that could happen to them.

I turned around and looked my children in the eye and I lied to them. I told them that there was no way something like that could ever happen. I promised them that they would be safe at school. I told that that their school will still do fire drills and tornado drills and lock down drills and that they would have to follow instructions so that they could be safe during those drills. I told them that those were times to listen to a teacher's instructions and to do it immediately or to listen to what a police officer or a fireman said and to do it quickly. I promised them that that would keep them safe.  

I can't keep bad things from happening to my children. No one can. I can try to prepare them but that's about it. I can't let them live in fear and anxiety. I can't keep them safe forever but I can do my best to make them feel safe. Every day from here on out I'm going to send them off to school with the fear in the back of my mind that they won't come home. What I've tried to give them is the gift of not having that fear.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Magically sacrilegious

There is a house near ours that has a large nativity scene in the front yard. Joseph loves it for some reason*. He calls it a "matility scene" and I don't have the heart to correct him. Every time we drive by it Joseph makes comments about it. He was delighted when he found out one of the people in the scene was named Joseph. The Joseph in this particular scene is holding a stick or  something but it really looks like a wand. One day as we were driving by Joseph said "It's neat how his name is Joseph and my name is Joseph and we both like magic." Then after a short pause he yelled "Expecto Baby Jesus!".

*He REALLY likes the light up nativity scenes. He says it looks like Jesus was born in a puddle of toxic sludge.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A short play about raising little liberals

Me: "It's not ok when you're a guest in someone's house and you are rude and demanding."

Joseph: "Could we go to Michele Bachmann's house and be rude?"

Elle: "Pffft, yeah right. Like we would ever go to Michele Bachmann's house."


Monday, July 23, 2012

Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt ... except for the parts that really, really did

There came a time during my hospital stay stay where the nurses started telling me they hoped they would be the one to be there when Baby A was born. I hoped it was because they liked me and not because they all wanted the chance to see me in pain. My favorite nurse told me she was going to try to switch shifts so that she could be there when I was induced.

When I first got to the hospital after my water broke the doctors who would see me on their daily rounds would throw statistics at me about how likely I was to go into labor. My odds of making it to the 34 weeks goal were only about 5%. Then the odds changed. We were doing so well.  "You're going to make it!" they told me. "You're going to get to 34 weeks!"

I looked at each day as a victory. Every 24 hours I could get through without going into labor was a victory. I hated bedrest and I hated being away from home but I was so thankful that I was doing well and giving Baby A more time to grow. I never had contractions or any labor signs and at 30 weeks I really started to think that yeah, I could make it to 34 weeks.

A few days short of 31 weeks I had a day where I was cranky. Really, really cranky. I didn't want to be in bed but I didn't want any of the distractions that the nurses offered me. No, I didn't want a wheelchair ride or an extra shower and no, I didn't want someone to make a trip to the kitchen for a huge bowl of mashes potatoes or a plate of chocolate chip cookies and no I didn't want a visit from the occupational therapist or the physical therapist and if a priest came to my room I would probably cry. I should have known then that trouble was brewing.

The next day I did my best to put on a happy face. Literally. I smiled at everyone and did my best to act happy. It started to work. I could to this! 34 weeks! Go team!

Late that night I got up to go to the bathroom. I felt fine. No pain, no unusual sensations. When you're in the hospital with a pPROM you get in the habit of checking your pads and toilet paper when you go to the bathroom. Gross, I know, but it's true. This time I checked the pad and was pleased to see that it was clear. Then I checked the toilet paper. Red. Bright red.

I just sat and stared for a minute. Then I wiped again. More red. A lot more red. I didn't feel anything at all. I calmly washed my hands and walked back to my bed. I called my husband and said "Get to the hospital. I'm bleeding and I don't know what that means so get here quickly. I'll call you if things change". I got off the phone and pressed my call light. I waited for the familiar voice to come over the intercom. "Can I help you?"

"I need my nurse please."

"I will let her know. Is there anything you need her to bring you?"

And the dam broke. "I'm bleeding! I need her to come right now! Please!"

I think it only took about 30 seconds for my nurse to get to my room but it felt like an hour. Should I stay sitting? Lay down? Stand on my head? Should I try to call my IPs or my agency? I couldn't make a decision because it took all my concentration not to pass out. When the nurse got into the room I told her what happened and directed her to look at the unflushed toilet. She came out of the bathroom on her phone calling for the doctor.

Within minutes there was a crowd in my room. My favorite nurse had heard what was happening and even though I wasn't her patient that night she came in and held my hand. The on call doctor came in to examine me. Someone rolled in an ultrasound machine. Someone else took my temp and slapped a blood pressure cuff on me. Off to the side someone was setting up a tray with various medical instruments on it. Someone else brought in a huge spotlight to shine right on my crotch. A nurse I was not fond of turned the blood pressure machine and when my bp was through the roof she barked at me "Your blood pressure is really high! You need to relax!" She started the machine again and my favorite nurse reached over to turn it off. (I will love her forever for that act of compassion.)

There was an ultrasound done and we could see Baby A looking happy and healthy as could be. Her heart rate was normal and we could see her sucking her thumb. The doctor decided she needed to do an internal exam with a speculum. The giant spotlight was turned on me and the exam started. I know the doctor was being as gentle as she could be but the exam was intensely painful. There was a nurse on either side of my holding my hands and rubbing my legs and I was suddenly so thankful for the good relationships that I had cultivated with these kind and caring women.

In the end the exam didn't yield any new information. The doctor was unable to determine where the bleeding was coming from. As soon as she told me that I knew that my hopes for a VBAC were being thrown right out the window. I will never forget when the doctor looked at me and gently said "I think we need to do a c-section. How do you feel about that?" It only took her two seconds to ask me that but it meant the world to me. For a minute I didn't feel so out of control, I felt like a person who had an opinion that mattered and that I had an active role in my care. (My regular ob could learn a lot from that doctor.)

Of course I knew a c-section was the only option at that point. She barely even had the question all the way out before I said "Yes! Now? We're doing it right now right? Can we go right now?"

We had to wait a bit since the operating room on that floor was already being used for another c-section. As we waited I called everyone I needed to and listened to the baby's heartbeat on the monitor. She got hiccups and that made me smile. I tried to enjoy the last few minutes of the pregnancy. Jesse arrived. I lectured him and reminded him that he was not allowed to pass out during the c-section and that he wasn't allowed to look at anything that would make him woozy.

During this conversation we stopped hearing the baby's heartbeat on the monitor. I wasn't overly worried at first. I had felt her moving around and I figured she had just moved into a spot where the monitor wasn't picking her up. One of the nurses started trying to find the heartbeat again but she couldn't. The room got very quiet as everyone strained to hear the heartbeat. Everyone started to look very tense as we searched and searched for the heartbeat. I heard one of the nurses whisper to the doctor that the operating room was still being used but that the the one the next floor up was open and should they move me now? I don't know how long we looked for that heartbeat but it felt like an eternity. I started to cry. I was so scared that we had made it this far only to have lost her right at the end.

And then .. thump thump thump thump. They had been able to pick up the baby's heartbeat with the monitor practically up on my chest. We would later learn that the baby (who had been low and head down my entire hospitalization) had flipped breach and backed up under my ribs.

At last it was time to go the OR. Jesse stayed behind and got put on scrubs while I was wheeled into the OR. They helped me move from my bed onto the surgical table. I got a good look at my hospital bed as it was wheeled out of the room and the sheets were covered with blood. I hadn't realized until that point how much I was bleeding. I might have yelped a little bit.

As I was getting the spinal block and being prepped for surgery I started to panic a little bit. I kept asking for Jesse to be brought in. Everyone kept reassuring me he would be there before the baby came out but I didn't care about that. I needed him with me to keep me from totally losing it. The surgery had already started before someone at last brought Jesse in. I unleashed on him. "I can't believe this is happening. Why did I do this again? Why am I so selfish? I shouldn't have taken a risk like this. What if I die and leave the kids without a mother? I can't believe this is happening."  (By the way, once I vented all these thoughts they went away and don't feel this way any longer.)

Jesse reassured me and I started focusing on trying not to vomit. I had eaten dinner not that long before and I could feel it trying to work it's way up my throat. I got several doses of medication in my IV to keep the nausea at bay but each one only worked for a few minutes.

At some point I noticed an unusual feeling. I had a c-section with the twins but with that one no one had leaned all their body weight onto me. I asked if someone was leaning on me and from the other side of the curtain someone answered yes and that I might feel a little pressure. A little pressure in that I felt like a bus was driving over my abdomen. I also started to feel like I was being yanked around the table. My whole body was shaking back and forth as I was worked on. I felt like I was on a roller coaster.

All of the sudden the OR erupted with with activity and noise.  The baby was out. She was taken to the warmer and a small team started checking her out and working on her. I could only catch little glimpses of her as the people moved around. A little arm waving in the air, the profile of a tiny face covered by an oxygen mask. I could hear her cry though. It was a high, thin cry that sounded more like a mew but she was crying. She was only 30 weeks, 5 days but she could cry and wave her arms and kick her legs.

I didn't get to see her up close at all because she was hurried out of the OR and down to the NICU. I told Jesse to go with her so that she would hear a familiar voice. I started to cry as I told him "Tell them her name. Make sure they know her name." The fact is I didn't know for sure what her parents were going to name her but I knew the name that they had been considering and I wanted her called that. I thought she deserved that.

After they all left the ER I started to feel a strange combination of emotions. Happy, sad, lonely, proud, scared, relieved, hungry. I expressed all these emotions by vomiting all over myself. As a nurse cleaned me up she asked "Chicken noodle soup?" I shook my head and felt some vomit pool in my ear. "Baked ziti with a side of mixed veggies." Then I threw up five more times.

It seemed to take forever to sew me up. I started to drift off. I don't even remember how I got into the recovery room. When I was wheeled in Jesse was there waiting from me to give me an update on the baby. She was doing well but needed a little help from a cpap machine to help her breath. I called everyone to update them on the situation including a rather awkward call to my international IPs. "Hi, this is Jen. I don't know if you got my last message but um... your baby is, um, born. So... call me back!"

While I was in the recovery room I chatted with one of the nurses who had been in the OR. She said "I've seen a lot of c-sections and that one was brutal. They really had to lean on you and push and pull to get her out. You're going to have a tough recovery." She wasn't lying. At the hospital I deliver in they don't let you go to the NICU until you're able to get into a wheelchair under your own power so you have to wait for your spinal block to wear off. Of course after that you're in pain so it's not exactly fun. I got up as soon as I was able to so that I could get to the NICU to see the baby.

She was so little, only 3 pounds, 9 ounces. Her arms and legs were long though as were her fingers and toes. Her body was covered in soft black hair and her skin looked loose on her body. After asking if I could touch her I put my hand on her back. "Hey monkey" I whispered to her.

It's a nickname that has stuck with her. She's lost all that body hair and she's plumped up a lot. At 38 days old she's nearly six and a half pounds. Her cheeks are pink and round and she has a dimple in right one. She has a loud cry when she is hungry or just wants some attention. She smiles all the time (I don't care that it's just gas.) She has black hair and eyes and sweet little cupid bows lips.  She's still in the NICU because she's a lazy eater who prefers sleeping to the hard work of sucking on a bottle but she's making progress.

Her parents cried the first time they saw her. They did in fact give her the name I had asked the nurses to call her when she was born.

I visit her almost every day. Her parents are not always able to be here (it's a long and complicated story that I'm not able to share) so I step in for snuggle duty when they're gone. I bring her the breastmilk that I'm pumping and then I hold her for hours at a time. A few people have expressed concern that this will make it hard for me to separate from her but I'm not worried about that. I look forward to the day she goes home because that's what's supposed to happen. In the meantime I'm just enjoying giving her a little extra love. Our time together ended way too soon so now I'm making it up to her by giving her the extra attention she needs. It's been a unique experience that I didn't get with any of my other surrobabes and I'm taking advantage of it.

Baby A beat all the odds to make it here. She started out as a triplet pregnancy that went to twins and then just to her. We were told she would probably not survive after the other two stopped growing. She hung in there and surprised us all. When my water broke at a day short of 28 weeks she surprised us all again by staying put till almost 31 weeks. The bleeding I had was caused by a cord problem totally unrelated to the rupture of membranes. If I had not been in the hospital already when it happened there's a good chance she would not have survived.

I'm not a big believer in fate but I do think that this baby wanted to be here. I think there must be something very special in store for her.

I am so incredibly lucky that I got to be there are the start of it all.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I don't have bugs down there

Since I have arrived at the hospital 16 (or is it 17?) days ago every doctor and nurse I've seen has given me the same three pieces of advice.

1. Drink a lot of water.
2. Rest a lot.
3. Keep your perineum clean.

I'm fine with the first two pieces of advice but the last one always makes me a little uncomfortable. First off because the word is awkward and always evokes and image that I am not really at ease with. Secondly because it makes me wonder if they're saying that because I look like the sort of woman who would neglect her hygiene in that one very particular area. It makes me feel very defensive and I want to say "Oh, believe me! I keep my perineum clean! There is no slacking in that department!" but I have a sneaking suspicion that would only make things worse.

So I try to look very serious and interested and totally unoffended when I get The Perineum Talk. I'm an adult. I am completely at ease discussing the area between my you-know-what and my whoo-ha. I've even developed what I call Perineum Face which is similar to Poker Face in that it doesn't give away what I am really thinking. ("Shut up shut up shut up oh my god shut up!")

Then! Last night the humiliation reached a new high. Or low. Whatever humiliation reaches. A nurse who I do not like came walking into my room. (Back story - I love 99% of the nurses here but this one in particular really gets under my skin. In fact I have asked for her to not be assigned to me which created a lot of Uncomfortable Feelings for me and made me be a lot more assertive than I usually like to be but it had to be done. The first time I met this nurse was when she barged into my room without knocking, called me by the wrong name and ignored my protests that I was not, in fact, Cecily and started to give me discharge instructions.) So the fact that this nurse was even in my room (again without knocking) annoyed me. The fact without any preface she handed me a small water bottle confused me. I was horrified by what she said next.

"You can use this to clean up after you go to the bathroom. It will help keep all the bugs off your vagina."

I made a noise like this "Uhhhhg...!"

The nurse smiled and left the room.

Now I've been here two weeks and no one has given me any advice like this up to this point. I would kind of think that if I needed Vagina Bug Repellent someone would have mentioned it already. So I am choosing to believe that the water bottle was actually meant for someone else, Cecily perhaps, and this afternoon I used it to water my plants.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Parenting from afar

Elle is hovering around my bed and eying the food on my tray. "What's that taste like Mama?" she asks about the cheesy noodle casserole I've been served for dinner. I give her a taste and she smiles and hops back and forth from one foot to another. Before you know it she's eaten half of my dinner. Casserole, broccoli and a dinner roll served on a tray in bed are fun when you're six. After I let her finish my butterscotch pudding she climbs up onto my bed and curls up around me.

Joseph has no interest in my dinner but he sits in the chair next to my bed and keeps up an endless stream of chatter about cartoons and Big Nate books and this girl in his class who tries to boss him around. In the middle of his speech he pauses and says "I like being around you" and then goes right back to what he was saying.

It is breaking my heart to be away from the kids. I know that they're ok, that they're taken care of. Jesse and my parents are taking care of everything they need. It's not the same though. They need me. I need to be there for them. I'm missing end of school year events. As I type this Joseph is doing a stand up routine in his school talent show and I have to be here in bed. If I was there I could cheer him on and wave to Elle when she searched the auditorium for me.

In theory I could be in this room for another five weeks. That's the best case scenario. I give Baby A plenty of time to grow big and strong and then I deliver when I'm 34 weeks pregnant. I can't help but hate it a little bit that in order to give this baby the best I have to be away from my babies. Of course I do the best I can from this bed. My parents and Jesse had brought the kids to visit several times. We talk on the phone. We've skyped. It's not the same though. I want to be home. I want to be the one to brush Elle's hair in the morning. I want to be the one to remind Joseph that it's 80 degrees out and that he doesn't need a long sleeved shirt on. I want to be the one to make dinner and then hear the whines about the weird new vegetable I'm serving.  I want to smell Elle when she comes inside from playing in the garden and she smells like dirt and chives. I want to hear Joseph when he finds a funny Harry Potter mash up video on youtube that makes him do his crazy falling down giggle.

I want to go home to my children,

Monday, May 28, 2012

I never wanted to go to the PROM in high school either

I am in the hospital. Blargh.

On Saturday, just a day short of 28 weeks pregnant I noticed that I seemed to be well, leaking. I chalked it up to the fact that I have had a lot of babies and I probably don't have a lot of bladder control left. I went to bed that night and at some point I rolled over in my sleep and woke up when a rather large puddle formed under me. I woke Jesse up and made him sniff it (because I'm nice like that) and we both agreed it wasn't pee so off to the hospital we went. (We woke the poor kids up and put them in the car and each of them rode to the hospital with a blanket over their heads.)  Jesse dropped me off and left to take the kids back home. I joked that I would call him in ten minutes when I was being sent home and laughed at for peeing my pants.

Oh so funny! Within ten minutes I had been given two tests that confirmed the liquid leaking out of me was not pee, but amniotic fluid. Just a day short of 28 weeks pregnant and I was diagnosed with PROM or preterm rupture or membranes.

Freaking A right?

It's not a great situation. Every doctor and nurse I see reassures me that this wasn't caused by anything I did or didn't do. It's just a freak thing that happens. Maybe there's a defect in the amniotic sac. Maybe there was an infection of some kind. Maybe one of the two embryos that passed caused some dysfunction in the system. It's nice to hear that it's not my fault but when you're the one charged with growing and protecting a child and it's your body that's leaking amniotic fluid it's hard not to feel like you're failing. I'm trying not to focus on that right now. The great news is that we have a lot of reasons to feel really positive about this is all turning out.

Most women who have PROM will go into labor within 24-48 hours. I'm past both those check points and I haven't had a single contraction. Not one. Of course that can change in an instant and there's really no way to predict what will happen but this is a great sign. I was able to get two doses of steroids to help Baby A's lungs develop and I'm now on massive doses of antibiotics to keep infections away.

Baby A is doing so, so well. I had an ultrasound the day I got here and although her fluid levels were low they were still within the normal range. When they do an ultrasound they score the babies in four areas and give them a score of 0-2 in each category. Baby A scored a perfect 8! She's still very active, moving a lot and getting hiccups and being her usual busy self. I have to be on monitors for an hour four times a day and each time she tries to wiggle away from the monitor but when we manage to catch her when she's quiet her heart rate is always perfect. As long as she continues to do well and I continue to do well we'll keep trucking along.

The goal is to get to 34 weeks pregnant. That seems both way too soon and unimaginably far away. If we succeed it will mean I'm here in the hospital on bedrest for 6 weeks. It will be a small price to pay though if it means giving this little fighter the best chance at being healthy and strong. Right now I'm looking at each day as a victory. Reaching 28 weeks is a HUGE developmental milestone. Babies born at 28 weeks have a much better chance of surviving and being healthy than babies born just a couple of weeks earlier. Every day we can give her just helps her all the more. This baby is a fighter and a drama queen. She's going to make sure all eyes are on her and then she's gonna kick ass and take names.

The down side is that I miss Jesse and the kids like crazy. I'm sure Jesse doesn't miss me as much since I send him texts all day long with instructions like "Put a new filter in the fish tank!" and "Bring me a clean pillow case when you come!".  Elle misses me because I am her best buddy. When she comes to see me she crawls on my bed and gently rests her head on me and tells me about 100 times that she loves me. Joseph seems to miss having me home to cook and run the house and keep the routine that he's used to. It's hard for him to visit because he doesn't like the sights, sounds and smells of the hospital. I want to be with them and they want me with them so while I'm thinking "Come on! We can do this! Six more weeks!" I'm also thinking "Oh no! Six more weeks? I can't do this."

My IPs are being wonderful about this. I was worried they might be upset with me over this but they're supportive and so, so great. They want me to focus on resting and giving Baby A the best chance I can. We've decided that they won't jump on a plane just yet but that we'll keep in close contact and re-evaluate when the situation changes. Obviously this means delivering in CA is out and that's a huge pain in the butt because now we have to do a lot of scrambling to get all the legal stuff done here in MN and that's a lot more difficult.  It will all be worth it in the end.

So please, if you're a good wisher, a prayer, a vibe sender, a mojo believer, whatever, send some of that good stuff to Baby A. Let her keep growing and getting stronger and give her the patience to stick with me for a while longer. Send some to my IPs so they can know that their baby girl is safe and they'll be holding her soon (but not too soon!). Send some to my family so that they can all get along and get through this without too many hard times. Send some to me so that I can get through the day without leaking too much fluid or climbing the hospital walls.

Monday, May 07, 2012

It tastes like burning!

Yesterday Elle and I were eating some fruit bars from Trader Joe's and she asked me what the ingredients were.  As she nibbled at a fruit bar I read off "apple, plums, strawberry, peach, boysenberry, pear, blackberry".

I paused up and looked up at Elle.  She had a look of horror on her face. Her mouth was hanging open and full of fruit bar. "Mama? What was that part you said about poison berry?!?"

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Revenge is a dish best served shoved down next to the bed

Once upon a time Joseph and I were downstairs together.  Joseph went into his room and I heard some thumping around. After a minute he yelled "Augh! Mommy! Help me!" I ran into his room and found him like this:

That's right, I took a picture.

As Joseph explained it he was trying to reach something that had fallen off his bed and he slipped down and then was unable to get out. Now maybe I'm the meanest mom every but that made me laugh and then I took a picture. Then I posted it on facebook. Now here's the best part.
It happened twice.

And twice I laughed and took a picture and posted it to facebook.

Fast forward to today when I pick Joseph up from school and he excitedly tells me that he has big news.  It turns out that Joseph wrote a speech for his class's speech competition. He won the class round and went onto the 5th grade round. He won that round and will now be competing in the school round.  He'll get to read his speech in front of the school and the parents of the children in the competition.

In case you're wondering about the title of Joseph's speech? "My Most Embarrassing Moment - The Time My Mom Posted a Picture of Me on facebook".

See? What goes around comes around.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


A few nights ago I was flipping through channels and I landed on the preview for the new movie Bully. I really only caught the last 30 seconds or so but that was enough to take my breath away and break my heart. 

I won't be seeing Bully even though I think it's an important film about an important subject. I don't need to see it to know what's in the movie. I was bullied as a kid. I lived it. I saw it happen to other kids around me. I saw adults stand idly by and do nothing about it. I send my kids to school with worry in my heart because someday it could happen to them.

After I saw the preview I turned the tv off and went into Joseph's room.  I watched him sleep and he looked so calm and peaceful that I wanted to cry. I leaned down and wrapped my arms around him, hugging him close to me. He stirred a little and murmured "Are we all out of bacon?" I pushed his hair back and then stood watching him for a moment more. Then I went into Elle's room to check on her. Her little head was back, read hair all over the pillow and she was softly snoring. We call it "sawing twigs". I moved her into a position that looked more comfortable, covered her back up and then stood there for a minute listening to her breath.  Then I went to bed but I didn't go to sleep.

For hours I lay there awake wondering what I could do to keep my kids safe.  What I could do to keep other kids safe. Vulnerable kids, kids with special needs, small kids, heavy set kids, poor kids, kids who don't wear the right thing or say the right thing or look the right way.

I couldn't come up with an answer.  The fact is that every day parents have to send their kids into great big world and some of those kids are going to be bullied.  Some of them are going to be bullies.  Most of them will see bullying but won't know what to do about it or won't care enough to try to do anything. So how do we change that? Where do we start?

I will tell you where I am starting. I sat my children down and we talked about bullying. We talked about what it means and how it feels and why it's never ok. We talked about how someone else's pain is never funny and how just because someone might be different from us it doesn't make it ok to be unkind to them. We talked for a long time and we agreed on three things. I know this blog isn't read by many people and I don't expect to change the world with this but I am begging you, if you are a parent PLEASE consider talking about your children with these three things. Please consider sharing this post on facebook or twitter or just with someone you know. Maybe it will only impact one kid but it could mean the world to that one kid. The three things I talked to my kids about and came to an agreement on are:

1. If you're being bullied STAND UP and SPEAK UP.  The old advice was "ignore it and they'll stop" but that's not true. All it does it tell the victim that if they were handling things right the bullying would stop. Even worse it lets the bully know they have a victim who won't fight back. If you're being bullied then tell someone who can help you. And if they don't tell you then tell someone else and keep telling until you get help. It doesn't make you a tattletale, it makes you an advocate for yourself. No one has the right to bully you and get away with it. (I also asked the kids to promise to talk to me if they were being bullied so I could be sure it was being handled.)

2. Never, ever, ever, EVER bully. Don't engage in behavior that is hurtful to someone. Even if it seems funny at the time it's not ok to get caught up in hurtful behavior. Someone else's pain is too high a price to pay for your own amusement. It's not ok. Not even if you're mad about something or having a bad day or just really sick of how weird/loud/annoying the person next to you is.

3. (I think this one is the most important because most kids will not necessarily ever be bullies or victims but all kids will see it happen sooner or later.) If you see bullying happening do something about it. Get an adult or tell the bully to stop. Never be afraid to stand up for the little guy. We're all little guys at some point and we would all want someone on our side so let it start with you. Be the one to help.

I was interested to see that the third one was the one my kids were most interested in.  They kept coming up with more and more ideas about how they could try to stop the bully. ("Tell a joke to make people laugh." "Make a loud noise to get attention!") This made me happy because there were times when I was young and I saw someone being bullied but I kept silent because I was just glad it wasn't me.  Those are the times that weight heaviest on my heart. I don't want my kids to have those regrets too.

Please talk to your kids.  Hug them close and tell them you love them and let them know that they're important enough and strong enough to stand up for themselves.  Let them know they are kind enough and compassionate enough to be gentle to others. Let them know that they are brave enough to help someone who needs it. Don't let bullying happen just because it's uncomfortable to talk about. Don't think it's not your problem. If we all just try our best to do those three little things I think we can make a real difference.

Friday, April 06, 2012

An afternoon at the museum

Since the kids had the day off from school (do kids have the day off from school everywhere for Good Friday? Or is that just a thing around here?) I decided to take them to the Minnesota Science Museum. By myself.  Now that might not seem like a big deal to you but I really hate driving in any traffic worse than what I see on the main street of my very small town. But figured it would be ok since I have GPS on my phone so I decided we would brave it and make the hour and a half drive.

All was going well until right as I was preparing to exit the highway into the heart of Minneapolis and my GPS cut out.  Not like a little blip in service but like it totally shut off.  And I couldn't get it back on. And Joseph started to freak out in the backseat. And a car drove into my lane and came within inches of hitting us.  That was not the best part of the day. By some miracle I managed to get myself to the museum without GPS directing me.

I drove around trying to figure out where in the heck to park.  A warning - if you visit the museum know that it is surrounded by giant parking lots, all of them blocked with signs saying "Lot closed - use lower lot". And none of the signs tell you where this mythical lower lot is so you're just forced to circle around and around while your son hyperventilates and your daughter whines "I don't like this! Let's just go to the zoo!"  You might be driven to make a left turn directly onto a very narrow street marked "Exit only!" and "Restricted!" and "Wrong way!".  This will not serve to calm your children down.

But somehow I got out of the danger zone and I managed to find the stupid freaking lower lot.  And here's something funny!  The lower lot was closed! Haha! Despite the fact that the museum had only been open for about an hour the entire parking lot was full. I was going to try to turn around the find another spot but more and more cars kept pulling up right behind me and I couldn't back out of the lane to get into the ramp.  Then, a miracle!  A car came out and I was allowed to go in.  And we got a great spot. In fact there were at least a dozen spots that we saw so there goes the "full" theory.

Let me tell you about how things went at the museum with just pregnant, waddling me and my two maniac children.  It went freaking awesome. Of all the kids my kids are the best kids.  My number one pet peeve with museums is parents who let their kids run wild and dash from exhibit to exhibit mashing on random buttons without every figuring out how anything works.  Not my kids!  They read instructions.  They followed steps.  They asked questions and they figured things out and they worked together and I damn near cried watching it.

There was one exhibit where you could build little contraptions and put them in a chute that was blasting air straight up.  Then you could see if your contraption would fly or not.  The kids watched a bunch of 10-14 year old boys trying out their contraptions for a little bit.  Joseph got to work carefully building what he described to me as a hang glider.  Elle whispered to me "Those boys are making things too heavy." Then she made a little thing that looked like a bird, elbowed her way through the crowd of boys and put her contraption in the tunnel.  And I am not lying when I say her little bird thing flew right up to the top of the tube and then right out the top. It fluttered down and she caught it in her outstretched hand while the crowd of boys around her grumbled about how none of theirs would go to the top and why did hers? I got all bursty in my chest and then I got even MORE bursty when Joseph brought his contraption to the tube and put it in.  It was big and heavy but he had built it so well that it lifted right up, flew out of the tube, hit the ceiling and landed on the floor right in front of Joseph.  I might have strutted a little bit and said "Yeah! Those are MY babies! Suck it other parents!". Ok, there were no other parents around.  But I did strut.

We also visited a pirate exhibit. Joseph was especially fascinated by the eight year old pirate we learned about. He wondered what would make a little boy want to be a pirate.  He said maybe the boy had Aspergers.  A short pause and then "I think I have Arrrrspergers. It's a disorder that makes me want to be a pirate." Then we all laughed because Joseph is punny.

As we were just about to leave the museum we stopped at an exhibit where you could build a machine that worked like an big gear .... thingy ... that could draw patterns on paper.  As Elle and I set it up a boy who was maybe 14 or 15 came right up by and started to move things around.  I was about to do my "back off" stance that I had perfected during the day but something about this boy struck me.  He didn't say anything to us and he was standing way too close to us but I could tell he was just trying to help.  Once we got the machine set up he took a step back and just stood there and waited till we were done.  He rocked back and forth from one foot to another.  I noticed he was holding a paperback book in one hand.

After Elle finished her drawing we stepped back and I watched as Joseph and the other boy set the machine up with a new configuration.  They were both wearing track pants and hooded sweatshirts.  Both had brown hair in need of a trim.  Both wore glasses.  You guys, it was almost creepy.  It was like Joseph from the future was standing right there next to us. A kid who didn't understand social cues like how far to stand away from a stranger or to ask before jumping in and helping with something you know how to do. A paperback book in his hand.  I actually got tears in my eyes.  I'll blame it on the pregnancy hormones. It just struck me as awesome somehow.

Then it was time to leave. I needed to use the restroom and the kids picked that exact moment to stop listening to me and chose to argue and ignore my instructions.  I was able to get them situated but I came within .03 seconds of peeing my pants right in the middle of the museum.  I couldn't even really scold them though because seriously? Best kids ever.

Then we drove home and we sang together "I throw my hands up in the air sometimes, saying 'Hey-o! I'm a Lego'" and it was awesome and fun and totally made up for the drama of the morning. I need to take my kids out more often because they are so worth the effort.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

California here I come!

So here's the situation - I am going to deliver this baby in California. That's my big news.

This was something that has been talked about since before I got pregnant but nothing was for sure and in fact I was kind of assured it probably wouldn't happen.  But, as this whole pregnancy has shown anything that can happen will. There are a lot of reasons we're going this direction. Some of them make sense to me and are good reasons.  Some of them are ... maybe not as valid (in my eyes) but whatever. (For the record, I would like everyone to know that it is possible to have a baby in Minnesota and NOT have it be delivered by a toothless, grizzled veterinarian named Goober. We don't all live in the middle of a giant farm.)

This is kind of an unusual situation but I think it's going to work out ok.  I have to go to California around 34 weeks and stay until the baby is born.  The kids will be with me for all but the first part of it because they have other fabulous vacation plans this summer.  I'm due August 14th so they won't have to miss any school and they'll get to spend part of their summer running around California having a grand old time.  My parents are going to switch back and forth spending time with us in California so they can help keep an eye on the kids and keep them entertained.  Jesse will be able to come visit too although not as much as we would maybe like because of his work schedule.  My IPs are putting us up in a furnished apartment and really taking care of everything we'll need to be comfortable.

It's going to be strange to be away from home for that long but I'm also kind of looking forward to it. When else am I going to be able to give the kids a month long vacation? And with my parents there I won't have to worry about a thing as far as the kids are concerned.

A side benefit is that I get to tell my ob here that he won't be delivering the baby. I was more than a little irritated at the way he did things with my last pregnancy and I wasn't too happy with how he was acting this pregnancy but I was stuck with him for various reasons.  But now I'm not!  So ha! Petty annoyances, the best reason to travel across the country to give birth.

Oh, and I'm really hoping that after baby is born someone will say "Jennifer, you just gave birth to your fourth surro-baby! What are you going to do next?" and I can say "I'm going to Disneyland!" although I really won't because I can't think of anything less fun than walking around Disneyland in August right after giving birth.  But it would still be fun to say.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


As I type this Elle is in the bathtub singing a song she made up.  She's using this goofy, English accent and it's killing me to listen to her.

"Water! Water! Only 25 cents!
Buy a glass of water, water, water!
Do it before you die in the desert.
Even if you're not thirsty you can buy some.
Use it to make some juice and you can mix your miralax in it!"

In other news, tomorrow I'm going to share some BIG NEWS about this pregnancy.  If you're my facebook friend you might already know it but if you're not then you'll hear it tomorrow.  Let's just say that there is some travel in my not to distant future.  And some beaches.  And some Disneyland.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Random updates

I keep forgetting how pregnant I am. This morning I was thinking it was about 16 weeks but then I counted it out and I'm 18 and a half weeks.  This pregnancy has been weird.

Elle brought home a menu she made in school when they were playing restaurant.  On the regular menu was "ledduce", "carrotts", "salid" and "food". On the dessert and drink menu were beer and Oreos.

Joseph is going to have a solo in the upcoming school concert. He's going to be doing the rap portion of "Everybody Dance Now". I plan to tape it and play it to myself every day for the rest of my life.

Our family took a three day trip to Duluth to see the sights and eat at some Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives places.  I cannot say enough good things about The Duluth Grill. It was so good we went twice in two days.  If you go for breakfast order the scotch eggs.  They look funky but they are AMAZING. I also can't say enough bad things about Grandma's. Bad service, loooooong wait times and crappy food.  If you go order whatever you want and then feel bad about it because you could be eating at The Duluth Grill.

If you ever go to Duluth try to take Joseph with you because he will want to visit the Maritime Museum and he will keep talking about it and calling it the "Merry Time Museum" and you will find it so cute that you will be forced to buy him whatever he wants at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

I'm going to be going on another eating road trip this weekend.  My dad and I are going to Kansas City where we will have BBQ and other assorted bad for you foods.  I haven't gained any weight so far this pregnancy but my plan is to shatter that record with smoked meat and other sauced foods.  Shut up.  It's good for the baby.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Peace out

I've been going to a dentist who is totally overhauling my mouth.  Before I got pregnant I would get gassed like crazy before I would let her work on me.  Now I squeeze a stress ball and try not to scream in terror.  It's been ... fun.

I've gone in for work several times now and every time my dentist has remarked on how groovy my teeth are.  It was only today when I was walking out that I realized (rather sadly) that she has been saying my teeth have a lot of grooves and not that my teeth are really radical and hip.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Catching up

What's new with me? A few things. Someone needs to invent a thing that takes the blog posts out of your head and types them out.  If I had that I would update my blog a dozen times a day.  Since there is no such thing you get this list of news items instead.

1. Baby A continues to be awesome.  I had another ultrasound and she is bouncing and behaving.  I will have another ultrasound in a few weeks to find out if she really is a she.

2. Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the day we adopted Joseph.  That's pretty cool.  When he headed downstairs to go to bed last night he said "Good night!  I love you! I'm glad you adopted me! I like being part of this family!"  He might have said that because we had pizza for dinner and gave him some money to buy music on his ipod.  I'll take it though because that's just darned cute.

3. Elle had a couple of scary days of bad stomach pain. I ended up spending two days in the ER with her as doctors tried to figure out what was wrong. At one point she had to have a procedure done that was really uncomfortable and the whole time it was going on I was holding her hand and the nurse was telling her "It's almost done! After this you'll be all done!" and then we had to re-do the procedure and Elle looked at me with big, sad eyes and said "But you told me there wouldn't be any more uncomfortable things!" and then my heart fell on the floor and broke into a million pieces.

I think future teenage Elle will appreciate me not sharing all the details of her ER visit so I will keep some of it private.  The long and the short of it is that sometimes shit happens.  And when it doesn't happen you might need to stay in the ER for a while. And sometimes there are bladder infections.  (Sorry future Elle.)

4. My first surrogate baby turned 4 the other day. Nothing really else to add to that.

5. I got a Vitamix blender.  It's the best thing in my house.  I even like it better than my family.  My family can't make fancy coffee drinks and the blender doesn't leave it's shoes randomly scattered all over the floor. I'm not being paid to say this or getting anything in return for mentioning it.  I just want you to know that you need one of these blenders.  They're a little expensive (unless perhaps you have a very generous intended mother who buys it for you) but it's worth every penny and then some. Fair warning though, if you get one you're going to want to spend all day making smoothies.

Friday, February 03, 2012

What the hell is happening on PBS Kids?

I've been thinking a lot about what will happen when this baby is born.  Now that there's just one now I figure I have a pretty good shot at a VBAC.  That makes me pretty darn happy.  Since this will probably be my last birth* I want to try and make it as good as I can.

I'm thinking I want the kind of birth I had with Little A.  (Not to be confused with Baby A.  Or A, one of my IFs from last time or A, my IM from this time.  I wish people had considered using other letters of the alphabet when naming all these people.)  The parents were there, Jesse was there, my doula/best friend was there.  I felt so happy and supported and when I did the whole thing without an epidural I felt like Super Woman.  I would like all that again. And maybe with one more little addition.

I think I would like Elle to be at the birth too.  Joseph is out of the question.  He could never handle seeing me in pain and he hates the sound of babies crying.  But Elle is different.  She loves the surrogacy process.  She goes to ultrasounds and lab appointments with me.  She watches when I gets shots and puts a band aid on me after each of them. She likes to lay her head on my tummy and talk to the baby.  I think she would really like to see the whole thing all the way through.

I asked her today if she thought she would like to be there when the baby is born.  The answer was a very enthusiastic "YES!"  Of course I explained that nothing was for sure and we would have to see how things went but that if she was interested we could talk about it more.  Then I told her that she would need to know that sometimes when the baby comes out it hurts the woman but that the woman is ok and will feel better after the baby comes out.  Elle rolled her eyes and said "I know that! I saw a show on PBS Kids and there was a woman having a baby and she said it really hurt."

So apparently she's all ready to be there at the birth.  PBS Kids has taught her well.  Or something.

*Probably.  Maybe.  Perhaps.  I don't know.  I really do love doing what I do.  This pregnancy has not been easy or smooth but damn, I love having babies.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The 1%

All last week I felt like I was on a death watch.  Just waiting for my next ultrasound so I could see that the last baby had stopped growing, waiting for the next step, waiting for it to be over.

I was 99% certain that Baby A was not going to make it.  I prepared myself emotionally for the worst.  I felt a black cloud hanging over me.  I felt like when people looked at me they knew what was going on and I wanted to defend myself.  "It's not my fault!  I did everything I could!  I followed all the rules!  I didn't want this to happen!"

When I went to the ultrasound on Wednesday I was ready to hear the bad news that I was 99% certain I was going to hear.  I tried to shut out that little voice that said "But maybe?  What if? Could there still be hope?"

The ultrasound started and right away I thought I saw a little flicker of movement.  Then nothing.  I must have imagined it.  The technician worked for a while without saying anything.  I watched the screen closely.  There it was again!  Movement!  And suddenly a lot of movement!  The technician laughed and said "That one is letting us know its still ok."

And oh, she's so ok.  She moved and wiggled and bounced around for the rest of the ultrasound.  Her heartbeat is good and her gestational sac, while a little on the small side, is still in the normal range.  She's a little fighter and I feel like she's going to beat the odds.  She blew away that 99% of uncertainty and sadness.  Every time she wiggled I felt a little happier and a little lighter.

You guys?  I think she's gonna make it.  I think in 30 weeks or so my IPs are going to have the baby they've been wanting for the last 15 years.  Eeeeeeeeee!

Friday, January 20, 2012


Sadness hurts.  It physically hurts.  It settles into you bones and weighs you down.  It stiffens your muscles and makes your joints ache.  I am hurting right now.

We are facing the fact that this pregnancy is not going to last much longer.  Baby A is not going to make it.  People are being very kind and saying there's still hope and that miracles happen but I know that's not going to be the case here.  There are issues with these embryos that make it almost unbelievable that all three implanted.  The fact that I've made it to almost 10 weeks pregnant with one of them is statistically nearly impossible.

Obviously that doesn't make things any easier.  I'm angry with the doctor who made the choice to transfer these embryos.  I can't go into a lot of detail out of respect for the privacy of my intended parents but I will say that I feel like we were all led into a bad situation by a doctor who was either careless or incompetent or ... something I don't have a word for.

So now we wait.  I'm still pregnant and as far as I know Baby A still has a heartbeat but we'll have more ultrasounds to see when that changes.  I'm not going to lie.  This sucks.  This a million times harder than a failed transfer.  I can't even imagine how my Intended Parents must be feeling right now.  My heart breaks for them.  I wish I could do something to ease their pain.  I'm very emotionally invested in the pregnancy but they are having to deal with the loss one, two and then all three of their babies. 

I will be ok. Yesterday was hard.  Today will be hard.  This next week will be hard but I have the support of an amazing network of family and friends and fellow surrogate sisters.  If you're the praying kind or the good vibe kind or the well wishing kind please direct all of that to my IPs who I know are going to need to heal from this. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Nobody said it would be easy but no one that it would be so hard

If there is one thing I have learned as I have gone through three surrogacy journeys it's that nothing is simple.  You never move forward in a straight line.  It's one step forward and two steps back.

This pregnancy started out with a one in a million shot of triplets.  That was scary but there was relief at the next ultrasound when we found out only two babies still had heartbeats.

Today I had another ultrasound and we discovered that only one of the babies still has has a heartbeat.  The other one looks like it stopped growing a week ago.  Pretty much right after my last ultrasound.

The good news: I saw the heartbeat and saw the little baby wiggling around.  It's measuring right at nine and a half weeks like it should.  The bad news: The gestational sac is only measuring about seven weeks.  Of course it's too early to tell what's going to happen and if there's something wrong.  If there is nothing can be done so we just have to sit back and watch and wait.

I don't have a good feeling about this.  I'm scared that this last little one will not hang in there.  My heart is broken for my IPs.  I never wanted to carry a litter of babies, one is enough.  If I can just hang on to this one little baby I can be happy. 

So for now I wait and I rest and think good thoughts and I look forward to/fear what the next ultrasound brings.  Please think good thoughts too.  Not for me but for my IPs who have so many hopes pinned on this last little heartbeat.

Friday, January 06, 2012

And then there were two

One of the benefits of my best friend working at the clinic where I get my prenatal care is that she gets to do some of my prenatal care.  Another benefit is that if if I text her to tell her that I'm about to get an ultrasound she might text back to tell me her patient for that time slot didn't show up and do I want some company?  And I can tell her that I do and then she can come to my ultrasound with me.

So that's how we came to find ourselves (plus Elle) in a little dark room staring at an ultrasound screen together and waiting for the tech to tell me what we were looking at.

Baby A looked great.  Measuring right on track with a good heartbeat.  Baby C looked great too.  Everything was it was supposed to be.

I knew as soon as he skipped measuring baby B that there was something going on.  I looked closer and I couldn't see a heartbeat but I thought maybe it was just the angle and that perhaps I wasn't seeing it.  As the tech finished up with Baby C my friend whispered "Jen, there's no heartbeat there."  The tech nodded.

I don't remember exactly what my reaction was but I burst into tears and started shaking.  I'm going to be honest here and say something that might surprise you.  I was crying from relief.  I wasn't sad or upset, just relieved.

There are a lot of risks associated with carrying triplets and my IPs were facing some hard decisions.  We were facing a long, scary pregnancy and it was not something that I was completely overjoyed with.

Now I feel like everything has fallen into place.  I can DO twins.  I know I can carry twins for a long time and deliver them as big, healthy babies.  When I saw that ultrasound I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.  I slept better last night than I have since the first ultrasound.

That's why I was so glad to have my best friend there. Not everyone will understand why I was ok with seeing that empty dark spot on the ultrasound but she gets it.  I think most other people will understand too sooner or later but not everyone could stood there in that dark room, hugged a pantsless, lubed up me and said "I love you. I'm so glad it worked out this way."

Now I get to focus on growing a perfect set of twins for some very excited parents.  As I said on facebook, this is probably the last time time I'm going to be pregnant (unless a certain set of dads ask me to have more babies for them (hint, HINT)) and I want to enjoy every moment of it.  And right now I'm going to enjoy eating homemade mac and cheese for three.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Three times the fun!

So I'm pregnant with triplets.  That's still a thing that is happening in my life.  Things have gotten interesting since I found out how many babies I've got on board.

The nearly universal reaction to this news has been "Holy shit!".  I myself go back and forth between "What's the big deal?  It's not like I'm the octomom." and "Holy shit!".  My mood swings, let me show you them.

The other reaction I get a lot is "Since you carried one the first time and two the second and three this time are you going to do four next time?"  If you know me in real life and have not yet said this to me, I beg you, please don't say it.  It kind of pisses me off. It's really not funny.  If I have to explain why then that's just going to annoy me more.

That said, it's not all Serious Business.  There's also a lot of sleeping involved.  I sleep ALL THE TIME.  Most days I get the kids off to school and then go back to bed.  I get up around lunch time when I try to eat and get a little done around the house.  After I pick up the kids I spend a little time with them until around 5 when I crash again.  Even when I'm awake I'm still tired as heck and if I miss a nap, watch out!

Then there's the food.  By some miracle of miracles I have not really had bad morning sickness.  I have yet to throw up and a lot of the time I have a pretty good appetite.  Cooking smells sometimes bother me but mostly I'm ok.  I eat a lot.  A lot.  I mean, a whole lot.  I can finish off a regular sized dinner and then have a bagel and then a handful of nuts and then a cheese stick and then a spinach salad and then a Christmas cookie and then a spoonful of peanut butter and then a spoonful of nutella and then a handful or pretzels and then maybe a piece of steak.  I don't believe in having shame or guilt about what you eat but even I am kind of embarrassed by how much I eat some days.

In (what I'm certain is unrelated news) my pants are already getting tight.  I've made a goal of not switching to maternity pants until 9 weeks (no, I don't know why so shut up) so now I just wear my "fat jeans" or yoga pants.  My breasts have also grown like the mighty oak.  Only they're not tall.  Just big.  So not so much like the mighty oak I guess.

So I'm getting by.  Life is good.  Christmas was good and I managed to stay awake for most of it.  My children continue to be the most delightful people on the planet.  Joseph had some friends over for a sleepover (his first ever!) and they were adorable and fun and the loudest of all the possible things.  Today Elle was looking at me through a cardboard tube and she said "Mama, your head is really small.  Go look in the mirror to see how small your head is.  You won't even believe it."

See?  Life is good.