Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Extranjera's guide to first steps of motherhood, or how not to kill your baby while still riding the insanity wave

I'm sure the biggest issue on every new parent's mind on the day their child is born is: "Now, how do I keep this little life from being extinguished?" This thought is bound to rise to the surface as they yank the baby out and amidst a lot of crying emanating from several different people in the room hand the little bundle to you, or, as happened in my case, yank the baby out, rush her away, briefly rush her back in swaddled, stick her right up to my face while I'm still 'attached' to the operating table and unable to move (I kid you not, I think they thought I was one of those patients who would bolt up in the middle of it all to check out exactly how much of the wildly growing bush also known as my pubic hair they'd had to shave off, or, you know, just to see what exactly was going on with all that blood and stuff), let me briefly to try to focus on a palish blur with what could have been eyes right by my left nostril that's not saying a thing (the baby, not the nostril), and then whisk her straight into the NICU.

Still. There was that thought: "She's out. Now what?"

Well. I was lucky. In my case the NICU kept my little one alive for the first four days of her life, which I thought was only fitting since my womb (really the zombie-placenta) hadn't really been up to par until then. They let me see her, but, to be completely honest, I didn't change a single diaper until they sent her home. I was gloriously responsible for such important things as having warm hands to cuddle her with twice a day and getting enough sleep to better take care of her once she came home.

And then, to our utter bewilderment, she came home. After four days in intensive and intermediate therapy in the NICU.

They just let us take her. In a carseat much too big and with me having to hold her tiny flopping head on the ride home. She came home with us.

None of the complex and scary doctors' predictions of her being unable to control her body temperature or lacking or only having a weak sucking reflex because of the Down Syndrome, of her not being able to breathe on her own because of being so tiny and premature, or of her having some or other health issue, came true.

She was heavier and longer anyone had expected. And also possibly louder.

She was and is mostly fine. Maybe a little floppy once in a formula-induced coma. A little constipated (hopefully because of the formula and not because of something wrong with her bowels, but we'll see). Fairly disinterested in mom's boobies and really enamored by the bottle with the quick-flow nipple (the polar opposite of both of mom's nipples, which seem to be supporters of the slow food movement). Checking out the world with dark, dark blue eyes, much like her mother's. With reddish, and thus utterly Viking-reminiscent hairs on her tiny head. Generally smelling good and sweet. With long fingers and feet two sizes too big for her scrawny frame, but with 5 of the appropriate appendages on each hand and foot. All covered in beautiful, clear skin.

And she's ours.

Which probably explains why we panic and let our own special kind of insanity rule. All the time. About everything.

:: So far I've told the on call pediatrician at 1am on a Sunday in very questionable Spanish that my daughter "won't eat, but that I myself have been pooping all day long" and that I'm afraid "she will run out of water." He was very gracious about my supposed bowel movements and only coughed the tiniest bit.

:: I have practically tackled a security guard at my building because she dared to cross that boundary, also known as 'Don't you frikken even breathe in my precious babe's direction', I had mentally created to keep her safe from general harm, dragons, and traffic. In my defense (Or not, what does this have to do with anything? Who the fuck knows? Mommybrain. Ya.) she had gold teeth.

:: I have scared the poor, innocent (And new. Yes, again.) maid so that she now considers two car lengths away a safe distance to gaze at the baby. And then she hesitantly waves from over there.

:: I have become the queen of antibacterial soap to such an extent that every time I put my hands in my pockets my knuckles bleed.

:: I have tweeted and Facebooked shamelessly about my difficulties in breast-feeding, particularly the area of my sad, sad production. It seems my boobies are no longer just mine, but more like an appliance. A broken one at that. And I think the blogosphere deserves to know too. So there. Boobies - broken.

:: I have slept around four hours in total since returning from the hospital. She won't stop breathing if I keep staring at her, right?

:: I have taken more than a thousand photos and videos already, and I'm completely and utterly unable to delete any of them. Not even the shortish video I accidentally made of my own knee while waiting to get access to the NICU.

:: I have fallen irrevocably in love. With my daughter and with my family. And now know for sure that this is truly what I will ever do with my life. I'll be an off-kilter, broken-boobied, Viking-outnumbered mom to the sweetest thimble-sized human being on earth (Yes. Because she's mine.), and wife to the bestest dad ever (Regardless of his sub-par diaper-changing abilities, which, time and again, lead to pee puddles all over the place). 

Wouldn't you have?

The babe and the boob.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Extranjera's guide to being pregnant: How not to end up mommyblogging much while making sure your baby's still alive and skirting mentions of tacos and a certain aging latino heartthrob

I know that at some point I might have portrayed this blog as the often incoherent meanderings of an expatriate mind living somewheres in southern Africa, and then again somewheres in the land of the Aztecs, whilst drinking too much, shopping for shoes, having odd exchanges with random folks, and reading the occasional book. In a green bathrobe. Like some unbathed wannabe superhero. I know I have.

But lately it's been all about the bump. (all five-ish posts, but anyhoo...)

Not a single thing about tacos. Or Luis Miguel. Or raw sewage. Or even the Aztecs themselves.

Just the bump.

And that's gotta be just fine.

I would imagine that even in the most mundane of pregnancies, a woman could easily become wholly consumed (figuratively, not in the way of the Alien and Sigourney Weaver, although that would be kind of exciting for the media) by the little life inside her. First by coming to terms with it being in there, south of the stomach, bowel- and bladder-adjacent, conveniently intrauterine. Then by nourishing it. By making room for it, figuratively as well as literally (especially if the woman has one of those rooms generally referred to as 'just put it on the guest room/ office/ junk yard/ Santa's hideout bed on top of the pile and close the door'). By seeing it grow. By feeling the first flutters of a separate entity (or a swift kick in the bladder, as is sometimes the case). By wondering about and making preparations for the new arrival, who is sure to change everything, profoundly, and for good.

And that's if everything goes smoothly.

As you all know, my specific journey to motherhood (T - from some hours to days) has not been well lined, or even lined at all. In fact, it's been a big ole jumble of deceptively sharp items, sticky stuff with strong odor, and some ancient and possibly parasite-ridden pocket fluff in a place where none should ever be found.

It's been a flaming bag of shit on the doorstep, with a side of mysterious vomit in the bedroom closet.

It's been a chain of bad news, only intermittently broken up by even worse news.

It's been off. With a lot of blood.

And now, I've been sent home with a baby, still on the inside of me, who is... get this...


The middle cerebral artery measurements are crashing. Soon the baby's brain will be too deprived of oxygen. And then they're going to cut me open and get her out. And hope like hell that regardless of being far too little to be out and about she will be able to breathe on her own, that she'll have a sucking reflex already stored in her brain, and that her fragile, little system won't deem the bright and loud world too much to handle.

I've been sent home to monitor her movements, because, apparently (In what universe, I ask you?), I know best when she needs to come out.

I've already said NOW and JUST GET HER OUT FOR ZEUSSAKES like a gazillion times, but it seems I haven't fully understood the balancing act of a successful gestation. When the benefits of days gained cancel out the nerves and panic. There not being a clear 'better safe than sorry' in obstetrics. Best possible outcome equalling a tightrope act without a safety net.

I've been sent home to keep my blood pressure low, my nerves in check, and for me to make sure she doesn't die. Which apparently, is a distinct possibility.

And we thought her having Down syndrome was the challenge. Fuck that.

So, I think, no mention of tacos, or even Luis Miguel, is somewhat justified.

I knitted this for her so she damn well better be alive to wear it. 
Isn't a substantial part of raising one's children threatening them in creative ways? I think so. I consider myself well on my way.