Archive for January, 2007

One more hug

January 25, 2007

Yesterday, on my lunch break, I went to FedKids to visit Charlie. Lunchtime play is our usual routine, but we haven’t actually done our usual routine since he went to the hospital more than two weeks ago. So yesterday he fought sleep at his usual 11 o’clock naptime, and when I walked in at 1:30 he had just drifted off. My baby tends to sleep for only 30-45 minutes at a time. So I went out for a muffin and came back to rest my eyes until he woke up. He wiggled. He whimpered a bit. He rolled over. He didn’t wake up. An hour passed and he was still asleep. I had to put on my shoes and return to the office. I cried a little as I left.

For the past two weeks, we’ve spent a lot of time together. First at the hospital, then rediscovering the city in winter. To not be able to relax in the playroom with him at lunch was hard. I missed him like crazy–the scent of his hair, his funny smile, his chubby arms wrapped around my neck. Everyone always says, when they see my cute boy, ‘Enjoy it while it lasts’ or ‘They grow up so quick.’ I know. No one has to tell me. He grows and changes every day. And I want as many hugs as I can get before he decides hugging his mama isn’t cool any more. So, I left work a little early to get some extra hugs in before bedtime.

When I picked him up, however, he was mad at me. It might be self-centered of me, or maybe I’m projecting, but it sure seemed like he had missed me too. He didn’t understand that he’d been asleep when I stopped by. All he knew was that he hadn’t seen me all day. His frosty glare clearly said, “And where the heck have you been, lady?” He turned his head away, and I had to talk with him for five minutes before he reluctantly forgave me and reached his arms out to go home.

Today, at lunchtime, we have a date for hugs and stacking blocks. In that order.

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Shopping day

January 25, 2007

grocery shopping

(Photo added 2/4/07)

Photo catastrophe! We’ve run out of disk space on our computer, which means that I can’t get to the pictures I’ve taken. Until we can do the damage control that Jesse assures me is possible, you’ll have to content yourselves with your imagination.

I have a cute photo of shopping-day Charlie that I will add to this post as soon as I can get it. On Monday, after a long (and thorough) trip to the pulmonologist, CW and I went shopping at Whole Foods. This is something we regularly do on my days off, though he’s usually asleep for most of it. This time, though, we had quite the adventure. First, we were bundled up in our winter gear. (We’ll definitetly have to get a picture of Charlie in his snuggly cocoon; Jesse calls him a ‘little asterisk’.) After a diaper change and a de-robing, CW ate lunch in the Whole Foods cafe. Of course, by the time he was done, I was starving, so we went through the hot bar line and then I ate in the cafe. When we finally got around to shopping we’d already been there an hour! To liven things up, I put CW in the front seat of the grocery cart. This was his first time mano-a-mano with the veggies. He loved it! He coo’d and aah’d and tried to touch everything. He played with the bag of pita chips for a long while, and we made it all the way to the dairy aisle (our last stop) before he lifted his arms and begged to be put back in the carrier.

Ha Ha Ha

January 19, 2007

Last night my mom, who is still visiting from GA, told us a funny story. (I believe the exact tale was: “I put Charlie in the playpen today, but when I spoke to Pawpaw on the phone I told him I put Charlie in the diaper bag.”) We laughed and laughed, all of us sitting around the living room. Charlie, who was across the floor from his Daddy, looked at each of our faces and then laughed too. A “ha ha ha” that was more social than any laugh he’s laughed so far. He was guffawing and smiling, getting louder as we got louder, but his eyes were saying: “I’m not sure I get the joke, but y’all are really funny.”

Belly button of bravery

January 18, 2007

Today, when Charlie was on the changing table, half-naked, I kissed him on his plump tummy. There, beneath my lips, was his belly button. Suddenly, I remembered that this laughing, wriggling, kicking person had once been inside of me, fully attached, taking in my blood, breathing in my air. But now, every day, he’s a little more his own person and a little less a part of me. Which makes me proud, happy for him and, of course, a bit sad.

While still in the womb, near the end of my pregnancy, Charlie was breech. I worried that he wouldn’t turn around in time for the delivery (which he didn’t) or that he’d turn and get tangled up in the cord. Fear, for him and for me, kept me awake at night and made my waking daytime hours tense. And yet for him, I braved an ECV (to turn him into the correct position) and a vaginal non-medicated birth (talk about fear…). For him, I–a normally shy person–have done what once would have been unthinkable. I’ve confronted strangers, asked intimidating questions and made phone calls to medical workers in the middle of the night. I realized last week, when I interrogated doctors and manhandled nurses, exactly what I was willing to do for him.

His belly button is no longer attached to mine. He can breathe and eat without me. But I’m still his courage and his love, his justice and his knowledge. He can’t be brave on his own, not yet. Until then, I’ll do it for him.

The jailbird flies free

January 15, 2007

In the hospital crib

Click on the jailbird to see more photos of our hospital stay.

Charlie is home now, playing and laughing. He still has a rattle in his chest, every so often, and we’re still on a daily regiment of breathing treatments. Tomorrow we follow up with our doctor to make sure recovery is on track.

For now, we’re all just extraordinarily happy to be out of the hospital, which, to my surprise, was a little bit like being in jail. Rules for when to open your bed, when to close it, when to have visitors, when to eat–and torturous interference from the authorities that interrupts sleep.

While I happen to know a lot about hospitals and medical care (I studied medical anthropology, worked for a medical magazine and my sister is a nurse with a lot of stories) I’ve never taken care of someone in the hospital before. It’s a lot of work, much more work than regular baby care. When Jesse and I traded off, before my mom and sister arrived to spell us, we spent many hours in the room alone with Charlie while the other one got some sleep. Due to a lack of space (the only places for CW were in our laps or in the crib) and the fact that his insistence on pulling up meant he bopped his nose and hit his head on the metal bars when we weren’t looking, we had to keep one eye and one hand on him all the time. This put a crimp in bathroom and food breaks, to say the least. Then there were the numerous treatments and medicines that lasted several hours over the course of the day. The nurses, contrary to what I had previously believed, do not actually give the baby his medicine. Instead, they set it up and leave the parent to finish it, even if that meant wrestling him upright with one hand, entertaining him with another and also giving the treatment. Three hands were not always available. (Jesse even had to change the bedsheets by himself when Charlie peed everywhere. The nurse brought sheets while Jesse was finishing the diaper change and then she left. He had to hold Charlie with one hand and strip and make the bed with the other.)

While we had a few good nurses, who were gentle and efficient, they were not the majority. Most of them treated us, and the other parents in the ward, as if we were a barrier to their care for our children. I guess that was true, considering their idea of ‘health care.’ I can’t tell you how many times the nurses, especially the techinicians, came into the room in the middle of the night, flipping on lights, speaking loudly and then proceeding with tests. I got in the habit of waking at the slightest noise so I could keep them from poking Charlie unecessarily. My vigilance didn’t help much when they came for the girl on the other side of the room. Her mom slept more heavily and they consistently woke up the two-year-old who then cried for 20 minutes trying to get back to sleep. The first night of CW’s stay, before we’d learned how to intervene, they gave him a bloody nose while suctioning him.

And then there was the advice. The constant barrage of criticism grated on my nerves from the very first day. Jesse’s favorite: One of the nurses told him he needed to burp the baby after his bottle. Did she not see that the chubby kid was obviously fond of eating? Did she think we had lived with tummy aches for nine months? My favorite: I asked for a sheet and blanket for my cot. After waiting several hours I was tired and grumpy and thinking only that I wanted to sleep as much as I could before Charlie woke up. The nurse brought my linens and said, “You shouldn’t sleep with the baby in the cot. When he falls asleep, you should put him back in the crib.” (Which is where he was when she gave me this little lecture.) My response, in a very annoyed, near-to-violence voice: “What are you talking about? What does that have to do with my sheets?” My sister’s favorite: She went to the nurse’s station to ask for a new crib sheet. The nurse got up, walked a few steps into the hall and pointed to a blue bin down the way. “They’re right there,” she said. “You can get them.”

I daydreamed during our whole stay about a hospital designed for patients’ comfort and healing. Where nurses would use assessment skills in addition to equipment to determine the course of treatment. (Sometimes they took a reading four times before getting the ‘right’ one. How did they know it was right? They never compared the data to his actual pulse rate or any other manually collected data.) And where nurses would not enter the room after lights out speaking in loud voices and acting as if it were the middle of the day. Where they would quickly, daily and without asking, provide diapers, formula, linens and gowns; no guarding them at the nurses’ station as if I was planning a major theft. (The first day there, the nurse said she couldn’t give us more than 8 ounces of formula at a time because they needed to know how much he ate. This meant I had to go to the nurses’ station in the middle of the night to ask for food if I needed it. But as our stay progressed and we supplemented their formula with our own, I realized no one asked us when he ate or how much. They just wanted to keep me from having any extra, you know, to sell on the baby food black market.) Where rooms in the pediatric ward had a wipeable mat for floor play, a sink and trash can near the crib for easy diaper changes, and a comfortable reclining chair for quick parent naps.

And, to add (potential) injury to insult, the staff delayed a treatment that, in my and my sister’s opinion, could have shortened our stay considerably. They did not bring in the respiratory therapist or tell us to begin cupping until our fifth day. The next day he was proclaimed well. If they’d done this therapy from the first, we may have seen quicker healing. Also, when we received our discharge papers, which included instructions for the times, doses and durations of four different medications, they wrote them in medical shorthand. (Using Qs, POs, OPs and other abbreviations I didn’t understand.) If I hadn’t had my sister decipher the script, I would have been completely clueless. They couldn’t have written at least this one, very important document in plain English?

I’ve never been fond of doctors or hospitals–too authoritarian and pain-inducing. (All of my writing and research has been from the patient point of view.) But now I’m even less a fan. The U.S. medical system is a sham. It’s too expensive because of inefficiencies like double testing (info wasn’t/couldn’t be shared between the ER and the pediatrician even though they were in the same health system), multiple testing due to poor equipment, and longer hospital stays due to nonrestful conditions. Health insurance for everyone is obviously only half a solution. Because what that insurance pays for is a freakin’ mess.

On the road to recovery…I hope

January 12, 2007

After five nights and six days in the hospital, Charlie may get to come home today. Psychologically, he’s more than ready. As he started to breathe easier and become more interested in playing, the semi-private hospital room with one large crib and two chairs (no space to crawl, pull up or roll around) became more and more frustrating for him, especially since he’s used to going at full speed and getting outside everyday. (Yesterday, I took him to the window at the end of the hall. When he saw the sky and cars and buildings, he jumped and fidgeted and pressed his head to the glass. I think he was trying to tell me something.) Thankfully there was a playroom on the pediatrics floor–though it was only open four hours a day and much of that time he was either napping, having treatments, or eating.

I’m going to hold off on my stories, of which there are plenty, until Charlie is finally home. (The most frustrating: the American health care system as exemplified by intrusive nurses; the oddest: my husband and I receiving an Armenian translator from the hospital administration–two days after we were admitted; it’s a good thing we’re not really Armenian.) The one thing I will say now is that the outpouring of love and well wishes we’ve received from friends and family has meant so much. Friends from all over the country have called and emailed; Charlie’s wonderful daycare teachers called several times to check on his progress (I love that they care about him so much); and my mom and sister took time off to fly all the way from GA to help us do laundry, get some sleep and take shifts at the hospital. Thank you, everyone. Your thoughtfulness means more than you can know.

Keep your fingers crossed that the news we hear today is good. I’m ready for my baby to come home.

Pneumonia

January 8, 2007

On Saturday, when I was so sick all I wanted to do was moan loudly and pull the covers over my head, I thought I would write a post about how awful it is to be sick when your baby is also sick. (I came down with a virulent cold/sinus infection on Thursday night; Charlie came home from daycare with a cough on Friday afternoon that turned into a fever on Saturday.) But yesterday, awful took on new meaning. We walked CW to the nearest ER because he was having difficulty breathing (rapid breaths using his stomach and chest muscles). The X-ray confirmed that he has pneumonia. They transferred him to the pediatrics unit at St. Luke’s, uptown. He’s got an IV. He’s crib looks like a metal cage. Only one parent could room in and since I am still recovering I was the one who went home to try and rest for the marathon that will most likely be this next week. (My husband deserves a LOT of credit for taking care of two whining sickos on Saturday and taking the first overnight shift at the hospital. He’s wonderful.)

Walking to the bus stop last night in the rain to an empty apartment; sleeping in our bed alone with only my husband’s hoodie and my baby’s blanket to comfort me; worrying and not knowing how thing’s are going, anxious to get out of the house in the morning to see them–these are much, much worse than having a cold while my baby is sick.

Maternal attachment

January 4, 2007


Baby and Me

 For more carrier pix click on the photo.

Thinking of CW’s girth gave me a pang in my chest. See, I’m (mostly) an attachment parenting mom. I came to be one by accident, or maybe by Fate. My husband works at one of the glossy parenting magazines and he was very much into the AP ‘style’ of parenting. (Only someone preparing for their first child could think parenting had a coherent style. First goal: having a coherent day.) I had never heard of Dr. Sears, or his books about breastfeeding on demand and carrying baby in a pouch. In my mind, kids belonged in strollers. Otherwise, how would you lug bags of groceries or haul around all the gear they supposedly needed? Two things changed my mind:

#1, I live in a fifth-floor walk-up. You try hauling a baby, a stroller and a diaper bag down (and back up) four flights of stairs. And don’t even think about the subway.

#2, A dear friend had loaned us a ton of cool baby items, one of which was a New Native Baby Carrier, a navy blue sling that kept CW from crying ferociously about the fact that he’d been turned out of the womb.

Carrying CW around the city in my blue sling (which people routinely mistook for a pet carrier…I know, only in NYC) allowed me the freedom of movement no stroller could provide. I had one small bag with bottles, diapers and clothes, and my baby on my chest. I was a moving mama, and CW slept like an angel.

When he got bigger the sling hurt my neck, my shoulders, my back–and then I found the Patapum. I had seen a dad at my daycare wearing it, so I looked it up on the Web. Surprisingly, only one ‘store’ in the entire tri-state area sold the things, Slingzilla, which turned out to be a lady’s living room in Queens. Bianca was totally cool, letting me try on other carriers, teaching me how to adjust them, showing me her little-used Bugaboo stashed in the corner, inviting me to her slings in the city group. (A great bunch of women who are now hosting a Babywearing Bonanza complete with fashion show and chances to try on every sling, carrier, and Asian wrap known to woman and child.)

CW and I both love the Patapum. It’s a front carrier that places his hefty weight on my hips and shoulders evenly, and doesn’t hoist him from his privates like the Bjorn. He can sleep on my shoulder, look up at me and blow bubbles, play vowel games or lean way back to look at ceiling fans, lights and trees. I’ve come to enjoy my times with him attached to my body, snuggled close for a perpetual hug. We explore the city together, face to face. I can see when he’s enjoying it, when he’s bored, when he’s cranky, when he’s sleepy…I have come to know my baby through wearing him. I hope he stays under 30 lbs for a long, long time. (And when he goes over, there’s always the hip carry…)

And the doctor said, ‘Charlie is growing, he’s very well fed’

January 4, 2007

Last night we went to the pediatrician for CW’s 9-month well visit plus flu shot booster. He was in high spirits for the first half, tearing all the white crinkly paper he could grab, goo’ing and gah’ing when we let him roll around on the table in his under-britches. But the second half…dear Lord. They had to draw blood using a tourniquet, then do a TB test and the second flu shot. The poor baby had stick marks and band-aids all over him. (And, being someone who hates needles and has to get stuck quite frequently for thyroid tests, I could totally empathize.) CW let us know, loudly and to the point, that he did not like the rubber band on his arm nor the way his father and the nurse held him down for the indignities of needle pricks. Then, when it was over, he continued to express his anger until he became completely distracted by the little white tabs that came off the band-aids. In his fascination, he forgave us.

The highlight of the visit, however, was the weigh-in. I don’t know if it is this way for all mothers, but I love the scales. CW was a tiny puppy at birth, weighing 6 lbs and 2 oz. Then, during our attempts at breastfeeding, he dropped to 5 lbs and 11 oz. Ever since, I have been overly eager to find out how much he weighs. This time, though I was worried he would top it out at 30 lbs, he put it in a respectable 24 lbs and 11oz at 30 inches. A big, bouncing baby boy, growing as he should, according to Dr. S.

A Boyd and DeWitt family Christmas

January 1, 2007

Charlie in the hat

For more photos of our Georgia holiday celebrations click the picture.