Sunday, April 22, 2012

She's back and she's a little rusty, folks

Last week after cleaning up another wonderful puddle of pee courtesy of our dog, I reached for a new roll of paper towels and discovered the unthinkable. We had one roll left.  How was this possible? I realized I took a one month hiatus from coupons post baby, but could this be happening? Was this real life? Was my stock pile dried up? I took immediate inventory of the toilet paper and same situation. The supply was dwindling. The soap was down to one bar. The razors were getting dull. Time to button up on my time saving strategies and buckle down on dollar savings.

Yes, what they say is true having kids does change everything. You suddenly have a new amazing purpose in life and no time to flip through Smart Source on a lazy Sunday morning. My friend filled me in on a website called Krazy Coupon lady. Where have you been, friend? This resource outlines all savings opportunities and tells you where to find the coupons. It is awesome and a great place to start:

While Jack happily napped in his swing, I caught a few minutes to glance at the CVS ad and started circling items we needed. I ended up with all of this for $27:
Was I disappointed? Of course I was, but the paper towels alone run $15.49 and the double stuffed oreos (impulse buy) are just as good as I remembered. It's like putting your tennis shoes back on after a year-long break from working out. We'll get back to the $4 goal. 

Until then, check out Krazy Coupon Lady.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Jack's birth story...unedited

      Your chest moves quickly like a runner who has just wrapped up a sprint. I mentally tell you to slow down. Breathe deeply. Take your time. This life is long. You aren’t even a day old. You are in a box and I can’t touch you. My maternal instinct says to take you and run, but I recall a story about a man who wanted to take his newborn daughter for a walk outside and left the maternity ward. It didn’t end well for him. It wouldn’t end well for us. I know you need to be here and you are getting the best care, but I want to hold you next to my skin. My body needs you as much as you need me. Your dad needs you too. He has been strong for us, but I see concern in his big brown eyes.
            They told us we would have you by tomorrow morning, but the nurse says we would be lucky to take you home by Tuesday. I ignore her diagnosis and stare at you through the glass box. I know you can sense me next to you. I suddenly convince myself that this magic box is preparing you for a life as an athlete. You will be able to run farther and faster than all the other kids because you got this head start in life. You can be whatever you want in life, but this is my way to cope with the current situation that has presented itself to us. I can’t help but reflect on the moment I first held you in my arms…
            Your labor was perfect from the moment we met your delivery nurse, Rochelle. She had a calm but confident energy about her. We were an instant team and I didn’t want anyone else to be a part of that team. It was the three of us: Kyle, me and Rochelle. We were going to get through this. Just hours before my water broke in the parking lot of an Italian restaurant and it had been a whirlwind from that moment on. I stayed calm and relaxed until the real contractions began.
            I turned to my nurse. “I want the epidural,” I said.  
Minutes later the anesthesiologist joined us. He was good at his craft. He gave me enough to get me through the pain, but still experience the contractions. The minute the drug set in, I entered a state of complete relaxation.
I went from 4 centimeters to 9.5 centimeters within two hours and I was suddenly surrounded by a room full of nurses. I glanced at Rochelle. There was a hint of fear in her eyes. I locked eyes with Kyle. He was cool and calm and I grasped onto his energy. This was coming sooner than Rochelle imagined and the doctor was in surgery. Rochelle was ready for test pushing and then she got a radio red flag from the doctor. It wasn’t time to push. Perhaps this was the warm up preparing me for the race. It was coming soon.
My mom joined us in the room and we waited for another hour for the doctor to arrive and we began some test pushes. The baby was descending into the birth canal and retracting after my pushes. The doctor immediately brought up the idea of a C Section which I shot down instantly. I had come too far to be wheeled into surgery. It was our personal preference and we hadn’t even given labor a fair shot. After a few more pushes, the Doctor instructed Rochelle to continue working with me for 45 minutes and she would be back to check in. I was determined to turn our prognosis around in 45 minutes.
Suddenly, like the true teammate she had become, Rochelle began talking about the Olympics. She knew I was getting frustrated and had to get my mind moving in a different direction. She had no idea I worked for the NBC affiliate and had devoted my last year to studying the Olympics. She brought up the Olympic athlete Ussain Bolt and something clicked inside of me. This experience in front of me was a competition and I was going to do what it took to win. My calm state became a state of relaxed athleticism. The race was near and I had always crossed the finish line.            
I looked Rochelle in the eye and said “we’re going to do this.”
“Ok,” she said.
When the doctor came back to check in on us, we hadn’t made much progress. The pushing was wearing on me and she could sense my exhaustion.            
“Erin ran a marathon,” Rochelle told the doctor.
“Oh really, my husband is a marathon runner,” she said.
I compared our current experience together to a marathon and I knew she understood where I was headed. We were going to deliver this baby together without the stainless steel surgery knife. I wasn’t willing to back down. I could tell she was on my team. We continued to push with no success and eventually the doctor decided a technique to turn the baby so he or she was face down in the canal. Suddenly everything changed. We made progress within moments and the vibe in the room went from calm to chaos. They needed to prepare for the final stages of active labor. This baby was coming. Within moments I got my first glimpse of you. You were really coming. This was happening.
It seemed like seconds before you arrived. A feeling of complete euphoria overcame me when they put you on my chest and Kyle turned to me and said “It’s Jack.” Those few precious seconds quickly became some of the best seconds in my life.
“It’s a boy? It’s a boy?” I asked repeatedly.
“It’s a boy,” he told me.
They put you on my chest and you let out the most beautiful cry I had ever witnessed. I pulled you onto my bare skin and through your cries I knew you felt me and understood who I was. Nothing in life will ever replace that first moment with you. You were our son and we would protect you for life. We were all talking about how perfect and big you were and then I noticed a look of panic in one of the nurse’s eyes. Something wasn’t right. You began grunting like a warrior preparing for battle. She came to me and said she needed to examine you. I nodded. You were alive after all. What could go wrong?
I watched as she checked you out in the corner of the room. I couldn’t take my eyes off of you or her. I held my mom’s hand and she came back to bedside to deliver the news.
“Did you notice how he was grunting?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied quickly.
“We are going to wheel him to the NICU just to be safe.” She said.
They are trained in delivering this news. They are good at calming to patient, at making you think nothing is wrong. In that moment I am thankful for this talent. I focus on a few things: you are alive. You are breathing. She let me hold you once more and I give you the first of many pep talks to follow in your life.
“They are going to take you to make sure you are ok. They just need some time with you and I will be there soon. Stay strong,” I say.
The next few hours were mixed with confusion, excitement and concern. A nurse finally came into our room and asked if Kyle wanted to go upstairs to see him. My legs were still numb and I was in no condition to leave the room. I nodded at him to go see our son. He had more strength to handle the news. I needed time to recover. 20 minutes felt like two hours and I decided no numbness could stop me from being without our 2 hour old son.
I called Rochelle into our room and told her I was ready to stand.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“Have you known me to be any other way?” I replied.
She smiled and we stood together. She instructed me to walk in place. I knew I shouldn’t be walking in place. I knew I shouldn’t be walking at all, but my son was calling to me and my human instinct was answering. Minutes later Kyle was in the room with a wheel chair. I glanced at the chair. He told me to sit in it and we would go upstairs.
“I can walk,” I told him stubbornly. This was one of those moments I should have backed down and listened to my body and my loving husband. We agreed that I would use the wheel chair as a walker to go upstairs. I stayed in my hospital gown and we began the trek to the NICU. That short walk quickly turned into my most dehumanizing experience in the hospital. I was tired, I was pale, I was in a hospital gown and I was in public pushing a wheelchair. If I could redo any moment this would have been it. I would have covered myself with a dark blanket and found the secret elevator that led me to my son.  
The body is an incredible thing. The closer I got to Jack the calmer I became. As we walked into the NICU, Kyle instructed me on how to properly sanitize. I had to wash from my hands to my elbows for 2 minutes. I grew frustrated with this process although I knew it was best. His room was on the end of the NICU floor and I was grateful for that.
The minute I saw you, another level of calm fell over me. You were still breathing even if it was triple the amount of breaths a healthy baby takes. You were hooked up to machines and had a feeding tube down your nose, but you were breathing. You looked distressed and were covered in a rash, but my love for you grew with each imperfection I observed. You were a fighter from your first moment of life. You would accomplish great things because you had already accomplished great things in your first precious hours on earth.
“Hi baby boy,” I said holding back tears. “Mom is here.”
You turned toward me and began opening your mouth asking to be fed. The body is amazing thing. I needed you and you needed me.
I count your fingers and your toes. They were all there and you were breathing. You were breathing.
Over the next 24 hour we learned you had something called spontaneous pnuemothorax. The doctors described this as a separation in the lining of the lungs. They downplayed it and said there would be no long term affects, but the nurses seemed concerned when I told them the diagnosis. I needed someone to be honest with me. Finally a doctor came down the explained his diagnosis in street terms. After a quick search on google we learned it was a collapsed lung. Jack’s lung never expanded when he took his first breath.
I immediately began doubting myself. Did I pat his back too hard? Did I hold him at the wrong angle? Was this my fault? I brought myself back to reality and began mentally preparing for the next few days. The next days are a whirlwind. I have no time to give close friends and family updates. I have one thing on my mind: bringing our son home. I get discharged from the maternity ward and check into the room on the NICU floor. I make it very clear that if someone else needs the room I want them to have it. I will stay with Jack. I need to be close to him. After his 11:30 feeding I lay down and drift away into a deep dark sleep.      
I wake up for his 3:30 am feeding and groggily walk to his room. There is a sadness that falls over these hallways at night. The halls are filled with tired eyes. Some of the rooms are decorated indicating a prolonged stay. Babies are lit up from the Jaundice lights and there is something beautifully disturbing about these lights at night. I know that when I reach Jack I am through the most painful process. The walk from my room in the NICU to his room is sad an exhausting and I don’t want to make it again. I know that the small ounce of frustration I have felt is multiplied for the parents who have to visit their sweet babies on their lunch breaks, the parents who have had to return to their normal lives and empty nurseries.
When I wake, my nurse asks me how I am feeling. I tell her I am tired. She looks concerned and says she is going to help me get discharged.
“I’ve been watching him closely. He is ready to go home.”
I hug her. She is my angel. All of the nurses are. I go back to my room to take a hot shower and a nap. Kyle is with Jack and I need sleep. When I return to the room Kyle asks if I talked to anyone. I shake my head.
“We get to take him home,” he says.
I walk to the corner of the room and cry. That was the first moment I truly believed everything would be okay. We were taking you home…