Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Flipping The Switch

I watched something stunning the other day, and I've been replaying it in my mind ever since. It's one of those quiet moments people don't tend to talk about, but that I think moms have been quietly marveling over for eons.

In the run-up to kindergarten, I was extremely concerned about Abby. When she went into her preschool two years ago, she was so painfully shy that it took months for her to become comfortable there. The class photo of her first year shows her standing to the side, unwilling to be part of the group shot, her leg poised to rocket her away from the scene as soon as the shutter clicks. By a year later, she was front and center, criss-cross applesauce, surrounded by true friends. The journey from photo one to photo two felt endless.

She had been resisting kindergarten with all her energy. She mourned the smallness of its playstructure; I worried that she wouldn't make it through the day with shoes on, a fear I later learned I shared with almost every parent from our co-op. The shoes! What about the shoes? Friends, I blush to admit that she was still nursing to sleep at the beginning of the summer, something I myself resisted mightily (and guiltily) but that she fiercely clung to, as she had clung to her diapers two years earlier. I went with the same irritated logic -- that nobody goes off to college doing _______ -- and was rewarded both times with eventual cooperation. This time, I fibbed, at first, that the milk was gone, and she looked up at me with big brown sad eyes and asked, "for real? can I check?" and found that I was "mistaken." A month or two later, I distracted her for a number of days in a row, and by the time she tried again, she declared, "It's gone, mama! You need to go drink some milk right now!" "No, honey, it doesn't work that way -- it's gone," and hugged her. No tears. No mourning. Just hugs.

Of course, now she has to figure out how to get to sleep on her own -- which is difficult, as it was for her mom. Is for her mom. Yeesh.

Anywho, all this is to say that a month ago, she didn't know a letter from a number -- in contrast to her sister, who picked up reading as easily as breathing -- and I was fretting my face off, worried that she would feel frustrated, embarrassed, envious. She mentioned often that "Penny can read but I can not," and played it off like it was NBD, but man, it bugged her.

She's been in school about a month, and this week she is Student of the Week, which means she has to fill out a poster that's basically a giant form with questions about her favorite food, her family, her interests. I noticed that she was already able to write letters as long as I told her which one was next. But when we got to the name of our dog, I said, "Remember you were looking at Penny's get-ready chart? Lulu's name is on it, and it's a pattern, remember?" She ran over to the wall where the chart was, and found Lulu's name easily, then ran back and forth looking at L ... U ... L ... U. Her hummingbird heart racing, her body crackling with energy and heat. She had it. She had this.

Flashback to last summer at our friend's pool. After weeks of lessons, Penny still couldn't put it all together, till she spent the afternoon watching Moses flit through the water. Just as everyone else went inside, in a flash she pushed away from me and swam across the pool under the water. Just like that. And then again, and again, and in a different way, and now trying this and that. It was the same, her body energized with her brain's discovery. Long after everyone else had gone inside for dinner, she and I stayed in the pool, shivering, until she had sated that need to feel her body doing that new thing, till it was muscle memory and she could leave it for the night, unable to wait till morning for the next chance to try it out.

So rarely have I felt that switch in my own mind, but how precious the memory. Watching it is such a privilege, and reminds me that my job isn't to pull them along, but to clear the way for them to do their things. So. Freaking. Cool.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day

I'm still totally disconnected from my miscarriage. That is, I know it hurts the way you know your gums hurt as you run your tongue over them when the novacaine is still working. I cried over it, but it was like watching someone else cry and thinking, "that must be a relief."

The problem was that my miscarriage was so unintentionally hilarious, as such events often are in my family. Since I was 41 years old, breastfeeding, and had needed various reproductive technologies to achieve the 11 month old toddler on my hands, I was completely blindsided by this pregnancy, and felt distracted as I went about my day-to-day, booking my first appointment with my O.B. via whispered phone conversations in my cubicle. It felt unreal. I told my sister, my husband, and two work friends -- that's it.

So when the bleeding started, I told myself you can spot when you're pregnant, but it didn't stop. I had a nightmarish day at a bowling alley, pretending everything was okay as I chased my daughter out of the lanes, but it wasn't stopping; we tried to figure out how and when I could go to the ER without alerting my stepkids to a possible disaster. We finally settled on a plausible enough story about a bladder infection.

At the hospital, well ... the usual happened. Nobody from my OB practice showed up, because they are pretty much assholes. I explained my story to several people, but the information was never relayed to anyone else. "I'm pregnant. I am still nursing a baby at home and she's going to be hungry at 11pm." These two pieces of information baffled everyone: Was I talking about my baby in the present tense because I was pregnant? A nurse gave me a pregnancy test and told me I was pregnant, and began talking to me about What Pregnancy Is. I said yes, I know that: I think I'm having a miscarriage. She said, you knew you were pregnant? Then why are you here? BECAUSE I AM BLEEDING. Oh.

It was hours between each medical person coming in, and in retrospect I didn't need to be in the ER -- I was having a miscarriage, not a heart attack. But I didn't know that at the time. I was bleeding and ... see? I'm still second-guessing that ER visit. My sister, heavily pregnant, came to sit with me against my better judgement, and I fretted that she would catch something from the tubercular-sounding woman on the other side of the curtain from me, who was getting lectured by a doctor because she kept coming into the ER instead of going into drug treatment. I texted with a friend back East who understood exactly what was happening. I sat and sat and sat.

Oh, and one other thing: When I arrived at the hospital, I went to have a pee, and something huge came out of me -- huge enough to make me yell "Oh, holy SHIT!" -- and landed in my maxi pad. I'll spare you a description. It was a large, weird clot and I thought this would be valuable information. I folded the maxi-pad gently and put it in my pocket. I tried to show that stupid maxi-pad mess to everyone who walked into the room -- the nurse who gave me the pregnancy test, the doctor who was called out of the room mid-sentence, the ultrasound technician who couldn't find the baby but didn't know what to tell me -- and everyone was like "yeah, I'll have a look at that."

Finally, at about 2am, the ER was calm enough for the totally baffled doctor to focus. He was busily telling me that this happens all the time, you can't find the heartbeat because the baby's too small but my blood test indicated pregnancy so I was probably fine and should see my OB in the morning ... "Just one more thing," I said, Columbo-style, and pulled out the awful bundle from my pocket.

"Oh," he said, crestfallen.

"Uh-oh," I said.

"That's ... that's your pregnancy."

"You're sure? I don't see a baby in there. I looked."

"I'm sure. The baby was probably not viable for a while and didn't grow beyond ... " His eyes flickered to mine for the first time. "You said you're 41? Was this -- did you undergo fertility treatments to get this pregnancy? Is this --"

I cut him off. "It's okay," I told him. "I have a baby at home. This was a surprise. I'm okay."

He visibly relaxed. I felt like I should hug him, but there was one problem.

"I'm gonna put my pants on now, okay?"

I mean, it was just ridiculous. All those hours and I could have turned right around the minute I got there. Not blaming the ER -- they had bigger fish to fry. It was the absurdity of it all: me standing there pantsless holding a bloody maxi-pad.

I thought I was fine. I cried exactly twice: once when my mom made a well-meaning ill-timed comment, and once when my daughter fell off the bed and I blamed myself for obsessing over the miscarriage when I had this actual baby to actually care for. Which is, you know: it's the thing we do to ourselves, deny ourselves mourning because we should be tougher.

But I went into a frozen state and logged off almost all social media for about 4 months, which is -- if you know me -- insane. So it's doubly odd that I was surprised to find out, 5 months later, that I was 11 weeks pregnant. Odd? It's ... absurd.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Penny to Randy, just now, out of the blue: You took Mommy to the hospital and she was crying because she didn't want me to come out.
Randy: what are you ... what?!
Me, overhearing from office: Did I tell you that story?
Penny: No, I really, really saw you when I was inside your tummy. You were crying.
Me: So why did you come out?
Penny: Because it was so, so hot in there.
Me: It was too hot? And then you had to stay in the hospital for such a long time after that!
Penny, forehead wrinkling in dismay: Why?
Me: Because you were so, so little and you had to finish growing! That's why I was crying, I was worried about you.

Doorbell rings, dog barks, conversation ends. WHAAAA!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"My Ear Is Broken!"

I sent this email out to the fam on March 4:

So we had some interesting news today! Everything is fine, nothing catastrophic. But it looks like Penelope is just about deaf in her right ear, and probably has been since birth. 

When she had her 4 year checkup, she flunked her hearing test. We waited a month and had her do it again at Abby's next checkup to make sure it wasn't a weird fluke, same results. So we went to the UCSF Audiology Clinic, and they did a 75-minute test on her today. She was, of course, poised and wonderful and a very brave little champ -- the doctor, Dr. Lau, actually said that most kids her age don't have the attention span for the test, but she did. 

They did three levels of testing: they looked in her ear and found no structural damage; they did a second test that somehow checked what was getting through without her having to do anything, and it confirmed that she wasn't hearing with her right ear; and she did a rather long, involved third test that required her to wear earbuds and answer commands into each ear, and also to do the same while wearing something that stimulated her inner ear by feeling rather than sound (?!?!) to see just how damaged the area was.

What the dr. told us was that the mechanics of her ear are fine -- her eardum is intact, there's no fluid. The damage seems to be nerve/cellular damage to the inner ear most likely due to prematurity, either because she was on the ventilator (only for a day or two!!) or just due to the extra stress of those weeks in the NICU. It is not reversible, it is not treatable, but nor is it degenerative. She has absolutely perfect hearing in her left ear (in fact, I noticed she has perfect pitch, not to brag but what can I say, it's true). 

The level of deafness is not "profound," but it is "severe." This clinic does not like to deal in percentages,, though of course I tried to pin them down to one, but what the dr. told me was that normal speaking is 50-60 decibels, and she can only hear in the right ear at 90 decibels. 

Well, but the good news is, she CAN hear in the right ear at 90 decibels, so a hearing aid will work for her, and will be covered under MediCal (most likely). In the past, they didn't bother with a hearing aid for kids who had this kind of hearing loss, but that around 3rd grade they noticed kids falling behind because the extra effort of hearing everything in the classroom finally started to affect their performance. So if she has a hearing aid starting now, before kindergarten, she will not have that deficit, will be able to hear normally as long as she wears it. 

Next steps: she will see an ENT to verify that the damage isn't progressive and get more of an idea of exactly what is wrong, and will have a second audiology screening to verify the results we got today. At the second audiology screening we will also have a hearing-aid consultation and the options will be explained to us. This will happen in early May and Randy will be able to come to the appointment as well (Abe will be in school). 

Eli pointed out that this is no different than finding out she has to wear glasses, and I think he is quite right about that. She's nowhere near deaf or impaired in any way, and if this is the worst outcome of her prematurity, I think we really got off cheap. 

Anyway, wanted you all to know. Penny is VERY excited that she and Grandpa Harry "will match," and is really looking forward to sharing with him about the "ear bud" she will be wearing. Her FIRST question about it was "can I get one that is pink?" and then I explained it to her as being a very small speaker that will help her hear in the ear that is stuffy. She also told me that when she grows up she wants to be "a girl doctor who only does ears," like Dr. Lao. She is a very cool character, and I am very lucky to be her mom. 

Abby is fine, completely un-deaf and having a great time at school. :) 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

iPhone Haters Gonna Hate, Sanctimommies Gonna Sanct

So this kind of thing keeps coming across my transom:


And I have this to say:

Dear other parent who has no idea what I'm doing on my iPhone:

I was awakened at 5:00 this morning by my beautiful toddler, who snuggled up next to me and wanted to nurse. Though I am happy to do this, I did wish for a few more minutes of sleep. The cozy cuddling of infant nursing has given way to the very physical, wrestling-like version of the same activity, and over the next hour and a half, I was able to lightly snooze for about twenty minutes at a time between her kicking me, accidentally biting me, and reaching up to hug me and kiss my nose. I didn't know I could feel so simultaneously overjoyed and miserable.

When my older child woke up, I got us all dressed, which involved wiping a poopy butt while a little foot was playfully stuck into my ear, nose, and eyes in time to a really hilarious song that was being made up on the spot. At the same time, a four-year-old was balancing on a twirling egg-chair while tugging on my shirt for balance. The two-year-old then shrieked "NO!" at every clothing option until she finally acquiesced to wearing the dress she wore yesterday. The four-year-old has been regressing as the two-year-old has become more verbal and assertive -- understandable, and age-appropriate, but tough to deal with. So rather than snapping at her for her babyish behavior, I then dressed her as she wished, playfully pretending she was my little baby so that she could feel like she was getting the attention she craved.

Yesterday, we had a doctor's appointment where I learned this older child has significant hearing loss in one of her ears due to the fact that she was born prematurely; my task today, while my kids are in my care, is to follow up with her pediatrician, make an appointment with an ENT who is difficult to reach, and research whether and how her hearing aids can be covered by any kind of insurance. I am also going back to school, but didn't get into the program I had applied for, so I am trying to figure out if I can still get a job in my new chosen field without this particular masters program. Also, the car is in the shop.

But I don't want the kids to be stuck in front of the TV all day while I take care of this growing list of tasks, so I took us all out to the park so they could run around and get some exercise. I packed nutritious snacks, bottles of water, extra diapers, both Princess kick-balls, and the backpack so that the toddler can nap if she needs to while we're out.

Now, I am finally sitting down for the first time today. I just realized that though I brushed the girls' hair, I forgot to brush mine, and it's still in the beauty-salon clip that I stuck it in when I woke up. And, with horror, I'm also realizing that I didn't brush my teeth. I am dying for a second cup of coffee, but I'm not supposed to have too much because I have high blood pressure from two bouts of preeclampsia. So okay, I'm settling into a park bench, my ears attuned to the girls in case they start shouting at each other.

So now I am doing a little research on my phone. I am emailing links to their dad, who will follow up on some of this research between tasks in his own day. I am calling their doctor and waiting for call-backs. I am trying to plan the weekend, when my step-kids will be here. I am coordinating the preschool fundraiser on Sunday, because our budget requires that we use a cooperative preschool.

When I'm done with that, I might also be doing a crossword puzzle. I might also read the library book on my Overdrive app. If I had a magazine open in front of me, you wouldn't think twice about it.

I assure you: I pay LOADS of attention to my children. At 3am, as their father sleeps through noises louder than a hurricane, I am propelled out of bed to soothe away a nightmare. At 6am, I'm floating fitfully through half-sleep as two children pretend I am an igloo (I have no idea how this would work, but it gives me the weirdest dreams). At 9am, I'm showering with the door open and my head out from under the water so I can hear them. And so on through the day.

So if I'm taking a half hour to check things on my phone, dial back your judgment and pay attention to your own kids. Quit projecting on me. Sorry you feel like such a lousy parent yourself, but that's not my problem. Believe me, if I watched every second of your day, I could find plenty to write nasty posts about. So stuff it in your diaper genie and go do something to make the world better instead of writing toxic crap for others to post on Facebook.

And if you're a guy writing this crap, let me punch you in the taint, give you a nipple-twist, and slap you awake five times a night and THEN see if you still have the same big mouth.

P.S. And if I were paying attention to my child at the playground, you'd write some equally crappy blog post calling me a helicopter mom, so I really can't win. Which is why I have stopped trying to please strangers like you.

Love ya! Not really!

Monday, February 25, 2013

We went to the Chinese New Year parade in San Francisco this past weekend, and I wanted to make some notes for next year -- maybe they'll be helpful to other moms as well, since the sites who are supposed to have helpful tips were pretty lame.

- If you get there an hour or hour and a half early you can snag a spot at the curb. You should totally bring folding chairs, fleece blankets, and thermoses. There are porta potties. If you come with more than one adult, you can take turns taking the kids for walks up to Chinatown or down to Market for fun, food, trinkets.

- Download the map of the parade route from the official site and keep in mind where the Bart stations are. It's nearly impossible to cross the parade route once it has started. So if you stay on the Market side of the route, you'll have an easier escape. Your kids will probably not make it through the entire parade.

- That being said, as long as you map out your exit, the steps outside the bank on California and Kearny are basically the same as sitting on the bleachers, but free! They are a terrific spot to view the parade (unless you really want to be up close, in which case: curbside). We just went the wrong way when exiting so we got caught in madness, should have walked up to the Embarcadero rather than down to Powell.

- Don't be cranky. It's a freakin parade.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Patti Smith Remembers Laughter

I recently finished the Patti Smith memoir, "Just Kids," and have been musing over it for the past few days. So I was doing a stitchbomb at the top of Bernal Hill and Penelopabby were wailing that this was boring, they are scared of the dogs, they want to go home, and I said, "You have to suffer for your art!"

THen i realized THEY didn't have to suffer for MY art (#aliceneel), and also, the only time I saw Patti Smith live was at a free show at Summerstage in the middle of a sweltering summer in the early '90s. Someone in the crowd yelled "What do you like to listen to these days, Patti?" and she said "The laughter of my children" and I went ugghghghghghgh what a sap. except now I totally think that and I'm also a sap.

And at the same show she stopped a song to say "I hear that baby crying and I'm a little worried, it seems like too hot a night for a baby to be out," and again I was like UGHGHGHGHGHGH MOMMY PEOPLE SHUT UP and now I'm like jeesh that was so sweet, and what a good mom she must be.

Anyway I did make the girls wait till my stitchbomb was gone, but I was nicer about it and gave them guilt-induced treats and whatnot. 
And as I type this I'm hearing the girls laughing together, bubbling with laughter and shrieking at each other to make more laughter, and thinking, yeah. She was right. She was right. 
Oh wait, now Abby's crying and possibly Penny's getting a time out. Well. It was fun while it lasted.