Day 22: Self Care

I work four days a week.  When I was working “full time” as a midwife, I would work on average about 60 hours a week.  The plan was when I had kids to drop one day in the office, making me “part time” at 50+ hours a week. Some of that time I was on call for births, meaning I might spend the shift in the hospital awake for 24 hours, or I might spend a good portion at home in my bed.  After Mabel died, I eased myself back into work.  My goal was to work myself up to that same “part time” schedule so I could have that extra day off for myself, to work on my grief.  After a few months into work, I realized that the goal of returning to call so soon was unrealistic and so now I work four office days.  My practice was kind enough to allow me this adjustment and Chris and I decided our finances could handle the decreased salary that accompanied.

Wednesday is my day off each week and I use the day to take care of myself.  Today I photo-documented the things that fill my day.

I spend some quality time with my pup, who gives me something to care for and love, who reminds me that I am needed.

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I had lunch with a friend, who shared her precious cache of chocolate with me.

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I exercised, indulging in an episode of Scandal while I hit up the elliptical.

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I sat on this couch for a hour, pouring out my soul and working through my anger with my therapist.

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I mulled over some thoughts and took a quick nap as I received an acupuncture treatment.

 

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A friend came over and we dressed the pup up.  She seemed to enjoy it!

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Another friend came over for dinner and we had a glass of wine!

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I ended my night with another babyloss mom, enjoying teat and hot chocolate, laughing about things in ways only the babyloss know.

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#CaptureYourGrief

 

10 (non-grief) Things About Me

An online magazine, Still Standing, which is popular in my babyloss community recently posted an article encouraging us to share about ourselves beyond what we usually share related to grief.  I’ve had several bad days this week and so the timing was good.  I need to remind myself that there is more to me than just grief, because some days it’s hard for me to believe that. I enjoyed reading Baby Boy Blue’s post and was inspired to write my own.

 

1. Where were you born and where do you live?

I was born in Providence RI, lived my first months in Warwick RI, then off the Belgium for two years, returning to Warwick before I was potty trained.  I spent the rest of my childhood in a small town in Massachusetts.  I went as far away as I could for college- California- and found my way to Connecticut by way of a short stint in DC.

 

2. What is your favourite food?

Chocolate, Hands down.  Bread is a close second.

 

3. Where have you traveled to?

Living in Belgium my during the first two years of my life I’ve traveled all over Europe, but I couldn’t list where.  In my memorable life, I’ve been to the east and west coast plenty and had my first real introduction to the Midwest after meeting my husband’s family who lives there.  I’ve been to Hawaii and Puerto Rico.  Internationally I’ve been to France, Belgium, Netherlands, Ireland, England, Switzerland, Italy, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Panama.

 

4. What are you reading right now?

The second in the Divergent Trilogy.  I read the first one a while back, felt it was just another version of The Hunger Games only less good.  But then I saw the movie Divergent and now I want to know what happens next.  As I read I’m reminded why I stopped after the first one.  Just finished The SIlver Star by Jeannette Walls.  I bought it at a library book sale in a quiet town in CT while biking during a camping trip.  I usually read on my kindle so it a total throwback to have a paper book.  Also recently finished The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison for my book group (which I didn’t attend- though it would have been a good book to talk about).  I recently gave up reading Pap Smears and Pet Goats by Pamela Wible, MD because she was too cheery on trying to solve the health care system- just quit and start your own practice! just like that! Bleh.

 

5. What is your favourite colour?

Purple. I wrote about it here.

 

6. Your favourite book?

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant-  You know the bible story of Joseph and all his brothers?  Well, he had a sister and mothers.  This is the story of the women left out of the bible.  It spoke to me as a woman, as a former catholic and as a midwife.  I also hold a favorite place in my heart A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The BFG.

 

7. Most amazing day of your life?

Aside from the birth of my baby (also the saddest day), my wedding day! I had lots of fun planning- we kicked a kickball down the aisle (we met playing kickball), had a cake eating contest and did a choreographed thriller dance.  I would plan another one in a heartbeat if anyone would like to fund it.

 

8. What have you been procrastinating on?

There’s pair of pants Chris needs hemming, a poster needing framing, rooms needing cleaning.  Plus there’s a bunch of hobbies Ive been meaning to start.  Chris got me a sander as a gift one year.  I wanted one because I had this great idea that I’d start refinishing furniture.  I’m the kind of girl who loves picking up perfectly good furniture on the side of the road.  I could sand them and repaint them.  I even have an old little side table ready to practice on. Someday….

 

9. What is a strange fact about you?

I am polydactyl! I was born with six fingers on my right hand.  As an infant the doctors did a highly technical procedure to remove it- they tied string around it until it fell off.  I lived my childhood with a little nubbin that people often thought was a wart.  So in high school a dermatologist removed it and it grew back!  In grad school I had another dermatologist try again and now all that is left is a faint scar.

 

10.  What is your perfect idea of a night in?

Homemade BBQ chicken pizza eaten on our patio on a warm summer night, chocolate chocolate chip ice cream and a movie with my boo.

 

The view from my patio.

The view from my patio.

I am Still Standing in memory of Mabel.

Carrots and Ice Cream

I am not known for my healthy eating habits.  I’m not a terrible eater, I just have very little will power when it comes to things like bread and chocolate.

Throughout pregnancy, people asked if I had any cravings.  Truth is, not really.  I had aversions.  After eating a particularly spectacular lobster roll (the true kind, hot and buttered) in early pregnancy, I suddenly couldn’t stomach it anymore.  Sauteed spinach grossed me out.  I developed dysgeusia- water tasted like metal, which can be associated with pregnancy.  I couldn’t stand drinking water from my home faucet.  So I started drinking seltzer, which I never liked before.  I wouldn’t say I craved it, I just developed a taste, out of necessity.  My husband could argue that I craved ice cream, but I’ve always craved ice cream.  I happened to eat more of it pregnancy because it was my go-to comfort food when we got bad news, since drowning myself in wine was out.  I ate a lot of ice cream.

When I was in the hospital, I had many visitors bearing gifts.  Word got around that I liked chocolate and so I was showered with every kind of delicious treat you can imagine.  I started making anyone who came into my room leave with a goodie in hand.  The cleaning lady left with some cookies.  I made every nurse leave with a candy bar in her pocket.  At one point a few people asked Chris if they could bring me a desert- he suggested something savory or even with veggies.  I received five different kinds of cheese and a chicken pot pie!

In the hospital I was also gifted some very special ice cream.  In my room I had a mini-fridge, rumor has it that the Maternal Special Care floor is the only one in the hospital with such luxuries because of the diabetic moms.  But the freezer in it was tiny and not cold enough to support my ice cream habit.  There was a main fridge down the hall, which patients could use.  It was well signed, stating we should label our food and it will be thrown out after twenty-four hours.  I risked leaving my ice cream in there, figuring there are many long term patients on the floor and I was kind of well known.  Day after day my well-labeled ice cream stayed in the freezer, so I stopped worrying.  It was a few days before I had the chance to try the special ice cream- from the Midwest with chunks of chocolate the size of candy bars (Graeter’s) because of the plethora of goodies I had stocked in my room (see above).  The night I finally went to try it, it was gone!  Someone had cleaned out the freezer.  I was heartbroken (remember, I was on a tether and couldn’t just run to the store and get ice cream when I wanted).  When word got around, then nurses practically ran a witch hunt.  The poor manager who threw it away (to her defense the fridge was signed saying it would) felt so bad she gave me some hospital bucks to use in the cafeteria- which we used on the night I went in to labor, to get some Valentine’s Day ice cream.

In the beginning of pregnancy I started eating more healthily.  I really tried to incorporate more fruits and veggies.  So as I waited in my midwife’s office for my very first ultrasound, I happily munched on carrot sticks, thinking how good I was being!  I was hoping someone would see me and comment on what good choices I was making.  Moments later, as I looked at the ultrasound screen and saw no baby, no heartbeat, nothing but an empty sac, I lost my taste for carrots.  I didn’t eat carrots for the rest of pregnancy.

Now carrots have that special meaning. At first, every time I would see them…a side dish at a restaurant, at the grocery store, as an Easter decoration… my stomach somersaulted in a jumble of both craving and aversion.  Thinking lovingly about my little carrot and then reminded that she’s gone.  But now, especially after witnessing Mabel was here, I see carrots and my heart warms.  Because now, my friends and family and even strangers see carrots and think of Mabel.  Today my friend sent a text photo saying last night at the store her boyfriend said “Mabel!” and she turned around to see:IMG_6607

Today I tilled our garden, getting it ready to plant some carrot seeds.  Happy 3 month birthday to my Karate Carrot.

Donut Days

I woke up today feeling meh.  I just felt down; which I know is a reasonable thing to feel.  When we got the diagnosis of olighydramnios, I used to cry every day.  Going back to work was a good distraction so I’d have some days I wouldn’t cry.  Lately I go through most days coasting more or less- I have more days without tears than days with tears.  Work plays a big part because it’s forced me to pretend and numb myself up, which I think carries over to life outside of work.  But I still have my down days.

 

I still was able to get out of bed, pull myself together and head to 6:30am bootcamp.  I know myself and I need exercise.  It helps distract and clears my mind.  I also feel like a guilty blob when I don’t. So getting there wasn’t hard.  Working out wasn’t hard (or actually it was very hard physically, but mentally no problem).  And then I rushed off for a quick shower at my cousin’s before heading to work.  That’s when the meh feelings started to catch up.  I didn’t want to go to work.  I didn’t want to pretend. I didn’t want the stress that comes with working.  So I stopped and got me a donut.  Boston Cream.  I feel like I get more bang for my buck- the donut plus the ooey gooey goodness inside.  Plus there’s got to be some sort of dairy in that cream, which means I get calcium (if my midwife is reading, maybe she’ll agree?).  When I’m feeling down, I eat my feelings. I’m definitely not one of those people who lose their appetite (or weight) when they are depressed.  I personally would prefer the taste of chocolate in my mouth all the time, when I’m down.  It helps.

 

So on days where I’m feeling down, I eat a lot more chocolate, which often includes a donut.  Hence the new name- donut day.  I need a name for them because in general I am down anytime I think about my situation.  But some days- donut days- are the worse days.

 

I had an ultrasound today.  My midwife and I debated about going- we both knew that it wouldn’t necessarily tell me much new, wouldn’t change anything really.  It’s the midwife model to think about each intervention (like an ultrasound) and wonder how would this change my management.  Today’s ultrasound really wouldn’t, I don’t think.  But I shoved the midwife in me aside and went anyways.  Part of me just wanted a break from work.  Part of me wanted to see my baby again.  Part of me might just thinks maybe they’ll see more fluid.  Maybe they’ll tell me some good news.  Plus the doctor I was scheduled with, made me realize last time I saw him that I needed a more concrete plan.  So I was curious about his thoughts at this point.

 

Today we saw the doc with lots of experience- the one who gave us a little hope earlier saying the lungs don’t “look hypoplastic.”  Fluid today was undetectable.  Every other week we seem to find a little pocket so I get the label of oligohydramnios.  On weeks like this I have the label of anhydramnios.  Two different labels, but in my case no real difference.  Oligohydramnios is a spectrum and has different cutoffs depending on gestational age.  My oligohydramnios is considered severe and persistent.  Mild or borderline ologihydramnios would have different consequences.

 

So today I have anhydramnios. This to me is neither good news nor bad news- it’s all the same.  But they did see a small bladder!  Apparently they saw one last week, but I didn’t know that.  I almost cried tears of happiness. A small bladder means some urine is going through the kidneys.  It just raises my hopes that there might be some kidney function.  Nothing spectacular, but some cells must be working in there.  This is good news.  I asked the doctor his thoughts on the chest cavity.  When lungs “look hypoplastic” the heart just fills the rib cage.  In a normal chest cavity, the heart fills about 1/3 of the chest cavity.  He measured our baby’s heart vs chest and it fills about ½ the chest.  This is no surprise- it’s not a diagnosis of pulmonary hypoplasia, but it certainly raises suspicion for it.  This is not new news.  So in theory it’s neither good nor bad- we have been anticipating some degree of it since the fluid was low.

 

I left the ultrasound a little disappointed.  I guess there’s some good news regarding the bladder.  But what’s the use of kidneys if the lungs don’t work?  I suppose this will help me come to terms even more with the thought of my baby on a ventilator- whether it works or not.  But the disappointment made me realize that I actually do have a little bit of hope.  I often feel like I don’t- I feel like I write as if I don’t.  But instinctively I must have some hope somewhere in me in order to even experience disappointment.

 

I go to the hospital in a week.  It’s getting more real.  Earlier the idea of getting to 34 weeks was exciting.  And I’m a little excited to relinquish the burden- someone else will be looking after the baby and making the decisions.   I don’t have to worry so much about fetal movement because the monitor will be telling us what’s happening. But as 34 weeks approaches, I’m beginning to realize that there is an end to this.  This baby will be born.  I will no longer be pregnant.  There is no more hope or fear- just reality.  The baby will breathe or not breathe.   The baby kidneys will work or not work.  The unknown may be tortuous, but there is some comfort in it as well.  The unknown can sometimes be better than a known sadness.  So for now I am going to try to figure out how to “enjoy” this time of uncertainty.