The last time I was around a newborn extensively was twenty-seven years ago when T was born.
E, L, B and I are all learning to read ABC’s signs.
It seems that every cry, squeak, whimper, wiggle, look, stretch and facial expression is trying to tell us something, if only we could discern its meaning correctly.
So far, ABC is doing well, despite her petite size. She had a bit of jaundice, but we were able to do light therapy at home. Her bilirubin count went down so well that we were able to return the unit yesterday.
It is a joy watching our daughter and son-in-law be such wonderful parents in these early days. It is a privilege to be a first-time grandparent with the baby living in our home for her first few months.
I admit that I am cheating on SoCS this week. I had a post that I had to write and it could not be stream of consciousness. My family has had a very eventful week. If you are so moved, you can read about it here.
When I wrote this post in the wee hours of Monday morning, I had no idea what new highs and lows the next twenty-four hours would bring…
At 9:00 AM, Nana and I met with her primary care physician, Dr. T. What began as a discussion of her recent symptoms that had prompted us to be there quickly segued into a discussion of how her numerous health conditions and our treatment plan were not succeeding as we had all hoped, how the trajectory while there were ups and downs was trending downward, and how we needed to discuss and prepare for end-of-life planning.
As I am sure you can imagine, or, perhaps, know from your own experience, the discussion was painful and emotional, but I am grateful for Dr. T’s honesty, care, and concern that made it possible for us to consider our options and get the help that Nana and all of us need. Barring a sudden event like a stroke, we are likely to have some unknown number of months with Nana, which we want to make as comfortable and peaceful as possible, as filled with family and friends as her strength allows.
We are starting with getting home care recommenced, but the new goal will be to have therapists and aides to help care for her so that she can conserve energy for fun things, instead of wasting it on mundane things. For example, while a goal of her physical therapy had been to be able to walk down to the dining room at their retirement community for dinner, a new goal will be to get a wheelchair so she can ride to the dining room and have energy to eat and visit with friends.
We expect that there will continue to be some days that are better than others, but we hope to have enough support to keep Nana at home in the apartment she shares with Paco. They have been married for 63 years and belong together!
I spent much of Monday afternoon communicating with family members that needed to know what was going on and wrapping my head around our next steps. E and L took over dinner preparations and we settled in for an evening together watching television. E wanted to watch the Stanley Cup (ice hockey) game and was ensconced on the couch with L, when, a bit before 8:00 PM, she startled all of us with the news that her water had broken.
In short order, there was a call to the obstetrician’s office, the message saying to head to the hospital, the hurried assembling of some supplies, and the four of us driving off to the hospital where we arrived at about 8:30.
E and L headed into the delivery suite while B and I set up in the waiting room, thinking that, given that E had not been having noticeable contractions, they might send us home while she rested for the night and waited for labor to begin in earnest. The reason we thought this might be the scenario is that, when I was pregnant with E, my water broke at 36.5 weeks and it took 26 hours for her to arrive.
And E was also at 36.5 weeks.
This was a different labor-and-delivery story.
Baby arrived before 1:00 AM Tuesday, on the sixth of the month.
E was also born on the sixth of the month.
Baby weighed five pounds, five ounces (2.4 kg) and was eighteen inches (46 cm) long.
E was born at that exact weight and length.
Baby has a full head of hair, as did E, although E was strawberry blond (later changing to golden blond) and Baby has dark hair, like L’s.
E and L named their new daughter Ada. Henceforth, I will likely refer to her here on the blog as ABC, which are her initials, but I did want to share her lovely name with you in honor of her birth.
B and I got to share a little time with the new little family before heading home to catch a few winks before the sun rose. We each got to hold our precious first grandchild and reflect on the parallels between E and little Ada.
One more: Ada, like E, is the first grandchild on both sides of the family.
L was able to stay at the hospital with E and ABC until they came home on Wednesday. On Thursday, they went up to meet Nana and Paco.
Maybe Ada was in a hurry to arrive so that she could meet Nana as soon as possible.
I’m sure she will bring us all much-needed joy in the coming months.
Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday, which began with 8 AM Mass. I knew that daughter E would be cantoring, but found out on arrival that her spouse L was singing with her and that the handbell choir was ringing for the last time before their summer break. It was heartwarming and joyful to hear E and L sing together in public in the weeks before their first child arrives. Our friend music director Nancy said that she could feel L’s breath supporting E, although I think that even into her ninth month of pregnancy, E’s breath control is better than mine.
Unfortunately, the rest of the day was more subdued. We wound up needing to take Nana to the walk-in medical clinic and then to the emergency room for some tests. She had made some gains and started outpatient physical therapy instead of having in-home therapy, but, in the last week, she has gotten weaker and more fatigued. This morning, we have a follow-up appointment with her primary care physician.
Sometimes, it is two steps forward, one – or more – back.
Last year, Mother’s Day was subdued. Neither of my daughters was at home. B’s mom had died only a few weeks before. I was blessed to be able to have brunch with my parents, known here as Nana and Paco, although Nana was already dealing with the congestive heart failure which is still a feature of life taking considerable time and energy.
While Nana’s health is still a feature for Mother’s Day today and we will again be joining Nana and Paco for brunch at their senior living community, we have new and exciting happenings this year. Daughter E is in residence and expecting her first child in a few weeks. Baby will be our first grandchild and Nana and Paco’s first great-grandchild. Daughter T has already sent cards to all three generations from her present home in Missouri. Later in the day, my older sister and her husband will arrive for a few days’ visit and, tomorrow, E’s spouse L arrives for three months and my younger sister arrives to get ready for Nana’s birthday on Tuesday.
Next year, what will Mother’s Day bring? I hope that B and I will again be brunching with Nana and Paco. It is likely E, L, and Baby will be living in London. T’s position in Missouri is supposed to end in December, but it is possible that she will stay a second year or move on to another position who-knows-where. If my sisters visit again from Nana’s birthday, it wouldn’t be in close proximity to Mother’s Day, which is as late a date as it can be this year.
Whatever happens in the next year, I know that next Mother’s Day will be marked by intergenerational love, no matter what circumstances separate us physically.
As some readers will recall, older daughter E is currently living with us while her spouse L, a British citizen, is in London with his family. He will be arriving soon for a three month stay to encompass the final weeks of E’s pregnancy, the arrival of Baby, and the early weeks of cuddling, bonding, and diaper/nappy changing. (Have I mentioned lately how dysfunctional and/or in flux the immigration policies of both the US and the UK are?)
In L’s absence, one of my happy duties is to accompany E to the obstetrician’s office. Fortunately, the pregnancy has been progressing smoothly and Baby seems to be thriving and growing according to schedule.
I was pregnant thirty-one and twenty-seven years ago, so a lot has changed in prenatal care. Fetal heart monitors have gotten a lot more compact and easier to use. There is a lot less belly prodding and measuring than when I was expecting. There are more blood tests and standard glucose testing. My daughter received a booster for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis so that Baby will have stronger resistance at birth to help prevent whooping cough until the infant vaccines can kick in.
The biggest change, though, is the use of ultrasound. I never had an ultrasound when I was pregnant. While they were available, they were not yet routine and there was no diagnostic reason to order one. As women had for millennia, I relied on hope and faith that all was well, bolstered by the experienced hands and measuring tape of my health providers.
It has been a revelation to be there for E’s ultrasound exams. Most of the time, we have been able to have L join us via skype, which has been nice. E and I have been able to watch as the technician measures the length of Baby’s femur and the circumference of the head. I have been amazed to see the the entire backbone, tiny fingers and toes, all the chambers of the heart beating over 150 times a minutes, the stomach, the bladder, and other organs. From the last ultrasound, we know that Baby weighs about 3 pounds, 10 ounces (1.65 kg) at 31 weeks. We could even seen some fringe of hair atop Baby’s head, not surprising given that both E and L were born with thick heads of hair.
This last detail was particularly poignant for me, because the first detail we knew about baby E was that she had hair on her head, a fact conveyed to us by the maternity nurse who first examined me at the hospital after I arrived late on a Friday night in April with ruptured membranes at 36 weeks. I was only a centimeter dilated, but she could feel the hair on E’s head as it nestled down, getting ready to enter the world. It wasn’t until the early hours of Sunday morning that we would know the hair was strawberry blonde and belonged to our little girl.
We didn’t know that morning, as we welcomed our first child into the world, how wonderful, complicated, heart-warming, and heart-rending parenting would be. We didn’t know the depths of fear, joy, and love we would experience.
And we didn’t know that, thirty-one years later, we would be on hand to witness that cycle of family begin anew for her and her husband as parents, for B and me as grandparents, and for Nana and Paco as great-grandparents.
Even though it is the most common story in the world, its power isn’t diminished. Love makes the ordinary extraordinary.
Happy Earth Day! Sending out good thoughts to all those working in the environmental movement, to the earth itself, and to all its inhabitants. Earth Day this year was chosen as the day for the March for Science, with the main march being in Washington DC, with satellite marches around the country and the world.
It’s sad that we need marches to remind us of the importance of science and of protecting our environment, but there are definitely some people who need reminding. The science march emphasizes the importance of scientific research and advances and of scientific education and literacy in the general public, while celebrating the contributions of science to our world, particularly the contributions of those who have been traditionally underrepresented among scientists, such as women, indigenous people, African-Americans, and Latino/as.
In that spirit, I want to honor two scientists in my family.
First, my older sister who has just retired from decades of work as a research scientist at the National Institutes of Health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a master’s and doctorate from Indiana University. After post-doctoral work at the Cleveland Clinic, she came to NIH for the remainder of her career, where she worked on projects to add to our knowledge of how to fight disease and promote wellness. Today, she participates in the Science March in Washington, DC.
Second, my younger daughter T. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and last year completed a Master’s of Professional Studies in conservation biology of plants at State University of New York – Environmental Science and Forestry. She is passionate about plants and hopes to build her career around restoration ecology. Nothing makes her happier than pulling out invasive species so that native plants can thrive! Right now, she is working in Missouri for their Department of Conservation with a study of the effects of fire on prairie plants. She is marching for science in Springfield, Missouri.
I am proud to have these two women scientists in my immediate family! I appreciate their contributions and that of their colleagues across all scientific fields.
I think today is a good day to reflect on how important science is to our lives. Medical science and biology are important in decisions I make every day. I am especially drawn to environmental science and geology and often use that knowledge in my advocacy on environmental and climate change policy and renewable energy. Computer science makes B’s job possible. The list could go on and on…
There is a Sci/Cli March today in Binghamton, a local mash-up of this weekend’s science march with next weekend’s climate march. I had hoped to attend, but I don’t think I will be able to make it. I’ll be marching with them in spirit, as well as with my sister in DC.