High/Low

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.

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seeing the unseen

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.

Valentines

Happy Valentine’s Day!

As I write this, I have a dessert treat in the oven for this evening and E and L are sharing a Valentine’s Day tea in London. We are happy that they have a chance to spend Valentine’s Day together in this year of being separated by an ocean most of the time.

It is also the birthday of one of my cousins. His mom, one of my dad’s sisters, always wanted a son born on Valentine’s Day and she got her wish.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t have another child because she was Rh negative and her son was Rh positive. Because she was now sensitized to Rh factors, her antibodies would have attacked the blood of another Rh positive child. If the baby survived, it would have needed an immediate total blood transfusion. Most couples in those circumstances chose not to risk a second pregnancy.

Like my aunt, I am Rh negative, but I was fortunate to be pregnant after the development of RhoGAM. I had one shot during pregnancy and a second after I gave birth to E, who is Rh positive, so that I would not develop antibodies to Rh factors. This enabled me to later have daughter T without risk to her blood.

Valentine’s Day is another day to be thankful for family and for good medical care.

halfway to nana-hood

Today, I took daughter E, who is in residence with us and expecting a baby in the early summer, to her 20-week ultrasound appointment. Her husband L , who is currently in the UK, was able to join us via skype.

When I was pregnant 25-30 years ago, ultrasounds were not yet routine in our area, so I had neither had one nor seen one before today.

It was amazing to be able to see the baby developing. I hadn’t realized that we would be able to see all four chambers of the heart, the stomach, and all the vertebrae, and be able to measure the length of arm and leg bones.

I’m happy to report that everything looks good, with growth right on schedule.

And E has some new “baby photos” to bring with her when she goes to visit L and his extended family in a few days. I’m sure Baby’s other set of first-time grandparents will be as happy to see them as B and I are!

 

Retro with a twist

I posted this New Year’s Eve poem which is about an empty nest celebration, but that is not what our New Year is in 2017.

Rather, we are starting 2017 with spouse B, daughters E and T, and me all living under the same roof.

Which I never expected to have happen again.

It’s a wonderful – but most likely short-lived – opportunity.

And, like the entirety of 2016, it’s complicated.

I have been making vague references about re-organizing the house and about Christmas being quiet and such, but now I am at liberty to fill in some of the background story.

E and her spouse L have been living in Hawai’i and, this fall, they announced the exciting and happy news that they are expecting their first child! Baby will be the first grandchild for us, the first great-grandchild for my parents Nana and Paco, and the first grandchild for L’s parents who live in London, England.

E and L wanted to live closer to family for the birth of their child and, while Hawai’i is one of the most beautiful locations on earth, it is also one of the most remote. The problem arose, though, that E is a US citizen and L is a UK citizen who had been living in the US on a higher education visa. Leaving Hawai’i meant leaving the University, so his visa expired at the end of the year.

E and L also decided that they would raise their child in the country with the most supportive social and family policies, which is definitely the UK. So, L flew out New Year’s Eve to join his family in London. He will continue to apply for jobs; after six months of work, he can apply for a visa for E to join him.

Meanwhile, E will live with us, work remotely for her employer in Honolulu, and get ready for Baby’s arrival, sometime around July first. Obviously, it is not optimal for them to be separated during E’s pregnancy, but she will be able to visit a couple of times during her second trimester and L plans to apply for a spousal visitation visa to be here for Baby’s birth and early weeks.

In case you haven’t gotten the subtext, it is really, really difficult to observe all the immigration rules of the two countries, but E and L want to make sure not to break any laws to preserve their future rights to live and work in both countries. Baby will be a dual citizen.

So, to prepare for E’s staying with us for these next months, we have spent the last few weeks in major household re-organization. The most important change was for B and me to move to one of the upstairs bedrooms so that E could be on the ground floor and not have to navigate the relatively steep and narrow stairs while pregnant and while carrying Baby. The re-organization also gave the impetus to incorporate some of the furniture that had been Grandma’s into our home. An attic and basement insulation project gave us some additional storage capabilities and we also made some donations to area charities.

This all took many, many hours, so that is part of why my writing time has been curtailed lately. (Given my track record, I will refrain from any promises about posting more; the one constant in my life is surprises!)

So, E and L arrived the day after Christmas. We had a few days of family visiting. E and L were able to meet the local obstetrician who will be caring for E. And, on New Year’s Eve, L flew off to London.

At seven o’clock Eastern Standard Time, B, E, T, and I celebrated the arrival of 2017 at midnight GMT with a sparkling Niagara grape juice toast in our once-again family-of-four living room.

It won’t last long. When a job offer comes in, T will move to wherever she needs to be. In early summer, L will arrive and, on some currently unknowable day, Baby will arrive.

And, when her visa comes through, E and Baby will move to the UK.

Next New Year’s Eve is likely to be back to empty nest.

All the more reason to cherish the moment now.
*****
This post is part of Linda’s Just Jot It January. Join us! You can find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/01/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-1st17/ . Prompts are provided but are entirely optional. And any post of any length on any January day is eligible. Hope you’ll jump in and have fun with us!

jjj-2017

 

 

 

There Will be Nothing Funny About This Whatsoever, Unfortunately

I was not aware of TTTS but want to help build awareness by sharing this post from Meg of Fisticuffs and Shenanigans.

Fisticuffs and Shenanigans

This post is a clear departure from my usual nonsense, but it’s important to me for reasons that will be terribly clear.  My story ends happily.  It ends with the last 12 years of laughter and dirty, loud chaos that only boys can bring, but I came horribly close to an outcome too terrible to consider.

After finding out that I was carrying identical twins in my 18th week, it wasn’t long after, at 22 weeks, during a routine ultrasound, that a significant problem was discovered. Because, most of the time, identical twins share a placenta, a large number of problems can arise, and in the case of my sons, they were not sharing it equally, and had an “Asymetric Placental Share” or “Discordant Growth”. They were 18 days apart in size, and we were told there was nothing to do, but go home and wait two weeks for another…

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