Sunday, October 7, 2012

When a Beloved Pet is Laid to Rest...



Just a couple of hours ago we put my dear kitty, Chaucer, to sleep.  Surprisingly, I'm more at peace with the decision than I had ever thought that I would be.

I adopted Chaucer from the Humane League of Lancaster County in November 1998.  She was an adult cat, they guestimated between 1-2 years old, and was a day away from being euthanized.  A beautiful calico with the sweetest meow (more like a 'coo') - that's what attracted me to her.  So, I left that day, without the cute little kitten I had planned, but with the sweetest adult cat I had ever encountered.  This would not last for long!

I was in college at the time, enthralled with medieval literature, so her name came easily.  I even planned on one day adding a sister or sisters that I would name Bronte and Austin (yes, I was that lame!).  The moment I got Chaucer home, she ran and hid.  In fact, she would eventually try to escape several times in those first few weeks, and would remain aloof and hidden for almost the first year I had her.  I was heartbroken.

Over the years, Chaucer was my study partner, my distraction, she would make many moves with me and was my constant travel companion.  Nicknamed "Toonces," Chaucer endured the long drive for the move down to Florida, and the long drive back up to Erie for graduate school.  She traveled well, and even helped lower a speeding ticket for me because of HER good looks (and not mine)!

Simply put, Chaucer and I became the best of friends and she became the most loyal and unique cat I've ever known or had.  She came when I called her and always greeted me when I came in the door.  She was an alpha cat with more attitude than a diva :)  When she first got sick in 2008, I was scared to take her to the vet.  I did, and she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, very common in cats.  Chaucer was prescribed medication to regulate her thyroid and metabolism, and was on it twice a day.

I've had several friends whose cats' health took a turn shortly after the birth of their first child, and subsequently passed away or had to be put to sleep.  It's as though these sweet kitties, our first 'kids', hung in there for us until we had our own children to love and care for.  I prefer to believe that this was the case with my Chaucer.  Her health began to go downhill from the day we brought Declan home.  She began vomiting more frequently (than normal) and losing weight, and it was becoming more difficult to regulate her meds.

Last night Declan pet Chaucer for the first time and loved it, all smiles.  This morning, Chaucer was exhibiting signs of kidney failure.  I wasted no time in making the decision to put her to sleep before she began to suffer.  She gave me so much joy (and attitude!), and was there for me during some of my most difficult moments, licking tears away, rubbing against me, or making me pet her head.  I am at peace with my decision because she went with the dignity she carried during her lifetime.  How wonderful she made my life while she was in it - I will miss you so, my Chaucer :)    




Thursday, July 19, 2012

Birth of a Spider Monkey



On July 6th, my husband and I welcomed our first child into this world; Declan Patrick Stevens weighed in at 7lbs. 4oz. and measured 19 inches.  What a joyous, crazy, scary, unbelievable day that was!

For three months, stubborn Declan remained breech while I tried almost every method I could to flip him -- inversions, frozen veggies/flashlight, weekly pregnancy chiropractic adjustments -- but he decided he was comfy right where he was until the very end.  Two weeks before my due date, I ended-up scheduling a c-section while at my weekly appointment with my midwife.  It took me a long time, and a lot of tears, to be okay with the fact that the birth of my child was not going to happen naturally, outside of a hospital.  I'll be honest and say that I truly felt 'robbed' of the opportunity to give birth to my son.  However, I've now come to terms with the fact that a.) my body (uterus) was just not equipped to allow enough space for Declan to turn and b.) all of this was entirely out of my hands and out of my control -- what was going to be would be.

I can not stress enough how wonderful it was to have my midwives as advocates for me.  Not only did my midwife prepare me for the procedure, she scheduled my c-section with a surgeon she recommended and worked well with, allowing her to assist with my surgery.  Before surgery, my midwife came in and sat with me, talking me through what was going to happen and answering any last minute questions I had.  When the time came, I walked two doors down to the OR and was astounded how quickly everything went (did I mention that I was scared to DEATH!).  My husband was brought in in the nick of time (they almost forgot him -- again, my midwife spoke up on that matter) and had the privilege of not sitting behind my head, but rather, sitting right at the curtain divide.  He. saw. everything.  I mean everything.  He now knows me more intimately than I know me!  I knew at the time that he could see everything by his nervous talking and his Monty Python reference (only the anesthesiologist caught the reference - he was also the only male assisting in my surgery) -- they did, in fact, have 'the machine that goes ping'!  Afterwards, my husband commented about the fact that while he knew that my midwife would be assisting in the surgery, he had no idea that she would be as hands-on as she was.  Yes, yes, yes - I wouldn't have it any other way!

Declan was 'born' at 9:54 a.m. on Friday, July 6th.  If I were to have a complaint about having a c-section, it would be that I wasn't able to see him or touch him for about 20 minutes or so.  My husband was able to see him, and I could hear his cries, but they had a difficult time getting his temperature to stabilize and he had a lot of excess fluid in his lungs that needed to be suctioned.  I wouldn't change a thing though, because he was well cared for and healthy as a result.  Another area where my surgeon worked with my midwife and myself with our birth plan, was in the fact that I requested no separation between myself and my baby.  Sean was able to hold Declan near my head while they finished sewing me up, and they actually stayed with me and walked with me I was wheeled into my recovery room.  To avoid any possible separation, a warming table was brought into my recovery room to continue to stabilize Declan's temperature, which is where he was placed after I nursed him for the first time.  One of my nurses later commented on how lucky I was to have that type of treatment, and that she wished it was the standard for all c-sections.  I am so unbelievably grateful for that experience.  It completely changed my opinion of a c-section and how sterile and detached the procedure has been known to be.

At the end of my surgery, when they were doing the routine exploratory exam, both my midwife and surgeon remarked on how beautiful my heart-shaped uterus is!  I now know that my uterus is 2/3 of the way septate, but have been reassured by my midwife that a surgery to remove the septum would allow me a great opportunity to have a VBAC with our next child (that and the fact that my surgeon knew that I wanted more children, thus ensuring that her incision would be conducive to a VBAC).  While this is great news for a little later, right now I'm just focusing on healing and enjoying our beautiful little boy (aka - Spider Monkey)!


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tired of the Mannerless Masses

As a child, I was taught right from wrong, a respect for my elders, and to treat others as I would like to be treated.  Being pregnant has proven to be quite a social experiment, illustrating the general lack of etiquette in many of the people I encounter in public.

I work part time in a bookstore, so I deal with the public on a regular basis.  I am absolutely amazed and disgusted by how rude and thoughtless people are nowadays.  And it's not just me - I've had this discussion with others.  I just can't believe how often I find myself, at eight-and-a-half months pregnant, holding the door for people (inadvertently, as they bust through the door towards me), moving out of other people's way, or stopping for a car to pass as I walk across a parking lot.  I'm not infirm, nor do I wish to have any 'special' treatment because I'm pregnant, I just wish common courtesy still existed.  The capper occurred yesterday, when my husband and I stopped at Jim's on South Street for, what would be, my first ever Philly cheese steak.

I'll preface this by stating that I've been going to a pregnancy chiropractor for about a month now, with excellent results.  She happened to be on vacation this past week and I was unable to get adjusted as I usually do.  Thus, my back has been hanging on by a thread since Friday, making standing, sitting, or walking for long periods of time extremely painful until my adjustment tomorrow.

So, Sean and I decided to head into town to grab some lunch, taking advantage of the lack of traffic due to the majority of people being 'down the shore' for the holiday.  Never having had a cheese steak, Sean decided to take me to Jim's.  When we arrived,  the line extended out the door and around the corner in the 95 degree heat (apparently we weren't the only ones with this idea).  After about a half hour of standing in line, my back was killing me, so I decided to head upstairs to grab a table, as we were close to being able to order.  I made my way through people and headed towards the stairs, only to be told by an employee that I was not allowed upstairs without food.  I repeated his statement to him, and he affirmed.  I went back to my husband at the head of the line, in clear view of the employee, told him I was not allowed upstairs and get the keys to the car so that I could have a seat and wait.  Once I got to the car I broke into tears.  It truly was the straw that broke the camel's back.  I've had enough of inconsiderate people.

A couple of days ago, I had a customer come into the store with her young daughter, and was witness to her  being 'forced' to hold the door for a woman as she burst through the door without even a 'thank you'.  Seeing that I witnessed the event, the woman came right up to me and started a discussion about how rude people seem to be nowadays.  As I said earlier, it's not just me.  Please know I'm not writing this to complain, I merely want to share my observations, and hopefully hear that of others.

I really began to notice this 'dip' in manners and consideration with the rise of cell phone culture.  More and more people are attached to their phones, oblivious to their surroundings.  Too often, I almost trip over people or hit them when driving because they are preoccupied with their phones.  I tend to believe there is a correlation between cell phone etiquette and general manners.  This is not to say that I've not had anyone be polite or courteous to me while pregnant, I have, but I have had more rude and inconsiderate encounters than positive ones.  It really disappoints me and makes me lose faith in the kindness of the general populace.  I would love it if my experience is a complete anomaly, but am really interested to hear from others about this issue...  

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Fun of Spinning a Baby...


Oh, the joys!  I thought it a bit odd when my midwife mentioned getting our breech baby turned a month and a half ago.  Surely, it was too early to be thinking about that - we had PLENTY of time, right?  No.  I had completely forgotten that with my bicornuate uterus, space for little man would become an issue in later pregnancy (thus the risk of preterm labor).  As our guy is currently residing in one-half of my utero duplex, our midwife wanted us to have the baby turned by 31 weeks - that's next week.  Ack!  Between vacation and work schedules, we've just not devoted time to trying to spin the guy around.  We now find ourselves at the point of procrastination, my forte in both undergrad and grad school years, but maybe not so much in this case.

I've learned a couple of things over the past few weeks.  First, the incidence of breech babies appears to have a genetic link.  If this is the case, Sean and I may end up fruitless in our attempts to spin our little Stevens, as both my sister and myself were breech, as were my nieces.  The second thing I've learned is that our little guy's personality has shown itself in utero, and he appears to be every bit as stubborn as his father and myself.  From day one, little guy has not budged in attempts to get him to shift his position, be it in the doctor's office for measurements or at home when I'm trying to get him to kick or punch a 'hello' to his dad - he does what he wants when he wants to.  Ah, karma....

You may be asking yourself - how does one 'correct' what nature seems to be dictating on its own?  And, is it really possible to turn a breech baby?  Apparantly so.  Thankfully, my midwife directed us to a website for 'spinning instructions': SpinningBabies.com.  Thus far, we've tried using inversion to get our stubborn ignats to flip - no dice (and really uncomfortable, I might add).  Last night, we decided to try our midwife's first, joking suggestion - frozen peas and a flashlight.  We thought, what the heck, why not give it a go?  I splayed myself on the bed while Sean grabbed a bag of lima beans and refreshed the batteries in the mag light.  The idea here is to make the little guy's toes chilly down low whilst annoying him by shining the flashlight up high by his head.   Let the silliness and hilarity commence!  I could NOT stop laughing!  I developed a nervous giggle because I felt so bad messing with him this way, however, Sean kept reassuring me that we were doing this for HIS own good, not OUR own entertainment. Boy did we tick the little guy off.  I have never felt him kick with such gusto as he did then, the bag of beans jumping like crazy off of my lower belly.  The sensations I felt brought me almost to the point of nausea, as it felt as though he was rolling around in there - ugh.  After all of that, the kicks once again descended below my belly button, we were unsuccessful in our attempt.  I can almost see our little guy in there, shaking his little fist at us with a triumphant look on his face.  No worries little man, we've got plenty more bags of frozen veggies to try - we're not giving up yet!

Stay tuned for my next entry - Fun with a Rebozo!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I Fired My Doctor...

...at 6 months pregnant.  That's right, you read correctly.  So, a lot has happened since I last updated the blog...9 months ago!
     Sean and I moved to Philly, Sean settled-in at his new position, I interviewed with publisher after publisher...and then some, to no avail.  Then, I got pregnant.  Not a real shocker, as we were trying, but a real game-changer in our newlywed and newly-moved life.  When the test came out positive, we looked at each other in wonderment, excitement, and a great sense of bafflement.  I had spent so many years trying not to get pregnant, that I had no idea what to do when I actually did get pregnant.  Having found out on a Friday afternoon, I had a couple of days to let the information sink in before I placed a call to my OB/GYN on Monday.
     I did what the majority of American women do - I sought prenatal care through my OB, I assumed that that was just what women did.  Knowing that I had a bicornuate uterus, I was given a 'high risk' designation and referred to see a specialist in addition to seeing my regular doctor.  From day one, I was unhappy with the care I received from both offices, despite the fact that I was having appointments up to three times a month.  When I had a question during the 3 minutes of my OB appointment, they cheerily referred me elsewhere, as I was seeing a specialist.  Well no, I only saw the specialist for my first appointment and consultation, but regularly saw the technician for the three ultrasounds I had per month.  My specialist's office did not even take direct calls if an emergency question did arise -- I would need to leave that as a voicemail, with the message happily telling me that my call would be returned within 48 hours (one time I did need to leave a message to change an appointment time, my call was returned 3 business days later).  The one time I did ask a question at my specialist's office, the technician referred me back to my OB.  And so on, and so forth.
     Fast forward to the 4 1/2 month mark - a beautiful time in my pregnancy here (insert heavy sarcasm).  I had followed my doctor's advice and consented to have sequential screening done.  Why?  Because my due date falls two weeks into my 35th year, I am considered to be in the first block of advanced maternal age (the second, more 'serious' one occurring in your 40th year and after), and thus being at a greater risk of having a child with Down Syndrome.
     While at work on a Friday afternoon, I get a message from my doctor, informing me that she has my test results and that I should call back to speak with her.  The warning bells went off - typically, negative test results would just be left on my voicemail.  So, I call back and the doctor (whom I can't even place because I've seen 4 of the 10 different doctors in the practice) informs me that she is very sorry, but the baby has tested positive for the neural tube defect known as Spina Bifida.  She tells me that I need to call the specialist's office and tell them that she wants an ultrasound scheduled immediately.  I'm in shock and in tears, at work, and she tells me again that she is 'very sorry' and leaves me to try to get an appointment on a Friday afternoon.
     I frantically call the specialist's office, on the 'special' line my doctor has given me, in hopes that I would actually reach a human.  I leave a message and cross my fingers for a call back.  When the office calls me back, there is mass confusion as to why my doctor is ordering this ultrasound, none of which I can explain because I'm just following the doctor's instructions.  They decide to compromise, scheduling an appointment with a genetic counselor on Monday.  We go to the genetic counselor, who explains what we've been able to research over the weekend, tries to 'sell' us on different testing, and basically orders the ultrasound my OB had asked for because of things being 'inconclusive'.  We go in for the ultrasound...and everything is clear - no  sign of any abnormalities in the spine or stomach.  The u/s gave us a look with 90% accuracy, and the risks associated with amniocentesis were not, in our opinions, worth the additional 5% it would give us.  Thus, a week and a half of hell with no explanation at all of why the test came back with a 1 in 4 chance of our baby having Spina Bifida.  That's 1 in 4, not to be mixed up with 1 in 40, or even 1 in 400.  At 6 months pregnant, we have an active baby boy, growing right on target and no explanation for the test results.  (I had asked about the possibility of retesting, but the genetic counselor declined that because with results as high as mine, she saw no possibility for a mistake).
     Around this time, I began researching childbirth methods in preparation for the big day.  I instantly connected with the Bradley Method and began reading a book about it.  The more I read, the more I realized that I had way more choices than I had imagined, in regards to all aspects of my pregnancy and childbirth.  The more I read, the more I realized that I did not want a doctor overseeing my pregnancy and childbirth.  I asked a few girlfriends about their childbirth experiences and whether they had delivered naturally.  It wasn't until I met an old friend for coffee, and heard about her experiences delivering two of her children naturally, that I became convinced that a.) it was possible to deliver without medication, and b.) this was the route that I wanted to pursue.  (Thanks, Karen!)
     After discussing with my husband, reading more, and watching two documentaries, I was sold.  I was going to try to find a midwife to take over my prenatal care and help me deliver my child.
      Today, I had my first appointment with a midwife at Valley Birthcenter.  As soon as I walked in the door, I could feel the difference.  This was a warm, inviting, and peaceful place.  I met with one of the two midwives at the practice for 30 minutes.  Read 30 minutes, not 3 minutes!  We talked about my pregnancy, my diet and exercise regimes, and most importantly, she bonded with me and my unborn baby.  Not only did she treat me like a human, she acknowledged the baby growing in my body (which was hard not to, as he insisted on kicking her repeatedly while she was trying to listen to his heartbeat!).  I can actually say that I'm looking forward to my glucose test in a few weeks, as I am truly looking forward to going back.  With any luck, we'll even be able to deliver our baby there -- in the quiet of the house, without being hurried or having medication foisted on me, without an IV or hospital gown, and possibly in the jacuzzi.  I'm so glad that I fired my doctor, and I can't wait to continue to build a relationship with the midwives who will be assisting my husband and I to bring our little one into this world.