Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bittersweet Inpatient Adventures

As I returned to my room tonight after walking the love of my life (I know, puke right?) to the elevator to say good night, a weird sensation came over me.

One more week. One more week til the boys are born. 12 more days of living in this hospital.
There was 6 feet of the snow on the ground the day I checked myself in.
It is going to be 81 degrees here on Monday.
Have I really been here that long? Wow.

Pure elation is what I should be feeling at the thought of going home.
  Back home, to my own bed, my own surroundings, my own comfort. Back to reality and having the freedom to go where ever I want and do what ever I care. When I want to see a friend, I can go see a friend instead of silently secretly hoping they show up here. Back to my cat, and my home. Back to not sleeping alone. To going to the store when I need something, to privacy and a washer and dryer! Food that tastes like food, air that is actually fresh, a floor I am not afraid to walk on barefoot!
  Not only the change in surroundings, but the change in my body! After recovery I will have my body back in the sense that I will be able to walk five feet with out becoming out of breath. I will be able to tie my own shoes again. And, I will eventually be able to wear regular clothes! Clothes! Real clothes, not the 5 items I have been rotating for almost 2 months with no mirror to even see what they look like.
  And the greatest part of all (and also the most scary) - two wonderful babies! I finally get to meet the little guys who I have been so closely tracking and monitoring and praying for for months now! All this time and energy and fear and anxiety and anticipation, will be changed when they actually arrive!

I am SO excited for all of these things!!!
(Yes, but...)
   It is hard to believe but.... I am actually sad to leave.

Perhaps I am a prime candidate for postpartum depression, as I can already feel it sinking in.
Perhaps it isn't postpartum at all.
Perhaps it is that this place, as scary and confining as it was when I arrived, has become some what like a home to me.

A lot of factors play into this.
  I have spent 24 hours a day with these people. They have seen me at my worst, when my heart is breaking because it hurts so badly to say good night and good bye to my "partner in crime". They have seen me first thing in the morning after a night of little or no sleep, that was instead spent tossing and turning. They have seen me at my fattest and in very limited or no clothing (and many of them have seen even more than that!) They have seen me terrified, in tears, every time we discuss a risk or a chance of (even earlier) delivery. They have seen my embarrassing extreme OCD rituals. They have met my family and had conversations with them that I don't even have to be a part of. They have seen me breakdown and cry when I don't think I can take one more day, one more test, one more needle, one more scare. We have discussed every gross body function, discussed what it is like to be a parent, talked house redecorating, fashion and just life in general. I have learned about their families, their love lives, their children and more. They have become friends.
  My career has been pretty solo on and off for the past 8 years. I have spent a LOT of time alone, having limited contact with others on a vast rotating schedule. I did not come into an office and share daily routines and activities with anyone. I have not had any consistency like that in YEARS. Since I have been inpatient, I have begun to feel like a part of something. Thanks to HIPAA I am not nearly involved as my nosy self would like to be, but I have learned the staff schedule and their routine. I know what days to look forward to based on who will be working (which is almost every day might I add!) I know who I can say what to and who to ask when I need something. I have met surgeons and doctors and nurses and assistants. I have met social workers, students, cafeteria workers, waitresses at the restaurant across the street (where I shouldn't be). I have met people from the information desk and the girl that brews the coffee at the little coffee stand. From the person who cleans the toilets to the NICU nurses that could save my children's lives... each and every one has played a part in my stay.

  These things have made this place home. I cried my eyes out the day I had to check myself into this hospital. I was relying on the outside world to help me through. My family, my boyfriend and his family and our friends have made it so much easier to be here. I wait every day for my regular visitors arrivals and I enjoy every minute of the few hours we get to spend together.
  But the rest of the hours, when my friends are at work, or just too plain busy with their own lives. The days my family truly has other things to do (which might I add, doesn't happen often - they tend to set it aside to make an appearance here. I can never express my gratitude for that). The days that the sun just doesn't quite reach through my window, I some how know I am not alone. There has become comfort in these halls, a place I have been terrified of my whole life. There has become a friend in faces that 7 weeks ago were strangers. There are hugs from people I once walked past and cowered from, because doctors and nurses were scary.

  Inpatient is on the list of the hardest things I have ever done. Being that I am on the brink of becoming a parent to two, I know this is only the beginning of hard things. But, not only did I find friends here who will have helped me through this 8 week experience, and continue to give me support as we lead up to the scariest part (the actual birth!), I know I have found friends who I can count on long after I am no longer a patient. Long after my babies leave the NICU for home and begin to grow into little boys. Long after I am hauling around this baby weight! And long after postpartum depression is only a memory.

  I am so thankful for my inpatient experience. To every mono/mono mom-to-be out there on the brink of entering the hospital for their stay, I can only say I wish you an experience as wonderful as mine has been. The sleepless nights, the terrible food, the noisiness, the terrifying screams from other rooms, the confinement, the loss of privacy, the stressful monitoring and tests and scans, the need for fresh air, the lonely nights (either alone or staring at your partner sleeping on the even more uncomfortable "dad bed"), all of it. May you experience it all, but may you also experience what I have - a new understanding for the medical profession and exactly what it means to be a part of it. May you find friends in the wonderful people who work 12 hours shifts and often more,  to be sure you and your babies are safe. Those who are paid to do a job, but choose to also be a friend.

  So as this chapter nears it's end (8 more days til delivery!) I remember that sometimes the toughest experiences bring about the biggest joys. In this case, the joy I have received doesn't begin and end with my beautiful babies to be - it involves so much more.
Every time I see those children's faces, I will be reminded of what it took to get them here, and all the people who were involved in supporting us to get them here! And I will (some how) find even more reasons to be thankful.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

What would you like for your birthday?

A year ago today, I was waking up with a headache from being out the night before. If I remember correctly, I was at the Van Dyck in the Stockade enjoying their amazing beer and the beginning of my 36th birthday weekend. This is a random guess but it's a pretty good one. If I wasn't there, I was Katie O'Byrnes.
Who am I kidding, I was probably at both.

My entrance to year 36 was spent with all my great girlfriends at my apartment drinking wine, telling stories and talking girl stuff. It continues to be one of my most favorite memories. We talked about what the upcoming year would bring and hopes and dreams. I had high expectations for 2013, (being that 13 is my favorite lucky number), but quickly realized I was a year off. Started to wonder if I was off by two years and 2015 was where my life was finally going to come together.

As I quickly approach 37, I can not help but recap 36 over and over in my head. It was truly the most drastic life changing year of my life. Thinking back to the bottles of wine, and talk with friends a year ago, I had no idea what was really in store for me this year.

I had an opportunity to spend a lot of my time alone at home during my 35th year. Typically this would be a complaint for me, but in retrospect - it was the greatest gift I was ever given. I took that time to study myself, my life, to learn what I want and how to be grateful for what I have. I learned that being thankful for the little things every day, makes all the difference in the world. Couple that with really figuring out what it is you want - out of a job, a friendship, a relationship, life in general - you can really actually get all you want.

A few weeks later I was going about my normal weekend routine and happened to fall upon the person I would later learn not only met all my "qualifications" for what I wanted in my future partner, but quickly became my best friend, by biggest supporter, the one who makes me laugh when I don't think there is even so much as smirk left in me, who tells me just how "okay" it is going to be when I doubt I can make it through another day, my hero.
I could bore you with the details, and I gladly would because it remains my favorite story so far. But I won't. I will tell you it was a crazy summer full of amazingly great times I will never forget and also coupled with some of (what I thought were) the most stressful days.
Both he and I were going through major changes in our lives. Possibly him more than I. It put pressure on the fun, spontaneous, getting to know you, beginning part of a relationship.
So months later, when I showed up with the 6 positive pregnancy tests and eyes full of tears, I worried just how much his shoulders could bare.
My life went from bottles of wine, discussing life with my girls to "oh my god, what do we do now" in approximately half a year.
So, I  quickly and stressfully (is that a word?) moved (out of my apartment which I had become very attached to).
We planned. We cried. We went from terrified to excited and back a zillion times a day.
We tied up lose ends, and began building a picture of the future.
As with keeping with the trend of craziness 2014 had brought, we learned it was twins. A rare 1/10,000 case of mono mono twins. We scheduled more doctor appointments than I have ever had in my (hypochondriac) lifetime. Faced medical fears I never imagined existed.
Learned that life isn't going to only change when these babies arrive, but months before. Four months before the due date I was slotted to check into the hospital. Until they were born, which would be at least two months early.
That left us just a few short months to prepare. A few short, stressful months.

Come February, about a month before I was admitted to inpatient care, I was laid off from work. Not only did I love my job, but we were now down a salary, down an insurance carrier, down a maternity and short term disability leave, down a career. I'd been laid off before. It was painful and rough. But that was just me and a cat to support. Now what? Truly, now what would I do. I couldn't exactly go get a job (the one thing I actually KNOW how to do!) - as who will hire someone for 4 weeks that is a high risk pregnancy and can barely hold her head up past 2pm? Sounds very marketable huh?
We had babies to prepare for, a house to get in order, a car to buy.
I had watched the father of my children-to-be work like I have never witnessed someone work, since the day he found out I was pregnant, now this will add more stress to him, being our sole provider.

To add insult to injury, dad-to-be was denied FMLA due to the fun fact that we were not married. This still makes no sense to me, but he ran the risk of suspension from work if he took too much time off to be at doctor appointments.  How do you put someone in that position?! Every doctors appointment was important in this case. Every appointment, every 7-10 days, revealed something new about our situation.

At this point, it was easy to fall to the floor, give up hope, surrender to depression and let the hormones take over and cry til my eyes were dry. It was easy to think back to my 36th birthday and wonder "what the HELL happened!?!?!" But I thought back to that year of 35 instead. I tried to remember what got me to where I was, because although it was a struggle, and every day was another fight, it really was all going to be okay. How could it not be? I wasn't going through it alone, I was going through it with the person I was meant to do this journey with. The one who is stronger than 1,000 of me.
We could have gotten married. It would have solved many issues. But is that why you get married? To fix the broken? No. Not in my opinion. There has never been a doubt in mind that I wanted to spend my life with this person, since the first month I met him. And even that is not a reason to hurry up and do it.

So, I organized the house the best I could, I packed my bags, I said my prayers, and I shipped off to the hospital for my two month stay. Not knowing how we would make it through or what to expect. Not having ever been in a hospital for more than a few hours, and having done everything in my power to keep things that way up until this point. Not ever having even so much as an IV. No anesthesia, no surgery, nothing. Nothing but (what I learn now) an irrational, very large, anxiety inducing fear of all things medical.

And this brings us to birthday 37. I've had some interesting birthdays, I've gone cool places, done amazing things. But 37 will forever live in my mind, I have no doubt. The days that lead up to it, and the ones that follow will probably not ever be forgotten as well. I will spend the day I turn 37 here, in the hospital. Hopefully I will spend the first 25 days of my 37th year here as well.
I can tell you, a year ago, or 20 years ago or even 9 months ago - I could never imagine my next birthday wishing to be inpatient in the hospital. WHO WOULD?
But I see now, after getting a little over half way thru it, just how much this experience will add to my life. No I haven't slept, like truly slept, in over a month. Yes the food is horrific. No, I still don't have a job bringing in income for my family. Yes, I am going to cry the day I take a shower in MY house and sleep in MY bed again. But all of these things can not take away what I have learned here. All the machines, IVs, terrifying experiences, the constant monitoring, the "code blue, whites, reds and greens", the 5:30 am wake ups, the blood draws, the lack of fresh air and sunlight,  the screams from laboring women, the painful shots and horrible injections of different kinds, none of it outweighs the amount I have learned.

I have learned that I truly picked the most perfect person (I say "picked" when I mean he let me pick him) to share this life experience with. His selflessness amazes me multiple times a day.

I learned just how much a parent can love a child. Not only from the love I feel for my un-borns, or for the love I have seen of other patients in this hospital, but the love I have felt from my own. The time, the effort, the energy, the thought they put into every day. For their own child.

I have learned how "nurse or doctor" is more than a job description. How they become the support system and the friends you never imagined finding. They get you through every horrifying experience and remind you how strong you are and that you can do this. They down play nothing, they understand the anxiety, they don't judge you for a bad day, they hold your hand when you are scared and crying, they get you through months of living in a hospital. They understand. They become more than a face that hands you pills. They become your friends. The ones that make you laugh, that share their life stories and listen to yours. They hug you good bye and forgive you for you early morning moodiness. They discuss your intimate details and share theirs. They are friends you never expected to find in a place you fear so much.

I have learned that support doesn't always come from those closest to you. That a friend you had 25 years ago can support you in ways you never imagined. That you truly fill the minds of those who are only passing thoughts in your own hospital driven mind. That people truly are amazing, and giving, and caring. That when the whole world feels like it is falling apart, you can be picked up by someone you least expect to grab your hand. Social media gets a bad rep, and for many good reasons, but I can never deny the power of positivity I have received via social media over the past months. It is ASTOUNDING and I am thankful for every message, card, note, text, call, post, video, care package, visit and more. I can never find a way to express this fully. Ever.

I have learned that family and friends are really what life is about. This hospital is NOT easy to get to, is a pain in the ass to park at, is stressful to find your way through, yet, everyday people take time out of their day to do it. For us. The support is incredible. Be it in person, or not - I am overwhelmed by it.

I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night (just kidding, I wake up every ten minutes) wondering "is this real?" and "how did I get here?" I live in a hospital room. Growing two baby boys. Praying they can stay in for their delivery date. Holding my breath thru every test, every ultrasound, every monitoring session, every day.
And I wonder "How? How did I get here? Will I make it thru? Will we all?" It's as if it is a dream, as if it isn't real. Because I never could have imagined it. In my WILDEST dreams I could be in this situation.

So, as I enter my 37th year, I know I am as in the dark about what is to come as I was at 36. I have never been a mom. I have never witnessed a NICU stay or a preemie baby (or any baby!). I have never even had surgery. 19 days after my 37th birthday - this will all be my reality.
These babies really have done it right, I have to say. They have given me an opportunity to learn more than I could have in 5 years, all in just a few months since I learned of their existence.
 And just in time to me their mom.
What greater birthday gift can I ask for than that?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Where do we go from here?

I have been pondering where this blog should go from here.

There are so many avenues it could take.
 I could talk about the amazing staff and the difference they truly make on your inpatient stay. How they are paid to take care of you, but they aren't paid to be your friend although most of them make the choice to do so anyways. I could talk in length about how much this impresses me.
 I could talk about the other patients I have met - the funny stories, the odd stories, the horror stories and the beautiful stories.
 I could talk about the amount of support I have from the outside as well. The visitors, the packages, the notes, the calls, the texts, the emails, the letters, the posts.... it goes on and on. This I could also discuss in length because I am in complete AWE of the outpouring of support and love. (this includes those of you who I have yet to respond to, sorry! You are appreciated!)
 I could discuss the way this type of situation effects a relationship. My god could I discuss this. I could tell you how I am further amazed with the size of my partners heart and all he is willing to do to make this situation okay for me. Not for him, but for me. His selflessness is unimaginable. I could go on and on about this for days but it makes me cry so hard that I know that I could never possibly relay these feelings into reality.
 I could discuss the actual pregnancy and the ins and outs of what goes on here. Every day is a battle. Every day is a surprise. Living on pins and needles (literally) daily. Holding my breath through each test, fearing each moment. Really forgetting all the beauty of why I am here and instead drowning in fear. I could tell you in depth about each test, each ultrasound, each success and each 'failure'.
 I could discuss the blessing of each day. That when nightfall comes, and the tests are done for another day, the relief I feel. We feel. And then the dread of the next morning and what it might bring.
 I could discuss the hope. The faith. The positive energy. The things that come from love and knowing we are surrounded by it daily. How when I walk through this hospital I am reminded just how insignificant I am. How little I really have to worry about in comparison to so many others here. How although my situation is terrifying, the odds are better than some others around me.
 I could talk about how I have gone absolutely bat shit crazy. Every "crazy" thing I was before is now amplified to an excessive degree. Worry? HA! I thought I worried the last 36 years, I had no idea. Stress? Don't make me laugh! I didn't know what stress was. Obsess? Give me a break... if I was clinically OCD before, then I am sure there is a straight jacket with my name embroidered waiting somewhere for me now, because I have exceeded the limits of acceptable!
 I could talk about how I miss the outside world. To feel the actual earth under my feet. To have 5 minutes of privacy to take a shower. To just go to the store and wander. To drive a car and listen to music. To snuggle in my own bed. To pet my cat. To not feel guilty with every visitor that makes their way here. How I have watch peoples entire lives change because of my situation and fitting me into their day and making an effort for me.

I could discuss all these things in depth. The good, the bad, the tiny moments, and the big. I could go on and on because this has become my only world. My only focus. When you are in a 10'x10' room, with nothing to think about but the well being of the two babies you are trying to grow and possibly your own health (only because it some how relates to those two babies) - nothing else exists. It becomes a breeding ground for the scary.  I could think about all this and I have, for many many weeks. But last night, I remembered why I am here. I remember the wishes I made earlier in my life. The wish to watch our kids take their first steps together and to see their dads face when they do. The wish for a game of catch in the yard. A wish for crazy nights of homework that I don't even understand. For family vacations, for birthday parties and Christmas mornings. For strolls in the park and days on the lake.
 For the first time- in the weeks and hours plagued with fear, I remembered the actual prize. I remembered that we will get through this, that we are strong enough to do it, that my babies are fighters, that NICU days will not last forever, and that one day all these wishes will be a reality.

And today, I guess that is what I will focus on. Because love can always conquer fear, if you let it....