Monday, July 2, 2012
Bucket List Item, Happily Checked Off
On a very cold night in November of 2002, I was quite pregnant with our first child. My pregnancy was fairly uneventful, other then a fall down some stairs at 18 weeks. We were both fine as I took the brunt of it on my rear padding. I did not suffer much in the pregnancy beyond the normal aches and pains of growing another person inside you. I did however read EVERYTHING I could get my hands on about pregnancy and childbirth. I gave our son the best start possible before he was even here, eating all the right organic food, watching my weight gain (I was already overweight and did not need to gain much) and exercising to keep fit. I was ready to deliver that baby naturally with no drug intervention, we attended classes and Music Man was set to be a stellar birth coach. We used the 9 months of pregnancy to study all we could, prepare the nursery, take the classes and just do all we could to make Maestro's entrance into this world a smooth one. Then, life took over our best laid plans, as it often does.
I was feeling quite tired after a long day at the office and laid down when I got home. My water broke that evening 2 weeks before my due date. We went to the hospital and I was told to go home as I was not yet in active labor. So, we went home and waited. I started to have some contractions about 5 hours later, but not strong enough to warrant a return to the hospital yet. I stayed in that labor pattern for many hours, returning to the doctor's office to be monitored and told, not active enough labor yet (sure felt it for me!! even "not active enough" is painful after 20 hours of it!). We were admitted to the hospital 25 hours after my water broke and they induced labor. I decided not to take the pain medication, I had a birth plan and knowledge and was going to stick to it. So, I labored for another exhausting 12 hours with pitocin. For those of you who've not experienced it, it's like being hit by a freight train with contractions. It's incredibly intense and I literally moaned my way through labor, I refused to let it get the best of me and moaned with each contraction. Music Man was wonderful through this entire process, but he felt helpless to see me in so much pain. During this time, the doctor would periodically check my progress to see if the medication was working and I was dilating. After struggling with labor for 34 hours, she told me they would let me only go just a little longer because even with the top level of pitocin, I was not advancing. In fact, I never made it past 2 1/4 centimeters after all that time. She advised me that I might have a chance of dilating if I took the epidural, which can sometimes let your body relax enough to allow the process to take over. So, very reluctantly we agreed to try it. Needless to say it did not work, but my exhausted and depleted body was able to rest (as was poor Music Man who had been up with me the whole time) a bit. When my doctor told me they just weren't able to wait any longer for fear of infection, they urged me to have a c-section. I was devastated. My logical brain was telling me that it was probably the best thing for the baby, but I so badly wanted to have a natural birth experience, and I felt robbed of that. Little did we know that this was only the beginning of hard times with our son.
When he was born, he had mutiple digestive problems. He had very bad gastric reflux, as well as gas pains that were debilitating for him. The muscle that closes the stomach off from the esophagus was not fully developed and did not close entirely until he was 6 months old. This caused his food and stomach acid to flow freely up his esophagus, causing him severe pain. He would literally scream in pain for most of the 16 hours a day he was awake, for he also slept very little being in that kind of pain. It was not until a multitude of tests and doctor visits that we also discovered he was allergic to milk. Any kind of milk, which included breastmilk (as I had been breastfeeding him until then). So, at 4 1/2 months, weighing only 9 pounds, we put him on extremely expensive formula which had the casesin from the milk already processed out and he was almost able to smile once in a while between the painful boughts. During all this time, I was over my head with caring for this poor child day in and day out with very little help from anyone but Music Man. Maestro would ball his body up, fists clenched tight, legs tucked up hard against his stomach and scream in pain most of his waking moments. It was very hard to watch our child go through this and very hard to understand why it was happening to our family, so challenging for my first child.
We moved to a new town just before I got pregnant and knew very few people because it was not a town of friendly folksk, outsiders were not welcomed. The support network just was not there for us. I would cry alot myself since I felt like I had failed my son, I wasn't even able to provide him with the breastmilk he could tolerate, the most basic of motherly duties. I began to sink into a deep depression which I did not come out of until he was about 15 months old. People used to ask us if he had colic, and our response would be, we'd be thrilled if it was only colic. At least colic was a few hours of crying a day, this would go on day in and day out with him. Eventually at 6 1/2 months he was a happier baby and we began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. From the time of his birth, I took comfort where I could find it.
Music Man was working then, I had left my job when Maestro was born because I was not able to trust a day care provider to care for him in the state he was in. It was very hard for me, and I was his mother, what could someone with no emotional ties to him do to him? There were days that I had to put his bawling, screaming body into his crib and walk away and shut the door to calm myself down. Prior to having a child with these kinds of issues that you could provide no physical comfort to, I judged people who shook their baby and damaged them for life. After experiencing the utter helplessness of this situation coupled with the frustration and depression at him never feeling better no matter what we did, I understood how that could happen. Luckily, I had within me the switch that told me to put him down in a safe place, walk out and close the door and take 10 minutes to do something other then try to comfort him. But, I can see how that can happen if someone did not have that internal monitor. It was wholly consuming and overwhelming for us all.
During the nights, as there were many, many sleepless ones, we would use ear plugs to deaden the sound of his screaming. We would take turns with him sleeping literally on one of our chests as body contact was the only thing the comforted him enough to allow him to fall fitfully to sleep for short periods of time. We would sleep in 2 hours shifts, I would take Maestro on me for 2 hours and Music Man would sleep, then I would wake him and we would switch so that I could get a couple of hours of sleep. Whomever was awake kept one foot on the floor so that if we did doze off in our exhaustion, we would not role over on him. This was until he was about 3 months old, then we got him to sleep on a buckwheat hull pillow between us with a water bottle for comfort and warmth, then he was finally able to sleep in the beautiful cradle we bought him before he was born when he was 5 months old. At some point, we decided to put a tv in the bedroom so that the person on the awake shift would have something other then his crying to focus on. We often couldn't hear the sound over the wailing, but being able to watch something besides the dark ceiling seemed to help us feel less alone. We wouldn't leave to sleep on the couch, I think it was because we didn't want the other to feel abandoned, so we made it work in whatever way we could.
This was the longest 6 months of my life, each day dragged by and I was disconnected from everything just trying to get through it. I remember when I would take him shopping at the grocery store, because eventually, you have to go out, people would give me the dirtiest looks and make comments like "why can't she get that baby to stop crying?" or look at me like I was poking him with a pin or something. One particularly difficult trip to the grocery store, as that was really the only place I would take him besides the doctor's and that was just out of necessity, I left my half full cart and went to the car. I put him in his car seat and we cried together for 20 minutes. Longest 6 months of my life, indeed.
Years before we met, Music Man and I had both seen an amazing video from James Taylor called Squibnocket on PBS. This was him with his band and back up singers practicing at his barn studio on Martha's Vineyard. We both deeply love old barns and seeing this as the backdrop along with many shots of breathtaking Vineyard scenes was soothing. We bought the dvd of this and watched it over and over and over again on these long nights. James' voice and lyrics have always brought me to a peaceful place, I'm not sure why that is, but am sure only that it is. If you have not seen this, I definitely think you should experience it. This video is credited in our lives with getting us through a time tougher than any new family should have to bear. It was like a dear friend, a comforting vanilla frappe and a warm hug all in one for me. Balm for the soul.
I would sing to Maestro all the time. Mostly to try to soothe him, but also because singing has always been a release for me. A form of prayer in some way, I think. There were times I felt abandoned by God during this time, it tried my faith immeasurably. The song I would invariably sing over and over to him was "Secret O'Life". The lyrics soothed my soul and his pained body. When I was breastfeeding him in the early days, I would try to make eye contact with him and sing this to him when we were by ourselves. It became one of the only ways I felt I was able to connect to him on a spiritual level. And hearing James sing that song in his amazing talent would help me feel less alone in some small way, as both Music Man and I felt alone together in our struggle with that situation. No one we knew had ever experienced it and no one could really understand it if they tried to. So James became a friend to me of sorts, and I think lots of people who have a favorite artist feel the same way. He was the beacon with his Squibnocket "lighthouse" showing me a way in my darkness.
And if you can believe it, this being a perfect storm of rare conditions, we had another baby with the same problems 21 months after the birth of Maestro. The doctors told us it won't happen twice, it's very rare. After 24 hours of hard labor, and another failed attempt at natural childbirth, we had another c-section. Little Red arrived. The doctors were mistaken and he had all the same problems, but we were a little better able to handle it because we did not need to test him and wait. I knew his first night outside me in the world, he cried the entire night, that we were in for the same ride. However, we knew which direction to turn and so his ailments were not as catastrophic for any of us. Still very trying, but by then we had moved back to my husband's hometown and were nearer to friends and family and it felt less "out there" then the other town had been.
Fast forward 7 more years through many other trials and tribulations. We lost our house and barn which we worked on for 5 months, due to Music Man's job going to China and we couldn't obtain financing anymore. That barn was to be our Squibnocket. That loss was greater to us then it might have been to someone else because we truly felt that was to be our place to pass along to others the comfort that music had provided for us. My husband being a musician, this place was his dream come true on many levels. We hoped to raise the level of joy for others as well as we planned for it to be a venue to gather friends and just have a place for people to meet and play together. We lost so much more then just a house when that deal went sour. We still watched that Squibnocket dvd, but were not able to do so after we lost the barn because of the attachment we had to it and what it meant to us. It sat on the shelf for almost a year untouched.
On my long bucket list of what I want to experience in life before I leave this great planet was seeing James Taylor live. I have passed up many chances to do so because finances were never right to justify spending that kind of money on ourselves, so we kept it in the "someday" file. After Music Man's latest lay off, we basically said screw the "someday" file, we're gonna start doing some of these things that we've put off for so long, the money may never be there. Who knows how long James will tour, he's not a spring chicken anymore and perhaps at some point he'll want to stop. So, when Music Man told me James was coming to the Verizon Center only two towns away, we looked at each other and said "let's do it!". As Music Man is on Mr. Taylor's fan club on facebook, he was notified of advance sale tickets through them. Just for fan club members. So he bought them, not knowing where we would be sitting, but feeling that it would give us a hope of not being in the nosebleed seats so far from the stage. We definitely did not pay the most expensive price for the tickets, but it was a lot of money to us. Once in a lifetime chance...and Music Man was utterly shocked when the notification arrived from the fan club a few days later advising us our seats would be on the floor...in the front freakin' row!!!!
This is long, and I'm tired...To Be Continued,