Strep, Love and Vomit

I am experiencing the phase in life that many parents of young children know all too well.  My children are ALWAYS sick.   Two weeks ago the entire family enjoyed a good old fashioned case of strep throat courtesy my four year old.  This week it was pink eye.  In between was perhaps the worst of all.

I went downstairs to check on my babies and could smell the foul aroma wafting out of their room, through the hallway and into the playroom (it seriously filled like 2000 square feet of space).  Any physician worth their salt can instantly identify that smell.  It was rotavirus.

I carefully investigated to determine who the culprit might be.  It was Baby Bird, the two-year old.  After lifting her unconscious body, it became immediately apparent that she had soiled her entire backside and the bed.  I plucked her out of bed and placed her on a towel in the bathroom.  In an emergency, the best thing to do is to call for help, so I leaned out into the hallway to yell for my husband.

Big Mistake.  Huge.

By the time I lean back in, Baby Bird has woken up and is spewing forth like a tiny Linda Blair.  It just keeps coming. Did you know that a twenty-four pound baby can hold up to a gallon of vomit?   Me neither.   It was on the floor, walls, my clothes, her clothes, in our hair, everywhere.   We put her in the bath and I set about cleaning up the puke when suddenly my husband, who is a sympathetic puker by the way, starts yelling for me as she starts puking in the tub and there is just so much puke.  Did I mention puke?

After a bazillion towels, a gallon of bleach, some plastic bags, and several days of reflection, I have come to one very important conclusion: Thank the Good Lord for Puke.

I have so many reasons to thank God in this situation.

  1. I have a wonderful husband who was willing to help me with my sick child.  Many women are in this parenting thing all alone.
  2. I had an almost endless supply of towels to clean up after my child and a totally endless supply of clean, fresh water.   I just think about some poor woman living with her toddler in a grass hut somewhere.  I am sure they have rotavirus in grasshutistan.  This poor lady doesn’t have an endless supply of clean fresh linens and clean fresh water to take care of their child.  Heck, they do not have enough clean fresh water for their child to drink probably.  Look at me with all my clean fresh water and towels.
  3. Being a doctor,  I had a readily available supply of nausea medication to medicate my child with.   I didn’t have to make the choice to blow this month’s budget in order to take care of my sick child.
  4. I have wonderful people willing to help me with my sick child while I work that I can implicitly trust with her care.  Did you see where I said people?  As in several.  As in several people that I can trust with my sick child.   Some people have NO support like this in their life.

So, yeah, I think I am pretty lucky with this stomach virus thing.  It could be a lot worse and is for many.  Thank you Lord again for your goodness in showing me how great I have it. wp-1486785740138.jpg

 

Defiance

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Recently it was one of those beautiful late days of summer where it is still warm and sunny enough to swim and I took the girls to the pool to play date with their best buds.   After a lengthy swim, my two-year old wanted a snack and demanded I take her puddle-jumper off to enjoy her goldfish crackers.  After a lengthy stay in the sun, Baby Bird decided she wanted to get back in the pool.

“Ok, but you have to put your puddle-jumper back on,” I explained.

“NO! I do it!” she loudly replied.

“No, Baby Bird, you have to put in on, you don’t know how to swim,” I patiently intimated.

“NOOOOOOOOOOO!  I DOOOOOO IT!” she wailed.

This is when I thought to myself that this may be an excellent learning opportunity for Baby Bird.  Natural consequences friend, natural consequences.

I stood back and said, “By all means sweetheart, YOU do it.”

Confidently, Baby Bird approached the pool stairs.   She strutted her stuff down, one, two, three stairs, and then confidently strutted herself straight under the water and sunk like a rock.

I was standing right nearby and snatched her up and out of the pool in seconds asking, “Do you see now why you need your puddle-jumper?”

“Uh-huh,” she sputtered.

Since then, I have thought about my relationship with God.  I wonder how often I am standing there like a toddler with my fists balled up screaming, “I DO IT!”  I wonder how often he stands by and lets me suffer the natural consequences of my actions.   I am so grateful he is always standing by to pick me back up when I sink to the bottom.

The Roman Road

My husband and I were big fans of the show “How I Met Your Mother”.   On one particular episode, Barney’s friends were going to surprise him by introducing him to his childhood hero, The Karate Kid.  Barney is bitterly disappointed when confronted with Ralph Macchio insisting that he is not The Karate Kid and the movie is really about Johnny played by William Zabka.

If you have ever actually seen The Karate Kid, you will know that Johnny is the bully from the rival dojo who “sweeps the leg” to injury Ralph Macchio’s character.

This describes perfectly how I felt yesterday afternoon watching my eldest play.  We has just come back from church and Z was playing with her stuffed animals.  She placed Spot, her favorite animal in “jail”.   I asked her what Spot had done to land himself in the clink.

She replied, “He didn’t do anything wrong, Mommy.  He was just telling people about Jesus.”

Then she stage whispered conspiratorially at her sister, “Baby Bird, if you tell people about Jesus, they may not like it, and you may end up in jail.”

True words kid, true words.

However;  I find it really disturbing that playing out this scenario, my daughter picked for herself the role of Roman Centurion rather than Early Church Martyr.   I think she may have come down on the wrong side of history on this one.

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We went back over her Sunday School lesson emphasizing that it is a noble thing to be persecuted for your faith, but I am not sure at four she is ready to appreciate this truth.  I did hear her tell her sister later, “You might end up in jail for it, but you should probably tell people about Jesus anyways.”

At least this is a step away from being the jailer.

 

A Letter to Boogie

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Dearest Boogie,

I remember the day you came into our lives.  You crept so timid, and hungry into our back yard.   I thought you were a puppy because you were so small, and I thought you were brown because you were so dirty.     We fed you and cleaned you and you became part of our family.

I remember you first trip to the vet when they said, “She has heartworms.  It is going to be expensive to treat,” and we said, “FIX THE DOG.”

Remember the trip to the Grand Canyon with Mommy and Daddy?   Not every dog gets to go to the Grand Canyon.     We took you with us everywhere and I will never regret that time spent with you.

I remember your second trip to the vet when they reminded us that you could get pregnant, and we said, “FIX THE DOG.”

Remember all the things you destroyed?   Those three sets of blinds weren’t too bad, but that garage door was expensive.  How did you eat the wiring out of the wall?  I don’t know how you destroyed a metal panel from your kennel, but you managed handily.  Oh, and thanks for destroying the curtains, downstairs door and carpet at mom’s house.   That was a nice check I had to write.

That is nothing compared to your capacity to hoard hidden foodstuffs.  Remember taking that whole loaf of garlic bread off the counter?  You hid it in Daddy’s closet and he called it your “Strategic Garlic Bread Reserve”.  That wasn’t quite as bad as the time I had a ten pound sack of raw chicken thawing in the sink and came home to NO chicken.    I found raw cutlets shoved under pillows and in laundry hampers for an unfortunately long time.     I was really amazed that you learned how to open the dishwasher so you could use it as a ladder to the countertop.  You were such a smart dog.

Remember how we loved you SO much that two people who swore they would never have children decided to give it a try.    Dearest girl,  I owe my second and third baby to you.   I know there were times that you were a little jealous, but you were such a good big sister.   I love how even when you were dying that you insisted on doing the stairs every night to put them to bed.

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Thank you for sticking with me through both pregnancies and cuddling me at night.   You got up with me every time I had to pee or throw-up and went with me to the bathroom.  I will never forget that kindness my love.

Remember the first time your pancreas flared six months ago?   They said, “We can give her medicine but it is going to be expensive,” and we said, “FIX THE DOG.”

I will miss giving you belly and face rubs.   I will miss feeling your beautiful silky ears.     Remember how you inspired Dr. Pepper to get his own dog and LuckyPup instantly fell in love with you and thought you were his mommy?   I don’t know how I am going to tell LuckyPup about this.   I still haven’t told your sisters.

Remember that phase before having human babies when Mommy wanted to dress you up all the time?  You were so tolerant.

You were our first baby and Daddy’s first dog, and I am pretty sure you were the best dog in the world.

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I am sorry that when they told me yesterday that it was liver cancer, that I couldn’t answer, “FIX THE DOG.”   I am sorry if you suffered a moment longer than necessary because mommy wanted to spend more time with you.   I am sorry that it has been hard for you to eat and drink for the last few days.  We just wanted to spend a few more moments with you, precious girl.  I will always appreciate that couple of days where you felt good and chased the gator like a pup and played with me again.

I know my father in heaven and I will see you again sweet puppy.  Say hi to Papa and Sammy Short Legs Daddy and all the people we love and miss.    I will be with you someday.

 

Love,

Mommy

When Tragedy Happens

With the tragic death of a sweet baby in our small community, emotions are high.  I can relate to and understand reactions that are similar to mine.   My heart aches for a family, a mother, a father,  a sister, a grandmother, a church, a community.   I grieve the loss of a sweet soul to eternity.

What I am struggling with, are the other reactions, the negative and hurtful reactions.   I cannot believe the insensitivity and some of the horrible comments.  I have thought long and hard about why people would be so cruel.

When they say, “I don’t understand why the family is profiting on the death of this baby,” what they mean is, “I am greedy and envious that I cannot exploit some tragedy in my life for financial gain.”

When they say, “That grandmother is too young, and too pretty…. That grandfather has too many motorcycles and tattoos…. That father had a run in with the law in 1999,” what they mean is, “Don’t look too hard at my family.   I try really hard to present an ideal picture on Facebook.  I don’t want you looking too hard at the skeletons and imperfections in my own life.  I don’t want to talk about my cousin who went to jail and my dad who is an alcoholic.”

When they question the searchers and law enforcement, what they really mean is, “I feel like a guilty jerk that I didn’t do my part by getting off my lazy tail to help by searching or sending a casserole.  My criticism of those who participated makes me feel better about how worthless I have been in this endeavor.”

When they say, “I don’t understand how anyone could lose a two-year old,” what they mean is, “I absolutely understand how this happened, because it (has, could, did, is happening) to me right this moment.  (I lose my two year old in my own house at least once a day.)  This is their fear and them reassuring themselves that it couldn’t happen to them, knowing full well that it is luck that it has not happened to them”

When they petition the government for a deeper investigation, what they mean is, “My right to salacious details and gossip is more important than your pain and grief.”

I hope and pray that those with a negative attitude will consider the pain of their words before making further statements.  However involved you feel in this event, your pain is nothing compared to that of a grieving mother and father.  Please measure your words.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear .Ephesians 4:29

A Letter to My Girls

Z and Baby Bird,

You are fighting, a lot.  I watch you fight over who gets to play with the toy broom.  Today, you guys have been fighting over your baby dolls.  Z, you were mad that your sister had the audacity to feed and change your baby doll.   You expressed this with much yelling.  Baby Bird, you tried to assault your sister because she was sitting in my lap and you didn’t want Z to have access to your mommy.   Sometimes you fight over who gets which baby doll.

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My angels, they are the same.

But, really, I am thinking forward twenty-five years in the future.   Baby Bird, when you have had your first baby and big sister Z shows up with broom in hand to clean your house for you, cook you a meal and tuck you into bed, I seriously doubt you will still be fighting over brooms.

Z, on a related note, when you are tired and have hands full with multiple toddlers and Baby Bird sends you out with your sweet hubby to the movies while she feeds and cares for your babies, I don’t think you will complain.

It is amazing how perspective changes some arguments.

I hope forty years from now, when I am old and gray that you will both still be fighting about who gets the privilege of spending time with Mommy.  I bet perspective changes this too, but I hope not.

 

Well, At Least It’s Protein….

I am daily astounded by the differences and similarities between my babies. Z is precocious. She was an early talker.   She has made shocking speeches from the time she was eleven months old. Most recently, we have been potty training and we spent an eternally long couple of days in the Mythical Big Girl Panties.   It didn’t go well. We had SEVERAL accidents. Finally, Z looked at me and said:

“Mommy, I think my Big Girl Panties are bwoken.”

I said, “Really, Z, what’s going on.”

“They have holes in them. They don’t hold the peepee,” Z replied candidly.

After trying to contain my laughter, I promptly switched her back to pull ups. Clearly she just isn’t ready for this.

Baby Bird only communicates in a string of grunts and pointing and screaming. It is amazingly, just as effective as Z’s soliloquys.

Z is afraid of everything:

  1. Bugs
  2. Going too far from the house
  3. Anything on TV that is not PBS
  4. Airplanes
  5. Trains
  6. The dark
  7. The dining room (for some inexplicable reason)

Baby Bird is fearless.   She crawls headlong into danger. I lost track of her the other day and looked up and she was half way up the stairs oblivious to her impending head injury.   I was trying to get some housework done the other day and I noticed a black spot on her face. I went over to examine what was going on, and found half a bug hanging out of her mouth. She was happily munching on the other wriggly bit. When I removed the half that was accessible, she grunted, pointed and screamed about the loss of her delicious bug.   Moments after that, I found her trying to smash a snow globe into the carpet with both hands trying obtain access to its delicious contents.

And sand…. Where Z would timidly taste a little play sand, making a horrible face and discarding it, Baby Bird got a cup of the stuff and was drinking it like a med student guzzling coffee at two am on the wards.

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I don’t really know what I expected.   I guess I assumed that they would be miniature clones of me. Yet they have their own personalities that I had nothing to do with.   They came out endowed by God as the sweet little individuals I am now responsible for.   I thought they would be a blank slate, but I guess it is more fun un-wrapping the layers that are Baby Bird and Z. It is the most wonderful present I have ever unwrapped.

Hey Jerk, Don’t Bring Your Sick Kid to Church

The last two weeks my family has been afflicted with the stomach virus and we missed church two weeks in a row.  I want to share with you the strange thing that happened.   We did not get struck down by lightening.   I know, it is really strange, in my experience, most people believe that Jesus wants them to go to church no matter their state of health.

I could understand if our church was into faith healing. I don’t think a lot of that showboating actually goes on at our contemporary, coffee-bar style church. Besides, dropping your pestilence-ridden toddlers off at the nursery is NOT an attempt at faith healing. It is just a Jerk move.

I would propose that in addition to the contexts of your child actively spewing forth from both ends, coughing up hunks of green nastiness, or bleeding out their eyeballs that there are several other circumstances that merit staying at home.

  1. If your child has had a fever in the last forty-eight hours perhaps you should skip church or at least the nursery. (One day we were dropping off Z in the nursery and we overheard another couple talking about how their angel had been up sick all night and they were really looking forward to dropping him off for a break. Really? We just turned around and came home.) Also, if you are continually medicating your child to keep their fever down it doesn’t count as “not having a fever”.
  2. If your child has an actively snotty nose, or obvious respiratory infection. Don’t play. You know your baby is sick. Stop lying and saying things like, “oh her nose is really runny when she is teething.” That baby’s snot is green with blood in it. That is NOT teething.
  3. If your child has had stomach virus in the last week or so, you should pass up church. Rotovirus is highly contagious with just a few viral particles and can be transmitted for several days after the acute illness passes.   Plus, it is just gross and miserable and you are not a good person for doing this to others.   (On a related note, saw many people a couple of weeks ago on Facebook comment about how bad the stomach virus was at their house only to see them at church a couple of days I am sure all the volunteers are really going to be sending you a thank you card when they are missing valuable work time because for some reason you felt compelled to bring your sick child to church.)
  4. If your child has a positive flu and/or strep test, YOU. SHOULD. SKIP. CHURCH. (I shouldn’t even have to mention this, but sadly, I do.)

Just consider the above a public service announcement from both a physician and mommy.   Remember that there are other children, elderly and pregnant women at church who may have depressed immune systems. There are also numerous people that cannot be vaccinated for myriad reasons (transplants, allergies, etc.) They rely on us not to expose them to diseases.

I think the problem is that people feel “safe” at church and expect people there to act ethically and in the best interest of the whole community and they do not use the vigilance they would in other public settings to protect themselves against germs. Please realize that God is not going to strike you down for enjoying the sermon remotely while in your PJ’s if your family is sick. We will ALL thank you for this.   Also, remember to wash your hands and vaccinate those kiddos! We are all in this together!

Jesus, Thank you for our Christmas Stomach Flu

Dear Lord, thank you for the Christmas stomach flu,

Thank you that it hit my girls a little before Christmas so they still got to enjoy the magic of your birth.

Thank you that Z doesn’t bother to wake us up when she throws up.  She just vomits in one corner of the bed, piles some toys on the top of it and sleeps in another corner.   It isn’t fun to clean up the next day, but it makes for a better night of sleep.

On a related note, thank you that when I found my toddler covered in dried puke with every toy and blanket she owns likewise coated that I had hot, plentiful running water to clean both her and her toys.  Thank you that I didn’t have to walk several miles with a sick toddler and a baby to draw up water from a well to clean my daughters.  Thank you that I had an entire stick of Oxi-Clean on hand to get the stains out.

Thank you Lord that Baby Bird only had a touch of it. When she had a poosplosion of epic proportions and my husband held up a sleeper covered in baby waste shaking his head we both knew we weren’t going to try to salvage it.   Thank you that I wasn’t standing at the sink with my hands covered in filth trying to salvage something so disgusting because we are just so blessed that we can just buy another sleeper.

Thank you that when my mother got sick that there were good friends at her work willing to drive her home and help her.

Thank you that Dr. Pepper is also on the road to recovery.

Thank you for our excellent health on most days of the year.  Lord, thank you that I am not holding a sick and hurting child every day wishing I could make them feel better.

Thank you for Phenergan.

And Ginger Ale….

And Ritz Crackers…..

And Lysol.

Amen

A Joyful Moment

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There are wonderful, priceless times in our lives. These are times that we are carefree and joyous; times were the bad things in life don’t seem so large. When I was young, it was easy to overlook these times and not recognize what a blessing they were.   As I get older, when I have one of these transient life-moments of delight interspersed between the moments of pain, it is easier to distinguish it as the glimpse into heaven that it is meant to be.

When I was in medical school, we lived in the University Cabana Apartments, affectionately known as Cabanaland.   This was not some pre-professional school luxury condo.   This was a section eight apartment complex in Memphis.   Let me say that again so it can sink in. It was a section eight apartment in Memphis.   Also, this complex had eight foot fences with razor wire around the top, and an ACTUAL moat around it.   Okay, so maybe it wasn’t an actual moat as much as it was a giant culvert going around the whole property to drain overflow sewage from the city, but it did make me feel marginally safer from outside marauders. There was also a twenty-four hour armed security guard at the gate.

One sunny afternoon, Hipster Doctor found a bag of crack and money on our adjacent front porch.   She, being the good Samaritan that she is, turned this over to the security guard (who incidentally was later fired for being found high in one of the public bathrooms on the property. I think there is a possible connection here, but I cannot be sure.)   I think I would have flushed the crack and kept the money (considering my husband and I were living on about $9500 annually).   One of the neighbors (a self-professed cocaine aficionado) came by all the time to borrow our phone (this was the day of land lines).

I miss lovely summer evenings at the Cabanas when a string of tricked out Caddys, Buicks and Cutlasses would come pick up a parade of scantily-clad, deftly made-up young women for their evening employment.

So you may ask, “What was so great about being poor in a section eight housing unit in Memphis filled with crime, drugs and hookers?”   This is a valid question.   No argument, but let me tell you what else the Cabanas featured.   Hubby’s sister, Aunt Panda, my brother, Dr. Pepper, Wild Pharmacist, Italian Stallion, Tim The Overly Italian Optometrist, The Librarian, Art Student, Hipster Doctor, Insane Newscaster (story to follow at eleven), and Evil Genious all lived at the Cabanas.

Every single one of my friends at the time lived in Cabanaland.   There was always someone to go to dinner, or a movie, or for a walk at any time.   There was constant entertainment at a moment’s notice. Impromptu parties abounded, and someone always had a video game system fired up somewhere.   I was too naïve at the time to realize that this was magical and something that most people don’t experience.   I didn’t know that for the rest of my life I would have to work to socialize and plan for a party.   It was about the last couple months as we were graduating and it was coming to an end that it hit me that this time in life was a gift from God. It was my support during a difficult time, giving me good memories and fun times to sustain me. When it was over, I mourned these times.

As I have grown in age and wisdom, I have come to distinguish these enchanted times in my life. As I was getting ready for church last week, I was standing in front of the mirror brushing my hair.   My daughters were dressed in beautiful matching outfits. Z was dancing around in a sunbeam from the window with motes of dust sparkling in the air singing, “Mommy, look, sparkly!”, while Baby Bird was army crawling after her and shrieking with laughter.   As I watched her exultant expression, sun shining on her hair, so delighted in this discovery that we have all experienced of the beauty of dust dancing in the sun, it hit me with a force that took my breath away that this is one of those joyful moments.   I am drowning in joy.

I wish I could bottle these moments of my daughters laughing and playing as sweet chubby babies to sustain me in sad times to come.   I wish I could freeze them like this. I know there are times to come when I am not their hero.   There are times to come when they won’t greet me at the door with screams of excitement.

Now I know a joyful moment when I see one.   These days are a gift from my Father, and my Father only gives good gifts.   James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. All praise to the one who knows my heart and crafts these perfect moments just for me.

Nightmares and Dreamscapes

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I remember having a few nightmares as a child. I had a recurring dream about tornadoes sweeping me away. Ironically, this dream went away after I was actually in a real tornado. I guess there is something to be said for facing your fears.

I remember being about five years old when Dr. Pepper in his infinite wisdom decided it was okay for me to watch Poltergeist. (He was about eleven at the time, so don’t judge him too harshly). That resulted in pretty bad dreams and an inability to sleep with the closet door open for about thirteen years. But one thing no one tells you is that there is something more disruptive and disturbing to your sleep than your own bad dreams, and that is the bad dreams of your two-year old.

Z is a pretty sound sleeper, but about once a month she will wake up screaming lie a banshee because of a bad dream. Here are some of my favorites:

“Z sweetie, what was your dream about?”

“A monster,” (keep in mind that this child is only allowed to watch PBS).

“A monster? What kind of monster? What did he look like?”

“He was blue and he was eating ALL the cookies and then he was going to eat me.”

That’s right folks, kiddo had a nightmare about Cookie Monster. She thought he was going to eat her. She has also had nightmares about dragons in the jungle who were going to eat her (I place the blame squarely on Dinosaur Train for this one).

Last week she woke up screaming and I asked her what was wrong and she told me there was a bug in her bed. I paused for a second on this one because we have had a little bit of a spider problem, and I figured that this was potentially a real situation. So, I emptied her crib and even lifted up her mattress and couldn’t find anything. Upon a more in-depth query it became apparent that the bug in question was a giant purple beetle with pink stripes and I realized that this was probably not a legitimate concern.

By far the most disturbing dream she had was also the one that was most panic inducing. It occurred a few months ago right after she turned two. I awoke to her screaming.

“Z what’s wrong?”

“I was in a rocket and a ball came at the rocket and the ball went BOOM and the rocket went BOOM and I died and Aunt Panda had to take care of my body.”

Wow, that isn’t a creepy thing for your child to say at all you creepy little kid. I don’t really know how my two-year old learned about rockets, or explosions, or death, or embalming. Not sure how this happened, but it is really weird being confronted with it.

Interesting thing, as soon as I come and comfort her, she is calm and ready to go back to sleep immediately. She has even told me, “Mommy strong. You keep monsters away.”

It makes me reflect back on a time in my childhood to one of my earliest memories. I was riding in the back seat with Dr. Pepper while my Mom and Dad were driving us somewhere at night. I was watching the lights of a plane flying overhead and I felt so small and so infinite at the same time. I remember feeling completely and totally safe. I remember feeling like nothing on earth could harm me.

I wish Mommy was strong enough to keep the monsters away.   I wish this was true. I wish that I could protect my daughters from all of the world’s evils. In a world where there are children being killed by hunger, and thirst, and disease and war, I can’t even protect my child from being made fun of on the playground much less any of these larger concerns.

It is humbling to realize how little control I have. I don’t remember the point in life where I realized that my parents really couldn’t protect me. I want my children to hold onto this feeling of security as long as possible.

This is all enveloped in the larger realization that ,my parents were never in control at all, and neither am I. You see, It is my Father in heaven who holds this world, including me and my precious girls in his hands. And I cannot protect them from all the things I consider bad, because some of them are just a result of living in a fallen world, and some of them may be part of his bigger plan for their lives. But it sure is comforting to know that I don’t have to be in charge and I can just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Nutrition 101

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I went to my first ladies event at church today. I usually do not frequent such things. I am not really good in social situations. I know, I know, I am a doctor, and I see something like thirty patients a day, so how can I be bad in social situations? Well first off all, have you met most doctors? Most doctors don’t really have a great personality. That is why most people don’t like going to the doctor. Usually doctors are pretty self-absorbed and have horrible listening skills.

That being said, I am pretty great in a one on one setting. I even do well in small groups of people, but when thrown into a large group setting it is like I am back in middle school.

Suddenly, I am VERY awkward. My clothes aren’t right, I stand their nervously, and my mouth stops working. I mean to say witty and charming things and instead I start blurting out things like, “I saw a squirrel on the way here,” and, “my legs are itchy.” Also, I tend to be somewhat snarky, and when I do say something appropriate to the conversation it tends to come off sounding a little tactless and rude. Most other women just kind of look at me with a sad little head shake of pity and go back to their conversations about smocked outfits and Ferberizing their babies while I stand their clumsily trying to think of something to say.

I was doing okay during the brunch portion of the program. Apparently I am good at eating (it gives me something to do with my hands and gives the illusion that I know what I am talking about). I realized that for about the last two years I have had a baby with me to focus other women’s attention so I don’t have to carry on a real conversation. This was the first time I had been to a social event in a long time without a twenty-four inch buffer of cuteness in my arms to direct the conversation. I highly recommend that every socially awkward person carry a baby with them at all times to deflect social attention. It is magic in its effectiveness.

I navigated my way to a place to sit during the lecture portion of the program, and my panic settled into the calm of anonymity as I relaxed into my chair sipping my tea. That was until, the lecturer started discussing toddler nutrition and suddenly I am having an anxiety attack (See my post entitled “She Wont Eat That…”). They are all discussing organic smoothies and clever little bento boxes with healthy vegetarian options for toddlers. During this very discussion there was a bag of non-organic baby food and a bag of Cheetos in my bag that I was planning on feeding Z for lunch. Everyone around me was furiously taking notes and nodding in agreement while I am just freaking out about how my daughter is going to die from rickets and wet beri beri from her lack of vitamin D and protein rich nutrition sources.

Then, we broke into our small group sessions, and yikes, I am assigned to be in the one with our head Pastor’s wife. This is super scary for an agoraphobe. While we were doing introductions, one of the childcare workers interrupts in a flutter letting the Pastor’s wife know that there is something going on with her child. She steps outside the room to handle the crisis and when she returns she informs us, “My daughter is crying because they tried to give her marshmallows, and she told them she wasn’t allowed to have marshmallows”

By this point I am ready to just check out on this experience. I clearly cannot measure up to the Whole Foods, gluten-free, non-GMO crowd I have found myself in. I am done with this. Then, she says, “I don’t know why she said that. We eat marshmallows all the time at our house.”

Maybe I have misjudged these awesome, marshmallow-eating people. I went to pick Z up from the nursery and she has a plate with four pretzels, four giant marshmallows, and a small packet of raisins. She threw the pretzels out on the way out the door declaring them to be, “gross”, informed me that the raisins were “vitamins” and told me she was going to eat the marshmallows for lunch. I realized that maybe I should give this a fair shot.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers…. or “How I Got Fat”

I know it is hard to believe if you saw me now, but I used to be a size six on a good day and a size eight on a bad day.  I held on to this proudly pretty much all the way through college.  I mean, sure, I put on the dreaded Freshmen Fifteen, and by the time I graduated, I was much closer to an eight on a good day and a ten on a bad day, but still, hotness.

Then there was medical school.  I spent endless hours during my first two years pouring over books.  I made neat little packets of note cards, and would walk around my apartment complex for hours and hours while studying so that I could stay trim.  I was feeling pretty good about myself until third and fourth year of medical school when I worked thirty-six hour shifts at hospital after hospital every third or fourth night.  Guess what?  There was no built in time to exercise, unless you were running to a code, or leveraging all your muscle to pop someone’s arm back into socket.

Also, hospital food is not all it is made out to be.  You would think at a place where you go to make people healthy, that they would have healthy food, but you would be very, very wrong.  For instance, at The Med in Memphis, they actually had Hog Jaw Thursday.  I. am. dead. Serious.  Also, at Ehrlanger in Chattanooga they have perhaps the best apple dumplings you have ever put in your mouth.   I challenge you to resist them when you have been up for thirty-six hours straight.  I challenge you to make healthy food decisions when your body is so tired that you can barely stand up.  Fighting against fate, I was up to a size twelve.

So then came residency.  It is like the extended dance remix of the last two years of medical school.  On-call at the hospital once or twice a week, at least twenty-four hour shifts.  Pizza is an easier choice at this time than a salad.  Time for exercise is pretty much non-existent.

I guess I should insert a diatribe here about how little the medical machine promotes physical and emotional health in the very people that are responsible for public health policies, but I digress.

So then, I started my practice rocking the size fourteen scrubs.  I was doing really well with all this new-found time as a big, grown-up doctor.  I had time to exercise.  I even hired a personal trainer, and started eating healthy and was on the right track, down to size twelve again!  Hurray!

This was until I was helping a friend move, and I got stung multiple times by a wasp.  The wasp got trapped between my face and my glasses and it stung me multiple times.  I became intensely sick at my stomach and swollen all over.  I had never had a reaction like this to a wasp sting before.  It was awful.  Two weeks into it, I was like, “This is ridiculous!” and then I did some basic math, and took a pregnancy test and realized my problem was not a wasp sting.

The first thing that happened in pregnancy was a welcome change.  I realized that my usual B-cup bras were getting a little snug, so I stomped right into the nearest Vic Secret to get some new measurements.

When the girl looked at me and said, “well, that’s a double D,” I was like, “Score!  Most people have to pay for these babies.”

Then, the rest of pregnancy kicked in and I started gaining weight other places, less pleasant places, such as my face, and ankles.  My once graceful, svelte calves melted into an amalgamation of cankle glory.  But, it was okay, because one of the rules is, that when you are pregnant, no matter how big you get, everyone says you look “cute”.

(I must list one noticeable exception to this policy.  My father, during my thirty-fifth week of pregnancy with my second daughter suggested that I get ahead of the baby weight by starting Jenny Craig.  He’s a sweetheart folks.  I get my tact from my father, it is a gift.)

Then there is the great lie of breastfeeding that says you will lose weight by making milk for baby, but what they don’t tell you is that you are going to be as hungry as a line-backer.  I was nearly back down to a trim size fourteen after nursing my first daughter when SHABAAM… pregnant again.

Now, I have weaned Baby Bird, and find myself face to face with the reality that these kids have really screwed with my body.  I don’t even recognize my body anymore.  The double D’s have shrunk back down to baby B’s and my stomach sticks out, and I am a horrifying size sixteen after all this trauma.

I was in discussion with my friend, The Jillionare about when your body goes back to “normal”.  Her comforting advice was, “It never goes back to normal.  It is going to be weird dressing yourself for the rest of your life.”

Okay…. Great.

So something has to be done about this.  I gotta get serious folks.  If you see me around town with a Twinkie in my hand, be a friend and walk up to me and smack that sucker out of there.  I am going to try and get healthier, and I can say it is for an example for my daughters and patients and for good health, but that would be lying.  Really it is so I don’t have to buy new clothes.

No one told me that having babies would change my body forever.  This wasn’t part of the deal.  No one also told me that they would change my heart forever.  No one told me they would change my soul forever.  No one told me that they would change the way I interact with God and with the world around me forever.  I may never see my early twenties body again, but if that is the price I have to pay for this much joy, then so be it and a million times over.  But for now, I guess I am going shopping.  See you at Lane Bryant.

Stagnation

IMG_20140218_185602_659                I have a confession to make.   I co-sleep. I know, I know, there was no stronger opponent to this abhorrent practice than myself. As a physician, I have had the unpleasant, heart-breaking task of pronouncing four babies dead from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and all but one of these was due to co-sleeping. Now granted, alcohol or drugs were involved in each of these cases, but that did not alter the tragic look on the parent’s faces, or my hardline stance on the practice. It was during this depressing time in my life that I determined that I no longer wanted to work in an Emergency Department setting. It was also when I became a strong adversary to the co-sleeping movement. I preached loudly to patients and friends alike about the dangers of co-sleeping and how they would most certainly roll over and smother their baby beneath their ponderous, non-organic food eating American fat rolls.  

                That was BBB or Before Baby Bird. I understand that there are some co-sleeping, baby-wearing, attachment-parenting, modern hippies who actually enjoy co-sleeping and do this as a matter of personal preference. I assure you I am not in this crowd. I enjoy building a pillow fort around myself and having as much sleeping space to myself as possible. I would get twin beds like Lucy and Ricky if my husband would let me. My co-sleeping experience is a little less granola and a little more like being held hostage by a tiny tyrant.

                Baby Bird will absolutely not sleep without being able to both touch and see me, and if Baby Bird doesn’t sleep, then NO ONE sleeps. We have tried tricking her by putting a pack and play or a co-sleeper in the room, even shoved up next to the bed with my arm draped precariously off the edge of our bed to be in constant contact with her minute, heaving chest. Baby Bird is neither fooled nor appeased by that. She wants to be IN our bed, and as of late she has added an extra entertaining and particularly demanding element to her evening routine.

                The newest element of torture she has employed against us is obligatory hand holding. That’s right, hand holding. I must take her diminutive fist in mine and hold it between my hands until she falls asleep. Don’t tell my captor, but I secretly love this part of the bedtime ritual. She caresses my hand with her free hand over and over again until she falls asleep while wriggling her petite captive hand betwixt my palms. I fall asleep happy every night.

                Then, the creeping sensation settles in. I am in that dreamlike state somewhere between waking and sleeping. It is subtle at first, a gradual loss of proprioception. We have all experienced it. Your body is heavy and you no longer can feel where your leg is in space without twitching it slightly. I know logically that my hands still encase this petite treasure in their grasp, but I can no longer feel her movement against my palms. Occasionally she will quiver in her sleep and I will feel her precious presence. Sometimes, even though I know it may wake her, I stir slightly myself to feel her move.

                I reflect on my relationship with God. When I am standing still and refusing to move in my faith it is harder and harder to feel His presence. Sometimes I will feel a flicker of his movement over me in my stagnation, but in order to really feel Him, and I mean really feel Him, I find that I must move. Even if it is the slightest shadow of a movement toward Him, I am rewarded by the feeling of His enveloping presence.

                For now, I will enjoy the ephemeral, all too transient feel of my baby’s touch. I wonder if God in His omnipresence and eternal nature finds our touch so fleeting as well, as this time passes us by, or can He just revisit joyful times with us at his will?

 

Girly girl

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                I must make a confession. I am not a girly girl. I do not recall the last time I bought a pair of shoes that were not 5T in size. The only impetus for me buying clothes in the last four years was gestation, and then it was reluctant and largely over the internet. I purchase makeup at the local Walgreen, not at the Clinique counter, and I feel that the only purpose of it is to disguise blemishes, not for enhancement.

                I should have known something was strange about my two-year old at eighteen months of age. I was putting an outfit on her one day and she starts crying uncontrollably. I thought maybe there was a tag left in it that pinched her or something, so I gasp, “What’s wrong Z?”

                “Thath’s UGLY!” she wailed.

                Ok, maybe I didn’t hear her correctly, after all, she is only eighteen months old at this point, and why should she care what she wears, so I pick out another outfit, and she continues to wail.

                “What’s wrong baby?” I am concerned.

                “Thath’s UGLY too!” she responds with her chubby thumb thrust into her angry, pouting mouth.

                I decide to conduct a scientific experiment and start pulling outfits out of the closet. I pull out a variety from the mundane to the lacy and indulgent.

                I am met with multiple, “Thath’s Ugly” until I hold up a frilly confection, and am met with a wide-eyed, excited, “Oooooh, Thath’s cute!”  

                How does this kid know that “Thath’s cute” and the “Thath’s ugly? She doesn’t even have access to television and only reads books that we approve. Where did she get this?

                Fast forward about six months to last Sunday while trying to get her ready for church.   She is arguing that it is her constitutional right to go to church in a pink tutu and a diaper and nothing else.  I explain patiently that this will simply not be permitted. She pouts and whines and is presented with an array of other options that I deem “acceptable”. Finally she condescends to wear a particularly ostentatious dress that is silk, bedazzled with pink jewels, with a full trailing tutu covered in glitter. As a result, we all, including the baby end up covered in glitter and looking like a day-time hookers at Sunday service.

                Earlier this week, her father sends me a picture with her in a layered tutu, and a day-glow, unmatched top wearing high-heeled shoes and a bright orange head-band in her hair. There is no question in my mind that she would have happily left the house proudly and greeted everyone in sight wearing this contraption.

                I watch her and how she is so confident, and knows that she is beautiful. I don’t remember the last time I felt that way. I hope she always feels this way about herself and I ache inside because I know that she wont. I know that over time small scars will form on her precious heart as some mean girl tells her that her clothes are not expensive enough or are not in style.   I know that she will lose this lovely confidence when the boy she likes asks her prettier friend out. I know that no matter how smart and astonishing she is, that the media will eventually convince her that her body is wrong and she is not enough. I hope that she can hold on to this feeling of striking invincibility as long as possible, and that she is able to find her worth in her exquisite mind and God’s love for her and not in her attire, or how gorgeous she is. But I must admit, she is pretty fabulous and she can rock a pink cow girl hat.

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Letter to Baby Bird

Dearest Baby Bird,

                You are unlovable. I am now four months, three weeks and two days into my captivity. I have been held hostage in my home by a tiny despot. This eleven-pound tyrant controls what I eat, when I sleep, and where I go.

                It started with pregnancy. My pregnancy with you was horrible. I was tired, all the time, sick, depressed. I assumed, wrongly, that once you were born that the situation would improve. After all, maternity leave with your sister was like vacation. She started sleeping through the night in a couple of weeks, hardly ever made a peep. I wasn’t like those parents who had babies that didn’t sleep and screamed in the restaurant. I had this parenting thing down. And then you came along, and shattered my preconceived notions.

                You have never slept through the night. In fact, I asked Daddy yesterday if he could remember the last time that you slept more than two hours at a stretch, and he couldn’t. Neither can I. Fortunately for Daddy, in the middle of the night you refuse to take a bottle and you only want Mommy. Yet still, I love you.

                You scream like a banshee any time we put you in the car for the ride that was supposed to soothe you to sleep. Forget going out in public anywhere. That is a thing of the past. I am sure I would be arrested if I took you to a restaurant, and I am unwilling to hazard the annoyed glares of other patrons anyways. Yet still, I love you.

                You always smell like spoiled milk, because you vomit up anything I put in your mouth to include the rice cereal, oatmeal, karo syrup, gas drops, reflux medication and everything else that everyone has assured me will calm your irritable tummy. Sometimes you vomit more than I have shoved into your mouth, and it doesn’t seem possible that you could contain that much puke. I have gone through every one of your sleepers in two hours, and the bedding, and every burp cloth, and all the towels. I am constantly doing laundry. Yet still, I love you.

                Daddy and I are never going to have a date again. You often scream from the time I get home until the next morning with just an hour or two of sleep in the interim. I am really not sure when you sleep. You don’t sleep for Nanny either. Surely you must be tired. I trust Nanny with you because of her infinite patience, but even she has her limits. Daddy has suggested hiring a sitter to watch you, but I think of the hours of screaming at the top of your lungs and how frustrated I am with you. I consider the prospect of leaving you with someone who does not love you. I think of how they may not be kind to you, and so we must miss yet another action movie on the big screen (the only way to watch it according to Daddy). Yet still, I love you.

                This love for you has taught me a lot about myself and about God. You are not loveable right now, but I love you anyway like a compulsion. It is like a wave crashing down on me drowning in my love for you. One of my biggest struggles as a Christian is not in believing the existence of God, or Christ, but in understanding that the God of the universe is aware of my existence, much less that He loves me.

                For you see dear Baby Bird, I am unlovable. I fail daily. I am unkind to others. I gossip. I am spiteful and prideful and rejoice in the misfortunes of others at times. I am not a perfect mother, and get frustrated with my beautiful daughters who are a daily gift from Him. How can He love me when I fall so short of His expectations?

                At three in the morning when you wake up for the fifth time since I have placed you in your crib, you smile at me. The warmth that rushes over me gives me a glimpse into the other side. I can just begin to understand how He loves me.   Thank you for that Baby Bird.

 

Love MommyIMG_20140225_140802_823

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