Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Story ~ The End, Part 2 ~ A Boy!

When I left in a rush that morning, I did not hug JR nor did I kiss her goodbye. I was so preoccupied with my condition and so wrapped up in making phone calls and looking online that I gave her little to no attention. I darted out the door as soon as Jeff walked in without looking back. Of course I told her where I was going, and I did say goodbye, but had I known that this would be the last time she saw me for five days, I would have exited differently. I would have sat her down, hugged her tight, and bid farewell to what remained of being an only child. I would have explained to her the reason I was leaving and told her about the day I would come back home. But instead I left her with Teta with nothing more than “Goodbye Jannah-Rae, I am going to the doctor. See you soon habibti.”

The OB gave us one order of business three minutes after we walked into the examination room: check into Labor and Delivery immediately. Do not go home, do not pack, do not take care of unfinished business. Go straight to the hospital and do not leave. I had severe preeclampsia and there was only one way to resolve it: birth my baby.
At 10:00am we took up one of the “mother in labor” parking spots. At 10:05 I was checked in, banded and escorted to a monitoring room. I was strapped down, hooked up and put on show. Decisions were made for me and I was a spectator in what started as another day but turned into the longest 18 hours of my life.
For the next few hours, nurses rotated in and out. My OB dropped by. I was told repeatedly that things were “under control”. But they were far from it. My blood pressure was all but falling, and I was at risk of a seizure. I needed to lay low, stay calm and be patient. I also needed a lot more medical interventions.
I was hence moved to another room and strapped down even further. IV drip, fetal monitor, contractions monitor, catheter. I was a living disaster. I was so bloated that it took the nurse three tries to find a vein for the IV drip. It also took her two tries to properly insert the catheter. The pain of delivering a baby had thus commenced and I was not even in labor. Minutes later, my water broke. I thought the worse. I thought the end was a doomed beginning. But at the time there was nothing we could do to haste the conclusion. We had to wait. I had to be on magnesium, to be monitored, to be pumped up with liquids. I puffed up even further and cried even more. I needed an end in sight and I watched the clock. But the end was still further away.
The minutes clicked away. Five thirty came and went. The OB was ready but the operating room was not. I was getting cranky and nasty. I was miserable. I was sick beyond my, or anyone’s, control. And yet I had to wait. I was hungry, thirsty and anxious. I could not contain myself any longer.
Finally a glimmer of hope walked into the room. It was the anesthesiologist. Not only that, but he was the same doctor who was present at JR’s delivery. What luck! I got wheeled away. A cold room never felt so good. It was my turn and I was finally going to get better. The magic wand had been waved and I was going to be myself again. The nightmare that started with bed rest and ended with severe preeclampsia was soon to be over. Little did I know, though, that these thoughts were merely wishful.
When Jeff and the OB walked in together, it was time to get things moving. A little cut, a little suction, a little blood and the baby was out. “Here is your son!” announced the surgeon. A good set of lungs, but “a son?!” “A boy?!”  Did I hear correctly? Were they talking about my baby? The baby I had been carrying for 36 weeks and 3 days? I was not having a son. I was having a girl. The sonographer told us so. She confirmed it more than once. The maternal fetal medicine doctor wrote it down on that green piece of paper she handed to Jeff. That was the news Jeff has shared with his dying grandfather. We were having another girl. Jeff was going to be outnumbered. We were going to be a family of three ladies and one man.
What happened to Josie? Where is Josephine Ramez? JR’s sister? The little baby girl who was going to wear JR’s clothes again? For whom I had spent hours washing, drying, hanging, folding pinks and reds and whites and purples. The little girl who was going to be little. No. I did not hear correctly. I am drugged and sick. I could not have just birthed a son.
I was crying and laughing at the same time. I asked to see. I had to see for myself. I did not believe. I needed proof. I needed anatomy. But the doctor was right; it was a boy. The boy I had always wanted. The son I had dreamed of. The boy I had wanted to grow up with as a little girl. The male who would carry on the family’s name. Joseph Ramez Mike.  6 pounds 8 ounces and a head full of hair. My son.

Friday, July 26, 2013

My meditation

Lately I have found myself living in the fast lane again. Rushing, multi-tasking, running around and muddling through. Things are done with haste. I go, go, go then crash at the end of the day. While I remind myself constantly to slow down, breathe, take a break, relax and enjoy, some days I find it difficult to quiet my mind and focus my concentration. On those days, I wash JR's hair.
Jannah-Rae was blessed to be born with a head full of hair. All throughout her infancy people remarked at her long, dark hair. And while many speculated that it will eventually fall out, it kept on growing. Three plus years later JR still goes around with her "original" head of hair.
When wet JR's hair flows to her buttocks. When curled up, it can hang anywhere from over her shoulders to half-way down her back. We try to "tame" it and hold it back, but more often than not the elements get the best of it. It frizzes up and runs astray. It snarls and becomes a nightmare, and renders bath-time a much dreaded activity. And yet I look forward to the "hair wash" days.
When I was on bed rest, bathing JR was one of the things I missed most. So these days I take advantage of the time I get to spend with JR in the bathtub.
Washing her hair is a cleansing act; physically for her and spiritually for me. It causes me to focus on nothing else but the matter I have in front of me. I cannot be multi-tasking, or let my mind wander. In order to do JR's hair justice I need to be "here" and "now" every time I do it. And every time I do it, I realize how much I need to do it.
While JR's hair is a gift to her, it is also a gift for me. It is the gift of time, mindfulness, meditation. It teaches me to work with the subject and not against it. It allows me to become one with JR, putting myself in her place and recalling the times I had to have my hair washed and how I hated the pain that was associated with the activity. It requires me to be gentle and kind. It reminds me of how much JR needs me right now and how I am able to be there for her. In the little things like joining her in the tub and combing her hair one strand at a time there is great reward and many moments of love and connection.
"Do I have to wash my hair today?" has become JR's daily recital. For her the question bears feelings of avoiding pain. For me the question bears the opportunity for invoking love.

And while other parts of my life are filled with chatter and clutter, my kitchen drawer remains empty!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A mother's robe

I bought it when JR was four months old. I was baffled by it, overwhelmed, tested. I tried it; it challenged me. I frantically sought help, and received it. Later, I mastered it, and started wearing it ~ constantly, fondly. It became me. Over and around, and above and through. Tie at the front, tie at the side, tie to my life.

I treated it with care and respect. I reached for it all the time. On me is where it belonged. Everyday, like my hair, it accompanied me on trips. Where ever I went, it was there. It witnessed milestones, made memories, became immortalized. It took in the scenery, watched the days go by, listened to conversations. It went on airplanes, and in cars. It got packed in a suitcase, and fell on the ground. It got tasted, cuddled, soiled. It became part of the family. It was family.

For months it was a constant in the household. The garment above all garments. Then, one day it stopped. JR grew. It was the end.

I washed it, dried it, folded it and "bagged" it. I needed to protect it. I handled it with care. It was my history, my heritage, my future. It got "boxed" up. It was far, but safe.

Then, one day it began again. Yousef was born, and the story re-commenced where it was left last. Out of the box, out of the bag, but not out of practice. Again it became my second skin, the natural extension of my being. One again, I could not live without it, nor would I try. I reach for it before I dash out of the house. I reach for it when I am in the house. I feel "naked" without it. It is there where I cannot miss it - and yet sometimes I do.

Once again it is loved, needed. It is Joseph's favorite setting. It holds him close to Mama, and takes him places. It brings him home.

And after a long day, it rests. Perched high and away from curious hands, it goes to "sleep." Up the next day for another adventure.

I cannot imagine my world without many things, but without my wrap, it would be even more unimaginable.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Morning prayer

blogger's note: here is another post from the past. I wrote this before I had an active blog and after I had met Karen Maezen Miller at a retreat in Pittsburgh. At the time, I did not know what was waiting for me; but I knew it was a golden opportunity. I got an invitation and felt it was my calling. It was the first time I leave JR for 8 hours since she was born to focus on me. I was nervous, and I was thrilled. And, I was glad I went. It changed my life.

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011
My morning prayer….
I do not start my morning by brushing my teeth. Nor do I start it by washing my face; taking off my PJs; or checking my email, the news, the mail. I start it in the kitchen. I end it in the kitchen too. That is my morning prayer.

Every morning I get up and the first thing I do is head over to the kitchen. I put away yesterday’s dishes and start on today’s. I clean up what we enjoyed last night and plan for what we will tonight. I make Jeff’s breakfast, his lunch and snack. I envision what JR is going to eat and carefully, mindfully, almost religiously put her food together. I take my time selecting what fruit is going into the yogurt today. Will I put honey or will I let it be a little tart. Is she going to have oatmeal this morning, or grilled cheese or maybe scrambled eggs? Will I put fresh fruit in the oatmeal or will it be dried, frozen or squeezed? Add a little milk to get that extra calcium in there or just have faith in that she is eating enough calcium as it is? And dinner? Will it be cooked from scratch? Defrosted? Or assembled from leftovers I already have? All these thoughts run through my mind in the early hours of the day before anyone else in our house has risen. Every day I make those little decisions that will affect my family on that day and the many days to come.
For a long time I dreaded waking up in the morning to what I had erroneously conceived as a “chore.” Why did I have to be the one waking up first and getting to work as soon as I did? Where was the reward? I had nothing to show for my labor. The food got eaten; the mess got tidied up. But one day it struck me, this is my morning prayer. This is who I am. This is what I was meant to be. The caretaker, the caregiver, the mother – a mother to my child and in some ways to my husband. It struck me that this role was beyond the narrow limits of the domestic, the here and now. This role was here and now but it had effects, consequences on the beyond, on the tomorrow. The decisions I make each and every morning will in some way or another affect what will be in the coming hours, days and months. And so, after many months of scowling at my role, I finally embraced it. And embracing it has made it that much more enjoyable. It has made my life that much more enjoyable. It changed my life. And it started with a book: Hand Wash Cold.

note: you can read an excerpt from the book here.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bringing Summer Indoors

Summer this year has been anything but predictable. One day would be scorching hot and the next it would be pouring rain. In either case, though, JR and I would find ourselves confined to our apartment looking for amusing activities. Once I exhausted the arts, crafts, pretend play, homeschooling, and media entertainment options I went on the search for something new. It came in the form of a $2.99 toy from the grocery store. 

While really designed for outdoors, I saw no reason why JR and I could not adapt it to indoor playing. Paired with the sink on the front end and the shower, or a cup, on the back end, we turned the foam pumper into an indoor toy. And with that, we spent many hours trading spots in the shower splashing and getting splashed. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ramadan Karim

Another year, another Ramadan knocks on our doors. And while the calendar shows that Tuesday, July 9th marks its beginning, higher authorities decreed Wednesday, as the first day. There is always so much unpredictability and anticipation in both its beginning and its end.

This year, JR anxiously awaited Ramadan and looked at the sky for the "Ramadan Moon." When we announced its beginning yesterday, she jumped for joy and instantly asked a myriad of questions about what we were going to do to celebrate it. Seeing that we have a rather small community of friends who celebrates Ramadan our activities were limited to spending time with the family, putting on her new gown, and meeting up with friends to splash in the water. Come to think of it, though, while the festivities were not grand, they were quite fitting: spending time with loved ones doing things we enjoy.

Ramadan Karim!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Ranya's Alphabet

I came across this inspiration in my inbox. I thought I would give it a try. So here we go with Old School Blogging: Alphabet Edition!

A: Attached or single?  Attached. To him.

B: Best friend? See above.

C: Cake or pie?  Neither. Unless its Mississippi Mud Pie from here, then its pie, all the way!

D: Day of choice? Any day is a good day!

E: Essential item? Water; in a cup, in a bottle, doesn't matter.

F: Favorite color?  Blue. Blue sky, blue see, blue eyes.

G: Gummy bears or worms?  Bears.

H: Hometown?  Beirut, Lebanon. That's where I'm from.

I: Favorite indulgence? Chocolate.

J: January or July?  January for celebrating JR and July for celebrating Jeff and I.

K: Kids?  Two. See below.

L: Life isn’t complete without?  Those two kids.

M: Marriage date? July 4th, 2004.

N: Number of siblings? One sister; Dania.

O: Oranges or apples?  Apples; granny smith. Oranges; squeezed.

P: Phobias? Insects, wars, good byes. I hate good byes.

Q: Quotes? "Your life is your practice."

R: Reasons to smile? Oh, so many. My kids, my life, my blessings.

S: Season of choice? Fall.

T: Tag 5 people. Maybe not!

U: Unknown fact about me. I obsess about my weight!

V: Vegetable? Asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, eggplant – all vegetables!

W: Worst habit? Constantly readjusting my hair.

X: x-ray or ultrasound? Despite all my health issues I have never had an x-ray, except dental (but those don't count!)

Y: Your favorite food? Anything homemade!

Z: Zodiac sign? Virgo.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Story ~ The End, Part 1 ~ Preeclampsia

... or rather the beginning. For every ending hails a new beginning and every beginning journeys to an end. It is an endless circle, seamless, constant, ongoing. Parts connect into a whole and the whole evokes each and every part.

It "ended" as abruptly as it "began." One day I was writing about bed rest, and the next day I was off of it. Just like that in a blink of an eye, or rather in the swelling of a foot, it was all over, or rather it all began. With no warning, no consent, no consultation. Just as it began on October 16th, it ended on February 20th

My pregnancy turned 36 weeks on Sunday, February 17th. I was moving around a little bit more but was still confined to our apartment. I had had my last visit to my maternal fetal medicine doctor at 33 weeks and was told I was in the “clear.” That meant that my baby’s survival chances are high should she decide to venture into the world early and that modern medicine can be employed to assist her in her early days should she need it. I was instructed to wean off Procardia, the medicine I was taking for pre-term contractions, and to stop it completely at around 34 weeks. I counted the days! When 34 weeks hit, I sighed relief; one less medicine to keep track of and chug down twice a day. Little did I know, though, that surprises lay ahead.

Procardia is the common brand name for Nifedipine, a calcium channel blocker. While it is primarily a blood pressure and heart disease medicine, it is also used to treat preterm labor in high risk pregnancies to slow uterine contractions. Since, like the heart, the uterus is a smooth muscle tissue and needs calcium to contract, Nifedipine is used to relax the uterine muscles and other smooth muscles of blood vessels throughout the body thereby slowing or stopping preterm labor.

In my case Procardia proved a success. Once off of it, though, things started moving pretty quickly. First, my contractions resumed. They were so often and so painful that many times I thought I was going into full labor. Luckily, that never occurred. Then, my weight spiked an all-time high: 160 pounds. I put on 10 pounds in one week. I was in shock and did not know what was going on. I wasn’t eating any more than previously but somehow my body managed to blow up and round up. I thought that maybe my metabolism has finally screeched to a stop and the inactivity of the bed rest has caught up with my body’s not needing any more food. At 35 weeks I started stepping on the scale before meals to check for the damage. I started eating less, too. But somehow I kept piling on the pounds.

At my 36 week appointment on Monday February 18th we got an unusual blood pressure reading ~ it was high. The doctor, however, did not seem very concerned. He dismissed it to the exercise I had just gotten walking up three flights of stairs; after all this was the most I had exerted myself in over five months. I was sent home with a follow-up appointment at 37 weeks.

Preeclampsia is a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period and affects both the mother and the unborn baby. Affecting at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, it is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. If left untreated, it can develop into eclampsia, the life-threatening occurrence of seizures during pregnancy. While it is the most common of the dangerous pregnancy complications, apart from Caesarean section and induction of labor, there is no known cure for it. Globally, preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death.

"Severe preeclampsia" involves a BP over 160/110. That is the reading we got the morning of Wednesday, February 20th.

I didn't know anything about preeclampsia. It was something that happened to “other” women. I had already dealt with my share of challenges and of issues that happened to “other” women. A phone conversation with a nurse manager friend of mine, however, introduced me to the term “preeclampsia.” Of course, I dismissed her “diagnosis,” and filed the information away in the back of my mind. This was the afternoon of Tuesday, February 19th.

That evening when Jeff came home I told him what my friend had said about my state of being. He dismissed it as well. We thought nothing more of my rapid weight gain other than what we thought it to be: weight gain resulting from a sedentary life-style and a very pregnant belly. We continued to count up our blessings and down the number of days till this baby became full-term. But this baby never became full-term.

That night, I lay awake watching my feet blow up like a balloon. Call to mind if you can how Violet turned into a blueberry in the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and you can picture what I looked like the next morning. My eyelids were almost swollen shut and my hands were a giant round. My ankles had all but disappeared. Swelling or edema, especially in the hands and face, is considered an important sign for a diagnosis of preeclampsia. And I certainly was manifesting these signs. The transformation was remarkable and almost magical. It most certainly could have been instantaneous.

At 6:02am when Jeff stirred awake, we took photos of my swollen feet. At 6:43 when I could not bear waiting anymore, I sent the photos to my OB. At 7:15 he instructed me to call the office for an appointment. At 8:10 I was on the phone with Jeff asking him to rearrange his schedule. At 9:00 Jeff was on his way back home and at 9:15 we were on our way to see the OB. At 9:45 we were heading away from the doctor’s office. But we were not headed home.