Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Story ~ The End, Part 3 ~ losing weight

Yousef’s birth was supposed to “correct” everything; my blood pressure was supposed to get lower, the preeclampsia was supposed to resolve itself, the swelling was supposed to be gone, life was supposed to get “back on track.” Needless to say things did not prove to be that simple.

While Yousef checked out with the on-call pediatricians, I lay there getting stitched up and being reassured, again, that “everything will be fine.” As it turned out mostly “everything” was fine, but not all of “everything.”

Although Yousef was a preemie, he was in good health: his lungs were healthy, his temperature stable. He was breathing normally and he passed his initial screening. He did not require any time in the NICU and was free to join us in the recovery room. Then, his weight dropped. It dropped so much it raised flags. We were not worried. The doctors were.

There was only one intervention that could counter the weight loss: supplementing his diet with manufactured nutrition. As dedicated to natural feeding as we both are, we did as we were told. We followed the instructions to the letter. We remember the words clearly: feed him this much and not a drop more. And so we fed him the bottle and measured how much he ate. I nursed, I pumped. He ate. We recorded every feeding on a sheet and handed it to the nurses at every weight check. He was still losing weight. Jeff looked it up. Here is what he found:

"It appears neonates exposed to increased fluid before birth might be born overhydrated, requiring the baby to regulate his or her fluid levels during the first 24 hours after birth." (Read full article here)

While Yousef's primary pediatrician did not seem to be as alarmed over the weight loss, the discharge pediatrician was. She voiced her concern repeatedly and heatedly. She reprimanded us for our parenting approach and all but accused us of "tarving our baby. "I am very concerned about your child," and proceeded to talk about time in the NICU. She informed us that Yousef was not  where he should be in terms of weight and that unless we worked to put some ounces on him, I would be the only one being discharged from the hospital.

The thought of going home "empty handed" was terrifying. We tried to explain to her that we were simply "following instructions," but our words were merely met with a nod. From her point of view we were falling short of our parenting duties and she was Yousef's advocate.

Finally, many ounces and conversations later, we discovered the culprit:  the wrong feeding instructions that we were given. The nurse in the recovery room had initially instructed us to feed him no more than 5ml per feeding. "They eat all they can get," I remember her saying, "so do not give him too much. He doesn't know when he has had enough." And with that, and not to our knowledge, we spent the next four days denying our son the nourishment he needed most when he needed it the most.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Preparing to move ~ tying up loose ends

Between the packing and the moving, some things were left behind. Just when I thought we were done with the boxes and the tape, I had to make another run to storage for another drop off. Just when I thought I had everything I needed, I realized I needed one more trip to Target, another run through BRU, a last stop at Whole Foods. There was one more item to return to Amazon, one more bag to donate to a charitable cause, one last piece of furniture to pass on to our neighbors.
I thought the week after Jeff left would be quiet, but it was far from it. The phone kept ringing, the I-Pad kept buzzing and the kids took turns crying. I thought I would have time to read and write, but I barely had time to shower. I thought I would be taking nice long walks with my new double stroller, but instead I spent hours in the car driving from one place to the other. Cooking came to a complete stop, but laundry reached new heights. I am still puzzled at how much laundry one adult, a toddler and an infant can amass. I am also equally puzzled at how with "nothing to do" there still is a lot to do. Apparently loose ends have a life of their own!

Friday, August 23, 2013

How do you say "Goodbye"

With every passing day I come closer to the "end." With every look at the calendar, I realize that my days here are numbered. There is so much left to do still, but so little time to do it ~ and that is not meant as a cliché.

When is the "last time" a last time. One "last" trip here, one "last" visit there. Meet up with this friend one "last" time. Go to this store, one "last" time. For old times' sake, eat here one "last" time. I want to hang on tighter, but it is falling from my grips. I cannot hold back time. I cannot make it go slower. I cannot stop what is coming. Will one more "last" time be enough? Will one more play date make a difference? One more of this and one more of that? Will one more make the departure less painful? Will it make the pain more bearable? Or would it make any dent at all?

What difference does it make at this point in time to see this or that person? To eat this or that dish? To go to this or that playground? Soon, all this will belong to the "past." Will JR know any different if I did not take her to one "last" cooking class? Will she know any better if I chose not to do the boat tour? Will she miss the water park if we do not make it there? Will she miss any of it, or would it be all in my mind? 

So how do I say goodbye knowing that I do not know when I will be back again? How do I respond to JR when she asks, "When can we come here again?" How do I turn the page? close the chapter? end the book? Will a simple "goodbye" be enough?

Soon I will hand over the keys to the apartment that was home for over 5 years and with that say goodbye to what is and render it what was. Soon new things will be our reality and life will return to "normal" again. But between now and then, the transition remains. The path to the future is tied to the road of the past. The thread that ties me to "this" life here and now may wear thin over the coming years but it won't break. "Goodbye" is not for always; it is for now.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Preparing to move ~ stuff is gone

In this "Diary of a Move" we reach the end of a chapter. All that remains at 2100 Lee Highway # 224 are the mattress on the floor, the towels on the rack, the clothes on our back, and the laptops in our hands. Everything else has either preceded us to our new home, or is awaiting us in storage. Friday brought the "move," although the kids and I are not moving yet. All our "stuff" is gone and soon Jeff will be gone too. This time tomorrow I will be watching the kids sleep while Jeff wakes up alone across the world.

When I woke up this morning, it hit me: I have cans but no opener, food but no pots, plates but no utensils, tea but no mugs. The walls are bare, the floors empty, the carpet dirty. We slept overnight at a hotel to try and add an element of fun to the big change. Its success was limited. The challenge will be facing the world on Tuesday when JR wakes up to only Mama at home. The apartment empty of toys is one thing. The apartment empty of Baba is another.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Preparing to move ~ at the port

We are one step closer to being moved. Yesterday our belongings made their way to the port of Baltimore to start their journey to Casablanca.

The day started bright and early and noisy. The sound of packing tape being rolled out echoed in the living room. The voices of JR and JR rose and fell throughout the day. The phone rang, the I-Pad rang, the door slammed. The hand truck made trip after trip down the long hallway towards the loading dock as boxes were hauled onto the van. Eleven boxes in all carrying dolls, clothes, toys, books, food, and tidbits from "home" rode one last time through the streets of DC and crossed the border into MD. One last time.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A break from packing

I took the day "off" from packing and moving yesterday. The weekend was filled with boxes, bubble wrap and tape and I wanted a different start to my week. And although much remains to be done until everything is "move-ready" a break from the activities was really necessary for my sanity and for family relations.

My picky little eater had been asking for weeks to go to Charlottesville and eat fried chicken but we have been so busy, and Yousef had been so fussy in the car seat that we had been reluctant to make the trip before now. Seeing however how are days in the US are now numbered and how there is no better time than the present to do things, I decided to make the 2 plus hour trip to Thomas Jefferson's home and have one last all-you-can-eat chicken, beet, green beans, black eyed peas, coleslaw stewed tomatoes, and mashed potato lunch.

The last time I had been there, I was in a wheelchair enjoying one last getaway as a family of three. Then, Jeff was with us. This time, Teta was with us. Then, Yousef was in my belly. This time, Yousef was out of it. Then, we had a good time. This time, we had a last time. And last times are bitter sweet.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Preparing to move ~ banking

How many banks can you visit in one day? Yesterday we sought to find out. As we tie up loose ends here and get ready to manage our finances there, we toured the lobbies of three banks within 90 minutes of their opening times. First, we closed our accounts in one. Then we walked over to another to make a deposit. Finally, we went to a third to stash our valuables in a safety deposit box. While the banks were quiet and the service efficient, having two kids in tow proved a little challenging, especially when neither had slept well the night before. T.V., lollipops and ATM machines provided jus the right amount of distraction and interaction for the 3 year old while my mother's robe was, again, just what the 5 months old needed. By the end of the morning, though, everyone was ready for a nap.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Preparing to move ~ doctors

If there was one thing we did this week as the move draws closer it would be visiting doctors. While the weekend was dedicated mostly to packing, the week was taken over by trips to the medical offices. Between dentists, dermatologists, pediatricians, nephrologists and primary care physicians, we covered quite an array of medical professionals. Luckily these visits were mostly preventative rather than treatment as I do not wish to learn much about the medical system in Morocco until at least 3 months into our lives there.  We also managed to spend all of our flexible spending account money with over three months left to the year! That, I am afraid, is the downside to the story as it means that in addition to the visits of this past week, we, unfortunately, had many more in the previous months (but that's another story for another day!).

Friday, August 9, 2013

What remains

Once upon a time JR's lemon tree of friendship was thriving. Friends came together to sip "tea," to celebrate, or just to be. While still summer, JR's tree is losing its leaves; some friends ceased to be, some moved away and others just got busy. Soon, the tree will lose its final leaf in the US, be transplanted and blossom somewhere else.
When this tree was first planted, I thought that friends were for ever. Then life happened, courses changed and opportunities bloomed. I know that nothing lasts forever but secretly I was hoping some things would. I knew that one day we would be moving, changing residences, changing cities and skylines, but I never expected the move to be so soon, or so far.
I am sad to see this tree go. It will be painted over like it never was. The birds ladybugs and butterflies will be taken down and the flowers will be picked and will wilt. The last leaf will hang on until the last day, but in the end it, too, will have to fall. But although the original tree will disappear the memories will live on. Some things are for ever; they are the ones you carry with you for always.
One day this sadness will be replaced with joy found in new places, faces, and experiences. The tree of friendship will bloom once again, and once again friends will gather round. The circumstances may be different but the heart will stay the same. What remains is distilled into the best memories and the favorite times. Those are what matter most.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Eid Mubarak


Just because I did not fast this year does not mean I cannot enjoy the joys of celebrating the Eid. Growing up one of the best things about the Eid was wearing new clothes, putting on new shoes and visiting Teta and Jeddo. There we gorged on sweets, love and attention. We also left with pockets full of money and treats.

This year, Teta and Jeddo had two beautiful children knocking on their door in the early hours of the morning. Next year, who knows how many, if any, they will have, or where everyone will be. So for today, the Mikes and the Abiads celebrate the day together and look forward to many more to come.

Eid Mubarak everyone.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Preparing to move ~ packing

And so it begins! The great move of 2013 is under way. Day 2 of the preparations and things are looking good. The kitchen is almost all packed, the walls are almost all bare and the donation box is almost all filled. Still, toys are strewn on the living/play room floor, laundry is piled up on the bedroom couch, and dishes amass in the sink. In between the packing and the sorting life happens. Moments here and there with JR and JR. Hugs, kisses and games. Nursing, feeding, dressing and cleaning. Meals are served, conversations are held and love is shared all around. Amidst the boxes, there is time for play dates, for walks and for car rides. Brunch here, ice cream there, and a pool party. A weekend of sleepovers at Teta's house top the fun. Yes, things sure are looking good!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A new start

Today marks the beginning of our last month in the US. This time, plus two days, in September we will be in another country on another continent. And while our family will lead separate lives for a couple of weeks, we will reunite on September 3rd to resume our common life. Leaving North America for North Africa is at once a daunting thought and an exciting adventure.

When I left Lebanon close to ten years ago, it did not occur to me that I would leave the US for another "hometown." Jeff and I talked about it, and dreamed about it, but until the offer came unexpectedly and the letter was signed, it was all a pie in the sky. Now the order of business is to pack, pack, pack and head out.

I have mixed feelings about all of this. For years I had been perfecting my skills in America. Navigating customer service agents, dodging extra fees, understanding the fine print, asking all the right questions, reading between the lines, advocating for myself and my family, and looking out for traps set out by consumerism. I understood the insurance system, learned about the banking system, and made it through immigration and naturalization. I finally feel "at home" in this once strange place. I feel confident in my abilities now to conduct everyday business in an educated manner. I know the rules, and I know what it takes to break them. But now, after having honed my mind and rounded my knowledge, I am leaving it all behind, and filing it away.

It is difficult to leave what you know. For me, it is even more difficult to leave what I worked so hard to get to know. I do not do "change" very easily. Actually, I tend to resist change. And yet it is the only constant. It has been a rough couple of weeks leading up to this post. I slept little and thought a lot. Jeff and I rehashed the same conversation nightly; his believing in the going, my doubting it. Over and over again I would question whether this is the right decision, the right time, the right place. Many times I went over the offer, the location, the opportunity. I wondered and pondered. Finally, I prayed, and found peace.

The change will be drastic. The adjustment will be shocking. But the experience will be worthwhile. We will all miss something as we leave our current state behind and start anew. JR will miss her friends, her grandparents, her usual surroundings, her toys, her bed. I will miss the routine, the predictability, the "known."

This time next year we may be back, or we may stay. This time next year things may be better, or worse. This time next year we may have had enough or we may want more. Not much is sure, but one thing is for certain: until next year comes, I will try to make the most of what will soon be a new reality. Who knows, I may even like it!