In related news, I think Babycakes is going to love being in school. She was so calm during the Open House talks, just watching the teacher, checking out all the bright things on the walls, and smiling at every single person in the hallways. Total strangers said, "that's the happiest baby I've ever seen!" I'm kind of looking forward to kindergarten!
In related news, I think Babycakes is going to love being in school. She was so calm during the Open House talks, just watching the teacher, checking out all the bright things on the walls, and smiling at every single person in the hallways. Total strangers said, "that's the happiest baby I've ever seen!" I'm kind of looking forward to kindergarten!
Shelve as in "put on ice". Stasis. To return to "someday".
It might seem silly to officially declare something shelved a year after you stopped working on it - kind of like calling Time of Death when the corpse is already six feet under. But on the other hand, half of a writer's craft never makes it to the page.
Mentally, COVENANT has been my WIP for three years now, even after the project lost steam, and even while I was working on other things. Or not working at all. Trouble is, whenever I do sit down to work on it, I balk. The idea of writing it feels like a burden. I find other things to do instead. Laundry becomes infinitely fascinating and satisfying.
I won't say I wrote myself into a corner, because I have a fair idea of what needs to be done to make the story viable. It's not that I'm not interested, either - I like my characters (love some, even), and I dig the concept. I've put some good work into this novel and I'd hate to see that go to waste.
It's more that the overhaul required to take this story somewhere is... considerable... and I'm just not in a place now to tackle it. Whether it's because my writing muscles have weakend, or because I need to see it from a new light, or maybe just let it sit in its own juices for a time, unmolested, to become something worth decanting later... well. Whever the reason, I'm finally ready to say, "Enough of this. I need a new world to explore."
So I'm *offically* in the market for new ideas. Dunno what I want to write. Dunno, like, at all.
But that's okay.
I think staring at blank canvas could be good for me.
People with Asperger's Syndrome can be very literal and concrete in their thinking. Like you may ask them, "Could you go to the store and buy milk?", and they'll reply, "Yes" and then go back to what they were doing. From their perspective they were answering a hypothetical about whether it would technically be possible for them to buy milk or not. - Chris MacLeod, http://www.succeedsocially.com/aspergers
This is a pretty good (if now dated) article about Asperger's - a diagnosis that technically doesn't exist any more, but still accurately describes (and distinguishes) people like my son apart from many of those who are also on the Autism Spectrum.
As the Kinglet matures (slowly... but surely) from unruly little kid to quirky young person, one of his classically Asperger-ish characteristics that's piqued my interest is the literal thinking described above.
The other day, there was some discussion between the Kinglet and his dad about the location of some library books. Something along the lines of:
"Well where is the bag? Did you leave it in the car?"
"I think so."
"Well go get it."
A few minutes later, the Kinglet proudly enters the living room with an empty plastic bag. "Here you go, Mom!" he says.
"It's the bag that the books were in."
"But where are the books" "
"They fell out somehow. They're on the floor of the car."
"Um," I said. "You were supposed to bring them in."
"No... Dad just said, 'get the bag'. If he wanted the books, he should have been more specific."
Now in this case, we're *pretty sure* he was trying to make a joke - perhaps to get back at us for an incident involving cheese vs pepperoni pizza. The big cat-that-ate-the-canary grin on his face is what did him in. He got a talking-to about sassing his parents and life moved on. But as he was making his little sad/angry face at us, and the unfairness of it all, I was reminded of the many (many) similar little incidents that have lately been cropping up. Things like,
"Turn off the computer game."
"It's not a computer game. It's a video game."
"Don't give me attitude, young man! Turn off the game NOW."
"Why aren't your shoes on? I told you to be ready to go!"
"But it's only 2:28. You said we'd be leaving at 2:30!"
Having spent the last five years dealing with the behavioral manifestation of his Autism - the sensitivity, the rages, the lack of perspective-taking... the rages - it's interesting (and refreshing) to be reminded that those behaviors are not Autism, in and of themselves. That the root of it all is a difference in basic wiring - that the Kinglet, and people like him, don't always experience the world or think about it in the same way that we do.
The Kinglet is learning to manage his reactions to a world that isn't aligned to him. While he still has setbacks, he's more likely to argue with you than to throw a toy at your face. He'll try to tell you how what you said has hurt him, rather than get back at you (or maybe he'll get back at you with a joke, rather than a temper tantrum). He may still struggle to understand how his own actions can inspire negative reactions - that the way people act towards him isn't coming out of the blue. But the point is he's *trying* to understand it. And now, for the first time in, like, ever, his father and I are in a place where parenting isn't all about deflecting or defusing our Aspie kid. We can finally put our hands down and start trying to understand him right back.
From the time he was small, we always knew he was a special kid. Special as in different, but different doesn't always equal bad.
Turns out, when it doesn't involve screaming and hitting, different can actually be pretty freaking neat.
He's not wrong, after all. There are important distinctions between computer games and video games, between 2:28 and 2:30, a bag vs a bag of books, and an Aspie 8-yr-old vs everybody else. Sometimes, life is all in the details.
I was traumatized at the start of my ninth month of pregnancy when I was "risked out" of the birth center where I'd planned to have my baby. The constant pain and sleeplessness I'd been experiencing had sent me back on the medication I rely on for chronic migraines. I didn't take much, and hadn't for very long, and I took it only after consulting with three specialists and reading about it online. The consensus was that I wasn't putting Babycakes at any substantial risk; however, the slight possibility of infant withdrawal was risky enough for the Birth Center to wash their hands of me. So, I had chosen a midwife from my regular practice to see me through the end of my pregnancy and labor, thinking that would be the next best thing.
I liked her – she was very sympathetic and non-judgmental and seemed like she would be a comforting person to have around when my time came – which I hoped, fervently, would be soon, quick, and natural, even if it had to happen in a hospital.
Yet after just a couple of weeks in her care, I developed gestational hypertension (the icing on the cake of my consistently miserable pregnancy). I never developed preeclampsia (which is what everyone gets their medical panties in a bunch about when a pregnant woman has high blood pressure), but my situation was still sufficiently Of Concern to send me to maternity triage (ER) twice in one week.
Which is why, at 38-weeks, the midwife suggested induction. At first I said no - given my experience with the Kinglet, I really, really wanted to let this labor to start on its own. But another week went by without any signs of progress, and I ended up in triage again, this time with a BP of 174/104. I still wasn't sick enough to call it an emergency, but I certainly wasn't feeling well. And, it was starting to look like another late-term, ten-pound baby was a real possibility. As much as I wanted to go natural, I honestly didn't think I had it in me.
I'd told the midwife about my first bad birth experience – being stuck to the table the whole time. Dealing with Pitocin-induced labor, hard contractions in a high-stress setting, getting pressured (terrorized, even) to have an epidural and a c-section. The midwife assured me things were much different at the hospital now. She'd make sure I could move around during labor if I wanted to – yes, I could even bring my yoga ball. She'd make sure I didn't get pressured for things I didn't want; we might even be able to avoid the Pitocin, or stay with just a small amount to get things started.
So, with very mixed feelings, we scheduled an induction for Thursday June 5th. I would go to the hospital in the evening to start the procedure, spend the night, and, presumably, have the baby the next day, which is how it went with the Kinglet. Even if labor took longer (and Why On Earth would a second baby take longer? I thought to myself. Ha!), that still left a good part of Saturday morning before Mercury was due to go Retrograde. (as an astrology buff and long-suffering Mercury-ruled Gemini, I swore that I wouldn't let my baby be born under so inauspicious an event. Again – Ha!)
On the night of the induction, we had dinner with the Kinglet at our favorite local pub - our last family dinner as a threesome. Then Tom and I dropped the Kinglet off at his grandparents' house and the two of us headed over to the University creamery. (I had a scoop of peach and one of pineapple pie with real crust. Very yum.) After that we still had time to kill, so we did what any normal couple would do while waiting to have a baby – we went thrift shopping. There weren't many places open, though, and I was having trouble getting interested in anything I looked at, so finally we headed over the hospital.
Things were calm and chipper as we were checked in and, eventually, led to the delivery room (we were still half an hour early, so we had to kill time in the lobby by staring at our phones and putting up with my nervous corny jokes). Once we got settled, though, things progressed in pretty much exactly the way I didn't want them to, as if someone had compiled a list of all things I hated about hospital birth.
I had to be hooked up to a fetal monitor and an IV (for antibiotics and a saline drip) - so much for freedom of movement. Normally I don't have a problem with needles, but the IV port hurt to the point that it brought tears to my eyes. I asked the nurse repeatedly to look at it, but she insisted there was nothing wrong and wouldn't adjust it.
Also, my labor bed wasn't just hard and lumpy; it had a permanent downward tilt of about thirty degrees. This was like the worst possible arrangement for someone with swollen pregnancy feet and painfully bad circulation (venous reflux causes blood to pool in my legs, which hurts and causes restless leg-type symptoms). We had several nurses look at the bed, but apparently it was stuck that way. We tried piling up all the pillows and blankets we could find, but nothing really helped so, once the dilation procedure was started, Tom slept in the bed (much to the confusion of the night nurses) while I rested in the tiny recliner.
Kinda like that.
Since I couldn't sleep, I watched Adult Swim in between trips to the bathroom (of which there were many, thanks to the stupid IV and my long-suffering bladder). Every time I had to go, I had to call someone (or wake up Tom) to detach the IV and monitor from the console, untangle all the wires, and then drag the whole damn contraption with me to the bathroom, only to be untangled and reattached once I was done. Suffice it to say, the first night was very long, and very uncomfortable.
By morning I had dilated from not-quite-one centimeter to a hair over three. A nurse came in to administer Pitocin and I let her, in spite of my qualms. So much for that discussion about when to start it, and how much and for how long. My midwife wasn't even there yet, though her shift had supposedly started.
At this point I lose track of how long things took and in what order they occurred. The Pitocin brought on contractions. Nurses changed shift. I breathed through the pain. Tom and family came and went. I sat on the yoga ball, or stood over the bed, or sat upright, concentrating. Or I watched TV. No biggie.
Eventually my midwife showed up and did an exam. She told me that, after all that, I wasn't dilating. She breezed out again, and the Pitocin dose went up. Nurses changed shift. Contractions got harder. I breathed. Munched on ice cubes. Watched the clock.
The next person to check me was a doctor I'd never met. She was very rough; her exam made me scream in pain, worse than anything I'd experienced yet, though it reminded me of the rough exams my ob-gyn had done when I'd been in labor with the Kinglet. The diagnosis was the same as it was then, too: my baby was still too high to be born – apparently she was resting somewhere near my chin, judging from how far up inside me this woman went. Also I still wasn't dilating, nor was my cervix softening.
The Pitocin went up. The maximum dosage you can have is "ten"(milligrams? I have no idea), and we were getting there. I was offered an epidural , repeatedly, by the doctor and the new nurse attending me. I was asked, repeatedly, to justify why I didn't want one. So much for not getting pressured into things. I explained that I had a history of back problems and didn't want to be jabbed in the spine like a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey all for pain relief that hadn't worked for me last time, anyway.
But the contractions were getting worse – of course. I wasn't worried yet, but things were rough. We were getting farther and farther from the breathe-through-it natural labor (or natural mind-set, at least), that I'd been hoping for. When I realized how much I was dreading the next exam by Doctor Hands of Shoving Pain, I let go enough to ask for a narcotic, thinking, okay, I'll be able to relax through the exam and the worst of the contractions and then I'll be dilated and ready to push and this will all be over. Once again – Ha.
The drug was nice, in its way – like last time, it didn't take away the pain but made me better able to ride it out. I liked that. I also liked sleeping (SLEEP! FINALLY! THANK GODZ!), though I did have to fight off some nightmares and a growing sense of unease.
When the midwife came back, it was to break my water. Again, I was surprised that there was no expectation of a discussion first – she just came at me, matter-of-factly. I guess I thought, since she was a midwife, she'd prefer to let the water break on its own. But a midwife from a regular ob-gyn practice, in a hospital, and a midwife from a birthing clinic (or books on natural childbirth) are not the same animal.
But just like with the Pitocin, I didn't argue, even though I had major qualms. Aaack! Why??? Well - I was in pain, of course. And very tired. And much like a deer in headlights - exactly how I knew I'd be when I agreed to the induction in the first place. But knowing is one thing, being in the midst of it is another. It's very hard to put up a fight when you're the patient in those conditions – and I was, now, truly starting to get worried about my non-dilation. Breaking the water would get things going, they said. So I let her do it.
(Having your water broken is a very singular sensation, by the way – imagine popping a balloon by squeezing it between your fingers… feel the squeak of rubber… now imagine you ARE the balloon…. *twitch*. Goodness, am I glad I never have to experience that again.)
But… but… even worried, I was confident. (Does that make sense?) In my mind were thoughts of the Kinglet's birth, less than 24-hours from start to finish… how he refused to come down and everyone was worried until suddenly – BAM, there he was. Quick, everyone in their positions, twelve minutes of pushing and yay, baby! It could still be that way with this one – why shouldn't it? I just needed to stay calm… be patient a little longer… Sit up, for goodness sake. Walk around, even. Let gravity do its work. No worries!
Once you have your water broken, you're not allowed to get off the table. This I discovered when I got up to go to the bathroom and got harassed by Nurse Why-Don't-You-Want-An-Epidural, who insisted that I stay glued to the Torture Table and use a bedpan if I needed to relieve myself.
I'm pretty sure I said some bad words at this point. I demanded to see the midwife (where the hell was she, anyway?!?). The midwife had ASSURED ME I'd be able to move around. The midwife KNEW how I felt about being forced to stay on my back. There was no WAY she'd make me stay on the bed for the rest of my labor, let alone have to rely on Nurse This-One-Doesn't-Want-An Epidural to pee into a bowl.
When the midwife finally returned (with Doctor Agony-Hands in tow) she informed me that it was indeed too dangerous to move around at this point because the cord could prolapse. I understood, on some level, what she was saying, but it didn't even matter. . WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME THAT BEFORE YOU BROKE MY WATER?!? I demanded. By which I meant, why hadn't this been up for discussion? How could she do this to me, This, exactly This that I'd been afraid of? I felt claustrophobic, panicked. It was bad enough I'd been tied to machines pumping fluids that I didn't want into my body, making me that much more uncomfortable as I tried to sleep and labor on a bed that felt like a medieval torture device designed especially for ME… now I was ticking off the text book sequence of events to that inevitable C-section. I felt betrayed – by the midwife, by the Birth Center for risking me out over what everyone knew was a case of Cover Our Butts as much as it was Better Safe Than Sorry, and by myself, for letting it all happen.
I can't say that I articulated any of this very well. I railed, accused, and cried, and then insisted that everyone leave us alone until I had time to calm down.
It was evening now. Doctor Sadist-Fists had the (new) nurse take me off the Pitocin drip so I could rest. Said we would start over in the morning, working back up from one to ten. My midwife, who I'd summoned back once I could speak without weeping, told me she didn't think stopping the drip now was a good idea, but it wasn't her call any more. Her shift was over, and I was now in the hands of strangers. So much for having my baby with someone I knew and trusted.
I asked for another round of narcotics. At some point – I think before the first round of Pitocin ended, but again, I'm not really clear on things – I noted a particularly unusual contraction. It didn't just squeeze but rather seemed to roll through my insides. I sleepily said to Tom, "That was a very round contraction." Tom mumbled something incoherent, as he was drifting off for a nap too. I had another one, similarly "round" but smaller, and then drifted off to sleep.
Once they stopped the Pitocin drip, my contractions stopped. Friday night oozed into Saturday morning and they started the drip again, but this time there were no contractions to go along with it. Every half hour or so a nurse would come dial it up a notch; somewhere along the middling dose I started having mild pain, but nothing like they'd been and nowhere near where they needed to be. A new doctor – a nice one, with gentle hands (Godzblesser), checked me around daybreak: I wasn't any more dilated than I'd been 24 hours before.
Still, we waited, hoping the Pitocin would do its work; but by lunchtime, I'd been hanging out at the maximum dosage again without any change. That's when New Doctor said to us, "It's time to consider that C-section."
It wasn't much of a discussion, in the end. At that point I'd been in labor (ish) for a day and a half; I hadn't slept more than a few broken hours, hadn't eaten anything but chicken broth since Thursday night (mmm, peach ice cream, how I remember thee.) My spirits were low and there was no end in sight. I wasn't allowed to have any more Pitocin. Baby was locked up there, high and tight, with no amniotic barrier. There really wasn't any other choice.
They sent an anesthetist to prep me with an epidural for surgery. Fortunately (Thank the Godz, again), he was Not a Schmuck – he listened seriously to my concerns and the story of the Kinglet's birth. He was gentle, avoiding the area of my problem discs. He got the injection right on the first try.
Only – just like last time, it didn't work. Mr. (Dr.?) Not a Schmuck fussed over me for a long time, pinching, prodding, tweaking the dosage and asking me questions. Right up to when they wheeled me to the operating room, sometime around 2pm, he was still at it. Was I numbed enough? As it turns out, no. It seems that I'm part of a small percentage of people who are immune to epidurals, so – yay? At the last minute, they had to give me a "spinal", which is a direct application of the medicine, as opposed to an epidural which is… non-direct? Anyway, it went quickly and didn't hurt much at all, and very soon after I had no feeling in the lower parts of me – which in a c-section, I'm given to understand, is a Very Good Thing.
(Actually, it wasn't that I felt nothing. I felt tingling – a very intense and not unpleasant feeling, like starbursts, all over my lower half. Constellations of sensation. It was rather trippy, to say the least. I think I'll write a poem about it someday.)
The surgery was… surreal. They covered my lower half with a curtain and strapped my arms out to either side. The anesthetist and his assistant hung out at my head, offering encouraging words now and then. I felt tugging while the doctors worked. I shivered uncontrollably, and my head hurt something awful. I said as much out loud, but the assistant replied "Oh," in a way that kind of, though not entirely, convinced me I wasn't in imminent danger of a stroke of something. I concentrated on finding my center, prayed to whoever was listening, and waited.
There was a lot of conversation going on around me that I didn't pay any attention to, but at about 2:40 in the afternoon, June 7th, 2014 I heard the doctor's voice go up in pitch, talking to my baby. I heard Babycakes cry for the first time – Godz, isn't that just the best sound? They bustled her over to another part of the room – I could see people's backs but not the baby. I told Tom to go to see. He tried to wait, (I was shaking so hard it scared him) but I was having none of it. GO BE WITH HER, I said, and he did.
He told me she looked good – messy, but good. He spent the next – whatever amount of time – moving back and forth between the two of us. It seemed to take forever for the doctor to finish sewing me back up and unfasten my hands. My head was still killing me - I mentioned this to the anesthetist, just in case, you know, something WAS wrong, and the other guy was just a schmuck. Not a Schmuck gave me a head massage in response, which helped (in the sense that really intense and painful massages work by distracting you from your pain with other, newer pain), while instructing Tom (unsolicited and at length) how to do it for me later.
Eventually, finally, I was lifted from the operating table in a heavy blanket by a pulley system (felt rather comforting, actually), deposited on a rolling bed, and handed a very pink, squishy-faced, squinty-eyed, blessedly healthy (if very congested) baby girl.
For the record, Mercury had been Retrograde for almost seven hours. So much for Best Laid Plans.
Anna came in at eight pounds, six ounces. Everyone assured me this was a good size, though she seemed Very Small to me in comparison to her (almost-eleven-pound) brother. She was also, like brother, nameless for several hours until Mommy and Daddy could settle on what to call her. We finally went with Anna in honor of our grandmothers.*
She was a very calm baby. When I gave her the breast she latched on right away, and spent the next couple of hours tucked into bed with me. After that, well. You know how it goes. Everything has a warm glow to it. I had a baby. What-the-fuck-ever to everything else. I barely remember.
Except - they told me, at some point, that she was born breech. She hadn't been that way for very long – they knew this because her legs were pliable, not stuck stiffly over her head. I knew for a fact that she'd been head-down and in proper birthing position as of Thursday morning, and had been that way for months. Apparently, the little punk had DONE A SUMMERSAULT while I was in labor (see "Gee, that was a really ROUND contraction", above.)
And this, I think, is the reason that I was ultimately OKAY with Anna's birth, in spite of everything that went exactly the way I wish I hadn't (except the part where she was born healthy and I came out okay, too – that part was just what I prayed for). Everyone kept saying to me, it doesn't matter what you plan for a birth. In a heartbeat, all your expectations can go out the window. And I think, in this case, things worked out for the best. Maybe she wouldn't have turned breech if I hadn't allowed the induction and Pitocin and having my water broken. Then again, maybe she would have – and if I hadn't accepted all those interventions, I might have labored for days and days with a breech baby. And if I'd had a Birth Center labor, like I hoped, I might very well have ended up in the hospital anyway. So… while it doesn't change my opinion about western medicine and birth, I'm OKAY. Because, well … Anna.
* Anna Shawn Rose. Named also for Anna Akhmatova, the Russian poet I potrayed on stage the night she was conceived. Her first middle name, Shawn is for my brother. Her third name, Rose, was the Kinglet's choice… it was never really in the queue before she was born, but I was recently reminded that my grandfather had a sister by that name, which makes the Kinglet's insistence on it more interesting, since I like to speculate that he could be Pop reincarnated. The fact that my favorite nurse during labor was a sweet elderly lady named Rose cinched it... Plus the fact that Ani was such a lovely, healthy shade of pink when I first saw her.
I guess this will be my last update before my daughter is born.
We’re scheduled for an induction on Friday. I’ve been hoping that she would come on her own before then – not completely unreasonable, given that I’m 39 weeks today – but aside from some erratic contractions, nothing much seems to be happening down there. We still have tonight and tomorrow, but I’ve pretty much given up on a natural labor.
It’s disappointing, yes, but also it worries me. Induction can cause things to snowball, leading to more interventions and complications. The Kinglet’s birth was so unpleasant and here we are setting the stage again. With him, I waited two weeks past my due date. This time I’m giving in a week early. It sucks.
But I think it’s time. I’m not in immediate danger, but I’m not well, and I don’t believe waiting is going to do either of us any good. My blood pressure is high – sometimes dangerously high, though it does consistently comes back down. I’ve already gained as much weight as I did with the Kinglet. My allergies are so bad, my tissues so inflamed that I can’t breathe, my throat closes up at night and I wake up choking. I’m in constant pain with my back and legs, and I’m getting weaker all the time. Reflux keeps me from lying down at all, ever. Nights are special torture, endless and awful. Babycakes, though, is ready. She’s practicing her breathing in there, moving all the time, getting fat and crowded and restless. She’s even got hair on her head, according to our last ultrasound.
There’s a lot of uncertainty about what will happen after she comes. I haven’t blogged about getting risked out of the birth center – it was too upsetting, at the time. Now I’m resigned to the hospital birth; I found a nice midwife who operates out of my usual gyn-practice, and I’ve *heard* that hospital maternity policies are a lot less restrictive and a lot more family-friendly than they were the last time we did this. So that’s – something.
Still, there’s a possibility Babycakes will have to stay in the NICU for a time. The medication I have to take for my headaches can cause complications, and even though it’s a very low dose they need to observe her. Also I tested positive for Group B strep in my first trimester, which is a fairly common thing for women to have but potentially dangerous to babies at birth. I’ll have to be hooked up to antibiotics during labor and they’ll need to watch her for that, too. So rather than the obligatory hospital stay, we could be there for a week. We could be separated, even. Don’t know how that’s going to work. Don’t know how that’s going to impact breastfeeding. Don’t know what it’s going to mean for the family, for Kinglet, who still has a week of school. Don’t know how I’m going to deal.
Don’t want to dwell on it. Just putting it out there.
In the meantime, I’m losing my sanity bit by bit. I finished off all my projects, divested myself of work responsibilities, packed our bags and did everything else I could to be ready for this baby. Now I’ve got nothing to do. I’ve been obsessively keeping the kitchen clean, packing the Kinglet’s lunch at three in the morning, laundering every scrap of clothing. I’ve been binge watching HOUSE on Netflix – I have dreams of Hugh Laurie bullying me for not going into labor, and discovering that my baby has something crazy wrong with her. I think I’ll be done the series by Friday. THEN where will I be?
As for people who aren’t currently connected by an umbilical cord: The Kinglet appears to be going through a manic phase. Incidents of violence at school are on the rise again. At home, he comes in and out of a hyper state that seems to take him over and make him oblivious to us. Singing at the top of his lungs, being silly, violating personal space like it’s a joke. Everyone is rather at a loss for what to do about it. His team asked us to reconsider the medication question, so I made some calls, but since his psychiatrist is an ass we won’t be able to start any trials until after the semester is over. In the meantime, I get regular calls from school to tell me they had to restrain him, and when he gets home I have to sit him down and ask him what the fuck, dude. What’s going on with you? What can we do?
I feel completely inadequate for all of this right now. I have so little energy. I know that doesn’t help the situation. The family dynamic is tense. The Godking is tense, having to take care of both of us, our physical needs, play with the Kinglet where I can’t, deal with his own health and work issues, AND be the primary disciplinarian. He loses his temper a lot, which has to spill over into the Kinglet’s school day. It’s not… ideal.
Another reason I just need this pregnancy to be over. I know things aren’t going to magically get better when baby is here – a whole other person to adapt to, plus Mommy being weak and tired from birth and infant care… but the sooner we get this baby out, the sooner we can all start working to some sort of normalcy again. Whatever that means.
My parents aren’t well. Mom got sick after skipping dialysis – again. I gave her hell for that, thinking she’d learned her lesson the last time. She avoided a hospital stay at least, and she got better, but she was sick again this week. I didn’t know about it until after, as usual. She said she was worried that “her days were numbered”. Now she thinks she’s having an adverse reaction to her medicines, even though the nurses at the dialysis center say that’s unusual. She switching her meds and says she’s feeling better again. I guess we’ll see.
She’s lost a ton of weight, though. Bought herself a brand new wardrobe. That makes her happy.
My Dad has been in terrible pain with the spinal stenosis. He basically needs to be in a wheelchair now, though they haven’t taken that step yet. He spends most of his time in bed watching television. His medications don’t do enough to help, but he’s maxed out with what the doctors will allow. He’s decided he wants to push for surgery, even though they were reluctant to give it to him given the condition of his health. It’s very risky, but he says he can’t go on living like he is now – it’s no kind of life. It scares me to hear all this, but I can’t really blame him either. I’ve been feeling miserable for months, so much I can’t do anymore, so much I have to rely on other people to do for me – I’ve been thinking at least there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for me. I should get better. But what about people who are elderly, or sick, with no hope of getting better? Like my poor dad.
I hate how depressing all of this sounds. Like I said, I don’t want to be dwelling on it, but it’s hard not to with little else to focus on. Time has slowed to molasses for me, all this waiting and wallowing in discomfort and uncertainty. I know, logically, that it will be over soon. Today and tomorrow – that’s all.
If we can just make it through the next few days, the next week okay… there will be much better things to think about.
Had a lot to get done today, but not sleeping last night (see previous post) led to me napping until lunchtime, which led to dreams and family drama which led to me posting on livejournal, which reminded me of other stuff that's been festering on my mind, so I guess I'll just keep doing this instead.
I find myself missing my mom a lot. For a while there, I almost never talked to her either... her sickness makes her tired, unreachable, even if that's just a currently legitimate excuse in a lifetime of excuses. Lately is seems like she's been making an effort - calling me, stopping by to visit, even taking me to a baby resale thing. But I still miss her, even when she's right there on the phone, or sitting in my kitchen. My mom is kind of a ghost to me. A ghost who likes to gossip and criticize my housekeeping skills but otherwise doesn't speak my language or see me, really.
Been wanting to write about the Kinglet - we went through a really rough patch, which I think I mentioned. Lately that's been going much better... don't know if he went through a manic cycle or if he just rebelled against school for a while but then settled in. Hard to say. Right now I'm just happy he's doing so well - controlling his temper, taking a philosophical stance on things that bother him, making an effort to help out or do what's expected of him. I hope it lasts. I hope we don't see some major backsliding once the baby comes. I don't expect that, but who knows, really?
It's been interesting, having him finally settled in the program, moving into a new chapter with him as "a kid with Autism", figuring out what that means to us as parents. It's interesting to see what behaviors are left once the temper/rage/disruption issues are being factored out. The perspective-taking, or lack thereof. The way his mind works. The little compulsions and ticks. His weaknesses and his strengths.
For example: We had an opportunity to observe some of his Autism peers at a birthday party recently. The contrast between his level of social functioning and that of the highest-functioning boys in his group is truly startling - no wonder the powers that be were so reluctant to admit him. For he IS socially engaged - considerate, eager to please, to be liked, to participate. Some of those other kids, man... it's like the lights are on but nobody's home. My little boy says please and thanks, runs to the door when someone knocks on it, tells you he's glad to see you, comes looking for hugs - he's so charming and nice to be around, sometimes, I feel like I won the Autism lottery.
But on the other hand - the way he can't keep his hands to himself. The way he can't pay attention when someone is trying to teach him something in a crowded room. The way he acts like he already knows everything and deserves everything but isn't willing to make an effort to TRY. Ugh, the way he seems content to watch Spongebob and play video games for the rest of his life and let his amazing mind and energy go unharnessed. This kid could work for NASA - or better yet, design video games and make millions... but I'm afraid he's going to be living on my couch when he's thirty-five because he's lazy and self-entitled.
Premature worries, probably. Just... interesting. For the first time, really, the focus is shifting from "how do we keep him in school and deal with these rages" to "how to best help him grow into an adult"? How involved should we be vs how and when to step back? Whole new paradigm shift.
Haven't been writing lately. Tried--- figured out where I'm supposed to be working in my manuscript, gave my self assignments. But don't like the way that writing it feels like something I should be doing, as opposed to something i want to do. So I'm kind of... waiting. I have a lot to keep me busy, writing-wise, with things I've already produced. Submitting poems and stories. Networking. Promoting the poetry book. Last year I decided I wanted to publish a collection, and I did that. That feels good, like a mile-marker on the path, which is why I wanted to do it. But I don't know, really, what happens next.
Part of it is mixed feelings and confusion over what it even means to be a writer these days. The publishing world is not what it was when I was a little girl deciding that's what I wanted to do. I'm not sure I like what's out there. I don't relate to my writing friends any more. I don't know many people who write like i do, or why I do, or think how I do. It's lonely, and I don't know where I fit.
Sometimes it is depressing, but other times it just is what it is. Getting pregnant, having only so much time in a day, having my mind turn away from actively writing, it seems like things that were meant to happen, just like getting married and then having so much of life focused on the Kinglet was meant to be. I'm biding time. So it's fine. I just, you know. Sometimes wish I knew what for.
There was a time when I felt quite confident in what my life was for. Where it was going. How I fit. I used to be a very spiritual person. I felt connected and, if not always explicitly guided, I at least felt there was a reason for what I went through. Something specific I was working for.
Somewhere along the way, though, I lost that sense. It's not that I don't believe, anymore, it's just that I feel disconnected and rather jaded about spiritual things. There are moments of clarity or surety, but they are few and far between. Now I just have a vague sense of... meh?
I pray. I meditate. I smile at nature, try to remind myself that I am a part of it. Now, especially, with the daughter I wanted for so long finally made real inside me, I so desperately want to feel that magic and certainty again. I want to know, This is what I'm Doing. This is Who I Am. This is Why. It'll all be Okay. There is a Reason.
But I don't feel that. I just feel... baby kicks. A desire to write, a desire to be a good person, to grow and love - all this love. And a big old misty question mark of a path where my life used to be.
Wow. And here I was just going to work on my grocery list today.
This pregnancy has been pretty plain awful, physically. I think I mentioned that. Everyone asks a pregnant lady how she's feeling, but I don't think anyone really wants to hear "This is torture and my due date can't come fast enough and, oh, by the way, thank the GODZ my husband got snipped because I'm never getting pregnant again, ever."
I was actually fantasizing about premature labor for a minute there, until I googled pictures of thirty-week-old newborns, all skinny and desperate-looking. Forget that. Now I'm calling on all my zen-powers to get me through the next six to nine weeks so this little chicky inside me can get fat and healthy. No more than that, though, so help me godz.
But I'm not exaggerating about the torture thing. Nighttimes are hell. I can't lay down for very long because of reflux - anything in my stomach crawls back up and tries to get out. I can't even keep water down, which is fun because I'm drinking water all night long. I'm perpetually congested - haven't breathed properly since November - and I have to breathe through my mouth. Mouth-breathing dehydrates, so I drink, and then I have to puke... and pee. A lot.
I spend half the night in the recliner downstairs, but that's no great relief... though it helps keep the acid down, it tends to pinch nerves and make my circulation/restless legs worse. I usually manage to nod off for a few hours at a time, but last night I couldn't get any relief at all, and no amount of zen-type thinking would help. I ended up packing the Kinglet's lunchbox early and setting out dishes for breakfast, then watched Angel/Buffy episodes while pacing the floor until about 3AM, only to be up again at 6:30 to feed the boy, argue about shoelace, and get him on a bus.
I napped until lunchtime today. I did it because I needed it, and I am embracing this whole "rest when you can" philosophy of early maternity - but still, not ideal. Who knows how that is going to impact tonight?
In my nap, I dreamt that I pulled up to my house, which used to be my parents' house, with my mother in the passenger seat. She was wearing a white fuzzy robe. Getting out of the car,Mom said, "pick up that third foreclosure notice for me and bring it inside, will you?" There was a package on the grass. It said "SUBMISSION", along with a bunch of official and ominous-looking writing.
"What do you mean, third foreclosure notice?!?" I picked up the envelope. It was bulky and hard to carry while trying to get inside. Our driveway is steep, and for some reason the flower garden, sidewalk, and front porch were all torn up and flooded over. I had to tuck the envelope under my arm and nudge planks of plywood in place so that Mom could get to the front door.
"Why didn't you tell me about this?!?" I demanded.
"What could you have done?" she said.
"I could have paid you rent!" I said. "I could have done something!" Though what, indeed.
"What do you think is going to happen to me now, if you lose this house?" I asked. "Where am I going to go?"
She had no answer to that.
"You can't lose this house," I moaned, as I put the key in the door. "This house means everything to me."
I opened the door and looked up. The vestibule was narrow and white, with a ceiling so high I couldn't even see it. Above us were vistas of mosaic, cerulean tiles with gold stars, going on forever. "Oh, Mommy," I said, as the dream dissolved.
I woke thinking the symbolism of this dream was pretty hammer-over-the-head. When the phone rang, I dreaded it was someone calling to tell me my mother had died. It was Mom, though, with that voice that says "something's up."
Turns out that, in a shocking reenactment of scenes from the life of my lunatic brother and his lunatic wife, my 18-year-old niece was arrested from a hotel room with her abusive on-again-off-again boyfriend for breaking a mutual Protection From Abuse order that each had placed against the other without ever bothering to show up for court. Since her self-absorbed, drug-addicted loser mother had no cash, they woke up my sick and elderly parents in their state-assisted old people's condo in the middle of the night to beg for bail. Of course my parents agreed - they've been bailing crazy people out of drama with money and energy they don't have for years - why stop with the grandkids?
I'm bubbling over with rage, hot like stomach acid. The knowledge that my parents are not long for this world is hard enough to deal with. Having them go through this drama with a whole new generation! - is infuriating. I have hate in my heart for my brothers and their baby mamas for all the years, all the late-night phone calls, all the money thrown into a void, all acts of selfishness and craziness and pain they wrought. I have hate for my parents, too, for putting so much energy into putting band-aides on the gushing wounds of their children but so little into being role models in the first place, or making proactive choices. For letting themselves be victims.
I've had hate on behalf of my nieces and nephews, having to watch from the sidelines while they suffer for the bad choices of their parents. But the oldest is an adult now, making her own bad choices. This is where the buck stops. No one is making her stay with a man who uses her. No one is keeping her from finishing high school and getting herself on a road to somewhere or something better than where she came from. No one put her in that hotel room other than herself - and no one put her on her sickly grandparents' doorstep begging for cash.
This is where love starts to get all mixed up with hate. I love her dearly - and I hate what she's doing. To others, to us - but mostly to herself. I hate that there's not much I can do but sit on the sidelines and pass judgement. I hate that this is where I come from. I hate the choices i've had to make in life to save myself, and I hate watching people I love refuse to make them.
I wish they'd left her ass in jail.
The jitters, I have.
It's been ten months since I did anything with COVENANT. Last spring I revamped the outline and rewrote the first few chapters. I was really happy with the way they turned out - I even included an excerpt in my application for a major award and went on to earn an Honorable Mention over dozens of applicants.
But then I put it aside.
It was supposed to be just a summer break sabbatical. The Kinglet would be underfoot all the time - there would be swimming lessons and summer camp and far too much noise under one roof for me to get anything done. I intended to start back up in September, but then it turned into a So-it-turns-out-the-Kinglet-has-Autism-b
Don't you hate it when that happens?
Now my novel is like a friendship left too-long untended... you think about it, you say to each other "we really should get together soon", but so much time has passed since anyone made an effort that you've crossed into awkwardness and no one really knows what to do about that. I miss it - I know I need to do something, especially now, before the baby comes and steals my sleep and every ounce of creative energy, but gah, where to start? Do I even know this novel anymore?
I guess the only thing TO do is just dive back in, no matter how awkward it feels... just open up the file, find the place where we left off and ... start writing. If it's anything like real-people friendships, pretty soon we'll be sharing mental martinis and tripping over things to say to each other. It'll be like no time has passed at all. Right?
The sticking point was that the Kinglet is very different from the other kids in the Program. While his behavioral problems are severe, his academic functioning is very high. I had no idea this was SO unusual, but it is. No one had a clear idea of how his immersion would work – how can he receive the services he needs while also being challenged at an appropriate academic level? So they started him off on a trial basis.
After observing him for a couple of months, though, the team recommended that he be fully absorbed in the program. The level of services he needs is significant, beyond what they can give as "consultants". So I signed papers at the Program's home offices last week and all his files are being transferred to their jurisdiction. Now he's a full-on, legit, kool-aide drinking member of the Program. He still goes to the same school, but only because the Program has satellite classes there right now. The Program staff is fully in charge of his IEP, and they are pretty much the only ones we communicate with now.
We’re pretty happy with his situation, for the most part. He has a new Program homeroom, with four or five other boys who also have Autism. This is where he starts and ends his day, and also where he goes if he needs to be removed for discipline problems/meltdowns.
The main Program teacher is fantastic, amazing. I’m absolutely in love with her. She’s very knowledgeable, patient, passionate about what she does. She reached out to communicate with me in his very first couple of days, and I’ve continued to talk with her on the phone or in person at least once a week. She’s fully accepted him into her group and is trying very hard to develop strategies to help him adapt.
The group also has one Para who follows them throughout their day. Most of the kids, Kinglet included, transition to a regular second grade class for their academics, specials, lunch and recess. He gets to interact with Gen Ed kids that he already knows and considers his friends. The Program boys are, by all accounts, very much accepted there. One of the General Ed kids is even the Kinglet’s professed “nemesis” from last year, a little girl who used to pick on him and make him feel bad. Now she is kind to him, helpful, always says hello. It’s very special, really.
The Kinglet receives special services throughout the week, including Social Skills group, Psychological counseling, and Occupational Therapy. He gets motion breaks to help him burn off excess energy during the day, plus he earns reward points for good behavior that he can “cash in” for computer games or play breaks. So he’s in and out of the Gen Ed stuff a lot. It can be a little disruptive (like he didn’t get to hear the story the class is working on, or see part of a movie), but since his behavioral problems are still pretty severe, the Team is focusing intensively on addressing those. The idea is that his academics will catch up once he’s better able to self-manage.
By “pretty severe”, I mean we’re still seeing the same kind of disruptive and aggressive behaviors he’s had all along. The Gen Ed teacher reports that the Para is pretty much tied to the Kinglet – if he has a meltdown, she goes with him, leaving the other four boys unsupervised in her classroom. And the meltdowns happen a lot, particularly lately. The Kinglet is also, apparently, using the poor Para as his personal punching bag. He tends to fly off the handle if the Gen Ed teacher or the Para says something he doesn’t like, and in his anger he goes right to physical aggression. They’ve been working on a lot of strategies to defuse or redirect him, but lately he is unable (or unwilling) to utilize those strategies in the heat of the moment.
In fact, his behavior has escalated to the point that, over the last couple of weeks, his teachers have had to put him in physical restraints (what they call a “Bear Hug”), to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself or other people. Whenever this happens, they have to call me to let me know, so I’m back to cringing when the phone rings – it’s been happening several times a week. But on the bright side, it’s not a call to say, Mrs. Tairngire, please come pick up your son – he’s been suspended for three more days. Now it’s just to keep me informed.
The first time it happened, the main Program teacher (I’ll have to come up with a nickname – for now let’s call her My Favorite Person) sounded rather traumatized about it. Up ‘til then, they’d seen some problem behaviors but mostly the charming doll baby side of my son. Now they were seeing his full glory – I’m surprised, really, that they weren’t expecting it, since that’s what brought him to the Program in the first place. In any case, the Godking and I certainly weren’t surprised – in fact, we’re glad at least they’ve had a chance to understand this part of him. More importantly, we’re glad he’s finally able to have these episodes in a safe place.
As I told My Favorite Person, he’s been resorting to violence and disruption for years now. It’s always been his default and it always, always gave him an out – whether it was getting out of class to take a walk, getting suspended, or getting pulled by me to homeschool. This is the first time he can have a fit and still have things go back to the way they were. Maybe now he’ll finally start learning some other strategies. So fuck yes, put him in a Bear Hug if the situation calls for it. Better that than sending him home. I wish they’d been doing this all along.
The only thing we’re not really thrilled with is his new General Ed teacher. She’s nothing compared to the second grade teacher he had for the first half of the year. The first one really made an effort with him, academically, even though she was obviously over-extended and couldn’t do much to help him behaviorally. The new one, quite obviously, couldn’t care less. We get the impression that she doesn’t really consider the Program kids to be her kids. She made no effort to communicate with me, and actually was rather dodgy when I tried to reach out to her.
I had to complain a little bit to get her to sit in our mid-year parent-teacher conference. Her reasoning was that she only meets with parents at the mid-year mark if the child is struggling with something, which in and of itself bothers me. I don’t just want to know if things are going bad - I want to know what my kid is learning. What units are coming up? What are your impressions? What can we be doing with him at home? Maybe we’re just weird, to be that involved. But, in any case, this is the first chance we’ve had to meet formally with this teacher. Doesn’t that justify a sit down? And, besides THAT, doesn’t his behavioral situation constitute something he’s “struggling with”??
And that’s the other thing. The new Gen Ed teacher is still responsible for his grades, even if she’s not responsible for working with him. On his report card this trimester, the Kinglet received all “Meets Proficiency” and even “Nearing Proficiency”, whereas last trimester (under the other teacher) he was mostly MP or even “Exceeds Proficiency”. Her explanation was that even though he seems to understand the concepts when she talks to him, he tends to score poorly on tests. He makes sloppy mistakes, misses answers, or fails to complete the test entirely – sometimes because he’s rushing, sometimes because he’s not emotionally able to complete the work.
This bothers us. If he demonstrates knowledge of the subject but can’t translate it onto paper, doesn’t that jump out as a problem to you? Particularly when it’s due to behavioral problems that are quite obviously part of his disability – for which he has only just started to receive services? Is it really fair to wipe your hands of him and give him low grades? Isn’t there some accommodation that could be put into play here?
Right now, the GodKing and I are choosing not to make a big deal out of it. We only have to deal with this particular teacher (Let’s call her Mrs. Laissez-faire) for three more months. We’re okay with letting his team focus on the behavioral components. We’re working with him at home to at least reinvest him in math, if nothing else. There’s more we could be doing, but that’s the subject for another rant. In any case, we’ll revisit the situation next year. Hopefully, he’ll have a better third grade teacher than this limp-handshake of a woman.
In the meantime, we have a new school to familiarize ourselves with, and a whole new culture. Obviously, parents in the state Autism program are involved with their kids' education in a different kind of way, and i want to be a part of that. We've met some of the other families, even went to a birthday party recently. I kind of want to help out in the classroom, get to know the kids. We have some decisions to make about summer school (which, with his diagnosis, he can now participate in). We have some decisions to make at home, too, to try and navigate/ dovetail with what the Kinglet is facing at school. Lots on our plate. Not easy. But, all in all, a way better place than we've been in, well. Ever.
That said, there are some things worth cherishing. A certain, ineffable sweetness. The joy of quickening. The pride in carrying this belly in front of me. The round, hard feel of it.
It's getting harder to sleep. Have to stay upright much of the time, can't breathe. Have to get up for bathroom breaks at least twice, even when all I do is take baby sips of water for my parched throat. Couldn't fall back to sleep last night, head full of worries. Spent the wee hours of the morning in my recliner downstairs trying to quiet my thoughts. Miserable, but after a while the sound of my grandmother's pendulum clock took over. Scritch--- scritch. The hamsters in their kitchen bio-dome woke up and went busily about whatever it is that hamsters do.
I can see the street from my chair, beyond the shadow-fingers of houseplants that crowd my front window. The moonlight on the snow made everything outside seem preternaturally bright. Cold, but I was safe and comfy beneath my blankets. My cat, nestled across my lower legs (her favorite place, of late) was a warm, heavy weight, kneading and shifting every few minutes for a better position. A few inches higher, the baby squirmed and kicked in the round, warm weight of my middle. Somehow, all the misery had fallen away; everything around me was comfort and life.
Much as I wish that we could fast forward to June, I would not trade moments like that.