Friday, January 27, 2012

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Or maybe not.

There are some nights that when you crawl into bed and your lay your weary head on your pillow and you just KNOW that you will be awake, ALL. NIGHT. LONG.

It started at 8:37PM when the power went off in the whole town of Dillsburg.  I had just finished my second of two cups of coffee, hoping the caffeine would keep me awake for what promised to be a long night of catch-up on school work and other odds & ends.  Instead I found myself snuggled in our bed with both Monster and Middle Monkey wedged in between the Maker and myself.  Covered in inky darkness I laid there listening to the harmony of sleepy, rhythmic breathing.  Blessedly the Miracle and Mini Monkey had found their way to bed prior to the outtage.

Alone with my thoughts, no blogging, no Facebook, no Words with Friends to distract me...I opted to write the old fashioned way.  With a pen and paper the words flowed, inspired by the night, the quiet, the stillness of everything.  I wrote until my hand cramped and my eyelids grew heavy and then I drifted off into a peaceful sleep...

For about 30 minutes...

Until Monster Monkey was awakened with a night terror, "Ahhhh!!!" he screamed.  "I think you are trying to kill me!!!"  He thrashed against the confinement of the covers, tearing the rest of his bed mates out of our sound sleep.  When I finally calmed him down I carried all 75lbs of him down the hall to his own bedroom guided by the light of our battery operated candle, as the power had yet to come back on and plunked him onto his bed like a giant sack of potatoes where he promptly fell back into a deep sleep.
I returned to my bed and slipped back under the covers.  I snuggled up against the remaining Monkey and drifted off into a peaceful sleep...

For another 30 minutes...

Until Middle Monkey made a gurgling noise as he lay there beside me.  I sat up just in time as the gush of puke spewed forth all over my pillow, where my head had been seconds before.  There was no time to be grossed out, only time to react.  I was running, carrying his leaden 50lb body to the toilet to commence with the barfing.  Thankfully the power was back by this point.  Monkey-Maker changed the bedsheets and fetched new PJ's for Middle and having emptied himself sufficiently he curled up again in our bed and fell back asleep.  Shaken from my near miss with throw-up shampoo it took me slightly longer to return to sleepy town but I did get there...

For another 30 minutes....

Until Miracle Monkey decided he would like a little one-on-one with Mommy in the middle of the night.  I fed him his bottle and rocked him to sleep.  I was just melting back into the welcoming embrace of my bed when..."euaahhggg...."
Yep...Miracle Monkey too - all over the crib, the wall, himself - EVERYWHERE.

But he was unfazed, grinning from ear to ear, happy as a clam. 

So I gave in, got some coffee and settled in for the long haul. 

If 3 AM doesn't give you enough time to get it all done, try 2:)

If you need me, I'll be curled up under my desk, asleep. Sweet Dreams.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Supermoms & Sleep Safety

As I lay in bed watching what can only be described as the longest most boring movie ever,I ponder the events of the past week.  The movie, courtesy of the quite fabulolus HD video monitor purchased by my sisters-in-law, now keeps vigil over Miracle-Monkey as he sleeps.  I think about how my life has changed in the days that followed the terrible accident that threatened to take away my youngest child.

At least three or four times each night I spring out of bed, monitor in hand and run to his room to startle him awake, just to be sure.  It is likely the kid will not know a true "good night's sleep" until he is in his mid-teens but tough turkey, I say. 

His peaceful sleep is the most difficult to watch as I am haunted forever my the mental snap shot of his limp, lifeless body.  I prefer much more to see him sqirm and move in the restless phases of his sleep cycle. Thankfully for me he figits quite a bit as he was once a comfortable side sleeper, allowing easy access to his fingers for sucking.  He is now relagated to a life of back sleeping safely in his crib, firm mattress, free of blankets.  He struggles to find a position that keeps his tiny fingers within reach but when he does he drifts off, and I watch his chest rise and fall.  Forever...or until sleep overtakes me.

In the night I am so grateful now for the sound of his cry, so alive, so strong.  Sure, I am sleep deprived but it no longer matters.  We are home, all under one roof. 

And his waking hours, oh I adore his waking hours.  His laugh and his squeal, so beautiful.  He talks to us in animated tones.  He has so much to say, no chance that this Monkey will not be given his fair piece of the family pie.

What I have learned from this terrible incident is that most Mom's have the best intentions when it comes to our families but the pressure to be a "Supermom" is sometimes too great.  We do things that compromise safety in the name of efficiency so that we can get more done, fit more in.  Propping a bottle while wrestling a sibling into clothes for the day or leaving the baby unattended on the changing table, even just for a second - no longer. 

I, for one, multi-task much less.  As a result, much less gets accomplished.  My house is quite often a disaster zone, toys strewn about and dishes piled in the sink, but I know that my attention is where it needs to be, on my kids.

And I am thankful that my near miss with tragedy and subsequent quick fire spread of the story thanks to Scary Mommy could inspire so very many people to contemplate the small things that each and every mother does that compromise the safety of our kids.

Thank you to everyone who commented and re-posted.  Thanks to those who wished me well, encouraged me not to blame myself and to those who shared stories of thier own parenting moments.  I feel so blessed to be part of such a special community of people, the Mommy Bloggers & Friends. 

I think we did a good thing by getting the word out. 

Love to you all.

Erin & Co.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Politics of Religion

I am a Roman Catholic.  I was raised a Roman Catholic by Roman Catholics.  I attended 12 years of Roman Catholic education.  I have been baptized, reconciled, received my first Holy Eucharist, and I was married in the Roman Catholic another Roman Catholic. Together we have baptized each of our four children within months of his/ her birth.  And until now I have always intended to raise our children in the Roman Catholic faith...

But right now my faith is on shaky ground.

Let me be clear, I believe more strongly than ever that there is in fact a God.  A being greater than myself that powerfully, yet gently guides the actions of my days and the course of my life. 

And this is comforting.

But each time I watch the news and listen to one of the Republican presidential hopefuls blather on about Christian-Conservative values I want to barf.

Rick Perry wanted me to know that "our country should be rooted in Judeo-Christian values" , and Tea Party darling, Michele Bachman informed me that "not all cultures are equal" and that I should look out for the dangerous "gay propaganda" in The Lion King.

These others can be written off as Evangelical extremists, Right-Wing religious zealots, but Rick Santorum, well, my concerns with him hit closer to home. 

You see, Rick Santorum is a devout Roman Catholic and having his homophobic, anti-gay agenda associated with my faith makes me ill.  Statements like:
“the state is not doing a service to the child and to society by not putting that child in a home where there is a mother and a father. This is common sense. This is nature. And what we’re trying to do is defy nature because a certain group of people want to be affirmed by society.”
Statements like this infuriate me.

The God of my belief is benevolent and forgiving.  Challenging me to be better than I am, to give of myself, my gifts and talents.  Tolerant of the beliefs of all around me.

I learned of this God through my parents and teachers, religious leaders and other adults of influence.  I want my children to grow up knowing the same.  A God who accepts all regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation or religious prefrence.

During my religious education we learned about the Sacraments and the Holy Trinity, we learned about Unconditional Love and Wisdom of the Holy Spirit.  We learned of a gentle, understanding God.  A God who sent His only Son to walk amongst us "sinners."  To break bread with prostitutes and lepers, the "undesirables" of society. 

My God, the God I still choose to believe in did not tolerate pious Pharisees who did not practice what they preached, who believed that they were better than others.  We learned about the Ten Commandments but we NEVER learned of a God who practiced exclusivity.  A God who would condemn others for beliefs, lifestyles and faiths that differed from His own.

This concept is new to me. And it is blatant political agenda of the Christian Conservatives that has me questioning if I will stay a part of the only organized religion I have ever known.

The God of my understanding does not discriminate his love.  Ever.

My God loves us all.  Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Mormon, Buddhist, Scientologyist, Atheist, Agnostic, and yes, even the "gays."  My God cares not if you believe in Him, because He believes in you.  Even those people who hate Him.  Even those "terrorists" that want us dead for believing in Him.  My God loves them too.

My God is a forgiving God, and though I am sure that it takes all of His strength some days, He even loves the Right-Wing, Christian-Conservative Republicans.

So to them I say:  Keep Christ out of my constitution and I'll keep my liberal, gay agenda out of your church.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Club

As the ambulance screamed through the dark, sirens wailing destination, Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital, I didn't know that I would be suddenly thrust into a new club.  Membership is exclusive but certainly not coveted.

Before Saturday I associated hospitals or hostable's (as Mini-Monkey) calls them with happy times, births and new life.   No longer.

I jumped into the ambulance on Saturday with the clothes on my back.  Thankfully my husband had reminded me to put on shoes. 

Shortly after the arriving at the ER, it began.  The realization of how many things you are unprepared for.  We had no diapers, no wipes, no clothing for our baby to wear, we had no bottles, no Binky's, no blankets to keep him warm.  We had one cell phone with one bar of battery remaining, no chargers, no change of clothes. 

There is a vulnerability that comes with being in this club.  Being in the position to rely on someone else for your every need is a foreign feeling for most parents.  There is a trust that must be established, born out of necessity. 

There on the seventh floor you see them.  The walking wounded.  I speak not of the patients, but the parents. They move through the hallways like ghosts.  Bewildered faces, eyes cast down.  Wondering, "How did this happen?" 

Smiles are hard to come by in this place.  Desperation is palpable.  Everywhere you turn is tragedy and sadness. 

Enter the nurses, the support staff, the aides.  They whip through the halls with purpose, positive energy trailing in their wake.  They are kind and gentle.  Each seems to have a sixth sense to know when to rest a reassuring hand on a shoulder, give a hand a squeeze.  Little reminders that,  despite all other indications, you are not alone. 
During our stay on the seventh floor we worked with at least six nurses including Tracey, Kristin, and Rachel in Pediactics, Valerie in Intermediate Care as well as Jennifer & Carrie in Emergency.  These women and countless support staff made our stay a little less scary.

Faceless, nameless doctors would come and go, giving us sometimes confusing information that would be promptly explained or further investigated as needed by our heroic nurses.  They would speak to us, clearly, calmly, and in layman's terms.  They would make time to answer the barrage of questions.  Knowledgeable and understanding, the nurses are the best of what Penn State Milton Hershey has to offer. 

You can't understand until you have been there, what relief there is in knowing that there are people looking out for you during this scary time.  Smiling faces that appear in your doorway asking, "Is there anything I can get for you, Mom?"  Sounding boards who will listen to your concerns and tell you what they would do it were there own loved one in the situation.  Hopefully most readers will never have to know this first hand, but as a new member of this new club I feel it is my duty to share what I have learned.

There are things that we all take for granted, the comforts of home that are invaluable during times of difficulty.  Things like cell phones and chargers, clean socks and comfortable shoes, toothbrushes and floss, and other hygiene items. 

In the limbo of the Intensive and Intermediate Care units these things become vital to survival.  The ability to change into a clean pair of socks is a luxury to someone who is unwilling to leave thier child's side, like me,even for a shower.  The Monkey-Maker spent two nights on the couches in the Ronald McDonald  House Family Room.  Along with four other fathers, he said it was like a sad, strange dorm room.   

All of my life I have heard commercials for Ronald McDonald House Charities and thought that I understood what it did.  

But I was wrong. 

The Ronald McDonald House Charity offers donated items to help families feel more at home during this terrible time.  In the Ronald McDonald Family Room parents can sleep more comfortably and find a place to take a hot shower.  There are computers with limited access to Internet and e-mail.  It is a place to lay your weary head in a time when fatigue sets in, overtaking your body and making it difficult to perform even basic functions. A place to secure a few snacks or a hot meal.   A place for which we are forever grateful. 

We were the lucky ones.  We left with our baby, alive and healthy, no worse for the wear excepting a few bruises, needle sticks and some medical tape residue. 

The same is certainly not true for the other mothers, fathers and families who have frequented Penn STate Milton Hershey Children's Hospital.  And so I will do my best to give back, in every way that I can.  After speaking with Deb Stegall from Ronald McDonal House Charaites of Central PA I learned that along with travel sized toiletries and individually packaged snacks, gift cards to various vendors are very helpful.

For my part, I will be donating items from the wish list and adding some extras.  Things like gift cards to Radio Shack so that parents can purchase cell phone chargers if needed, and some oversized soft cozy socks, to keep tired feet warm when walking on the cold hospital floor during the long nights. 

And when I can, I will give of my time to volunteer in the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.  I will give back to those who gave to me in my time of need. 

I urge you, dear readers, to do the same.  Life is unpredicable and in the blink of an eye you could be in this club too.

The Moment of Unknowing

I stand there paralyzed by the knowledge of what I know I will find when I pull back the cover.  I want to stay here in this moment - the instant before our world will change forever. 

But instead I pull back the heavy chenille blanket and find my three-month old son face down, unresponsive, and blue.  As I pick up his limp body I step outside myself.  The events unfold before me and I capture them through the lens of my mental camera.  Bringing each scene into focus before snapping the terrible picture. 

I see myself saying his name, cautiously at first, reaching out my hand to touch him.

"Griffin!" I scream.  "Oh my God, Frank, he's not breathing." 

The Monkey's appear outside my bedroom door, one-then two-then three, along with their friends, yanked away from the innocence of their childhood game of hide and go seek into the unimaginable reality unfolding around them. 

"Mom, whats wrong?" Monster Monkey cries.  "Why is he blue?"
Their hysterical screams go unanswered as I carry their brothers lifeless body down the steps. 

I can't answer them as I am not present. 

Just a photographer standing on the sidelines documenting each second of the horrible scene.

I watch my self scream again and hand off the baby to my husband.  He screams and shakes him to no avail.  He hands him to his Guardian Angel, the woman who saved his life and to whom I am forever indebted.  My dear friend, Jamie responds with nurse like calm and immediately commands the situation. 

"Call 9-1-1." She states, but this simple command baffles me.  I can't find a phone and when I finally do, I don't know how to dial. 

Blessedly, her husband had already made the call and was directing EMS to our house within seconds. 

Fire police respond instantly and are the first on the scene.  They administer "blow-by" air further resusciating our son.  His breathing had already been restored due to Jamie's quick reactions, cooling my baby's fiery body and performing chest compressions to restore blood flow. 

As I explain what happened, what I found, what I know to be true, the emergency responders try to convince me otherwise. 

"He must have had a seizure, he must have had a diabetic episode, he must have bacterial meningitis."

How else would a perfectly healthy three-month old child have this kind of "episode."  What other explanation can there be. 

But I know the truth. 

That he was tangled in heavy blankets and had rolled onto his face.  After fighting desperately to free himself, he had finally succumbed to fatigue.  His lactic acid levels and glucose readings were spiked providing evidence to support this agonizing truth.  Dehydrated from trying valiantly to escape the cocoon of chenille, my son almost died because of my lax parenting. 

If I didn't believe in angels before, I do now.  They are among us.  Everywhere. 

Why did I suddenly get up from the kitchen table to check on my son?   He was napping in my bed, something that he had done hundreds of times before.  Why were Jamie and Tom over hanging out on this particular evening?  Their quick reactions saved his life. Their children kept our other Monkey's calm in the face of tragedy.  Wise beyond thier years, they kept them occupied and away from the scene.  Why?

Because there are angels among us. 

I watched helplessly as my infant was poked and prodded, a virtual pin cushion as they tried desperately to get an IV into his tiny dehydrated body.  His beautiful blue eyes were open but registered no response to pain or other stimuli.  It wasn't until finally mercifully they found a vein in his head and were able to push fluids that he began to come back to us. 

For hours and hours, through tests and inspections by countless doctors, nurses and aides, we waited for him to give us a smile.  To let us know that he was in there, that he was okay.  Finally on Sunday night, he did just that, a big toothless grin.  And he hasn't stopped since.  Even while hooked up to tubes and monitors he smiled and flirted and returned to baseline as our perfect little angel. 

And if I didn't believe in miracles before, I do now. 

I have had rigid, unflinchingly professional doctors tell me that it is a miracle that my son is alive.  That it was an angel that moved me to check on him when I did.  That but for the grace of God, I would be planning a funeral rather than requesting discharge instructions.

And I have been forever changed. 

Even when the hospital staff social worker came to speak with us about safe sleeping arrangements in the future she refrained from scolding, saying we had clearly learned our lesson. Poor choices, lax parenting, we are all only one instant away from life-changing tragedy. 

And if I didn't belive before, I do now, that we are all held in the Palm of God's hand.