There is a shadow lurking in my psyche that always seems worse around this time of year. I will attempt to expunge it by blurping it all out on my blog! It will take a few posts. I don’t expect anyone to delve into these long, dreary posts. I will print them off and put them with the others so some day my beloved progeny can read and learn everything they ever wanted to know about their Mom. The good and the bad.
Dark Days of May – Part I
Why do I feel a dark shadow over me in May? Its been this way for the last few years.
I used to have neutral and even positive feelings about May. Spring was well on its way, and it was my Dad’s birthday.
What changed in 1999 was the birth of my first child, coupled with the alarming decline of my father’s health.
When I told the story of our daughter’s birth, I mentioned briefly near the end that when we phoned my parents to tell them of their new grandbaby, they were pleased but in a hurry to leave. They were on the way to the hospital. My Dad had suffered complete kidney failure and needed to get started on dialysis. Well, in that previous story I said I’d talk more about my Dad’s illness later. Well, I guess now its later.
I looked back through my journal from this time period to try to get the details right. They are sketchy so I’ll probably mess them up a bit. The interesting thing about my journal is I did what I typically do, when something is upsetting me or hurting or weighing heavy, I write about the positive. I focus on how I could improve things, what I should be appreciating. Its not a bad thing to do, but it can stop me from dealing with the problem or asking for help. When I look at my journal, I feel the bleakness, the distress, the pain, in the words that aren’t written.
Our daughter was born 6 weeks early, in the middle of February instead of the end of March. She was pretty healthy and a good weight, 5 pounds. There are so many things I know in retrospect, that I’d do differently. I was completely committed to breastfeeding, having read some books listened to current babycare theory that this was the very best thing to do of for your baby. Being so early, Nicole was weak and couldn’t latch. We were in the Intermediate Care Nursery (ICN) and she was doing well but not nursing. I kept trying and trying. Eventually one of the nurses there suggested using a nipple shield, which would give her something easier to latch onto. That worked. The idea was that once she was strong and nursing well, we would dispense with the shield. We went home after 6 days in the hospital.
I should have gone to bottle feeding. Nicole required two hours to nurse until she was done, one hour each side. Then she would have a noisy, unsettled sleep for about 1-2 hours, then nurse again. She seemed to have constant indigestion and even struggled with breast milk. Math wizards among you are going to soon realize that I was only getting 3-4 hours of sleep in every 24, sometimes less. This went on, and on. Ron and I were visited occasionally by friends, but for the most part, we were in a little cocoon of “babydom“. It completely took over my life. Because she was especially vulnerable to illness and it was still winter, we stayed home.
About 10 days after Nicole was born, Dad had to over to Kelowna to have a shunt installed. That’s a permanent placement, in a vein/ artery combo, of hardware to hook the dialysis machine up to. I remember feeling sorry for him because he had to take the trip by Ambulance, and I knew from my ride to the hospital to have Nicole, the Ambulance is a very uncomfortable ride. This was a stressful time for Dad because his veins were very delicate and it was hard to find a sturdy place to put the shunt.
Throughout that March, I continued to nurse, day and night, and Ron and I continued to fall under the spell of this needy little creature. They are insidious you know, these babies. They slowly wind their way into your every conscious thought! In my diary I noted that we went to the Health center near the middle of March and to the post office. My first official outing with the baby. I fell sick. I got the worst cold I’ve ever had and it developed into a sinus infection. I don’t know if would have been possible to prevent the baby from getting sick, seeing that she was attached to me for about 16 hours a day. Nicole developed a persistent non productive cough. On a Saturday near the end of March, I took her to my doctor with me, because I needed to get some antibiotics for my sinus infection. I had sat up the whole night with her on my chest because she seemed to breathe better being upright. The doctor sent us to get a chest x-ray for her. It showed a bit of haze in her lungs. The doctor said, she may have a bit of infection but she wasn’t sure. If she wasn’t better by Monday take her to the pediatrician.
One bright spot on this day was when Nicole’s ‘honorary’ grandparent, Glen and Linda dropped by to bring her a birth gift. It was a beautiful ‘Baby Book’ for which Linda had cross stitched a personalized 8×11 nameplate complete with birth details, full name, and stuffed animals. Little did I know that shortly after, things would go down the tubes!
Just a couple of hours later, Nicole seemed to be getting a lot worse. My sister Margaret had come to visit (the visit was originally planned for this week because the baby was due!) Ron was making Manhattan style clam chowder. How do I remember that? Because I never got to try it and he’s never made it again!
Nicole threw up a bunch of mucous and I noticed when she coughed she went blue around the mouth. When I held her up to my breast to nurse, her skin tone was really yellow against mine. I was getting worried. I phoned the pediatrician on-call for our regular pediatrician. When she called back I explained the situation and she gave me the usual “cover your ass” wishy washy line that I was getting used to from doctors, “well, I’m not going to tell you what to do because I’m not your regular doctor, but if you’re concerned you can bring her into emergency and they’ll call me to come in”.
The one piece of advice we’d consistently received from our friends with kids was “listen to your instinct-the doctors don’t know your kid”. My instincts were screaming so I got off the phone and told Ron we’d better go to the hospital. He turned off the soup, helped me get everything packed up, we got Margaret and away we went. We went back to the same hospital in Edmonton where Nicole was born because we figured all the data would be in their computer and the wait time might be shortened. Edmonton hospitals normally required 6-12 hours of waiting before you get helped. When we got there, Nicole was pale and barely conscious. Luckily, the admitting nurse got someone right away and they took her in.
In a previous post I talked about the situation in the Emergency ward. It was awful. I don’t want to go through it again. It will make me start swearing again and I’m trying so hard to cut back. 🙂 Please go read the post if you’d like to hear how it went.
While we were in the hospital, another drama was unfolding back home. My Dad had been experiencing a persistent pain and irritation in his throat and stomach and had ended up being admitted to the hospital for some investigation. He was very, very ill. When I was in the hospital with Nicole, I’d phone home and my family was gathered around. My SIL, Judy, told me that it didn’t look that likely that Dad would actually make it home from the hospital. I think this I also around the time that the first shunt failed, but I could be wrong.
So, Nicole survived her bout with Respiratory Synctial Virus (RSV) and we came home about a week later. By the time we got back home, the colic that had been bothering her had grown to a point where she was pretty much screaming every waking moment. My Dad did come home from the hospital after being stabilized. One thing was very different. His mental health had taken a radical shift and he was behaving in a manic, and totally foreign fashion. I would call home and my Mom was terribly distressed because Dad was raving and acting really paranoid. He had started some kind of â€˜whisper campaignâ€™ against another resident of their town and Mom was frantic about being sued. Even the thought of the damage he was doing to their reputation, after living in this little town for over 50 years, was really upsetting to her. All through April, as we continued to battle fatigue and despair with our little wailing, screaming baby, Mom and Dad continued to live in a different version of hell.
At one time, I called and Mom told me that the only way she could get any rest was to lock herself in the den and take a sleeping pill. Dad’s manic behaviour meant he was talking non-stop, practically 24/7. The family tried to impress upon Dad’s doctor that he was right out of control, but it wasn’t until the nurses on the renal unit said they couldn’t treat him because he was so disruptive that the doctor finally brought in a specialist and a social worker to help.
By the end of May, Dad was in the Psych unit, and Nicole was finally starting to improve in terms of colic. Periodically she would sleep for 3-4 hours and have wakeful periods without distress. Unfortunately, by then, I was a total mess, crying, depressed, and exhausted.