Justin, Junior

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Toddlerhood, Round One

About 3 weeks ago, I put my baby to bed at night and he woke up a toddler. He has a mouthful of teeth and says “no” to almost everything. He’s gone from enjoying such healthy foods as zucchini and apples to a preference for dirt and chicken nuggets. Shoot, if I don’t wrap it in a tortilla and melt American cheese on it, or smother it in some sort of tomato-based sauce, he ain’t eating it, folks. And he sasses me, too - one of the few times he WON’T say no is when I tell him “no-no,” and I get a determined “yeah-yeah” in return.

The newest (and most stressful) addition to his repertoire of toddlerdom is climbing. He’s really, really good at getting up, but he kind of sucks at getting down. He likes to try and climb out of his crib. He’s a shortstack, though, so all he manages to do is get one chubby little leg caught, which results in panicked screaming and Mommy coming at a dead-run to disengage said chubby leg. I even contacted a “parenting expert” about it, and they assured me that since the railing of the crib is still only at chin-level, it doesn’t pose a danger. He won’t fall out, they told me. And he’ll learn that getting his leg caught isn’t fun.

Have you met my son?

The other day, as I was switching out laundry, he scared the crap out of me. (Some of you may have noticed that a lot of my stories began, “As I was switching out laundry.” That’s because my son isn’t allowed in our laundry room, due to the fact that it’s crammed with fishing poles and power tools as well as a washer and drier. And I’ve learned to be fast about it…but, well, nothing is as fast as an unobserved toddler.)

So, anyhow, yesterday, as I was switching out laundry, my son managed to climb on top of the kitchen table. As I shut my drier and turned back to the kitchen, my son stood triumphantly on the tabletop, lit candle a mere inches away from his knee…I immediately grabbed him up and set him on the floor and began the whole, “That could make an owie!” speech, which has about as much effect on my son as a speech on metaphysics and the meaning of God. No sooner had I finished then he was pulling out a kitchen chair and pulling himself onto it in an effort to make it to the tabletop again. (By the way, he also had his first bloody nose yesterday, and yes, it’s directly related, and he was squirming to get back up on a chair before Daddy even got the blood flow stopped.)

See, my son can fall off of something 9 times in a row, and still climb up for round number 10. It’s the same when he gets told “no-no.“ When I’m frustrated, it’s easy for me to attribute this kind of behavior to stubbornness. When I’m in a good mood, I attribute this behavior to optimism, because I know, in his heart, my son fully believes that this will be the time it will work, that this will be the time Mama will say yes.

But the truth is, I think we’re in an incredibly awkward / difficult stage where his physical abilities are more advanced than his cognitive. And although I’m proud of all of his achievements, there are times when I think it would be much easier if things were flipped. I mean, the kid can actually do the hokey pokey (thanks to his obsession with the Hokey Pokey Elmo), complete with spins and all…but he doesn’t understand why it’s a bad idea to do it on the coffee table.

It makes me think back to my pregnancy, because see, even then, my son was active. And not just by my standards, but by my doctor’s and the ultrasound technologists, as well. We had to have lots of sonograms, because my son was so rowdy while in the womb that they were lucky to get 3 or 4 major measurements before the tech would give up and schedule another. My doctor didn’t even have me do kick-counts, because Junior met his quota within the first 45 minutes of the day. And she warned me then that there was a direct correlation between active fetuses and active babies. (Of course, I understood that by “active” she meant “genius” and “perfect.”)

But this says to me that this is who he is, and who he always has been. I don’t have to look any further than his own father to figure out why. The proud mom part of me loves the fact that he’s so fearless and energetic. The protective mom part of me wonders how many odd looks I would get if I encased him in padding and topped him off with a helmet. The mom-part of me that wants to be reasonable, though, knows that I need to help us both find a halfway ground between letting him scale the fridge and duct-taping him to his mattress. I want him to be fearless…with boundaries.

No, Mom, YOU sit down.

And so, I let him climb…within reason. Once he’s reached the top, he knows he has to sit on his bottom, and he usually does. I don’t let him ascend the kitchen table, but I do pull the kitchen chairs into the living room (carpet) and let him clamber around on them out there. I’ve decided that he’s going to do it anyhow…I might as well let him get good at it. And yes, he tumbles, and yes, he sometimes cries, and yes, I question this decision right along with every other major and minor parenting decision I’ve ever made and yes, I have eyed the feet on his pajamas and contemplated tying them together.

So, it‘s official. We have entered the realm of toddlerhood. It’s a maddening, enchanting age, a sweet and horrible pause between babydom and childhood. His cheeks are still round but I catch glimpses of what he’s going to look like - and ladies, he’s going to be a heartbreaker. He’s too cool to hold my hand, but he hugs me tight around my neck and presses his cheek to mine all the time…and I store those moments up, collect them, hoard them like a miser. His face is gaining permanence and character and definition…but oh, when he falls asleep on my chest, open-mouthed and blowing bubbles, eyelashes an inch-long, smelling and feeling and looking just the way a baby ought to…I think, “You’re still so little,” and have to resist the urge to swaddle him.

Tonight, I sat on the couch and read Things Fall Apart (a fitting title) while my son sat on a kitchen chair about 6 inches away from me and perused Good Night, Moon while drinking his milk. And I kept looking at him - the way he was sitting so that his legs dangled like a big kid, book held in his lap, bath-damp hair combed back from his eyes - and he would look back at me and grin, this big, pleased, 11 ½-toothed grin, like, “Hey, Mom, ain’t this great?” We were just hanging out, you see, just two people enjoying some good literature...

…Until he stood up on the chair, threw the book down, and pooped his pants while squealing, “Yeeeeeeeeeaaaaaah.”

Yay, motherhood.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Treatise on Morphine, or, Sam's First Hallucination...(a non-mom-related post)

This is like...far-out, man.
I’ve never been a fan of morphine. I had it once in my early twenties after a minor procedure. After I came to from the anesthesia, the nurse asked me to rate my pain on a scale of 1-10. After a thoughtful deliberation, I replied “It’s a two.” Five seconds later, it felt like someone had lifted the top of my skull off and poured a can of Coca-Cola all over my brain. My head was literally fizzing and popping, my jaw felt weird, and I sat up in bed and ripped my IV out. My pain was at a zero, but my panic-level was at a 10.

“What the hell? What the hell?” I cried.

“That’s morphine,” the nurse replied. “It’s for the pain. Most people like it.“ I think we were both horrified at my reaction.

After that, whenever I was asked if I had a drug allergy, I always said not really, but that I tended to react strongly to morphine, and, as such, have managed to avoid it since then…almost a decade, actually, through kidney stones and a laparoscopic procedure and the removal of a basal cell carcinoma on my face. Even after my c-section, when my incision sort of felt like someone had placed 32 staples in my stomach in an effort to hold it together (probably because someone had placed 32 staples in my stomach in an effort to hold it together), I waited until 7 o’clock in the morning, when I was able to take 800 mg of ibuprofen by mouth.

It’s not that I’m a some big, tough girl - although honestly, I think I’m a pretty big, tough girl. It’s just that when it comes down to a choice between pain and terror, I’ll take the pain almost every time…almost, of course, being the key word here. I also think doctors and nurses are too quick and heavy-handed with the stuff. I don’t like to be sleepy or addled or foggy, and for the most part, pain killers don’t kill the pain…they just mostly kill that part of my brain where I actually care about the fact that I’m in pain.

But last week, I ended up in the hospital for 5 days. Not only did I have a gallbladder that was, according to my doctor, “full of stones,” I also had one lodged in my common bile duct. This was effecting my liver, and I was incredibly jaundiced. It was also effecting my pancreas. I was in pain. I was in more pain than I have ever been in my life. This was worse than the worst contraction I had ever had during the 13 hours of hard labor before my c-section. And it was constant. Plus, I was so dehydrated from days of vomiting that it took a team of nurses 11 tries and more than 3 hours to get an IV in.

I was no longer scared of morphine…I was scared I wasn’t going to get any.

I was pretty calm during the hours it took for them to place the IV, but I made my husband hold my hand while they gave me the morphine. The nurse diluted it and gave it to me slowly, but still, I panicked and had to be reminded to breathe. My brain felt like Rice Krispies, all snap-crackle-popping, but within minutes, the excruciating pain had faded to a somewhat distant throb, and I could breathe for the first time in forever.

It was 2 hours later that I asked for more. I had waited awhile because, in my ignorance, I thought it was supposed to last for like 6 or 8 hours, and by the time 2 hours had passed, I was right back to where I had been - in agony. The nurse explained that I could have it once an hour, and to not let the pain get away from me like that again, to page her when it got to a “4” on that old 1 to 10 scale. For me, that seemed to be about every hour and a half.

Bring it on, bitches.

I still didn’t like the way it felt. It still panicked me every time. Plus, I can’t sleep on the damned stuff. Well, sort of I sleep…I nod off for 10 minutes and am astounded that hours haven’t passed. It makes me itch something fierce - I still have great welts of morphine-rash on my face and chest. But…I no longer wanted to shoot myself, or claw my eyes out with my own fingers, so I continued to ask for it when I needed it.

Fast forward to the next night…after a day of tests and labs and results and “Am I going to live?” and surgeries being scheduled and rescheduled and childcare found and bosses notified…and a big old yummy dose of morphine about every 2 hours.

I was laying in my hospital bed, and my husband was on the couch next to me. And…the speakers on my hospital bed started to whisper.

That’s not right, I thought. I know that’s not right. I adjusted my pillow so that I couldn’t hear my bed whisper to me. As I did so, I caught a glimpse of a large black-and-white cat that had pens instead of claws jumping around to the side of my bed. Curiouser and curiouser…

I knew I was hallucinating. I found out later that that’s actually a good thing - it’s when you don’t know that you are that the medical profession gets really worried. But at the time, I was intent on acting like nothing was going on, because seriously, who hallucinates on morphine?

Apparently Sam Kilgore does.

I started to giggle…not because it was funny (although a lot of it was), but because I was so nervous and was trying to play it cool. Have you ever tried to play it cool when you’re higher than a kite? Yeah, it makes for nervous giggling.

My husband said something to me, but I don’t remember what - I was more concerned with the fact that his head had gotten really, really big. So had all the people passing by in the hallway…all of them had heads like balloons.

But mostly, it was what the TV started to say to me that made me lose it. I was watching HGTV - pretty innocent. Some young couple was trying to buy a duplex. The realtor was a nice young guy. He explained to the couple that he would love to sell them this house, but that it came with an old woman from Argentina who was missing some teeth but who really liked threesomes.


“Why would he say that?” I said to the room at large.

“Who would say what?” my husband asked.

“That realtor, talking about threesomes with some old woman with missing teeth from Argentina,” I said, pointing to the TV, and my husband buzzed the nurse.  When did HGTV get X-rated?

I don’t remember what all I said, but I do know the nurse was crying she was laughing so hard, and I know that her laughter reassured me that I was going to be okay…nurses don’t laugh unless the outcome is good. She gave me something to put my silly, hallucinating ass to sleep and it was agreed that I would go on half-doses of morphine, extremely diluted, from there on out.

I did much better, then.

So, I still don’t trust morphine. In fact, I trust it even less, now. For awhile there it had me fooled.

I’m back at home, for now. They did an ERCP on me, in an attempt to retrieve the stone from my duct, but (lucky me), I have some weird syndrome that means my bile duct is incredibly narrow, and although the little sucker managed to wedge itself in there, the surgeon was unable to unwedge it. That means I’m off to a bigger hospital that has some sort of magical machine that will literally crunch the stone (doctor’s words, not mine) before they pull it out. This is all done by shoving stuff down my throat. And even though the surgeon was unable to retrieve the stone, he managed to put a splint in to widen the duct a little, allowing me quite a bit of relief from the pain and nausea, as well as allowing some of the backed up bile that was causing my liver problems and jaundice to pass through. I’m certainly looking less yellow. After that, I can have my gallbladder removed, about a week later. I’m not nervous about it - it’s done with 3 tiny incisions, and I think they’ll let me go home that afternoon, as soon as I can pee or something. I have a 14 month old…I think I’ll manage to pee just as soon as they’ll let me.

I think I’ll manage to avoid the morphine, too.