Couldn't think of a cool title…

December 27, 2010

wandering back to a blog is helpful in times of powerlessness

Filed under: Best Niece Ever, Melancholy, Personal, Sister — me @ 2:57 pm

So my Brother in Law is in the hospital. The doctors told Sister last night that he was “300% drunk” and wouldn’t be sober until this morning. The last I was told is he would be there until Wednesday. That’s really all I know. BestNieceEver is with my parents, who are reeling from the news in a denial ridden helpless way. It’s happening.

I’m relieved in a way, that a light is being shined on something I’ve ached over for 5 years. The pain my family is struggling with now, and has struggled with thus far, continues to weigh on me. I don’t know what will happen next. I’ve spent a lot of today hiding, watching Scrubs on Youtube and pacing. Crying and then feeling numb, lonely. It’s a dark and scary time, I’m just hoping that when it is all over there will be light and blessings for those who are so dear to my heart.

March 8, 2010

20 years ago yesterday

Filed under: Memories, Personal, Sister — me @ 10:49 pm

I started menstruating. I was not happy about it. I cried that whole night and stayed home from school the next day grieving over it. How dare my body defy me by growing up against my wishes?

Twenty years is a L-O-N-G time. I think if I could change one thing, it would be to have someone find out why that little girl was so determined to stay little and coax her out of the notion, if possible. If I could change two things, it would be that my parents had found a community of their own to help them navigate the strange world of parenting teenagers. And if I could change three things it would be that Sister would have found her way into a therapist’s office somewhere along the way.

How did you feel about growing up twenty years ago? Are there things you would change if you could?

December 31, 2008

I’m not sure I trained enough for this particular marathon…

I love Christmas. And I have loved the Christmas-ness of this Christmas. Every night for the past week has been a joyous special thing that only the glittery soul of Christmas can create. My apartment is clean and sparkly with Christmas lights and candles and I’m hopeful that this little step of having a pleasing living space is a sign of more pleasing living to come.

Twice I visited my friends in the Christmas show I had been a part of for the 6 years prior. I miss it, and I miss them, but I guess it may be better in this season of change in my life to have had less of the running around that particular gig required. I needed the time. I mourn missing out on what was special there, in the same way I have mourned my leaving the Real Job– but I’ve been better for it, I’m sure.

I was part time through December 20th, and on that day a party was held in my honor. It was an odd collection of people but a very sweet little gathering that left me feeling cared for and more hopeful/less sad than I had expected. Not everything was done that needed to be done, so the loss was dulled by the fact that I still had my keys and a few files– it wasn’t like I wouldn’t be back. But I am coming to terms that I need to face this- finally, and really– and as I was driving around yesterday I found myself repeating aloud, “I don’t work there anymore. I don’t work there anymore…” My sleep has been filled with a sort of anxious self-loathing collection of dreams, in which I’m often late for appointments, unfairly accused of wrongdoing, and consumed with feelings of guilt. Apparently there is still shit to work out…

My week overall, however, as I mentioned before have been very special (if distracting,) and gratifying– but exhausting. An overview:

CHRISTMAS EVE

  • I did my very gift bag/candy run and then saw the Christmas show. HIGHLIGHT: Playing Santa handing out candy to everyone and my friend C’s reaction to his Christmas present. LOWLIGHT: I miss them.
  •  After a quick stop over at my parents’, I went to dinner with Soon- to- be- in- the- Navy-Cousin for Christmas Eve dinner, of which I only had time to eat a little bit before running off to be late for Church. HIGHLIGHT: Hanging out with Cousin. LOWLIGHT: There’s only so much I can take of one particular relative’s arrogant talk.
  • Church. HIGHLIGHT: The music and candles made the rushing back worth it, and my Minister’s grabbing my arm on my way out to see if I was working and how I was made me feel noticed and cared for.
  • Stopped back home and said hi to my landlord’s family, and then drove BACK to my parents, tossing presents under the tree and then sleeping in the guest bedroom upstairs. HIGHLIGHT:  Landlord’s son (who used to live in my apartment) was very impressed with my apartment, which I was so proud of . LOWLIGHT: I wanted to spend more time with them but it was hard not to feel like I was intruding on a family moment.

CHRISTMAS

  • I got to sleep in and Sister, Brother-in-Law, and BestNieceEver showed up sometime in the early afternoon, better than last year. I got a cordless phone I’d been needing and knew I was getting. BestNieceEver wasn’t real interested in the whole sitting around opening presents thing but otherwise it was a fun time. My presents were well-received overall.  I had gotten BestNieceEver a magnadoodle and her first pair of jeans, both of which seemed to go over well. My dad seemed simultaneously mystified and impressed with his new iPod Shuffle and my mom has been reading the books I got her, so those seemed to have been a hit too. HIGHLIGHT: Playing Let’s-Throw-Wrapping-Paper-in-the-Air with BestNieceEver. LOWLIGHT: Brother-in-Law was freaking out about being late for the party with the other side of his family so he spent most of the time there looking at his watch.
  • I headed back to my place in the evening and enjoyed a quiet night with my Landlords, exchanging presents and eating Christmas cookies. HIGHLIGHT: Peace and quiet.

FRIDAY

  • Friday afternoon my friends J&J came over with their 3 kids and we had ice cream sundaes and played Apples to Apples. The kids seemed to enjoy the books I got for them but it was clear they weren’t as cool as the seven million other presents they’d gotten in the past few days. J&J are probably going to hate me for the Joke Book I got their middle child– she has taken to reading aloud from it nonstop and the jokes are, well, pretty bad. HIGHLIGHT: It was wonderful just to be with my friends.
  • My parents came over later that evening before heading off to see the show I had gotten tickets for them to see, and then I was off to a Christmas party with the Christmas show people. HIGHLIGHT: My dad called me later just to say he loved the play. I rule!

SATURDAY

  • The Big family party at my Dad’s Cousin’s house. HIGHLIGHT: BestNieceEver was the hit of the party. LOWLIGHT: My Great Uncle cried– he has lost 3 siblings and is so depressed… and no one really knew what to do.
  • After I got back I turned around and went back out to see Urbanblight and some of our old friends from high school. HIGHLIGHT: It was great to talk to them. LOWLIGHT: I wanted more time, and one of our friends seems particularly depressed.

SUNDAY

  • Sunday was my friends J&J’s daughter’s 13th birthday. HIGHLIGHT: The little time with them I had before running off to the next thing. LOWLIGHT: The holiday was really beginning to wear on my at this point.
  • After that party I was off to a reunion of sorts for my high school at a local bar. HIGHLIGHT: Talking to people I really haven’t talked to for ten years. LOWLIGHT: Wishing my Life’s Transition wasn’t the main story I had to tell.

MONDAY

  • Went back to the office and did a bunch of stuff I wasn’t paid for and won’t be sufficiently appreciated for. Cynical? Maybe. But it was my choice and I still feel if I hadn’t done it I’d be worried about those things.
  • Sleep deprived and barely functional I did  something truly crazy. I had the kids I used to babysit– now 12 and 15!– to sleepover. We watched THREE episodes of Quantum Leap, played Scrabble and Apples to Apples, and I somehow managed to stay awake to just past midnight. HIGHLIGHT: They fell in love with my favorite TV show.

TODAY

  • After the girls left I fell back asleep for several hours, despite really needing to tie up a bunch of loose ends at the (former) office of mine. OldBoss sent me an email officially announcing my Replacement, who had confidentially told me of their offer last week. Still sorting out how I feel about all that.
  • Went off to a Holiday Dinner for a scholarship foundation that gave me an award in high school. HIGHLIGHT: Good food. LOWLIGHT: Not really having much to talk about to anyone, except the kid I used to babysit– who’s now more than a foot taller than me and in seminary school. I feel old.
  • And now, back at my parents’, where BestNieceEver is sleeping over as well.

 

So yeah. Kinda tired. Somehow supposed to go to two parties TOMORROW too. We’ll see if the weather– and my stamina– cooperates.

January 27, 2008

My name is Something and I’m a Workaholic

Filed under: Sister, Workaholism — me @ 3:44 am

They have meetings for this you know. AA style. So I’m told. I’ve been flirting with checking it out, but I have a sense like its a little bit of a cult and I don’t know if I want to be in a cult exactly. Maybe that’s a dumber reason. Can’t be any dumber than “I’m too busy,” though. But that’s the excuse I give myself, the same excuse I have for not setting foot in my church for a few months now, even though I think all the time how good it would be for me to go.

I am sliding along the edge of my twenties and I wonder, is this a young life crisis? Is this some kind of rite of passage that just has to be gone through; is that all this anxious depression these past few months is really about? Does it have more to do with a biological clock or developmental stage than the details of my life? Or is it I just have a toxic job and so much unhappiness would dissolve so easily if I just moved on, whatever that entails. I have this tension inside of me lately, this SOME CHANGE HAS TO HAPPEN within me, gnawing along the inside of my shoulder blades, pushing me to something, but what? Do I just up and move somewhere? Adopt a kid? Go teach third grade? Join the Peace Corps? Would any of that HELP? Or am I just looking for a distraction from pain that will be there no matter what major adrenalin rush I force into my system with some catastrophic new life for myself?

Blogging is well-suited, for better or worse, to whining, and I feel like I do a lot of whining lately. When I imagine the person I wish I was, I find her far more content. My childhood and my early adolescence were particularly characterized by a drive to be all-tolerant of people and situations, to block any negative opinion about much of anything from coming to even the surface of my consciousness. Certainly I had my criticisms of Sister, but they were well-tempered by guilt I felt over pain I saw her in– and I would have been hard pressed at that time to find a bad word to say about anyone. As I grew older I gravitated towards the opinionated and passionate around me, who I could love with a well-disciplined tolerance and somehow deep down live vicariously through. I learned from them and changed who  I was– or maybe, found who I was because of them. I did not own the rules I held for myself exactly, they just appeared and functioned as a sort of endurance test for puritans that I thought I must do well in for some reason. Be perfect. Do well. All the time. But my perfection wasn’t of a Donna Reed variety that got me to create a put-together appearance for myself or to practice a seeming relaxation amidst chaos. Instead it required me not to care how I looked, dressed, was perceived within the strange culture of other teenagers– it required that I pretend not to care if anyone thought I was pretty and in fact to discourage the notion entirely on the basis of its clear frivolity. It required that I be too wrapped up in school, in shows, and in 12 page letters to penpals to participate in my own life in any “normal” way. So I guess some of this life is a matter of habit. But it developed as a strategy for protection from the risk of being disliked, or looked down upon, or seen as interested in meaningless things– I successfully prevented the thought from ever occurring to anyone. So maybe the question has to be, what makes me so fragile that I feel the need for such life paralyzing self-protection?

September 20, 2007

Someone AWESOME is 6 months old today!

Filed under: Best Niece Ever, Good Moodiness, Sister — me @ 3:33 am

Thinkin’ about where I was six months ago. Sister and Brother-in-Law have made it! Six months down, only the rest of their lives to go! I love that BestNieceEver of mine. In honor of her (and their) first six months I thought I would share six reasons why she’s so great.

1.  She makes my parents happy. Not like happy-my-rent-check-cleared-happy or happy-I-just-ate-a-good-meal-happy, but happy-so-much-I-can’t-help-myself-happy. It’s been really something to see my parents, in the way they play with her, talk about her when she’s not there, and eagerly await her return. She reminds me why I love them.

2. She explores the world up until she falls asleep. She has sharp nails, which we have to be careful about, but Dad told Brother-in-Law how he once accidentally cut Sister’s finger and now he’s scared to cut them. Just before she falls asleep she scratches on her Pack-and-Play in different rhythms until she fades to sleep. Maybe she thinks she’s a cat.

3. She lets Dog lick her feet. Dog lives to be a good babysitter for her and paces around after you if she  cries. You can tell she knows she’s making Dog’s day.

4. She still likes to stick out her tongue for no reason sometimes. (When she doesn’t think she’s a cat I guess she thinks she’s a frog.)

5. She’s very snuggly.

6.  She’s doing a great job teaching two novices how to be parents. Believe me, I’m sure it’s a thankless job, but she’s got em trained real good. Who knew?

I also realized today that this is the start of the last six months of my twenties. Put that way, I feel old. But it also gives me some perspective that maybe I need. When I’m old and gray (but not wrinkled, cuz as we all know the lone benefit of my hideous sun allergy is I’m going to have great skin as an elderly person)– I wonder what I will think I should have done with this last bit of my twenties. Somehow I think that that Next Me would have some mild disapproval for staying up late at work every other night. And This Me isn’t feeling too approving of it either, actually. Something to think about. I don’t buy into the whole Oh-God-I’m-X-Years-Old thing generally, and I certainly know that I am young and that there are always possibilities and new adventures to be had when I want them. But given the opportunity to make a certain moment in life special– what will I do? What would you do?

BestNieceEver has some plans for the next six months. I hope I come up with some things that are almost as cool as hers.

August 11, 2007

vacation day 5

Filed under: Best Niece Ever, Boys, Personal, Sister, Vacation Adventures — me @ 2:43 pm

Spent most of the day playing with BestNieceEver. Sister and Brother-in-Law always have a tv on, and it kind of bothers me– she’s awfully young to already be absorbed into whatever random thing is on television. Besides that, it’s also often a mix of shows– whatever randomly was left on whatever channel was last watched. Maybe this sounds like over-reacting but– there’s no way to know what she’s processing and what she’s not, so there are certain images I feel like it’s just better for her not to be looking at right now.

I’ve been thinking lately about the distance from where I was this time last year and had quite a flashback as I opened up the fridge and saw the collection of alcohol. It’s been easy to forget for awhile, easy to pretend there were never concerns.

It’s hard to stand by and watch Sister’s life and not want to fix the little broken things. Sometimes it seems that my life would be so much  better if I didn’t care. About everything. I carry around the stresses of my sister’s marriage, my work’s transition,  my parent’s finances.. I recognize what is unhealthy in me, but I don’t know how to be free.

****

So then this evening I finally went back out with EmotionallyStableBoy  and saw Bourne Ultimatum, which I really liked. Afterwards, three times he played the “You look cold let me put my arm around you,” card. He’s sweet. But I didn’t go for it. And it makes me wonder, will I always only go for the unavailable ones?

August 10, 2007

Vacation day 4 – or the gushings of the first-time-Aunt

Filed under: Best Niece Ever, Sister, Vacation Adventures — me @ 4:08 pm

Woke up very early but then fell back asleep and wasted a good part of the day. Thankfully it was the day before Pay Day so I was looking forward to being slightly less poor in the near future. Sister had graciously paid for a quarter of a tank of gas the day before so I happily headed out to see BestNieceEver, about an hour and a half a way.

BestNieceEver was having an ornery day. Sister was sleeping the day away and poor Brother-in-Law was trying to convince the baby to sleep. Not sleeping made her more ornery. She’s fun now, she can play a little, and prop herself up on her belly to look around. She smiles for a reason now and is social. She likes her toes. We play a game where she lays on my legs and then I pull her up to sitting, and then slowly come back down. Six Flag’s rides have nothing on me. She still likes to catch flies with her tongue. We think she’s starting to teethe a little so sometimes she likes a new little teether toy that sits in ice water in the fridge for just such an occasion. Mostly she likes to cuddle and be walked around. Half the time if she’s crying lying down she’ll be fine if you pick her up. She loves to look around. Dog loves her and licks her feet whenever we let her. If she cries Dog anxiously paces around while Sister and Brother-in-Law try to calm her. She likes her books, especially this series Sister got for her baby shower at Brother-in-Law’s work, which is about a brown rabbit. She will actually sit in my lap and look at the pictures while I read, and sometimes try to turn the pages. Sometimes she watches people eating and will mimic their chewing. She rocks.

June 30, 2007

Senior Year

Filed under: Memories, Personal, Sister, Spirituality, Talks with the Doc — me @ 5:04 pm

There were ways I fully came into my own. Having been relieved of any obligation to take any more math classes until college, I had enough credits to just take 3 classes and a study hall at Real School. I took a semester of Speech and a semester of Urban Literature with really great teachers. In speech I sat with a friend from Arts School and had a grand time basically hanging out and occasionally writing stuff. With probably 30 kids in the class, it was a breeze for me– give a speech once every couple weeks and spend the rest of the month listening to people. In Urban Literature we studied primary sources of the history of my sometimes sad city, and read books like Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas, a book that probably would have been banned in most of my friends’ more suburban school districts. I remember reading an amazing short story about a little boy earning his father’s praise by shooting an escaped slave. Then I went to Psychology, which was taught by my Biology teacher from the year before. This teacher was one of the great ones, and taking a class with her in a subject I was actually interested in was academic bliss. There are times when I feel compelled to defend my alma mater despite its very real issues– and she is a reason. I saw my college friend’s biology and psychology homework and marveled at how easy it was compared to the standards she held us to. There was chemistry though, because my school required 2 lab classes to graduate. Chemistry was a class my father pushed me to take when I thought physics sound much more interesting and useful. I maintain that I was right to this day. Chemistry class for me represented, now and then, everything that was wrong about education today. Once every week or two there would be a test. I would memorize terms the night before, take the test, and promptly shuttle the knowledge out of my brain. I worked the system, masterfully, earning an A- in the course. After years of taking “Honors” classes in almost every subject, I purposely downgraded to an “Academic” class. But I did not then, nor do I now, have any understanding of chemistry, period– in a class that was supposedly preparing me for college level science classes. Chemistry’s entire significance was that it allowed me to pass high school.

Art School, of course, was fabulous. My acting classes were wonderful, including my main one that had a great new teacher I am friends with to this day. My classmates and I were very close-knit and we enjoyed ourselves except for occasional worries about whether our presentations would be sufficiently impressive enough to the younger classes we imagined looked up to us. There were several performance events towards the end of the year that I felt proud of and I cannot begin to express how grateful I was for having been able to have had the chance to do them. I had convinced Urbanblight to forego his parochial school education (I don’t recall that took much convincing) and join me there. This made for great fun and lots of Burger King (weird now, since he’s a vegetarian), although there was a definite moment when he realized he knew a thing or two, and didn’t quite hold me up in quite the same way he used to. There were areas in which he always thought of me as wiser or more knowledgeable, and I distinctly remember feeling a little threatened when his confidence  changed.

It was a difficult year for me in terms of Sister. January 4, 1996 stands out to this day as the worst night of my life. I remember calling Urbanblight at 6:02AM the next morning to tell him how I watched her come down from what we think was pot laced with heroin, in my bedroom, thinking she was going to die and believing it would be my fault for not calling a hospital or telling my parents upstairs. He had to explain the early call to his parents by claiming my parents were so stupidly conservative we didn’t have a TV or radio to notify us as to whether Arts School was having a snow day. I told my parents she was sick and that I was tired from taking care of her and convinced them to let me stay home from school too.  I remember volunteering to shovel off and warm up my dad’s car, and putting a Blues Traveler tape in while I sobbed, the first moment I’d been able to, obsessing over the image of my 15 year old very little sister, clutching her dirty white teddy bear, confessing, “I’m not strong.” I repeated a verse that I had desperately found in my Bible that night, “The Lord is good to all and his compassion is over all that he has made.” And I remember thinking how– ironic?– it was that in the end I would find a way to tell this story but that there would always be a sort of guilt or embarrassment to admit that my religion had meant something on the worst night of my life. I remember Urbanblight coming over after school with my “homework” and the smell of his green jacket while he held me. I remember watching TV with my mom and my sister, and how my mom stared at my sister suddenly– and I knew she knew that something was up, something wasn’t right. I remember Ucellina’s reaction– “Wow, I think you finally entered adolescence.” And I remember that it was very odd how life went on as if nothing happened.

A few months later Sister was skipping school with some friends and they were in a car crash, the day a new Children’s Hospital opened in town. She had a black eye– or more accurately, a startling RED eye, for some time afterwards. My parents were embarrassed and mad, and I imagine scared that she could have been more hurt. Her Catholic school made an example of them, overtly saying “see this is what happens when you skip school.” Sister had always been at war with the administration of her school on  a lower level, but this was the moment when things got really bad there, and for my parents with her. And I remember feeling powerless to protect  her from herself or from these various adults’ feelings towards her. I longed for her to find a sport or hobby, a class she enjoyed– but she settled on a boyfriend and smoked cigarettes out on the back porch while my parents either didn’t notice or pretended not to. Mornings especially were a nightmare, with my mother screaming upstairs, begging Sister to get out of bed and go to school, Sister yelling back to leave her alone. If ever a situation called for professional help it was this, but as far as I can tell my parents sought out no real resources for themselves or for her.

I recently was talking with the Doctor about my college selection experience, something I had not thought about in some time. It surprised me how quickly and deeply the pain of that time cut into me. Struggling and then choosing to go to Boston. Telling my parents my decision (in tears), and then telling my friends over the next 12 hours. My mom showing up at school unannounced to take me to lunch. Driving around while she told me that my father was “scared,” that we “couldn’t afford it,” that she didn’t think I “really wanted it,” and that I needed to go to school seven blocks from my house. Robbed of my decision, I sat in shock, anger, paralysis. My mother was purposely manipulating my emotions to keep me there. I think it was then that I became stubborn. It was then that I realized how hard I had to fight some things. It was then that the “outbursts” I sometimes get criticized for today (in my professional life surrounded by passive agressive types) became a survival mechanism I had determined I must learn. I had already told people. It had taken so much energy to embrace Boston and to make myself sign up– for me and my future, to choose to grow rather than to hold on to my childhood. And suddenly that couldn’t happen, because what was really important was that I protect my family emotionally, in every way.

The more I think about senior year the more I realize how complicated a time it was for me. I guess it is no wonder that 11 years later I would still be processing so much of it.

April 13, 2007

i know u people are never short on opinions

Filed under: Sister — me @ 2:17 am

You all know most of the story of Sister’s labor. She’s talking about trying to get a copy of her medical records, at least to better piece together what all happened. Her discussions with Dad’s Goddess of a Cousin have indicated that even by hospital standards (for those of you who would never dream of having a child in such an institution) the choices that were made, particularly in regard to medication given were pretty backasswards. If it were you, or your sister, what would you do? Write a letter of complaint? Sue? Stew about it and get over it? Take lots of notes and hire a midwife for the next time around?

March 28, 2007

Things That Have Disturbed Me This Past Week

Filed under: Best Niece Ever, Rants, Sister — me @ 1:23 am

My first week of Aunthood was enormously pleasant in between all its emotional/physical/mental exhaustion. Since Sister has been able to recover a bit (when BestNieceEver isn’t crying for four hours straight as she apparently did last night), I’ve been able to catch up with her on some of the details of the end of her pregnancy and birth. If you are squeamish about these things, feel free to ignore this post– but Ucellina and I had a good initial conversation about it the day BestNieceEver was born and I’ve learned more since and I’ve been digesting it all for several days now.

Like a lot of people, I guess I have some discomfort with the topic of labor and childbirth– which kind of surprises me because there are so many topics that make other people uncomfortable that don’t phase me a bit. My sister’s impending labor the past few months got a lot of people around me talking, including my mother– and I was sort of… disappointed in myself for finding myself unsettled in certain conversations. Sister has scared me with her behavior in several crisis situations, and maybe part of my anxiety about the whole thing is not feeling, since I have never borne a child myself, that I really knew what it was that was coming in the deepest sense. I was nervous about the pain, about Sister’s fears, about the baby’s health, about things going wrong– what didn’t I worry about?

Anyhow, now that all of that is over I feel a tremendous sense of relief. But I have pieced together some of the narrative of Sister’s experiences and there is a lot about them that disappoint me. In a personal way, of course, but in a larger political way I guess too. As I’ve said before I am acutely aware of how easily I take on others’ anxieties, especially those of my family members. And there are ways Sister was treated that I feel hurt rather than helped her in a time of great need. Finding out these things was, for me, its own trauma as well. Those stages of Grief everyone talks about– well maybe this is the Anger stage I’m in, suddenly wanting to write to Congress to demand reforms to maternity care in this country, to asuage the pain I felt to think of Sister ill-treated in any way.

So… some things in the long story that bothered me…

1. My Sister described most of her prenatal experience in this way “I just don’t think they knew what to do with me!” She underwent more Ultrasounds and Non-Stress Tests than anyone else I have encountered. This of course, was of great interest to my family because pretty much every time they did an Ultrasound, they declared BestNieceEver to be a different gender, all the way up to a week or two before delivery. (Apparently she likes to hold her legs up close to her body and didn’t approve of being re-photographed over and over again. She modest.)

BestNieceEver-to-Be was measured at 5lbs early in March. Supposedly babies-to-be are expected at Sister’s particular hospital to gain a pound a week or the Doctors determine the baby to be “better off outside than inside.” So after several weeks of insinuating to my Sister in rather emotionally manipulative ways that there must be something wrong with her Baby, the Doctors determined 13 days before the Due Date that they were probably going to “need” to induce labor. (It seems to me, not that I have a medical license or anything, that if the baby is on the smallish side but all tests that can be devised indicate it is perfectly healthy– wouldn’t it make more sense to hope and pray that the mother doesn’t go into labor before her “due date” rather than coaxing the kid out before she’s ready? )

2. Having made the determination that she should be induced, these Doctors, in their wisdom, decided WITHOUT INFORMING SISTER to do something called “stripping the membranes,” which, as I understand it, is a rather painful and dubious procedure that “hurries things along” as they say and, I’ve discovered, manages to increase risk of infection as well. Now on the particular day when the Doctors did this without Sister’s informed consent, it happened to be snowing. At the rate of about an inch an hour. While mixing with sleet. Did I mention Sister and Brother-in-Law live FOUR MILES UP ON TOP OF A MOUNTAIN? Not exactly an ideal day to make a run to SmallTown hospital FORTY-FIVE MINUTES AWAY. Sister apparently asked, in her cool-simmer-before-violent-explosion way, “Did any of you look out the window?” and none of the doctor’s staff seemed to understand what her concern was. Apparently one of the nurses said, “Well do you know anyone in SmallTown? Maybe you can go stay with them…” Even if this procedure WAS medically necessary, which I am in no way convinced that it was, couldn’t they have sent her to the hospital to do it THERE? Needless to say, Sister freaked out. THANK GOD my father’s cousin is a Big City Maternity Nurse so she could actually talk to someone she trusts who had a clue. Her response was that it was outrageous they didn’t tell her what they were going to do, and that they were idiots for not factoring in the obvious challenge of trying to drive without being killed or deliver the baby in the snow. She, very practically said that if anything were to happen they should get in their car but know that they would not be going to the SmallTown hospital they had wasted all that time touring and taking childbirth classes at, but to the CloserTown hospital half an hour away. She also said that in most cases when this is done, IF it works it works in a couple hours, so by the time Sister called, Dad’s Goddess of a Cousin was pretty reassuring that odds were good they’d be fine. And they were.

3. Sister’s water broke about 48 hours later on Sunday night. They were admitted to the hospital a few hours later and she was pretty much immediately strapped down to a bed with several IV’s coming out of her. SmallTown hospital gets a lot of recognition for having a nice “birthing facility” but I guess my Sister didn’t really get to take advantage of it. Again, I don’t have a medical degree, but what little I know about gravity tells me that lying down has got to be one of the least advantageous (or comfortable) positions to be in when one is giving birth. My limited experience with limbs falling asleep and trying to find a comfortable position in my own bed tell me that rarely does staying immobile work out as a pleasant long-term option in most normal cases, and I can only imagine everything is doubly true in a high stress situation such as this.

4. One of the drugs Sister was given almost immediately is called pitocin. It is intended to make labor happen faster. Sister and Brother-in-Law’s reaction when told that this would happen was “Um… we just got here. We don’t really think that’s necessary or a good idea.” They were not given an alternative in the matter and were told UPON BEING ADMITTED that if the baby did not arrive within 24 hours that she would have to have a Cesarean. I can’t think of anything more defeating than to be told, at the moment, “Oh and by the way, I know this sucks right now but if it continues to suck for the next 23 hours you’ll have major surgery.” How is that helpful? Pitocin is, I am told, like being kicked in the stomach by a horse over and over again and it doesn’t stop. It is supposed to speed up labor, increases the pain of contractions, not to mention fetal stress. Meanwhile, it works against the other drugs she was given so it becomes a game of a little of this vs. a little of that. Sister has been told that in the end of it all they had to give her twice as much anesthesia as is normally given in these circumstances as a response to the issues presented by the Pitocin.

5. My Sister got a 2nd degree laceration during childbirth that required stitches (all sorts of questions as to whether that would have happened if not for everything that had happened prior…). So my first hour with her after she woke up from a deep (medically induced?) sleep after she gave birth, involved watching Brother in Law carry her so she could go to the bathroom, with an enormous bruise on her back (from the Epidural), bleeding all over the floor, in a complete state of shock. There is a sign on the wall in the hospital room that says when “discharge” time is at the hospital, and all I could think at the time was– she can’t walk! are they going to throw her out of here in two days when she can barely function?

6. When asked if she wanted to feed or diaper the baby, Sister said, “I don’t know how.” Let’s be clear. My sister is not breastfeeding. She was saying that she didn’t feel competent to put a bottle in her child’s mouth. The hospital had charged my my Sister and Brother-in-Law for weeks of classes to learn how to breathe during labor and what kind of plastic outlet covers will prevent a toddler from inserting keys into electric sockets. In none of that time did the curriculum include the basics that would have empowered her to take care of her child or feel that she had a clue what she was doing. The whole first day she hardly touched the baby, making me worry madly about how the medication was affecting her and whether she was suffering from Post Partum Depression, when ultimately, I think, it was just that nothing in her experience to this point had given her any confidence that she could do what mothers have done since the beginning of time. Even the response of the nurses at the time was at best unhelpful– they agreed to feed or diaper the baby themselves and then did so where Sister was unable to watch.

7. SmallTown Hospital has a rule, which I’m told is very common, that all babies are to ride in little rolling baby carriers rather than be carried in the hallway. They cite safety reasons, which is fair I suppose– but it means that the nurses were yelling at my Brother-in-Law for carrying his own daughter.

8. One much-odder rule at SmallTown hospital is that all of the “public” paperwork lists the Mother’s Maiden Name rather than the Child’s Last Name. My guess is that this is an attempt to prevent baby snatching, but PLEASE. The nurses tried turned away each member of our family who asked to be buzzed in to see Sister WithBrotherinLaw’sLastName, saying that no such person was there, even when the child’s and husband’s names were both mentioned, and even when it was literally 2 hours after the birth and during normal visiting hours. Brother-in-Law liked to tell people that he and Sister were “under cover,” but this just ventures into completely ridiculous territory when the baby’s GreatAunt out-of-state has her flowers returned because she listed the family’s actual last name on the card.

9. The nurses came and went all day long while Sister was in the hospital, placing a great emphasis on charting every minute detail of what the child had been up to, to the point that Sister and Brother-in-Law started to get nervous that somehow there was something wrong if BestNieceEver drank half an ounce of formula one time and three-quarters of an ounce the next, or if the nurse said it’s 4PM she needs to eat and baby happened to be more interested in sleep at 4PM (I mean the kid doesn’t even have a watch!). No one spent anytime reassuring them that things were progressing normally or that the baby was quite capable of determing when she wanted to eat until their pediatrician finally came along and discovered that all of their questions were about the details the nurses kept pressing them about.

10. Now it was my 29th birthday the day BestNieceEver was born and yet I have the distinction of having been carded while ordering an alcoholic beverage as soon as last month. Well, Sister is going to be 27 next month but safe to say she will be carded well into her daughter’s teens. She easily looks like she could be 15 in a lot of the pictures I took of her at the hospital. And Brother-in-Law looks young too. They don’t dispute that they are new at the entire Baby Thing. But Sister says she strongly felt that a lot of the medical staff they encountered before, during, and after labor were unnecessarily patronizing and that that had a lot to do with it.

I don’t think Sister’s case is a horror story– I’m sure there are long lines of others who can lay claim to having a true childbirth nightmare. I don’t even think it is atypical. I just think there was a lot about it that was unnecessarily unpleasant. And that’s what bothers me about it. In many ways my Sister and her daughter received good quality health care, it is just that so many of the decisions made on their behalf seemed to take little consideration of their individual needs. Sister considers herself lucky to have delivered when she did at fairly small hospital with only one other infant on-site her first night– it could have been worse, she says. She feels she got more consideration and support than she would have if she’d had the baby even a day later. I don’t pretend to know everything, particularly on this subject, but I have very strong instincts that there is a lot about all of this that shouldn’t have been so difficult.

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