The most decisive actions of our life… are most often unconsidered actions. ~André Gide, The Counterfeiters, 1926
So this morning when I woke up, I my instincts told me this day had the chance to be a doozy of a day. First, while for the past nearly 18 months (actually longer since I couldn’t sleep when I was pregnant either, so make that 2.5 years!) I have woken up several times a night, but, since I haven’t been feeling well, I had been exhausted and sleeping much harder than normal for the past 2 nights (no I am not pregnant). So perhaps, because I wasn’t feeling well, and perhaps, because E in so many ways is out of the extreme danger zone as it relates to her oxygen and now she primarily needs it so she gets enough to maintain her metabolism and gain weight (ultimately a health issue but of a different sort than not taking in enough oxygen), it is not a complete disaster if she wakes up and rips off her oxygen, like she does so so so very often everyday now (4 times, just today!). On any normal night, I would usually wake up to retape her, but instead last night for whatever reason I had clearly slept through her partytime and was completely confused this morning, when I woke up feeling better and (drum roll please…somewhat rested! clash symbols and ta daa!!!!). I can most closely compare this to those mornings in your younger days when you may have been over-served the night before and you try to quickly clarify in your mind what the heck happened. It’s that fog I felt this morning, yet it quickly disappeared as I was immediately overcome with guilt and my instincts told me whatever was waiting for me, likely involved something I wouldn’t want to see and would reinforce my guilt for sleeping so soundly. At least I was right…score 1 for my instincts.
As I think I have said before, E has been a party animal from the very beginning (read she does not sleep well at all, although even in the belly nighttime was her time and I think when she grows up she may be an aerobics instructor or maybe Zumba since that’s way cooler now). Currently, she wakes up sometime between 1 and 2 and stays awake for 2-3 hours. Usually, she is either fussing because she is frustrated because I have had to tie her into a chair so she doesn’t startle herself awake when she is sleeping, or because she has wriggled free and now can’t soothe herself back to sleep as she bats her arm around in her chair (we call her Maestro as she resembles an orchestral conductor when she this). She likes to sprinkle in her canula/oxygen removal a few times a week so I can walk to into the living room half asleep at 3:30 am to cut the tape (I definitely should not be using scissors at this hour, but I continue to live on the edge because in my absent-mindedness I keep forgetting to just cut a stash and leave it in the nursery) and inadvertently step on some toy that either sings loudly at me (cute during the day, terrifying in the early morning hours, we’ve all seen Chuckie) or some sharp-edged Lego that missed my clean up earlier in the night and will do some serious damage to my arch as I hit it ” just so”. So all-in, usually this means that E and I rendezvous between 2-3 times a night. Except last night.
Thus, as I walked/nearly ran into the nursery this morning, I greeted her to see that she had managed to rip off her canula/oxygen completely off her face and somehow tie it in a knot which is very impressive since she wears socks on her hands and has no known coordination to tie knots. After my perplexed amazement and complimenting on her unknown abilities while making a mental note introduce her to David Blaine one day, I grabbed her out of her chair to start our morning routine and retape her canula. Just about that time, she started to gag. As part of her sensory processing issues, she can cannot organize herself and when she is exhausted she starts rubbing her eyes incessantly and begins gagging. Over and over, it’s horrible to watch and after she has food in her belly it takes her reflux to the next level. For this reason, I try not to get dressed for work until after she has eaten and even then my hair and clothing is not safe (if we ever meet and I smell like Cheetos now you know why) As she gets older, this gagging gets even worse but it started very early and was one of the earliest signs to us that something was off and our intuition told us something wasn’t right with our precious baby girl, but this was not the first time that our instincts have played a critical role especially as it relates to E.
Learning to trust your instincts, inner-voice, intuition is always unnerving or at least it has been for me. While I actually very much believe that I have solid if not, above average intuition/instincts, it seems I also seldom have very few, if any, facts to back them up and it sucks to be embarrassed if you turn out to be wrong (you can see I will use these words interchangeably and as you also will see if not in this post, in others, that I am somewhat competitive, it goes with the Type A personality. So, I am not sure who I am being measured against at this stage but I am “above average” and just imagine if we were playing tennis:)). Additionally, I trusted and seldom questioned experts (read authority) and until having my babies 3 months early, I will honestly say that I did this to a fault and to be wrong in front of experts was for me unthinkable…remember, I am a pleaser and competitive which also means I like to be right/not wrong. Now, I must also fess up to the fact that my “above-average” intuition sometimes bleeds over into suspicion. This can be good if I am being paid to be a private detective (which surprisingly I haven’t been approached to do) but when mixed with a hint of insecurity, in my personal life it has been known to backfire. I am after-all, a very proud daughter of a man who was police officer for 30 years (I maintain this intuition/suspicion combo is in my bloodline and I since I wanted to be an FBI agent until I was 17 and was sadly informed that I would not be like Agent Starling (Jodi Foster) interviewing Hannibal Lecter from “Silence of Lambs” and would more likely be completing copious amounts paper work, I put this dream aside and became a Japanese major, don’t ask…I am still defining if I am goal-oriented or crazy. Thus, needless to say, I have to watch my intuition on occasion because in certain circumstances (e.g., in my previously described battle with depression) “facts” “fall into place” that actually lead nowhere. But I digress, and as we have established, ultimately your instincts usually carry you in the right direction and in the last 2 years I have learned hard, sad and ultimately positive lessons about trusting myself and my inner voice.
The lessons really began for me upon getting pregnant. I am often reminded of intuition as I find myself often getting asked if I knew I was going to deliver early, or if I had any idea that anything was wrong or if I know what happened. My answer is always no, but my intuition told me something was slightly off.
As we all know by now, I went through IVF and when I was confirmed pregnant on April 30th nearly 2 years ago, I scheduled my first 5 week ultrasound. This is when we found it it was twins. I can’t begin to describe the amazing and pure joy I felt and although I was surprised, I wasn’t completely shocked because in my valium-induced state at the “transfer” I rationally and authoritatively explained to our doctor and KSP that when others I know had only done one egg, they had not had success and I was not going through all this and not have the odds on my side. Both agreed with me by nodding with a little bit of “there is no way in hell I am going to argue with her” look in their eyes. So two eggs it was, and the odds were on our side, we hit the jackpot with 2 babies (then we went straight to Vegas to play the tables, just kidding). We decided to call them Pea and Pod. We knew we wouldn’t find out the sex, so I wanted something we could call them other than A & B. We toyed with Hello 1 and Hello 2 that the nurse used on the sonogram photo but ultimately, they were 2 peas in a pod so Baby A would be Precious Pod (I thought he was a boy) and Baby B (I thought she was a girl) was Sweet Pea.
From that point on, I was in the doctor’s office about once a week and at my 7 week ultrasound we could now see the little beans that were forming inside. As we looked closely at the screen, I could see the nurse’s face glass over for just an instant. If I had been blinking at that time, I would have missed it, but as fate would have it, I didn’t and I knew instantly what she was thinking. I asked her about the smaller sac. Baby B was clearly smaller than Baby A. She said, the Doctor would discuss that with me once the ultrasound had finished. When we had finished, the Doctor, who I loved, came up and put his arm around me and said, we need to watch Baby B. It was smaller and needed to grow or they were worried, I would lose her. I always called Baby B her, and it was Sweet Pea, baby E that we were worried about from the very beginning. For the next few weeks, I held my breath each time I went in for an ultrasound. I did nothing. I let nothing stress me out, I stayed relaxed as humanly possible and I was lazy on purpose (please take moment with me to close your eyes smile and reflect on complete relaxation with the sacrifice of extreme tiredness and nausea but imagine doing almost nothing for 3 whole weeks…and we’re back). Finally at 10 weeks, Dr. S, upon entering the hallway at the his offices came out, put his arm around me again, and said, I think we are out of the woods and you can start seeing your regular OB, Baby B looks good. I looked down at my bloated belly (I had been bloated for about a year with all the various fertility drugs, at least now I had 2 babies in there:)!), said a prayer of gratitude, smiled and put my hand protectively over my Pea and Pod.
Fast forward 3 months. All systems were go, but I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I should get everything done early. Friends gave me books like “Twinspiration” and other books on multiples which I devoured. I learned about scheduling, swaddling, feeding, diapering and quantities for everything which I started buying and even bedrest. KSP thought I was crazy and I told him I was prepared. I started looking for a night nurse for the first few weeks when the babies came home and I pestered KSP constantly to paint the nursery. I ordered the crib (why is it noone mentions that cribs can take up to 16 weeks to arrive, I mean honestly, is that not a critical piece of information, it’s only where babies are supposed to sleep). My friend K and I would laugh, she is my neighbor, so used to have the luxury of seeing one another often, as I filled her in on my preparation progress. I wanted everything done by the end of my second trimester so I could theoretically just rest and relax (as much as I rest and relax, ever) for the last 3 months. I pressed on. My intuition that I would go early propelled me forward. Ironically as I read these books, and got my weekly updates from Baby Center on what varietal of fruit my babies would be according to the different weeks, nothing really talked about premature labor, signs of premature labor (other than references to Braxton Hicks) and high-risk pregnancies. Around 5 months I was thankfully offered a new job at an Entertainment studio. I thought it would be ideal and I was enjoying the work but it was a start-up division within the company and I was working long hours and travelling some. At 24 weeks, I decided to take my last trip to NYC for business and after a fun dinner with some colleagues my girlfriend/co-worker and I were walking down 6th Avenue with an eye on Magnolia Cupcakes when suddenly I had an extreme tightening in what used to be defined as my pelvic area. I was quite large at 24 weeks but was carrying mostly in the front of my body so I was easily tired but the tightening quickly turned to shortness of breath and more tightening and I looked at T with fear and told her I needed to sit down on the curb. We were only a block or so from our hotel, so she supported me as we literally shuffled down the street to get there, where I again had to stop and sit outside the entrance because I was too scared to move. My instincts screamed at me, be very very careful here, go up and lay down, don’t move. I called my bosses who were in NYC with me and had just been with me at dinner and told them I needed to take it easy. I layed down and everything stabilized but it was foreshadowing of what was to come. The next day, I went to meetings, walked, slowly and went back to the hotel early to lie down. When I got home to LA, the fear of the moment passed and I went back to my heavy work schedule and preparations after all my doctors all said I was fine and my ultrasounds looked good, but my inner-voice quietly whispered, take it easy. I wasn’t listening…at least not very well. Upon my return and during a trip to my OB, I did ask him his thoughts on if I was “overdoing” it. In hindsight, I clearly knew, I was just looking for reinforcement from an expert so then I would follow his instructions and take it more easy.
3.5 weeks later after a long day at work and 2 ultrasounds that week where everything had been dubbed (looking good and fine), KSP and I had a birthday dinner for our friends who were coming up from Laguna. They are some of our favorite people and we always have fun with them. We were meeting them for dinner in Hollywood and then they wanted to go to a club. I rallied and we had some dinner and then off to the Playhouse. If you ever really want to test your ability to stand out and feel very popular go into a club 7 months pregnant. The music is pumping, girls are flipping around on swinging bars above your head and yet all eyes and hands are on your belly. We had a table (note, do not go to a club pregnant unless you have table service where you can sit down). As I sat at this table and danced awkwardly in a seated position, people made their way over to me and screamed in my ear how much they loved babies, asked if they could touch my stomach and showed me pictures of their kids. Some people were nearly in tears as they were telling me how amazing it was that I was there and how much they loved pregnant people. As Pea and Pod went crazy in my belly with the music (the normally passive Pad or Q as we now call him, was somersaulting which is why I now believe he carries a soundtrack in his head and loves music, not just because I played music for them all the time in my belly, but the night that he decided it was time to come out was the night he was just having too much fun “in da club”). We got home around 1:00 am and went to bed. Just 3 1/2 short hours later at 4:30 am, Friday, October 16, I awoke with a dream that I was going to bathroom in the bed. I won’t gross you out with the details but it starts with this event, involves me calmly trying to wake my very heavy sleeper husband (I eventually yelled at him to BABE, WAKE UP!!!!) to ask him to go online to find out what happens when your water breaks. Although my instincts screamed differently, I still tried to think perhaps I was just having an accident, but I knew better, something was wrong. I called the Doctor on call, and waited 30 minutes for a call back. His words were, “I hate to tell you this, but if your water did break, we need you to be here to make sure you don’t get an infection”. So I quickly packed a bag, enough for a couple of days, and by 5:30 am we were on our way to the hospital. As it happened, the endless parade of Doctors and Nurses, and evaluation equipment confirmed Pod’s/Q’s water had broken, I would not be leaving the hospital “pregnant”. I was 28 weeks and 2 days. I got my steroid shot to stimulate the maturation of the babies lungs and listened as Dr. J (not my therapist, although it probably would have been handy for him to have been there too) came in and read to me about the survival rates of 28 week preemies. He talked about ROP, lung development and complications. None of these things were discussed in my books, why was none of this talked about in my books? It wasn’t computing and I believed that I would stay in that bed for the next 2 months while they tried to keep me from delivering. So I emailed all my friends, my mom flew in, my dad wanted to, but I told him I would be fine and our entertaining in room 3310 began. Games, magazines, friends, meals, and everything was hunky dory, except for the steroids preventing me from sleeping and the drugs giving me breathing problems, nausea and making me hot, and the all the equipment attached to me giving me anxiety. At 11:30 on Saturday night after a lovely dinner of Pizzeria Mozza takeout (ummm delicious) with our friends T & T (the same T who was with me in NYC) the contractions started and I could tell that they weren’t going to stop. I still had no idea of the magnitude of what was happening, noone had ever said anything about this part.
7 hours later I was in an OR (just in case) as Dr. K, whom I trusted implicitly, explained to me why there were 15 people in the room with me. Teams, 2 teams, one for each baby. I remember all of it, clearly, vividly. I remember in their distress and urgency, they forgot to tell us what the sex was when Q came out, he didn’t let out the cry you see in the movies. Just silence. Silence as a wonderful resident (I still don’t know that guy’s name) took our camera and captured it all on film, the minutes it took to get Q going and then E’s arrival. The nervousness and everyone rushed quickly and efficiently to get her breathing as she was limp and her arm was white and lacking blood flow. She wasn’t ready. Minutes ticked by and there was no, do you want to see your baby and they softly place the baby in your arms, they held each of them near my face so we could take a photo and I could kiss them and pray I would see them soon. KSP and I had a moment, a magical moment and then he had to go with the babies up to the NICU. As he left, I was with my mom who comforted me and they took me to the recovery room where I called my sisters and dad. I wasn’t scared again, I still didn’t know what was to come.
Over the next 14.5 weeks I learned critical lessons about instincts. Trust them, follow them. When they related to your children, better to be overly protective and be wrong than not follow your intuition because someone tells you “this is normal” or “they will grow out of it. It doesn’t matter when your children were born. Early, on time or late. If you suspect something is “off”, physically, developmentally, speak up. Speak up to more than one person. Don’t be pacified or blown off unless you believe it. A friend of mine was here this weekend and her daughter was diagnosed with reflux as a baby. They were told she would grow out of it. She didn’t. They didn’t give up as they went from specialist to specialist, their instincts told them, that couldn’t be all there was. 8 months ago, they saw another specialist. She ran a specific test that noone had run before and they found out that little L had muscle in her stomach that wasn’t working so her food wasn’t digesting and thus the “reflux”. She has since started medication and is doing much better. I will share more about how trusting our instincts ultimately saved E’s life in the hospital but I suspect you are all tired by now and I want to make sure you make it to your next stop in cyberspace.
As we have further explored E’s sensory integration/processing issues, I have met so many parents of children of all ages who have had concerns about development, milestones, and behavior. Some are just expressing their concerns (as saying it outloud is often the hardest step. This could be what you would consider the “most decisive action”, acknowledging something might be wrong with your most precious gift is a HUGE and SCARY step. It’s not in the books and it didn’t make “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, so how could we know?) In each of these stories as well as our own, parents are taking the steps as best they can, but they have listened to or are listening to their instincts and intuition and for them this could be the most “unconsidered action” in what could be a long journey with the most rewarding outcome.
So listen to your intuition about anything and everything. You don’t have to take action, and you will make the best decision you can. For me, ultimately, this lesson is something I have learned and now remember with a heavy heart for not listening well enough to my inner-voice when I was pregnant. What I have done, and what I am grateful for having learned from that experience is that now I am much stronger in my convictions and when my inner voice starts talking, I listen. Even without the facts, I explore and ask questions and that’s the second step… just explore and ask questions…