Thursday, November 26, 2009

Don't Be a Turkey...

Recently I received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird's mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity.

I tried and tried to change the bird's attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else I could think of to 'clean up' the bird's vocabulary. Finally, I was fed up and I yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back.

I shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even ruder. So, in desperation, I threw up my hands, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer.

For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute. Fearing that I'd hurt the parrot, I quickly opened the door to the freezer.

The parrot calmly stepped out onto my outstretched arms and said "I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I'm sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behavior."

I was stunned at the change in the bird's attitude. As I was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behavior, the bird continued, "May I ask what the turkey did?"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Toughest Question

I spoke at an event at Valley Med this morning as part of a "town hall" panel about prematurity at the opening of a new NICU family support program for the hospital. Here's my speech.

I was at the grocery store on Tuesday and the checker asked me how many kids I have. It’s a pretty simple question. Innocent. Yet, it’s probably the hardest question in the world for me.

The easy answer is to say one. But the fact is that I have two sons -- I have this amazing, intelligent, goofy six-year-old sidekick who charms the socks off of people every day. And in my heart, I have his twin brother, who I held in my arms for only an hour but will always be a part of me.

I usually say I have one child because it’s somehow easier to say that out loud. But inside I always know the difference.

I went in for a regular prenatal check on a Friday afternoon and was in the hospital within an hour. I remember walking by the NICU on my way to check in and thinking that I’d rather jump from a plane than have to go in there. Parachute or not. By Wednesday, I was there.

My sons were born 14 weeks early at 26 weeks gestation. They weighed less than two pounds each. N lived only an hour and @ spent 110 days in the NICU. In that time he had three surgeries plus blood transfusions, platelet transfusions, and more time on a ventilator than anyone wanted to see. I watched him turn blue and be resuscitated by doctors and nurses more than once.

As a parent you feel overwhelmed, helpless, and scared. As a mother, if you’re like me and many others I’ve met, it doesn’t matter that in 50% of cases, they don’t know what causes premature birth. As a mother, all you know is that your body failed to protect your child. And now you have to watch as other people try to protect and heal your child. Throw in some post-partum hormones and it’s one bad roller coaster.

The most important thing I learned was to let go and to take things one day at a time. Personally I would have rather learned that from a book, but I didn’t have that choice. Some of the parents drove themselves crazy doing research on all of the possible outcomes – if this happens, this might happen in two years. If and might can throw you into a tailspin pretty quickly.

I learned “today is Thursday, today went well.” Or, “last night was rough, but this morning his numbers are good.” “He peed.” Who thought weighing a tiny diaper could have such an impact on a person’s day?

I watched him have seizures and met with a neurologist who didn’t want to have to tell me that he couldn’t predict if it would happen again.

After he finally came home, @ spent another year tethered to an oxygen tank 24x7. He had at least one medical appointment every week. He had physical therapy. Later he had speech therapy and feeding therapy.

When @ was two, that same neurologist told me that when he first met us, he thought our son’s chances of a normal outcome were very low. In the next breath, he discharged us from his care because @’s exams were now normal.

@ started first grade in August. He’s very small for his age, but he’s a tough little guy. He loves school. And he is very proud of helping the March of Dimes in honor of his brother.

He has experienced far more than anyone his age should have to see. And sometimes he just amazes me. And other times, when he’s doing all of those things six-year-olds do to drive their moms crazy – I do my best to remember how lucky I am that he survived to poke the dog, or jump on my new chair, or turn the entire contents of the recycling bin into a drum set.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prematurity Awareness Day

What is scarier than standing on the edge of a cliff? Walking into a NICU for the first time.

Posts about @ and N:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ceremonial Chair

I'm big on metaphors. Some might consider it an affliction. Maybe it's the lapsed writer/poet in me. Maybe it's because I consider words to be playthings. Sometimes it's definitely to make a point when people are so tied up in the context of a thing that they need to see it in an entirely different language. (I have a whole slide deck on chocolate chip cookies, pecans, and network switches...)

In the moment, I don't always know why I do what I do. Other times, I know the symbolism exactly. I live the metaphor.

The day I went to the courthouse to file the original dee-vorce papers, I next went to a park where I could look out over a big open field to the hills. I wanted to see uncluttered distance, undeveloped space leading into trees. It had to be organic, growing, uncontrolled.

After another courthouse visit, I found myself in a shoe store. Mind you, I consider shoe stores as entertaining as dental offices. But I was taking more steps. You can't do that in old shoes. Sometimes new steps pinch a bit. You have to break them in. Get used to them and get them used to you. Sometimes you get them home and they're just not right -- the key is to not revert to the comfy Ugg boots.

Yesterday I had a meeting to finish the title transfer of my house to remove x's name. I wrote the big fat buyout check awhile ago. (Actually, the bank wrote it -- hence the lack of vomit on the document itself.) It's a hunk of paperwork that didn't get done right on the first try. Now, with signatures on Monday, it's done.

On my way home, I bought a chair. A big brown comfy leather chair. A chair of the type I've been wanting for several years. And when x moved out, he bought himself a big brown comfy leather chair. There's a little-known commandment -- thou shalt not covet thy x's chair. I've broken that commandment consistently.

I have this big deal about want vs. need. I don't splurge or indulge on much. I shop at Nordstrom Rack and if it ain't on sale, it ain't coming home with me. If I get a bonus at work, I put it toward bills or extra on my car or mortgage.

But I bought the chair. It's another element of the transformation of my house into my home. It's a sturdy place to sit. It's comfortable. And I got it myself -- including the dog-leash rigging to keep the box in the not-so-giant back of the car and muscling the awkward box into the house.

I got the chair because I wanted it. Because I acknowledged that it's OK to have something I want. If we never explore what we want in life, how do we know who we are? When to turn left or right? When to pause? And if we never allow ourselves the things we want, we become static and stoic.

Having what you need means you're fed, clothed, and surviving.

Most things I want aren't material objects. I can't buy them. But I do need to reach out or take action to get them. And sometimes it takes a chair to remind me.