Sunday, January 30, 2011

MANDATORY WORK TUTORIALS OR IT'S NOT REALLY A CONCUSSION...YOU ARE JUST TIRED OF TAKING MADATORY WORK TUTORIALS

Since I work in a preschool, I am required to attain a certain number of professional training hours every year, in order to fulfill our licensing requirements. This year, I have opted to log in some of those hours by taking a few online tutorials that our district provides for these purposes . Of these, I found the "Concussion Awareness" tutorial to be particularly helpful, so I have decided to share some of my new found insights regarding concussions, with those of you who read my blog.
First and foremost, a concussion occurs when someone sustains a blow to the head.  If you should witness such an incident, and then, notice that the individual has cartoon birds flying around their head in circles, then you can be certain that they have suffered a concussion.  You MUST then, follow this catchy rule: WHEN IN DOUBT, SIT THEM OUT.
Now that I have given you the basics of concussion awareness I will provide you with two different scenarios in order to evaluate if you fully understand the material I have previously outlined.
First Scenario:  Joe, (not his real name) is a high school football player.  He has just intercepted the ball and has run the full length of the field to score the winning touchdown.  After accomplishing this, he stands in the end zone and taunts the crowd by performing all the dance moves to the song "Do the Hustle".  Enraged, the opposing players and fans, as well as his own, race onto the field and jump on Joe.  When the crowd is cleared the coach goes up to Joe and asks these questions.
"Joe, are you okay?  It appears that you may have received a blow to your head.  Can you count backwards by 13's starting at 100?"
What should Joe's coach do next?
Answer: It all depends on Joe.  If Joe is not able to count backwards by 13's, then he has NOT sustained a concussion.  If, however, Joe does so successfully, then it is obvious that something is seriously wrong with him.  In this case, the coach has no choice but to adhere to the catchy rule, "WHEN IN DOUBT, SIT HIM OUT."
Second Scenario:  Amy, (not her real name) is the mother of a very hard-working daughter, named Olivia. Olivia has been working many extra hours at school editing the yearbook.  To reward her, Amy decides to provide her with a nice, home-cooked meal.  After taking the Stouffer's frozen entrĂ©e out of the freezer, Amy fails to close the door.  She then bends over to get some milk out of the refrigerator, and when she stands back up she smashes the heck out of the top of her head on the open freezer door.  No one is around to witness this incident, and Amy is too embarrassed to tell anyone about it.  The next morning however, Amy wakes up, and upon opening her eyes she sees the room is spinning.  She has not been drinking the night before.  Should Amy:
1. Abide by the catchy rule, "WHEN IN DOUBT, SIT IT OUT!"
or
2. Get ready for work, regardless of this problem.  Amy knows that she has already missed several days of work due to fact that she was stricken by pretend malaria from reading her antibiotic pamphlet.  Additionally, this problem was compounded by the fact that her pretend malaria actually turned out to be real pneumonia and pleurisy.  She is afraid that if she misses any more work she will be fired. She does take the extra precaution of closing her eyes while driving to work though, so that the spinning won't interfere with her driving abilities.
If you answered 2, then you have successfully completed this tutorial!  Congratulations!

Friday, January 28, 2011

I HATE TO ALWAYS BOTHER GOD, SO I FOUND A SAINT WHO SPECIALIZES

As every good Catholic knows God is incredibly busy dealing with important matters.  It would seem unconscionable then, to constantly be distracting Him with frivolous things; such as where we put our car keys, for example.  To this end the Catholic Church thoughtfully provides its faithful with patron saints for these lesser matters.  To those unfamiliar with this concept these are simply saints with a particular area of expertise.  Saints who specialize, so to speak.  My "go to guy" happens to be St. Anthony, and the two of us have developed a very strong bond.
The reason I became so well acquainted with St. Anthony is that I no longer can remember anything.  I am constantly losing things, forgetting important dates, and, generally speaking, unable to retain any information that anyone happens to relay to me after more than 2 or 3 minutes have elapsed.  In fact, on many occasions it doesn't even take me THAT long to forget what someone has told me.  The reason for this is, of course, that I am married and have children.
As any woman can tell you the moment you say your wedding vows your husband will begin to ask you to remember things for him.  He will ask you to remember to pack him a lunch, or perhaps to remember to buy his mother a gift on her birthday.  This will be followed by his asking you to remember every single living relatives' birthday on both sides of the family, and to purchase all the gifts that they will ever receive on their birthday or on Christmas, including your own children.  This will continue for the duration of your entire marriage. He will not  be reciprocal about this arrangement either.  If , for example, you ask him to remember to pick up his socks, or to throw out the garbage he will PRETEND that he is willing to remember this for you, but in reality that is never going to happen.  No, your husband's intent is to save all the space in his memory for important things, like the names of every player who was on the 1968 Detroit Tigers, and every single play that happened up to and including the World Series that year.  He will be successful at it too, because he has a wife who is willing to waste all the valuable space in her own memory, so that his is free to remember all those very important sporting statistics, as well as the years that every song or movie in all of history were produced.
Then, of course, there are your children.  They too, will use up all the space in your memory remembering things for them, but for entirely different reasons.  They need all the space in their own memory so that they will have total recall of every single mistake that their mother has made over the course of her entire lifetime. They will use this information, in later years, to win arguments.  By that time their mother will have so little recall, that she will, quite often, become confused, and unable to defend herself.  I will give you an example:
"Girls, I asked you to clean this house while I was gone, and none of you have done a single thing.  That is very irresponsible of you."
"Really Mom?  I find it rather shocking that you would choose to call us irresponsible after what you did."
"What are you talking about? What did I do?"
"Well, do you remember when Holly was in preschool?  You forgot to pick her up, and Grandpa John had to go and get her.  She was traumatized.  Don't you think that was irresponsible?"
"Wait a minute...I don't remember that.  And what does that have to do with cleaning the house?  Plus, that was almost 20 years ago. How do you remember that?"
"Oh, we all remember that.  It was horrible."
"Yeah mom, Holly still cries a little when she talks about it."
 "How could you have done that mom?"
"Well...I don't know....I feel terrible now that you mention it. I do vaguely remember Grandpa John having to go pick up Holly.  You're right!  I am a terrible mother.  Here, take all the money in my purse, and go out to eat or something.  I will just clean the house myself.  I should never have asked you to do it.  I AM irresponsible."
"Well, okay mom...if you insist, but we're not sure if Holly is ever going to get over it."
If  I am lucky, hours later I will begin to recall the incident that they were talking about.
"Hey, wait a minute!!!!  I didn't forget to pick up Holly!!!  The twins hid my car keys in the holes in the back of the kitchen chairs.  They were pretending the holes were a car ignition, and the keys got stuck in them.  I didn't find those keys until dinner time when Dave sat down in the chair and got jabbed by a car key.  That was why I called Grandpa John to pick up Holly!!!  I am not irresponsible."
Of course, by then the house will be cleaned and I will forget to correct the girls when they return back home.  This is, of course, due to the fact that THEY HAVE USED UP ALL OF MY MEMORY!
Thankfully, even though my mind is completely gone now, and I have no means to remember where I parked my car in the parking lot where I shop, or where I put my keys so that I can get into the car if I should happen to find it, I still have the Catholic Church to come to my rescue.  I don't even have to bother God, because  I have a Saint who specializes in exactly this kind of situation.  In my case, as I mentioned, I go directly to St. Anthony.  I looked him up in the guide to Patron Saints, and was delighted with what I found.  St. Anthony helps people find lost things; like one's mind, for instance.  Coincidentally, he is also the Patron Saint of donkeys.  Frankly, I believe that is why he likes me so much.  I have often been told that I am a jackass who is always losing things.  We're perfect for each other.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Highlights and Face-Masks

Having raised four daughters, along with working with young children for the last 14 years, I can certainly attest to the honesty of children.  They may lack diplomacy, but you can always trust that whatever they say is completely sincere.  This, of course, is a double-edged sword.  An, "I love you" from a child is the real deal, but equally true are the, occasionally, less than flattering remarks. In my line of work you must possess a sense of humor, because, you can rest assured, you will be called upon to make use of it frequently.
The other day, for example, one of the littles in my preschool class called me "MeMa."  Now, MeMa is this child's endearing name for her Grandmother.  I can still remember the days, not long ago, when I was mistakenly called "Mom", but getting mixed up with grandma is a relatively new experience.
While I was recovering from my verbal bruising this same child came up to me and attempted to rub something out of my hair.  After a moment I realized what she was doing.
"By any chance are you trying to rub the white out of Mrs. Valente's hair?" I inquired.
"Yes, Mrs. Valente," she answered. "You have paint in it."
"Hmmmmm..." I replied.  "That actually isn't paint.  Those are some of Mrs.Valente's silver highlights.  I'm getting quite a few highlights, aren't I?'
She began to count.  "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight." she said, and then mercifully stopped.
Just to amuse myself I lifted up my bangs, exposing my hairline, which had quite a few more.
"Whoa.....she said, quietly.  "I don't think I can count that high."
I mentioned this story to the little girl's mother, and laughingly asked what she thought about it. Her mother was equally honest.
"I think it's time to tint your hair again."  was her reply.
My very favorite story though, involves my own daughter, Holly. One day when she was still very young she came racing into my bedroom to ask me a question.  Before she could get the words out of her mouth though, she stopped dead in her tracks at the doorway and stared at me, with eyes wide open.
I was making my bed, but had applied a green, clay-type face-mask earlier that morning, and was in the process of letting it harden.  The look on Holly's face conveyed the shock she was experiencing upon noticing my appearance.
"Sorry, Holly," I said.  "Did I scare you?  I'm just wearing some special lotion on my face, and I am waiting for it to dry."
"Why are you doing that, Mom?" she asked, hesitantly.
"Well, mommy's getting older, so my skin isn't as nice as it used to be.  I am using this special lotion so that I will look prettier."
Holly stood for a moment staring at the cracked, green clay on my face as she processed this information.  Finally, giving me a very grown up "I hate to break this to you" kind of look she informed me,  "Well.....it's not working."
Kids are nothing, if not honest.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

LETTING GO OF DOORKNOBS AS THE UNIVERSE UNFOLDS

I have always found great wisdom within a piece of writing by Max Ehrmann, entitled, "Desiderata".  Today though, one passage seems particularly poignant.
"And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy."
Tomorrow my universe will unfold a little more as I take my youngest daughter, accompanied by her older sister, to view one of the colleges that she is considering attending in the fall.  I have made these visits before, and, with each of them, I have recognized that I am edging closer to one of life's new beginnings.  I understand that I must close the door on one chapter in life, in order to open the door to the next...but this time, I find myself having a little trouble letting go of the doorknob. 
My oldest daughter moved out recently, and the twins will soon be leaving too, at month's end. Then, in the fall, I will hear Olivia's footsteps, fading in the distance, as she takes those last final steps towards life as an adult; a life in which my role will be significantly smaller.  It is all our efforts as parents coming to fruition, yet I find myself conflicted by the universe unfolding as it should.
I remember quite vividly, not so many years ago, walking along a residential street in Port Sanilac, and gazing at the houses that rested along the shore of Lake Huron. I was accompanied by one of my girls, still young enough to enjoy the imaginings of childhood, as she happened upon a house that she especially admired. 
"One day I am going to marry a rich man, and he is going to buy me that house." 
She said, as she daydreamed.
I gasped in horror and then said. "No, he will not.  You will go to college first, get a great education, and then, become a success at your chosen career.  When you have finished you will buy that house for yourself."
"Why?' she inquired.
"Because I want you to grow up to be an independent woman."  I replied. "You need only to think about your own family to know how important that is.  Your grandfather died when your grandma was only 29 years old, and she was left to raise four children, by herself.  It was hard.  I never want you to know those struggles.   And what about your own father?  He was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when he was only 38.  He has persevered because he has a very strong spirit, but I want you to understand that life will test you; no one is exempt. The only insurance that you have is yourself.  Never depend on anyone else for your happiness or security, or you will have a life of worries. Depend on yourself to get that house.  Go to college, get a great job and be independent...you don't need to marry a rich man to do that."
She mulled my words over for a minute, and then looked up at me.
"Well," she replied. "What if I fall in love with a rich guy, though?  After I am a success and buy myself that house, THEN can I marry him?"
"Of course, you can." I said, without skipping a beat. "I am raising you to be independent, not stupid."

So I find myself now, on the cusp of own new independence.  Once again, I will have time for myself, and a life full of my own possibilities.  I am lucky as I am still in love with the man that I married so many years ago; the man that I raised those independent daughters with.  I know we will be free to enjoy each other’s company more, and to do some of things that we were unable to do in years past.  And yet, I find myself glancing back with great frequency at that door I am about to close, for behind it lies the years filled with the sounds of my daughters' laughter, and the memories of those gentle hugs that only tiny arms can give.  I must remember Max Ehrmann at those times, and the wisdom of his words...it is still a beautiful world, so I will be cheerful; I will strive to be happy.  I will strive to be happy for my daughters, and, maybe equally important, I will strive to be happy for myself.  Blessings ~ Amycita~

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Speeding Tickets and Night Vision Goggles

Recently, I received my very first speeding ticket, at the age of 51.  Now I am not going to lie...I have been guilty of committing a variety of traffic violations, several times over the years, but none for which, I have actually received a ticket.  I have been stopped for speeding three times. I have been stopped for making a right on a red where it was not permitted; a violation which resulted in not one, but TWO police cars pulling me over...(I am guessing this was necessary due to the very serious nature of my crime, as well as my threatening appearance.)  And finally, I was once pulled over when the twins were around four, because the officer did not believe that Gina was properly restrained in the back-seat.  This was because she had turned around while still in her seat belt, knelt up on the seat, and happily waved out the back window at the police car.  Technically this was not actually a crime, because at the time, the law did not require child-seats to be in use in the back-seat AND she was in fact, wearing her seat belt; although admittedly, not very effectively. In all these cases, except for Gina's crime, I always admitted my violation when asked, never made excuses of any kind and was sure to respectfully use the term, "officer,"  several times during our conversations.  For these practices I was always rewarded by not getting a ticket, and I considered this to be a very equitable arrangement.  I did my part, and the police officers did theirs; which was of course, to never give me a ticket under any circumstances.  Then, by some terrible misstep by the universe, I was pulled over by an officer who did not follow the proper protocol that I have previously outlined, and he gave me my first one.
When handing me my speeding ticket he explained, that he had written it in a manner that would not result in my receiving any points on my driving record, as long as I paid the fee for the violation.  I accepted the ticket graciously, thanked him, and even wished him a Merry Christmas.  I probably would not have been so gracious though, if I had realized that it didn't matter if he wrote the ticket for between 1-5 miles over, since the threshold for the fine of $125 is for anything between 1 to 10 miles.  Also, I was required to pay the ticket with a money order, as they would not accept personal checks, so an additional cost was incurred.
I put the matter to rest though, until I opened my mail and found, that, in order to avoid receiving any points on my record and then having that information forwarded to my insurance company, I would be required to complete a Basic Driver's Education Course, as well. This course is available at the cost of $39.  I find this very insulting, as I am very familiar already with the basic rules of driving.  The rules are, that when speeding, one must always be alert for police cars, and then slow down before they can clock your speed. (and one should never drive with Gina in the backseat, whether they plan on speeding or not)  Also, I am annoyed that it was not taken into consideration that I slowed down as soon as I saw the police car. I do not believe I should be penalized simply because he had hidden his car so well, that I was not allowed the required amount of time necessary to reduce my speed, quickly enough.  I even compensated for his oversight, by actually slowing down to LESS  then the posted speed, and attempting to blend in with all the other cars traveling in the slow lane. Clearly, he was unappreciative of the lengths I was willing to go to lessen his workload, by not having to take the time to write me a speeding ticket.
The really frustrating part of all this is, that I am spending hard-earned money on things I didn't want to begin with; traffic tickets and drivers education classes, for example.  Having recently discovered a whole line of spy gear surveillance toys, available at Target, I am deeply saddened that I can't be spending my money on truly important things; like a pen that secretly records your conversations with people, without their knowledge.  I have already purchased the spy gear-surveillance night vision goggles for my husband, and, although he never gets to use them because I am always playing with them, I was hoping to add more items to his collection, in case I decide to begin a new career as a spy.  Now I am left with only my night vision goggles to play with. The ones with their extremely bright, blue led lights on the sides, that, while allowing you to see in the dark, also make you visible to everyone in a five block radius; thus making it very difficult to surveil anyone without their knowledge.  Now, I am not complaining.  The night vision goggles are extremely fun to use while taking my dogs on late night walks and for making my tea in the morning without any lights on in the kitchen, but I am still left with the knowledge, that, if only that officer would not have ticketed me, I would have had an additional 169 dollars with which to buy toys for my husband. It is very important that I buy these toys for him, because that way I get to play with them.
Well, I better go.  It's dark out now, so the pups and I need to go out on our daily mission.  I wonder if they make tiny night vision goggles for dogs?  That would be great, because then they could see our cat in the dark, and they could avoid the humiliation of getting pounced!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I DIDN'T EVEN WANT TO BE IN THE ROOM WHEN GIVING BIRTH TO MY OWN CHILDREN...BUT THE DOCTOR INSISTED

After we brought Gina and Jamie home our house was a flurry of activity.  Friends and family, as always, were extraordinarily generous. They brought over meals, or just stopped by to give us a hand, and we truly appreciated their kindness. We were also blessed to have either my mother or Dave's spend the night once a week, so that we could catch up on the sleep we so desperately needed.  Despite everyone's  best efforts though, we still found ourselves pretty exhausted.
To compensate for our sleep deprivation we implemented a few strategies to help us keep things straight.We created a journal, for example, in which we would document which baby we had fed or changed, and the time that we had done it.  We also color coded Gina and Jamie's cribs and accessories, so we wouldn't mix them up.  We would still, occasionally, find things like Dave's wallet in the refrigerator, but, since we didn't keep a record of things like that in the journal, we never did figure out the reason why it was in there.  Things were going pretty smoothly though, so at about 12 weeks I returned to my job as a bank teller; two days a week, for four hours a day.  Frankly, it felt like I was on vacation.
My first day back was a memorable one.  Tellers are required to memorize a lot of numerical codes, for opening  the vault, unlocking the safe, and turning on their teller terminals. Upon my return to work though, I was having a terrible time recalling even one of them.  My co-workers an I were all waiting patiently for my memory to return, when suddenly someone told me that I had a phone call, and they thought it was Dave.  I hadn't even been back at work for an hour yet, so I knew instantly, that something serious must be wrong.  I raced to the phone, and picked it up.
"Dave," I said, my voice filled with panic."What's wrong?  Has something happened?"
"Yes," he replied, calmly.  "I have a problem. I mixed up the babies, and I don't know which one I am holding. Can you tell me who it is?"
"You mixed up our babies? You haven't even been in charge for an hour yet, and you have mixed up our babies?????"  I yelled. "Oh my God!  What color blanket does the one you're holding have; yellow or purple?"
"I don't know." he said, sounding a little miffed by my tone of voice.. "I mixed up their blankets, too. I brought them all out into the living room....and Holly was here....and,... well,... I just don't know.  I thought maybe you could tell me, because Holly isn't any help at all."
"OVER THE PHONE??"  I asked again, incredulous.
"Yes, over the phone!"  he replied, quite exasperated.  "I was hoping you could tell me over the phone! Since I have fed one baby already, and I don't know which one it was... I CAN'T DOCUMENT IT!  It's quite possible that I am now feeding the same baby twice. I was hoping you would be a little more helpful, because if I feed one baby twice, then I am going to have to make ANOTHER bottle and feed the other baby!  That's like I have to feed three babies!"
I walked back to my station, shaking my head in disbelief.
The girls were truly a joy though, and Dave and I were smart enough to realize it. We recognized how fleeting their childhoods would be, so we took the time to savor every minute of it with them. Before we knew it, Holly was seven and the twins were five, and I remember writing how happy we all were on every Christmas card, that year. I even mentioned how the girls were basically self-sufficient by then, and how I almost felt guilty about all the extra time I had.  Life was easy, and it felt great!  We even had time for a truly thorough house-cleaning, and, with a little sadness, I donated all our cribs, playpens and baby swings hoping that the next family that used them would be as happy as we were. Things were going so well, in fact, that Dave decided we needed to take a real family vacation; not just up north, but to another state.  He decided we should drive down to Florida during the GM shutdown.  It was destined to become the most expensive vacation we had ever taken.
Dave undertook the planning of our vacation with great enthusiasm.  Since we were already in need of a new vehicle he purchased a full-sized conversion van complete with a TV and VCR, so that the girls could watch movies on our leisurely rides there and back.  Next, he researched all the condos that were available, and finally settled on a beautiful two bedroom one in Siesta Key. The place was equipped to sleep eight people, so he even invited my mother to join us for a little well-deserved rest and relaxation. We had a wonderful time on our adventure, and when we returned home two weeks later we were more than a little sad to see it all end.
Life resumed its regular routine, but about two weeks later I found myself experiencing some familiar symptoms; I was pretty sure I had developed another ulcer.  I quickly went to the store and purchased a pregnancy test, and within a few minutes I discovered that we had brought home an unexpected souvenir. My ulcer, once again, turned out to be a baby.
I called Dave at work to share the happy news, and once again his reaction was not, initially, as enthusiastic as I had hoped.
"What do you mean, you're pregnant?  he inquired, with surprise. "I just bought a  new car, AND you just gave away all of our baby furniture."
I took the time to explain that buying a car and giving away baby furniture was not a recognized form of birth control, and then hung up on him.
This pregnancy was destined to be very different from my others, as I quickly learned upon my visit to the doctor's.  He casually informed me that as a "high-risk" pregnancy I would be needing a lot of different tests than I had had in my previous experience.
"Why is that?" I asked, innocently.  "Why would this pregnancy be, "high-risk"?
"Because now you are old." he informed me. I was not amused.
While extreme fatigue and the need to wear maternity clothes immediately were some of the other differences between my pregnancies, the biggest change was the realization that this would be my last child.  Dave and I had given the matter much consideration, but, mainly due to health concerns that arose, we decided that this baby would be the one that completed our family.  Knowing this, made the time even more precious, and I made sure to cherish each and every stage, as my pregnancy progressed. Another thing that I decided was that I wanted my mother with us, to attend the birth.  My own father had been killed in an automobile accident when she was only five months pregnant with me, and knowing that she had given birth to me alone had always made me sad. Plus, women of her age were always sedated during their deliveries, so I was aware that she had never experienced the wonder of that moment. I looked forward to her reaction, when I made the invitation. Her reaction, however, was not quite what I had expected.
"What?" she said. " I've been there for each of your births. Of course I will be there for this one, too."
"No, Mom, " I replied.  "We want you to actually be IN the delivery room for this one.  You can be there to actually see the baby being born."
"No." she said, to my surprise. "I didn't even want to be in the room when I gave birth to my own children; why would I want to be there for yours?'
"BECAUSE IT'S VERY BEAUTIFUL, AND YOU ARE REALLY GOING TO BE HAPPY!" I answered, a little testily.
Finally, after thinking it over for a few minutes, she begrudgingly agreed.
Time passed quickly and before I knew it I was seven months pregnant and about to celebrate my 35th birthday.  I knew how important my husband would view this occasion, so with great anticipation I awaited his arrival home from work. As soon as he walked in I rushed over to greet him, and much to my surprise he handed me an envelope.
"Where's my present?" I asked, excitedly.  "Is it still in the car?"
"No..." he replied.  "I just put some money in the card, because I thought you would like that better. You like that better, right?"
"Not unless it's an awful lot of money." I responded, with considerably less enthusiasm. I opened the card, and looked at the cartoon on the front.  I paused, and then looked at him.  Then I opened it up, and read the verse. Dave began to look nervous.  I closed the card, and stared at him silently for several minutes. It was an uncomfortable silence.
"Dave," I said. "The card you have given me has a cartoon picture of farm animals rolling in a mud puddle on the front."
"Yes, I know.  You like animals a lot, so I figured you would like it."
"I'm not done." I continued. "The inside verse says, and I quote, "I hope on your birthday you are as happy as a mud-caked sow." Let me repeat myself, a mud-caked sow.  What man in his right mind would give his 7 month pregnant, 35 year old wife a card that says I hope you are as happy as a mud-caked sow on it???"
"Well, I don't actually READ the cards I give you." was his reply.  "I just thought you'd like the picture."
"Well, I don't."  I said, completing  the last three words I would be saying to him for the next two months.
The big day finally arrived though, and by then I had started speaking to him again.  We dropped off the girls, picked up my mother, and proceeded on to the hospital for the birth of our fourth child.  No longer a novice, I greeted the medical staff by emphatically stating that I would be needing drugs, and that I did not want to talk about natural childbirth or breathing techniques. 
"This isn't your first. " the nurses replied, laughing.
I was extremely surprised then, after the resident doctor on staff examined me, and told me that I wasn't in labor.
"What do you mean I'm not in labor." I asked, incredulous.
"I mean you aren't in labor.  Your doctor isn't on call tonight, but I will call the one that is filling in for him, but I am pretty sure he will be sending you home.  Don't get too comfortable."
I was in a state of shock.  I knew the pain of childbirth dims, but I definitely did not think it was so dim that I couldn't recognize it when it happened again.I began ranting to my mother and Dave. 
"That woman is crazy!!!" I said, heatedly.  "I have had children before, and I know what labor pains feel like.  These are definitely labor pains."  I continued on for several minutes.
"You were right.  This is a lot of fun. " my mother replied, in a voice that did not sound like she was actually having a lot of fun.  "I am very glad to be a part of this." Just then Dave cheerfully chimed in.
"Hey this is great!" he said, to our complete bewilderment. "This room has a TV, so I can watch the basketball game.  March Madness, yes!" We ignored him and waited for the doctor to return.
"Well," she said, unapologetic.  "He said, that since you already have three children I shouldn't send you right home.  He wants me to check you again."  She proceeded to do another quick exam.
"Oh," she said. "I guess you are in labor.  Good thing you didn't leave."
"You are an idiot." I said under my breath.
"Sorry?" she said, leaning closer. "I didn't hear you. What did you say?'
"I said, my husband is an idiot."  Smiling, she nodded her head in agreement, and left the room.
A mere eight hours later they wheeled me into the delivery room.  All that passed before was forgotten, and the three of us shared the wonder of Olivia's birth, together. It was amazing.  In the years that followed, my mother would often remind Olivia of how she had been there for her birth, and I never doubted for a minute how happy sharing that experience had made her.  It was a remarkable thing, to have two generations of women usher in the third, and I will treasure that memory forever.
Olivia's arrival home was memorable, too.  We picked up the girls at Olivia's new Godmother's house, and were delighted by all the banners and decorations welcoming her home.  This was also accompanied by about an hour long introduction and presentation prepared by the girls and their best friend, Alana, and fortunately we filmed it to treasure forever.
Just as in the past, we soon could not imagine our life without this baby of ours, only this time our other three daughters shared in our wonderment, as well. She was the last piece in the puzzle; the final member who made our family complete.  Today, they are all adults; each one venturing out into the world on their own.  I think back at the joyous time we had raising them, and commend myself and Dave.  These children are here because of us....they are the living validations of two lives, well spent.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

HEY, LOOK AT THIS ULTRASOUND PICTURE...IT HAS TWO BABIES THAT YOU CAN'T SEE IN IT!!!

Following Holly's birth I discovered that every new mother felt compelled to share the details of her own delivery with me.  Most of the stories sounded very much alike: 97 hours of terrible labor, utilization of very effective breathing techniques, absolute refusal to take drugs of any kind, etc.etc.etc.  They always seemed to conclude their stories by asking me if I had given birth naturally, as well.
"Yes," I would reply, with complete honesty.  "It was very painful, so it was only natural that I would want to have drugs while giving birth."
"Oh," they would say, with their disapproval evident. "But what about the baby?"
"The baby? Oh yes, she liked them, too." was my standard reply.
At home though, as any new parent can attest to, my husband and I found our lives transformed.  So enchanting was this baby of ours, that within days of her birth we could no longer imagine a life that didn't have her in it.  Everything that had passed before her seemed insignificant, and everything that followed was magical.  We marveled at our good fortune.  I did feel sad, however, that she was destined to be an only child. I had no intention of ever giving birth again, so unless we adopted, our family was complete.
You can imagine my surprise then, when I went for a follow up visit at my doctor's office. After I had regaled him with tales of how remarkable my child was he asked how I was feeling, and then proceeded with my exam.  He concluded by telling me that I was healing wonderfully, and that I was now free to resume relations.
"Okay...." I said, truly curious. "What kind of relations?"
"Relations with your husband." he said to my complete disbelief.
I returned home to find my husband waiting for me. He inquired, as to if, the doctor had said anything of importance to me.
"Yes, he did, as a matter of fact." I answered immediately. "He was very emphatic, that I NOT resume relations at this time, and couldn't even hazard a guess about when I will be able to in the future.  I can't stress to you enough how serious he was about this."
"Okay....." my husband answered with a puzzled expression on his face. "You better not do that then.  What about having sex though?  Did he say anything about that?"
I shook my head in resignation, and left the room.
Time passes though, and with it too, dims the memory of the pain.  I realize now, of course, that this is a trick God plays on women to ensure that they will continue to procreate.  If not for this, no woman would ever consider giving birth to more than one child.  In my case I found myself pregnant again, when Holly was the ripe old age of a year and 7 months, and I was truly joyful to hear the news.
My pregnancy progressed beautifully, so it wasn't until I was six months along that the doctor finally suggested that it was time for me to have an ultrasound.  My husband asked if I wanted him with me but, since at Holly's ultrasound the only thing we were clear about was that neither one of us could actually see any baby, I told him that he didn't need to come.  I went alone that day excited at the prospect of finding out the gender of our new baby.
As my doctor did the procedure though, he seemed oddly quiet.  Finally, after some time had elapsed,  I asked him if something was wrong.
He turned the monitor, so that I could see it better and then said, "See Amy, here is your baby's head."
I pretended to see it, and then said, "Great, I am glad everything is okay.  You scared me for a minute."
"And see here, Amy," he continued. "This is the other baby's head."
I looked at the monitor with amazement, and the doctor and I shared a quiet moment together. A few months ealier I had suffered a miscarriage, and the doctor was aware of the sadness that I had experienced.
"Amy, I think that God has chosen to give you another baby to help you over your loss of the other." he said quietly. I found myself thinking the same.
Once the information sank in I was filled with unparalleled joy, and I shared that fact with everyone in the office.  The doctor gave me my ultrasound picture, and I made the drive home, barely able to contain my excitement.  It took all my restraint not to pull the car over whenever I saw a passerby.
I wanted to call them over to my car, and say, "Hey, look at my ultrasound picture.  You know, the ones that show a picture of your baby, but no one can actually see it.  Well, guess what??  This is even better!  My ultrasound picture has TWO babies you can't see in it. I'm having twins!"  It was very hard for me not to do this, but I managed to keep on driving.
I called Dave as soon as I got home, but initially, his reaction was not as enthusiastic as I had hoped.
"Oh my God, I am going to have to work overtime everyday of the rest of life." he said at first.  But then it occurred to him that he must be extraordinarily virile, in order to have produced twins, and after shouting something of that nature to all of his co-workers his enthusiasm began to equal mine.  We were very happy.
The remainder of my pregnancy was uneventful, except towards the end when things began to get very crowded.  The last three days, before I delivered, I slept upright in a chair, because it was too hard to get up again if I tried to lay down.  I do remember clearly though, that about this time, I began to regularly say a prayer to God.
The prayer went something like this:
"Dear God, please let me have these babies soon.  I am only five feet tall, and there really isn't enough room in my body for three people. Someone has to move out of here, and they need to be quick about it. I would appreciate any help you could give me concerning this matter."  He answered my prayers on December 18th.
The actual delivery was nothing like my previous one.  I arrived at the hospital and gave birth an hour and a half later.  I didn't even have time to ask for drugs, until the first urge to push hit.
My doctor had just arrived, and was still dressed in a suit.  He did a quick exam, and then said he was going to change into his scrubs. A nurse asked how long I had to go, and he said the first baby was already crowning.  He left the room, and the first urge to push hit.
"What was that????" I yelled to no one in particular.  In my prior experience I had received an epidural, so I was not familiar with the strength of this urge. I was wheeled quickly into the delivery room where I reverted to my old pattern, and began utilizing a steady stream of profanities.  I was vaguely aware that someone kept talking to me, and finally the words clicked.
It was the anesthesiologist, and he repeated for about the third time. "Listen to me.  I am your new best friend. Do you want drugs to make you feel better?  If you will roll over and keep still I am going to give you a spinal, and you are going to feel a lot better."
"By all means," I said. "Please give me drugs. You have my full cooperation.  I promise I will be very still... except for the times when a baby keeps trying to come out, because I find that very distracting."  He successfully gave me the spinal.
Within minutes, Gina was born. A beautiful little girl who weighed 6lbs, 7 ounces.  Three minutes later, she was joined by her identical twin sister, Jamie, who weighed in at 4lbs, 7 ounces.  It seemed like there were about a hundred people in the room at the time, but all I could see were my two beautiful babies; happy and healthy.
A few days later we brought them home; tucked inside giant Christmas Stockings that volunteers had made for the occasion. With great joy we introduced them to their new big sister, Holly.  Holly was not quite two and a half by then, but never once did she demonstrate any kind of jealousy towards them, that I can remember. Not only did she seem to love them immediately, but was also quickly aware that they could be used to her advantage.
In preparation for the twins arrival we had redone Holly's bedroom; painting it her favorite color, and giving her a brand new, "big girl bed."  She quickly caught on though, how exhausted Dave and I were, and how important it was to us that no one wake the babies up, once they had fallen asleep.  About their third day home, Holly turned to me after we had finally gotten the twins to sleep.
"Mommy," she said sweetly.  "I don't want to sleep alone in my room anymore.  I want to sleep in your bed, with you and daddy."
"No, Holly," I replied. "Remember you have your own special room, and a big girl bed. You need to sleep in there, so that we can all get our rest."
"Okay, mommy," she replied. "But if you don't let me sleep in bed with you and daddy I am going to start crying right now, and wake the babies up."  The next few years were a blur, but to the best of my recollection, Holly slept with us for most of them.  Dave and I don't make dumb children.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I WOULD HAVE SLAPPED THE DOCTOR, BUT I WAS IN THE VICE-LIKE GRIP OF AN EARLY MILD CONTRACTION

Reflecting back on the births of my children I was struck by how each experience was as different as the children themselves. The only real constant with every birth was how joyful I was to be having a baby, and how that joy was multiplied upon giving birth.  Having children is a wondrous thing, but, just like snowflakes, no two experiences are ever alike.With my first child I was like a blank slate; devoid of any preconceived notions of what lay ahead. Each new development felt like a surprise; beginning with the diagnosis that the ulcer I was suffering from was actually a condition known, in technical terms, as "pregnancy".
I was extremely fortunate to be referred to a wonderful doctor by a friend of mine, and he was the one man, not including my husband, that I shared each of my subsequent pregnancies with. Initially though, I had some doubts to the wisdom of that referral.
Already nervous when I went for my first pregnancy exam I was truly astounded by what the doctor said to me.  Although he spoke impeccable English, despite it being his second language, he did occasionally phrase things in a different way than I was accustomed to. That was how the problem arose.  The conversation went something like this:
"Okay Mrs. Valente, you do not have an ulcer, but you are about 2 to 3 months pregnant.  What kind of sex do you like?"
In a state of shock, at the utter audacity of his question, I squinted angrily in his direction, and in a voice dripping with reproach said, "PARDON ME......WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?????"
The doctor looked back at me with a puzzled expression, and then repeated himself.  "I said, what kind of sex do you like....a boy or a girl?"
We experienced a "pregnant" pause as I processed this information, and, then, tried to articulate an answer.  Finally, I replied, "Oh.  That is was what I thought you meant.  I am hoping for a girl."
Despite this less than auspicious start, we got along famously.  In fact, I believe him to be one of the finest doctors I have ever known.
The rest of my pregnancy unfolded beautifully, and I awaited each new development with great anticipation.  I began to wear maternity clothes around five months, despite the fact that I didn't even look pregnant. I explained to all the women that I knew, about what it felt like to have a baby move, regardless of the number of children they had already given birth to. Even my pregnancy classes brought me great happiness, and I looked forward to implementing all my new found knowledge about natural childbirth and breast-feeding...then I went into labor.
On the morning that I went to the hospital I was filled with all the serenity and peace, that any woman who doesn't have a clue what she is getting into, can possess.  I was ready to participate fully in this amazing event accompanied by the man that I loved.  Those feelings were short lived.
After being admitted I calmly got into bed and began to read the book I had brought along to pass the time. A nurse came by, and asked me if this was my first pregnancy...she then left the room with a knowing smile.  I was confident at the time, that she had recognized my high tolerance for pain and admired my composure, in spite of my lack of experience.  It was about then that the screaming began.
I had only read a couple of paragraphs in my book when I heard a woman down the hall from me screaming at the top of her lungs. Filled with great alarm I put my book down, and then waited to to hear the intercom alerting all the medical staff to a code blue, or whatever it was they said when someone was dying.  In the ensuing  moments I guessed at what terrible agony had befallen this poor woman.  The first thing that came to mind was an organ transplant performed without the benefit of anesthesia. Finally, with the screams unabated, I spotted a nurse walking calmly down the hallway.
I yelled out to her, "Excuse me, nurse...what is wrong with that poor woman.  She sounds like she is in a lot of pain, and no one seems to be responding!"
The nurse chuckled, and then replied, "Oh don't worry dear.  This is her first child. A lot of first timers are real screamers."  I felt the dark dawning of reality hitting me.  I had been lied to.
About two hours later my labor pains had become unbearable.  No one had prepared me for the terrible pain I was experiencing, and since my only refuge lay in cursing and swearing I utilized this tactic with  gusto.
At around this point the resident doctor came in to check on me. Since I was fully aware that I was now in the throes of an extraordinarily painful delivery I was somewhat surprised by what the doctor told me.
"Wow," he said. "You think THIS is bad?  Just wait until you actually get close to delivering the baby.  THEN you are going to feel some pain."
I was enraged by his comment, and had I not been stricken by the vice-like grip of a mild contraction I would have leaped out of the bed and assaulted him.  Wisely, he left the room.
A little while later my own doctor came to sit with me.  Beside me on the bed, he watched the monitor that was tracking my contractions.  This was accompanied by the steady stream of profanities that I had embarked upon a few hours earlier.
Calmly, after some minutes had passed, he decided to comment, "Amy, perhaps if you spent a little less time swearing, and a little more time practicing your breathing I think you might feel better."
By way of reply I began a new tirade; one that included comments about all the men that had propagated the lies that were told during childbirth classes about how practicing breathing techniques would  alleviate pain. He ignored me, and continued to watch the monitor.
Finally, after what seemed like days of suffering, I experienced a moment of clarity.  I was at a hospital, I remembered!!!  Hospitals had narcotic pain killers in them!!!
"Nurse," I shouted. " I want narcotic pain relievers, and I want them now.  I hate natural childbirth and I am sure that my baby hates it, too.  We both want drugs and we want them immediately!"  I was given an epidural, which, while not as good as morphine, did bring me back to some semblance of sanity.
It was about 12 hours since my arrival, when they finally wheeled me into the delivery room.  I was now filled with all the peace and serenity that is supplied by way of an epidural, and was looking forward to finally giving birth to my daughter.
Much to my surprise a nurse then asked me, "Are you alright, dear?  You don't look very well."
I explained that I felt fine. She then explained that she was referring to my husband.  He looked very green, and was somewhat wobbly on his feet. They brought him a chair, and together we shared that amazing moment when a new life enters the world.  It was magnificent.
Back in my room my husband and I took turns holding the baby, and marveling at what a wonderful child our combined DNA had created.  After a while we sat in silence, and just stared at this precious life that we had managed to bring into the world.  A couple of minutes later though, I remembered that I hadn't had a beer in nine months.
"Let's go out for a burger and a beer as soon as I get out of here!" I suggested.
My husband happily agreed, and then we were hit with our new reality.....now we would need a babysitter when we went out! And thus it began...our lives as parents.