Jul 25, 2015

See a child screaming in public? Don't glare at them. Their momma might write a blog post.

This has been bouncing around in my head since seeing someone flat-out glaring at my son (nickname Bug) yesterday morning when he lost control of his emotions in public following a morning of doctor's appointments, pokes, and other things with which he was just done:

I am "that" child. You know - the screaming one you just glared at. You can't miss me; you didn't miss me. I might be little, but I know angry looks even if I don't know you.

I've never screamed this loudly. Every cell in my little body is crying out in frustration and fear. Maybe if I'm loud people will just listen. I've never screamed for this long. I scream that I want to leave; that no one around me can talk. Everyone, please just stop talking. Stop talking. Stop touching me with pokey things, with cold things. Stop telling me to open my mouth and say “ah”. Stop saying that “it's okay”. Can't you hear that it is not okay?!

Just stop talking. Don't hold me. Holding me feels like more pokey things when I'm this upset. I just want to go home. Momma? Nana?  They're trying to make it better but they're also trying to talk to the doctor. I don't want them to talk to the doctor. When you big people talk, more things happen to me that hurt or make my tummy upset. Or I get pinned again. Everyone, just go away. I just want to be at home. Stop talking and take me home! Can't you hear that it is not okay?

Maybe if I'm louder, someone will listen. You big people use words I don't understand and then tell me “shhhhhhh, it's okay”. No it's not!! Okay, I'll scream some more. Maybe someone will just take me home and out of this place of pokes and medicines and numbers and blood counts and being pinned to those big examination tables and people in my face and complete, bone-wrenching helplessness.

Someone just listen. Someone just do what I want. Give me some control...anything. Take me out of here. We're going? No! I like it here now. Leave me here. I'll live here. I don't need a pillow, I'll live here. I want to stay here! Someone listen to me! Why are we going? Why won't anyone listen! Ahhhhhhhhhh!!

Momma, why did that person look mean at me?!

I saw that. This momma bear couldn't miss the menacing glare that woman leveled at my little son as we hurried by; him screaming and writhing in my arms as the big feelings bubbled over. Her furrowed brows sat atop glaring eyes that I'm sure twinkle when she smiles, but at that moment her lips were pursed in disapproval as she shook her head and glared.  Her face demanded why can't you just control that child? Make him stop screaming!! You're in public, for goodness sake.

I bristled. My feathers ruffled. I wanted to fucking slap her. And I'm a pacifist.

I knew we were in public. I also knew what “that child” had already endured this morning. He woke up excruciatingly early and heard these words: “You can choose. Either I put the emla cream on you so the poke is numbed or it will hurt more when they have to access you. I know you don't like the cream, but please let me put it on you!!”

He is 3 years old. My Bug is 3, and he had to choose between cold numbing cream applied to his skin or a painful poke. I wish he had just had to choose what kind of cereal he wanted.

After choosing the cream and for the first time actually allowing me to put it on him without a fight, “that child” sat in a car that Momma maneuvered through a rain storm as she, Nana, and Twinkle (sister) went with to the doctors. He was then pinned to an exam table while crying as nurses poked him with a needle, adhered that needle to him with a massive sticker that hurts mightily when it is removed, had blood drawn, then had to wait for another appointment where the grown-ups all talked about things that could hurt and the sticker was taken off.  He knows the word “leukemia”, but he doesn't know what it means. He is 3 years old. He shouldn't know the words “cancer”, “chemotherapy”, “treatment”, “accessed”, etc. He shouldn't know how how to correctly pronounce the names of his medicines. But he does.

And yesterday morning after hearing his name come over the waiting room intercom as yet another staff member summoned him back to see another doctor, Bug was just DONE and overwhelmed and letting everyone with eardrums know.

And she. glared. at. him. But she don't know what his morning was like. She don't know that 6 months ago he was completely bald thanks to doxyrubicin, or that he puked last week after having chemotherapy put in his spinal fluid, or that he loves Spiderman and adores his baby sister. She didn't know what he has been through in the past year. Her only exposure to my precious boy was him rattling her eardrums painfully as we tried to just get him home.

I am “that mom”. You know – the one with the screaming child whom I “can't control”. No, I can't. But he's gone through absolute hell over the past year and I want to scream to. At that lady, at the situation, but mostly at an entire society that is afraid of children's big feelings.

That's right, I said it: we as a culture are terrified of letting children experience and express their big feelings. It feels unjust to humanity to me that part of becoming familiar with the mores and laws of this culture means that children learn to quash their big feelings when around others. Why? Why do so many adults experience discomfort and fear at encountering children's big feelings? We want to fix it right away; to make it go away and bring back the calm. Why? I suspect it is due in part to kids' big feelings threatening to bring out the same in us that we've spent so many years suppressing that if it comes out, it will come out in a way that is frightening.

Maybe children's big feelings originate in something environmental, a mental health diagnosis, being plain overwhelmed, not enough sleep, an annoying sibling, adults failing them again, cancer, food dye....whatever. The point is not that children experience big feels. We all know they do (c'mon, let's be honest – so do we as grownups and we know that too). The point is that when these big feels become obvious, we as a culture do our level best to discourage children from expressing their big feelings. “Shhhhhhhh now, it's not that big a deal.” “Hushabye, calm down.” “Honey, there are other people around.” Be honest – who here has said that to a child who is displaying big emotions or negative behavior? Now let's be honest about ourselves: how helpful are those phrases, really, when someone says them to us when we are upset? I know that for myself being told to calm down when I'm upset is absolutely maddening. Why would I expect a child to react differently? And yet we do expect them to!  We expect children to calm down when told to do so, to act like it is "okay" when it clearly isn't, to act like innocent cherubs no matter what.

It's okay to be mad. It's okay to be anxious. It's okay to be so happy your bubbliness can be felt from the other side of the room.  

Feelings are okay.  It is okay for children to experience and express feelings.

I'll say it again – feelings are okay and it is okay for young ones to express their feelings.

What might not be okay is what is done with those feelings if they are dealt with in a destructive manner. Harming self or others is not okay. Property destruction is not okay. Bottling feelings up until they explode into something that is the lead story in the evening news is not okay.

But tell me: how are children supposed to learn how to positively and constructively deal with their big feelings if those feelings are constantly shushed/avoided?

What if instead of shunning children for experiencing and expressing their big emotions, we as a culture moved towards letting children and adolescents “feel their feels” and teach them how to channel the energy of those feelings as constructively as possible, or at the very least not to avoid those feelings? 

Mental health professionals have documented a dramatic rise in mental health diagnoses over the past several decades. After working in the mental health field for awhile now, I'm utterly convinced this rise is due in part to the fact that society at large tries to have people quiet their big emotions rather than processing through those emotions and figuring out how to channel the energy from them in a healthy, constructive way.

To return to this morning; I bristle at "that woman" who glared at my boy, but I don't know her story either. I don't know where she's been, what her morning looked like, or what choices she had to make before lunch. Perhaps she was glaring at life and not specifically at my boy. She was in that place of sickness, healing, and death...just like us. Chances are she is either ailing or is somehow attached to someone else who knows the names of medicines that are difficult to pronounce.

And here was a child being disruptive and making her day louder. Experiencing big feels.

Now, I'm not one to encourage disruptive behavior. But I also know that all behavior is communication. My son was trying desperately to communicate how very much he needed some kind of control in a world where he received a cancer diagnosis at the innocent age of 2 and was flung into a world of pokes, prods, and people in scrubs who “like me even though they have to do uncomfortable things to me.”

How about when we see a child losing it in public, we look for what their behavior is communicating?  Instead of glaring and judging, let's try on compassion, empathy, and a helping attitude. There may be nothing that we can do for one another in some of those moments (a stranger talking to Bug would make him more nervous/dysregulated), but we can change how we respond to one another and the looks on our faces. Let's make this a place where being “big” emotionally in public is okay precisely because there might be someone around who can help, or at the very least someone who is able to be empathetic. Let's be a village for each other rather than insisting we all live on our own emotional islands.

I saw that glare. And so did the other adults around us for whom those glares are now a little more okay. So did the children present who are learning how to respond to those in their environment who disrupt their day. 

So this is my attempt at taking my frustration at the situation and the societal problem it illustrates and turning that frustrated energy into something constructive.  Maybe you'll be a little more sympathetic and empathetic to children and their families when those children are losing it in public.  After all, "losing it" isn't fun.  "Those kids" are communicating; they are not "having fun" (usually).

And by the way, Bug's day got a lot better.  And I didn't slap that woman.  We both won.

Feb 10, 2015

Jadzia's birth story :)

Hey everyone!  Yeah, it's been forever since I've posted, but it has been a it of a hectic few months including a move, job change, Drexel's leukemia care, and preparing for Jadzia's birth.

That said, our little miss is finally here!  And I do mean finally because she went past her "guess date" by two days.  I tell ya, few things have ever been more patience reducing for me then watching her guess date come and go and still having little ankles pushing under my ribs.  :P

Let's start with her name: Jadzia Junia.  Jadzia is an archaic Polish name that is the feminine form of the word "warrior".  My prayer is that she's a warrior for love and peace.  However, we got the name from a Star Trek series called "Deep Space Nine".  There's a rather epic character named Jadzia Dax, and we really liked the name.  Junia is the name of a woman who is referenced in the New Testament as being a leader in the early Christian church.  However, in certain translations (such as the NIV, bah humbug), her name was translated as a MAN's name because OHEMGEE Heaven forbid that a WOMAN be in leadership in the early church!  That might mean it is okay for women to lead in the current church!  There are a lot of politics that go into each translation of the Bible....but that is a topic for another day.

But on to her birth!!!!!!

Jadzia Junia Romness
Born 2/2/2015
8 pounds, 21.5 inches long

Throughout the last few months of my pregnancy with Junia, I earned the dubious title of "constant contractor" from the midwives at Woodwinds, where Baby J was delivered.  Well, I was indeed contracting constantly (4-5 contractions for 2-3 hours fairly regularly, with lots of intermittent contractions just thrown in there for fun).  These were Braxton-Hicks, but some of them still smarted and they never really led anywhere.  I couldn't use contractions as indicators that labor had started.  The midwives said I'd have to go with "contractions plus": contractions plus another indicator of some kind (bloody show, much pain, water breaking, etc).

Well, I started timing contractions during the afternoon of Feb 1 because at about 3pm, they started to come closer together (about 10 per hour) and stayed that way for about 4 hours.  We called the midwives, who said it could be nothing but it could be baby.  I sure was hoping for the latter!  We got all excited (well, Dahmon was terrified but he was doing really well) and Dahmon packed our bag.  Drexel was super confused and then got really upset when we told him that he couldn't come with us.  Nana and Papa, Dahmon's parents, took care of him while we were gone.  He saw all of us buzzing around getting ready and kept asking what was going on, if he could go with us, why couldn't he go with us, etc.  We did our best to address each of his questions, but at one point he looked up at me and wailed "I don't understand because I'm little!"  Poor guy - whenever he has to go to the doctor, uncomfortable things happen to him (lab draws, chemo, etc) and he didn't quite understand that a baby was going to be coming home with us.

Anyways, we drove to Woodwinds and I was set up in a very comfortable room, hooked up to monitors, and waited a couple of hours to see what would happen.  At midnight they sent us home.  "Labor" had not progressed.  The contractions lessened in intensity and became farther apart.  "Labor" kind of just stopped.

The midwife said it was "false labor".  I was peeved and dubbed Jadzia a tease.  She was already past her guess date...and to have "false labor"?  Ugh.  Not nice.

During the night, the contractions continued but I was able to sleep...for the most part.  Contractions woke me up a couple of times but I just went right back to sleep.  I had a midwife appointment scheduled for Monday morning, so we figured we'd just head up to Woodwinds then and see what they said.  Dahmon came with "just in case".  I'm glad he did!

At the appointment, I was checked again to see if anything had progressed.  At midnight the previous evening I had been dilated 2 cm.  By the time of the appointment (9am), I was dilated to 5-6 cm and the contractions, which had started up again as we were heading to the appointment, were starting to really hurt.  The midwife said we probably had some time and told us to go get something to eat, walk around at the local mall, and then come back when it felt like things were progressing.

Dahmon and I plunked our tired selves down at a local restaurant, where I did a pretty good job convincing the waitress that I was going to birth this child right there in the booth.  Contractions that required concentration were coming every 5ish minutes.  Now, I'd tried to use the HypnoBabies curriculum in order to prepare for the birth.  I have two friends who have used it and swear they didn't feel any pain, just pressure.  I went through the curriculum, but with everything going on at the end of the year with Drexel's care, I didn't practice the self-hypnosis near as much as I should have.  Consequently, the HypnoBabies techniques that I had learned didn't really come in handy.  Not the curriculum's fault.  I just didn't practice the way I should have.  It also doesn't help that I'm inherently suspicious of hypnosis even if I'm doing it to myself.

Anyhow, partway through a very yummy omelet, I began to feel as though barfing was a thing that might happen.  We bundled up, paid, and left in kind of a hurry.  Dahmon asked if I needed to walk around a bit.  My response?  "We better get back to the hospital."

The hospital was only a couple of minutes away.  Dahmon dropped me off at the ER entrance and went to park the car.  I went inside (no way was I waiting for him out in the cold!) and heard the lady behind the front desk radio up that "we need maternity down here RIGHT NOW!"  Well, I was kind of doubled over with a contraction.  Someone came to get me and I insisted on waiting for Dahmon.  They insisted that I get upstairs.  They won.  Dahmon was right behind me and made it upstairs only a minute after I got there.

After filling out the registration paperwork, which was thankfully just a couple of questions, we were ushered back to the rooms where deliveries happen.  I was able to make it to the room, but barely.  Those pesky contractions were coming fairly quickly and were very strong.  Dahmon called our friend Maggie and said that she had better get to the hospital.  You see, we'd asked Maggie to operate the camcorder to capture our daughter's birth.  I heard Dahmon say something like "There's no rush, you probably have some time."  Then Bridgett, the midwife on duty, showed up.  After assessing me, she instructed the nurse to get the water birth tub ready right now.  She said that we might not even make it to the tub.

WHAT?!  We were supposed to have some time!  Apparently Jadzia had other ideas.  :)

Dahmon got my music going and I labored for a bit.  Maggie showed up pretty quickly, arriving just about at the point where the contractions hurt so much that I was crying.  Bridgett showed me a rocking trick with my hips to help things progress and we all headed over to the water birthing room.  Little Miss was in a bit of a hurry, so Bridgett guided us through a shortcut by the staff desks so we could get there ASAP.

Holy cow, that water tub was magic!  It was still filling when I got in because we were trying to make sure that we could actually do a water birth.  Bridgett issued me strict instructions to follow her orders exactly, keep my butt under the water, and get ready for my baby!  I was so relieved that the water was nice and warm that I heard her instructions, but I was kind of distracted by getting a person out of me.  :P  That warm water was wonderful - everything relaxed once I was sitting down, everything felt so much better, it was amazing...and then about 10 minutes later the contractions got so close together they didn't let up.  At one point I pushed on the edge of the tub and caused a leak.  Apparently I had pushed on a door and broken a seal...oops.

At that point I'd only been in labor for about 3 hours and even Bridgett was surprised at how fast Jadzia was coming.  Cue the screaming!  Loudly.  With each contraction.  Loudly.  :P  Maggie told me later she was surprised at how loud I was, but that also that my screaming wasn't high-pitched-being-killed-in-a-horror-movie screaming, but rather the kind of sound one might make in battle: low, guttural, and powerful.  Well, Bridgett let me scream through a couple of contractions, then told me to hold that energy and "direct it to my baby".  The nurse asked if I was feeling like I needed to push.  Um, yeah....and I had been doing some pushing but they were right - most of my energy was going out in noise.

The next time a contraction hit, I held my breath and focused on pushing this little person out.  There was a pop that was my water breaking.  A pause, and then the next contraction hit.  It felt like Jadzia just might tear me to kingdom come and everything was either in pain, on fire, or both....but then her head birthed, quickly followed by the rest of her.  Bridgett lifted her out of the water and placed her instantly on my chest, where they left her as they rubbed her skin down to get some circulation going.  Jadzia was super purple.  I know babies are born like that, but I'm always surprised at just how purple they really are!

Woodwinds is awesome.  I'd made it super clear that I wanted everything as natural as possible, and they followed my every stipulation.  No drugs of any kind.  Jadzia was placed on me skin-to-skin instantly.  Her cord wasn't cut until it stopped pulsating, and then Dahmon was the one who did the honors.  She wasn't bathed until the next day.  The only time she was separated from me was when they took her the next day to do her newborn assessments: hearing, blood smear, blah blah blah.

Back to the birth day - after Jadzia had pinked up a bit, it was time to move to a bed because they don't do the delivery of the placenta in the birthing tub.  When I was standing up to get out of the tub, Bridgett warned all of us that since there hadn't been any bleeding in the tub, it was likely there'd be a gush of blood once I was standing.  Thank God she warned us.  Not to be gross or anything, but the amount of blood I saw pooling upon standing would have freaked me out had Bridget not said something.  As it was I hemorrhaged for quite a while after Jadzia was born and lost a lot of blood.  Every few minutes Bridgett would push and shove on my lower abdomen to get the blood/clots out (holy poo, that hurt).  Okay, so birthing can be gross.  :P  She also said that a hemorrhage like that can happen when a baby either takes forever to be born or when it comes out like a little rocket.  Well, Jadzia was a little rocket - I was only in labor for 3.25 hours!

Damage report (c'mon, I admitted earlier her name came from Star Trek, I had to get another Trekkie thing in here): I didn't tear at all.  No drugs of any kind until they gave me ibuprofen afterwards.  Jadzia had a horrible newborn rash that took a few days to clear up.  All 8lbs, 6oz of her right now are as healthy as can be. She eats and sleeps like a champ, doesn't spit up or cry very much, refuses to sleep in her crib (good thing we're used to co-sleeping), and has this awesome habit of projectile pooping.  Seriously, that's a thing.

Everything seems much easier this time around since this is our second child.  We're kind of used to the routine of caring for an infant.  What is new is having to figure out sibling rivalry stuff that has already shown up in Drexel's behavior.  He loves his baby sister; he just gets extremely jealous sometimes.  :)

Right now my guys are asleep.  Jadzia is curled up sleeping on my chest.  And I'm typing.  Well, no more!  G'night!