Tuesday, May 16, 2017

you can take a breath but don't wait too long

I would like to just provide a disclaimer that I mostly blog for myself. Not as an excuse, but as an explanation. I like the exercise in writing for the idea of an audience (when I write in my journal, the images of my future descendants doesn't work. They're going to hate me, and what is usually chicken scratch and disjointed ideas and large gaps in between entries is going to make them crazy. I'm a little sorry, but also I'm over it. #sorrynotsorry kids.). So putting info up on a blog is a much better mental exercise for me. Even if no one were ever to read it, I'm still usually pleased with myself when I'm finished and have managed to remember so much because I've taken the time to pull out ALL of the memories and put them together in a logical, sensible, follow-able manner.  

Now, when you live thousands of miles from family and friends that want to know what's going on in your life, and there actually is an audience, there's not any more pressure on quality of writing, just on quantity of details. The longer I wait to write a long story, the more details I have perhaps forgotten, but also the more details accrue in the passing of time. So I've been in a catch-22 of writing about Oxford, Oslo, and now Berlin, and everything in between because there's so much that has happened since I last wrote that it's overwhelming, but as I wait longer there's ever more to cover... Yes, my self-induced stress is making my life rough. Don't mock. 

So in attempt to get caught up, there are going to be some readers' digested versions that are then readers-digested again before they end up here. I'm a little sorry about that, not to any readers, but for myself, because so far this organized chaos is way better than the chaos in my journal. 

First, Oslo. I started writing about Oslo getting here well before he was even here. And almost a year later, I'm trying to finish it up. It was the crazy start to a lot of adventures. So I might as well start there. Maybe, someday, when the details don't matter or aren't interesting anymore, other stories will follow. Don't hold your breath.

His birth actually started in June of last year, when my water broke sometime toward the end of 20 weeks. I wasn't aware that was what had happened til 22 weeks (because I didn't realize anything was wrong in the meantime). Jeremy was still at school in England, finishing up his term, while Berlin and I were in Texas for Jace's homecoming (read: family reunion), and the Friday that everybody in my extended family arrived was the same day I snuck out of the pool party with Rick to go to the emergency room when I saw blood. I was hospitalized that night, we learned my water had broken sometime the week before, my amniotic fluid level was about 3cm (of the normal 15-20), and even though I hadn't gone into labor the first week, there was still a pretty good chance I would go into labor any day within the next week. Jeremy flew out the next day, and we met with neonatologists to learn what to expect when the baby came, whenever that would be, while I was pumped full of antibiotics and listened to the baby's heartbeat every few hours. On Monday I was discharged because, even if I went into labor, there wasn't anything they'd be able to do for our then 22-week baby.

It was absolutely terrifying. The first doctor who suggested the broken amniotic sac looked at an ultrasound, pointed to the lack of fluid, and said, "I hope that I'm wrong. This ultrasound image isn't very detailed, and I really hope that it's the lack of detail that I'm seeing. But I'm afraid you'd better prepare yourself for the worst." While I waited through the more detailed ultrasound, I was waiting for the doctor to say, "Oh, everything is fine, you just need some antibiotics. No worries!" To this doctor's credit, he was just as kind as he said exactly the opposite. Every doctor had to give me the very difficult truth of what would happen if I went into labor anytime in the next three weeks, and at the same time, tell me there was nothing to do but wait and see what happened.

Being without Jeremy for the first 36 hours was also a lot harder than I thought it would be. I certainly had visitors (I had 40-something members of my extended family in town, so... duh.), and of course my attitude is always, "I've got this, no big deal," but this was different. The night before Jeremy landed, another doctor came in to talk to me to tell me that even though the situation wasn't promising, there was always hope, and he'd seen a lot of miracles. As soon as he left I started bawling. Miracles or no, I was scared, and I didn't want to do it by myself.

When Jeremy did arrive, I found myself finally embracing the good signs, of which there were quite a few. The fact that I'd made it a week without really noticing anything was wrong was great because it meant there weren't any signs of labor. Then I made it through the weekend at the hospital sans contractions. The baby still appeared to be growing normally, and was actually measuring (weight-wise) a week or two ahead of schedule. This was all promising because, really, there's nothing anyone can do about it but wait. There's no surgery that can be performed or medication that can cause it to heal. Basically, I just needed to wait for signs of infection or labor, and hope for the best.

Jeremy and I debated for the next few days whether we were going to stay in Texas or fly back to Oxford, and with a million different factors weighing in, finally decided to fly back to the UK. One doctor suggested that if we were going to do it, making the pond jump before we hit our unborn's brink of viability was really the only time. We went to the doctor when we got back to Oxford. She told us what to watch for and when to come back to the hospital, and I was admitted at the end of the week for blood loss. I stayed for a few days until I was stable again, went home, and was back a week later. After a few days of still not being stable, my doctor said, "I think you're here for the long haul," which was really, really hard to hear. It had only been the start of my second full week living in the hospital and I was going a little crazy. Every time I had a major gush of blood they brought me across the hall from the delivery rooms for monitoring. I'd spend a day or so there and then be brought back to the maternity ward. A few times a day I waddled down to the monitoring room to listen for contractions and monitor the baby's heartbeat. I was hot, I was exhausted, and the normal discomfort of pregnancy was amplified because I'd lost my cushion around the baby. I really would've just slept through my time at the hospital except that a nurse or midwife came in every few hours to check my vitals, give me antibiotics, or just make sure I wasn't losing blood.

I did have a number of visitors (despite the somewhat insane restrictions on visiting hours - 3-4PM and 6-8PM. The only exception to that rule was Jeremy, not Berlin). While I was in the hospital Jeremy's sisters came to visit the UK, so when I had energy I would go to the park across the street from the hospital and sit and chat with them. And outside of my desire for contact with the outside world, it was pretty life-saving that they came because Jeremy was trying to finish his MBA program and run around after Berlin in addition to making sure I was feeling loved every day. So as crazy as everything was, it went as smoothly as we could've ever hoped for.

But one of his sisters came and went while I was still in the hospital. I couldn't believe I'd been in the hospital so long. On the day I reached 29 weeks, August 4th (the DAY my sister-in-law left, of all days),  my doctor came into my room and said, "We're going to send you home today!" They decided I was stable enough to be away from the hospital (since we lived only a couple of miles from the hospital) and they were aware that I was probably going crazy. I was so excited. So excited that I slept for the first 12 hours I could in my own bed. The next day I slept again, had a few hours of being awake and coherent, but was ready to go to bed with everybody else because I was, once again, exhausted.

Don't worry, I was only home for 36 hours.

I woke up at 4AM, and I was so exhaustedly out of it that it took me several minutes to be conscious enough to realize I was having crazy contractions. (I had had zero up to this point. Zero. Not even Braxton Hicks contractions.) We called an ambulance, an experience which turned out to be thoroughly foreign and confusing. The operator asked Jeremy if she could talk to me, and then she ran me through 20-questions before the paramedics arrived (including "Is the baby crowning? No? Are you sure? Can you have your husband check?"), and then once the ambulance arrived, three paramedics were sitting in our living room asking me further questions for what felt like forever while I was sure I was going to deliver the baby on the couch. Then their supervisor showed up, only stayed for a few minutes before deciding everything was some sort of satisfactory, and then several more minutes after that we eventually went downstairs and got in the ambulance, a ride which was about the most uncomfortable I'd ever taken in my life (not even including the contractions part). Next time we have a baby and don't own a car, we're calling a taxi.

Everything after that went pretty quickly. I was all for an epidural the second I got there, but since I was only at a 3 it seemed we had plenty of time to wait for the anesthesiologist, who had been notified I was ready for her but she was working with other patients, so I was somewhere at the bottom of the list. But there wasn't really time to wait for the anesthesiologist anyway. Oslo made his appearance less than an hour and half later at 8:25AM, weighing a whopping 3 lbs 9 oz.

The first week was probably the craziest. They were the most concerned about his lungs (my water broke right in the middle of the most important weeks for lung development), and he had a torn alveolar sac that meant that air was leaking into his chest cavity and making his blood pressure go crazy. But with the help of a chest drain and faith and blessings, it healed. He had taken his own first gasping breaths and x-rays showed that his lungs seemed fine, just little and needing more time to grow. He was on oxygen and air pressure to keep his lungs open for almost two months, had a jaundice lamp to help his bilirubin levels, but almost everything else appeared to be normal for his age. Before he could come home from the NICU he had to reach a few benchmarks, like being able to breathe on his own, and he had to prove he would consistently gain weight eating out of a bottle instead of a tube (his cleft lip and palate meant that he couldn't nurse, and the doctors wanted to make sure it wouldn't make the fact that he was born so little any harder). He came home in October, a week before his due date, and he was already 8.5 pounds.

Oslo Larry Lindström, 10 weeks old, the day before his due date.

Since then, we've mostly just been watching him grow. He's doing well. He's weighing in a normal range for his age group, and he's enormous for his corrected age group. The regular follow-up doctors appointments finished in December. He's developing normally. He did have his first cleft surgery, and everything went really well (minus him pulling out some stitches in the recovery room, but. What can you do). He's a little champ. Sometimes it's a little crazy that we've had him here so long, and other times it's fun that in some ways we got this baby phased slowed down by a few months. I've been shortening this story to, "he was just really excited to be here!" Most days, that still seems true. Occasionally, though, he reminds us that he is, in fact, tolerating us.

[title from little bit better by sherwood]

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest

“Well, my dear sisters, the gospel is the good news that can free us from guilt. We know that Jesus experienced the totality of mortal existence in Gethsemane. It’s our faith that he experienced everything- absolutely everything. Sometimes we don’t think through the implications of that belief. We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we don’t experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually. That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer- how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced Napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism.
"Let me go further. There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not also know and recognize. On a profound level, he understands the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy. He understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy. He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion. His last recorded words to his disciples were, “And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20) He understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your fifth-grader, when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has Down syndrome. He knows your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your two-year-old, when someone gives your thirteen-year-old drugs, when someone seduces your seventeen-year-old. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only children are visitors, when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple last week, when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years. He knows all that. He’s been there. He’s been lower than all that. He’s not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don’t need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief."

Chieko Okazaki

Monday, July 25, 2016

sha la la la la

Our Christmas adventure-that-almost-was-a-fiasco seemed to reenergize our travel bugs, you know, the ones lying somewhat dormant because we moved overseas, but never actually comatose nor satiated without some form of exploration. So since January, we've tried to fit in lots of little adventures, sometimes to a fault. But we've had a lot of fun and made quite the collection of memories. And that's really what it's all about, right?

It started while Berlin and I were in Florida. Jeremy found a crazy good deal on a flight to Milan (thank you, awesomeness that is RyanAir), so we went to Italy the week that we got back from the US, just a day or so after Jeremy finished his exams (yes, finals for the term before Christmas weren't administered until after Christmas. Less than desirable, for sure). Jeremy wanted it to be a surprise, so he waited for me to find out when we got to the airport. The classmate we carpooled with to the airport accidentally ruined it (Jeremy wanted to wait until I was boarding) but it was still a fantastic surprise. And with the few extra minutes of knowledge about our destination, I could message a friend who served his mission there and ask for recommendations. Excellent recommendations, and we didn't have enough time to even thoroughly explore the places we did get to see!

On the tarmac, ready to board.

Berlin's first experience with his own, ticketed seat. Our first experience paying for it.

Duomo di Milano. And our clear appreciation for ancient buildings.

Messi fubol jersey we found by Duomo. Mostly to torment my brother-in-law.

Exploring Citta Alta 

More Citta Alta

Streets of Bergamo

Shopping in Milan. Or at least acting like we wanted to shop.

Berlin was thirsty.

Berlin making friends on the cable car ride down from Citta Alta

Berlin's method of not freezing when we finally headed home

The next weekend, we rented a car and drove to Cardiff. This plan wasn't as well thought out as some of our others. We rented a car in the middle of the day (when Jeremy was done with his early class) and just... drove. We didn't get there til it was almost dark, we found a pier and a cold, dark beach where we took one picture, got some mostly unidentifiable "Welsh dish" at a fish and chips place for dinner, and then we drove home.

We learned to plan a little better.

Somewhere between coming home from Christmas and Cardiff, Berlin turned two. It was a late school day for Jeremy, so Berlin and I spent the day wandering around town trying to find him some rain boots, which was pretty much the only thing he really wanted after his recent Christmas loot, so that he could "jump in muddy puddles." Among other treasures, we did find him some rain boots. We waited til Jeremy came home to do chocolate dinosaur cupcakes and birthday presents, which ended up perfect because it started raining while Jeremy was on his way home (okay, not so perfect for Jeremy). So we went outside, at 10PMish, so Berlin could test out his boots. He loved it.

He got to go puddle jumping with some friends a few days later. After an unfortunate incident of Berlin soaking wet and sobbing, we learned from these friends where they'd purchased their rain suits. 

He was more than a little appreciative.

A few weekends after that, we went to visit the White Cliffs of Dover. This was also a quick trip, which meant we only got to see the magnificent castle from the outside, and we hiked to a lighthouse too late to hike back in daylight so we hiked back through the mud in the dark, but Jeremy got some great pictures. And hey, we saw the White Cliffs.


Valentine's Day weekend found us in Salisbury. We drove up Friday night and stayed in a fun little bed and breakfast, and the next morning we started with Salisbury Cathedral. After admiring the best-kept original of the Magna Carta and walking around that room trying to figure out each of the Bible stories depicted on the walls, we went to visit Stonehenge. Even more impressive than I imagined it, even in the rain and the mud.

Salisbury Cathedral

The Magna Carta tent?

These weird bunny/human sculptures were all over the lawn outside the cathedral. 
They were... really weird.

Little piece of the city wall still intact, just outside of the cathedral.

Berlin decided that under the bed was the best place to play at our b&b.
The owner brought him the Legos, and after that, we didn't hear or see very much from him.

The wind at Stonehenge wasn't super fun. 
That bump in Jeremy's jacket that has legs was Berlin's position of choice.

But it still was really cool.

In all of this traveling, we figured out that we could reimburse some of our traveling funds by renting out our apartment on AirBNB. We have a great family in our ward who lives around the corner from us, so if we need to have sheets and towels changed between guests in the same weekend, we pay their girls to do it for us. Jeremy had the idea to try over Christmas while we were in the US, and then we rented out our apartment almost every weekend til March. A few weekends we didn't even leave Oxford, but stayed in a hotel or in college-housing, just because we'd rented out our place.

We did have a few weeks in which we didn't take any adventures, but we were plenty busy with just the ordinary things, like going to the park, potty training Berlin (attempted, anyway), participating in our stake's roadshow competition, and playing at home.

The boys watching a Dude Perfect video, now part of their nightly routine.

We can go very few meals without at least this many cars. It's usually more though. 

Berlin has a growing collection of dinosaurs, too. Not anything to rival his car collection, but still.

Berlin went through a phase of trying to put his collection of choice (depending on the day) in my pockets. 
Any pockets that were available. 
And since there was apparently enough room, a drink for good measure.

Helping make cookies for FHE

Berlin getting his own library card! (If your child has a card, even your toddler, they don't charge you late fees. A serious issue now resolved.)

Mini-golfing with Dad. In our bedroom.


Berlin enjoyed roadshow practices because he always got a treat.

We had a couple of sick days, too. Not super fun, but I do love that Berlin gets snuggly when he's even a little bit sick.

We tried potty training pretty early because Berlin seemed eager and capable really early. 
Turns out not as eager as we thought.

I started teaching a fitness class with some moms in our ward. Berlin really got into prepping with me.

being tourists in our hometown :)

In putting this all together, I realized that all of this was only two months. How on earth did we have time to take so many pictures?

[title from top of the world by juliana theory]