Dear Husband, I’m Sorry You’re My Scapegoat

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Dear Husband,

You are the absolute best man in the world for me. You are handsome, kind, an amazing father, and almost all of the time a fantastic husband. I know I am lucky to have you. Here’s the thing. You also drive me completely nuts. When you slap the beat of a radio song on my thigh as you’re driving or when you forget where the dishwasher/hamper is (again) I kind of wish they had a timeout for adults. Seriously, do I really have to find a grown man’s socks stuffed in the couch?

These little things make me mad. Sometimes more mad than the situation should warrant. Usually it’s not about a stray sock but about my own feelings of being overwhelmed or tired or hungry (Hangry is so a real thing). You have become my scapegoat. You and your socks/uncapped toothpaste/dishes. You are flawed. Some big ones, some small ones. But who wants to be with someone perfect? It’s boring. And I can’t even begin to think about the level of insecurity that would bring to my already self-conscious heart.

I am working on my flaws.

I am working on letting the synapses fully connect in my brain before words exit my mouth. This is a very difficult task for an emotionally extroverted, pregnant, toddler mom. You are worth the effort though. I see your patience and your love for me. It makes me want to be better. We all stumble on the road to being our best selves. Thank you, husband, for creating a secure enough love with me that I can struggle. I can get angry, blame you, fight with you and know you will always be there. You gave a speech at our wedding and in that speech you said, “I promise to continue to fight for us and to make sure every day you know that I love you even more than the day before.” I share in that promise. I will strive to be the best wife I can be to you.

With you I am safe enough to express my feelings even when I, myself, cannot name them. And you will forgive me. You will be patient as I cry over something that doesn’t make sense to you. You will silently help me as I nag you about how you never help. You care for our son with such passion that I fall in love with you all over again. Thank you for loving me through my weaknesses.

“The perfect marriage is two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.”

-Kate Stewart

I may nag too much. Praise too little. And not always show you what you mean to me. But know this dear husband, I never want to pick up anyone else’s socks. These things are small potatoes compared to the life and love that we share. You aren’t perfect, but you are beyond perfect for me. Thank you for choosing to live your life with your imperfect wife.

Love,

Me

Nurse to Mom: A Tough Transition

Pediatric Nursing was my biggest passion for the better part of a decade. I spent six of those years tending to the sickest children in the hospital in the pediatric intensive care unit in both Oklahoma City and Richmond, VA. When I hung up my stethoscope for the time being to become a full time stay at home mom, I really believed that my time as a nurse caring for children would be my greatest asset in parenting. Little did I know it would become one of my greatest obstacles.

Becoming a mother changes everything about your life. Sure when you get married your partner’s needs are also on par with yours, but generally speaking he or she is another adult who is capable of self care. Insert a newborn. All needs must be met from an outside source. The same is often true for ICU patients. Regardless of age, often disease process takes away all of the patient’s ability for self care which is where the medical team takes over. So in my head I was convinced I was ready to take on the needs of my own child. How different could it be?

Night and day. Or both rather. There is no such thing as a shift in parenting. No hours or next round of fresh staff to give a formal report and status update to so that you can go home for some R & R. Another stark difference is scheduling. I was incredibly used to the rigid schedules that make an ICU environment thrive. Medications must be given within a certain window or your task turns red in the electronic medical record. Red means late. Red means you some how failed. At work I rarely had a red task. As a new mom, I felt like I lived in the red. He didn’t eat every three hours like the books said he would. He never slept more than two hours at a time. I could not for the life of me get one of the infinite internet-searched schedules to work for us.

He also was not hooked to a million machines measuring each bodily function. I am incredibly thankful to God every day to be the mother of a healthy child. Especially after witnessing so many devastating outcomes over the course of my time in the PICU. Those machines are addictive though. They give your anxiety an analytical lozenge. Is the baby breathing? Why yes! 47 times per minute. Right there in bright, bold text. But how would I know if my own son were to stop breathing at night? It happens. I have seen it. I have done CPR on those babies found down in the morning. I have seen the look of terror/anguish/panic on parents faces. Its so easy to fall asleep on the couch with a newborn and so tempting to just pull them into your bed for a little extra rest. But I couldn’t be “normal” about any of that. Something terrible was going to happen and it would be my fault for not being vigilant. For breaking a rule.

At work there were guidelines and protocols and the ever popular buzz words of evidence based practice. Most questions had an answer. A right or a wrong. You don’t administer Dilantin (a seizure medication) and Morphine together. You turn your patient every two hours, “scrub the hub”, wash your hands, wear an isolation gown, etc. Parenting is largely based on what works for the individual family unit. A you do you approach felt so alien to me. I took to the internet to find parenting protocols. And guess what? I was left even more confused than before. Every person with a laptop has an opinion on parenting. And not like a nice let’s all agree to disagree opinion, but a do it my way or you’ll spend your life savings paying for intensive psychotherapy for your child kind of stance. I felt so overwhelmed with every opposing theory, blog post, and book I read. Thankfully my ER attending husband is a genius and incredibly laid back. He said we will use common sense and do what works. There’s the ER vs the ICU for you.

Slowly I figured out how to wade through all of the “helpful advice” and found my stride as a mother. Well at least for the phases thus far. My child currently sleeps pretty well, eats most things, and is generally a happy kid. All of these things, I am not so naive as to believe, are in a delicate balance than will shift if he gets a tooth, ear infection, on just on a toddler whim. Thankfully I am learning what things are truly important to me to be a stickler about (safe sleep, vaccines, and car seat safety for us) and what things can slide a little (3 servings of vegetables a day….puuuuleaseeee).

Its so funny to me now as a parent to look back at my own childhood and really remember thinking adults had it all figured out. They really do put on a good show for kids. I will forever cherish my ICU nursing days and they may not be gone forever. I just know I cannot parent within that same framework, at least not without all of my hair falling out from the stress of living in the “red”.

 

 

What I Wish People Understood About Withdrawal of Care

There is a tremendous amount of media attention surrounding the Baby Charlie case in the UK right now. I only know what is covered in the media regarding that particular case so I am far from an expert on the details. What I do know is that world leaders, especially those vying to slash funding to similar families in the United States should stop providing false hope and stay off Twitter! It is a terrible tragedy for any parent to have to face such a devastating condition affecting their child. What is even more tragic is that it is very common. People in hospitals across the world face the decision to end treatment deemed medically futile at every hour of every day. As pediatric nurse in two busy ICUs over my career, I have personally witnessed it more times than I can count. What is unique are the circumstances that surround each case. I have seen everything from child abuse to cancer to car accidents even rare diseases such as the horrific one affecting that little boy. No parent should ever have to deal with such horror. But I was not the nurse for the parent, I was the nurse for the child. While of course it’s true that in medicine you do care for the whole family, especially in pediatrics, your true advocacy responsibility lies with the patient.

For most healthcare team members it comes down to quality of life, as it should. What makes this person who they are? As one of my favorite pediatric ICU attending physicians says to parents “Are we doing things for your baby or to your baby?” Just because we have the medical advancements to do more does not always mean that we should. I wish more people understood is that there are things so much worse than death.

People always used to say to me, I don’t know how you took care of dying children. Many moments were awful. I cried in the bathroom/stockroom/lunch room an infinite number of times. Watching parent’s decide to withdraw care when it was deemed medically appropriate is the ultimate display of unconditional love. These parents knew their lives would forever be scarred by this day, but they chose to honor their baby’s life by ending their suffering even though it would lead to their own immeasurable pain. To bear witness, not only once but many times to such an incredible sacrifice is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. Being in the presence of true selfless love like that is the closest thing to a miracle I have ever experienced. Every death I witnessed took something from me, but also gave me a strength of faith in return. To all the families that have touched my heart over the years thank you for loving your child enough to let them rest. I pray I never fully understand your pain, but if I ever have to I hope to be given your strength to honor my baby that way.

Pregnant with a Toddler

Photo credit: Sunkissed and Free Photography

Pregnant with a Toddler

I didn’t have an easy pregnancy with my son. It was overshadowed by previous struggles to become pregnant and lots of anxiety about how I would handle being a mother for the first time. However there’s a stark difference between how I managed that stress (ie pedicures and sleeping in LATE on days off work) to now. My sweet son is 13 months old and I am rounding out my first trimester with hopefully his healthy sibling. Things are quite a bit different when I don’t get to be as selfish, for lack of a better term, as I was the first go around.

There’s no glow.

I AM TIRED. Like a fall asleep on my yoga mat during abs at Stroller Strides tired. Before I baked my husband various treats and made complex meals on days off. Tonight I served freshly baked frozen pizza. I fully believe that when you use the oven it means it’s homemade. And it was spinach pizza so practically a salad.

My son still needs his mother.

Ahhh such is the pure self-centeredness of toddlerhood. He doesn’t care that I am maxed on Diclegis (my saving grace nausea script) or that his chicken nuggets make me wanna hurl. Fortunately, veteran moms assure me that he won’t remember that I laid on the couch on a particularly bad day of morning sickness, but rather that we cuddled while watching a fire engine (obsession of the moment) on youtube.

I embrace my flaws better.

I am coming to grips in a whole new way with the idea that I am not the mother I imagined I would be. My son loves pouches of premade food. He isn’t eating handmade fruit snacks from the organic garden we planted together. (Because babies are totally into that kind of thing). I don’t have a brand new Pinterest worthy sensory-motor craft each day for after naptime. My first and only foray with homemade play dough resulted in a near vet visit for our dog and a crying toddler. But, I can amazon prime anything with lightning speed. Don’t be jealous. We all have our gifts.

My fears are different.

I have mostly found my stride as the mother of one, but knowing all of it is about to change is overwhelming. The nuts and bolts of parenting a newborn don’t scare me anymore, but the fear of not being able to balance two tiny people sure does. People say it, but does love really multiply rather than divide? How will I have enough mental and physical energy to give both kids what they need? I guess I will just have to face these fears head on. Good thing life is dealt one card at a time.

I find it’s so easy to get bogged down by the daily teething, laundry, errands race of it all. I often forget to slow down and appreciate the beautiful life I get to live. Prayer, journaling and exercise are my centering activities however imperfectly I complete them. The occasional mug cake helps too when wine isn’t an option. For now I will have to float along on grace and let myself off the hook a little.  I have a helpful and loving husband (who is dealing with my random outbursts of tears like a pro) and a beautiful healthy son. At the end of each day I know I loved them both fiercely and did the best I could. I have decided that will be my enough.

Nurse to Mom: A Tough Transition

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Pediatric Nursing was my biggest passion for the better part of a decade. I spent six of those years tending to the sickest children in the hospital in the pediatric intensive care unit in both Oklahoma City and Richmond, VA. When I hung up my stethoscope for the time being to become a full time stay at home mom, I really believed that my time as a nurse caring for children would be my greatest asset in parenting. Little did I know it would become one of my greatest obstacles.

Becoming a mother changes everything about your life. Sure when you get married your partner’s needs are also on par with yours, but generally speaking he or she is another adult who is capable of self care. Insert a newborn. All needs must be met from an outside source. The same is often true for ICU patients. Regardless of age, often disease process takes away all of the patient’s ability for self care which is where the medical team takes over. So in my head I was convinced I was ready to take on the needs of my own child. How different could it be?

Night and day. Or both rather. There is no such thing as a shift in parenting. No hours or next round of fresh staff to give a formal report and status update to so that you can go home for some R & R. Another stark difference is scheduling. I was incredibly used to the rigid schedules that make an ICU environment thrive. Medications must be given within a certain window or your task turns red in the electronic medical record. Red means late. Red means you some how failed. At work I rarely had a red task. As a new mom, I felt like I lived in the red. He didn’t eat every three hours like the books said he would. He never slept more than two hours at a time. I could not for the life of me get one of the infinite internet-searched schedules to work for us.

He also was not hooked to a million machines measuring each bodily function. I am incredibly thankful to God every day to be the mother of a healthy child. Especially after witnessing so many devastating outcomes over the course of my time in the PICU. Those machines are addictive though. They give your anxiety an analytical lozenge. Is the baby breathing? Why yes! 47 times per minute. Right there in bright, bold text. But how would I know if my own son were to stop breathing at night? It happens. I have seen it. I have done CPR on those babies found down in the morning. I have seen the look of terror/anguish/panic on parents faces. Its so easy to fall asleep on the couch with a newborn and so tempting to just pull them into your bed for a little extra rest. But I couldn’t be “normal” about any of that. Something terrible was going to happen and it would be my fault for not being vigilant. For breaking a rule.

At work there were guidelines and protocols and the ever popular buzz words of evidence based practice. Most questions had an answer. A right or a wrong. You don’t administer Dilantin (a seizure medication) and Morphine together. You turn your patient every two hours, “scrub the hub”, wash your hands, wear an isolation gown, etc. Parenting is largely based on what works for the individual family unit. A you do you approach felt so alien to me. I took to the internet to find parenting protocols. And guess what? I was left even more confused than before. Every person with a laptop has an opinion on parenting. And not like a nice let’s all agree to disagree opinion, but a do it my way or you’ll spend your life savings paying for intensive psychotherapy for your child kind of stance. I felt so overwhelmed with every opposing theory, blog post, and book I read. Thankfully my ER attending husband is a genius and incredibly laid back. He said we will use common sense and do what works. There’s the ER vs the ICU for you.

Slowly I figured out how to wade through all of the “helpful advice” and found my stride as a mother. Well at least for the phases thus far. My child currently sleeps pretty well, eats most things, and is generally a happy kid. All of these things, I am not so naive as to believe, are in a delicate balance than will shift if he gets a tooth, ear infection, on just on a toddler whim. Thankfully I am learning what things are truly important to me to be a stickler about (safe sleep, vaccines, and car seat safety for us) and what things can slide a little (3 servings of vegetables a day….puuuuleaseeee).

Its so funny to me now as a parent to look back at my own childhood and really remember thinking adults had it all figured out. They really do put on a good show for kids. I will forever cherish my ICU nursing days and they may not be gone forever. I just know I cannot parent within that same framework, at least not without all of my hair falling out from the stress of living in the “red”.