Toast

As if being in back to school re entry wasn’t bad enough, now my little guy is sick.  Get the bucket sick.  For two days!

He feels bad, and I didn’t sleep much.  A couple of times I was the bucket.  Good thing I had my hair up.

We are both toast.

I feel a little guilty enjoying his sweet constant cuddles when he is sick.  But, I hope this ends soon.  He is miserable.

Healing Hunter

Any gripe or complaint in life has to be dropped kicked to the curb when compared to what I think is the THE SINGLE HARDEST thing a human could go through: being the parent of a seriously ill child. I was friends of friends with a nice couple Zen and Lenore. I met Lenore when she was pregnant with her son. Her fiance Zen was taking my headshots. She already knew he was going to be named Hunter. Vivien was about one, and we had mommy talks. I later heard through our mutual friend that they had had their son and gotten married.

Then when Hunter was 16 months I got an email for a fundraiser. Hunter had been diagnosed with Leukemia. I was dumbstruck. His parents are this cool, hip couple. Attractive, kind, living a very normal life. I know there is no profile for people dealing with tragedy, but I was stunned to hear they were going through this.  I went to the fundraiser. I think like a lot of people I didn’t know what to say, how I would act… what can you say to a mother whose child lies in a hospital seriously ill? Other than I will pray for him, affirm for him, see him whole, vibrant, healthy. The only constructive thing I could think to do was bring them food.

I visited Lenore and Zen and Hunter at LA Children’s Hospital a few times either bringing food from Campanile or homemade. There is no good food at that hospital, and they are too devoted to their son to leave him to go anywhere good. I was shocked at how they had to live. Bad enough to go through the agony of seeing your precious, beautiful boy full of cords, wires, poked and prodded, but most of the time they only had half a room. They were all living in half a room. One would sleep on the bed with Hunter, the other would be on the chair bed. They had their possessions piled high. DVDs, computer, change of clothes. And separated by only a curtain, another family was going through their own hell. Lenore and family were there for 5 months. (A friend who was helping with fundraising for the hospital said, “Well, I’ve heard the families can give each other comfort.” I said, “That’s BS; would you want to share your life crammed in half a room with complete strangers?”)

Yet, they were so positive and so gracious. They said they were humbled and felt lucky because there was a chance their son would be all right, but they had seen kids there who were so ill or disfigured they wouldn’t. I was so touched by their courage.

And then joy, they got out. Hunter was better. He would still need to see the doctor monthly, but his signs were good. Yeah. His family had had it with LA at this point and quite rightly thought a healthier lifestyle for all of them was in order. So, they moved to Oregon.

One day Lenore was in town, and we met for lunch. It was great to see her out of a hospital. They loved where they lived, and even going to Portland once a month for checkups was ok as they liked the hospital more than in LA. They were paying down their medical debt to a manageable level. I was so relieved. Maybe life is like a movie with a happy ending.

But some movies have sequels that shouldn’t be made. And I got a  notice about another fundraiser. Hunter’s cancer had returned. No, it can’t be I thought, how can they go through this again? Then there was a quest to find a bone marrow donor for him, made more complicated by the fact that Hunter is of mixed race, so it’s harder to find.  Then he did have the transplant. Things were going well. More life in the hospital, then out of this hospital. Back and forth. Many visits to the ER when his fever spikes. Recently, on her FB page Lenore said all was good.

And now, his fever has returned. I am stymied by what this little boy has had to go through. By the courage of he and his parents. Lenore wrote an essay called Teardrops and Smiles on his website recently, and I asked her if I could share it here. She said yes.

It is so unfair. I don’t have the words. But these are hers.

Keeping Kids Healthy: Momversation

Well, at momversation.com, I asked Mindy and Karen (and you all) what do you do to keep the illnesses from one child confined to only their little body? I know I really lucked out (knock wood) with Vivien’s health as she was almost a year before she had a cold. Rex has had more colds. No science to back it up, but I figure it’s because of his sister.

But when Vivien was newborn… I mean days old… Mark got whooping cough and Oliver–then 11–got it as well. I marvel and am eternally grateful that Vivien, and myself, were spared it. What did we do right? Mark and Oliver had minimal contact with baby Viv. But it was still the same house. So we really did right was get super lucky.

Getting Away

Okay.

So I listened to you all, and for our 4th wedding anniversary Mark and I decided to go away for a night.  We were all set when Vivien threw up.  We didn’t panic, these things come and go with kids, so we waited. But as the day wore on, she refused my offer of “watching any cartoons she wanted” and went to bed.  She had a fever.  Our nanny/sitter Dolly showed up.  She was going to stay overnight with the kids.  She told us to go, that Vivien would be fine. I called the doctor twice who was pretty sick of hearing from me I think.

She got sick again.  Then we were both like NO WAY.  We are not going.  I called the hotel expecting to lose our money, but they said for only $30 more I could move to two days later.

We did decide to take a walk to a nearby restaurant to mark the occasion with something other than children’s Tylenol splattered towels.  When we got home Vivien was running around, happy, dinging “I feel better.”  She had eaten some dinner and kept it down.  Dolly said, “I told you she would be okay.”

Oh, well.  we couldn’t have enjoyed the time away with our little bunny sick in bed. Even if we were only going to be 10 miles away.

So, we did go …. get the key to the room and then a Ramos Gin Gizz.   A little pool time.  (sidebar, you can see the recession has hit the hotel industry, we were by the beach in July and the only ones poolside).  By the time our desert rolled around at a very good dinner we were both missing our kids.

I said, maybe I should start a Parent Hotel.  You can check in for 5 hours.  Like a clean version of a love hotel.  You can make love, watch something other than cartoons, have an uninterrupted conversation, eat a meal in peace and then have  good night sleep.  Hmmm, that is more than 5 hours, isn’t it?  Okay, 18 hours would be fine for me. I do not want to leave my kids for more than one night.  Not right now at least.

It was nice to put on a decent outfit and a real bra, I will say.

Better, Better

I took Vivien with me to the Fashion Team today. It was great. She needed some mom time since I think my hospital stay pushed her away. She modeled (will air this Sunday at 7 p.m. and then repeated Monday at 7 p.m. on the TV Guide Channel). She hung out for a couple of hours with another kid whose mom is our supervising producer. She was a gem. Mark was minding Rex.

Rex had a very hard time settling last night, but then did well. And while sleepy, he has been much more himself today, nursing normally. I’ve become a hand-washing Nazi. I’m too freaked not to.  My sister-in-law and mother-in-law were here in the evening along with Dolly, a woman who helps me in the evenings when Mark is gone and without whom I would probably become a heavy drinker. My friend Arlene came over with her two girls who play with Vivien. With this full house, I said to Arlene, “Let’s get out of here. I need a drink.” A mile away is my husband’s restaurant, and I figured we were good for an hour. We sat at the bar and drank a dry, French white wine and ate a lamb sandwich. My sister’s friend Mimi and her husband Guy walked in. I had just finished telling Arlene everything. Mimi had emailed while Rex was in the hospital. As I was talking about it, I suddenly thought, “I can’t talk about it anymore.” I recounted calling my brother-in-law from the ER to ask them to look after Vivien, and when I got the part about Kevin saying, “What can we do to help?”  I finally started to cry. I hadn’t cried during the whole thing. The wine, the sympathetic faces, the relief.

I was just looking at Rex as he slept and prayed we won’t ever have to go back there. My heart soooo goes out to parents who have sick kids. Seriously sick kids. Words fail me to express what that is like for them.

I think I’m going to be more ginger with him for quite a while.

The “Night Before Oprah” Day

I thought Oprah day would feel different. It was exciting to do it, but I watched the show with my husband in our infant son’s hospital room. Not the viewing party I had envisioned.

Early Sunday morning, Rex felt hot and was needy. He didn’t want to sleep alone. We took his temp and seeing a temp of over 101, we gave him Baby Tylenol. He seemed better but drowsy most of the day. In the afternoon, I noticed the fever had returned. I gave him Tylenol and held him for two hours. When I checked, the fever was still there. Odd. When I got ahold of his doctor, I was a little surprised that she said, “Take him to the emergency room.”

At 8:30p.m., Rex and I waited for an hour, and then Mark showed up. He had to wait for our babysitter to be with Vivien and Oliver. The ER waiting room is bleak and dirty. Rex was sleepy in my arms. Sometimes, I could get him to nurse. I looked like hell and was pretty sure some of the sketchy and forlorn folks were getting a glimpse of my breast, but the ER wears us all down so even naked flesh is not appealing.

Mark and I were shocked when (after an hour in the ER exam room) the doctor told us plainly that Rex needed to be hospitalized for 48 hours (I said, “Well, I’m going with him”), have a catheter take his urine, have an IV and blood drawn, and have spinal fluid extracted. Doc, he is 7 weeks old. I just left a hospital after delivering him. Isn’t this an ear infection?

We learned that any fever for a baby under 2 months is a red flag for Meningitis. And I learned that we could all get through what the doctor told us would be “one of the roughest nights of our lives;” he wasn’t making that up.

They wheeled Rex and I on a gurney to another room off the ER. By now, it was close to midnight. Before everything began, I said to Mark, “I’d feel so much better if I could do this instead of him.” “Yes,” he agreed.

I lay on the gurney, sometimes nursing Rex, always holding him. First was the catheter to get a sample. Not pleasant, but not the worst. Now the IV and a blood sample. I knew from Cool Mom readers to ask for the best stick, and one nurse said she was. I felt she was too young to be, but another nurse agreed. I lay Rex down on the gurney, and he was already crying. He knew. As I went to his feet, I saw my husband move Rex’s side. I have never seen Mark cry, but now his face was red, and his eyes filled with tears. We tried to reassure Rex as the needle went in his tiny arm.  But no, all she did was bruise him. Not the best stick after all. I picked Rex up and started to nurse him. Within minutes I heard “Ready, mom?” from a middle-aged, stone-faced nurse who had taken the other nurses’ places. “Oh,” I said. “Are you good at this?”

“Yes,” she answered, and she was just old enough to make me believe her. She put the IV in the top of his hand. It worked. They taped a little board covered in gauze to keep it in place. After that, Rex was ready to nurse, which was a relief to me, and it meant we were two-thirds over with this torture. New shift brought a new nurse whom I really liked: a slender man who seemed very bright and compassionate. Later I would learn he was a former Marine who had done two duties in Iraq, which made me trust him more. He and the doctor wanted to wait while I nursed before the spinal.

When the time came, Mark and I wanted to get it over with. The former Marine said we could stay or leave the room. That “different parents do both.” Mark asked me what I wanted to do. I said, “If Rex has to go through this the least we can do is be here with him and let him know we haven’t left him.”

The Marine put Rex gently on his side and held his body in place while the doctor–who I liked- shot Lidocaine into Rex’s back. I got down on the floor and put one hand on his head, stroking, the other to his hand. Rex gripped my finger with his whole fist. Strangely, when the doctor extracted the spinal fluid, Rex stopped crying and his face took on a look of resignation, like, “Oh good, they are just going to keep doing stuff to me.” It broke my heart, and yet I thought him so brave. Then it was over. The Marine said the fluid was clear, and he doubts Rex has Meningitis. But we have to wait 48 hours for the cultures, and while Rex is in the hospital, they will give him the antibiotics by IV in case he does have Meningitis.

It was 3 a.m., and we were still in the little room when the residents asked us the same questions about Rex’s illness. I finally told mark to go home. No point in both of us being ruined. He left to return in the a.m. to bring me breakfast. And he needed to be home when Viv woke up. I had called my sister Carole’s house after midnight, and her dear husband Kevin said right away, “What can we do?”  I asked them to take care of Viv the following day, which they did.

I nursed Rex as all our bags and car seat, were loaded next to me and we were finally wheeled into our own room on the pediatric level. Our new home. I so was tired I had to stare at the crib for a minute before I realized I wouldn’t fit. They kindly wheeled a regular bed in as they knew I needed to hold Rex all night.

And I did.

Will This Cold Ever End?

Hey people, I have to say keeping all the balls up and having a newborn with a cold when I have one myself is challenging. We are now both on week 2 of this cold. It’s not bad, but durable. Rex wakes up a lot from about 4 to 7am, which are the key REM hours for sleep. It breaks our heart to hear his stuffy breathing. He has been doing a bit better when we put him in his vibey seat (vibe off, cause that’s a lot of batteries) per doctor suggestions.

The upright is better than the lying down. But frankly, after I nurse him in bed, I’m often too pooped to put him back in the vibey, so we both pass out together in bed. And he feels so yummy and cuddly, but then he wakes up more. But you know how beat tired you are that you can’t even get out of bed? Need to work on that.

My other challenge is to get Vivien to school on time. I think she’s been on time once since Rex was born. Eight a.m. comes so fast.