Kids Notes

I have had so little time to write. It sucks. I need to write. I am much happier when I have been writing.

That’s not to say that I haven’t been happy – I’ve been surprisingly free of baby blues and depression! But how long can I maintain good mental health without participating in something I know keeps me sane?

Anyhoo…here we go with a mad-dash post typed with one hand.

Notes on baby Dez

Dez is a very good baby thus far. Although he absolutely hates getting his diaper changed and wails every time. I think we owe our neighbors some wine for putting up with it. So far I’m not too sleep deprived, but I bet that will change when he wakes up to the world more. And when I go back to work (sob).

David gave Dez his first bottle last week. He took it just fine and then went back to nursing with no problems. Yay for Comotomo bottles!

I got my first smile out of the little guy yesterday when I stuck my tongue out at him. It was awesome! After 5 weeks of nothing but naps and nursing and diapers…finally some interaction!

I’ve been struggling with oversupply again. My body continues to think I should be feeding triplets. This means Dez is gaining weight like crazy and going through zillions of diapers. The cool part of oversupply is that I can pump 3.5 oz. in 5 minutes – on one side. There are lots of cons, though – green poop, gas, choking during letdown, more frequent nursing, so many diapers!!! I am managing better than last time since I know what I’m doing but it’s still frustrating. At least Dez is dealing with it much better than Jack did – maybe because it’s not quite as bad as last time.

At 9 days old, Desmond rolled from his tummy to his back…several times. And he has repeated that performance pretty much daily. He can also go from his back to his side…it’s only a matter of time before he can roll both ways. I fear the toddler years, which will likely come sooner than I would like!

It took a good 3 weeks for his umbilical stump to come off and the area still hasn’t healed so it will need to be treated with silver nitrite. The same thing happened with Jack. I don’t know what’s up with my kids’ belly buttons!

I’m slowly searching for a daycare provider to send Dez to when I return to work in December. It’s a stressful task, to say the least. I’m taking it slow so that I don’t go into a panic and decide to quit my job so that I don’t have to leave my precious baby with a stranger. I thought it’d be easier the second time around but nope! I hope we find a good one right off the bat so that we don’t have to go through everything we went through with finding good care for Jack.

Notes on Jack

Jack is a great big brother. He fetches all kinds of things for me and the baby and always tries to distract the baby during those torturous diaper changes. He’s been good at keeping himself busy when I can’t put the baby down. I’m so thankful we still have our reading and snuggle time together before he goes to sleep so that we can still connect.

He’s generally been in better health and made it to school most days this year. Just a bit over 5 months of treatment left!

We met with his new teacher and found out that he is behind where he should be for a third grader. The things the teacher has noticed are in line with what we’ve seen at home and are common learning problem areas for kids who’ve undergone chemotherapy. We asked his teacher to document anything she sees and we’re going to (again) seek an IEP evaluation – and this time we won’t back down. We’ll be in a better position to argue for the testing now that Jack has been going to school regularly and his teacher is actually noticing his difficulties.

He’s been struggling with his friendships at school. He is so upset when his best friend doesn’t want to play with him and says other kids don’t understand the imagination games he likes to play. I wish I knew how to help him. I had similar issues as a kid but I don’t remember being quite so upset by it. Jack is just so sensitive.

I’ve been very surprised that lately he’s talking more about cancer, too. He found a game in the app store that is all about destroying cancer cells and he loves it! He’s also been drawing blood cells and he found a plush cancer cell on amazon. It’s a little unnerving that he is suddenly so focused on it, but I also think it’s good that he is talking about it. Maybe therapy has helped?

 

Alright, I’d better post this before it self-destructs. More soon, I hope.

Desmond’s Birth Story

At 9:30pm on the evening of August 31 (two days after my due date), I started having regular contractions. They weren’t bothering me much but I started timing them just to get an idea of how far apart they were – since this was my second baby, my doctor had advised me to go in if they reached 7 minutes apart so that we could make sure I got two doses of antibiotics for Group B Strep prior to birth. The entire week prior to this, I had several nights where I woke up to contractions that got gradually closer together before petering out at about 8 minutes apart, so I had no real reason to believe these would be different. However, they were different – these contractions steadily got closer together over a couple of hours. I hung out on the exercise ball to help them along and around midnight they were moving right along at 6 minutes apart. I made sure they were consistent for a good hour before I called Labor & Delivery. I wasn’t sure I was in labor – the contractions didn’t seem bad enough to be real labor – but you never know, right?

David and I packed up our stuff and headed to Kaiser so that I could get checked out.

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I was put into an observation room and hooked up to some monitors at about 1:30am (coincidentally, it was Labor Day). After a bit over an hour, a midwife came in to check on my dilation. I was only at 1.5cm (same as I had been on the previous Friday) and she didn’t think my labor had really started, but she felt fairly sure it was close to starting. Not only that, but the baby’s heart rate had decelerated a number of times so she wanted to keep me there for more monitoring. So we sat tight and she came and checked back in around 3am. My contractions were 4-5 minutes apart at that point, so we decided I should go ahead and get admitted.

The baby’s heart rate was fine by 7am and the contractions continued at the same rate. At 12pm, we decided to start on pitocin since I still wasn’t in active labor; we figured that my body just needed a little nudge in the right direction. I had a lot of reservations about pitocin because my labor with Jack had been long and hard, but the midwife assured me that we would go slow with the pitocin and we could turn it down or off if needed.

My contractions certainly intensified on the pitocin. I spent time going between the exercise ball and walking laps with David around the maternity ward.

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By 5pm, I had still only progressed to 3.5cm, although the baby’s head had moved lower into my pelvis. I kept doing my thing and trying to move a lot with contractions. The pitocin was slowly turned up every so often and every 4 hours I also received a dose of Penicillin for the Group B Strep (sidenote: the antibiotics had me in more pain where it was going into the IV than my contractions – OUCH!!!).

Around 7pm I put on my headphones and cranked some music (Lana del Rey!) to help me through the steadily intensifying contractions. I started needing David’s help to get through them but I still felt like the labor was manageable without any medication. David made a comment about how nice all of the nurses and midwives were…

Then there was a shift change at about 9pm…

A midwife named Doris came into the room and outlined her plan for our birth. She immediately started saying that my contractions weren’t productive, that she was concerned about the decels in the baby’s heart rate (which hadn’t occurred for hours by that point), and telling us that I was going to get too tired to birth the baby if things didn’t happen more quickly. There was talk of epidurals (was I SURE I didn’t want one??) and a c-section if I got too tired to push. The more she talked, the more agitated I got, especially after she said something about how if we followed her plan she GUARANTEED the baby would be born by morning.

Doris was a full on medwife. UGH.

After making her initial rounds, she sent our nurse in and instead of increasing the pitocin just a bit as we had been doing, she CRANKED it according to Doris’ instructions. Within 30 minutes I was doubling over with every contraction and sobbing hysterically from the pain. The contractions were maybe coming a minute apart and I had no time to recover between them. I was a shaking, crying mess, and I held onto David for dear life. I felt like I wanted to die.

Doris came back in the room and checked me, said that I still wasn’t at 4cm, asked if I wanted anything for the pain (which I rated at 8-9), and then sent the nurse back in to turn the pitocin up AGAIN. It had been about an hour since it had been cranked up and I was not coping well. Thankfully David stepped in and had the nurse turn the pitocin down a bunch to see if we could slow things down and give me a break. It took a bit of time but the contractions slowed just enough for my sobs to quiet and I was able to get a few breaths in.

Doris came back in at some point and I started crying again and silently wishing harm on her person. As soon as she left, I decided two things – I would go ahead and get an epidural, and I didn’t want Doris anywhere near me for the rest of my labor. David called for the epidural and I begged the nurse to keep Doris away from me and instead send in a doctor.

The epidural was placed right around 12am, in between contractions. It was pretty quick and painless and the numbing started immediately. I still had incredible pain in my tailbone (which I am 99.9% sure I broke when giving birth to Jack), and the anesthesiologist said that the epidural wouldn’t touch that, unfortunately – I just had to get through it. ๐Ÿ™

The doctor came in to check my progress then. Right as she was saying, “This is probably going to break your bag of waters,” there was a splash. The staff scrambled to change the padding underneath me and I said that I felt like I was going to poop. The doctor looked down, said it was the baby’s head I was actually feeling, and announced to the team that the baby was coming! The staff kicked it into high gear, but the baby wouldn’t wait – his head slid right out, then his shoulders slowed him just enough for the doctor to get in position before he SHOT OUT like a football. I didn’t even get a single push in!

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Desmond Eric

Desmond Eric was born to a room full of chuckling people at 9/2 at 12:43am. He didn’t cry – instead, he looked around and squeaked a bit every now and then. He was 7 lbs, 1 oz, and measured 19″ with a tuft of blonde hair.

We are totally in love.

He’s Here

On September 2, 2014, at 12:43am, we welcomed our new baby Desmond to the world. He measured 19″ and 7 lbs. 1oz. He was born without a single push on my part!

We are madly in love. Jack met him on his first day of life and said, “This is one of the happiest times of my life!”

Our dog Lambert is channeling Lassie and thinks he should come to Dez’s rescue at the the littlest cry. Lambert even leads David to me when Desmond needs to nurse. We keep trying to tell the dog that we have it covered but he clearly doesn’t think we’re very good at this baby thing.

I’m hoping to get the birth story up soon! Stay tuned!

This Is How I Nest

I think it’s safe to say that I’m officially nesting. It looks a little different than I thought it would, though.

Rather than focusing on cleaning and organizing (although I’ve done a little off that, too), I’ve been working on getting projects completed. It started with creating a baby book using Project Life products (PL Baby Book example found here). That didn’t take long (since the baby isn’t here yet), so I moved onto hanging pictures on the walls.

We’ve lived in this house two years now as of last week and most of the walls were devoid of pictures even though I had a ton of stuff already framed. So I took care of that (pic 1 and pic 2).

Most recently I’ve been working on migrating photos from the albums that our dog destroyed when we first adopted him into new albums. I’m using Project Life for this, too – I had two photo albums full of pictures from my trip to England and France 10 years ago (10 years ago this month, even!), 8 pages worth of journaling, and a pack of souvenirs that I’d saved. I still have to transfer the more of the journaling into the book but I have all of the pictures and memorabilia set up in the album now. (David does not understand this at all – he thinks I’m spending way too much time putting together an album that I might take off the shelf and look at once a year or so. To him I say PFFFT.) I feel accomplished.

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On the more traditional nesting front, this weekend we visited a furniture store that just opened up nearby and took care of getting one of the TOP things on my list of “I NEED this for the baby!” – a rocker recliner. Initially when I mentioned that I wanted one, David was totally opposed (due to the cost and the space it requires) but I ignored him because I’ve been through this before and I NEED a comfortable chair for rocking and nursing a newborn baby for hours on end! So he good-naturedly accompanied me to the furniture store and watched the World Cup while I negotiated with the salesman and made the purchase. Et voila:

chair

Now I’m focused on trying to find a place within a few hours of us to have a nice little getaway before the baby is born. So far this task has proved to be very challenging, as August in northern California means an influx of tourists and tons of local events (making everything much more expensive!). We don’t want to spend a ton of money but we really want to do SOMETHING before the baby is born (especially since our anniversary is 6 days after my due date). Hopefully we’ll stumble upon a deal or a quaint, little-known town to visit.

Or maybe a generous benefactor will come out of the woodwork and offer us something. WILL BLOG FOR VACATION! (Don’t worry, I’m not holding my breath on that one!)

Mental Illness, Mass Violence, And A Brick Wall

I’ve written about my brother Daniel previously here and here. Both of those posts are very much worth reading to understand our family’s story.

Here in the US it seems we are dealing with mass shootings on a regular basis now. It may or may not be due to an increase in the actual number of shootings, but for whatever reason we are becoming more aware of and focused on the problem. Some people blame misogyny, others blame gun laws, and still others place the blame on the media for sensationalizing the gunmen. Many (if not most) of us are at a complete loss as to what to do to address – and hopefully prevent – more violence.

By Francois Polito (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Francois Polito (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I don’t have a solution to the problem, unfortunately. I wish I did! But I hear people asking why these things happen and I do have some insight to offer in that regard – on the individuals who are violent, mentally ill, and left completely unchecked due to enormous flaws in our legal and mental health systems.

First, let me make a few things clear:

The diagnosis of a mental illness should not be a grounds for denying a person rights by itself.

The vast majority of us living with mental illness are not violent and present no danger to those around us.

The fact that a person suffers from a mental illness does not mean that he/she cannot make good decisions.

With that said, there are those out there that are both violent and mentally ill – and they are not receiving sufficient treatment. Further, there is no recourse for those around them – there is only brick wall after brick wall standing in the way of getting their loved ones help. Family and friends have to sit and watch while the illness continues to eat away at everything that was good about the person.

After each shooting, we are lambasted with details about the shooters and their families. In most of these cases, so many aspects are eerily familiar to me. The recent shooting near Santa Barbara by Elliot Rodger, which was mostly blamed on misogyny, struck a huge chord with me – the big similarity being that my brother has made many of the same statements as Rodger regarding women. Like the shooter, my brother believes that those around him are to blame for his lot in life. If he were to go on a murderous rampage that was aimed at women, a person might say that his misogyny was at the heart of it and they wouldn’t be completely off-base.

But, here is the thing – over the years as Daniel’s illness has gotten progressively worse, he has also made horrible, violent statements about actors, people of color, doctors – even babies. There is no guessing who his derision will be aimed at next. Any violent acts he commits could happen to occur while he is focused on any of these groups of people. This is how his mental illness works.

Remember: not all mental illness works that way and most who suffer from mental illness (or even the specific illness my brother suffers from) are NOT violent. Individuals are different and that means that the ways in which mental illness manifests in each person will be different, even if they have the same diagnosis.

My brother has been diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder and, in his case, he exhibits violent tendencies when he is at a low point (despite the fact that aggression is not listed as a symptom for the disorder – for him, it IS a symptom that his illness is flaring big time). His understanding of his life story differs from the generally accepted reality. His understanding of events and people differs from reality. His understanding of language and the meaning of words differs from what is agreed-upon by society. He lives in an alternate reality, one that is not truly representative of what is actually going on around him.

His behavior is not the result of societal attitudes – his behavior is due to the way his brain processes information. Because of this, he latches onto things that he hears and sees around him that fit into his own twisted view of the world – many of those things happen to deal with racism, sexism, conspiracies, etc. – anything having to do with extreme displays of emotion or radical ideas. If something doesn’t fit into his ideas about the world, he will either dismiss it completely or reframe it to fit into his own way of thinking.

Unlike my brother, most of these shooters haven’t been diagnosed with a mental illness, but that doesn’t mean they don’t suffer from mental illness, does it? In the case of Elliot Rodger, he had seen several therapists and his parents had called the police because they were concerned about his behavior. Having no prior knowledge of the weapons he had stored in his home or his many internet rants (which could have provided important information about his mental state), the police walked away when Rodger assured them that he wasn’t going to do anything violent.

We ask why we didn’t this coming, but even if we did – what could be done about it?

I can’t tell you how many specialists my brother has seen over the years who never diagnosed him with Schizoaffective Disorder. (He has diagnosed with ADD at one point as a child, which was clearly a drop-in-the-bucket of what was really going on.) Many of us who suffer with mental illness can tell you that RARELY does anyone hand over a piece of paper with a diagnosis on it, even if they are more than willing to write a prescription to treat symptoms – and it’s extremely common to be mis- or under-diagnosed. Each type of mental illness can manifest in so many different ways and symptoms can change drastically over time. In my brother’s case, the longer he goes untreated, the more his disease seems to progress and take him further from reality.

The presence of mental illness is one piece of the puzzle, but we have to ask whether there are adequate systems in place to address violent mental illness and prevent that violence from being directed outwardly and at the public.

Due to my family’s experience (and the stories of others who have shared their own struggles to get help for ill family members) I can say with 100% confidence that NO, our system is absolutely NOT set up to handle these issues in any sort of helpful manner. And there is very little that is being done about that fact, despite the growing concern over occurrences of public acts of mass violence.

My brother has talked again and again about inflicting violence on others – family, strangers, whatever. He has described in detail what he would do in an attempt to get away with it, stating that he would leave various body parts of his victims in random, separate trash cans. He has spoken positively of concentration camps. He is paranoid, delusional, and has hallucinations. He has made threats directly toward people, destroyed property, and, most recently, he has physically assaulted members of my family. He has published his rants all over the internet – just as Elliot Rodger did, and countless other perpetrators before him – and our family’s attempts to get help for him, to prevent his aggression from escalating violently and publicly, have gone nowhere.

The police have been called many times over the last 6 years or so, but only the most recent incident led to any criminal action – when he punched my mother in the eye, he was finally arrested. My mother moved to an undisclosed location and got an order of protection against her only son, as much as that killed her to do it. My brother was quickly released from jail and assigned a court date. In lieu of more jail time and felony charges, the court ordered him to participate in a “mental health program,” a program that doesn’t require that he take medication, be supervised by anyone, or be admitted for in-patient care. He simply has to attend counseling.

So, to recap, we are talking about an adult male with a diagnosed mental illness that he refuses to treat (or even acknowledge), numerous violent outbursts that have required police intervention, jail time, and restraining orders, plus detailed plans for other acts of violence against the public. Is counseling going to cut it?

My brother can easily obtain a gun or guns LEGALLY. After all, he has no felonies on his record and has never been held as an in-patient at a mental facility (my mother tried to have him admitted – they wouldn’t take him because they didn’t have enough beds, he didn’t appear out of control, and he is over 18 and didn’t want to be admitted) – which in California is grounds for denying the purchase of a gun. Apparently his therapist has insufficient evidence to show he is a threat toward anyone – his sense of self-preservation is still strong and he tends to not mention his violent thoughts to those with authority. My mother has done everything she could think of to give the therapist, the police, and the court the information they need to address my brother’s problems, but there is only so much she can do while also keeping herself safe from him.

My family members and I can tell you that my brother wouldn’t think twice about going on a shooting spree. He doesn’t really understand the emotions of others, and in fact seems to enjoy seeing emotions played out in extreme ways. It clearly doesn’t matter what his family members say, though – we’ve exhausted the system.

At this point it seems that his case is a lost cause and he is a ticking time bomb. And when it goes off, the police and even his therapists will probably say there was no warning or that the evidence was insufficient to do anything to prevent his acts of violence.

But clearly there is evidence…there is just no solution to this glaring problem.