When Daddy’s Away…Annalise Knows???

August 24, 2012

Jason has a great job. He loves it. He’s good at it. His co-workers and supervisors love him. Occasionally he has to travel to supplier facilities, mostly within a day’s drive. While I love so many things about Jason’s work, I dread these overnight trips. They come too often, in my opinion. Mad respect for single moms or military wives.

The most challenging thing isn’t that I get lonely, or bored, while he’s gone. I mean, Jason and I have been married 5 years. I don’t need him by my side every day. Call it lethargy security. (I am also an introvert, and love curling up with a book or HGTV.) The main thing is that I get tired of taking care of Annalise and our dog 24-7 for more than 24 hours. Who cooks dinner and then cleans the toddler, the dishes, and the kitchen afterwards? Who does the nighttime routine, and then walks the dog? It’s a lot for me. I’m sure there are other moms that do more on a regular basis, but it really wears me out.

But I digress. I have a theory: toddlers know when Daddy is gone. I swear it. The very day Jason got in his car to leave for his last trip, Annalise started acting up. This time? Hitting.

Now Annalise knows that we don’t hit. It’s one of the battles I choose to fight every.single.time. “No hit Mama.” “No hit Mya (our dog).” Annalise pushes against rules pretty frequently, but usually not in a malicious, rebellious way. More out of curiosity and limit-testing. But not this time. Rebellion. Frustration. Violence. All in my sweet, curious, fun-loving daughter.

I think this trip only meant 2 full days with Jason away. And in that time, I was probably smacked in my face (hard) a dozen + times by Annalise. A few times, she hit me so hard that my glasses flew off (!!!). Now, I mostly can keep my cool with Annalise. I understand that she’s usually frustrated or sick or tired when she acts out. But she still has to learn that we do NOT hit. It’s not okay. And that’s where my friend, discipline, comes in.

Now I know there are LOTS of strong opinions out there on disciplining children, and then the age-appropriateness of when to do what. But let me just say it (and please, have mercy on me): I do believe in corporal punishment. And I use it. And I also ignore Annalise, which is very effective since she seeks so much attention. Regardless of your stance on discipline, I have to tell you, I could not believe how much I had to discipline this child when Daddy was gone. What had gotten into her?

And you know what? As soon as Jason was back, it’s like the hitting never happened. She hasn’t hit me in the face once since then. What gives?

Is it just coincidence that she decided to slap me around while Daddy was gone? Or did she somehow know that Mommy was in a vulnerable place and decided to push limits? And of course, Jason is going away again soon…this time I might wear contacts.


Choices: from the Perspective of a Toddler

August 21, 2012

Annalise is passionate. Have I mentioned that? She is giddy when she’s happy; a terror when she’s upset. She definitely wears her heart on her sleeve – and there’s no questioning what kind of mood she’s in. When her mood swings quickly from one extreme to the other, it’s a sign that she’s not feeling well, tired, and/or hungry. If more than two of those conditions are true, I should take a depressant cover.

Any who, Annalise is getting to the age where she is able to make choices. It’s a new way for her to assert her independence. This should be great, right? Well, not for my passionate, opinionated daughter. By choosing one option, she is inevitably choosing NOT to do something else. This is hard for her ego-centric self.

In my opinion, this truth of life is difficult for many college students and adults, too. Their coping strategy? Non-commitment. Don’t we see this so often in our culture?

“Commit to plans on Saturday night? Let me see if something better comes up…”

“You want me to promise to be at this small group/Bible study/club every week for 6 months? Well, if there’s nothing better going on that night…”

“Marriage? Whoa, let’s slow down and make sure that someone better doesn’t come along…”

Our human selfishness and our consumer-oriented culture tells us we can have anything we want, and do anything we set our minds too. While this can be true in some regard, we must value commitment. And saying yes to one thing inevitably means that we must say no to others. 

But I digress. Annalise is coming to grips with this truth, and it shows in a BIG way with her BIG personality.

Last weekend, Jason got Annalise up in the morning while I stayed in bed a few more minutes. (Isn’t that awesome? I hope this doesn’t stop when I’m no longer pregnant…) They were all getting ready to go walk our dog, Mya, when I came downstairs. Side note: Annalise loves walks, especially now that she “helps” by holding Mya’s leash. Anyways, I happened to come downstairs before they had left. Of course, Annalise is thrilled to see me (who isn’t?) and wanted to hug on me.

But…then Daddy needed to leave and walk Mya. And Mama was staying home. What is a toddler to do?

Well Annalise screamed in protest when Jason asked if she wanted to come on a walk. And then, as he walked out the door, she screamed and ran to the door. Jason heard her, came back, and as soon as he came to the door, Annalise screamed and ran back to me. This dance repeated itself probably three more times. Annalise wanted to go on the walk with Daddy, but she didn’t want to leave Mama. So what happened?

Jason left. There were tears, and lots of screaming. I held her and hugged her as she sobbed into my shoulder. “Da-da…Da-da…Walk…” As I rubbed her back, she eventually found comfort in a toy, forgetting the consequences of her decision.

Life is tough. Growing up is tough. Making decisions can be hard, especially when you can’t have the best of both worlds. Because Annalise is so passionate, she may be particularly disillusioned as the reality of life shocks her system. Oh, the joys of growing up! No one tell her about the horror of middle school…

Hugging the Toilet

August 17, 2012

Nope, no one in the house is sick. Thankfully, we are a fairly healthy family. I attribute that to Vitamin D supplements and lots and lots of HFCS (if you know what that is, you probably just cringed…haha).

No, this is a quick tale of my daughter Annalise and her entertaining self. If you didn’t hear about her last  antic for attention, don’t worry. This one is better.

So we’re at the stage of no personal space pre-potty training. If anyone in our house goes to the bathroom (aka “potty”), Annalise wants to come too. She may watch you in action, or just play in the room, but she always wants to help flush the toilet. It’s quite the adventure. And with her almost-6-month preggo Mama, this is a frequent one-stop show.

Anyways, I was done using the potty, we flushed, and usually Annalise watches the water go down. Such a thrill, I know.

But today, as the water was swirling down, she put her cheek on the bare seat and hugged the toilet. And when Annalise hugs, she says, “Awwwwww.”

Of course I flipped out that she touched the toilet seat, but then I laughed. And that did it. After I closed the lid, Annalise continued to hug the lid and the toilet for a few more seconds.

We love us our toilets, ’round here. I do appreciate running water and modern day facilities.

Reason #234 Why Annalise is Gifted

August 15, 2012

Yesterday, I just talked about why Baby #2 may need therapy. But today, I give you a tid bit of the day-in-the-life with Ms. Annalise. Last time we did this, it may have been the adventures of independent (unsupervised) play.

So a few weeks ago, my good friend came to visit with her little girl. Her daughter is about 7 weeks older than Annalise, and she’s pretty smart. I was really impressed with all the “tricks” she could do – counting, recognition of a few letters, singing songs with motions, and understanding colors. 

Now, Annalise is also pretty smart (in my completely non-biased opinion). Actually, she might not be as much smart, as she is a ham. She is an attention-hog. If she can do something to get a smile or a laugh (or a slap on the hand), she’ll do it. Remember the post about story time at the library? Annalise isn’t just wanting center stage out in public…it’s an all-consuming drive deep inside her. So having my friend’s daughter around gave me some new ideas for Annalise to become my entertainment more learned.

Colors. They became part of my daily language. I’d say, “Let’s put on your pink shoes.” “Now you have your red block.” When I first started doing it, I don’t think Annalise noticed much. And if she did, she’d just look at me and say, “Ba-lock,” emphatically. As if she was correcting me, and I was the person who had misnamed the said object.

Any who, all of this seemed to be going nowhere for the past month or so. Then yesterday…

She was holding one of her stacking rings in her hand, ready to put it on the stacker. She pointed to it, looked up at me, and said, “Ba-lue.” And yes, friends, it was indeed the blue ring.

I was momentarily shocked at her brilliance, and then broke into applause. “Yes, Annalise! Good job! That is the blue ring!!!” She beamed like the proud genius that she is. She had succeeded in becoming the center of the universe.

Then I held up another ring. I chose carefully…the pink one. She should know that one. Almost her whole wardrobe is pink. So I ask, “What color is this ring?”

Annalise smiles at me, looks at the ring, and says emphatically, “Ba-lue.”

Ha. Oh well. I won’t wait by the phone for the call from Harvard admissions office.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll keep working with her on those colors…only 23 more to go, according to a conservative Crayola estimate.

Creating a Complex for Baby #2

August 14, 2012

Being pregnant while chasing a toddler is completely different than the first go-round. Many of my friends are just getting pregnant or having a baby the first time. When I interact with them, I realize just how different this pregnancy is for me!

1) I don’t keep track of how far along I am. I know my due date. I know what day of the week it is most of the time. But, I cannot tell you how many weeks I am, what size fruit/vegetable he is, or even how many months I am without pausing to think. With Annalise, I could tell you how many weeks gestation and how many days. I knew which day of the week I conceived, so I could look forward to increasing the weeks (i.e. going from 18 to 19 weeks). Not so with #2…I just really grasped I was really having a baby at our 22-week ultrasound.

2) I don’t read all the pregnancy emails. First time around, I read all the emails about how baby was developing and what I should expect in pregnancy. I even read ahead sometimes because I was so interested and fascinated by the whole process. It is amazing. But I’ve been there before. And now I’m busy…with a toddler. Many times, I don’t even read them before I click “delete.” Is that horrible?

3) I am not eager for my due date. This is the hardest one to admit. People ask me all the time, “Are you excited???” And it’s not really a fair question, because they’re assuming I’ll beam and say, “Oh my gosh, YESSSS!” But excited isn’t the adjective I’d use to describe my emotions. With Annalise? Yes! Excited and expectant and anxious BEYOND BELIEF! I couldn’t wait to meet her! But, this time? I’d like to meet baby boy (eventually), but he can stay in the womb as long as he’d like…because I kind of have my hands full. Maybe he could come out once Annalise is feeding herself without a mess, potty-trained, and has grown boobs to nurse baby brother? (I kid, I kid……..)

Will any of these affect baby boy? Not sure…(well maybe if his older sister nursed him…) Will he need counseling when he grows up? Perhaps, but that may or may not be related to the above statements… Will he meet with his campus pastor one day and talk about his imperfect parents? Probably… But hey, at least I am aware that I’m part of a problem. He is the second child. So it’s only my duty to make sure he fits the part, right?

So what was different about the pregnancy with your second child? I can’t be the only one creating a complex for my unborn son…

Who likes orange soda? Kel likes orange soda.

August 13, 2012

I just took the 1-hour glucose test last week. For all you non-preggos out there, it’s a standard test that checks for gestational diabetes. As much fun as that sounds, it’s really not one of the great joys of pregnancy. (it falls just above nausea, fatigue, round ligament pain, and insomnia.)

I just have some quick questions for the makers and administrators of this glucose test. Shout out to MJH here for choosing this awesome method of testing!

1) Does this drink really need to have a fake-orange-syrupy flavor? I think the taste of raw sugar out of the bag would be more appealing.

2) Why couldn’t this drink get some carbonation? If you are going for the cheaper-than-Big K version of orange soda, why only go half-way?

3) If you were trying to load us up with sugar in a small portion-size (50mL), I’d prefer a shot glass of orange syrup (think those Gatorade gel packs.) It would be over faster, and I wouldn’t struggle gulping it down in the allotted 5 minutes.

That is all for now. Here’s hoping I don’t have to go back for the 3-hour version! *raising my glass of anything but orange soda*

Anyone get the tv reference in the title?

Annalise’s Kidney Abnormality: Part IV

August 11, 2012

So we’re picking up in this multi-part series after we heard the news that Annalise will need corrective surgery on her right kidney. (See Parts I, II, and III to catch up.)

It’s early November. Annalise is 7 months old. It has been several months since we’ve visited UVA to run tests or see a specialist. Life has almost returned to normal…almost. The prospect of her impending surgery has loomed over me. At this point, many of our friends and family have heard about this saga with Annalise’s kidney. Many are praying for her miraculous healing. While Jason and I did believe that God could miraculously heal Annalise and that none of this surgery would be needed, we couldn’t help but ask: would He?

We head into the pediatric urology clinic for one last ultrasound and pre-op visit. Annalise sits on the examination table and watches the radiologist and rookie resident wave that wand over her belly. And yup, the right kidney is still dilated – the upper portion. Everything else looks normal. God has chosen not to heal Annalise miraculously. I have prepared myself for this: surgery.

As we sit in our examination room and wait, reality sets in. We are going to do this. The thing we feared most is becoming a reality, not just a possibility! The doctor, the pediatric urologist, comes in quietly and sensitively. “Hey guys…how are you doing?” I just love how he is so empathetic and understanding – even with his first few words! We chat a bit, and then get right to talking about the surgery.

The surgery will last about 4-5 hours. The doctor, himself, will perform the surgery, with the assistance of the laparoscopic devices. There will be three holes in her abdomen – the largest over her belly button where the camera will be inserted. Annalise will go completely under, even before the IV (thank you Jesus!). They will remove the upper portion of her kidney that is non-functioning. Then they will close the kidney with dissolving stitches, and will glue her three exterior incisions (instead of using sutures). A team of doctors and nurses will be attending Annalise at all times. The surgery will be in the main hospital, and we will be able to see her almost immediately after she gets out of the operating room. The doctor says that they like for the kids to wake up with a familiar face. Annalise will stay in the recovery room until she wakes up, and then she will move to the pediatric unit until she is discharged. He says that we should expect her to be tired and groggy, but that she should bounce back really quickly. Annalise should stay 1-2 nights in the hospital, and one of us should plan on staying with her (uh, glad we’re on the same page because I’m not leaving her at the hospital alone after all this drama). He gives us a full packet to prepare us for the big day. It looks like an orientation packet for college or a new job. What all could possibly be in here? Free post-its? Coupons for pizza?

We pack up and head home. Three weeks until D-day. The surgery is scheduled for the week of Thanksgiving, and also my birthday week. Ugh. The silver lining is that Jason will already have a few days off work, so he’ll only need to take a few more for the surgery. We try to spend the next few weeks not thinking about the surgery, but it’s hard to think about “what if’s.”

The night before, I squeeze Annalise a little tighter before bed. I kiss her and try not to think that this could be the last time I hold her like this. Why does my mind go to worse-case scenario? She’ll be fine! This is routine! But I can’t help it. As I leave her room and Annalise innocently falls asleep, I cry. This could be her last night in our house. I say a prayer, mostly for myself, and try to remember that Annalise is God’s child. I am entrusted to care for her, as long as she (or I) is alive. If God takes her from me tomorrow, I have to remember to be thankful for these last 8 months with her. I can do this. Worse-case scenario, I can still do this. So help me, God. And God…be with the surgeon and the anesthesiologist! If anyone needs to be well-rested for tomorrow, it’s them!!!

We get up bright and early on a cold November morning and drive the familiar drive to UVA hospital. I haven’t slept a wink, even with the help of my best friend, Tylenol PM. We head not toward the urology clinic, but towards the main surgery department. It’s already full – with middle-aged people and a few teenagers. Not many kids.

Annalise is fasting, yet again. As we wait, she does manage a quick 45 minute nap in my arms – despite the fluorescent lighting and the intermittent hollers by the receptionist. We get registered (somehow this takes two different people?) and wait some more. It’s lunch time. I go get some food. We realize that Annalise somehow got bumped to be the third patient in her operating room. Probably because of some jerk-face, arrogant busy surgeon who bumped us to the end of the day. Gotta love hospital politics. By the time we head upstairs to pre-op, it’s 1pm. Annalise hasn’t eaten in over 12 hours, and she’s only had 45 minutes of nap for the day. She’s almost 8 months old…do you hospital people realize what unnecessary hell you are putting us through by having to wait this whole day? And the surgery hasn’t even happened yet!?!? I try to stay calm, because I realize that the people who I am talking to aren’t responsible for the scheduling of the OR or the way things are run. But God help the head of scheduling, or the surgeon who bumped us, should I run into them at this moment. Justice will be done, by my hand and/or mouth.

But thankfully (for them) that doesn’t happen. Annalise gets dressed in her too-big hospital gown and her hospital bracelets on her ankle. We say goodbye as a nurse takes her away to the OR. Normally, I think I’d melt down – at least cry. But at this point, I’m relieved that the waiting is over. Soon she will be knocked out with the anesthesia and be able to rest.

Hours go by. I’m not sure exactly what we did to pass the time. I know I was breast-feeding Annalise at that time, so several times I had to slip away in some random empty office (why don’t hospitals have a designated place for pumping/nursing?) to pump. It was nice that UVA had an update on the electronic schedule that we could follow on a TV in the waiting room. We could see when she went from pre-op to operating to recovery. It provided a lot of peace, in us and in the waiting room.

About 5 hours later, our doctor comes into the waiting room to see us. I am surprised – because I thought they would call us to see him. For a split second, I think he must have come down to bring bad news. But his smile alleviates my fears. He says that Annalise did well; the upper portion was removed; she was being moved to the recovery area; they did have to put a stint in the healthy ureter (they probably nicked it along the way), but nothing to be worried about; we could go up and see her. Really? I realize I had been bracing myself for the worst, but this seemed to be good news…right?

And so another person comes and escorts us the back way into the recovery room. And there I see my baby: another nurse is already holding her, giving her a bottle of Pedialyte. Annalise is awake, if you could call it that. Her eyes are barely open, and she is barely moving her body. It is shocking. I had never ever seen my wild child so lethargic. She is also swollen from all the fluids they had pumped in her. As soon as I walk in, the nurse hands her to me. Annalise feels like a dead-weight, but she is alive and well. Still hooked up to the IV pole and catheter bag, I can’t go far. But it feels so good to hold her in my arms. Never before had I felt more like a Mama Bear – not even when she was first born and they laid her on my bare chest. Annalise (and I) had been through such a traumatizing day, an unnatural one, at that. And now, I can be there for her.

The first moments we saw her after surgery

As I hold her, they wheel us into the pediatric unit. At this point, it is around 9pm. My parents come to see Annalise, and say goodbye. Jason helps us get comfortable in our new room, and then heads home to get a good night’s sleep. All three of us are exhausted. After finally getting to nurse, Annalise falls back into a deep sleep. I try to get comfortable on the hospital recliner, which automatically pops upright at the slightest move. Throughout the night, Annalise sleeps soundly. Several times, a nurse comes in to check her vitals, administer any medications, and empty her catheter bag. I know that Annalise is feeling better when at 6am, she wakes up, ready to eat! That’s the girl I know – too busy to sleep in!

Besides spiking a bit of a mild temperature and being a bit less active, Annalise went back to herself. She napped, ate, and played as normal as expected in a hospital room. It surprised me that she was so active after having surgery the day before! I could tell she was being careful of moving her abdomen or putting any pressure on it. By the afternoon, the doctors and nurses felt like she was well enough to go home, if we wanted. I was anxious to leave and return to the comforts of home. So, we got our discharge orders, and left the hospital with our baby – about 24 hours after she got out of surgery! The nurses were all sad to see her go, several of whom said they fought over holding her in the recovery room post-op.

At home, Annalise recovered well. She did spike a fever the following day, which the doctors said was normal. With only tylenol, Annalise was literally back to normal within 3 days after surgery. It was amazing, as good as the doctor had promised.

But there was a slight complication that needed to be dealt with – that stint in her healthy ureter needed to be removed in 2-3 weeks. And then we’d have the post-op check-ups to monitor her recovery. The biggest concern was that another surgery may be needed if they missed something. The first look at her kidneys would be 6 weeks post-surgery, which would be the beginning of the year.

The worst was behind us – the worst, meaning the hell-hole of the OR scheduling at UVA and the hours of waiting with a fasting and exhausted 8 month old. Now to deal with life after D-day.

Annalise’s Kidney Abnormality: Part III

August 1, 2012

So last time, we were leaving the pediatric urology department with a prescription for a daily antibiotic and a plan for more tests.

A few weeks later (Annalise was about 3 months old), Annalise and I head back to UVA for a kidney function test and another ultrasound. After gathering information from the doctor, nurses, and internet (in no particular order), I know that this day will be a bit more involved than the previous visit.

First, Annalise will have an IV. The IV allows a radioactive dye to be injected into her bloodstream, which her kidneys will later absorb. The dye is a tracer that will be detected on a scan several hours later, and will show the functionality (and non functionality) of her kidneys. Second: because of the IV, Annalise is required to fast beforehand. Since she was born, I fed her every 3-4 hours during the day. I had never prevented her from eating when she showed signs of hunger, much less waited 8 hours between feedings – not even during the night, at this point! When I laughed at questioned the nurse’s instructions for fasting, they assured me that this was routine protocol and Annalise would be fine. To me, a first-time mom, this all sounded absurd, and guaranteed a horrific experience for me all involved parties!

As we head into the radiology department, I am afraid and apprehensive – more for the fasting than anything else. What could be worse than a hungry infant?

We are called back and are escorted into a small room, where two nurses prep Annalise for the IV. I’m not nervous when it comes to needles – and at this point, Annalise had already had several shots at the pediatrician’s office. But the needle for this IV was ridiculously small and thin – the smallest the hospital had available. I remember commenting on how tiny it was…

The first nurse steps up to the plate – this needle in her gloved hands. I try to hold Annalise down, and keep her calm. Another nurse holds down her legs, since the foot is the ideal place for insertion at this age (it’s out of the way and less likely to get pulled out). Annalise begins to protest, the needle goes in…and the needle goes out. Her veins and valves are just so small. There is almost zero room for error. “Surely I’ll get this in the next try,” she says.

The nurse preps Annalise’s hand. Same thing – different appendage. No luck. The needle just won’t thread into her veins. The second nurse steps in and takes over. The first nurse assures me that it won’t be long. We go for the other foot. More screaming, more thrashing, more restraining Annalise. Needle goes in, needle comes out. At this point, (sorry to be graphic) there is blood everywhere. The nurses are trying to cover her pricks with bandaids, but it’s quite hard when their patient is screaming and flailing her arms and legs. Plus the bandaids are about as small as my pinky’s finger nail. At this point, I really am just trying to stay calm – for everyone’s sake. A crazy hysterical mother would not be so helpful in this scene right now. I tell myself that it’s not the nurses’ fault, but I just keep wishing that I knew when it would end.

All in all, three nurses attempted to thread the IV in a total of six different locations. The whole ordeal took about 45 minutes, and when it was over, everyone was exhausted and relieved. Then the radioactive dye was injected through the IV, and her hand (with her non-sucking thumb, thankfully) was taped up really well. I was NOT going to have this IV fall out. Although Annalise wasn’t supposed to break her fast until the entire procedure was over, the nurses had sympathy. They let me nurse her right there. Poor thing. She hadn’t eaten for about 6 hours, and she had been through quite an ordeal with the IV. As she drifted into sleep with a full belly, I felt like I needed a nap too. But the day wasn’t over yet. I needed to eat lunch at some point, and there were more tests.

We head into the ultrasound room, where they take more images of her kidneys and bladder. Cake walk, relatively. Then we had a few hours to wait until the kidney scan. The dye would take some time to be absorbed into the kidneys, so we were free.

After some quality time in the dining hall, we head back to our little torture chamber room and get prepped for the scan. They tell me that they will take at least three scans in differing angles, and each scan lasts about a minute. She will need to be perfectly still for each scan. I laugh. This should be good. When we lay Annalise on the ice cold table, she immediately freaks out. But who wouldn’t, after what happened earlier that morning? Even with some wiggling, the straps hold her down pretty securely. The technician seems to be pleased with the clarity of all three scans – we were free to go! No repeats! After removing the IV from her hand, Annalise and I run from the hospital. In the safety of our home, we both crash from the dramatic day.

A week or so later, we come back to the UVA pediatric urology department to go over the results. Of course, a urine sample was collected. [I say this with bitterness in my heart because it seems like there is no such thing as a simple office visit when it comes to specialists.] Compared to the IV, I don’t even flinch. Plus, Jason was able to come this time and provide a clear head moral support.

Our doctor comes in, and pulls up the kidney scans. He explains that the images show that the right kidney (the dilated one, with the duplication) was doing about 40% of the total renal function, and that the upper portion was obviously not functioning normally (if at all). This all leads to that dreaded word: surgery. The color drains from my face. “Not to worry,” he says, as he goes on to explain. “…Laparoscopic…minimally invasive…quick recovery…” But I’m not really there. I can’t imagine seeing Annalise go through something worse than the whole IV ordeal. The doctor routinely performs this kind of surgery on babies, and as long as she stays healthy (i.e. no kidney infections), the surgery will be scheduled when she’s about 6 or 7 months old. In the meantime, we go home. At the advice of our doctor, we change her antibiotic prescription to a stronger one, now that she’s older (older? she’s 3 months old!). We aren’t scheduled to go back to UVA until we get closer to her surgery, which would be a pre-op “check up.”

The pediatric urology department calls with the appointment. Late October, 4 months from now. I put it in my calendar. Now, I can count down to D-day! I have so much time to find reasons to worry, develop an extensive list of questions, and try to pretend that my daughter is healthy. She is, of course (healthy, that is). It’s just that part of her kidney is wasting away and causing all this “preventative” care. We are lucky, in that way. No signs of infection. No changes to our daily life (except the “treat” of sugared down antibiotic). But here I am – just counting down the days till my daughter will go under with anesthesia for about 5 hours. NBD.

Packing My Bags

July 31, 2012

So this past weekend, my husband and I packed our bags. No, we didn’t walk out on Annalise (at least not indefinitely). She went to my parents’ house while we went out of town for a wedding. We had left Annalise overnight before, but not for THREE nights. I was a bit nervous, but I knew that she was in good hands. My mom watches Annalise once a week, and we regularly go over to their house. So there was a familiarity there. So, the wedding became an excuse for an escape a break from Annalise.

While Jason and I slept in (till 7:30), stayed out late (past 7pm), and leisurely shopped, Annalise had her own vacation at Mawmaw’s and Pawpaw’s house in the country. She could run around their acre of land, swim in their pool, roam freely in their ranch-style home, and basically have no rules.

The results? Jason and I realized we were still friends reconnected. But Annalise? When we got back into our daily routine on Monday, I realized a few things. Yes, she was more disobedient (which I expected, coming from a land with no rules), but there were two surprising positive changes.

First, my mom somehow got my child to brush her teeth. Since Annalise began teething her molars about two months ago, teeth-brushing went from a challenge, to an outright battle. Most days, I relinquish after getting one good swipe on one tooth. After a weekend with my parents? She happily sits (albeit with her feet in the sink, so water splashes them) and complies while I scrub every tooth. Even the molars in the back! I am still in shock. Her dentist will not rob me without a fight!

Second: Annalise is now a milk-drinker! For you childless readers: once your child is weaned (around one year old), cow’s milk becomes a primary source of calcium and vitamins. Annalise has always hated cow’s milk – and I’ve tried introducing it on several occasions. Picture a sour face, followed by a spewing. But last week, she saw her toddler friend drinking it. And then at my parents, she saw my nephew drink some. She kept asking for it, so my mom gave her some in her own cup. So now? Annalise loves milk, and will drink a full serving at each meal. Complete 180. Why the sudden change? Because of peer pressure, and it was her idea.

Moral of the story? Leaving town is a good idea. Leaving your child is too, but only if it’s temporary and with trusted caregivers. Did we miss Annalise? Of course. But we knew we’d get her back. We are still her parents, after all.

So take it from me, all you new parents out there – you’ll appreciate the escape break!

Annalise’s Kidney Abnormality: Part II

July 24, 2012

So if the title leads you to think you missed something, you probably did! Read/skim Part I to catch up.

Opening Scene: the proud and sleep-deprived Mama brings her 6-week old daughter to the Radiology department at the UVa hospital for precautionary tests.

I haven’t actually met the urologist yet, but I am sitting here waiting for Annalise to have two tests. First, she’ll have a VCUG, which, as explained by the nurse (over the phone), will test for any reflux from the bladder. Apparently this is a common problem associated with kidney abnormalities. So I’ve heard a lot about the VCUG on mommy boards on the internet. I’ll later find out the results are extremely important when it comes to urinary tract infections, which can turn into bladder infections, which then can become kidney infections (each with increasing risks). Reflux is measured on a scale of severity, but any reflux is a problem with which to be dealt. This makes me nervous.

After the VCUG, we’ll have an ultrasound; this time it will not be a prenatal one. The technician will probe Annalise’s tummy and compare her kidneys. They are looking for any more dilation, and a better understanding of her anatomy, which seems to be abnormal.

After these tests, a normal patient would go upstairs (and through the woods, and around the pond) to the middle of nowhere the Urology clinic and go over the results. But since we’re local (and more flexible), we get to come back another day and meet with the urologist. Joy. I just love the whole hospital experience – let’s drag this out do this again!

Still with me? Because right now, I’m still sitting in the waiting room, with the buzzer that the receptionist gave me after checking in. Am I waiting for a table at Outback, or to place my baby on a cold table? It’s easy to forget where you are with the windowless room and the fluorescent lights... Anywho, Annalise is by far the youngest here. But probably noone in the room suspects that she is the one who is the patient. We hadn’t  people-watched waited long, before we are called back.

I wheel the stroller back to a room with equipment that towers over the room. I try to swallow my fears, and follow the nurse/technician’s instructions: take off Annalise’s clothes; put this HUGE gown on her little body; remove her diaper. She’s not too upset – until they take her and try to insert a catheter. It’s the smallest catheter I’d ever seen – and I think it was still too big for her little private parts. She’s in pain, and because she resists, it takes them even longer (and probably makes the pain worse). I am in agony; there is nothing I can do. I try to give her a pacifier (she’d barely even seen one before this day) that was drenched in sugar water (also something new to her). She surprisingly takes to it, but she still sobs between her desperate sucks. I hate standing here, doing nothing, as they strap her down to the table. And I now become associated with her experience of pain, instead of the comforting Mama. The nurses reassure me that the worst is over. Annalise had worn herself out, and she drifts into sleep. They insert some dye into her bladder through the catheter, and they watch it as the machine scans and moves around her. It was pretty incredible to see technology at work. Apparently reflux usually is seen when she pees, so when she did her business, we were done. I would later discuss the results with the urologist, but they say that they didn’t see any signs of reflux.

What a relief. Now unstrap my baby and get me out of here! VCUG – check.

Then I am led to the ultrasound room. It’s nice and dark in there. Calming. Compared to the VCUG, this seems like a walk in the park. Annalise is grumpy from being woken up too soon (who wouldn’t be after getting something shoved up your pee-hole?), but the technician gets the images of the kidneys and bladder. The back door opens (There’s a back door?) and a radiologist introduces himself. Apparently, this is a rare occurrence, but he actually came in to take a second look and get more images. He takes the wand, and after scanning around, confirms the earlier prognosis of a duplicated renal system. He tries to look as deep as possible, but he can’t find where the extra ureter goes. Apparently, a duplicate ureter usually does not drain properly into the bladder (which is what causes the kidney to become dilated) and many times is ectopic. The upper portion of the right kidney still shows dilation, and I’d further talk about the next step with the urologist.

Bummer. More dilation. Probably more tests.

My husband joins us as we come back a few weeks later to the Urology Clinic. After they taped a too-large bag to my daughter collected a urine sample, we meet our urologist. He surprises me – warm, friendly, empathetic, a good listener. Are you sure you are a specialist? He then basically confirms everything that we’d heard from the technicians and doctors before. But he does give us direction – more tests. We’d come back in a few weeks for a kidney scan (which tests the function of the kidneys) and another ultrasound. Then he mentions the dreaded word: surgery. I can’t believe he just threw it out there – the word just hangs in the air. Put on the brakes…we just met you! He probably sees the look in my eyes, because he immediately jumps to reassure us. If Annalise had surgery, it would be a ways down the road, and it’s a non-invasive, laparoscopic surgery, with very short recovery time. Oh, and then he mentions that Annalise should be on a daily antibiotic. Why? The VCUG showed no signs of reflux? Just preventative, precautionary…ha! that’s what we have heard all along! So we pick up the prescription on the way home, and Annalise begins her love affair with medicine that very night.

Next stop: more tests at UVA.