Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Birth Story

I wanted to write this blog last Thursday, November 25, but Thanksgiving got in the way and distracted me a bit.  Besides being Thanksgiving, however, it was also my Tally's 5th birthday. I felt the need to reminisce and retell the story of her birth. I'll spare you the unnecessary details...

It was Wednesday, November 23, 2005, and we were living in Baumholder, Germany. I was 37 weeks pregnant with our first baby, a girl whom we were naming after John's grandmother, Talmadge. At 5:00a.m. I was awakened by the unmistakable feeling of what had to be my water breaking. It startled me, and I sat up in bed. After a few minutes, I ran to the bathroom and became certain that it was indeed my water. After pacing around the house a few hundred times, I returned to bed with butterflies in my stomach (and a baby, of course) and waited for John's alarm to go off. Why? I don't know.  But I did. Those 5 minutes seemed like an eternity. Finally, the loud beeping filled the room, and John groggily turned it off and sat up in bed. "My water broke," I said. "What? Are you sure?" he responded. "Pretty sure," I answered. "Ok," he said. "You pack your bag. I'm gonna run to the office and tell them where I'll be." Would most first-time fathers calmly go to work before taking their laboring wife to the hospital? Probably not. But I went with it. It was my first time too. We followed the plan. When he returned from work a good 30 minutes later, I had everything ready, and we jumped (well, nonchalantly walked) to the car. We drove the 20 minutes to the hospital, found our way to the Labor & Delivery floor, and spoke to a nurse. She conducted a test to see if my water was in fact broken, and she decided it was not. Nevermind the constant gushing of fluids that I was experiencing - oh, wait . . . I'm sparing the details. So anyway, we disappointedly drove back home. I attended a coffee (a social gathering for officers' wives) that night and was completely miserable. The gushing continued - sorry. The next day was Thanksgiving, and we had plans to celebrate with a potluck feast at our neighbor's house. Unfortunately, we never made it. We returned to the hospital, and a different nurse conducted the same test as the day before. She decided it was positive - my water was broken. But I already knew that. I was admitted to the hospital and induced because I had no contractions. I had a roommate, and I wish I could remember her name. She had just had a c-section and spoke enough English that we were able to communicate with each other. She was a minister at an amazing church in the nearby town of Idar Oberstein. The church was built into the side of a huge rock. Here's a picture:

Anyway, I digress. Six hours after I was induced, I was ready to move into the birthing room. It was more like a birthing suite with a queen size bed, a big bathtub, and a tangled rope hanging from the ceiling that came in very handy when the contractions became unbearable. I was determined to endure labor drug-free. A warm bath was the only relief. Eight and a half hours later, I was pushing. Little did I know that it began snowing around that time. I pushed for 45 minutes, and at 3:12a.m. on Friday, November 25, Talmadge Lee Martin was born. She weighed 6 lbs 9 oz and was 18.5 inches long. She was tiny and perfect in every way. She was a little yellow, but some bright lights and foam sunglasses took care of that. She came into the world with the snow. I would love to show you a picture of her, but that was two computers ago. I now have no digital copies. 

Anyway, John deployed to Iraq two weeks later, but I figured things out real quick. I lived and learned through trial and error. He saw her again when she was 7 months old and was able to witness her crawl for the first time, and then he saw her again right before she turned 1. She quickly became a daddy's girl upon his return. Now she's 5. I don't know where those 5 years went, but they were worth every minute. The coolest part is that just like the snow came when she was born, it came again just before her big day ended last week. Just before midnight on the 25th, it snowed. 
Tally, 7 months

Tally, 1.5 years

Tally, 2 years

Tally, 3 years

Tally, 4 years

Tally, 5 years

Monday, November 15, 2010

Can't hold it in

Today on my routine drive back from Nashville I could not hold back the tears in my eyes. It was supposed to be yet another appointment with Maddy's orthopedist at Vanderbilt, but it turned out to be something much more. Her brace shoes that she started wearing a few weeks ago did not work out. Her tender little feet could not handle the tight leather high-tops fixed to a metal bar, and she quickly developed blisters on the tops and bottoms of her feet. Within a week of getting those shoes, she was put back in casts. After 2 weeks of casts, we tried the shoes again, and just like the first time, the blisters took over. My heart broke. I knew that if the blisters returned, the orthopedist was going to put her legs in casts again and schedule surgery. The surgery is a simple procedure where he puts her to sleep under anesthesia and clips her achilles tendon on each foot. It's simple, yet very emotional for me that it has to be done at all. I cannot stand for my babies to undergo any surgery, and unfortunately, they all have. So I dreaded today's appointment. My dread led me to do a little online research about clubfoot braces, and to my pleasant surprise I found a newer one that allows the baby's feet to move independently. It is supposed to help reduce the risk of blisters and encourage development for crawling and walking. Today I asked the orthopedist about this brace, and he surprisingly agreed to try it. No surgery was scheduled! So on Wednesday Maddy will get her new brace along with some new sandal shoes to go on it, and we will keep our fingers crossed that no blisters will form, and she will not need surgery. I dodged a bullet, and all the worry that was building up inside me was released on the way home as I got all teary eyed thinking about my baby girl sleeping better because she'll be able to move her feet, learning to crawl, and eventually learning to walk with a brace that will help her more than the first one. She's been through so much already, and she's not even 4 months old! I would do anything to make the rest of this long journey easier for her. She's my baby girl.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Thanksgiving Poem for Him

The holidays are coming and I wish that you were here,
You will be sorely missed at the dinner table this year.
I am very thankful for the years in the past
When we sat at the table together;  those memories will last.
I will eat some turkey and some stuffing for you too,
I only hope a nice hot meal will be waiting there for you.
I hope the locals are thankful to have you there with them,
You’re fighting for their freedom cause their future sure looks grim.
The holidays are tough just knowing you’re far away,
Your empty chair at the table speaks more than I can say.
I give thanks to you for the sacrifice you make,
But missing you for the holidays sure makes my heart ache.
I cannot wait to see you when your time over there is through,
 But for now Happy Thanksgiving; I am very thankful for you.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In her shoes

Anyone close to me (or who follows me on Facebook)  knows that my sweet baby Maddy was born with club feet. Within a day of her birth, we were quickly told that she would have to undergo a long sequence of treatments that involve full-legged casts, surgery, and then special shoes that are connected by a bar that pushes her feet outward. It was a lot to take in, especially when you consider the fact that my husband was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan for a year 2 weeks later, these treatments had to be done over an hour away at Vanderbilt in Nashville, and I had 2 other rugrats counting on me at home. I was amazed, however, at the outpour of support that came to me upon my husband's departure. Friends, neighbors who quickly became friends, and family all reached out to help. But I digress. When Maddy was 3 weeks old, she had her first appointment at Vanderbilt. By that time, I had already been a "single" mother for 1 solid week (8 days to be exact, but who's counting?). This appointment was called a consultation, but to my surprise, the orthopedist began casting her immediately. We came home that day with Maddy's first pair of purple casts. They took some getting used to. They added quite a bit of weight to her little body, she could not move her legs, and I was scared of hurting her. On top of all that, I got a ton of questions everywhere I went from neighborhood kids, mere acquaintances, and perfect strangers. I quickly learned not to let the questions and stares bother me and act like casts on a brand new baby were completely normal, although I did often find myself covering her legs with a blanket in order to avoid such inquisitions. Sometimes I just didn't feel like explaining. My other 2 kids always were (and are) very proud of their baby sister. One night my 4 year old was looking through her own baby pictures and innocently asked, "Mommy, where are my casts in these pictures?" My heart melted. She thought all babies had casts. But again, I digress. Maddy handled her casts very well. They became normal for her. She learned how to lift her legs and slam them down, earning her the nickname Thumper. She would wake me up at night with her thumping, letting me know it was time to eat. Her casts became just a part of her. Every Wednesday we made our hour-long trip to Nashville too see her orthopedist and have her casts changed. I figured out the best way to carry her to accommodate the casts, the best way to bathe her, the best way to keep the casts clean during diaper changes, and the best way to dress her. It was just a normal part of our lives. Then today, 12 weeks after the casting began, it stopped. The orthopedist threw a curve ball and surprised me once again. Instead of scheduling surgery, he skipped that step altogether and put her right into a set of braces, which I call special shoes. They are white, leather, high-top shoes that are connected by a bar that pushes her feet out. They are heavy, awkward, and completely in the way. Everything I figured out before with the casts has now changed. I can't hold her the same, I can't change her diaper the same, I can take them off and bathe her now (yay!), but everything else is different. It's only been a few hours since the switch, but so far I am not a fan. I would take the casts any day over these shoes, and judging by her reaction, I think she would too. But unfortunately, we are in these shoes for the long haul. She is required to wear them 23 hours a day. No matter how frustrated I become with them or how frustrated she becomes with them, I cannot take them off. I have to force myself to keep them on her until she learns to walk. The doctor assures me she will learn to walk with these shoes on, but it will be much later than most babies. As for now, she's not quite 3 months old yet, but she does have to learn how to tolerate these new shoes.  We may not get much sleep tonight! 

Maddy at 2 weeks old

Maddy with her first set of casts at 3 weeks old

Her new special shoes at almost 3 months

Monday, October 4, 2010

Don't Look at the Eyebrows

Two months ago (and well before then) I wondered how I was going to survive a year-long deployment on my own with 3 kids. The baby alone has such a demanding schedule with not sleeping through the night, eating every 2 hours, and going to Vanderbilt (an hour away) for her doctor's appointments every week. Then the 4 year old has school every day and ballet every Thursday. The 2 year old has school every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, which means he gets no nap on those days. That makes for quite an unpleasant evening! Then, of course, there's the house cleaning, grocery shopping, clothes shopping, loads of laundry to wash and fold (the folding is the hardest part), taking care of the dog, maintaining the van, attempting to maintain John's truck (I failed - -it has 2 flat tires now), mowing the grass, potty training the 2 year old, changing diapers on the baby, cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner for everyone . . . oh, and somewhere in there I have to find time to take care of myself. Don't look at my eyebrows. They are in desperate need of attention. After 2 months of flying solo, however, I reflect on everything we've been through so far and realize that we are doing it. I say "we" because I am not doing it alone. I rely heavily on the help of my 4 year old when it comes to the other 2 kids; I rely heavily on neighbors for sanity purposes, adult conversation, and sometimes childcare; I count on family for moral support; and despite the frequent frustration, I rely heavily on all 3 of my kids to bring me smiles and laughter every day. You cannot survive a deployment without smiles and laughter. They are just as important as going to the bathroom or drinking water. So whenever someone says, "I don't know how you do it," a favorite Indigo Girls quote comes to mind . . . "You have to laugh at yourself, cause you'd cry your eyes out if you didn't." 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Missing Him

I'm sitting at home with so much to do,
My cell phone not ringing with a call from you.
Wish you were here to ease my mind,
But these old college pictures are all I can find.
The kids are growing fast, growing up every day,
They're sweet and funny as ever with the things that they say.
"Is Daddy coming home? Will he be here soon?"
But all I can tell them is to send a message with the moon.
"Maybe he's looking and he'll hear you speak.
Just look at the moon if it's Daddy you seek.
He'll look too and he'll send his love,
The moon is our messenger from up above."
We keep ourselves busy as the year goes by,
We make lives for ourselves and try not to cry,
But there's a sadness deep down that only you can replace,
And I cannot wait till you get home and put a smile on my face.
I'm amazed at the strength that the kids truly show,
Knowing you're gone for so long, wondering where you did go.
They are the ones who hold it together for me,
They bring laughter and hope and joy and glee.
I miss you so much but I'm so proud of you,
This is just life in the Army and what soldiers' wives do.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The choices we make

If there is one thing I have learned in my almost 5 years of being a parent, it is that some situations lead to a quick decision, and you can't regret what choice you've made. But sometimes I do. Take, for example, my situation last night. Due to excessive playing outdoors, my kids were beyond worn out by bedtime. Hunter usually takes a little while to fall asleep, but last night, all was quiet pretty soon after I closed his door. Despite the speed at which he drifted off to dreamland, he found the time to poop in his pants beforehand. Had I had this realization before he fell asleep, I would have definitely changed his pull-up. Unfortunately, however, I was not in-the-know. So a choice had to  be made - to wake him up and change him or not. He has never been one to poop while sleeping, so he had to know the poop was there before he fell asleep. So technically, he made the choice to do it and fall asleep with it. Do I let it fly, or do I disturb his peacefulness? Anyone who has ever had a 2 year old knows how difficult it can be to get him/her to go to bed, so the one night he does it easily, should I ruin it? Well, I chose to leave well enough alone. If he is capable of relaxing in such a state, who am I to take that comfort away from him? I later regretted it when I suppose it just became too much to bear, and he woke me up at 1:00 in the morning, begging me to change it. I should have changed it when I noticed it. You live and learn.
But my day of quick decisions was not over. I was awakened again at 5:30  by the sound of Tally flushing the potty. She immediately went back to her room and fell back asleep with her light on. All morning, until it was time to go to the bus stop, I questioned whether or not she should go to school. She said her belly didn't feel well, but she wanted to go to school. She didn't eat any breakfast, which should have been a tell tale sign. I ignored the red flags, went against my better judgement, took her word for it when she said she was ok, and I sent her on her way to school. Soon after, she threw up on the bus. I know my child. I knew she wasn't quite right. I should have kept her home. But I am just not up to par on these quick decisions that parenting is forcing me to make! You live and learn.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Back in the saddle again

Several people lately have asked me about blogging to which I replied that I haven't done it in years. Back in the day when Myspace was all the rage, I was an avid blogger. But then Facebook took over the world of social networking, and as my time on Myspace dwindled, I eventually shut it down, leaving all my blogs and precious memories behind. What was I thinking?! All those hours I spent documenting my silly misadventures of moving overseas, becoming a mom, having a deployed husband, owning a dog who knows how to push my buttons, dealing with an uncoordinated body, etc, etc. - they're all for naught. Would it have killed me to copy and paste those blogs into a Word document? I had poems in there that took a few brain cells that I will never get back! But it does no good to dwell upon the past. I have no other choice now but to move on and start again. Kind of like when you're starving at 9:30 at night because the the demanding nature of caring for children alone overshadows the desire to eat at a decent hour, so you cook a delicious meal in the microwave only to promptly drop the piping hot food on the floor on your way to the couch in hopes of enjoying a meal in peace. Then you're still starving and on top of that mad because now you have a mess to clean up, except the dog seems to lick most of it up before you can even fathom getting a paper towel, but the last thing you want is a dog with an upset stomach so you attempt to shoo the dog away before he devours the entire meal. So once the mess is clean, you have to start over. Yeah. Like that.