this week on the iPhone

I may not take as many pictures with my Canon as I used toand I should be taking more…still I manage to take pictures because there is always my iPhone close at hand and Instagram.

She really is a pretty little thing and not nearly as bendy as the haters say that she is.

Rain finally came to to the Valley and I did ask my darling husband if he would rather take the car into work in the Bay Area rather than the bike because I could easily get up at o’dark thirty to take Jodie to work and then go home to sleep until it was time to take Daniel to school. No big deal. Jodie would have a triple latte ready for me when it was time to pick her up.

No was his answer.

He got soaked.

Oh well!

The morning after the rain is the best when everything is so fresh and clean…except the mom-car.

Oh, and sunrises as I leave work in the early morning are the best because, yes, I worked! I worked callback which is even better!!

The sunrise view in my mirror reminds me that my day is done…as soon as I drop my son off to school.

This son, my favorite son, who every day, all the time reminds me how lucky I am to say that I am his mom!

But LITERALLY the most exciting thing happening under the Big Top this week was these salt and pepper grinders.

Really!

Follow me on Instagram.

 

 

play it again: behind that NICU door

On call for work tonight. The census has picked up and, yes, I’m (finally) working more doing one of the things I do best. I can’t even begin to describe how good it feels after literally weeks and weeks to be doing one of the things I am most passionate about. This job reminds me every day that not only is life is precious but that human beings are a helluva lot stronger than most people can ever understand…especially tiny human beings who literally fit into your hand when they are born 4 months too soon like the bravest, strongest human I know, my son, Daniel.

I have been doing what I do for over 24 years and although some days (nights) can be horribly tough and emotionally exhausting I am so grateful that this is what I do. I am also kind of surprised that not everyone in my life really gets what it is that I do…nor do they appreciate what it is that Daniel (and his parents and sisters) has lived through. Then along comes something like this that (hopefully) opens their eyes to perhaps some understanding and (maybe) appreciation.

It’s the best job ever. It’s the hardest job ever. It’s what I do and it’s what I love.

originally published September 29, 2013

Heading into work the other day, I walked past a group of people gathered in a small circle just outside the entrance of the NICU. Another Labor & Delivery tour in progress. I know this because most of the ladies in the group are visibly pregnant and because I hear their tour guide explain that behind that door is the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where if a problem with their baby should arise, they will receive the very best of care. As I swipe my badge to open the door and enter the unit, I see out of the corner of my eye the expectant parents lean forward a little to get a peek of what exactly is behind that door. Some rest their hands protectively over their pregnant bellies as if to somehow keep their babies out of there.

I smile to myself because I get it. I did exactly the same thing while on a Labor & Delivery tour of the hospital where I was planning on having my baby girl, Hollie. I was definitely curious as to what was behind that door but the last place I would want my baby to be was behind that door.

Then I discovered my passion, working as a Neonatal Intensive Care Registered Nurse in that very unit. It really is, to me, the best job ever. A job that no one close to me has ever completely understood unless they found themselves in there, behind that NICU door. I have done this job long enough to know this to be true with my closest of friends, my darling husband, my children, my family. Unless one works there or has sat vigil beside the isolette of a sick, tiny, fragile human they don’t know what I do behind that NICU door. Nor do they understand truly what my son’s life was like behind that NICU door…or his parents’ lives…or his sisters lives. They have no clue of the rush of adrenaline and trepidation I feel when I get the assignment that is listed as “23-24 weeker”. Nor do they understand the helplessness Bill and I felt the night my water broke 14 weeks too soon while I was pregnant with Jodie as the neonatologist on duty came in to talk to us (to Bill) about the very real possibility that our baby would be admitted into the NICU and all the potential complications and disabilities she would face. It’s scary stuff no one understands unless they spend any length of time behind that door.

Check out NPR’s Radio Lab this Sunday.” was the message I received. Curious, I do. You should too…if you really want to understand what it is that I do…what I have been doing since 1990 when I started my career working in one of the 500 hospitals in North America, Europe, and Japan that had been enrolled in clinical trials of different surfactant replacements, many of which also gained FDA approval.Or maybe you wonder what it is really like to be a parent of a tiny human born at the cusp of viability…a baby who is more fetus-like than newborn baby-like. The story that belongs to Kelley Benham, Tom French and little Juniper is not new to me. I read Kelley’s three-part series, Never Let Go several months ago thanks to a posting shared in the Micropreemie Parents Facebook group I help moderate.

I certainly can imagine all that Kelley and Tom went through as the mother of my own micropreemie. Bill and I too have jumped at that middle of the night call telling us we need to come to the hospital now. Our family learned to accept and understand Daniel’s real age and his adjusted age. And we celebrated too that day we were able to disconnect Daniel from all the monitors and remove all the wires and took home our baby boy.

I also know too well how hard it was for Tracy, Juniper’s primary nurse, to take on the responsibility to be her primary nurse. I totally get why she worked overtime, not wanting to leave Baby Juniper when she clearly was going to die. Like Tracy I also enjoyed many conversations with the babies I have cared for and their parents. I also have enjoyed dressing up “my babies” and taking pictures of them to share with their mommies and daddies the things we did together in the middle of the night when the rest of the world slept. I’ve listened to mommies sing hymns, sweet lullabyes and even Guns n Roses “Sweet Child of Mine“and daddies read countless stories while keeping watch over their tiny ones whom they could not hold. I’ve fallen in love with many of these babies and their families…yeah, I fell completely in love with one whom I now call son too.

While I would never, ever want to experience the absolute fear that I had the night my water broke much too soon while pregnant with Jodie, I am thankful that it did happen. Thankful? Yes, so very thankful. It is because of that Bill went behind that NICU door as a parent to see where his baby might end up and listened to the doctor discuss percentages, potential outcomes and disabilities. That NICU tour and discussion Bill shared with the doctor on duty prepared him, prepared both of us to be parents for a baby born on the edge of viability with pretty much most odds against him. Only days old, when Daniel precariously clung to life, needing emergency open heart surgery, Bill declared that the tiny patient I fell in love with who was all alone needed a father, needed a mother, needed a family and we should be that for him. If that was Jodie wouldn’t we be doing just that regardless of the overwhelming odds that she would have died or be profoundly disabled or moderately disabled, he argued. Yes. Yes we would and so we did just that for Daniel as parents who end up behind the NICU door do.

Check out Radiolab’s 23 Weeks 6 Days

spontaneous moments like these

I have become very bad about capturing life under The Big Top with my camera. I still carry my camera with me practically everywhere I go but more often than not I’m just holding it, or worse, it is sitting in my bag. I was thinking that as I looked at this shot that has been living in my camera for a few days now.

And after berating myself for not taking pictures like I used to, I found myself smiling just a little bit because I DID CAPTURE THIS MOMENT…THIS MOMENT OF AWESOME BETWEEN A DADDY AND A DAUGHTER!!!

If I ever find myself doubting whether or not my children realize just how lucky they are that this man is their Daddy, I just have to look to spontaneous moments like this.

They know!

 

 

my plus 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5

Do you remember your first?

Seriously, get your mind out of the gutter! I’m talking about politics. Do you remember your first political experience? How about the first time you voted? And the best personal political experience in your lifetime ever? This weekend I had the opportunity to hear some pretty amazing, smart women, women who when they speak politicians listen, share some of their first and best experiences as we gathered together to talk politics…naturally…and women…and women in politics…and healthcare and politics…and elections…and the upcoming midterm elections…and why a dear friend sitting next to me needs to someday soon put herself out there to run.

I remember my first political experience. I was 13 years old. Mommy Dearest dragged me to a political protest against then Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter because of his non-stance on abortion at that point in his campaign; which was kind of awkward and strange all around since Mom was a life-long Democrat and a self-proclaimed feminist because it was the 70s and because she scarcely could talk to me about periods at that time much less the mechanics of where babies came from. Yet there I was, standing next to her holding a sign declaring that God was at war against abortion. I was thirteen years old. My picture appeared on the front page of the Pittsburgh Press holding that damn sign as Mr. Carter walked by smiling and waving. Mom was standing next to me smiling and waving too. Oh gawd, I was mortified!!! I was thirteen.

My best political experience was the 1988 General Elections. I was in college working towards my nursing degree and taking care of prereqs like Political Science. Since we were just four months away from the General Election, our professor deigned to focus on taking us through the California ballot for that year studying each and every candidate and initiative on the ballot that year so that each of us would be able to go to the polls truly informed and voting as such. I aced the course and yes, I entered the voting booth for the very first time as a truly informed, confident voter. I brought my +1 too before it was even cool to bring a +1. Of course we wore our matchy-matchy acid wash jeans and big 80’s hair because 80’s.

I am so sorry Hollie! Truly.

But I will never apologize for taking you and Zoë and Abby and Jodie and Daniel to the polls.

Then again, perhaps my best political experience were the days Hollie, Zoë, Abby and Jodie all voted for the first time. When our government mucks up things that affect these ladies I love to remind them that my kids care and my kids vote. Yeah, my greatest political accomplishment is my kids vote…my kids think and my kids vote. Okay, fine. Four out of five of my kids vote…for now. Then again, 2020 will come soon enough.

Meanwhile, I had the opportunity to meet and talk to, laugh with and share with some extraordinary women who are committed to encouraging and training women to be leaders in their communities. Breaking bread with some of them we discussed healthcare and politics and what I believe to be a poorly written, tugging at your aching-breaking heart proposition that will appear on the California November ballot.

The biggest takeaways from political suite talks I engaged in this weekend? Politics is indeed personal because politics affects us all… we women…our access to healthcare…our children…our community. We can indeed be part of the change and we can make a difference with our words and our actions. We must. Anything we say or do, no matter how big or how small.we might imagine it to be can and will and does make a difference. Discussing what I learned this weekend with my +1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 I know I am because 4 of them vote.

In 100 days is our U.S. General Election. Regardless of which side of the debate you find yourself arguing, it’s imperative you are part of the process — along with your +1. In fact, your +1 may vote entirely opposite from you but what matters is you are both at the polls on election day.

 

all we really needed to know we learned at dance competitions

Um, actually no. All we really needed to know we did learn in kindergarten just like Robert Fulghum said. But while dancing competitively and supporting that competitive dancer all these years we certainly put it all into practice.

As Jodie is packing away her costumes and cleaning out her makeup box we are finding ourselves both reflecting on the last seven seasons. It seems like it was only last week or so that we were packing those dance bags for her very first competition. Yet here we are, reflecting on all that we learned and have put into practice at dance competitions and, I imagine, will continue to in real life.

Jodie learned very quickly to be gracious always in victory and in defeat. At one of her very first competitions, we witnessed first hand a sweet little dancing snowflake express her disappointment in the judges’ result by smashing her trophy in the parking lot as her dance mommy did her best to soothe her angry, disappointed snowflake. Jodie observed correctly (before I could even say a word) that if she did that she would likely never be allowed to dance again.

True that!

Through the years, Jodie has scored many trophies, ribbons, plaques and pins as the shelves her daddy installed above her dance barre prove. The diamonds, platinums, lightning golds, high golds and golds she is very proud of and were all accepted graciously and humbly. But not to be forgotten are the emeralds, high silvers and silvers which were also accepted with gratitude. At Nationals this last week she received a high silver for one of the dances that she danced in. Disappointed? Oh yes she was…very much so…but one would never know watching her accept that award and shake the judge’s hand nor did they know as she left the stage and walked with me back to our hotel room that night.

As with any competitive sport/activity, Jodie learned to be responsible for her own crap, er, equipment, shoes, makeup, costumes, props. Sure I helped over the years to take inventory, pack it up, hang them up and carry them everywhere we should go; but ultimately everything she needed for dance was her responsibility. Her teachers taught her that as did her parents because are we really going to be there to take care of all these things as she goes out on those auditions? Um, no.

Being part of something bigger than herself, Jodie learned a lot about what it really means to be a part of a team. One must show up and honor their obligations to the people who are depending on them to show up and give their all to the team effort. Sadly, a few times while dancing competitively she has been partnered with dancers who sometimes just didn’t show up physically or mentally. It was hard for her and the rest of the team to fill in those gaps but they did. Under their teacher’s instruction and their families encouragement, they learned that is what you do when you are a part of a team…as you do in real life.

She also learned that everyone really is replaceable.

Opportunities have come and gone. Thanks to her teachers’ instruction, encouragement and connections, Jodie has taken classes, learned choreography and danced with a lot of professional dancers and choreographers and she has taken each opportunity as a chance to learn, grow and make friends. Not once has she ever taken for granted these opportunities.

And as with awards and critiques, be gracious always for those opportunities for you never know where they might take you.

Much has been learned over the years. It is bound to take her far in  life through many adventures whether she be on stage or not.

A friend of mine, whose daughter wants to dance competitively, asked me recently what was she getting herself into. I assured her that there will be all kinds of money spent, all kinds of drama, all kinds of exhaustion guaranteed. I also promised her there would be so many teachable moments for her little girl on the dance floor, in the studio and traveling on the road. Adventures definitely await her and her tiny dancer; and with an open heart and mind and a willingness to work hard and learn much god only knows where they will end up.

For us, for Jodie, the next part of the adventure is just beginning.