Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Giving Thanks

This is the time of year when gratitude posts are appropriate. From the evolution of gluten-free Thanksgivings to recognizing the support systems in my life, I have never lacked things to be grateful about.

My relationship with gratitude has never been as simultaneously effortless and complex as it is this year.

Without hesitation, I am utterly, unequivocally grateful for my daughter. She is the greatest joy of my life, and every single day we both acknowledge how fortunate we are that she is in our lives. That she is happy, healthy, and thriving, that we made it through the pregnancy to enjoy the other side? Grateful does not begin to describe what we feel for that.

For the team of doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners who managed an extremely challenging pregnancy ; the lung doctor who championed our hopes and dreams at every turn and fought for us and our baby; and access to a world-class hospital and top-notch technology literally minutes away—we literally would not have our daughter without those people and that place, and we are so appreciative.

For the relatives and friends who checked in on me diligently and visited during bed rest; made months of tests and hospital visits and relative isolation so much easier with phone calls, texts, and humor; and celebrated in our baby’s arrival and continue to support us in so many ways and share our happiness with her now—we realize how lucky we are to have each of you.

The examples above were so easy to write because so many wonderful things have transpired this year they spill onto the proverbial page.

But as is the way, tough things always seem to happen right at the cusp of great happiness and joy, and this year has been incredibly painful and challenging for loved ones in terms of health crises. For the many tears of joy I’ve shed recently, there have been many, many moments of the opposite.

Gratitude is relative. During any kind of medical emergency or acute trauma, it is basic: Please just let this person survive. That’s the only thing that matters. And when morning breaks and you realize your first wish has been met, you exhale a little bit and start to focus on units of time, small changes in status: the next hour, the first words spoken, how many days until heavy equipment is removed. Each little victory is momentous, and each blip or setback is not too crushing because it is better than the alternative you just came far too close to witnessing.

But some days I have trouble with how muddied gratitude and grief become. Of course, the relief and gratitude that the patient is alive and doing pretty well is always there. But there are many losses to process, too; many changes in how we thought life would be, in the dreams we had for the future.

Sometimes I feel like I am cheating on gratitude by indulging in grief or sadness, and the back and forth between happiness/optimism and frustration/anger is tiring.

We are so lucky because it could have been much worse, but that doesn’t mean that where we are is entirely enviable, either. It still happened. I know it doesn’t mean I am not grateful when I think that, but I still feel guilty.

But like we did in survival mode, all we can do is take it day by day. So this year on Thanksgiving I will hold my daughter close and focus on the amazing blessing that she is, and focus on the fact that so many people who love her will be with her that day. We all made it through a lot this year, and for that, I am grateful.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Finding the New Normal

It’s about time I got back into a blogging groove, no?

My daughter is eight weeks old today. She is a smiling, happy, strong little baby who started laughing out loud recently, charmed by the beguiling fishes hanging on her bouncy chair.

The past eights weeks have blurred together into chunks of time: the first few days, where we switched gears from high-risk pregnancy and complicated birth to being parents and getting to know our little girl, and attending to her medical needs. Then there were a few weeks where we adjusted to some feeding problems and started learning more and more from her and about her.

The past few weeks, we’ve had so much fun watching her grow more alert, smile at us, reach for things, and start to imitate us. And we’re taking longer, deeper breaths: she is doing well and minor health issues are improving; she is a good sleeper and great about letting us know what she needs; without forcing it, we all seem to have fallen into some semblance of routine.

It seems like each week presents a new normal, a realignment of expectations and possibilities. Now, I find myself negotiating the whole back-to-work scene (expect a full post on these issues later). Right now it is part-time, but maternity leave came and went too quickly. My expectations for what I can get done and how much I can extend myself change by the hour, but I am learning to roll with that. (Hey, a lifetime of illness getting in the way of work was good practice for this!)

Before I was pregnant with her, we talked a lot on this blog about parenting and chronic illness, and one fear so many people shared with me was what to do on the days when we are not able to care for ourselves, let alone infants/children. The discussion in the comments thread revealed that it takes a village. This is true for any family with a new baby, but so incredibly important for parents with chronic illness.

And I’ve had practice negotiating that change, too—being acutely sick with a newborn. Now, I had a few things working for me: I was sick, but not very sick (for me)—I knew things wouldn’t deteriorate enough to send me to the hospital, and the whole thing only lasted two weeks. Also, thus far, our baby has a really easy temperament: she rarely fusses (and if so, with good reason); she sleeps well, for an infant; and she is very adaptable. But for a variety of reasons, there was no one to help me.

So we took it one moment, one hour, one feeding at a time, until we’d made it through the end of another day. She did not get walks or much fresh air that week, she did not get the very best version of me as a mother, but she did get my very best each day.

There are a lot of acute illnesses and medical calamities going on with people close to me right now. The details are not mine to share but they speak to another adjustment—balancing being a new mother and putting my daughter’s needs first with helping with the emotional and physical needs of others. A lot of the time I feel pulled in many different directions, and just at a time when I have a young baby who needs me there are lots of other demands, too.

In the end, the same principles that make so much sense with chronic illness apply—with work, with care giving, with new roles and expectations, we take it day by day, and know that today’s normal might not work tomorrow. And with a happy, healthy baby, we have few complaints.
Powered by blogger. Customized by PinkDezine.