Friday, April 28, 2017

My Spring Thanksgiving Season

It always kicks off with Christopher's birthday.

Induction Day

His birth is what set everything into motion - or rather, one bacon cheeseburger at Chili's and my propensity for having "morning" sickness at odd times and/or so late in pregnancy did - for Pneumogedden.

I was already sick here, unbeknownst to us, incubating bacteria in my lungs.
And in the two weeks between his birthday and mine, it all settles in.

The reflections on just what hell on earth we went through.

The million little gratitudes for our families, those we were born into and those Seth and I built through our church, our neighbors, and that we created while in the hospital.

The awareness that my body is FREAKING AMAZING. (God knew what He was doing, eh?)

Sometimes, I get a little psychosomatic and my scars begin to itch terribly before I start to enter this spring Thanksgiving season.

Other times, I think, "It's been YEARS. Get over it already!"

But here I am, marveling at it all over again.

Specifically from the angle of how I was still able to nourish my then-newborn baby boy, despite all odds.


Pre-dawn, the Monday after Mother's Day, May 11, 2009. I am 2 weeks, 2 days post partum.

I wake, earlier than normal, and the dull ache in my right shoulder and neck that has been plaguing me has gone from achey to acute pain. 

I look over at Seth, sound asleep, and then towards the cradle at Christopher. He is just as sprawled out, arms crossed behind his head in that Meyer boy way, lips pursed in deep concentration as he toils at sleeping hard. My heart swells at the sweetness of their identical postures.

I stealthily slip.out of bed into the shower, hoping the warmth will soothe my screaming muscles. After some time, I grab the shower dial to turn the heat up, but it will go no further. It's already at the maxed out temperature.

"Something's not right." 


And the 103 fever plus pain for 6 days didn't tip me off?

I know - I still don't know how I let it go that long.


Fourteenish hours later, my best friend, Sarah, and I are at Urgent Care and I'm slipping fast. I can barely keep my eyes open or form coherent thoughts. The pain in my shoulder is throbbing rapidly - is my heart really beating that fast? I can't decide if I'm on fire or freezing, as the sweat and goosebumps are simultaneous instead of intermittent now.

Sarah informs the Urgent Care staff checking me out that she is an RN also - they exchange a Look.

Frenetically, they start talking over me. I hear them saying things like "Tachycardia, hypotension, tachypnea...." like it means something, and it means something Bad.

Next thing I know, paramedics are hooking me up to oxygen and I'm being gurneyed out to the ambulance.

My thoughts start to return to me.

"Why is it taking so long to get to the hospital?"

"Seth is meeting us there with the baby."

My breasts start to tingle.

"He's going to be hungry."


I'm set up in a bed in triage. 

Seth sits on a backless stool beside me. Christopher is asleep in his carseat carrier.

I don't know how he is staying asleep as the drunk transient next to us has been bellering on and on for ages. Now there is a cop questioning him. 

It's just loud and I'm back in my right mind - I don't know if it was the oxygen or some other thing they did in the ambulance that helped clear the fog - and I let a couple of tears trickle out of the corner of my eye. I just want MY BED with my family all in the same place. I do NOT want to be HERE, waiting for the docs to share with us what is wrong with me.

Seth looks at me, all concern and worry knotted over his face. He grabs my hand and holds my gaze. He is having a silent conversation with me and God.

Christopher stirs and roots around, still semi-sleeping.

Seth unfastens him and hands him to me so I can nurse him.

I think about how much he needs the protection of my milk's antibodies since we are being exposed to all manner of germs here in the hospital. I wish we were in Women's Care at least, where he could be in a bassinet, level with my bed.

I miss Kelsey and Colton. They are just 8 and 5, and have to be freaking out. I grab my Blackberry and text Sarah and David, asking them to give them extra hugs from me.


This day is becoming The. Longest. Day. Of. My. Life.

It's well past 10:00 and finally we're told that the likely culprit for my demise is pneumonia.

"No," I argue, "it can't be. I've had pneumonia before and it was awful, I coughed this horrible phlegm up. I haven't been coughing at all - just this weird fever and the pain in my shoulder."

The doctor chuckles arrogantly. "Yeah, well, we'll see what the xray says, dear."


Well, damnit, he is right. 

And then some.

I will be admitted and staying for a least a few days.

There is pneumonia all over the right lung in the xray, but also a ton of infectious fluid in my pleural space, the pressure from which is the cause of my shoulder and neck pain.

"So if I'm sick is that going to affect my baby - can he get sick from me? Am I going to have to quit breast-feeding?"

Panic enters my mind at the thought of our nursing relationship ending at 16 days. I'm a good milk-producer and had a wonderful time nursing Kelsey and Colton. It's just senseless!

They assure me that breastfeeding him is the best thing I can be doing for him.

They order a CT scan for me because if the fluid has "pockets" then it will change the course of treatment. I will need to pump and dump for 24 hours because of the contrast dye and baby will need formula in the meantime because I've not yet started pumping and freezing breast milk.

"Twenty-four hours, not forever, this will be ok," I tell myself.

I tell Seth that I'll feed the baby now and that will buy some time - but he will need to go get my pump, bottles, and the formula sample from when we had Christopher. 

As a staunch believer in the benefits of breastfeeding, never before had I been grateful about the formula companies pushing their products on new parents at birth, but we were broke and it was approaching midnight by now - so to have it on-hand at home was a lifesaver.


The CT scan shows minimal pockets, so the "drain the pleural space via chest tube" treatment plan is green lighted. 

Once all that torture is past, middle of the night calls and e-mails are made to family and friends, because all I care about is seeing to the care of my children. 

The bigs need to get to school in the mornings. 

Seth had to work (he'd just taken unpaid leave for the birth, we couldn't afford him missing more work). 

Meal trains need established until family gets over the mountains. 

The baby would room in with me, and I will nurse him after this initial 24 hours. But it will be tricky. I'm confined to bed because I'm tethered to an IV antibiotics drip, oxygen, and the horrible chest tube and the "bucket" it drains into. I would need help simply accessing him, and he isn't a patient, and we aren't on Women's Care so it isn't the nurses' job to see to this.....

Dear Lord, how is this going to work? 


Our church secretary sets up volunteer shifts for people to come sit with Christopher and me during the middle of the night when my family is with Seth and the kids, sleeping and preparing for the days.

It is the most amazing and humbling outpouring of love.

Scheduling is very ambiguous. Each day we aren't sure how long we'll need these volunteers. But people sign up at the last minute anyway. Forsaking their families, activities, and sleep for us.

My recovery has setbacks that require surgery. 

On the day that I'm told I need surgery, I ask again if this will render me unable to nurse my baby. 

"Most certainly - you're going to be on anesthesia for the surgery, and then afterward you'll be on heavy duty pain meds that you won't want to pass on to him."

I grow despondent. Every morning after my chest xrays, I've been given news that I'm getting worse, not better. Now, I am told that I will need to have surgery (I have always had a fear of surgery and being cut) and oh, by the way, you won't be able to nourish your baby the same way you've done with your others.

That afternoon an angel visits my room by way of a CNA coming to sponge bathe me. At my tears, she asks why and I tell her that I now require surgery and it's the end of our nursing relationship. She tells me, no, it doesn't have to be.

Women's Care and Pharmacy are consulted. A mini fridge is being put in my room to store my pumped breast milk to feed Christopher while I'm under for surgery. A nursing-friendly pain management regimen has been coordinated with the doctors and nurses. I will be in significantly more pain than I would have been, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make for my baby.


I end up spending 12 days total in the hospital. Over 11 days, volunteers from church come to my room in 4 hour shifts from 9pm to 9am so that I can keep nursing my baby.

That's 33 shifts, 132 hours of sacrificed sleep, spent sitting and waiting for a baby that isn't theirs to cry, changing his diapers, rocking and walking the halls with him, talking and praying with me when fears set in about how I'm not getting better.

They could have just bought formula and left us to deal with Christopher's care as a "family matter," letting my in-laws and my mother deal with sleepless nights at home.

But they didn't.

The doctors and nurses could have told me it would be too hard to re-figure a nursing friendly regimen.

But they didn't.

My body could have stopped producing life-sustaining milk for my baby as it fought to live.

But it didn't.

And the love that our community demonstrated through it all was noticed.

The doctors and nurses couldn't believe all the sacrifices we made to allow me to continue to nurse my son.

It wasn't practical. It surely wasn't convenient. 

But it was magical and moving and stirred so many hearts to seek God and their own communities for that same kind of strength and support they witnessed.

He moves in mysterious ways, indeed.

Poor quality image brought to you by a 2009 cell phone camera

The help continued for another 4 weeks at my home. I had to continue IV antibiotics through a PICC line at home, which meant no heavy lifting.

Christopher continued nursing until the week before his second birthday when we were both ready to wean.

We weaned on our terms.

This was just one gift amidst thousands of others rained upon us through this experience. 

My heart is full of gratitude every year at this time for all these thousands of gifts and countless kindnesses. 

So many of the folks who helped have moved away - but I remember you.

It will never not be a big deal to me.

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