Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Another Step On the Path

For one week now my Mom and I have shared the chores and passed the time playing Scrabble. Yesterday I laid on the couch and smelled homemade chicken soup that I didn't have to make, and I almost felt like a little kid again. As the first snowstorm of the season settles over us, we're hoping there's something to the labor and delivery nurses' claim that storms send women into labor.

Today, as I tried to land my "Z" on a Double Word Score, Naomi's nephrologist called to talk over the results of her yearly tests. Her ultrasound showed nothing too surprising: kidneys that continue to be too dense with cysts, too small, and filling with scar tissue. Her 24 hour urine collection continues to show that her kidneys are dumping an abnormal amount of protein--a sign that they are struggling to keep up with her growth. While the protein isn't a huge amount, it has been there on three separate collections over the course of a year now and clearly isn't going to resolve.

The nephrologist thought it was time to start Naomi on a daily medication called an ACE inhibitor. The medication is normally to control blood pressure (Naomi's runs a little high anyway), but also helps to preserve kidney function in this kind of situation. The idea is to try to ease the burden on the kidneys as much as possible so that the function will be preserved and a transplant delayed as long as possible. Naomi is nowhere near renal failure yet and probably won't be until she is in her teens or twenties, but starting the ACE inhibitor now is a wise way of delaying the inevitable perhaps an extra year or two, possibly more.

It's strange. It's only a little pill once a day--something to add to Naomi's daily vitamins (due to the liver disease) and melatonin (due to the pineal gland cyst) that she takes anyway. But for 7 1/2 years we've bragged that Naomi and Emma were doing so well they didn't need prescription meds for the ARPKD/CHF, and that era is over.

It's just a little pill once a day, but it is the beginning of a lifetime of medication for my daughter. She will never go a day again without needing pills. I'm thankful that she's come so far with so little intervention needed, but it is hard to make the adjustment, to know that only more intervention is to come. I don't want to make more out of it than it is--it's just a little pill. As the liver doctor said in October, just one more step down a path we already knew we were on. It just seems we can't walk this path slowly enough.

Friday, November 25, 2011


I have truly enjoyed reading over all of my blog posts from last year, but none has so amazed and humbled me as reading "A Pillar of Fire by Night" from November 12, 2010. After over a year of unemployment and living with in-laws, it seemed like God was intentionally blocking every opportunity that crossed our way, intentionally foiling each plan we made, and though we were truly mystified by God's choices we knew he was doing something purposeful. This is a quote from that post:

"Lately Matt and I have taken comfort, ironically, in just how awful some circumstances have been. Last week Matt actually had a job offer over the phone, and we told the kids that Daddy had a job, and their little eyes glowed, and we celebrated! But several hours later the company had to renege because, though they were well aware that Matt's dad worked at the same place, they weren't aware that their company's hiring policy forbid them to hire two family members. "Well," Matt said, "only God could orchestrate something that awful." And, though we're not exactly sure what God was trying to work in that situation, it gave us a strange sense of comfort to know he's doing something in our lives."

It hurt to finally have a job offer, then have it snatched away. It seemed a bit like a cruel trick, like a dangling carrot, like the work of a malicious god, certainly not loving, but even when we couldn't imagine how, we somehow knew it was the act of a loving God. Though the situation grew only more baffling over the next few months, one year later we have the pleasure of peeking behind the curtain and seeing exactly what the wizard was working.

Matt got an awful factory job in January and we took a rental house on the edge of a small town. In April, when Matt's dad left his company, the company called Matt to offer him the phlebotomist job that he had been denied in November. We weren't sure what to do. It would be a better job for sure, but we had settled in a house 36 miles away from it! A couple from our church tentatively offered to let us move into one of their rental houses much closer to the job, so, as much as we didn't want to move again, Matt took the phlebotomist job and we planned another move. We couldn't have been any more puzzled with God's workings than when the rental house with the family in our church fell through. Now Matt had a job 36 miles from our house, a commute we couldn't afford the time or money for. We watched for other rental houses closer to Matt's job, but I had no peace at all with taking any of them. They were in unsafe neighborhoods, or too far from church and family, or too small for our growing family. So we stayed in a house we were happy with, and a job Matt was happy with, even though we ended each month in the red financially. Surely God had something he was working.

It wasn't until Matt landed the job with the American Red Cross one mile from our current house this September that we finally saw the pieces fit together. Matt couldn't get the job that he was offered as a phlebotomist at his father's company in the city last November, because if he had we would have moved to that city and been locked into a less-than-ideal job and housing situation. First, God gave Matt a factory job that enticed us to choose the house we needed to be in. Next, God gave Matt the phlebotomist job far from our house so that Matt would have the training he would ultimately need for the Red Cross job right down the road from the house we already lived in. That job offer that so broke our hearts one year ago was not the act of a malicious deity, it was the loving first step on a bewildering path to a beautiful resting place, and I could never have planned it better myself.

This Thanksgiving we are settled in a home, Matt's job is stable and adequate and rewarding, and we await the birth of our fifth child, who is perfectly healthy. But even better, we have the gift of knowing that the Lord is our shepherd. He leads us beside quiet waters, as well as through dark valleys, but his rod and staff comfort us until we come to green pastures again.

You may never have the joy of peeking behind the curtain and understanding the reasons for the dark valleys you walk, but, baffled as you may be, the promise stands:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Right-Side Down

This morning the OB says to me, "So the ultrasound shows that the baby's breech?"

"No," I reply, "actually, that's just what the nurse-midwife thought when she felt him."

The OB wrinkles her forehead and says, "Well, why didn't she scan you?" (How the heck should I know?) "Let's go scan you now, just to be sure we're not wasting our breath." (Good idea!)

And the ultrasound clearly showed that baby was actually...head down! I will never know if he was breech on Wednesday or not. Perhaps he was and he decided to turn because I laid upside down on an ironing board, or perhaps he turned in response to the prayers offered, or perhaps he was always head-down and I just need to be thankful that I didn't turn him breech with all the antics yesterday. Whatever way it is, I am happy.

In defense the midwife, and myself, who had trouble telling the baby's position for sure: the placenta is anterior, meaning it is attached to the front wall of the uterus. This makes it much harder to feel the baby's position since you're feeling through several extra inches of placenta. An anterior placenta also would have disqualified me for an ECV (doctor turning the baby head-down) since the danger of causing the placenta to detach would be too high. So it's a very good thing he is head down!

Once again I am ready to go into labor NOW, before he does flip breech or anymore drama enters my life. Plus, it's the weekend and Matt's on his way home. Time to get this show on the road.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Upside Down

I wasn't too concerned going into today's OB appointment. Baby had been "oblique" or just a little to the side at my last appointment, but I was fairly confident he had turned to the proper position since he felt much more upright now. I was correct that he had turned, but I was wrong about the direction. Baby is now completely breech. Little stinker. This is more and more likely as I have more babies since the uterus is less tone and baby has more room to move about. The good news is just that though--he still has room to move about. Hopefully he will either turn head-down on his own or the doctor will be able to turn him without much effort.

Unfortunately, I saw a nurse-midwife today instead of an OB, and at this practice the nurse-midwife is not allowed to even schedule an ECV (external cephalic version--an attempt to turn the baby head-down by pressing on the baby from the outside). So I have to go back to talk with the OB on Friday morning, at which time she will schedule the ECV (if he's still breech), hopefully for early next week before baby gets too big or too lodged to turn.

Until then I will be hanging myself upside down multiple times a day, playing music at the lower end of my abdomen, and using hot and cold packs to try to lure the baby to turn his stubborn head southward. And in a drastically new change of attitude, I will also be hoping NOT to go into labor, since the doctors will not attempt to turn a breech baby while I am in labor, nor will they let him arrive bottom-first through the normal route--it would be an automatic, fast C-section if my water broke or labor set in right now. Alas, more drama. Lets just hope he gets his head in gear and doesn't try to exit until then.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Waiting Week

My creative genius seems to have been crowded out by this baby right alongside my stomach and my bladder. Days go by when I actually have the time to write in my blog and I can't think of anything to write. I'm sure the kids say and do funny and memorable things--if only I could remember them. People talk about the "fog of pregnancy" and the incredible focus of a pregnant mother on her impeding arrival as the due date draws nearer, and it is all true. I tell myself that I need to enjoy these last few days or weeks before I have a newborn sapping away all of my time and energy, but all I can think is, "Get this baby out!" I remember when I was pregnant with Hannah, how Matt tried to convince me that the longer she stayed in the better--she would be easier to care for when she did come out. But after days of me not being able to think about or talk about anything else, even he was ready to have Hannah arrive so that we could move on with our lives.

There have been some funny moments, but when they happen I am so unmotivated to put in the effort to write them in my blog that they just become short facebook posts instead. Then I sit down to write in my blog, and I've already used up all my funny stories. Ah, well, I'm sure that once this baby comes I'll have tons of new material to blabber on about. Until then, here's a brief update on Eby household happenings.

Matt is out of town again this week for more training. This new job has a ridiculous amount of training overkill. He is staying (all expenses paid) in a nice hotel and eating three restaurant meals a day. I am staying at home with all four and a half children and eating beef stew from a can, because when Matt's not coming home to dinner all my ambition to spend the afternoon cooking quickly disappears. The kids have been enjoying continuing their bedtime routine with Daddy via video conference over the Internet. Apparently The Hardy Boys are just as riveting over Google Chat as they are in person because all three girls sit stone still and listen for half-an-hour to their virtual dad reading, and I get a nice little break.

Naomi continues to be healthy and extremely helpful, and I continue to be amazed and thankful. She often helps to get Toby dressed and fed. She folds laundry, empties the dishwasher, and just pitches in graciously when asked. Today at lunch she did admit that she wished there was a "reading land" where she could just read all she wants to. I said I couldn't imagine her reading much more than she already does. Hannah offered that maybe in reading land Naomi would even be able to read while she eats and sleeps.

Hannah has been following in Naomi's footsteps with a love a reading. How could she not learn to love reading with such an example? At the age of five, when public school would have her learning her letters, she is reading 2nd grade chapter books with great comprehension. She has also taken up reading to Emma and Toby, which makes everybody happy! Unfortunately, Hannah has also taken a turn for the unstable again. She goes through phases of emotional upheaval unlike any of my other kids. Lately everything sets her in tears, and it seems that the more individual attention I give her, the more she craves. I instinctively back away from this bottomless-pit of neediness, but I'm trying to overcome my fear of being sucked in and give her the extra time and attention she obviously needs right now.

Emma has been blossoming quite beautifully lately. She's finally taken off with learning to recognize and write letters and numbers. She's become quite the artist with stick figures and smiley faces, and she's so very proud. She should be. Special speech preschool has been good for her self-esteem, even if her actual speech hasn't improved much at all. While Hannah seems to burst into tears over everything lately, Emma seems more content and confident than ever--which is good for me, because two bottomless pits of neediness might just consume me completely.

Toby doesn't understand why Emma won't talk properly, and he's begun either correcting her or making fun of her regularly. He means it all in good fun, and she seems to take it well, but I'm a little at a loss as to how to answer him when Emma tries to say "Okay" and Toby asks me, "Why does Emma say 'Ogay'?"  He has also begun experimenting with substituing a "g" for every other consonant the way Emma does, which amuses him greatly and irritates me to no end. I don't need two people speaking Emma's dialect around here.

Toby cares nothing for using the potty, unless it's bedtime, of course. Suddenly, the boy who hasn't voluntarily sat on the potty all day has to sit and dribble out a half-ounce every ten minutes, but I hate to discourage him. It's win-win for him. He gets to get out of bed, and Mommy has no choice but to praise him for it. He then milks his advantage further by asking with all sincerity, "Do you know where my bed went? I can't find it." Somehow my assurance that it's likely right where he left it, doesn't satisfy him. So up the stairs we go and I tuck him in again, for another 10 minutes.

Toby is also antsy. All Mommy wants to do is stay home and rest. All Toby wants to do is go--somewhere, anywhere! Just say the word and he's putting on his own shoes and coat now, ready to break out of this prison cell. Unfortunately, Hannah suddenly doesn't want to go anywhere. She burst into tears at the same time that Toby started celebrating when I told them they were going to a friend's house tomorrow while I'm at a doctor appointment. Hannah likes this friend's house, but she says she just wants to lay in bed, for a long time. She does have a nagging cough and a stomach ache, but I suspect that all the changes coming have her longing for security beyond physical rest. I know she is excited for the holidays and the new baby, but sometimes we can be excited and apprehensive at the same time, and I think she's caught in the middle of it all.

I am convinced that I will go into labor any minute now, and I will probably remain so convinced for another three or four weeks, but don't tell me that, or I may punch you. I am thankful that I have family visiting this weekend and my parents coming for Thanksgiving next week. I need to be kept busy and distracted right now. If all looks normal at my OB appointment tomorrow I'll be settling in for another week of waiting. If not, well, at least I'll have something more exciting to write about.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Getting on My Nerves

With one month and two days to go until my due date this baby has been getting under my skin and on my nerves, and recently he's become a real pain in the rear. I've had periodic nerve pain at the end of my other pregnancies, but this little boy has taken it to a whole new level. I will be innocently going about my life when searing pain will shoot down the back or inside of my leg, causing it to buckle underneath me. It's not a conscious choice to relieve the pain, it's reflex that I have no control over at all.

Last week I was standing at the kitchen table chopping vegetables when the pain struck and I barely got the knife down and my hands on the table to steady myself. Yesterday was particularly challenging because the pain came relentlessly again and again. I was shopping and only stayed upright because I could lean on the cart. I was cleaning and had to grab for the nearest chair or counter. Twice I was literally stuck on the floor after changing Toby's pull-up. The nerve pain gripped me every time I tried to move my right leg at all. Matt had to come behind me and hoist me up, and back on my feet again I was fine, at least for a few minutes.

Today at church I moved cautiously, staying near chairs and counters and walls, and several times I was struck and had to steady myself. I feel like I need to go out and buy a cane. Tonight at dinner Hannah offered these reassuring words, "Well, Mama, if you can't get off the floor tomorrow when Daddy's at work, we'll just bring everything to you that you need."

"No," Matt said, "what you girls need to do is get a big wheel and hook it to the ceiling and throw a rope over it. Then you can all pull Mommy up off the floor." The girls all giggled. Ha ha.

When I pointed out that cardboard and scotch tape probably wouldn't hold me up these days, Hannah had an even better idea. "We could get one of those machines that they use to build buildings, like the one that lifted the tree off the Baron's house. What's it called?"

Matt's eyes laughed, "A crane? Yes, you could get a crane to hoist Mommy off the floor! Good idea, Hannah."

I just want you to know, in case a crane pulls up to my house tomorrow, not to worry. It's just my children helping Mommy off the floor again.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

You Mash It, You Eat It

Yesterday morning, after my angelic daughters folded two loads of laundry for me, I headed upstairs with the hefty basket full of folded laundry. It was an accomplishment to make it to the top with that basket, and my heart was still pounding when Toby appeared at the bottom of the stairs with a banana. "I want a banana!" he demanded, "Open it!"

I was not about to run back downstairs so soon. "Toby," I informed him, "if you want me to open the banana you have to ask nicely, and I'll open it for you after I put the laundry away." He knows what it means to "ask nicely" and he often does, but yesterday he was in the mood to assert himself, maybe just to see what would happen.

"No!" he yelled back at me. "Open it now! Open it! Open it!" When I raised an eyebrow at him and then walked away, he laid down on his stomach at the bottom of the stairs and began pounding the banana on the floor as he yelled over and over, "Open it now, Mommy! Open it! I want a banana! Open it!" The only reason he was spared immediate consequences was that I was determined to get the laundry put away before heading back down the stairs again. Perhaps he thought he was gaining ground with me, perhaps he was pleased with himself, or perhaps he was ticked that I was ignoring him, but he pounded all the louder as he yelled.

Once the laundry was away I calmly walked back down the stairs. He stopped and looked at me like, "Now what?" In the silence I said calmly, "Toby, let me show you what happens to a banana when you pound it on the floor." I strapped him into his booster seat in the kitchen and removed the peel from a pile of brown mush. "You said you wanted this banana," I continued, "I asked you to wait until I was done putting laundry away, but you banged it on the floor. Now it's all yucky. You made it yucky, and now you're going to sit in that chair until you eat it."

Suddenly Toby didn't want the banana so badly anymore. Actually, he didn't want it at all. "No!" he yelled at me. "I don't want that banana! It's all yucky! Put it in the garbage!"

I knew I was setting myself up for World War III, but I also knew this war needed to be fought, so I dug in my heels. "No, Toby. You smashed the banana because you wanted it. I'm not letting you out of that seat until you eat it," I reaffirmed. And so it began.

You would not believe the way this strong-willed little two-year-old boy carried on. He was not pleading for mercy either, he was defiant! "No, Mommy! I won't eat it!" he screamed loud enough for the neighbors to hear. "I WOOOOONNNNNN'T!!! It's YUCKY!!! Put it in the garbage! Put it on the floor! It's gross! I want a different banana! YOU eat it, Mommy!"

I sat out of sight, trying my best to block him out. From time to time I reappeared to make sure he still remembered why he was in his booster seat and what he had to do to get out. He remembered just fine, but he figured he'd rather die of a cardiac arrest or at least lose his voice for a few days first. This went on for two full hours! Sometimes he would stop sobbing and screaming and I would go back in and even give him a hug, and ask him gently if he was ready to obey. Suddenly he would stiffen and remember that he was at war with me, and it would start all over again.

Near the end of the second hour I came into the kitchen to cook lunch. Toby was pleased to hear this, but flew all to pieces when I informed him that he wouldn't have any lunch until he ate the banana. I guess that wasn't what he was hoping to hear. By the time I was done making lunch and dishing up everyone else's plate, Toby sat with puffy red eyes, lifelessly staring at the pile of brown mushed banana in front of him. I reminded him one more time that that was the banana he had pounded on the floor, and that he needed to eat it since he had smashed it. This time he didn't yell in defiance, he sat and looked sadly at it. "Should we pound bananas on the floor?" I asked him.

"No," he said remorsefully.

"What happens to them when we do that?" I continued.

"They get all yucky," he admitted.

"Should you have waited patiently for Mommy to open your banana?"


Seeing that his spirit had finally bowed to my authority, I decided to compromise, "How about you just eat one big bite?"

He brightened up and readily agreed. One bite of mushed banana went down, and one boy happily ate lunch and took a good nap. My ears stopped ringing about the time he woke up again. He hasn't smashed any bananas since, and I've heard a lot fewer defiant words from his mouth. One point for Mommy. Now if only I could get him to use the potty.