Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Today we took Thomas to be fitted for hearing aids. They will be blue. Yes, hearing aids come in blue, and a variety of other fun colors, and you can put stickers on them. I went for blue for several reasons. As James pointed out, they will be easier to find if dropped. They might also help people resolve the ever-present "which gender is this infant?" dilemma. He may enjoy having something besides taupe. But, possibly most significantly, it's my way of embracing the situation. I don't want the hearing aids to feel like something to be ashamed of, something he should try to hide or something that makes him inferior. They may make him different, but don't we all have something unique? Mostly, I hope Thomas's hearing loss won't define him. It will be just one aspect of the many that will make up our wonderful boy. And yes, he is already wonderful, very very sweet and rather a good sleeper.

Thomas did not pass his newborn hearing screen. The nurses wouldn't say that he "failed," just that he "referred," meaning they referred us to the audiology department at the children's hospital for another test because, honestly, after nine months submerged in liquid, it's a miracle anyone comes out without fluid behind their eardrums. Thomas, however, did not have fluid in his inner ears. After a few trips to the hospital and several more hours of tests, we learned that he has a mild hearing loss. Although he can hear many things, particularly at close range, his hearing is such that he may have a speech impediment or learning delays without the help of a hearing aid. Of course we want our son to have as much opportunity for success as possible, so he is getting hearing aids.

People's response thus far has typically been to say "I'm sorry." I think that's a normal and fine response, but for some reason I bristle at it. I guess it's because I'm not sorry, mostly because I don't look at the situation that way. We already have one imperfect child (aren't they all?), so it's not too upsetting to get another. When I think about it I feel a little overwhelmed, a little scared, but primarily I feel profoundly grateful.

I'm grateful that we caught the impairment so early. I'm grateful for the technology that allows newborns' hearing to be tested so comprehensively. I'm grateful for the technology that will help him hear more like the average person. Twenty-five years ago, that technology wasn't available to all children. I am grateful that Thomas is in a home with parents who will do all we can to love him, get him the necessary help and do what is necessary to maximize on his ability to communicate. And, having spent several weeks not knowing the extent of his impairment and reading about cochlear implants, sign language, and severe hearing loss; I'm profoundly grateful that the impairment is only mild. When you've been worrying about severe, mild is a wonderful place to be. I am grateful for the profound sense of peace I feel about it all and that I know our little boy is going to be just fine.

Because we are at the beginning of what, I suspect, will be a very long journey, we were handed an extremely thick notebook of resources at our appointment today. It may weigh as much as Thomas. Nevertheless, I know we are in good hands because this is what we found in the front of the notebook. It expresses perfectly how I have felt.

Welcome to Holland
by Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe hte experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this...

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases is Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack you bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stweardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So youy must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around....and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy...and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever ,ever go away...because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But...if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things...about Holland.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Basil for Scout

You've read Blueberries for Sal? It's a favorite of ours these days. In September, we got to do a somewhat similar task. Instead of collecting blueberries, however, we were picking basil.

 Instead of Blueberry Hill, we were at Vermont Valley Community Farm, from whence comes our weekly CSA box in the summer.

There was plenty of wandering off by herself, though no inadvertent following of bears. And, of course, just like Sal, Scout plopped herself in the middle of a patch of basil to fill her bag.
Too bad basil doesn't quite make a keplink, kerplank, kerplunk like blueberries in a pail. Daddy was typically close at hand, doing the real work in terms of basil picking.

At seven month pregnant, Mom was mostly relegated to chasing down the wandering Scout and taking pictures.

The discovery of a fuzzy caterpillar on one of the basil leaves was probably the most exciting part of the day. Helping Scout not inadvertently smash said caterpillar was the most challenging.

And now we have plenty of  tasty basil and pesto stored up for the long, cold winter.

When is a Camping Trip Not a Camping Trip?

Early this summer, we bought a tent. It was on sale, we wanted to camp, and it is big enough for our expanding family, even taking a pack n' play into account. Once the tent was bought, we set a date to camp. It was really the only weekend that would work for us, so we set it in stone. Our friends invited us over that night, but we turned them down. The weekend was set aside for camping. Period.

We also figured going by ourselves once would be a good warm up for the upcoming ward camping trip. This way we could always come home if it got to be two or three in the morning and no one was sleeping. We picked a spot not too far from home, planned our meals, packed our car and were ready to go.

Upon arrival we found that camping in Wisconsin is not quite camping in Utah and Arizona. Some of the spots felt more like a nicely groomed park than a campground.

And they looked out over fields, which isn't exactly rustic or wild.
Still, it was much more wilderness-ish than Madison. And we weren't going to complain about the playground equipment that was a quick favorite of the youngest member of our family.

So, we found the most wooded spot we could and set up our tent. Scout loved the tent. We mostly wanted her to build good associations with "camping", so the trip was going well.
We built a fire and threw in our tinfoil dinners.

It was then that the problem came. Truthfully, the problem wasn't really unexpected. I had looked at the weather forecast Thursday and noticed that Friday night called for thunderstorms. Seventy percent chance. The rest of the week was completely clear, but of course Friday it was supposed to storm. We'd kept an eye on things all day Friday, with no hope in sight. Still, we decided to risk it.

Just as James really got the fire going, it started pouring. The other two families at the campsite packed up and left. Scout and I hung out in the tent (good thing she loved the tent so much, eh?).

When the rain let up, we decided to seize the day and roast marshmallows for s'mores while the dinner was cooking. It seemed prudent to make dessert between downpours, make hay while the sun shines, if you will.
James makes wonderful s'mores. He melts the chocolate on the grill just a bit and roasts the marshmallows to perfection. Scout was a little unsure at first, but in the end she liked them.
James was extremely enthusiastic about what he labeled possibly the best s'more of his life.

Virginia was really more interested in playing in her camping chair.
And drinking the punch, most of which ended up spilled down the front of her clothes.
As we were finishing our (delicious) dinner, it started raining again. And we started to worry. After all, it's not a great idea to hang out in the tallest trees around during a thunderstorm, particularly if they're sitting on top of the tallest hill around and you live in tornado territory. So, we called it a good try, packed everything up and headed home before the sun set.

At least Virginia had fun and thinks "camping" is great. Someday we'll see how she does with sleeping in a tent. But apparently it won't be this year. James ended up at a conference in Germany the weekend of the ward campout, and I just wasn't feeling brave enough to do it alone. So, camping will have to wait until next year. We've decided that it just wasn't meant to be this time. Why else would we have been scared off the hill (can't really be called a mountain) by a thunderstorm only to return home? And, of course, as we drove back to Madison, the clouds parted and it didn't rain another drop all night.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Well, I've made more attempts at photographic representations of my latest offspring. Here are the results:

He is, of course, more cooperative when sucking on something.
 But these two aren't bad, except for the weird lower lip sucking in the first one.

 I can make most of the separate pieces look right, though it's difficult to get them all looking right together.
 Here's what he looks like most of the time (asleep).
 He only looks like this a little bit, mostly when his diaper or clothes are being changed.

And this one, I think, is my favorite.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Second Time Around

(This is the story of my labor, so if you don't want to know, don't read it--you can safely look at the pics at the end and move on with life.)

The contractions started earlier this time, Friday night. Thirty-six weeks and six days, just one day shy of "full-term." Unfortunately, contractions only came when I was lying down trying to sleep. As soon as I'd get up to time them, they went away. Still, I spent most of the night getting work done, washing dishes (because I just couldn't come home from the hospital to a pile of dirty dishes--aren't you proud, Mom?) and thinking that maybe this time they would stick and it would be labor. Nope. Sometime around six I gave it up and decided to get what rest I could, sleeping most of the morning.

I was pretty exhausted, but we really wanted to take one last trip to the Farmer's Market so we did that. And, of course, we couldn't skip our dear friend Alex's birthday party. So, we went bowling. Yep, bowling. All week long people kept asking me if I could. I didn't see why not. I mean, my balance wasn't great and neither was my score, but I don't exactly consider bowling strenuous activity. For the record, two of the people on my lane (ahem, James, ahem) were complaining of bowling aches and pains before I was.

I know, this photo is terrible, but it's the only one I have and I do think you need the visual here. It's also the latest pregnant pic I have, so it gives you an idea of my final size (let's just say, considerably larger than with Scout).

Saturday night, same routine. This time I was a little wiser. I knew the contractions weren't going to do anything for me, so I relieved whatever bodily complaint may accompany the contraction (it was a night of several trips to both the bathroom and the kitchen), and went back to sleep.

Sunday morning, I dragged myself out of bed and off to church. Of course all this contracting doesn't make for much rest, so I did take plenty of opportunity to complain of being really tired. And I may or may not have slept through the entire primary program rehearsal. It isn't my fault they gave me a seat on the back row with a very convenient wall to lean my head against. I talked with several people who had weeks of Braxton Hicks (warm-up) contractions before actual labor set in with their second children. So, I resigned myself to several more weeks of pregnancy, and made plans for nearly every day of the following week. Sitting around, clearing your schedule and waiting for a baby can make a person crazy!

Sunday afternoon we had a tour of the hospital's maternity ward. It was nice to visualize the process once again and remember how things were going to go. Plus, we got a preview of the super-deluxe suites they've installed since Scout was born. And when we told Virginia that Mommy was going to the hospital, she knew what that meant.

Sunday night, same story, more sleep. I had one really painful contraction that reminded me why labor isn't such a walk in the park. Other than that, I pretty much turned over and went back to sleep. It's important to sleep while you can, right?

Monday I went to the doctor, who gave me the standard spiel (I could check you, but it wouldn't tell us anything, but if you want me to I will). I opted to save myself the personal intrusion. After that I went in to work for most of the day (a delivery was supposed to come in to the office, though it never did). Monday night, more contractions.

Tuesday was life as usual, working, playing with Scout, etc. I have several hours of work meetings on Tuesday afternoon, so I ate my lunch and sat down for the usual line-up. I chose the exercise ball for my desk chair since I'd spent most of Monday in a really uncomfortable office chair and wasn't liking chairs generally at this point.

My last meeting (with my boss) ended just before 3pm. We'd talked through several things that I was going to get done before having the baby. However, when I stood up from the meeting, my water broke. It always seems to happen when I'm really in the mindset of having several weeks yet to go. So I was genuinely quite surprised. I was also a little relieved, as I'd wondered how I would know when I was really in labor if my water didn't break again like it did with Virginia. Apparently my body functions in a rather particular way. My water breaks long before labor really gets going and my children are born at approximately 37.5 weeks. In terms of gestational age, Thomas was born a day earlier than Scout.

So, I told James, gave my boss the fun news, and called my mom so she could start looking a plane tickets. A brief period of total chaos then followed. Having resigned myself to waiting several more weeks, I had nothing packed. I'd written a birth plan, which was nicely saved on my computer but not printed out. I had to dig out the hospital registration I'd procrastinated sending in and fill that out. James went to our storage room to get a suitcase and started hauling up all the baby furniture he could find--the bassinet, the bouncer, the swing. Meanwhile, Virginia was running around trying to tell everyone what to do and not knowing quite how to react to the obvious frenzy going on around her. Amidst all of this, of course, we had to put childcare plans into play. And, most randomly, James's distant relative called for some family history information. She wanted to know whether we'd had any more children since she lasted checked in with us. We told her to call back tomorrow for an update.

After about an hour, I thought I probably ought to call the doctor (I hear they appreciate that kind of thing). I still wasn't having any pain and, in fact, the contractions had stopped entirely. She said I could wait up to four hours before showing up at the hospital. So, we made plans to have dinner together before departing. However, I realized that I wasn't supposed to eat anything, so I changed my mind on dinner participation. I was actually hungry, but after last time, I have no desire to eat while in labor ever again. Scout knew we were going somewhere in the car and she desperately wanted to come, so we decided to drop me at the hospital (which just had to be calmer than home) and have James bring Scout back home, give her dinner, and get everything else together.

When I walked in, I'm sure the person at the desk thought I was crazy. First, I was alone (who labors alone?) and second I clearly wasn't in any pain. Nevertheless, they believed me on the water breaking story (unlike last time) and even let me skip triage (why create more laundry?). I changed into a hospital gown, broke out my iPod, and settled in for what I hoped would be a nice nap before things got started. By this time, it was approximately 6pm and I figured I was in for a long night. I was a little concerned about my energy level, so I figured a nap was the best thing for me.

My nurse came in before too long and started monitoring me. Everything was fine and I was only feeling every fourth or fifth contraction. As it turns out, the nurse had no other patients (apparently lots of people had babies that day, but they all finished shortly before I got there).  James got there about 6:30 and we settled in. I wanted to start walking and moving more now that James had arrived and I could safely progress. Somewhere around then, the nurse decided to check me and I was at a 5. Halfway done!

Around 7:00, my doctor came by. She had told me she'd be along in a few hours since she had another patient in labor as well. She wanted to check whether she could go home and put her son to bed before I would deliver. I felt great, so I confidently told her to take her time. Anyway, my doctor wasn't present at Virginia's delivery, so I'm none too attached to having a certain person catch the baby. So, the doctor headed home and the nurse promised to call if my demeanor changed before she got back. Once she left, I got up and started walking around the room. I was having almost continual contractions, though they weren't too bad. The nice thing about contractions (as opposed to appendicitis) is that the pain comes, and more importantly goes, in waves. You can also move around to make them less painful, which I appreciate. If you can just breathe for thirty seconds and keep moving, it subsides.

At 7:30, things settled down a bit and the nurse checked me again. Seven centimeters. I couldn't really remember, but apparently two centimeters in an hour is fast (or so said James). At this point, the nurse decided to call the doctor. She also said I couldn't get in the bathtub if I wanted the doctor there for my delivery. Moreover, the squatting bar was right out until the doctor walked through the door. So, I kept walking, and leaning, and rocking on the ball, and all those lovely things that help, but not really enough.

I think it was around 8:00 that the doctor came back (I wasn't really focused on the clock). She said it was now or never on the medication. I decided to try to bear one more contraction. And from there she kept telling me to do one more and one more. Sadly, they don't let you decide to have medication in the middle of a contraction. It's not really that sad, and I understand why they do it, but that doesn't mean I have to love it.

The next thirty minutes of this story are painful and ugly and I don't particularly care to relive them. So we'll just say that I finally made it to 10 centimeters (that's when they let you start pushing) at 8:25pm. And Thomas was born at 8:29. I could not believe it when they told me to feel his head already. He was screaming before his feet were even out, but he calmed down well once I got to hold him.
Lots of people have asked why his hands are purple. It's normal for new babies and results from the body switching over from relying on the umbilical cord to total independence. The extremities don't get priority when the heart is working on closing off valves and making the whole circulation thing happen.
I'm still quite amazed that things went so quickly. In fact, the nurses warned me to come in with a little more haste next time, lest I have a baby at home. When my water broke, I thought for certain that I'd be up all night and his birthday would be October 19. Not so. Not that I'm complaining. I also think it's cool that his birthday, 10-18-11 and my birthday, 01-11-81, have all the same numbers just in a different order. It's not as cool as being born on 11-11-11, but it's pretty nifty to me anyway.

Here we are together. I think this picture was actually taken before the last one because his hands aren't purple yet.

See? He's pretty much only happy when I'm holding him. Okay, that's not true, but he is much happier when being held close, even now.

So, the official information, for those interested, is:
Thomas Gunn McKay
Born: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 8:29 p.m.
Weight: 6 lbs. 13 oz.
Length: 18 inches

Here's a nice family picture for you.

Scout is adjusting fairly well to having a brother. She was very excited to come see him at the hospital and spent a lot of time talking about the baby coming out of mommy's tummy. Of course it's a big adjustment, but that's to be expected. One of my nurses in the hospital told me two is the worst age at which to add a new sibling. Great advice when it's too late for me to do anything about it, huh? I do think we nearly blew Scout's mind the day we explained that I am her mommy AND Tommy Gunn's mommy, but she's doing better with that now. She doesn't like sharing my time and attention, but at least she understands it.

She likes to pat him on the head and on the knee and foot whenever she wakes up. It's very sweet. Today she decided it would be a good idea to pick him up. Fortunately, she announces everything she's about to do before she does it, so I was able to relieve her of that notion before anything bad happened.

I think this is the closest she has come to giving him a kiss.
While we're mentioning Scout, for those of you interested in comparisons, she was born one day later in my pregnancy. She was half an inch long and weigh 2 oz more. And her labor lasted quite a bit longer, 10.5 hours with 45 minutes of pushing. Not that I'm complaining. The other woman my doctor had at the hospital had been there since the night before, and I still delivered before her. I don't know how those women do it!

And now, the thing you really want, gratuitous pictures of our little Tommy Gunn, because I can.

If you don't know, Tommy is named after our fathers. We think it's a good, strong name and hope he won't hate the nickname too much. Guys tend to think it's awesome, women tend to think we're crazy. Go figure.
All bundled up in his bed. This bed has been used by both of our children and a few friends' babies as well.

Getting inspected by the big sister.

Having a nap with Dad.
His fist time in real clothes. We won't say how many days old he was at this point. We've both had a lot of all-day pajama days since he was born.
With his Monga, who helped us all survive his first week at home. She's been gone more than 48 hours now and we've managed to avoid disaster thus far.

Looking a little more like himself rather than just a squishy, generic newborn.

These I took yesterday. I'm not overly enamored with any of them, but they give you an idea of what he looks like at two weeks. I have yet to truly "capture" Thomas, so I have to share my attempts.

So, after two weeks, we're all doing quite well, especially Thomas. He's up to 7 lbs. 4 oz. today, which is the 14th percentile. I guess that's good considering he wasn't supposed to be born until Saturday. His head circumference is in the 14th percentile as well, so it's really just his length that is off in 45th percentile land. He's already grown two and a half inches. I'm happy that I won't need to birth a bigger baby this weekend. Okay, let's be honest, I'm mostly just happy that I won't be birthing any babies at all! Nighttime feedings may be rough, but sleeping on my stomach is pretty great.