29 May 2013

Defying the laws of physics and mathematics

Some universal laws are upheld quite regularly around here. Like gravity: We’re always dropping stuff. And the second law of thermodynamics: Yeah, entropy always increases. Always. Then too, we’ve got the fourth law of thermodynamics down pat. (Didn’t know there was a fourth law of thermodynamics? Wikipedia helpfully points out that “Murphy’s law” has been referred to as such. Heehee.)

But Newton’s third law of motion? Reach back into your high school physics memories and recite it with me now: for every reaction, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. That one, we’ve got beat. By which I mean, for every action in this house, I can nearly guarantee you that there will be multiple and disproportionate reactions. I guess that means my kids have some kind of superpower…

Also, the math problem: If there’s technically a 50% chance that a toddler will put her shoes on the wrong feet, why does it happen 89% of the time? (Mind you, I’m thrilled to have a toddler who can put on her own shoes and who does so cheerfully. But I’m just askin’.)

20 May 2013

The old Must Be Nice

You know, you work real hard on something basically pointless like your kid's braids or a cake or the Valentines or some other mother's child's costume for the play and every once in a while some jerk comes around and takes a look and then compliments you by saying, "Must be nice to have time for stuff like that!"




But actually, it is nice to have time for stuff like that. Thank you God and, to the extent that he will allow me to credit him,  husband. 

It's not my fault people like that are jerks, and if they dropped off their kid at my house in the morning I'd braid that scraggly kid too (solely as a favor to the kid, however).

14 May 2013

Part the last of a long story about a broken leg

As promised, here is the inspiring conclusion of this pulpy rag. But you don't have to take my word for it.  

I hobbled in the boot for about three weeks. Every day, the pain got a little less poignant and the swelling a little less colorful. At the end of these weeks, the bottom of my foot was still noticeably bruised, but my shin stopped throbbing whenever I stood up, and my ankle got downright comfortable.

My mood was … mercurial. My husband still listened to a lot of crying and soothed a lot of panicking. But I had good days, too, especially once the sun started shining more and our asparagus patch started producing.

It also helps that this baby I’m carrying is a really good baby. This has been my easiest pregnancy. If I hadn't broken my ankle, I would have nothing to complain about. Which is probably why I needed to break my ankle? Yes, insane self. That must be it.

Moving on: We went to see the surgeon again, per the appointment made for us by the nurses on surgery day. My X-rays looked tolerably good. Progress was progressing. Everyone was sort of confused about my being there. Wasn't I all better already?

Surgeon: So, have you been walking on that ankle without the boot?

Me: No.

Surgeon: You haven’t?

Me: I was waiting for permission.

Surgeon: Huh. Well, go home and try walking on it and see what happens.

Me: Like, just stand up and walk?

Surgeon: Yeah. And we’ll see how it goes.

Me: Do I need special shoes or anything?

Surgeon: Oh, whatever (his phone rings, so …) Nice seeing you.

So, I went home, took off my boot, and ... yeah. I tried to walk, but it was very frustrating. My entire leg felt frozen. My range of motion was embarrassingly poor. And with the exertion, my ankle no longer felt comfortable. It had only been kidding about that. In reality, it was both wasted and somehow so swollen I looked like a Cabbage Patch doll. Purple cabbage. Which was rather appropriate, depending on your perspective.

But, full steam ahead and daum the torpedoes, right? The surgery-man had said to walk, so I figured I’d better just do it. I went back to the crutches for a day or two, which amounted to a lot of pretending to walk. Every once in a while, I double-dog dared myself to stand up and go for it, and then I would make a short trip down the hall and back, using the wall to keep myself upright. Getting around was possible, but for the most part I was really torturing myself. My brain must have figured that since we hadn't been using that left foot for so long, it just as well jettison any information it had stored on its function and purpose. Sin, man. It’s bad.

After a week of this, I called the surgeon’s office and begged for some help. They referred me to a physical therapist, whom I've been seeing for about two weeks now. She’s been immensely helpful. She’s given me tools to fight back against my specific problems, and she provides an objective gauge to help me see where I am progressing and where I am not. Because of her efforts and the exercise program she’s prescribed, I can put one foot in front of the other and move under my own power. I am not walking normally, but I am upright and bearing all my own weight. Which is rather prodigious just now, so good job, stupid ankle. But, you know, try harder next time.

I can’t expect things to start really normalizing until after this baby is born. For instance, I cannot very often fit my foot comfortably in a shoe even a whole size larger than what I am used to wearing. My OB tells me that because a full 30% of my blood volume is being directed through my placenta, my ankle is not being flushed of fluids as it should be. Then there’s the extra relaxin in my system. And the extra weight. And the 95-degree days. All in all, I’m as barefoot and pregnant as I can get. I still need to wear the CAM walker whenever I leave the house. And I can’t yet trust my ankle to carry me up and down stairs.

However, while I am still operating under an artificial light, I can finally see the sun shining on the other side of the curtain. The pain is gone. Any discomfort I have these days is just a pitiful little band of rebel soft tissues trying for control. We’re quite safe from their friends here. The bruising is mostly gone. When I am diligent about stretching and exercising my ankle hourly, my gait is almost sort-of normalish. I can make my children breakfast. I can lift my toddler son into his crib at naptime. I can fetch the cinnamon off the high cupboard shelf. I can drive. And as this parsonage isn't all that big, I can usually catch up to people in time to stop most naughtiness. Not too bad for having broken myself a mere ten weeks ago.

In five or so more weeks, this baby will be born healthy and well (God have mercy) and the real healing on my ankle can get going. Even so, it will be another nine or so more months until my ankle can be called reborn. About a year, then, of general weird living and not hiking and getting through it. But what’s one year in the greatest scheme of things? Christ is coming back. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. 

13 May 2013

Part two of a long story about a broken leg

I just wanted to mention that the reason I am recording this thrilling tale of my broken ankle is because my second favorite not food-related activity just now is Googling for stories of pregnant women who have broken their ankles. Remarkably, there aren't a whole lot of these stories available. So I really feel like doing my part to provide someone who might someday be pregnant atop a broken ankle with a story to read, should she love Googling for camaraderie as much as I.

The next day was a Sunday. My husband called his head elder to run through Matins rather than leave my father at my mercy all morning. Turns out getting to the bathroom and the like is rather improbable with a broken ankle dangling unfixed at the bottom of the leg, and I really needed my own husband by me. When it comes to pushing the “for worse” envelope all out of shape, I really know what I’m doing. But we made it through. I even got my dishwasher fixed; two men playing nursemaid to a crippled pregnant chick get bored between bathroom calls.

Later that afternoon, my mother and children arrived, and my mother declared that she was moving in with us for as long as it took. This cheered everyone up immensely, as no one, not even I myself, runs my house as well as my mother.

And then it was surgery day. There was a lot of being pushed around in wheelchairs and being transferred between here and there and getting poked with needles. The anesthesiologist opted to perform a nerve block on my bad leg; putting me under was out of the question and I don’t respond well to procedures involving my spine. Once on the operating table, it became clear that I don’t respond well to nerve blocks, either, so I got a dose of some sort of dozy potion that wasn't general anesthesia, but that set me to dreaming about Downton Abbey.

And then I woke up to an ankle held together by a plate and 12 screws. A liaison from the OB floor had been in the operating room with me, monitoring the baby throughout. The baby came through it fine. So they gave me a couple of hours to let the drugs clear my system and then sent me home.

And! Then I was home, back to living bathroom break to bathroom break. I was given some pain meds that claimed to be safe for my baby, and I took them. Sort of. For a couple of days. I couldn't really shower or anything, as my leg was not in a proper cast. Rather, it was wrapped in scads of padding and bandages and whatnot. Lying down was painful. Being upright was horrible. I was marooned in my room and utterly helpless to do anything for myself or anyone else. It was a tough week.

And then that week was over. And my husband took me to the surgeon’s office. A PA took out the surgical staples and cleaned me up a bit and put me in a CAM walker. She told me not to bear any weight in my CAM walker, and to sleep with it on my leg. But I could take it off to shower and loosen it a bit while being still. And with the CAM walker, crutching around the house became possible, which meant I could take my own self to the bathroom and my husband could go to the office sometimes and my mother didn't have to discipline the toddler all by herself. It was like having a single, bare light bulb turn on in a basement somewhere. Which is to say, everything still stank, but it was better than being in the dark.

Another two weeks went by, wherein I still spent most of my time in my bed with my ankle elevated on pillows. I worked through the magazine pile and watched a really stupid movie. But even better, my Kindergartner got a lot of reading lessons. My other kids got a lot more freedom than usual, and they used it to help Grandma and to be generally agreeable. My mother continued to prove herself the Best of All Mothers. My dad came over on the weekends to take care of my mother. My Ladies' Aid group coordinated the most intense supper drop-off in history. And my husband listened to me cry, soothed my panic, smacked my pride, and brought me communion as often as I wanted it. What am I complaining about? I’m exceedingly rich.

At the end of this two weeks, we went back to the surgeon’s office and actually saw the surgeon. Our conversation went something like this:

Surgeon: Are those your crutches there?

Me: Yes.

Surgeon: What are you using them for?

Me: Um … to move?

Surgeon: You don’t need those to move. You can bear weight in that boot.

Me: I can?

Surgeon: (a bit exasperated) Yes. You should have been bearing weight all this time. Get rid of those crutches. Goodbye.

So, I got rid of the crutches. It took me a couple of days. I started out just standing in the boot. Then I gingerly tried taking steps every now and again. Then I dropped one crutch. Then the other. And then I was walking. Well, let me be more honest: I was hobbling. Like, clud-THUNK, clud-THUNK, clud-THUNK. But, what the heck? I was ambulatory. I could get a bowl of yogurt out of the fridge all by myself. I could clud-THUNK into the grocery store and drive around on one of those silly little scooter things that squeal every time it's put in reverse. My mother was able to return to her own house and life. And best of all, I was able to go to church on Easter morning. That bare light bulb was burning in, like, the laundry room all of a sudden.

And that was how I spent the first four or so weeks of having a broken ankle. Tune in next time for the inspiring conclusion. I'll even try to make it like a Michael Landon program, just for you.

Part Three

11 May 2013

A long story about a broken leg

This post has very little to do with perpetual parturition, being a girl, the LCMS, or any of our usual topics. It is merely a chronicle of my recent experience with a trimalleolar fracture of my left ankle. Read it and weep, if you like, though I warn you that it’s pretty long and cobbled together about as well as my fibula. Feel free to read something else. Ciao, darlings.

Ten weeks ago, when I was 25 weeks pregnant, I was carrying my two-year-old son down my parents’ carpeted stairs when my foot slipped and I broke my ankle. Kazaam. Just like that, everything about everything changed.

People like to ask me for details about my fall: what did I think while it was happening? was I able to manipulate according to the laws of physics for the best possible outcome? did I hear my bones pop? did it hurt right away? do I miss the rains down in Africa? Disappointingly, there aren't any more details. One moment I was walking down the stairs; the next I was sitting next to a screaming toddler and watching my ankle balloon into freak proportions. I rather wish I had a video of the moment, because I can’t imagine how it happened. I didn't even properly fall. My foot slipped and hit the next step toe-first. I felt the bones give. I sat down hard. I didn't drop my son. I didn't bonk my belly. I just sat down, saw the Jackson Pollack show unfolding at the end of my leg, and began to scream.

My husband wasn't with us at my parents’ house, so it was up to my dear parents to tend to everything. They ran as soon as they heard me screaming, which was really something given that I wasn't alone in the activity. My toddler son, scared but blessedly unhurt, was screaming. My four-year-old daughter, who had been descending several steps behind me, was screaming. My eight-year-old son, who had been standing at the bottom of the steps, was shouting. Four voices raised together in song. Must have sounded really fine. 

My father reached me first, and asked me what happened.

“I broke my ankle!” I screamed.

“You broke your WHAT?!?” he asked. I later found out he thought that my water had broken, but no, no. Not just yet.

“My ankle! My God, I broke my ankle!” I screamed again. And then my mother tells me I started begging Jesus for mercy while turning a dull shade of gray. I just remember being very, terribly cold.

What I remember henceforth is that my father hauled me into his car and drove to the closest rural hospital around. I was X-rayed. The X-ray technician clearly thought I was grossly incorrect about being broken. Hence the following conversation:

Tech: (manipulating my badly swollen foot here and there to get the most perfectest picture ever) My goodness! You’re sparkling! 

Me: (gritting teeth and trying hard not to beg desperately for death) What?

Tech: Your skin is sparkling in the light!

Me: . . .

Tech: Are you a vampire?

Me: . . . Yes.

After getting what passed for perfect, the tech dangled my foot over the edge of a giant foam thing and traipsed back to look over her snapshots. In between my own sobs, I heard a long, low groan. Then the tech immediately returned to me, placed my poor leg in a far less painful position, and left the room to fetch the doctor.

The first thing the doctor said to me upon entering the room was something like, “Your ankle is really busted. You need surgery. I can’t help you here. I’ll cast you up, I guess, but you need to get to a bigger hospital. You likely need surgery right now.”

I immediately whirled into a furious panic. But my father took hold of me and calmed me down. He stood behind me and stroked my hair. He calmly warned me whenever he saw the doctor was about to touch my leg. He answered all the nurses’ questions for me and made all the necessary arrangements for my transfer to yon bigger hospital. He saw to it that I got to hear the baby’s heartbeat on Doppler. He was absolutely heroic. My father is among the greatest men living, and not just because he is so very, very good to me.

But back to the star of this show: my stupid ankle. The doctor put me in a fiberglass cast up to my knee, which he then split all down the front to allow for the onslaught of swelling he assured me would come. Then the nurses deposited me in the back of my father’s car, wished me luck, and we were off to the next ER in a hospital three hours away.

Girls, if you ever break your ankle in an area that can’t accommodate your broken ankle, DO NOT LET THEM CAST YOU.* I was in agony—YES! Agony!—for the entirely of that three hour drive. The split in that cast was far from the Platonic ideal of split. It was worthless. The swelling had no place to go but hell, and it took me with it. Gah. I worked to be calm and to keep my blood pressure stable, but I think I might have failed a couple of times. I finally started “vocalizing” through the pain, for the sake of both my baby and my father, as neither would benefit from my sprouting horns and attacking that cast with my teeth. My father later told me he just kept thinking to himself, “What a nice song she’s singing. What a very nice song.”

Somehow we both came through that trip sane.

My husband met us as we were checking into the big hospital ER. He brought with him a backpack filled with everything I needed for a hospital stay (he even thought to include the lip balm, because he’s a man among husbands). And while I had to wait for every nosebleed and toothache to be cycled through before me, I was eventually given a bed, patted nicely on the head, and told the surgeon was on his way. At this point, it was close to midnight.

My husband and father sat up with me and tried to keep my mind off the pain—a Sisyphean task. I was run through an MRI. I was told why, for the sake of the baby, I couldn’t be given any real pain relief. I, in turn, explained why, for the sake of the baby, I would not accept any fake pain relief.. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

The surgeon finally arrived and decreed that while I did need surgery, the swelling would have to go down significantly before they could cut me open. He (finally!) removed the hated cast, but then started probing my ankle to determine whatever it is surgeons need to determine in ERs at 1 a.m. His probing revealed one interesting thing: one of my fractures was perilously close to the skin. The surgeon chose to reduce it then and there. His method: grab my foot by the big toe, lift my leg thereby, and shake the whole mess until things got back into place.

I’m going to skip the gory details and just admit to this: I would rather suffer a Pitocin-induced labor exacerbated by a failed epidural than go through that bone reduction ever again. Moving on.

Once satisfied with the shaking and reducing, the surgeon wrapped my lower leg in miles of padding and bid me goodnight. I was scheduled for surgery first thing Monday morning and sent home. My menfolk carried me into the house, secured me in my bed, and I managed to crash into a rock-hard sleep.

Well! This has gone on long enough for one day. I’ll get on with it later. Ciao to you darlings who are still reading, and I’ll see you next time.

*Except that this won't be a problem, as I am patenting this splendid thing and no one will ever be able to break her ankle ever again. Too bad for you.

Part Two

06 May 2013

Call of the wild

04 May 2013

Where's the baby?

Some months back we ran into someone we hadn't seen in a while. He asked, "Where's the baby?" "There," I said, pointing to the one-year-old running around. And then, "I guess she's not much of a baby any more."

Even less on this day, when she is exactly as old as our firstborn was the day our secondborn was, um, born. To our knowledge, there is no one else on the way.

So much for this. There's not much to say about it and even less to do about it.