I’ve been in the hospital for fifty days. FIFTY DAYS. That’s a lot of time for something completely unplanned. It’s been both as terrible as you could imagine, and also as good as it could be. I’m able to walk around the unit by myself, I’m healthy, and I’m carrying a baby who is doing exceptionally well under the stress, which all makes me feel more like a cat in a bookstore than a hospital patient (I can roll out all the sad stuff, too, but since we’re heading for a happy ending, that doesn’t seem to matter).

Made using stamps that were a surprise gift from an old pal of my husbands (find her at etsy.com/shop/ lizardbreth)

Made using stamps that were a surprise gift from an old pal of my husband (find her at etsy.com/shop/ lizardbreth)

Our friends and family have been awesome throughout all this. If I could afford it I would take them all out to nice dinners to thank them personally, but I can’t afford anything after living in a hospital for two months. The best I can do is bring home little containers of apple juice for everyone. You know how some people want to fake a funeral to see what they meant to people? Isn’t that a thing? I feel like this experience has been a version of that – I was not expecting the support we got. It’s been very touching and I’m too much of a robot to effectively communicate what it’s meant to me.

It's helpful when your friend co-owns a coffee shop. Go to Perk! in Bon Air.

It’s helpful when your friend co-owns a coffee shop. Go to Perk! in Bon Air.

I know a lot of awesome and thoughtful people, and that must mean that my husband and I are good people, too, for anyone to want to help us. So if you are an asshole, you better make it right. You never know when you’ll need support.

Here are some notes about the past 50 days.

Milhouse in Heaven, thinking about me.

Mother’s Day present: Milhouse in Heaven, thinking about me. Oh, also Milhouse died.

Weekdays go by quickly, weekends feel slower.

How I’ve spent my time: During the week, wi-fi is really slow. I spend half of my time waiting for web pages to load. I’ve finished seasons of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Fargo, and Orange is the New Black. I only read two books: Bringing Up Bebe and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I’ve written a journal entry every day. I wrote several columns and a couple of articles for RVAnews. I watched a lot of Mad Men. I played games including Wordbrain (phone), a cool puzzle that my friend sent me (kind of like a logic puzzle meets Tetris), and for about a week I was into puzzle books (Logic, Crosswords). I’ve read through lots of magazines, and watched lots of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (I like Guy Fieri – deal with it), and other dumb shows. My husband and I watched a lot of the hit movies from 2014, so at least I’m caught up on what everyone was talking about last year. I even played Minesweeper. Remember Minesweeper from when computers were invented? And being able to bank online and keep track of school events helped. Whatever I could to do keep my husband from having to do it helped me feel more useful and less bad about everything.

IQ Twist.

IQ Twist.

How I spent my time with my daughter: I’ve seen my daughter every day while here (with the exception of one day when she stayed at home since she might have been sick. She wasn’t). My husband has brought her at least twice a day (before and after school) and they spend most of the day with me on weekends. Seeing them so much is mostly what has made this past 50 days tolerable. Even though it’s a small room and I’m more aware of them here than when at home (my daughter especially leaves a messy path), at least it’ll make our house seem big when I get home.

Anyway, a big, mushy thank you to my main associate and roommate for working so hard to bring home to the hospital. They’ve both done beautifully with all the adjustments.

Typical.

Typical.

As for ways to spend time with my daughter, we play lots of Chutes and Ladders, she works on art projects (my aunt sent us a lot of supplies), we watch cable TV (Clarence on Cartoon Network is a weird favorite now for me, and she likes Teen Titans Go). We got some mileage out of Don’t Let The Pigeon Finish This Activity Book! (although I plan to throw away most of the activities we’ve done). She has also become best friends with all the nurses. They let her check my temperature and blood pressure, and they’re all very sweet to her. My friend Susan (who, among a million things, brought me one of the best meals I’ve had here) sent a stack of books for my kid to borrow, which has been nice for hospital naptime.

I have access to a kitchenette with juices, cereal, little ice creams, crackers, peanut butter, milk, and soda. My daughter can enter the key code to unlock the door and will help herself to drinks and snacks. Even my nephew will go to the fridge and pick out his favorite juice when he’s here (my sister says he asks to visit “the Kelly” a lot, but she’s not sure if he loves me more now or likes having access to the kitchen). Also the ice machine makes the best crushed ice. Drinking a cranberry juice cocktail over a cup of crushed ice is delicious. It’s not unreasonable for a woman to choose where to deliver her baby based on the crushed ice availability at the hospital.

There is a nice courtyard area outside, and also a water fountain and a little wooded area. I’m impressed with how well my young visitors have made do with this as a play area. I guess I don’t give kids enough credit. Plus, there are at least two red-tailed hawks that live around the hospital, and they’re fun to spot. It stinks that I missed spring weather, but I at least got outside on some nice days.

IMG_7336

Birds of Prey: They’re Just Like Us!

I normally would never buy watermelon pieces because it’s too expensive. A whole watermelon cut up and sold in packages would cost at least $50 (a pure, uncut watermelon is about $5). But I have been craving watermelon and asked several times for people to bring it. I feel bad because I know it’s so expensive, but it’s all been delicious. No regrets.

My husband hates grocery shopping and it’s one of the normal-life things that I miss the most.

My friends’ photos online have made me miss getting a garden started, and want to eat a dozen King of Pops popsicles and go to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.

I’ve gone back to being a night person. As a single gal, I woke up earlier than my friends (like, 9 AM). When I first moved in with my associate, I started to get up a little earlier and go to bed earlier. I felt like I owned my day more if I could be up to do something other than get ready for work. Now I would prefer to sleep in every day but can’t, and still stay up until 1 AM. It’s a terrible balance but now that Letterman and Saturday Night Live are done, I have no real reason to stay up late.

Since I’ll be out of here in the new few weeks, I’ve been packing up and throwing things out. Days are less sad. I’ve gotten over my lack of accomplishments (I did organize a photo album for 2013 and 2014 – though that unfortunately sets me up for needing to create photo albums every year). I didn’t work on my novel or start any new stories, but this is basically my maternity leave, and I wouldn’t have done any of that anyway. I have time to think about the new baby for real. This pregnancy has gone on forever, although it’s ending a month earlier than it could have. I sometimes lose focus that the end result is a new child but now I’m in preparation mode (or as much as I can be without having any hand in getting the house ready) and excited to get started on our next phase in life.

Nothing about this year has worked out as planned (bed rest isn’t the first of it). I won’t have much time at home – I was hoping for 12 weeks but I will get just 6 or maybe 7, and with a NICU stay, I don’t know when the baby will be joining us for that. But since I’ve not been able to do much for the last two months, I hope that I make the most of the time I do have at home with the baby. I don’t care about being tired or sad or frazzled or in pain – I just want to be there.

Ultrasounds have gotten very specific.

Ultrasounds have gotten very specific.

Also, my nurses have been amazing – both here and the hospital that I transferred from. And red-tailed hawks are cool. And it’ll probably be another year before I update Burgerphone again.

check out my boy @trashpoems on Instagram.

check out my boy @trashpoems on Instagram.

Before I was put on hospital bed rest for PPROM (don’t bother reading up on it if you don’t need to know — but it’s a thing), I finished the first episodes of season seven of Mad Men on Netflix. I knew the last seven started the next weekend, and I asked my dad to DVR them and I had a plan to somehow get to my parents house and spend the weekend binge-watching it before our new baby came. I didn’t want to wait a year until the rest came on Netflix, because if there was a surprise ending then I could only keep from finding out for so long.

Mad Men has been a show I’ve always liked (though seasons five and six weren’t as interesting to me, Don-wise). I’ve only watched it on Netflix. My husband stopped watching it with me after a few seasons, so I would watch it by myself. I never thought it was that great when there weren’t new episodes for me to get through, but then while I was watching it, all I wanted was to start the next episode and I wanted everyone to be a year behind with me so that I could talk about it.

One of the first thoughts I had when I was hospitalized — after I started to have thoughts that weren’t panicky and sad — was that if I stayed in the hospital as long as I was supposed to, I could finish Mad Men. I could watch it live on cable TV like a rich person, not like the can-of-beans-eating-Netflixer that I was. Mad Men would get me through most of my bed rest.

peggySo Mad Men became more important than it normally would have. I enjoyed watching it on Sundays, talking to my dad and other people about it, and reading all the recaps I could on Mondays so I could get another take on what I watched (the problem with a show like MM is that it’s been stretched out so much that I don’t catch all the symbolic call backs).

When the marathon started last Wednesday, I watched as much as I could between hospital interruptions, visitors, and seeing my family, and it was nice to go back and notice things, including how much Megan was in whatever season she showed up in (I don’t think I noticed her until the episode when Sally is at the office, but she was in the background or being talked to in lots of scenes before that), how lucky the show was with Sally’s casting, how the characters talked to Peggy and Joan in season 1, knowing how they turn out, Stan’s changing hair, and the friendship between him and Peggy. And Pete Campbell has always been terrible.

I kept making the joke “I just want to make it to the last episode of Mad Men, then I don’t care what happens,” which is true because I wanted to see the show end, but also because the finale coincided with the weekend I turned to 32 weeks — which is a basically full term for a premature baby.

Now that it’s over I don’t want to go into labor yet, but I don’t feel like I have anything non-baby to talk about, and even that news hasn’t been refreshed in a week (I have told everyone a story about a hawk and a squirrel that I saw that I’m not even sure is interesting). I’m going to think about baby stuff and make sketches of what Stan’s facial hair will look like throughout the ’70s until I have the baby.

I liked the ending, though. I’ll talk to you losers about it in a year when you catch up on Netflix.

I’ve flipped through a million magazines during my time on bed rest. My horoscope in Glamour magazine that I read on my first day of bed rest — when I knew I could be here for two months — was:

“Restless much? Change things up a bit by planning a mini road trip to try a new out-of-town restaurant or check out that art gallery that just opened. Whatever you do, ‘I’m bored’ is off-limits.”

aprilYeah. Shut it, Glamour magazine beauty issue. You don’t know me.

My May horoscope from Marie Claire was more relevant to my situation:

mayThat’s better. Though I hope that “power day” is powerful because I finally figure out how to change the cable channel that’s a webcam in the hospital chapel back to Comedy Central, which it should be according to the TV channel guide.

I don’t think about astrology unless I’m reading my horoscope, but I don’t consider it completely baseless. I am a classic Virgo. Mary Anne from the Baby-Sitter’s Club and I have the same birthday, and she and I were very similar (minus the being good at babysitting part). I’ve wondered before if babies who are born at a scheduled time and not when they naturally would have arrived grow up to be more complicated people if their star signs were manipulated.

Our child is going to be born more than a month before his/her due date, putting it under a completely different sign in the horoscope. I liked the original due date, as he/she would be in birthday company of some of my favorite people. Now I don’t know what to think. I’m guessing I won’t think too much about it. Unless this one turns out to be a sociopath and when I tearfully talk to the police after an incident, I’ll remember this.

I’ve been on bed rest for 30 days (read more about that here). I’ve managed to not finish a single book, but I did watch two episodes of The Prancing Elites Project and have played a lot of a game called Wordbrain. My husband and I finished Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and I watched the first eight episodes of Fargo. I’ve flipped through three issues of People magazine. I have seen more of my friends in the last month than I have in the last six months. I’ve eaten a lot of cookies. I have stared out the window a lot. My finger nails are long and painted. I’m not hooked up to machines and I can walk around my room, which is very comfortable and cute. It’s like being held captive in a Microtel (“held captive” isn’t the right phrasing, but I can’t leave the hospital, or leave the floor by myself).

I should be using this time to be productive and organize photos on my computer, work on projects, or write new stories, but I’m not. I wouldn’t have been productive on my maternity leave, which this is basically going to have to be (also “maternity leave” doesn’t exist in America).

Being on bed rest is frustrating and hard, but it’s one of those “for the greater good” things. I try not to get too down. It could be so much worse. And as of today I can say that I will most likely be home next month.

Since I have lots of time to myself, plus basic cable, I spent a morning half-watching Almost Famous this week. I loved the movie when it first came out, but it’s one of those movies that falls apart more each time I see it. I’m bothered by Kate Hudson’s character, Penny Lane. Why does the movie focus on the age of the boy and never on her age? They’re both teenagers. She’s been messing around with a married, older man since she was 15. At the end of the movie, because they don’t want to upset Russell’s wife, the teenage girl is given away to another band for a case of beer during a poker game. And then the band can’t believe that a fifteen-year-old boy can write an article!? That’s messed up. Not very many rom coms about sex slavery have great soundtracks, though. I’ll give it that much credit (okay, she says that the “band aids” don’t have sex with the musicians, but that doesn’t make anything that happens less about taking advantage of a young girl).

Plus, where does she get money to buy a plane ticket at the end? She must have sold Anna Paquin’s character to Deep Purple.

That’s been bed rest.

I just got an email from WordPress about my blog’s year, and I apparently only posted six times in 2014. I’ve had this bjournal since 2005, and while it’s been a great way to capture little things that happen in life, updating it is not on my list of priorities. But SIX? I’m going to end this year by increasing by blogging productivity by about 16%. Here’s a seventh post for 2014 of some awesome things that happened this year.

10) I read 12 books.
I made good on this year’s goal of reading (an average of) a book a month. I finished book #12 in mid-December. It’s a great feeling to be well-read. I doubt I’ll keep it up next year, but I hope to at least read eight.
In addition to the six I mentioned in this post, I also finished:

  • Joan Didion – Blue Nights
  • Jeffrey Eugenides – Marriage Plot (I began Virgin Suicides again, but couldn’t finish it. I think I’ve seen the movie too much).
  • Martin Sixsmith – Philomena
  • Jonathan Tropper – This is Where I Leave You
  • Celeste Ng – Everything I Never Told You (the last two book titles sound like early-2000 emo band album titles)
  • Jonathan Eig – Birth of the Pill
  • Lucy Knisley – Relish (this is a graphic memoir, which I don’t count as a read book because they don’t take up that much time, but worth mentioning because I liked it a lot).

The best books? Middlesex, House of Mirth, Birth of the Pill, and Blue Nights.

9) I found a new cooking blog I like a lot. It’s Budget Bytes, and really gets that I don’t like spending money and want corn and beans in every meal.

8) I discovered the joy of nachos from Bellytimber. My husband, daughter, and I ate here on Valentine’s Day and I ordered the nachos for the first time, and I will always want to go there and eat nachos, in case you need someone to join you. My pal Susan co-wrote a cookbook called 804ork that includes the recipe, and I have the ingredients on my shopping list, ready to try this weekend (don’t worry, Bellytimber, I’ll still come visit).

7) We actually went to San Francisco! Who knows if we’ll ever afford to visit again. It was fun, and my kid was able to enjoy it and spend some QT with her aunt and uncle and watch me eat a lot. Which she never gets to do at home.

6) I ran another half marathon. And it went great-ish. I’ve barely run five minutes in a row since then, but I’ll get back to that eventually.

5) I got a fun writing gig. Val passed Raising Richmond, a weekly parenting column on rvanews.com, to me in January after she’d written about her adventures in parenting for several years. Yes, it’s the reason for only six (now seven) posts to the blog this year, but it’s been a lot of fun having readers and sharing things. And it paid for San Francisco. “You get paid for that?” you ask in amazement. Yes, back off. I’m delightful.

4) My daughter counted to 130 by herself. I don’t know when kids typically count to fifty and then 100, but my girl is good with counting. I bet it’s been all those hours she’s spent with a number picture book that I hate, so I can’t try to talk her out of reading it anymore. Plus she’s gotten into learning Spanish and is still considered by me to be a baby genius.

3) My husband and I went out three times in less then two months. And one of those times wasn’t even planned, we just got a surprise sleepover and got to see a movie and get dinner. I think we’ve been out at least twice since then. We tend to get a babysitter and then are ready to come home in less than two hours. We aren’t good at going out, but it’s still fun.

2) I had a good year at work. I’ve been able to try more new things in the last year than I’ve done in many years combined.

1) My sister and her family moved back to town. This has been the best. Not only has it been good to see her once a week instead of maybe once a month, she’s been a good backup for when our kid has been out of school, and I’ve been able to spend lots of time with my nephew. I love that she lives about 15 minutes away now. I can add on to the list of things borrowed and never returned to her. I’m a great little sister.

The older I get, the less I want to make a big deal about my birthday. Not that I’m grumpy about it — I still like cakes and cards. I like it low-key, and it’s too much of a hassle to get people to celebrate with me, especially since with kids it’s hard to plan things.  Anyway, keeping it simple right now is going to pay off when everyone starts having their awesome 40th birthday parties.

While I’d love to have a nice night out with gal pals or to eat a piece of peanut butter pie from the place that is closed on all days around my birthday, here’s what I’ll take instead:

-To sit alone in my room for 15 minutes with no pets/other people

-Nachos

-Maybe to eat a sundae at Friendly’s

 

 

 

I am bursting with travel tips now that we’ve come back from a quick visit to San Fransisco. I’m not going to share any here (except for this: leftover Hillshire Farms kielbasa ended up being a good idea for our early flight back home).

There were many differences between my first trip out to SF in 2009 and last weekend’s, most notably the almost four-year-old we had to bring with us. She is a fine traveler, and had a good time. San Francisco provided her plenty of chances to talk loudly about strange (to her) people she saw on the streets, including:

  • A dwarf (or “a little adult”)
  • A homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk (she mentioned this a couple times afterwards)
  • A total of five off-work street performers covered in metallic paint (she also claimed to see one at the pool back home, but it was just a woman wearing an all-white ensemble including a weird white hat)

I really like visiting there. I think it’s a beautiful city, and even the residential areas are fun to walk around.  We did mostly kid-friendly things. We went to Fisherman’s Wharf a few times (Musee Mecanique again, sea lion watching, the Aquarium of the Bay) and took a couple of dog walks on the beach. It’s so awesome having the Golden Gate bridge on one side of your view and Alcatraz on the other. As someone pointed out to me, I already live in a place with landmarks everywhere you look* but it was still cooler.

Other things of note:

We used Uber for the first time. Once from the airport, and twice just to avoid walking another mile uphill carrying a small person (which is really, really challenging — a stroller wouldn’t have helped that much). When we first got an Uber car after getting groceries, we ushered our child into the back seat and buckled her in (no car seat, don’t judge, we were tired and achy and they really are very steep hills). She looked nervous and kept her hands in her lap.

“You look nervous,” we told her.
“Well I am a little nervous,” she said. We asked why. “We just got in the man’s car.”

I guess that must have seem weird that a car rolls up to us (Uber is pretty quick) and we all get in there without explaining anything to her.

Also, we went to Santa Cruz for the day and went to the Mystery Spot (it’s a crazy house that defies logic. Up is down, tall is short!) . R explained the mystery to us after the tour (it wasn’t revealed in our tour, but when he went ten years ago it was). Bubble blown and burst. It was still cool and we saw a bunch of hummingbirds while waiting for our tour. Then we went to the Santa Cruz boardwalk and while we were walking on the beach by all the rides I was reminded of The Lost Boys. And it turns out it was because the Lost Boys was filmed there! I was so excited about this. The beachy carnival was a good giveaway. So was the beefy greasy guy playing the saxophone. And all the damn vampires.

We walked a million miles (or, less than two, after I mapped it later) from Golden Gate Park down to lower Haight looking for some place to eat (it’s so strange to see people dressed like hippies there — it’s like it’s a Disney World attraction). We asked a fellow with a kid where we should go and he pointed us to the Little Chihuahua, and it was a great meal. Then later, when I told my brother-in-law about it, he said he’d never heard of it, and I was like “what is this amazing city where you don’t know about every restaurant that opens because your local news isn’t 80%  food stories about the same places?” We also had really good pizza at some place I don’t remember. But I ate a lot of it.

R ventured off on his own to see some tattoo-things, and sweet talked his way into a tattoo from a legend. I had never heard of the guy, but after reading about him, it seems like a pretty big deal.

Also my daughter watched hours of “Dora the Explorer,” so she probably thinks California is the best place on earth. And we watched the first episode of “The Knick” and all I can think about are white shoes.

*Oh I just decoded the “Full House” theme song.

star fish and non-star fish

star fish and non-star fish

That bridge that Godzilla ruined

That bridge that Godzilla ruined

Santa Cruz. Not pictured: Blood-sucking Brady Bunch

Santa Cruz. Not pictured: Blood-sucking Brady Bunch

 

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