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Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Went to the doctor's today. Dr. Keanu seemed genuinely encouraged by my overall wellbeing. I asked him about the pneumatic compression device, and after he was done laughing he informed me that it might be a tad on the overkill side. He said if I were using a bedpan then he might prescribe it. Then he scolded me about not doing my leg/foot exercises in bed, which I deserved. Then the pelvic came. I closed my eyes and thought about squirrels.

Squirrels in the yard.
Squirrels eating corn.
Squirrels climbing trees.
Squirrels, squirrels, not pelvics but squirrels!!!


He is going to watch my puffiness. Today is the last day of steroids, so the "swelling" should start going down a little or at least not get any worse. My husband told Dr. Keanu that he thought it had less to do with the pills and more to do with the truckloads of food I eat while lying in bed all day. Thank you, dear husband.

The walls in that office are shockingly thin. You can hear everything that is going on in the other rooms. My husband had me dying laughing while we were waiting for the doctor. I'm a loud laugher too. I get obnoxious; I snort and everything. I told him to knock it off or the baby would shoot out. He couldn't help himself. Everything was hilarious. That whole office must have thought we were lunatics. Dr. Keanu said he had another couple in today that reminded him of us. The woman is 36 weeks pregnant, and the husband got bored waiting for the doc, so he whipped out a magic marker and started drawing faces on his wife's big, pregnant belly. I want to meet this couple.

Before we went back to our exam room, the nurse gave us stickies upon which to write our questions. While we were waiting in the room I tried to get the hubby to give me a sticky. I was going to draw a big circle on it with a slash through it and stick it on my Underoos to ward off the pelvic. My husband said we weren't in high school.

We heard Stinkerbell's heartbeat. Nice and strong. Rapid thump-thumping, tiny and perfect. Human and alive. Someone's sister, granddaughter, cousin, niece, child...

Afterwards we got gyros. It is pronounced "year-ohs," but my husband says "Jie-rohs," which makes me giggle. They were gross. Lettuce is no longer agreeing with me. Just the thought of it makes me sick. I'd rather eat dirt. Or acorns. Or squirrels.

Monday, December 29, 2003

I have a sore throat. My eyes are dry and itchy. Oh yes, and I caught ringworm in the hospital. A nurse with cats? I now have a silver dollar sized splotch on my arm. Itchy, itchy. I was putting tea tree oil on it for a few days but then I started seeing internet warnings against it. Warnings without elaboration. Anyone out there know what the deal is on that? What does it supposedly do that can be harmful during pregnancy? Besides stink to high heaven.

Little Bit kicked so hard a couple of times this morning that she made me laugh! Boom. BOOM! She was pitching some kind of fit. She may have been asking for root beer, because when she got it she simmered down.

My beets are decaying in the veggie drawer. I haven't had the heart (or the nerve) to ask hubby to prepare them. I guess I'll have to pee pink some other time.

Someone from church made me a tray of coconut balls covered in chocolate. They go good with root beer. Little Bit will be born with rotten teeth and the shakes.

If I get one more Paris Hilton spam I'm going to have to hook back up to the Zofran pump. Yuck!

That Chinese food went down very well the other night. I am craving veggies lately. Probably due to the ringworm. Body, heal thyself! I think I should cut down on dairy, because of the calcium and the rumors that it helps to form blood clots. I'll ask Dr. Keanu, who will think I'm crazy.

I go for an appointment this week. I will ask lots of questions about nothing while pretending I am not actually on the receiving end of the pelvic he is sure to perform.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Friendly advice: Make sure you have a cell phone or a phone card or something if you are ever admitted to the hospital.

As you will recall, I was readmitted when a family member died in a car wreck. We were both admitted to the same hospital the same day, he to the morgue and I to the O.B. floor. His mother was and is, of course, devastated. I placed many calls to her from the hospital to make sure she was still breathing and to grieve with her. Sometimes I got her answering machine and hung up. Today I got a phone bill informing me that each of these one-minute hang-up calls cost me 10 dollars. An eight-minute phone call cost me nearly $20. And so on and so forth. And we thought the admission bills were going to be the most pressing financial issue! We called the bandits known as Sprint, and they informed me in their most compassionate, touching voice that I was straight out of luck, but happy New Year. I want their head on a platter, candied and spiral sliced for the holidays.


Next month's bill is going to be merciless.

Elise has been inactive today. She has moved a few times but nothing like normal. Some cramping. I know I should be worried, but every time I try I just can't muster it. Isn't that odd?

Our neighbor brought over a tin of chocolate chip cookies. I have been carefully guarding the tin here in my Sealy Posturepedic lair. My husband came in and tried to get one, but the growling scared him away. There are three left. Mourn their passing.

I am swelling. Is it the cookies, the bed rest, the pregnancy or the drugs? I feel like something isn't quite right with my blood pressure. Malaise? Sort of, but not in the typical sense. I think it can wait until my next appointment. Famous last words.

I am going to try to get my doctor and my nefarious, malevolent HMO to afford me some pneumatic compression cuffs. I am a double-risk for deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism: I am pregnant and on bed rest. I think I still get a little dehydrated at times, which doesn't help. These cuff thingies are thigh-high and they have air pumped into them at differing intervals. This massages and compresses blood vessels in the legs significantly reducing the risk of blood clots and embolism. I don't imagine having difficulty getting Dr. Keanu to prescribe them. The insufferable HMO is yet another story.

Elise has decided to wake up for the writing of this diary entry. She is currently kickboxing for your entertainment. "Hi-YAA!"

The hubby has gone to get Chinese. I think this may be a grave mistake. The smell will probably kill me. I haven't had Chinese since the last diary entry about Chinese food in, what, September? Smells are getting worse again. Stomach’s a little queasy. I thought I was going to throw up for the first time in ages last night, but it didn't happen. I am almost done tapering the 'roids. Four more days. I don't anticipate needing a PICC or going back to those days at this point. I think, for the most part, I will be OK. The issue for me is becoming the blood clots. I know I need not have issues, but I'd like to use my head and optimize my chances of success if I can. God does give us sense.

From the depths of her grieving Martha called the other day distraught and wanting to know what heaven was. I guess I haven't really thought about that so much. What would you have said? I said, finally, that it was home. At first I wondered if I'd muffed it, but the more I think about it, the more I am satisfied. Home. Yes. That has got to be it.

What did you get for Christmas? I got maternity/nursing clothes and Burt's Bees stuff. Money to cover hospital bills too. But not phone bills! Sprint! GRRRRR!

Last night my little boy came and snuggled in the bed with me. He fell asleep and proceeded to kick me in my back and kidneys all night long. From inside, Elise joined the kidney-kicking festivities in the wee small hours, and I was the happiest girl alive.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Mad cow disease found in the U.S.? Great. I just had a big pot of chili last night and have been craving beef like a bovine-eating lunatic. Sheesh.

I forgot to tell you guys:

When I was getting my fanny booted out of the hospital there was a PICC issue. I had been registering tiny fevers for a couple of days, and my in-laws were pretty freaked out about keeping my lumens patent (flushing them). The lumens were too short for me to reach with one hand. I couldn't screw the hypodermics on, and my in-laws were just terrified to touch them due to the fact that the line was just outside the opening of my heart and due to the former staph infection. I talked to Dr. Keanu about it, and he just broke down and said, "Let's pull the line." I was supposed to have the thing until after Christmas, but he pulled it.

"Let's pull it," said Keanu.
"Really?" I marveled.
"Yeah," he said, "let's do it."

Two days later I took my first real shower in three months. I had to sit down in the middle of it, because it was so exhausting. I can't stand up for too long without getting shaky and breathless. I've also got tachycardia. I've literally got the pulse of a three-year-old. I'm getting moon-faced from the steroids and from generally stuffing my face without being able to exercise one calorie away. However, I prefer to blame it on the 'roids, because it implies that all I have to do to stop looking like Jabba the Hut is stop taking a pill.

Wella, wella. Happy Christmas Eve, people. Remember the Reason for the season.

Picture Linus with his blue blanket shepherd's hat:

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a Baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’"
Luke 2:8-12

Can they even play the Charlie Brown Christmas special on TV anymore? Or has the ACLU nipped that one in the bud too?


Monday, December 22, 2003

Oh boy. Bed rest. Already I've become an ingrate. Pathetic. I remember a time not too long ago when I would have chopped off my legs just to be able to eat, without the slightest concern for bed rest. But now I am eating and on bed rest, and all of a sudden just eating doesn't seem good enough, no. I want to be able to vacuum the floor and make dinner. Not gonna happen. Bed rest, Cervix Girl. Get it through your melon! Mmmm, melon.

The wonderful people at my local organic coop have been pampering me by picking up, sorting out, and delivering produce/dairy. Today we got watermelon, Sharlyn melons, Fuji apples, Pink Lady apples, tangerines, oranges, Red Bartlett pears, etc. Gonna be a feast, boys and girls. My favorite in the delivery today is something I've been dreaming about for a while now: fresh delicious beets with tops. UNGH! Biting lip. Steam the little devils, tops and all. Butter and salt, and give me a call! Good luck, hubby. I'm slightly afraid to eat them because for a day or so I will not be able to monitor cervical clues well. Beets, for those who don't know, cause the urine to turn pink and sometimes nearly red. Same goes for the stool. I remember the first time I ate a big bunch. I went to the bathroom and thought I was hemorrhaging. Pretty funny. Beeeeeets!

By the way, I'm drinking eggnog as we speak!

Alright, alright, the bay-girl:
Elise is moving all the time. She is a mess! She comforts me though, because every time I wake up in the night and don't feel her moving she wakes up for me and gives me a jab. Already taking care of me. My poor dove. During the sonogram we could see a perfect profile of her face. Her nose and lips—everything. She was moving constantly. Her little mouth was sucking and sucking as she waved her hand in front of it trying to get that thumb in. My kids are not coordinated, but they get their passion for nourishment from me, I can tell you. The 4D sonogram is going to be really neat. I think I may wait until 26 weeks to get it. The later the better I hear.

OK, now for the heavy, depressing part of this entry:

A few days ago I told you about two notes that I wrote myself early in the pregnancy when things were really going from bad to much worse. I know I can sit here and say, "Folks, it was really bad, so bad," but if you haven’t been there, you just can’t imagine. I’m not criticizing. I know it's this way for all of us. The first time I heard the story of Jesus fasting for 40 days and nights, I quickly thought, "Gee, that would suck," but that was the extent of my personal investment. I couldn't understand even if I tried. But this pregnancy, I went almost twice as long without eating (though I had a feeding tube), and I didn't even choose to do it. Because of this, I now have a better appreciation of Christ's fast than I ever did before. My point is, I'm not sure that you will understand or even be able to forgive the words that you are about to read. Luckily, you are not my judge. However, for what it’s worth, I invite you into the dark arena of my blackest heart to learn more about HG, to witness the bleak moments of human despair that can only lead to death and more despair, and then to experience the hope that rescued me and my baby girl.

I was six weeks pregnant and in the hospital for the first or second admission. I knew it was only the beginning. I was sick to my core and terrified of living one more day like that. The living death. The rack. Torture. I wanted out. I began to think like an animal, to make plans I knew I would regret. I knew the sick Ashli and the healthy Ashli were two totally different people, and I had to be convinced that the plans I was making were necessary. But were they? I wanted each point of view to present her case before I passed final judgment. I also wanted an emotional snapshot of where I was when the die was cast. And so I wrote two notes to myself:

Note to Healthy Ashli (from Sick Ashli):
"If you are reading this then you opted for another therapeutic termination. This is unbelievable and yet understandable. I know how sad it is, but I want you to remember and cling to two very important things: 1) No matter what you tell yourself later on, there is no way you can live like this for 14 more weeks, and 2) the baby is as big as a grain of rice. This is the early first trimester; the child will not feel pain. I know you will pour over this pre-death note a million times wishing you had not done it, but you will be well then and not sick like you are now. Terminating again was wrong. Yes. No denial here. The illness was too much to bear, and you were not as faithful and strong as you wanted to be. While the baby was from God, the illness was not; it’s a conflict that will be hard to resolve. And the fact that the baby is due in your birth month will only twist the knife; your own birthday will become even more complicated. But the current pain and anxiety are such that one more day and 14 more weeks of this are more immediately pressing. Even from here, I can see that it isn’t really justifiable, but who can attend distant concerns in the face of a pulverizing present? You will have to cling for dear life to the facts that the unaware baby felt no pain and you honestly could not take 14 more weeks of this. This rationale will be all you have, so you had better find a way to value it above all else. And you must never attempt a pregnancy again."

How many lies could you pick out? I should hold a raffle and give away jellybeans to the person who can count that high.

My dear abortion-supporting friend who used to work at Planned Parenthood, and who almost terminated her daughter over HG, came to the hospital and told me that if I ended the pregnancy she was certain I would kill myself or lose my mind and that either way my son would have no mother.

Before we even knew the sex, my husband kept telling me this was our baby girl promised from God and that termination was not an option.

My pastor told me that everything I was feeling, thinking and planning was absolutely understandable, quite normal and rational—but that I must not do it. He reminded me that I knew how God felt about it and that it was against the laws He put into place because He is holy and because God practices strange math: the fetters of His laws are freeing and give me the best chance at a happy life. My pastor was sensitive and bold, and he supported me by saying NO.

And what of God’s support? Must the obvious be said? He gave me the sacrificial suffering of His Son for my example and His very Word, which is always there to speak if I will but listen.

The shoulder angel of me wrote her own letter in response to the one with which my shoulder devil tempted me:

"Dear Ashli,

Don't you dare take such advice. It is the deceptive siren song of death. The Lord your God is with you, and the life of this child is His to direct. The LORD has rescued you both by providing necessary treatments. Pray that His guiding, saving hand continues. And praise His glorious name, for He is your salvation and is inspiring you to know something of love through courageous acts of personal surrender. You shall neither be demonized nor separated from your child if you keep your heart full of the Lord Who has spoken to you already through the Word and through the hearts of other believers whom He has sent. So be not afraid, for God is your strength, your shield. Trust in Him with all your heart, and you will be helped. Do not kill your child. God is with you both, and you can do all things with Christ. You can suffer as greatly as you think you can’t. May God forgive you for nefarious thoughts during desperate times. He has suffered and prevailed; He has paved the way. Hold fast to your faith and be blessed."

Now, don't think I don't know how weird these "multiple personality" writings are. They will seem even weirder to you unless you have been held hostage by such an illness or situation. Just remember that Tom Hanks' character in Cast Away started cracking up too: The man was talking to a volleyball! I needed a way to give audience to the different facets of myself that were coming out under immense duress and guiding decisions. A writing exercise seemed appropriate.

Decide what you think about those facets of me: desperation and hope. One filled with terror and selfishness and the other filled with thoughts of God and something better than even my own life. One would have killed my daughter, disappointed God, and ruined me for good. The other got us this far.

My child was promised to me. I know it because I have her today. Perhaps tomorrow will never come, but I live this moment for and in the promise. She is God's oath, my Elise, and it's only because of Him that we are still together.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Me in Elise's wedding dress...
(Click to enlarge)

Hey, guys. Sorry about dropping off the face of the earth. I'm not going to post those two notes right now, because my time is limited.

Update: I got booted out of the hospital on Wednesday night. The HMO came in and began harassing me throughout the day. They were pretty ugly. I ended up going to my in-laws (where I am now), because the hubby has had the puking/diarrhea bug. They have been taking good care of me.

Tapering the steroids is a little difficult. I feel pretty yucky as the levels go down. And from being on TPN for so long the ol' gastrointestinal tract kind of went dormant. It is having quite a time waking back up. Not helping at all is the cervical issue that keeps me mired to the bed. Can't digest anything or even poot when I’m lying down all day long. Ugh.

Good news: Yesterday we got the "fetal anatomy study" done. After all of these multiple drugs/treatments/ailments/etc., the baby is perfect in every way, praise God. Not only that but...


Thanks for all the prayers. Please keep them up.

Would like everyone to know that I had a glass of eggnog the other day! It wasn't as good as I remembered. Probably because I still feel like poop.

Overheard someone talking on phone: "We know what the baby is going to be. It's going to be a little girl."

How do we know "it's" going to be a little girl? Because we saw a little baby giney (labia, the works). Don't you kind of already have to be a girl to have a vagina? I mean, turnips don't have vaginas. She's not a turnip. The child is a child, is a girl, is a she, not an it. I know I’m defensive. I’m grappling with what happened and the humanity of gestating children. I feel like Charleton Heston trying to convince everyone that Soylent Green is people, and no one will listen.

But if you can hear me, I want you to know that what is in my womb is a human child, a baby. And the baby is a girl, our daughter, Elise, which means "God's oath." And furthermore, I am her mother, not her "mother-to-be." What is all this work I've been doing if not motherhood? I haven't just been sitting here with my finger up my butt, people. (That’s Dr. Keanu’s job.)

A girl...a GIRL!

All of this is miraculous. Every moment is God in action. He is alive and very well, and the music of my heart sings His name!

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Today is a day for being grateful. I woke up this morning in tears so thankful for the health and blessings that God has given me. In the midst of so much suffering, I have learned a vast amount. This isn't to say that once life goes on I won't be an ungrateful idiot again, but I hope this experience keeps my sleepy eyes open at least a miracle-registering slit. I don't want life to be lost on me.

I thanked my doctor this morning from the bottom of my heart. I wept as I expressed my gratitude. He didn't know what to do with it really. "Just say 'You're welcome,' and get out!" I told him. I wept as I thanked my tech and my favorite nurses. Grateful, grateful. One of my nurses said my doctor commented that I was "emotional" this morning. "It's probably the prednisone," she reminded him. Oh, if they only knew! Few short weeks ago I prayed to die, and now I am praying to live and love. How can I not weep?

I told one of my nurses how funny it was that when you give your heart to some people they don't really know what to do with it. She told me it's because no one ever gives their heart anymore. She said it's rare that people even say thank you. I've seen them though, while I've been here. Really thankful people. A few of them.

One of my grey-haired doctors immediately turned into a speechless 17-year-old when I told him how sincerely grateful I was to him. I found it quite charming and funny the same. I don't do it to make people feel out of sorts or to amuse myself with their discomfort, but it is so odd to me, the nature of man and his inability to freely love. Children are not this way. Adults learn it after years of related rejection. Should I feel inappropriate for failing to observe mature emotional convention? My rescuers dug me out of a deep well that stank of death. I could kiss them all through a thousand grateful tears!

"Never let loyalty and kindness get away from you! Wear them like a necklace; write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will gain a good reputation." Proverbs 3:3-4

Someone from dietary (the kitchen downstairs) put a guardian angel pin on my tray today. My tech says she has never met a patient like me. We are planning to BBQ once all is well many moons from now. I have made many special pals here in the hospital, and so you see that while I did not wear kindness and loyalty like a necklace to gain a good reputation, it happened anyway, which only goes to show that God knows what He's talking about. Preach on, sister. I can't help it.

"Has the LORD redeemed you? Then speak out. Tell others he has saved you from your enemies." (Psalms 107:2)

Sometimes my biggest enemy is myself. Look back at my termination posts this pregnancy. I can honestly say that the Lord saved me (and my baby) from myself. This is no small miracle. I will talk more about that tomorrow when I share with you two notes that I wrote myself during a pivotal point.

Tomorrow! I get out! I go to stay with my mother-in-law. She loves me when I'm pregnant! I should stay this way all the time! HA!

Squirmy is squirming. "Hi, peoples! Pray for my mommy and me!"


Tuesday, December 16, 2003

They took me off the TPN last night and the nausea level doubled. This is still not a tragedy since my level is down to a two on a scale of 1-10. So for all you mathematically challenged folks out there, I'm on a level four. Living at level four consists of feeling yucky all day and woozy when food comes around. I'll think, "Oy, I can't eat that," but I'll try, and it will go down without immediately flying out of my throat and nostrils. In fact, at level four you can keep things down. I haven't thrown up in over a week, people! Prayers for eggnog!

Let's talk about Poopbutt. This child is rolling around in there like someone set up a trampoline. It is delightful! Somersaults and all. You can even feel movement from the outside now. It's amazing. And disturbing how people can think that's nothing in there. It's not nothing. Anyone who has carried a kicking child knows that. Kick, kick, roll! My heart sings. It sings!

"Love me, Mama!"
I do, little Kicky-pher!

And then the rushing sorrow sets in for the first child. Oh, the first child…
My lungs fill with fluid sadness. I drown a little, die a little, dumb with the contradiction and horror of what I have done. The miracle life of this new child connects me to the first. What am I to say? That this is a real child but that one wasn’t? Fantasies are convenient but unconvincing. Life is a sequence of progression, a kind of Newtonian law, moving in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force. And what a destructive force it was. In this there are no illusions nor mulligans. So there isn’t anything to do but live through this moment like all the others. It’s a complicated, impossible wound that all apologies will never heal.

Whir. Click. Survival mode: Insert abrupt change of subject.

No TPN. Wow. No tubing and pole. All day I have been fumbling for a phantom tube as I exit the bed for the pee-measuring top hat in the bathroom. No tube! Freedom! Get it through your head! It has been months since I've had no kind of tube. I don't know what to do with myself. Of course, I still have two unsightly lumens hanging out of my arm making me look like a cyborg. I still can't take a shower. "We'll cover them up," they say. Indeed. I tried twice, and the apparatus is always soaked through. None for me, thanks.

Kickypher is kicking again. "Hello to all who read my mommy's diary! I am a real person with a real leg, and I can even kick with it!" My son says, "Bad baby! Don't kick my mama!" No amount of money in the world, people. No amount of money or status or success—nothing compares to these two little children of mine.

OK, share time.
I want to tell you of a woman I met yesterday. She came into my room because one of my nurses told her about me and thought I might be encouraged by a visit. This woman's son is in the neonatal intensive care unit. He is two pounds and was born at 25 weeks. His 44-year-old mama had placenta previa in the worst way. She was losing blood faster than they could put it in her and had been in the hospital for six weeks passing grapefruit sized clots and just buckets of blood.

The placenta metastasized. She thought she was having the baby one night and passed a clot the size of a baby. The doctor said it was time to deliver. The woman lost too much blood and had zero blood pressure. She rolled her eyes back into her head and out she went.

Immediately she saw a dark road. She calls it a tunnel but says it was more like a dark country road at night. She said that above this dark road there was a shining white light that was brighter than any light she had ever seen, brighter than the sun. She said she was not afraid at all but was filled with peace. She told me she doesn't know for sure but that she feels in her very being that the light was God.

The surgeons brought her back. They got the baby boy out and tried to save her life, but she wouldn't stop bleeding. They told her husband not to expect her to make it. She saw the road again and the light and felt total peace and contentment. She reiterated that it was the most peaceful feeling, and there was absolutely no fear. It was a light of comfort, a light of love, and she had a sense that this was her home, a place where she belonged. She trusted God to take care of her surviving children.

Her husband, preacher, and friends gathered in a circle outside of the operating room and prayed. Surgeons found the placenta growing behind her bladder. They had to cut her bladder in half to get the placenta out and then repair the bladder. The bleeding stopped and the light faded away. She came to, and they told her she had a baby boy.

All of this happened last month. Now she comes to visit her struggling son every day, and there are always problems. Right now he has air in his intestines and is backing up. They are doing the best they can to save him, but his mother has seen the Light and she is full of peace.

I tell you her story because she sat here in my room telling it to me. I am told that doctors and nurses have been talking about it for weeks, and I had been waiting anxiously to meet her.

I am not trying to impart any neat and tidy moral by sharing her story. It simply is what it is, and you will decide for yourself what it means. I only had to tell it.

Hubby and son have the puking/diarrhea bug. It is tenacious. Hubby has had it for four days now. He says he has gained new insight into my suffering. He said he spent one entire morning puking and having diarrhea. He knows that I spent entire months like that.

He said, "I don't know how you do it. I couldn't do it."

I was so grateful I wanted to cry. How soon he will forget though. I will ask him to run out and get me something to eat and he will say, "Oh sheesh, I'm tired, can't you just eat something that's already here?" And I will blow up and say, "Hello, I didn't eat or drink for 11 weeks. 11 WEEKS!!! Now go get me some beans and weenies like I asked you to, confound it!!!"

I am terrified to go home. I do not want to catch this stuff. Terrified, I say! Begging the doctors to keep me here. I would like to go home Friday at the soonest. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way. The HMO however, would be stupid to want to get me out of here three days early so it could pay for two more weeks. They'd better think long and hard about that, horse's rears that they are. Oh, just wait until I get out of this fix and everything is paid for. That HMO representative is going to be sorry that she called me in my hospital room and harassed me with the "suggestion" of abortion.

FFL published something I wrote (p. 13) in the newest issue of the American Feminist. They kind of got some information wrong (said I was on bedrest for eight weeks when it was around thirty), but I'm still honored that they published my experience. Give them money.

Monday, December 15, 2003

(Added 2004:)

Post-pregnancy pic of myself and the Gal I met
in the hospital. Between the two of us we have a
perfect set of dimples!

Hello all. I am 17 weeks today and EATING!!! Albeit only certain things yet THINGS no less! To me, this is Christ feeding 5,000+ with two fish and five loaves of bread: a miracle. Often we overlook life's wonderments as we shake our fists at the sky demanding that God prove Himself. What fools we are.

I am drinking ginger ale, Sprite and grape Ginseng-Up, and eating things like soup, fresh fruit, bread, small salads, scrambled eggs and even a 7-ounce filet mignon! (Thank you, Uncle Garry!) I am no longer on the Zofran pump, so perhaps it's the steroids. Time and steroids.

"When I'm not busy peeing on myself while puking my head off and starving, I like to play professional football. That's why I take 'Roids."

But I have to start tapering the corticosteroids this week, and I'm a little anxious. I do not want to slip back even one tiny little step. If I never vomit again in all my life it will be far too soon.

Last week’s sonogram revealed a gall bladder which is still full of sludge. The sonographer graciously, sneakily gave me some pictures of the baby to encourage me and remind me of the little person I am fighting for. Back out in the hallway, waiting for the friendly tech from my floor to come take me (and my pole) back to my room, a woman waiting for her sonogram asked me how far along I was. She was 13 weeks and we chatted for a moment. I noticed that her hair was as ratty and gross as mine, and she looked like a heroin addict. Of course I knew.

"You've got hyperemesis, don't you?" I asked.

"Yep," she nodded.


We talk on the phone daily, encouraging each other when nurses are mean or weekend docs on call are clueless. We commiserate.

"Thank God you understand how I feel," she once told me.

We are a tiny little pocket of women who are devastated by an illness that barely anyone understands, validates, or even knows exists.

"There were times when I just felt I couldn't go on, couldn't do it anymore," she lamented.

Oh, how I understand.

"I brushed my teeth today!" gushed she.

No small triumph. It is a blessing that we have been able to connect this way.

Perhaps I will come off the TPN today. They have been tapering me down as I have been able to eat more. I'm a little anxious of course. When I'm finally feeling half-way human I don't want to mess with anything. But I have to get rid of this PICC. Once they take me off the TPN I'll keep the PICC until my health has been established, i.e., until I can maintain an adequate daily caloric intake. The lumens (capped tube access; some might call them "ports") will have to be flushed with saline and heparin every 12 hours for two weeks, and, if all is well, then I can get the PICC removed.

I would truly like to be home for Christmas.

After this half of the ordeal is over, for the remainder of the pregnancy I will still be on bed rest for the incompetent cervix. I go for another check up in a week.

Heard Pumpkin Butt's heartbeat this morning and am feeling all sorts of wonderful movements. "Mother, I'm here. Love me today!"

And I am finally physically healthy enough to do so.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I am delivering my update from the hospital where I was sent roughly five seconds after my last update. It happened the day after Thanksgiving to be exact. My husband came into the bedroom annoyed asking, "Why are you moaning? Does it make you feel better?" Funny, I hadn't realized I was moaning. The more I thought about it, I was not only moaning but twisting the sheets.

When I have the flu I twist the sheets. My ankles nearly screw themselves off as my legs writhe all over the mattress. My arms and shoulders practice unending jerky movements, a sort of pseudo chorea. All of these things were present. In addition, I was freezing while dripping bullets of sweat. I took my temperature. Bingo. Fever. This is not a good sign on a PICC.

When my thermometer read 101 it was time to call my doctor who naively gave me his pager number, God bless him.

"You know what this means."
(I do?)
"You have to come back to the hospital."

I hung up and prepared to leave when I got another phone call. A family member was killed in a car wreck early that morning. He was his mother's only child, and now she wanted to die. A surreal, devastating blow.

By the time I got off the phone and pulled into the hospital parking lot I had a temperature of 103 and was puking up blood. This was no streaky emesis. It was bold, fresh, solid-red puke that quickly turned brown when mixed with bile and gastric acids. Scary puke.

"You know what this means." started Dr. Keanu.

I must confess I'm never totally sure what anything means, but when he starts with that sentence I know it's nothing good.

"We have to pull the PICC."

And pull it they did. Then they hooked me up to a peripheral (regular IV) for fluids and antibiotics. Pee tests confirmed that I had one heck of a nasty bladder infection. It was so nasty in fact that the doctor half doubted that I'd done it correctly.

"We should have put a catheter in to test it," he said, "but I didn't want to torture you."

This from a man who stuck his finger up my butt.

In addition to the bladder infection the PICC grew staph when the tip was cultured. I.e., the PICC appeared to be infected too.


The second day in the hospital I still felt like death. While my nurse was changing my sheets I sat there puking, peeing and having glycerin diarrhea all over myself in a chair. She stood me up, and I told her I was going to pass out if I didn't sit back down. After being told that there was “no physical reason” why I would be passing out (what?!) I crawled into the bed. The nurse stood over me annoyed with my "behavior" before finally shaking her head in genuine disgust.

"Ashli, Ashli, Ashli," she stated with disdain, "Pregnancy is a normal part of life."

I was completely dumbfounded.

"Do you think I am doing this to myself?!?" I asked incredulously.

"I didn't say that," she said. "I just think you're getting yourself all worked up."

Holy smokes, people! She takes the cake. She stomps all over the sandwich nurse. She wins the Pulitzer of unbelievably asinine comments. On day three I began to feel like a human being again. I got rid of the nurse.

How do you solve a problem like starvation? Put in another PICC of course. That's right. Number four. It is the biggest PICC I've had and was a major pain to get in. The IV therapist shoved and shoved this thing up my vein, but it kept crimping.

"What's happening?" I wanted to know.

The reply: "The introducer is hanging on some kind of nerve or tissue or something."

”Some kind of nerve or tissue or something.” These words in this succession—well, let's just say it's not the kind of thing that relaxes you and helps you get a 5 French tube up your arm, around your shoulder and into your chest. No siree.

At that particular moment, even the rectal started to look good in comparison. He leaned on my left arm, forced the confounded line in, and by golly, it finally took. One X-ray later the placement was confirmed and TPN was once again started. Personally, I think it's a little too far into the vein and possibly is pressing on the heart valve or something, because when I lie on my left side I have a tendency now to get heart palpitations. Weird ones too. They feel kind of...deep. But at least for now I'm not telling my doctor, because you know what that means.

Back in my room I lay in bed thinking about the events and my poor Martha, the mother who had just lost her precious son in a car wreck. Soon I began to hear wailing in the hall outside my door. Wailing, wailing on. I couldn't integrate it until the words became loud and intelligible.

"Oh God, he was purple! My baby came out purple! Please God, I want my baby back! My baby's gone! My baby's gone!"

A stillborn son at 38 weeks.

A picture of Martha, thoroughly medically sedated and crouched in the corner of her hotel room, superimposed the event across the hall, and at once I heard these mothers wailing in tandem. An image of a world of wailing mothers lanced for a moment my safe bubble of sanity allowing the infection of death and grief to penetrate. I pressed my ear to the door willing compassion to be felt through the wood, through the hall, through the heart of this wounded, wounded soul.

"My baby! Purple and dead, please God, please! I want my baby back!"

I slid to the floor and cried until spent. Ambling back into bed I couldn't help but wonder if I would revisit the freshness of such grief in my own life. Would this child I carry make it or be born purple and dead too?

I have today, and today s/he is kicking quite plainly. This is my treasure. I will keep today no matter what. I'm 16 weeks on Monday, and they're trying to figure out what to do with me. I need to stay here longer if I'm going to start steroids. But hey, I've got a blog and a laptop; It doesn't matter how long I stay now.

Husband update: He's being nicer because he's less stressed not having to raise a child single-handedly and play nurse to me at home.

Son update: He had his fifth birthday at a kiddie pizza place. The woman assigned to his party table (I like to call them "Chuckie Wenches") was dancing and getting the birthday boy to do what she was doing. "Swing left, swing right, now jump!" She began to jump, and he just stood there like a deer caught in the headlights. Literally. On the video tape I could see the objects of his mesmerization: the Chuckie Wenche's perky, bouncing boobs. Oblivious she cried, "Jump! Jump!" In a mad birthday frenzy the new five-year-old bounded into the air, lunged forward, and cupped both tiny meat hooks around fistfuls of firm, ripe university flesh.

"AAAiiiieeee!" cried the Chuckie wench as she crossed a shield of arms over her violated anatomy. The look on my kid's face asked, "Did I just do that?" For a moment he was shocked. I I thought he might cry, but instead he hid his mouth in his hand and giggled.

I hope all of you are doing better than I am. I have taken pictures of my PICC lines, which I intend to use to horrify you later. Horrifying people is an art and takes a certain degree of health to fully master, so you will have to wait.

In the mean time I'm going to sit here in the hospital while all my healthy caretakers continuously horrify me with their in, out, up and down procedures, and comments like,
"You know what this means," dance like arsenic sugarplums in the hollow of my puking gourd.

Picky PICC Pics
(Added 2004; click to enlarge):

PICC 1: The line feeds up the vein in the arm and rests approximately two inches from the heart opening. If you look through the tape, you can see kind of a lot of bruising from blown veins from so many IVs. Notice also the drink tray holding the ptyalism cup. YUCK!

PICC 2: Four days later I needed another PICC due to phlebitis resulting from an allergic reaction to line material. You’ll notice more bruising and a cluster of failed insertion attempts that kind of looks like a black dot right above the crease in my elbow. This complication was due to dehydration that resulted from my HMO caseworker's refusal to approve a mechanical pump, which is necessary with a PICC—another battle. Notice also the Zofran pump catheter stuck in my tattooed thigh. Unfortunately, I was sitting on the actual pump so it is under my big, fat butt in the picture.

PICC 3: Another PICC line due to allergy to the material in the line. The allergy was discovered and a new line type was used for this one. I loved this PICC so much I would have married it. It lasted about a month before I got an apparent staph infection in the line, and they had to pull it, necessitating another PICC line, number 4, which I lost the picture of. Notice the fabric on my arm. It's actually one of hubby's tube socks with the ends cut off. These things make primo PICC covers. I slid it down so you could see the PICC.

(Click image and
read bullet 8.)

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