Saturday, January 21, 2012

I need a vacation

There is a myth in the Quiverful world that if you leave that world, you will abandon everything you believe in this world, including your committment to your family. That is categorically untrue. This last week has been living testimony to the reality.

I am still quite good at sacrificing myself for the needs of my children. That was a mentality that II and I did very well. In fact, we sacrificed for our children far more than usual in the circles we were in. We still sacrifice for our children. It's learning to take care of ourselves that we still struggle with.

In the last week, I have had several dramatic medical issues with multiple children. All of this in the midst of my trying to arrange for a surgical procedure I need for ME. My need was not an emergency. However, it involved a quality of life issue that is rapidly becoming harder and harder for me to fully function as I grapple with it.

Throughout the repeated crisis of the children, I continued to wonder if I was doing the right thing by taking time, attention, and resources for my own health issues. I could walk away and ignore the issue. It won't go away, but for a little while longer, it won't completely take over my life. Of course, that is the path I took four years ago with the ovarian cyst. Just like the cyst, this one would escalate to the point it would become an emergency and require the removal of body parts if I ignored it.

Yet, the situation with several children was extremely serious. There was a helicopter, three different hospitals have been involved with issues. There was a heart wrenching discussion of DNR policies between II and I concerning a child. These things were not a common cold, not even the excitement of having Hand, Foot, Mouth Disease take out four kids at once.

Over and over again, I contemplated just cancelling my procedure. Over and over again, I hated myself for choosing to travel 2+ hours back to a beloved and trusted doctor who had both operated on me before, but was also well versed in my abuse history and my clotting disorder.

I feared that moving forward with addressing my needs might descalate an unstable child. I feared we didn't have the financial resources to allow me to seek this treatment out. I feared the friend who watched the children would run away and never be my friend again. Yet, I went through with the surgery.

The money is tight at this moment from having 2 hospitalization and my outpatient surgery in a week. The child I feared would destablize did exactly that and went inpatient. The friend has not disowned me, but she did get a massive headache. However, I addressed my health, and I did it before it reached the point that I could not function at all by my ignoring it until it took me down for the count.

I can't even say I'm proud of myself for putting me as something important too. I'm too exhausted, and the crisis some of my children are facing aren't any less significant because I took the time to take care of me. However, I DID address my own medical needs. And, next month, when I am not taken down for the count over this issue, I might remember to be thankful that I remembered that I am important as well. In six months, I expect it will start to hit me how life altering this decision was....when the crisis situations calm down and the children aren't misbehaving medically and mentally in response to my standing my ground and taking care of me as well for once.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Love Story

Most little girls dream of growing up and finding Prince Charming. I wasn't different. However, by the time I hit 20, I was not looking for Prince Charming. I was looking for someone I was compatible with and whom I knew would be an amazing father. That the man I found happened to be someone I fell madly in love with was a bonus for me.

For twelve years, I thought I had that fairy tale. Yes, we had our problems, but we worked them out. Yes, we had times when we felt distant from each other, but we worked on our marriage to bring ourselves back together again. Then, one day I found out he had been lying to me for five years of the marriage. Only the first seven years had been honest and forthright. The next five had been a joke.

I stayed. I never imagined I would love him again. I never imagined I would want him again, but I stayed. I had children who needed me and their father. The decision to stay was a simple one of the economy I exercised as a mother, not a woman and certainly not a wife.

In time, we rebuilt. Piece by piece the love was put back in place. Little by little my trust was restored. Eventually, I forgave him. Then, I sent him away. You would think that would be horrific for a marriage so recently rocked to it's foundation. Yet, it hasn't been.

Is he being faithful fifteen hours away? So far, yes. Will he always remain faithful? I can't answer that. I refuse to spend my time focused on that what if. If he cheats again, I will find out. It might only be a short time, or it might be a long time again, but I will find out. When I find out, the marriage will be over. He knows that. I know that. I am content with that boundary. Otherwise, I focus on the marriage we have now, strong, restored and healthy.

So when I got sick in December, his heart began breaking to watch me struggle. Every day I got worse instead of better and every evening he sat on Skype and monitored me while I slipped into very dangerous waters. On December 19th, it was clear I was beyond a critical point. He sent me to the Emergency Room. I was so tired of not being able to breath that I cried, but I obediently went.

He did something else that night though. He packed his bags. He had an airplane ticket to get home on Christmas Eve, and he was supposed to be home for a week. Monday night, as he argued with me to go to the hospital, he was packing, taking out his trash and feeding his guinea pig. By the time I got to the emergency room, he was already on the road. The trip took him seventeen hours through the night. He stopped twice to sleep so he wouldn't wreck, and he called me frequently in the hospital to check on me. When the bloodwork showed I might have a pulmonary embolism, he cried with me. Yet, he continued his journey home.

I was terrified he could lose his job. Yet, I was so sick all I wanted and needed in this world was for him to hold me again. When the sun came up, his boss emailed him in response to the email he sent as he left for home. It was to chastise him. Had he called his boss, his boss would have purchased another airplane ticket to get him home without the driving. He couldn't find a flight out in the night anyway, that's part of why he opted to drive. His boss had no worries that he would have to now work from home for the week before Christmas. His supervisor that he cancelled a vacation day on the 23rd because II couldn't be there to cover his absence gave no complaint. II pointed out that the supervisor was given liberal comp time in the summer when the floods came and his house was nearly destroyed. He was merely burning a vacation day he couldn't roll over and II would give him comp time in January to make up. Everyone was supportive of his decision.

He came home to me. They kept me fourteen hours in the hospital. Turned out, I did not have a pulmonary embolism, but the CT scan caught was the doctors in the ER missed, double lung pnuemonia. I can only imagine that the radiologist who reviewed the CT scan (because an ER doctor cannot rule out PEs) probably pulled the chest x-ray that was declared fine and re-checked it as well. They gave me a round of IV antibiotics before sending me home. I came home to bed and within a few hours, he was there.

The hospital was so blown away by the pnuemonia that they forgot to address the asthma flare-up that accompanied the pnuemonia. I went home with two massive antibiotics but nothing for the asthma....and I got worse again. For two days, he held me and watched over me as my breathing got worse. All I have ever had previously for asthma was a rescue inhaler. My astham was mild before December. Two days later, I was coughing up blood and unable to breath at all. This time, II took me to the hospital. When they dismissed me and tried to send me home, he took charge.

I'm a good medical advocate....when there is oxygen in my brain properly. When I cannot breath, I cannot think, and I certainly cannot advocate for my own medical needs. II had me admitted to the hospital. THe attending and the hospitalist could not argue with his reasoning once he gave them the full history of what was going on.

It was only one night, enough time to throw massive steriods at me, and to do some intensive breathing treatments. Through that night, he laid in the bed with me and simply held me. Then, he brought me home. For two weeks, he didn't sleep well. He watched over me at night, and he ran the household during the day. He made sure I took my meds even when I couldn't think straight, and that I slept most of my day.

A week and a half into his stay, I saw my family doctor. He informed me that II saved my life. He is not a man known for overreactions or strong emotions. I've never heard him say something even close to that before. If he said it, he meant it, and I really was as sick as I felt I was.

My life is not a fairy tale. I don't even want it to be one. However, I have come full circle in this marriage, and gone to a place even beyond where I was when things feel apart. II didn't have to come home. I didn't ask him to come. In fact, I tried to talk him out of it because I feared what it would do to his job. He didn't tell me what he was doing until he had already left. He wasn't going to argue with me. He knew I needed him and he came, at all costs, through the night, until he reached me. He held me, he comforted me, he watched over me, and he nursed me back to health.

That is love.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mission Accomplished

October 2009, I stood in my living room and the first thought I had after learning my husband had been cheating on me for five years was that if I divorced him I had no ability to the roof over the heads of my eight children, much less put food on the table for them. The second thought I had was that I would NEVER have a thought like that again. Never would I allow financial considerations determine what I did with my marriage.

The harsh reality of that decision was an immediate understanding that I had to give up my dream. My iddyllic life of being a stay at home, homeschooling mother was forever dead to me on that day. Within two weeks, I had begun the process to return to college and complete my Bachelor's degree. Within three months, I was back in the classroom, learning to juggle parenting and being a full-time student.

Twice in this journey I made Dean's List. The other semesters I pulled one B and barely missed Dean's List. I was inducted into the National Honor Society for Criminal Justice and invited to join another Honor Society that I simply didn't have the funds to join. I made friendships. I was encouraged by professors to pursue my education to it's fullest. I grappled with what to do with my future. I wrestled over two competing passions, medicine and sociology. I wrote papers and swabbed the cobwebs off my brain.

When II went back to earning a paycheck this last summer, I faced the clear understanding that someone MUST work now. Someone MUST earn a steady paycheck and provide private health insurance for our children. II is going to medical school. I am fully supportive of that decision. However, that leaves only one other parent to earn that steady paycheck and private health insurance. Yet, I want to continue my education. I want to have a career and not merely a job I opted into for that paycheck.

Fortunately, I had options. In October 2011, I had my RN licensure re-instated. I thought it was impossible to accomplish until I wanted it badly enough that I found a way. I am an RN in my state of original licensure, which is not the state I currently reside in. My current state is not part of the licensure compact that half of the states participate in. I haven't earned a paycheck in nursing since I was married. So, the simple qualification for transferring my license that I have earned a paycheck for 3 months out of the last four years won't work for me. Consequently, I will be entering an RN refresher course this spring.

I will also be taking my GRE finally this spring. I nearly took it this last summer, but again I wasn't ready to want it badly enough at that time. Now, I know my path. I want my future. I'm done mourning the dreams I lost of mothering. I've helped my children transition. When we move for medical school, we will find a GOOD school district. Living in an urban environment was necessary while we were both doing undergraduate work. It was the only way to avoid childcare expenses. In the next part of this journey, we are only considering housing in top notch school districts. That's because come August five of my children will re-enter public school.

E has issues that won't allow her to thrive in public school. On the recommendation of her therapists, we expect she will remain in virtual academies until graduation and entry into college. Her SSI paperwork is prepared and the day after II quits his job, we will be submitting it. We have a lovely caregiver and a funding source to pay her for the 6-18 months we anticipate it will take to get E's SSI approved. After that, E's disability will fund two things. It will fund a caregiver for E when I am working so she can remain in virtual schooling. It will fund whatever therapies her health insurance does not cover. With intensive intervention and therapy, research shows she can and WILL have a productive adulthood. She won't have the life I dreamed for her. However, she is not condemned to be exactly like her maternal grandmother with part of her diagnosis nor her paternal grandfather with the other part of her diagnosis.

C will also not enter public school. The combination of apraxia, dyslexia, Aspbergers and high IQ would kill his spirit in public school. E's caregiver has agreed to let him come for free. He's no bother anyway. The most anyone has to do with him is remind him to work on his reading and writing versus hyperfocusing on his math and sciences and remind him to eat. Except for intentional guiding of his ELA subjects, he'll be unschooled. We removed him from virtual school because they switched to a graded system from the mastery system they used last year. He's making progress on his severe dyslexia. Sometimes he surprises me by reading something I think there's now way he can get. Then, sometimes, he reveals he's totally using context clues and totally wrong. However, we know what it is now. He doesn't have to feel ashamed or embarrassed or stupid. We just keep plugging at the things that work for correcting it. To that end, he'll be getting a Kindle by end of spring. We tried an ipod but he doesn't get much without the text in front of him. I looked at ipads but I think this child would simply utilize it for internet usage. I gave a Kindle to a dyslexic friend for Christmas and after watching the world open up for her, I'm convinced this is the adaptive equipment for C at this point as well.

J won't go to public school in the fall for the simple fact that he'll only be 3. He will enter public school when he is kindergarten age, and honestly I still have to decide if I intend to put him in K4 to prepare him. He's still too little to answer that question. Right now, I'm just going to enjoy the last vestiges of his babyhood I have left. He was eight months old when I unearthed his father's horrible secret. I lost a LOT of his infancy in my grief. I'm not going to allow myself to lose his toddlerhood as well. Most of nine months of my life may be a blur to me, but I distinctly remember that cuddlebug in my arms for a great deal of that blur. He may be a ball of threeness now, but I can still scoop him up to cuddle just about anytime I want. I am so grateful that I had him to hold in my arms while I struggled. I'm not sure I would have survived without his comfort in my arms. (Now to remind him that he must put pants on while sitting on my couch instead of displaying his boyness to me in all it's glory!)

With all of my plans, my dreams, my reflections, yesterday I officially finished the first mission I started. I left my life, my world, my security. There were times when I feared that I ran away from my life, instead of running to a new life. However, I stayed the course. I followed the path, and I held steady to my new dreams. Yesterday, I reached the great reward of this step in the journey.

I recieved a hard cardboard tube in the mail yesterday. It had the official seal of the University on it. Seventeen years ago, I started college as a bright eyed freshman working on a Bachelor's degree in Sociology. Two years later, I switched programs as a burned out young woman simply wanted to be done and move on with my life. I completed an Associates degre in Nursing, a working degree but not a passion at the time. I then got married, had children, adopted medical needs children, and left that world behind me. Two years ago this week, I stepped back into the classrooom to finish what I started all those years ago. Today, I can truly say mission accomplished. I hold a Bachelor's of Arts in Sociology degree.

This spring, I take my GRE. This fall, I apply for a MSN program that I am totally in love with. I should graduate at the same time II finishs medical school. He will attempt to match for a residency somewhere with a PhD program in Sociology, and I will have five years (residency and fellowship) to finish my PhD. I'm done trying to decide one passion over the other. I'm done trying to tell myself they are incompatible when they are not. I can envision a very fulfilling career path with this education. It won't be a very lucrative career path. However, I've never been a very good clock puncher. If I'm going to work, I need to love what I do. I will love what I do when I get done, even if I'm a decade away from completion.

I did it!!! I finished college this week!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Still alive and kicking

Life goes on, even when I am inconsistent in blogging. I have eight children. I have to mother, regardless of my best intentions of doing other things. Thus, I have been silent here for 11 months. My life, however, has been anything but silent.

II completed his medical school pre-requisites. Of course, he finished them with the abyssmal cumm GPA of 2.80. Yes. You read that correctly, a 2.80. Even so, he prepared last spring to take his MCATs. He made a promise to himself that he would not be a coward again. He would not walk away without knowing the answer.

Then, the week before he was scheduled to sit for his MCATs, M had serious medical issues occur. He was life-flighted from the regional children's hospital to the main one in the state. The flight nurse actually commented to II that it was the first time in his 18 year career as a flight nurse that he had ever taken a child OUT of the regional Children's instead of IN. M underwent a week in the hospital and a surgical procedure. II sat by his side for the entire week, attempting to study and realizing his dreams were probably over.

Oh yea, he did all of that while launching a nationwide job search as well. Whether he got into medical school or not, he had a year he had to fill. We made the decision he would fill that year with returning to his old career path. If he got into medical school, he could leave again. If he didn't, then he wouldn't have stepped down and have to fight his way back into a career. M was released from the hospital two days before II took the MCATs.

Had II actually had time to study and not been so stressed over the job situation and the health of M, he probably would have scored significantly higher than he did. Instead, he scored a 34. For those who don't know MCAT scoring, that's basically a 96%. His odds of getting into medical school increased to a phenomenal 12%. Thankfully, II landed a job as we drove M home from the hospital and he went to work the week after the MCATs. Unfortunately, that job was fifteen hours away from where we live, and I was locked into one final semester to complete my degree.

I spent the summer learning how to be a single mother, and managing an additional four hospitalizations and surgeries for M. I dearly learned the value of community and friendship as friend after friend stepped up to care for my other seven children. I also learned how vital skype was to become for our family.

I attempted to take a summer class in July and M's autism reared it's ugly head, sending all of our lives spinning on end. By the first of August, he was averaging 10 times pooping himself every day, a dozen times inducing vomiting and four times pulling his g-tube He was violent. He was attacking everything and everything. We were all at our whit's end. First of August, he went to surgery again and his Cystic Fibrosis doctor declared we are losing the battle for his health and his life.

His Liver doctor put a new g-tube in him though. It's a hard plastic bell inside. He can't pull it out. School got him back on routine and within a month his teacher and I had his vomitting under control again. However, the price I paid for the summer was having to ask for my first ever extension on a class in my life. My professor knew me from previous classes and is the grandfather of a child with Autism. He was more than generous in my extension. I did eventually manage to accomplish the paper with an A for it and the class. The professor would still like me to pursue publishing the paper, actually.

This fall, I entered my final semester of my Bachelor's degree. I also moved a friend into my house. She was a single mother and she found hrself and her kiddos stuck in the ghettos. She cleans house in exchange for free rent. We share parenting together right now. Of course, two of her kids have special needs so the reponsiblity also grew and required more adaptations.

My fall was non-stop stress. I don't think I ever understood just how hard this journey would be. Somewhere in my mind, I knew that part of why I sent II so far away was because I wanted to once and for all prove I COULD do this alone, and that I stayed with him from choice and not fear. Good golly I was a FOOL Yes, I can do this. It's also horrifically miserable and stressful beyond my wildest imaginations.

I have finished my Bachelor's requirements now. I was supposed to graduate last month. However, there was a mix-up with the class I took as a transient student elsewhere and getting the grade registered with my University in time to issue the degree. It appears they will actually issue my diploma in May, though I have met all the requirements now.

M's last surgery was end of October. He appears to be stabilized again. He's worse than he was a year ago, but he's not sliding at the moment. Sometimes, we have to take those little things and count them blessings. I'm done with school and I'm spending my spring working to get the family set up for the next step in this journey.

Despite the odds, II indeed got into medical school. Honestly, I'm not a numbers person the way he is. I knew medical schools would see the big picture and that MCAT score would balance that GPA. In August, II gets to follow his heart and become what he was born to be, a doctor.

It only took one month of having a paycheck again to decide we would not return to poverty for II's dream. It took two more days to understand that he can follow his dream and we can have a steady paycheck as well. I had my RN license re-instated this fall. This spring, I'm getting everything set up to go back to work full-time and if all goes as it should, I will have a full-time job by end of summer, just in time for II to go back to medical school.

I'm not giving up my dreams for this, just in case someone should wonder. Nope, not at all. I have reached the conclusion that I am a very odd person. My passion for medical care is nearly as strong as my passion for Sociology. Therefore, I am going to pursue the Nurse Practitioner degree and then complete my PhD. I will find a way to merge my passions into one careeer trajectory, but I simply cannot choose one over the other. Thus, in addition to getting everything set up for my entry into the job this summer, I will be taking my GRE this spring so I can apply to the program I desperately want this fall. If all goes well, I will start part-time on my MSN August 2013 while continuing to work full-time and will eventually switch to part-time work and full-time studies. When II gets to residency, I should be able to go hot and heavy to finish my training without needing to carry the health insurance and paycheck for the family.

Today, someone contacted me and reminded me I needed to follow-up on this blog. She asked me how I had the courage to continue in my marriage. That's actually a subject I want to talk about. My marriage. It's nothing like it was a year ago, nothing like what I imagined it would be 27 months ago. It's something I cherish now. I know how precious and fragile a marriage is. I know that II and I have been through the fire, and it's true what they say. If you are in the 33% of marriages that survive, the marriage is stronger, oh so much stronger.