Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's a boy!

I've been convinced the baby is a boy for weeks.  Before we went to the 16 week appointment Kevin asked me what if the baby turned out to be a girl?  I said it didn't matter because it was a boy. But at the appointment the doctor couldn't tell because the sonogram image wasn't clear.  She zoomed in on something that I couldn't see at all and said, "See that? Maybe it's a boy."  Kevin and I started laughing because that wasn't helpful at all.  Then she typed right on the sonogram "MAYBE A BOY??"  Um, thanks.

Well the 20-week sonogram clarified it.  The sonogram technician said Baby Clou is definitely a boy, and a doctor confirmed it. This will be the first boy in my maternal line in a long time- my great grandmother had two girls, my grandmother had a girl, and my mother just had me. My mother came to the sonogram with us and was weepy with happiness.  It's been a tough week for her too, so a little bit of happy baby news was nice.  Also, I'm halfway through the pregnancy now!

Baby Clou at 20 Weeks 2010
20 weeks sonogram profile with jazz hand

Josh and Anna Got Married 2010!

Josh and Anna got engaged over the summer, and they've been living in Germany for Josh's job. In the midst of debating whether to have a destination wedding in Europe or get married in the states, they semi-eloped in Germany.  I say "semi" because they did it over the Thanksgiving holidays so that their parents could be present, and they are following up with parties in the U.S. this summer: a West Coast party and East Coast party! Congratulations, Josh and Anna, you're a great match.

Burke Wedding 2010
Josh and Anna at the Burke wedding, six weeks before eloping

Monday, November 29, 2010

17-19 Weeks, November 2010

Obviously you all know that these were the worst weeks of my life so I didn't keep any kind of baby diary. But here are the basic stats:

17 Weeks: November 7-13
Milestones: I feel the baby kicking for the first time. According to our baby book, the baby is growing body fat now. Baby is also starting to practice swallowing amniotic fluid.   The brain  also regulates the heart beat now.
Craving: chocolate, fruit juice, grapes
Anti-craving: None
Symptoms: Light acid reflux, bloody nose
Baby-size: Turnip
Weight gain: 9 pounds

Ramsey 2003
18 Weeks: November 14-20
Milestones: Baby kicking every day. According to our baby book, the baby is practicing yawning and hiccuping.
Craving: chocolate, fruit juice, home-made cranberry sauce
Anti-craving: None
Symptoms: Bad acid reflux
Baby-size: Bell pepper
Weight gain: I don't know, I was living at the hospital with mom and dad

19 Weeks, November 21-27
Milestones:  Baby kicking hard enough for others to feel or see- Kevin and his mom felt the kicking and my mother saw it.  According to our baby book, the baby now has vernix caseosa, a cheesy-looking substance on its skin to protect it.
Craving: any protein, fruit juice, coffee
Anti-craving: None
Symptoms: bad acid reflux, discomfort bending
Baby-size: Mango
Weight gain: 12.5

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rogers 60th Wedding Anniversary 2010

This week has been very hard. Kevin and I spent Thanksgiving Day with mom but celebrating the holiday didn't feel right. Mom made ropa vieja for dinner and we ate away from the dining room table. Dad really liked Thanksgiving, and because my mother's side is Cuban and didn't really grasp the concept of Thanksgiving, I always associate Thanksgiving with my dad and his family. We only had Thanksgiving with my maternal grandparents once and there was a full roasted pork instead of a turkey, and yucca (dad's most hated vegetable) instead of mashed potatoes.  Thanksgivings were usually spent in Upstate New York or Cape Cod with dad's parents, siblings, and nephews.  Dad would make, and often burn, my favorite dish- sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top.

But Kevin's grandparents were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary on Thanksgiving, and they'd held off the celebration to the following day so that we could make it. And if there's one thing I learned from all this is that I regret every holiday and special occasion I didn't spend with family, so off we went to the Cape.  We also visited Dad's family while we were there. I was glad to be around family, and the three Cape Cod great-grandparents were all eager to hear about the baby.  Kevin and Grandma Kathy even felt the baby kick for the first time. 

Rogers 60th Wedding Anniversary 2010
Four generations: Great-grandparents, grandma, parents and uncle, and future baby

  1950 Family Photos 140
Wedding photo from November 25, 1950

1959 Family Photos 128
Ruth and George with their four children in about 1959: 
(l-r) Denise, Mary, and Kathy, and baby Dickie in George's arms

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

I was hoping for a different Thanksgiving this year and for many years to come than what will be. I was looking forward to taking full family pictures this year with a pregnant belly and next year with the baby. But I am still thankful for some things.

On my wedding day, I remembered how lucky I was that dad had made it through his kidney cancer in 1999. I felt lucky that he could walk me down the aisle and dance with me at the wedding. I am thankful Kevin and I went to my dad's favorite place in Upstate New York with my parents last summer after we got married. I am thankful that I spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas with my parents last year especially since I never suspected it was my last chance to spend the holidays with both of them.

I am thankful that my dad wasn't working for the six months before his diagnosis. Even though he was depressed about not being able to find another job, he was still able to spend that time with mom and their friends and enjoying the outdoors. During that time, my parents visited us in our Brooklyn apartment shortly after my birthday, and Kevin and I treated my parents to dinner for their 25th wedding anniversary.  Before dad began treatment we had a dinner at home that he was able to enjoy.  After he started treatment I remember being thankful even at the time for the opportunity to make him a sandwich. If you are lucky enough to have your parents or children you love, please do everything you can to make them happy while they are healthy -- whether it is big or small.

I am grateful that after his diagnosis, Kevin took me to every appointment dad had with a doctor or procedure he had done.  When I couldn't make it because of work, Kevin went without me.  Every weekend that we didn't have a close friend's wedding to attend we spent with my parents in New Jersey. He helped me with talking to doctors and calling insurance.  He did innumerable favors for my parents and continues to do so for my mother.  He is truly a son to both of my parents.  I might spend the rest of my life making it up to him for how wonderful he is.  We had no idea that my dad would only have 4 months but I am so glad that there is very little we would have done differently if we had known.

I am grateful that my mother was at my father's side every single day since his diagnosis.  There was rarely a day she didn't spend 10-12 hours or more at his side.  Knowing she was there and that he had her to take care of him was an amazing comfort to me.  Everything she did, she did just for him and no one else, but what an amazing gift she gave all of us who love my father.  She was smart and strong for both of them.  Anyone who has been through cancer or a loved one's illness knows that a great deal depends on the patient's support system.  Someone has to be there to ask a million questions and fight for their loved ones- whether it be with insurance companies, pharmacies, doctors, or errant nurses.  He had wonderful nurses and PCAs when he was on the oncology floor at Valley Hospital, but my mother still learned their jobs and tried to personally do everything for my dad herself.  I assure you there is no better nurse than my mother caring for someone she loves.  I am happy to have my mother in my life, and proud that she is so intelligent, strong, and loving.  I hope to live up to be the kind of woman that she is.

I am relieved that my mother and I never left my father alone during the last week of his life. Once the doctor told us that the tumors had grown on Sunday the 14th, my mother started staying overnight so that dad wouldn't be lonely or afraid or suffer any pain or discomfort that she could prevent. I stayed at least 10 hours a day.  One of dad's last meals was his favorite chocolate milkshake that I bought him and mom fed him.  I gave him his last glass of water.  We told him we loved him hundreds of times in four months in as many ways as we knew how.  I am so glad I  told him he was a wonderful father.  

I am grateful to the friends that visited and helped, especially my mother's friend Onel.  Thankful forever to my friends that came to visit to help me personally, and to the few that sent food. It's hard to tell people what they can do for you when your world is falling apart; what a blessing for friends that do whatever they can think of to help.

I am really grateful that Kevin and I will have someone else to love soon and that we will be parents.  Though I really wish people would stop saying that it somehow makes up for the loss of my dad.  It doesn't.  On the contrary, dad was at his best with children.  How sad that our child will never know such a wonderful grandfather, and that we can never have visits or holidays all together.

Thanksgivings past:

Thanksgiving 1986
With my parents in Upstate NY in 1988

2001 11 22 Thanksgiving on the Cape new 391
On the Cape in 2001

Thanksgiving 2003
On the Cape in 2003

Thanksgiving 2004
On the Cape in 2004

Thanksgiving 2007
In New Jersey in 2007, the day after Kevin proposed

Thanksgiving 2008
In New Jersey in 2008

Thanksgiving 2009
On the Cape in 2009

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The city exists

Thanksgiving 2004
   "The harbor faces north, in shadow. The docks are high over the black water, which slams against the retaining walls; stone steps descend, made slippery by seaweed. Boats smeared with tar are tied up, waiting for the departing passengers lingering on the quay to bid their families farewell. The farewells take place in silence, but with tears. It is cold; all wear shawls over their heads. A shout from the boatman puts a stop to the delays; the traveler huddles at the prow, moves off looking toward the group of those remaining behind; from the shore his features can no longer be discerned; the boat draws up beside a vessel riding at anchor; on the ladder a diminished form climbs up, vanishes; the rusted chain is heard being raised, scraping against the hawsepipe. The people remaining behind look over the ramparts above the rocks of the pier, their eyes following the ship until it rounds the cape; for the last time they wave a white rag.
    "Set out, explore every coast, and seek this city," the Khan says to Marco. "Then come back and tell me if my dream corresponds to reality."
    "Forgive me, my lord, there is no doubt that sooner or later I shall set sail from that dock," says Marco, "but I shall not come back to tell you about it. The city exists and it has a simple secret: it knows only departures, not returns."

- Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fade Away

This week is hard and sad and cruel.  Dad is no longer responsive. We're waiting when there's nothing good to wait for and no more memories to make.

This is my childhood friend Wednesday's song with her band Pigeons, who lost her wonderful mother three years ago, Fade Away.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dad's Time

We don't know how long dad has left but it's matter of days now. He's in pain and he's suffering. He's on a lot of pain medication, so he's incoherent or asleep most of the time. But we figure that's better than him being in more pain.

To say that he doesn't deserve this is a vast understatement. He's a wonderful and generous person. For the 25 to 26 years that I've known him he exercised and ate well and encouraged me to do the same. He practiced yoga, meditation, and tai chi. At 61-years-old, he looks ten years younger.  He helped all his elderly neighbors. He gave money to people he didn't even know who needed his help. Even now in the hospital he worries about my mother and me, and even about the nurses. Some of the nurses have cried for him.

That's the easy stuff to explain. It's so hard to explain what he's done for me and for my mother. I can't speak to the entirety of my parents' relationship, but he is the kind of husband other people envy. He worked and he also cooked and ran the household chores. He was devoted and faithful to my mother for over 25 years. She tells the nurses and anyone who will listen that he never so much as raised his voice to her. The evidence of their mutual love is that my mother has been at his side every day all day throughout his illness, and she has never considered it one minute more than he deserves.

Charlottesville, VA 2007
With mom in Charlottesville in 2007

My dad has always put me before himself. Without him, I wouldn't be half the person I am. I read the books he gave me, learned the big words from him, and followed him around the house to talk to him. I would talk to him about everything, from the possibility of alien life forms to boys and kissing. He chaperoned my enrichment trips. He came to my field hockey games even though I wasn't very good and sometimes he had to see me get hurt. He came to my concerts even though I was worse at music. When he got kidney cancer the first time in 1999, his biggest concern was that I be able to finish college. I was blessed that I got to keep him for another 11 years and that he was able to walk me down the aisle and dance with me at my wedding. (I waited for 30 years to marry a man who I thought was as wonderful as my father.)  He came to my graduations for kindergarten, eighth grade, high school, college, my masters program, law school, and to my bar swearing-in ceremony.  When I told him I was pregnant he cried with happiness and kissed my hand because he couldn't reach up to kiss me from the hospital gurney. At a foot taller than me, he has called me "Shorty" my entire life.

Thanksgiving 2004
With me on Cape Cod in 2004

Occasionally, I explain to someone that my dad is actually my stepfather, but I never once heard him call me his stepdaughter, and not once did he ever make me feel like anything other than his child completely. When I look around I see that not only do I have a wonderful father, but I have a better father than almost everyone else. The expression, "you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family," doesn't apply to us. We chose each other to be family. I love my dad.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dad's Calcium and Growing Tumors 2010

So things have taken another turn for the worst. This Friday, dad had radiation on his leg. Since then, it doesn't seem to have helped, and his leg pain increased.  Saturday morning one of the oncologists told us that his calcium had gone up due to the cancer.  They gave him very strong medicine to reduce the calcium, but it's not guaranteed to work, and high calcium can lead to coma and death.  Sometime around the same time the oncologist delivered the news that all his tumors had gotten bigger.

Previously, the doctors had said that if the Sutent didn't work we could try other drugs.  His calcium has gone down a very small amount, but at this point he is not stable enough or strong enough to try another drug.  Due to the progression of the tumors it's not likely he will be able to try another drug.  His pain and other problems have increased.  We raised his pain medications.  The pain medicine puts him to sleep, and when he wakes up he's often in pain.  The ironic part is that he looks really healthy and handsome. My mother has been sleeping overnight at the hospital since last night, and I go for about 10 hours a day and stay overnight at my parents' place.  I'm going to be living here for the time being.

Update: His calcium came down, but it's a sign of the cancer progressing rapidly. He's weak and in a lot of pain and his kidney stopped working again.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dad's Emergency Leg Radiation 2010

Dad has been in the hospital since Friday. His kidney improved its function on its own. The nausea and stomach problems he developed in the hospital also improved after my mother asked for a number of interventions. But during this time his leg tumor grew very rapidly and is pushing on the bone (also noted because my mother demanded someone look at his leg). The doctors decided to send him to emergency leg radiation surgery today at the facility where he had his brain radiation surgery done. This is his third leg procedure he's had done. I'm dubious because as a rule radiation does not work on kidney cancer, which is what he has in his leg.

This weekend, I watched Joel Osteen, as I sometimes do if I come across him while changing channels. He gave a sermon about God helping those that help themselves and ask for God's help. He gave the example of David fighting Goliath with the only weapon available to him- a stick to make a sling shot. The idea is that God makes an otherwise inadequate weapon powerful. So here we are, here is our radiation stick. God, this is the part where you step in and make it work even though it otherwise wouldn't. Please and thank you.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Things My Wife Complains About: #16 Not Caring Enough About Her to Correct Her Grammar

It's hard teaching writing. Not only do you have to correct the mechanics of students just beginning to master the language, but you also have to suffer the grammatical insecurities of those around you, always tiptoeing around "who" and "lay." Were it not for my grueling two to three day/week schedule, I might consider doing something else entirely. Instead of constantly explaining the difference between the subjective and objective position, I long ago decided to let people speak however they wish without worrying over my interjecting (little-acknowledged rule: gerunds take the possessive).

You can imagine my incredulity, then, when my wife leveled the complaint that I don't care enough about her to teach her correct grammar. Since there's some thinking that fetuses may be able to hear from the womb, my wife further complained that I don't care enough about my powerful seed to teach him/her correct grammar.

My wife and I have been dating for over four years. We've been married for over a year, and she's been carrying my powerful seed for four months. At what point will she be secure that I care about her? Will it be our tenth wedding anniversary? When my powerful seed graduates from college? When we ease into retirement at the age of eighty? Oh, the complaints she'll have then. If I cared about her, I'd massage her rheumatism. If I cared about her, I'd help her find her teeth.

Possible solutions!

1) Correct every grammatical mistake, quietly biting my bleeding tongue while she complains about the way I correct her unfairly/gratuitously/cruelly
2) Only speak in Spanish, where her grammar is far better than mine
3) Insist she only speak when spoken to--don't speak to her (hard)

Looking professorial

4 Months Pregnant 2010

15 Weeks, October 24-30, 2010

Over the weekend I went to a clothing swap at Becky's and tried to pick up larger size clothing or stuff that would stretch with me. I also went on a chemical-free snack-buying binge. Some big changes happened at work. Then our friends Adrienne and Pete had their baby girl Lenore!

And most exciting of all dad came home from rehab! He went up the stairs himself with a cane. We all ate dinner at the table together, though dad is still feeling side effects from the Sutent so he couldn't completely enjoy dinner. In about two weeks, he takes a break from the Sutent so we have big plans to make sure he enjoys his favorite food then.

Milestones: Our baby book says the baby is practicing breathing and swallowing with the amniotic fluid.
Craving: Ice cream (but since this was a pre-pregnancy craving, I'm not sure it counts, on the other hand I don't usually keep 5 different flavors in my freezer)
Anti-craving: Coffee
Symptoms: Acid reflux, bloody nose
Baby-size: Apple
Weight gain: 7 pounds (I probably should not already be gaining a pound a week!)

16 Weeks, October 31- November 6, 2010

I had some more unfortunate symptoms this week, such as breathlessness. It happened twice during the week for about an hour each time. My acid reflux was also really bad this week. We even resorted to this disgusting natural home remedy: a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a teacup of hot water. Not only does this smell like dirty feet, but it burns, thus negating any potential acid reflux cure it may or may not provide. By the end of the week I just did what my mother said and tried milk, even though the web insists that this will not actually help. Well, it did. Mom: 1, Internet: 0.

On Wednesday, November 3, I definitively felt the baby moving. Before that I had felt one or two gentle movements that were probably the baby, but this was the first time it was so clear that I knew it had to be the baby. Baby's twitter was updated accordingly. I felt the baby a few more times later in the week. Most notably Saturday after half a cup of coffee. Baby went crazy for a few hours after that. Sorry if I just gave you ADD, baby.

On Friday we had our 16 week, alphfetoprotein (AFP) test. I don't really know how I feel about all these tests, but my doctors act like it's nonnegotiable so I try not to think about it. I also got the flu vaccine including the H1N1 vaccine with no mercury.  I know I'm supposed to, so I did, but it makes me nervous nonetheless.

One of my doctors also said that he would throw in a free sonogram at this appointment so we could tell if the baby is a boy or a girl. But because it was free they used the low-technology sonogram machine that's used for the 8-week appointment. We couldn't really tell what gender the baby is, and the sonogram looks like random squiggles.  But the doctor took a guess. Not helpful.

Baby Clou Gender Prediction at 16 Weeks + 5 Days
Come on now, what is this? And look at the Dr's caption: "MAYBE A BOY??"

The week ended on a sad note. Dad had been home from rehab for almost a week, when his kidney symptoms returned so we all took him back to the hospital on Friday. We had him admitted to the oncology floor again (last time they sent him to the renal floor which is not best for all of his related problems).  The doctors suggested that the kidney problems were pretty minor, but since he's been in the hospital he has also developed nausea and extreme pain in his leg due to the tumor there. The tumor had been getting smaller for a few weeks, but it seems bigger again. Mom is doing everything in her power to help dad with the nausea and pain, while we wait to see if his kidney symptoms will abate again on their own.

Milestones: I can feel the baby moving. Our baby book says the baby's eyes are working now and that baby is becoming sensitive to belly touches.
Craving: Red meat, Italian hero (cold cut rules be damned), corn
Anti-craving: None
Symptoms: Acid reflux, breathlessness, headaches, round ligament pain, bloody nose
Baby-size: Avocado (Mom says it would be more like a small Haas avocado)
Weight gain: 8 pounds

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jen and Damian Are Engaged 2010!

Kevin's second cousin Jen got engaged to her long-term boyfriend Damian on Sunday. Jen first told us how in love and ready she was to marry Damian in 2009. The feeling was clearly mutual from the start, but Damian wanted to buy and set up their house together first. How wonderful that they have everything going for them now!

2010 08 30 Damian and Jen
Damian, Jen, and their dog Brady, August 2010

DR Wedding Buffett 357-1
Damian and Jen at our wedding, June 2009
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