Thursday, July 8, 2010

So how is Peter?

The short answer is “good”, but of course that won't be much of a blog entry considering how long it's been since I've written.

Peter has been completely off supplemental oxygen for a couple of weeks. This allowed some doctor's appointments to be canceled. Yeah! We still have to hold onto the equipment for at least three months in case he gets a cold or something and needs the oxygen. It was all shoved into the closet the same day we found out he didn't need it anymore. The closet is the most spacious room we have in our flat anyways.

We did have a concern about Peter's eyes. Randomly, Peter's eyes began to jiggle vertically. This is called a nystagmus. We got an appointment with the ophthalmologist that did the surgery on Peter's eyes while he was in the neonatal unit. The ophthalmologist examined Peter's eyes and said that physically Peter's eyes were great, perhaps a little nearsighted, but fine. He referred us then to a neurologist who had Peter get an ultrasound of his brain. It looked like there might have been too much fluid in his brain that may have been caused by a blockage in the ventricales, fluid, of the brain. This can happen to a premature baby because some bleeding in the brain happens at a premature delivery. This blood can cause a blockage in the flow of the fluid in the brain. This type of blockage could have caused the nystagmus, but could also lead to worse things. They talked about the fact that Peter may need a shunt from his brain to his stomach to drain the fluid. After an MRI, which is much clearer than an ultrasound, it was discovered that there was no blockage and no unusual build up of fluid in the brain. His head will continue to be measured for unusual enlarging and we will continue to have check-ups with the neurologist. All this to say that they don't know what is causing the nystagmus, so they need to wait and see what happens. As of the writing of this blog, the nystagmus has become less frequent and we are very confident that it isn't effecting his vision substantially.

According to the check-ups Peter has had, everything from his heart to his growth is all very good. He is catching up to the size he should be and he has a great appetite to help. We have introduced him to baby food according to his birth age as we were instructed. Since developmentally he isn't as far as a normal baby is when eating the first time, like in sitting up and developing teeth, we are staying with smooth food for a little while. Developmentally he is progressing according the his gestational age (his due date age). He is a little ahead in the use of his hands and how much he babbles, but slightly slow in holding his head up. This is not unusually for even a term baby, but the doctor's are kind of holding Peter under a microscope looking for the first smallest sign of trouble.

Other than all the doctor's appointments, vitamins, and strange developmental timing, Peter is just a normal baby...sort of.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Linlithgow Palace

How conflicted must the man have been
Who, posted high atop Linlithgow's tower,
Would daily scan the placid, verdant glen
For any sight of opposition's power.

The loch below, on clear and sun-filled days
Would gleeful play with cooling gusts of air;
The multiplex, refracted rainbow rays
Were dancing, rapt in the Creator's care.

And even through a damp mid-Lothian mist
The guard would look about at gentle slopes
And wonder how the present world had missed
Its true and peaceful Avalonian hopes.

Instead, he knew the harshness of that state
That all around him called reality.
“For anger, lust, deceitfulness and hate
Is all there is or has been or will be.”

Perhaps the guard would dare imagine, with
A disbelieving grin, a time and place
When one could stand up here (it is but myth)
To merely wonder at Edenic grace.

Then shaking peaceful thoughts out of his head
He deems mere idle dreams, he looks again
Upon the far off hill; from there his dread
Will any moment come, his violent end.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Time Management

Having Peter at home is so much cooler than having him at the hospital. Obviously, Peter's presence 24/7 demands an immense (though not entirely unexpected) amount of time, but if all I had to worry about was Peter, who cares about the time commitment? And, let me give a tremendous shout out to Lara who spends more time with Peter than I do and still manages to be surprisingly productive, though she doesn't see it that way. The problem is not Peter, it's all these other things I'm supposed to be doing, most especially a little thing called a doctoral dissertation.

The way the PhD program at New College works is that your first year is technically probationary. After nine months or so in the program you go before a review board. For that review board, I have to submit an official dissertation proposal, a sample bibliography, and a sample chapter of around 7000 words. My review board is June 9. I knew back in February as I was looking ahead to the coming year that March would be very busy with Peter related things, and that we would have visitors in May, so I expected to have a busy April working on getting ready for the review board. Fortunately, I've managed to produce something that I am actually satisfied with. It's not really related to what I thought my dissertation would be about when I first got here, but it's good work, I think, and I've learned a lot doing it.

What's really surprising, despite the fact that every time I've tested it its proven true, is how the more I have to do the more I am able to do. This was always the case in undergrad, where my worst semester was the one where I did not take 19 or more credit hours. All the extra time strangely drained my general productivity. The same appears to be true now. Not only do we now have Peter at home AND I have a hard deadline in front of me, but I've also continued to be involved in soccer and church, joined the church's men's choir, started attending an OT reading group, worked on my increasingly glitchy desktop computer (AARGH for defective motherboards), read at least one novel a month, played a lot of Nintendo and Super Nintendo games on my computer (via emulator), and begun two new online MMORTS games to the two I was already playing regularly. All this AND I wrote a chapter that was too long (the unedited file for my 7,000 word chapter originally had around 20,000 words). I trying to figure out what I've been neglecting. Oh yeah. This blog. But I did post the two poems.

Ok, so I really want to tell everybody about this MMORTS game I'm playing called Lord of Ultima (MMORTS – Massively Multiplayer Online Real Time Strategy, for those not in the know; though it actually looks like some sort of Mars candy, maybe like chocolate-covered fruit-flavored M&M minis). It's a city/empire builder where the construction times and army march times take longer time than a standard single-player real-time strategy. There are no NPC (non-player character) cities. Every city on the map is (or was; many are abandoned) operated by a real live person who might very well live in an entirely different country. So when you raid a city, somebody on the other side of the world curses in a different language. I love cultural experiences!

The “Ultima” part of Lord of Ultima is familiar to those who have experience in RPG's (role-playing games) going back to the 80's. The Ultima series is classic, and the foundation for Ultima Online, the grandaddy of MMORPG's (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game; this one just sounds like a Borg whose circuits got crossed: “Serstistance is fulty!”). Admittedly, Lord of Ultima's connection to the Ultima game series is thin, but it's still kind of cool to see some familiar monsters, dungeons, and place names. Plus, the graphics are among the coolest I've seen for MMORTS's (though it would be even better if the buildings changed as they leveled up, like in Kingdoms of Camelot).

So as you can see, I've been spending my time well. Seriously, in actuality, as I've filled up my schedule, my productivity has increased more than accordingly. I find that having a game or two (or three) to check periodically throughout the day helps my concentration when working and increases my research/writing stamina. This welcome paradox has been very fortuitous (or, should we say, providential?) recently, because I have not been able to dedicate five days of any week in the last three months to research because of either Peter's doctors appointments or computer troubles. Fortunately, the three to four days per week that I can dedicate have been doubly productive.

Instead of a haiku of the week, I will try to post a haiku or some other poem at the end of each blog post.

Squeaky noises mean
That Peter is sucking on
An empty bottle.

A Haiku by Kerry

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

Peter's Tummy Ache

I know it hurts, I've been there, too,
the pain that swells inside of you.
But it will pass, I promise it,
It won't be long before you will forget.

I fear there's little I can do.
This hurts me worse than it does you.
My hugs and kisses cannot send
This cursed discomfort to a hasty end.

So I'll hold you tightly to my chest
And pour my love into each step
I'll kiss your fuzzy head and pray
That God will make your tummy ache go away.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Finally Home!

OK, so I haven't blogged in a while. The last six months have held some of the worse experiences of my life. The last two months have tested me in ways I never imagined, but in the end, I am so glad to have Peter that I would go through it all again if I had to.

Peter has done well though out his short four month life. Everything that was asked of him he did well from breathing to enduring tests and even an eye surgery. In the last month, as the time for him to come home drew nearer, the stress level seemed to grow exponentially. Things stopped being clear cut. It used to be that everything was measured and had a prescribed treatment, but then it turned into a free- for-all on opinions about how to raise a baby. One nurse would tell me I need to breastfeed because it would protect him and prevent illness. The very next day a nurse would say we need to give him formula because he isn't growing fast enough. One specialist would say don't ever give him a bottle because then he won't breastfeed and he really should breastfeed. Instead he should begin a tiny cup. Then a doctor would meet with me as though I was being difficult because giving him a bottle would help him get off the feeding tube faster. One nurse would write a feeding plan for when I should feed him then the next day I am told that I will over tire him by following that plan. I would call the hospital at night and be told Peter was settled and fine. The next I would be told that he was screaming and I need to try to spend more time at the hospital. Finally I was asked to stay at the hospital over night. I was excited because I thought that some consistency would occur. None did. Finally after weeks of staying at the hospital on and off and try every feeding method and technique under the sun, we were allowed to take Peter home.

Peter came home on March 13th. We have a machine in our apartment that pulls oxygen out of the air and sends it to Peter via a plastic tube that has prongs that stick in Peter's nose. We also have five oxygen tanks. One is a back-up to replace the machine if we were ever to loose power or if the machine broke. The other four are to use when we go out with Peter. They are about the size of a fire extinguisher and fit in a book bag. This constant leash attached to Peter it not as bad as the staff seemed to thing we would be worried that it was. The they were constantly trying to reassure us when we were just thrilled to get Peter home no matter what it involved. Peter seems to be more annoyed at the oxygen than we are. He constantly pulls the prongs out of his nose. The staff gave us various types of tape to try to hold it in place, but with Peter's determination the tape just served to pull his hair and get the prong stuck in odd positions. We have stopped using the tape and just adjust the tube to fit around his head snugly. We continue to place the prongs back into his nose the same zillion times a day we were doing before.

Peter also has an apnea monitor that we can use when ever we like. It has a probe that tapes to Peter's chest and alarms if Peter ever stops breathing. The nurses said we don't have to use it, but most moms use it all the time at first. I found it to be a horrible waste of machinery. First of all, to actually get the probe to stick to Peter you have to use a type of tape that peels Peter's skin if you try to remove it without drenching it in lotion first. Even though this industrial strength tape sticks to Peter wonderfully, it doesn't stick to the probe. Instead of giving us peace of mind, the dumb thing would get stuck to Peter's shirt, go off, and scare us to death at random times in the middle of the night. Eventually we just put the device away.

Other than those two devices, Peter has multivitamins and iron supplements he takes once a day. He is mostly breastfed with a bottle of prescription preemie formula once a day that has extra calories to help him grow faster. He also has about two doctor's appointments or check-ups each week.

Even with all this extra stuff, Peter is a pretty normal baby. He development is supposed to follow his gestational age (which would make him one week old developmentally), but in reality, he tends to fall somewhere in the middle of his birth age and his gestational age. Another words, he acts like a typical 2 month old baby. He cries, feeds, plays, and interacts with us completely normally. For this we are very grateful. It is so much fun to see him interact with the world and I love dressing him, bathing him, talking to him, and just holding him. The tiredness of feeding him multiple times a night is just physical. The tiredness that came from worrying about him has pretty much gone away.

Peter still has to be continually tested until he is off the oxygen. He will also have a hernia surgery in a month or so. He isn't quite normal and that has given him a unique personality. He is our little miracle and I look forward to everyday with him.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Beginning of an Era

Peter comes home tomorrow. Lara and I are both agreed that this is going to make our lives immeasurably easier. We've been parents now for 3 1/2 months (longer, I realize, if you count from conception). Still, it feels momentous. From now on, "we" means three of us. I think Lara is more in that groove than I am: she has been at the hospital with Peter far more regularly than I have in the last two months. In the last two weeks, she's spent more nights at the hospital than at home. This much time alone has enabled me to consider our situation, and my dedication to this family, more closely. It's also enabled me to watch some movies Lara doesn't like.

In the last month (it's been a month since I posted last), I celebrated my 30th birthday. This seems like it should be more important. I mean, the 10's digit changed. That's big time. At numerically significant moments like this we humans have a sacred tradition of overreacting. When I turned 10, it was a big deal because I was a whole decade old. Turning 20 was more important to me than 21 because it meant I was no longer a teenager and I wasn't planning on going out and getting drunk. Often, people who have grown up with an unreasonably young concept of where "old" starts get depressed at 30, possibly because they can't think of any other reason it's important when it seems like it should be ("OH NO! I'm THIRTY. I'm soooo oooooold!" - at which point I would like to poke this person in the eye). I've never really felt like "old" started until somewhere around 60, and even then it wasn't "old" as in past the point of usefulness, but "old" as in some parts don't work the way they used to. For me, "old" has never been something to dread, it is simply something that is, and it's only necessarily something that is on the outside. I feel sorry for people who get old on the inside.

Even so, 30 felt significant to me, I think, because it sounds like the point at which full adulthood, along with the associated furrowed brow and weight gain, truly begins. But you know, I still can't really identify with that overly serious worldview that seems to be part of what most people mean by "grow up." If adulthood is anything other than 90% play, I can do without it. I like smiling, running and jumping, playing games, laughing, teasing, and making faces. I still chew bubble gum in order to blow bubbles. I still tend to like cartoons better than anything else. Ice cream is the nectar of the gods. Sure, I fall victim to worry, especially recently. The most tragic thing about worry is how it blinds me to the wonder of the moment. Recently in prayer, I have been frequently feeling the impulse to look around me in child-like wonder. Look! Realize that you're in Edinburgh! Look at the buildings, the roads, the walls and fields. Feel the crisp air and breathe it in! Listen to the sounds! Smell the ... hops (yeah, for those of you who come to visit, Edinburgh has a pretty distinct smell that comes from local breweries). Okay, don't smell the hops, but you're alive, in Scotland, with a wonderful church, getting your PhD, together with your wife, and you have a son who shouldn't have survived the first night! Worry and anxiety, which it sometimes feels is the demeanor expected by small-minded individuals who take themselves way too seriously, shut all that out.

The feeling of significance, of entry into adulthood, may also be exaggerated because this was my first birthday in which I am a parent (which sounds like it should be antonymous with invisible). But the immutably young part of me, the Toys R Us kid, sees that what I've gained with Peter is a new playmate, somebody who will eventually find all my gags fresh and funny (for a while, at least), somebody who will like puns and what I call time bomb jokes (the kind that I throw into a conversation not expecting anyone to get it until later; they're really more for my own amusement). So what is so inherently significant about 30? Absolutely nothing. As I've noted elsewhere, if our numbering system was not based on tens (but on, say, powers of 12, like the Sumerians, or powers of 16, as in hexadecimal numbering in computer engineering), this birthday wouldn't be even have the illusion of significance. What is significant is that here I am at 30, embarking on a totally new journey to a destination I cannot see and have never seen (dangerously overused metaphors acknowledged), and I could not be more optimistic about our lives only getting better and better. God is driving the current and I'm along for the ride. Tomorrow, truly, is the beginning of a new era.