The Girl Who Lived ~ by Sam

17 years ago today, on March 28th 2000, I was 29 years old.  Gosh, it seems like a lifetime ago.  Shane and I lived in the upstairs apartment at the back of our building of six units, which faced another, identical 6-unit building.  Our daughter, Justice, had recently become a big sister for the first time, to Hallie, who was born at 11:58 pm on March 17th ~ St. Patrick’s Day! ~ on the front seat of our Honda Civic in front of Kaiser Permanente Hospital’s Emergency Entrance in Woodland Hills.  We almost made it to the hospital in time, but, what can I say?  Hallie was in a hurry to be born on St. Paddy’s Day.

When I think about that little baby, my first impressions are of a strong, alert child, right from the word, “go!”  I had a hard time, hemorrhaging and requiring a couple of courses of pitocin to get the bleeding under control upon being transferred up to a recovery room, but not our little baby.  Hallie was eager to nurse, wide-eyed, alert and responsive.  I remember lying on the sofa the day we brought her home, with Hallie resting on my belly.  She just wriggled her way up my body all by herself, like a tiny little mountain climber.  I know, I know ~ babies do this ~ but we were so impressed right from the start by her strength, her grip, and how awake and aware of the world around her she was.  She just seemed interested in everything.

On the evening of March 28th, baby Hallie was just 11 days old.  Justice was asleep her room.  She would have been 2 years and about 4 months old.  Shane was working at his desk in the living room, and I was napping on the sofa.  Hallie was asleep in the cradle my dad had built, which was in the room with us.  We always had our babies sleep wherever we were.  So, we kept the cradle in the front room.  I learned later that Shane had somehow become aware that something was wrong with Hallie.  Maybe it was the absence of breath sounds.  Maybe it was a choking sound.   Maybe he saw something out of the corner of his eye.  I don’t know, but I thank God that something alerted him.  I awoke to the sound of him yelling her name.  He was holding her, her face was bright red, mouth wide open, like she should be screaming, but there was no sound.  I could see the terror in both of their eyes.  I don’t even think I was fully awake before I was across the room whisking her away and saying, “Call 9-1-1!”

Having worked in a preschool classroom, I had, at least, been trained in infant CPR.  I went in to auto-pilot.  It’s hard for me to put in to words what happened next.  I can remember it all so clearly, like I am watching a movie, but it’s difficult to articulate.  I remember checking her airway.  I remember running through all of the steps in my head ~ which I remembered then, but don’t now ~ I remember performing the infant Heimlich maneuver, and feeling a tremendous sense of relief when she coughed up a huge chunk of mucous…and then a renewed sense of panic when, instead of starting to breathe, my tiny little baby went limp and blue.

I remember that Shane was on the line with the 9-1-1 operator by this time, and that she remained on the line with him until we left for the hospital.  I remember that, at some point, little Justice was awakened by the commotion, and wandered out.  I remember that the paramedics from the nearby fire station arrived within two minutes that felt like an eternity.  I remember.  I remember loosening her clothes, jiggling her limp little limbs, begging her to breathe.  I remember Shane’s voice pleading with her to breathe.  I remember repeatedly thumping the soles of my baby’s tiny feet, so she would gasp for air, and hoping against hope that, eventually, those tiny little gasps would “catch,” and she would start breathing regularly again.  And I remember that, eventually, miraculously, she did.  Right before the paramedics arrived.  She was breathing, albeit shallowly, by the time they got there, but, since she had not been, of course, a trip to the ER was still in order.

I remember when the paramedics explained to me that I couldn’t hold her on the way to the hospital.  That I had to hand her over to them.  That she had to be transported by them the way any patient would, but I could ride inside the ambulance with her.  Shane and Justice could follow in the car.  I remember the look on Shane’s face when he realized he had to let them drive away with his baby.  I remember how tiny she looked inside the ambulance on that huge gurney.

I remember sitting at the hospital while they checked her over and over and questioned us about what had happened, and found no explanation.  No explanation.  And just…sent us home.  I remember the diagnosis.

ALTE

A.L.T.E.

I remember searching for information to try to understand what had happened to my child and finding that it stood for “Apparent Life-Threatening Event.”

As if we couldn’t have guessed.

I remember months later when I had to fight for the insurance company to cover that ambulance ride and hospital visit, because, they told me, the incident “wasn’t life-threatening.”

*ahem*

“Please refer to doctor’s diagnosis.  A.L.T.E. – Apparent Life-Threatening Event.”

I remember how, at about two months, she suffered another episode of the same type.  Still with no further explanation.

I remember how, years later, she developed asthma, and often suffered respiratory complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia.  I remember the time she had croup, and developed stridor, and her little chest would cave in, instead of expanding, when she took a breath, and my heart would ache for her.  I remember other parents thinking I was being “overprotective” when I said it was important for her not to be exposed to respiratory ailments because she was at high risk for respiratory complications.

But, more than anything, on this day, I remember my child’s beautiful eyes, smile, voice.  I think of all of the amazing things this almost grown person has achieved.  I think of the art my child has created, the roles this young actor has played, all the music and dances and stories…and everything yet to come.

Hallie was due on March 27th, born on March 17th, under rather unusual circumstances.  Then March 28th came along and did its best to wrestle her away from us.  Every year at this time, I can’t help but pause and count this particularly incredible blessing.

 

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To Start Anew ~ by Sam

2017 finds us all poised at the breaking dawn of a fresh, new year.  A year full of hope, and promise and possibilities.  The problems, the struggles, the tears, the regrets, the trials, the toils of 2016 and before lay behind us, and what lies ahead is infinite and unknown.  People encourage us to move only forward, to cast off the negative, never looking back; but, like Lot’s wife, we find ourselves compelled to cast that glance aft, and then…

Then what?

Isn’t it our history that informs us?  Isn’t it our past that makes us what we are today?

And so, I offer this advice for the New Year: Don’t attempt to make a brand new start, as people suggest.  That is far too tall an order for anyone, and destined for failure.  Sure, go ahead, move forward.  But don’t just put one foot in front of the other and trudge blindly on.  Move forward informed by the past, strengthened by your experience, hardened in your resolve ~ battle-scarred and imperfectly-perfect, as are we all ~ ready to conquer whatever life happens to throw your way.

In that spirit, I give you my Resolutions for the New Year, in no particular order:

In 2017, I resolve to:

Be Kind.
Listen.
Visit Places.
Make Things.
Plant Things.
Play Music.
Take Care of Myself.
Cook.
Write.
Read.
Dance.
Laugh.
Sing.

I might clean some stuff, too.
Maybe.

I think I can handle that.

Wishing you and yours Peace, Love, Health & Happiness in the New Year and beyond.  With all of those things, how can we possibly go wrong?

Good Morning, 2014 ~ by Sam

It’s 11:16 on the morning of January 1st, 2014, and I am the only one awake here.  Last night was spent at an annual New Year’s party at the home of our dear friends, the Foxes.  Once again, a grand time was had by all.  I want to take a moment to thank our “playgroup” friends for the numerous ways in which they have contributed over the years to making our lives rich, joyous and low-stress.

When Hallie was a toddler, we joined an infant playgroup through a local chapter of MOMS Club.  If you are a mom, and you haven’t heard of MOMS Club, you should.  Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done with little kids ~ 3,000 miles from my hometown and all of my extended family ~ without the support I received from the wonderful people I met through MOMS Club.  Check them out here  https://www.momsclub.org/  to find more information, locate a chapter in your area, or start one of your own. I guarantee, you will not regret it.

Over the years, five families from Hallie’s MOMS Club infant playgroup have remained close.  The other four families have become our family here.  We have picked up each other’s kids from school, enjoyed moms and/or dads nights out, played, had sleepovers, partied, vacationed and grown together.  The 5 girls (formerly known as infants) are now teenagers, and remain the best of friends.  We are the only family with an older child, and one of 4 with a younger child.  The other children are best of friends, too, as are the adults.

I honestly do not know what we would do without all of these wonderful people in our lives.  I need people in my life.  I am a terrible loner.  I mean, I guess I am interesting enough for a while, but, having grown up close to my large extended family, I need to be surrounded by people.  For my kids, this is like growing up with cousins, aunts and uncles nearby was for me.  We celebrate one another’s victories, and mourn each other’s losses.  We may not be blood, but we are family.

The reason I bring this up today is that I have decided that my major focus this year is going to be on keeping life as low-stress for myself, Shane and the kids as possible.  With a new house, Shane working multiple jobs, me not working due to continuing health challenges, one kid looking at colleges, another at high schools and the third at middle schools, you might think this would be difficult, and you’d be 100% correct.  That’s why I am so grateful for the support we receive from our friends and family, near and far.

So, for instance, when I can know that, on New Year’s Eve, we can all count on having a wonderful time partying safely at a friends’ home ~ where big kids can do their thing, little kids can do their thing, and grown-ups can do their thing, all safe under one roof, that takes a lot of stress off me ~ no celebration to plan, no arrangements to make for kids; just throw on a dress and bring an appetizer to share. That’s my kind of party!  (And I won chocolate in one of the party games, and we all know good chocolate melts away stress.)

When we can throw a simple Tree-Trimming party at home and have it turned in a fabulous, memorable event when one of the other dads in our group gets the kids organized enough to put on a little variety show for guests, we realize, again, just how deeply our friendships enrich ours lives and the lives of our children.  I have tried, but have never managed to host the party AND get the kids to provide entertainment, ‘though it has always been a dream of mine.

When I can know that, if my kid suffers the effects of severe asthma while on vacation in the mountains, I am going to have a support system in place, right there with me ~ when Shane’s boss gives us a trip to the spa during that same vacation, nobody will mind if we leave our kids at the house for a few hours while we slip off to the spa to relax after Holiday stress and pushed up deadlines ~ it takes so much stress off us as parents.  I am eternally grateful for the continued support of our playgroup friends ~ ‘though, now, “play” often means watching Sherlock, Doctor Who and anime, or practicing a capella arrangements ~ and I catch myself thinking, “I can only hope they know how much we appreciate them.”  Then, I catch myself again; and I realize I can do more than hope.  I can say it.

So, thank you, Sheryl, Tim, Megan & Marshall; Priya, Chris, Maya & Nadia; Lisa, Ray, Gianna & Ryan; Lauren, TJ & Makenzie for being our California family.  Thank you for laughing, crying, playing and fighting with us, because that’s what families do.

Thank you, too, to our far-away friends and family, and to those nearby whom we see less often.  We receive so much love, support and encouragement from all of you that we are constantly humbled by your compassion, your kindness and your concern for our little family.   Thank you to our “Arizona family” (also a great group of friends) who supported us through college and marriage and our first venture into parenthood, and who continue to support and love us today.

More than anything, thank you all for letting us be the nutty, freaky people we are, and for loving us, anyway.  Everyone should be so lucky to have such friends.

To all of our readers: I wish you a healthy, prosperous, joyful, low-stress year, in which you are surrounded by people who love you and make you feel good about yourselves.  Remember, in the words of one of my favourite angels (Second-Class): “No man is a failure who has friends.”

Now, go make 2014 the best year yet.