Friday, April 27, 2012

Ooh la la! Indeed

The thought of international travel alone with two children under the age of three causes me some anxiety. But there is apparently something magical about airports and planes with Gabriela and Lililan. They seriously morph into little angels with no desire other than to behave and do as I ask.

And this is why I am pleased to announce that we will be selling our home and moving into an airplane.

Just kidding. I think.

The trip over was quite smooth, except for the last 30 minutes or so.

It was our first time ever flying out of Peoria, and I love that airport now. Cedar Rapids and Moline are fine, but the free parking (right up close!) may have won my heart. Combine that with security personnel who did not open every little pouch of Plum Organics Baby Food (best snacks EVER as far as my kids are concerned...sucking pureed fruits and veggies from a pouch = great happiness) to test them for explosives, and I may never fly from anywhere else again! Not that I'm against airports preventing people from boarding with explosives, but I do take issue with opening sealed food pouches which then must be eaten OR REFRIGERATED. (Which is what has happened on previous flights!)

The girls were amazing on both the flight to Dallas and then to Paris. They each had a snack on our first flight and then took their afternoon naps. Once in Dallas, we made a mad dash for the children's play area for an hour before making our way to our gate.

Gabs has been especially pumped about this trip. She is finally old enough to be able to look forward to future events and she completely understood the whole concept of flying this time. Sitting on the plane, she kept telling me she wanted to "voa no ceu!" (fly in the sky). Earlier in the week, when I was telling her about all the fun things we were going to do on this trip, she nodded and agreed it would be a good time. And then she excitedly added, "E Bobbi vai ao vaso na aviao!" (And Bobbi is going to use the toilet on a plane!") So we made sure we did plenty of that too. I think I lost count after a dozen potty trips in the air. As a side note, Mamae does not share her enthusiasm for airplane lavatories.

Our flight to Paris was not without some excitement, lucky none that involved my offspring. An older gentleman starting having heart-attack symptoms a few hours into the flight. When the flight crew asked for any doctor on board to come to the back of the plane, I glanced at the map and noticed we were on the edge of the North America continent, about to begin the journey over the Atlantic. I knew at that point we would probably be landing soon.  Who decides to fly over the ocean for several hours with a possibly seriously ill passenger and no place to land?!?

The plane made a U-turn and after a while, we landed in Stephenville, Newfoundland, Canada where we were met by an ambulance and the gentleman was taken off the plane.  He seemed to be doing alright, and I overheard the doctor say he suspected his problems were actually related to dehydration.  I made a little tent over the girls with blankets, so the lights coming on wouldn't awake them.  Everyone who passed by during our 2+ hour stop got a kick out of them snoozing away through the whole ordeal - which all went down just a few rows behind us. 

Turns out, it's a little tricky landing a commercial airliner at a random airport.  We were going to land at an American Airlines-affiliated location, but they had freezing rain and ice.  So we re-routed elsewhere.  After the detour and an impending second take-off, we were going to need more fuel to make it to Paris.  After a fuel tanker finally arrived sometime about 2 am local time at an airport which was not open at the time, the captain had to figure out a way to pay the guy.  It was apparently a complicated situation involving AA corporate and someone reading off credit card numbers to the captain to relay to people on the ground.  All in all, we were 4 hours late arriving in Paris.  Which actually was great for my little people, since they got a solid 8 hours of sleep between supper and breakfast.  I, on the other hand, did not.  But as any mother will tell you, it is much better for mama to miss sleep than babies to lack sleep!

I knew all along that the trickiest part of the trip would be from baggage claim to the hotel in Paris.  Eric would be tied up at his conference, so I would have to drag my sleep-deprived self, two children, two backpacks, two rolling carry-ons, two carseats, a stroller, and 1 large checked bag all the way through the airport to our hotel - which was located within a different terminal from where we were arriving.  Luckily, I had a plan: LUGGAGE CART!  And was happily greeted by may happy rows of carts at the baggage claim.  It was still a little awkward, since I had to push the very over loaded cart, with Lilian attached to my body, manage Gabriela, and still drag an item or two behind me...but the seas of people parted and we managed just fine.

Unfortunately, our trip to the other terminal required getting on the train, there was no walkway.  And luggage carts are not allowed.  UGH! 

There was neither time nor space to be photographing my solution, so I will try to describe it as best I can:
I put Lilian in her carseat and had it strapped to one of the rolling carry-ons (thank you Travelling Toddler strap!). 
I had my backpack on and made Gabriela carry hers on her back.
I used a luggage strap to attach the second rolling carry-on (with 2nd carseat attached) to the large checked bag.
Then I laid the folded stroller over the top of the train I just created.
I pushed Lilian's set-up with one hand in front of me and pulled the long train (of suitcases, carseat, and stroller) behind me with the other hand, and had Gabs grab hold to a piece of something somewhere, so she wouldn't be lost in the shuffle.

We made it into the elevator and down to the platform with some ease, although graceful it was not!

The train was sitting there when we arrived, so I chose a less-crowded car and started to enter it.


And then I am pretty sure I uttered something people often refer to as French.

I still had my long train of luggage to drag on, which wasn't going to fit straight in, and I needed to locate my eldest child to make sure her body wasn't about to be crushed by slamming train doors. As I half debated stepping back off and waiting for the next train, I imagined Lilian sitting in her carseat getting stuck inside and me standing helpless on the platform as the train sped away.  At that moment, a guy from inside the train quickly pulled Gabriela from the doorway inside the car.  Both kids on the train, I was definitely committed now.  So I nearly knocked down a couple folks as I, ever so not gracefully, pulled and twisted and shoved and got the rest of our belongings inside with us.  I also found out that the doors will, indeed, re-open when they hit a solid object.

My hair no doubt a mess, my entire body more than a little sweaty, and my teeth in dire need of a good brushing after our 21-hour journey from home to Paris, I spent the next two stops trying to ignore the combination of pity and disgust coming from the French passengers around me with their scarves, fancy boots, and perfectly arranged hair. 

At our stop, someone grabbed Gabriela's hand to lead her off and as I was maneuvering all our other stuff off, a middle-aged man grabbed the luggage train to try to help me.  And it would have been a great help.  Except he did not understand the finer intricacies of moving 150+ pounds of stuff with a suitcase on wheels.  He attempted to get the whole thing to rise up on the suitcase's wheels by yanking on the handle with the sort of force required when moving 150 pounds of stuff.

Problem was, suitcases (as I have learned from lots of travel with heavy loads) need a gentle touch.  They are not made to withstand the sort of abusive weights I make them carry.  You must speak nicely to them and never. ever. yank.

Or else you end up holding the handle of the suitcase in your hand.  And only the handle.

He felt badly, but obviously had other more pressing personal matters to attend to in the airport (like catching a plane or something.)  So I took the no-longer-attached-to-my-suitcase handle from him, assured him we were fine, and sent him on his way.

We eventually made it into the hotel lobby thanks to Gabriela's ability to push the stroller along for me (without even being able to see over the top!) and the kind assistance of a young Frenchman who helped us along the last 300 feet of the journey.

As I wheeled into the hotel lobby, Lilian lost it.  For the first time on the trip, Lilian decided she was tired, hungry, and in need of a diaper change.  And was none too happy about it.  She wailed as I left my heap of stuff, including kids behind me and walked to the reception desk.  Where the two Ibis employees surveyed the situation, turn around, and walked away. 

I think my French was getting better by the minute, as I am pretty sure I muttered some under my breath.

I waited over 5 minutes before they returned.  It was a long 5-minutes with Lilian crying, Gabriela petting her and saying, "It's okay, Yay-Yay, you're okay", and I tried to pretend that I didn't know the two short little curly-headed blond people 15 feet behind me.

No luggage cart, no bellhop, no one willing to help me haul my little motley crew to the elevator across the lobby, we hobbled along on our own.  Upon the reaching the 8th floor, I tossed everything out of the elevator and walked down the hall with the girls and a few of our bags.  My plan was to put the girls safely in the room and run back down the hall to grab the rest of our stuff.

What I didn't consider was that Lilian, who was still crying, would really freak out when I locked her in a strange place and walked away during the height of her distress.  Which would cause great distress for her sister.  Who would open up the door for her poor little begging sister.

As I came back around the corner with our bags approximately 14.3 seconds after I had shut the hotel door behind me, I was met by a member of the housekeeping staff exiting a room.  Her eyes got big at the sight in the hallway:

-Lilian running wildly down the hall in the opposite direction (which happened to be towards an open stairway)screaming, "MAMAAAAAAEEEE, MAMAAAAAAEEE" while bumping into walls in her tired, teary-eyed stupor.

-Gabriela running towards me yelling, "MAMAE, LILIAN SAIU!!!  NO YAY-YAY!  MAMAE!!!" (Mommy, Lilian got out! No Lilian! Mommy!"

-Me running down the hall dragging suitcases and carseats and yelling to Lilian that I am coming and to stop and not go to the stairs.

The poor little lady's shocked expression summed up my feelings exactly as she exclaimed, "OOH LA LA!"

Friday, April 13, 2012

Jet Set

If I lived hundreds of years ago, I totally would have been a nomad. While I've got nothing against "roots", picking up and going and a frequent change of scenery brings me much joy! In fact, if it weren't that whole part about the frozen tundra of a land bridge (we all know I hate the cold), I like to think that I'd been with those folks who (according to the Bering Strait Theory) decided to wander on over to the Americas and see what there is to see over there. Of course, I also like to research the heck out of trips...Lonely Planet didn't exist back then, did it? Hmmm, maybe I wouldn't have been so adventurous without a guide book.

But I digress...

The point is, I like to go and see and do. Travel excites me. And it's been too long! I haven't been anywhere in months.

While Eric has been all over creation here lately with work, I've been at home chasing our "chillins". But that's about change. Woohoo!

We leave in just a couple hours to head to Chicago for the weekend. Eric was invited to a Patent Banquet his company puts on for everyone who has gotten a patent issued during the last year. So we get to get all fancied up and enjoy dinner and drinks while the girls stay with friends there in the area.

We'll spend the rest of the weekend playing in Chicago before Eric flies out for Italy on Sunday afternoon.

The girls and I will return home and begin preparing for our big journey!

Next week, Gabriela, Lilian, and I will fly over and meet Eric in Paris, where he will be for an expo. After Papai is done with all his European work-stuff, he's going to take some vacation and we're going to play.

We're renting a car and driving down through France and into Spain. We'll stop in Barcelona before continuing down the Mediterranean coast to Valencia, where Eric's youngest sister has been studying abroad this semester. We'll hang out there a few days and then fly over to Ibiza, a small island off the coast of Spain. A few days at the beach there and then we'll head back to the mainland and start out return drive back to Paris.

When we get home, it's going to be May.

And that means summer will be upon us.

And we have lots of fun stuff planned for this summer too.

And I am a very, very happy person!

(I've just got to get through the flying internationally with two children by myself thing first. I know they'll do fine - they always do - but that doesn't change the fact that I get a little anxious at the thought of being outnumbered by my little people in airports and on planes and in a foreign land for many, many hours! Y'all pray for me!)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Disappointed, But GREATLY Blessed!

Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. -Philippians 4: 4-9

These verses from Paul's letter to the Philippians have given me motivation and comfort on numerous occasions in life. And I once again found myself turning to these words and striving to apply them daily over the last week.

Eric and I were ecstatic to learn on March 11 that we would be adding a new baby to our family sometime around Thanksgiving this year. We began talking about birthing plans, discussing rearranging rooms, and wondering if we'd have a third girl or our very first boy. We were planning to make the big announcement to family and friends the first week of May after enjoying it being our own little secret for a while.

And we really were excited for a little more time to pass so we could tell Gabriela and Lilian. Lilian is ALL ABOUT babies these days. She spends her days toting around dolls, shushing them to sleep, and wrapping them in blankets. Gabriela has taken to telling us regularly that she wants a "nene pequeno" (little baby) at our house. And when we get to spend time with the babies of our family and friends, the girls are absolutely in heaven! (The baby, not so much usually...ha!)

So when I woke up Saturday, March 24 with heavy bleeding, our hearts ached. I called and chatted with the on-call nurse from my midwife's office. I knew what was happening and that at 6 weeks pregnant there was nothing to do but wait and see...but I needed to hear it from someone else, I guess. She suggested I plan on coming in Monday.

After a physically and emotionally exhausting weekend (which included doula-ing at a beautiful birth into the wee hours of Sunday morning), Eric and I went in to see my midwife (who I had just been working with Saturday night) on Monday morning. When she walked in, she crossed the room and wrapped me up in a hug, saying, "I'm so sorry, Emily" followed by, "You had quite a rough the day Saturday, now didn't you! Though I never would have known it."

My midwife was fabulous, as always: super encouraging and supportive. I spent the next couple days a little sleepy and a little sad, but overall I was blessed with an incredible amount of peace. On Wednesday Eric was scheduled to leave on an 8-day trip to India. He wanted to stay, but I encouraged him to go.

Thursday afternoon I got a phone call from my midwife. I had taken in the tissue I passed on Saturday, and she had received the report from pathology: molar pregnancy.

At first, that prognosis seemed to make the loss a little easier. Due to a rare (1 in 1000 chance) doubling up of DNA at the time of fertilization, instead of a baby forming, an abnormal group of cells developed creating what's called a "mole".

But the more information I got about molar pregnancies, the more concerning it became. A D&C (surgery to clean out the lining of the uterus) is almost always indicated to be certain to remove all the abnormal cells. In 15-25% of cases, chemotherapy is recommended because the abnormal cells persist and can spread into the lungs and other organs. A hysterectomy is not uncommon after a molar pregnancy (though normally not a first step unless the woman wants to be done having children.) In most cases, doctors need to monitor the woman's hormone levels (hcg, specifically) for 6-12 months to ensure the cells do not re-present themselves. And in order to be able to monitor hcg levels, the woman must not become pregnant during that time.

I went from being relieved that I hadn't in actuality lost a baby to disappointed that I would have to delay having another child plus a little nervous about the other health complications that could arise. Surgery. Chemotherapy. Not exactly things you are expecting to be thinking about when you decide to add to your family!

My midwife asked me to come in Monday, April 2 to check my hcg level (through a blood test)and do an ultrasound. Those two things would help us determine the next step. Eric was prepared to come home early, as if a D&C was necessary we would need to do it right away.

I dropped the girls off at daycare so they could play for a couple hours, and I headed to my appointment this morning. The nurse checked my hcg level first and had me wait to see my midwife.

My hcg levels were untraceable! After a normal, uncomplicated miscarriage (as if there is such a thing!), it normally takes a few weeks for your hcg levels to drop to zero. With a molar pregnancy, it usually takes weeks to months. My hcg level dropped to normal, non-pregnant status in a week! My body did what it needed to do, and it did it quickly! No doubt, The Great Physician helped my body to heal!

After also consulting with one of the obstetricians in the office (and checking additional references), we came to the conclusion that there was no need for further testing. There is no reason to avoid future pregnancy for any amount of time. My body is perfect. Okay well, there is a dimple (or two or three) on my thighs, my arms stand in need of toning, and there's an inch or so to pinch on my belly...but from a functional standpoint, PERFECT. hehehe

There's no denying that the entire experience was difficult. It was hard for me to talk about (so I mostly didn't). But it has given me greater empathy for people who deal with difficult pregnancies or losses so much greater than what I went through (which in hindsight seems so trivial). And having my husband half a world away when what I wanted most was his embrace was tough. But I felt God's presence. I know the peace I had in my soul was coming from Him. And there is no doubt that having two bubbly fun little girls keeping me busy and entertained helped.

One of the sweetest moments of the last 9 days occurred on the day it all began. I had just taken a mid-day shower to help me relax a bit. After getting dressed, I got a little overwhelmed and, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I dropped to my knees in my room to pray. Gabriela walked in, tapped me on the shoulder and asked, "Whatcha doin', Mamae?" Without looking up, I told her that I was asking God for help. Without hesitation, my sweet girl got on her knees right beside me, folded her hands, and said, "Bobbi vai razar tambem." (Gabi's going to pray too.) As if I wasn't crying enough already!!! (Oh my gosh, I can't even sit here and think about the moment without tears!) She remained right beside me while I silently prayed and when I whispered, "Amen", she said the same, and then gave a great big hug. I am so often at a loss for the right thing to say or do when someone is hurting, yet my almost-three-year-old knew exactly what my heart needed!

If it is His will, we'll hopefully be making that baby announcement later this year (as if enough of you haven't been suspecting and anticipating it for months now...hehehe) Meanwhile, I'm counting down the days until my hubby gets home (3 more days until Thursday!), enjoying this fabulous weather playing outside with the girls, and thanking God for all the many blessings in my life!