Well, Christmas is over. And it's just as well. Months of planning and anticipation and in a week, it's all done. Here is a photo that captures the magic.
I like the way my (extended and nuclear) family handles Christmas. It makes it lower stress. We tried going to 3 different places on Christmas Day once, and I swore never again. So, a week before Christmas, we went to my aunt's house to do Christmas with my mom's family. It was nice and low-key, and because it was on Saturday, we could stay until a normal, decent adult hour. However, because it was a week before Christmas, I had to get some baking done by then and I had to have some gifts purchased and wrapped, but spreading the deadlines out actually helps. The kids received a few nice gifts that day and really got a chance to enjoy them before the rest of the onslaught began.
Thursday was our nanny's last day of work before the holiday, so that was the day the kids gave her their gifts and she had brought a sack full of things for them too. So, they had those gifts to enjoy fully before more items arrived. The children displayed approrpriate amounts of gratitude and thanks at all gifts received (though there was a close call with some clothes).
Mr. Long-Suffering and I both had Friday off of work, and it was nice. I mean, just lovely. I got a visit from a friend from the old neighborhood (someone who can keep me honest and remembers when I used to rat my bangs). I prepped Christmas Eve brunch, finished up some more cookies, and we finished wrapping presents. I do not think I left our house the entire day. Perfection.
Saturday was Christmas Eve, and I hold a brunch on Christmas Eve morning. This started after the year I swore "never again". We realized that we would not see my mother over Christmas if we didn't come up with something else, so brunch was born. Originally, it was just going to be us and my mom and her husband. However, my husband invited his parents one year, so I invited my dad. All in all, it was brunch for 10, and it was perfection. My dining room table holds 10 in a cozy, cramped, family fashion, so it was just nice. The food was good - though we did realize it's mostly me who drinks the mimosas since most of the champagne was left. On Christmas Eve morning, we exchange gifts with my mom and the kids get to open the gifts that people we don't see sent to us (like my sister, some out-of-town friends, etc). Again, the kids got a chance to enjoy their gifts before being made to go somewhere else. This arrangement even ensured that both Bobo and I got to have naps.
Christmas Eve dinner has always, always been spent with my dad. And when he was a boy, Christmas Eve was the bigger holiday in their family, so that is what we do. We have Christmas Eve with my dad and his family. It was just us and them (and I prefer the intimate gatherings and low-key celebrations). We had a lovely dinner of lasagna (and we have always had lasagna as long as I can remember from way back when my father's mother was the one making dinner) and cookies for dessert. I lounged on the couch and in a chair and did not lift a finger. People served me food and waited on me. Again, completely lovely.
We got home at my bedtime, I put the cookies and milk out for Santa and directed Mr. Long-Suffering on where to find the gifts that needed to be relocated under the tree, but I went to bed (crying because none of my pajamas fit and it wouldn't be until the morning when I would get new pajamas...at this, I told him that I obviously needed to go to bed because anyone who would cry over pajamas is obviously overtired).
I woke repeatedly through the night. Elves? Santa? Chills, urgent trips to the bathroom, back ache, diarrhea, more chills...no, not chilled... too hot...I stripped off the sweat pants I wore to bed. Eventually, I fell asleep and the didn't get up until about 8 (which is crazy, ridiculous late). Chuckles was up a bit after 7, looked down the stairs and told us all about what wonders he saw, but we made him wait for Bobo.
When Bobo got up, I took my sorry self (now wearing pants) down to the living room and plopped on the couch. We did stockings, presents, and had brunch leftovers. I stayed on the couch and put batteries in things. Eventually, it was time to head out to my in-laws' house. I got myself dressed, made Mr. Long-Suffering pack up the food and gifts and load the car and get the kids dressed. We all got in the car and I said, I think you ought to swing by the hospital and drop me off for monitoring. Take the kids to your parents' so they can get some lunch and see their cousins, then come back and get me (it's all very close so this wasn't a crazy request).
So, I sauntered into the ER on Christmas morning (I had actually phoned the on-call doctor in advance so L&D would know I was coming). I was whisked away in a wheel chair by a man named Joseph. I was given a bracelet and two fancy belts to wear (and a gown!). I propped myself up in the bed with cable TV and started watching "A Christmas Story". This is when things started to go...not the way I had planned. I figured they'd hook me up to a monitor for an hour, then let me go.
Well, the on-call doctor wanted an hour of monitoring, an internal exam, and a fetal fibronectin test. Mr. Long-Suffering returned (and hadn't dropped off the food, the gifts, the diaper bag or anything except the children). The nurse did the fetal fibronectin test which is a swab that has to sit in the nether regions for 60 seconds and then gets removed. It was one of the most pleasant (least unpleasant) tests I ever had performed down there. The internal exam however was awful. If there is ever a next time, I am going to request someone other than Stubby perform the test. I want a former piano player with long, slender fingers.
I continued to be monitored. The monitoring is rather neat. There are two belts and three lines on the chart. The top line was the baby's heart rate, the middle was some kind of fetal movemement monitor (which in this case just showed a solid black line the whole time because Muse is a bit of a hyper wrestler) and the bottom line in a uterine activity monitor (contraction monitor). The bottom line was up, it was down, it was spikey and in a sine wave. It was all over the place. There was no pattern and no rhyme (and certainly no reason).
The hour of strips from the monitors were sent to the on-call doctor (whom I had never met). The results of the tests were sent to her as well. It turns out my fetal fibronectin was positive. Negative is super awesome and means there is a statistically insignificant chance of pre-term labor in the next two weeks...positive doesn't tell you anything...could be today...could be 3 months from now. From my internal exam, my cervix was soft and dilated a fingertip. That's not bad, but hard and closed completely would have been better. And now I was bleeding (thanks, Stubby!).
So, the on-call doctor ordered blood work, IV fluids, a urine culture, and a diagnostic ultrasound. If I thought the guy at the perinatalogy practice who didn't give me a guided tour of my uterus was bad, this was worse. During diagnostic ultrasounds, you aren't even allowed to look at the screen and Mr. Long-Suffering couldn't come with me (so he watched A Christmas Story instead). The ultrasound tech apologized about that, but said because of the kinds of work they are doing, he couldn't tell me anything and wasn't allowed to let me look. But he did say he thought I'd still make it to a late Christmas dinner.
It took the IV team two tries to get an IV in (and I have lovely veins, I swear...I donate blood without missing a beat). Everyone accused me of being dehydrated. This is not my first redeo. Of course, I had been drinking water and laying on my left side for almost a day by this point. The blood draw was fine, but I noticed my arm still wasn't healed from the one-hour glucose screening I had on Thursday (whose results I still haven't heard).
The blood work came back unremarkable, the urine culture takes time but I could see that I clearly was not dehydrated (which was everyone's main concern), and the ultrasound showed my cervix was >4cm, but I was still contracting-ish on the monitor. So, I was staying the night.
At this point, I started to cry. Just a little. Because really, spending Christmas night in the hospital by yourself is pretty sad. I texted my friend, texted my sister, called my mom (who is not a comforting and reassuring presence in times of stress but once my sister knew, I had to tell my mom) who freaked out not helping me at all, and I sent Mr. Long-Suffering to go have Christmas dinner because his parents were making the kids wait until we got there to open their presents. I got to have chicken piccata, peas, and cheesecake on a hospital tray. The nurses did bring me pudding and Lorna Doone cookies, though (let's hope the GD screening was clear).
My sister-in-law texted me photos of the kids opening each gift and of my husband opening his. My sister texted me pictures of my niece trying on all her new clothes in a fashion show plus pictures of food and fun. My best friend joked with me that I would do anything to get out of going to the in-laws'. My mom called and fretted. I watched more of A Christmas Story (it was on again and again and again).
The on-call doctor showed up. She is genetics perfection. Apparently she is smart since she made it through med school, she was gorgeous - young, great hair, had been a cheerleader in high school in Texas (I was now watching the Bears-Packers game so it was relevant). She is the reason other women sometimes feel inadequate. I asked about steroids (betamethasone) for lung development. She said that everything looked OK, but since I wasn't her patient and my strips still didn't look great, I would be here overnight and my own regular doctor could deal with it in the morning. She was very honest about it. She said that right now, I wasn't a candidate for the steroids. I had never heard anything bad about them and wasn't sure why they wouldn't be used, but she said that they lower my immune function and since they thought I had a touch of something, that would be bad, and they can cause pulmonary edema in the mother. All-in-all not warranted yet.
The overnight was fairly uneventful. My blood pressure was 89/47, which is typical for me and I assured them of that. My IV continued to drip at the slowest rate known to man. It was a series of minor inconveniences that just made me irritable. By morning, I had gotten some sleep, but the contraction monitor was showing regular contractions a minute apart. The nurse was very concerned. She mentioned tocolytic drugs to stop contractions. She headed out to call my regular doctor. Nothing happened for a while. My mother-in-law and mother descended upon my house like a welcome plague, and Mr. Long-Suffering came back to the hospital bearing my stocking which had facial wipes, a toothbrush, hand lotion, and chap stick...all the things I wanted. My stocking was hung from the IV pole with care in hopes that soon I wouldn't be there.
My doctor showed up. He said I was not in pre-term labor, and he was surprised to see me in the hospital since I am usually so level-headed about these things. Mr. Long-Suffering didn't like the sound of that and defended, "You can imagine how bad she felt if she thought she needed to come in." They both nodded and agreed. My doctor said that even with all the activity on the monitor, my cervix is over 4 cm and there is almost no chance of pre-term labor when the cervix is longer than 3 cm, so I am good. He said as soon as the crampy feeling ended, I was free to go home. I felt like crap and basically said so. I was kept until I was able to say I felt good enough to go home. I was also told that if I feel this bad again, it is OK for me to come back and be monitored again (don't think I'll ever want to do that again since this turned into some kind of 30 hour ordeal). I ate lunch, took a nap, and got discharged just as soon as the lady three rooms down pushed out her baby and the nurses could get back to me. (Did you know that people cheer when you have a baby? I had no idea there would be applause. Every time I have had a baby, the people looked grave and worried.)
So, I went home, people fixed me dinner, and I sat on the couch. I called off work the next day (well, I worked from home since I was supposed to be 4 people this week) and took a 2+ hour nap. Another guy asked if I could cover for him Thursday and Friday. I said, "No." I felt really good about putting boundaries in place and not taking on any more work until...not 5 minutes after I said no, the announcement came out from the secretaries that the father of that man had passed away on Christmas Eve and Thursday and Friday were the services. I called him today and told him I would do what I could (since there is no one else), and if not, it would just have to wait until we were all back. Today is Wednesday, I think. I came to work for a bit today since there were some papers I needed to consult and didn't have them at home. I was released from the hospital without any restrictions, so I can work as I feel able (I am still sick apparently).
So, that was Christmas. It wasn't how I had planned on it going, but it will be a memorable one. I'm glad it's over. I'm ready to take down the tree and burn it, but alas, it's artificial, and I am not taking on any lifting or organizing projects this week.