Welcome baby boy

Holy crap, I’m a mom!  That was my initial thought when we were on our way to the hospital.  Well, it was actually “Hubs, what did we do?!”  He told me it was a little late for that.  From what I’ve heard from my friends who are parents, most new parents think the same thing.  I’m glad to know I wasn’t alone there.  But still.

Surromom called us to say she was in labor around 8:30 on Tuesday night.  The hubs and I drove the nearly 2 hour drive to the hospital to meet her.  The length of the drive gave me plenty of time to freak out.  We got to the hospital after receiving a few “hurry, they’re going to break my water soon” texts and calls.  My mom was there, so I felt better.  But I didn’t want to miss his birth.  (Well, to be fair, I thought that wouldn’t have been the exact worst thing in my mind due to my hatred and fear hospitals and all things medical after all my time spent in them.  Special shout out and thanks to my medical history.)  The hubs drove like the wind, as best we could on a night where it seemed like every cop was on the freeway, thwarting our attempts!

We go to the hospital just in time!  Well… just in time to wait.  And wait.  And wait.  And not sleep.  And wait.  We got to the hospital at 10:30pm.  They broke her water the next morning at 10:00am.  The baby was born at 12:54pm.  So, in retrospect, we could have stayed home and gotten one more good night’s sleep, had a hearty breakfast, pet the dogs a little longer for their last one-on-one time and taken a shower.  All of those things sounded wonderful at 4am when we were still awake!

Sleepiness in the hospital hallway at 2:35am

Sleepiness in the hospital hallway at 2:35am

My parents stayed at the hospital all night with us (something they’re used to do, thanks again to my wonderful medical past), though my dad did abandon ship and go to sleep in his car.  But my mom, the dependable trooper, stayed with us.

Funny side story: around 3:30am we tried to go down to the lobby where they had loveseat couches to sleep.  We all chose a couch and laid down.  The security guard immediately came over and told my mom and the hubs they couldn’t put their feet up, but that I was ok.  Hey wheelchair, you finally paid off!  I get to lounge while the others have to be upright!  Score!  Screw you equality, I’m using this to my advantage.  Well, about 10 minutes later, another guard came over and said to put my feet down.  “But, the other guys said it was OK!”  I said, in more of a sleepy stammer than my normal Italian bluster.  “Put them down.” He repeated.  I was too tired to argue.  But security guard 1 then shouted across the room that it was OK.  Not wanting to cause a scene in a hospital lobby,  and sensing that my mom was getting riled up to protect my right to lounge, I I just said it was OK.  It was loud and cold anyway, and not like I was sleeping.  We gave up and went back up the room.

Another side story: Around 12:20, our surromom’s nurse went on lunch break and there was a replacement nurse tending to her.  She noticed a weird noise from the monitors which we had all been annoyed by but at this point, had become background noise.  The nurse called IT to fix the problem.  At the same time, the anesthesiologist had come to check on her epidural.  The IT guy disconnected the monitor to replace the unit, when Surromom announced that she felt pressure and that the baby was coming.  You’ve never seen an IT guy move so quickly installing equipment before, as I’m sure witnessing the miracle of life was way outside of his paygrade!  The anesthesiologist told Surromom that he didn’t want to give her more medication if she was about to deliver, which he should know better than to tell a woman who has been in labor for over 14 hours.  Suffice it to say, she got her meds and he escaped with his life.  I was texting my mom to hurry, as she had been down in the cafeteria to get some rest and give us some space.  At about 12:50, the nurse was back, the doctor was there.  The nurse made room for me and my wheelchair (which felt huge and awkward and space consuming at that time) next to the incubator.  It was go time.  And I started crying.  Holy crap, I’m about to become a mom!

And then he was here.  All 8 pounds 2 ounces of him.  And they placed his tiny, goopy body on me.  And there were no more tears.  It was just this overwhelming sense of “I’ve got this, little man.”  Well, I had that feeling until the first time he tried to move his head and I shrieked to the nurse “What do I do?!”  And she showed me how to hold him and that he wasn’t all that fragile (something I’ve heard but didn’t quite believe).  Then, the calm came back over me.  The wheelchair disappeared.  My fear disappeared.  And I realized, that I do have this.  Little Mister and I will figure this out together.  He’s never been a baby before and I’ve never been a mom.  So we will figure this out together!  Plus, it helps that the hubs is such a naturally amazing dad.  So, what I can’t do, or what is hard, he is there to help with.  (I’m mostly saying this now because last night I was exhausting and he took 2 of the 3 night feedings and got up with him this morning so I could get more sleep.  Such a good dad and a great hubs!)

So in sum, holy crap, I’m a mom!  I will get through this.  And I look forward to sharing tips and stories of what it’s like to be a mom in a wheelchair!

mom in a wheelchair

Persistence

Yesterday was a milestone.  Well, let me take you back a bit to put this all in perspective.

It was two weeks ago, Sunday.  I was sitting at home with the hubs when we decided it was time to do a little PT.  I strapped on my braces, grabbed the walker and went outside.  Decided a little fresh air working out might do me some good.  I wasn’t really sure how far I was going to go, but just set out.  I walked.  And kept walking.  And kept walking.  Well, I took two little seated breaks in the midst.  But the point was, I kept going.  When all was said and done, I walked about 200 feet!  With good controlled steps!  This was definitely the farthest I had gone since this little adventure began on 8/13/13.  Normally I’ve been walking about 30-60 feet on a good day.

The day after I had my marathon walk, I went in to see 5 O’clock Shadow.  I told him about my long walk and I think he was skeptical.  I did my warm-up, kill-me-now exercises.  Did you know that standing is actually harder than walking??  Yeah, who knew!  So then came time for the walking, and I walked across the room with pretty good gait.  But then I was pooped.  Then I think 5-O was definitely skeptical.  I tried to explain that I was just tired from the mileage I got the day before at home.

This week, I had another Monday morning session.  (Sidenote: I need to stop going in on Monday mornings to see 5-O, or I’m going to have to change his name as it seems Monday is shave day. I told him I was extremely disappointed and lodged a formal complaint. I’m not creative enough to give him a SECOND name!) I purposely didn’t walk as far on Sunday to preserve my strength for Monday’s session. We started out with the same warm-ups. He made me want to kill him by making stand. He pointed out that it is actually possible to sit too straight and told me he actually wants me to slouch a little, because what I think is slouching is actually the perfect amount of straight. Another “who knew?!” moment was had!

Then came the moment of truth. It was time for me to walk. I started out with a good walk. I made it to my normal stopping point with ease. Pressure on my legs, mostly off my arm. Smooth gait. Totally showing off for a therapist he was training who happens to know Drill Sergeant. Hoping that word will get back to Drill Sergeant about how good I’m doing now, because I was a hot mess when I was working with Drill Sergeant back in the hospital. He was a good sport (and by that I mean total mean jerk, hence the name) and I want to show him that I really did listen to what he said despite what my blubbery tears may have indicated.

So I made it to the mirror which is my normal stopping place. And then I angled the walker. “Oh, you’re making the turn?!” 5-O said as he pushed the walker behind me. “I’m making a circle. All your other patients do it, so why can’t I?!” I retorted. “I think you should!” he replied. About halfway through the circle of the whole clinic I said “Why am I showing off and pushing voluntarily?? Now you’re going to make me do this every time!” I despaired. “Probably!” 5-O laughed. By the end, I was exhausted, sweaty and my arms throbbed. About 2/3 into my walk, more weight went onto my arms and I was swinging my legs a little more than a controlled gait. But I still tried. I still focused. And most importantly, I made it!

I normally don’t talk too much about my clients on this blog. But, I have a new one who I will call Persistence. He is persistent in his determination to prove his innocence. He is persistent in growth as a person. He is persistent in his questioning everything I do (which he claims is to just help me, but I think secretly he’s persistently testing me, to which I reply “bring it!”). The reason I bring him up is that he inspired me to keep pushing through. Some days I’m too tired to fight for my walking. Some days I’m just bummed out by the situation. Some days I just find it easier to roll around than try to get upright again. But, as I wanted to give in to the fatigue and sit in the wheelchair that 5-O had behind me, I thought “If Persistence doesn’t give up in his fight, how can I give up in mine?”

So I made it to the end and sank into my wheelchair at the exact place from which I started. All in all, it was probably a 100-120 foot walk. The look on 5-O’s face really made it all worth it too! He was super proud of me, and I’ve said it before and will say it again: I respond really well to positive reinforcement. The bad thing is that he’ll probably make me do it every time now. But I accept that challenge and give myself a couple weeks until I’m doing two laps!

First wheelchair bound governor elected!

I’ve been lazy with my writing lately and had planned to write a different blog post today.  But, something exciting happened in America, and I feel like I need to address it instead.  I’ll get to the other stuff a different (hopefully soon) day.

Yesterday, Texas voted in the first Governor in a wheelchair!  I repeat, Greg Abbott is the first elected Governor to be in a wheelchair.  That is so amazing!  The voters were able to look past his lack of working legs to see what he could do for them.  I don’t care how you lean politically or for whom you vote.  I just think it’s cool that a dude in a wheelchair won a big, big, big election!

Greg Abbott became paralyzed when an Oak Tree fell on him after a big storm in Texas.  The year was 1984.  He’s been in a wheelchair ever since.  And he’s done amazing things ever since!  He was a member of the Texas State Supreme Court for nearly 8 years before becoming the state’s Attorney General.  Being in a wheelchair has not slowed him down!

When I first became wheelchair bound, one of my biggest concerns was how I was going to work.  I knew that mentally and physically I could work no problem.  What concerned me was how clients and colleagues would react.  I work in criminal defense.  I already have to overcome certain stereotypes held by machismo men.  They worry that a female can’t represent them as well as a male.  But add the metal wheels??  How were they going to react to that?

Before I became paralyzed, I sometimes walked with a cane.  And I had a limp which some days were worse than others.  It’s funny that now I’m longing to be back in that state!  But at the time, I was super self conscious about it all.  It’s funny the things that are important to us at the time, which later become so insignificant.  I was worried my clients would react poorly to the cane.  But now I’m in a wheelchair.  The funny thing is that I think I notice it more than they do.  In the beginning, I would explain it away.  “I’m recovering from back surgery” I would spout out randomly.  They didn’t ask.  They never do.  Sometimes they’ll ask if I need help with something.  But they never ask about the wheelchair unless they knew me when I was upright.  I feel like it’s an elephant in the room that needs to be reassured.  But do they even think twice about it?  I guess it’s the fact that I’m good at my job that they’re more concerned about.  My record and former client reviews speak for themselves.

I haven’t been in front of a jury yet since I’ve been in my wheelchair.  I don’t worry about that quite as much.  I hate that I can’t stand when addressing the court or questioning a witness.  But, I don’t think the jury will judge me negatively for being in a wheelchair.  If anything, it might help my client.  They might think “He’s accused of (insert crime here) and she’s not afraid to be around him, even in her weakened state”.  Could help.  Or maybe it won’t even matter.

I like to think that when voters saw Greg Abbott, they looked at his policies and his ideals, rather than his wheels.  And that gives me hope and encouragement for my own wheeled future!

One year later

One year ago today was the day that changed my life. Was it the worst day of my life? No. I still consider that to be March 27, 1991. That was the date of my first major back surgery, and the date that my grandpa died. Despite the fact that that surgery saved the ability for my young self to walk and regain a normal lifestyle, that was the worst day of my life. One year ago today, I lost the ability to walk. It sounds weird to phrase it that day, but I think it’s appropriate. It’s not gone completely, it’s just hiding somewhere within my inner being. According to 5 O’Clock Shadow, my nerves are like a congested freeway and we just need the lanes to open up for the traffic to go freely. It may seem weird when people break things down like that, but that’s where my comprehension level is. When it has to do with medical issues and my body, my brain turns into that of a 10 year old. I can wrap my mind around that. Other PTs try telling me in their scholarly fashion “nerves regenerate at 1 millimeter per month and so far you’re showing excellent growth patterns.” My eyes will glaze over. Freeways and traffic I can relate to! I grew up driving in the traffic mecca of the world: Los Angeles. Traffic I get.

I keep thinking back to last year. I wonder if there was a precise moment when my legs went limp. This time last year I was under the knife. Had it already happened? Was it happening around now, as I sit hear one year later, eating left over pasta from last night’s dinner and typing this blog? If the doctors had ended the surgery now, would I have been able to skip out of the hospital? It’s a weird thing to think about.

I don’t know how to feel today, other than amazed at the fact that it’s already been a year. Am I sad? Indifferent? Optimistic? I don’t know. Is it possible to be all of the above? Obviously I’m bummed. I don’t think anyone hopes that one day they’ll get to have a permanent seat from now on. Though, to be fair, that is a perk: I never have to worry about finding a place to sit in public. But am I that bummed? It’s not like life is over. I’ve still been able to work, although it definitely took some figuring out as far as logistical planning goes. But, I’ve actually had my best year yet at my firm. So that wasn’t impacted. And I just got back from an amazing two week road trip with the hubs (more on that to come in a different blog). So I can still travel. I’m still able to swim. I can drive now. I have a new wheelchair coming any day now, so I’ll be 100% independent. I plan on ordering an attachment for said new wheelchair which will turn my wheelchair into a tricycle, so I can go on walks easier with the hubs and the dogs. Then there’s the weekly pain in the butt sessions with 5 O’Clock Shadow which keep me hopeful for the future. And the therapy I do at home helps me keep fighting to be back on my feet. So, is life really so bad?

This past weekend was my baby niece’s second birthday party. I watched other people running around playing with her, or carrying her and that made me sad. There was a pony ride involved and I couldn’t help her. I can honestly say that not being able to keep up with her or do all the things other people can with her has been the hardest part of this whole thing. But then I look for the positive: at her birthday party, I was like home base. I was seated in my wheelchair in a particular area out of the way of all the playing children, and she knew I was there. She would periodically make her way over to me with a toy or a blanket.

Maybe being non-mobile isn’t a terrible thing. Maybe it’s taught me that it’s ok to sit down for a while. That you don’t always have to be moving about. It’s definitely taught me patience. I know how frustrated clients can be when it seems things are taking forever and they don’t understand why. It’s taught me empathy for that frustration. It’s taught me to be resourceful and how to figure things out. This past year has taught be to get over my stubbornness and to ask for help. That’s it’s ok to need people. It doesn’t make you weak to not be able to do something 100% on your own. It’s definitely taught me to trust and who I can trust. It’s taught me who is truly there for me and who my real friends are. It’s taught me to meet challenges. It’s taught me that gravity can be really fun when rolling down hill and the wind is in your face. It’s also taught me that gravity can be really scary when rolling down hill and the wind is in your face. It’s taught me that sometimes life just sucks for no apparent reason and you just have to keep rolling.

One year ago today was the day that changed my life forever. And I don’t think it was in a bad way.

Plateaus (or beating good enough)

My doctors have always told me to expect plateaus when it comes to my recovery. They said that it’s completely normal to have upward changes in my ability and then for a while I’ll flatten out and stay there for a while before starting to gain again. They said this as a way of encouragement. They didn’t want me to be sad or disheartened when I didn’t see improvements. They knew how I live for improvements, no matter how miniscule. I monitor my abilities (or lack thereof) so closely that I am usually able to perceive any change, no matter how slight. It’s those changes that motivate me to keep trying.

What my doctors didn’t realize is that I am lazy. Give me any excuse to not have to try, and I will take it. Yes, I want to walk. More than anything in the whole world I want to walk (mostly because I want to drive and regain normality). But, I’m also very lazy. I am still hoping that I will just wake up one day fixed. Afterall, I went to sleep and woke up broken. Why can’t it work in reverse?

But my doctors gave me an out. A reason to not push it. I would stand for 35 minutes (a target I hit 2 or 3 weeks ago) and then I sit down. Blame it on the plateau. I’m not doing any longer because there’s a plateau. I walked to a spare room in my house, about 50 or 60 feet (Note to self: measure so I know, cause that’s important!) and haven’t walked any further. Plateau again.

Somehow, plateau became synonymous with “good enough”. Am I saying there aren’t plateaus? No way. There are for sure plateaus. There are times that I try my absolute 110% hardest and I can’t do any better. But, if I’m not trying my hardest, and settling for good enough, then it’s not a plateau. My mom pointed this out in her honest-in-a-way-that-only-my-mother-can-be way. She told me the other day that I was giving up. And why was I not trying harder. I met this comment with my normal eye roll, shrug and “You don’t understand mom!” (Yes, I do revert to a twelve year old when I have no real rational argument.) She replied “No, I don’t understand. But I see what’s going on.”

This conversation started because my dad’s birthday is coming up. His birthday request is to have me to come to their house- a place I haven’t been in 10 months, because there are 4 stairs to get to the patio on the side of the house. He’s only asking that I get to the patio, because inside there are much more steps that there’s no way I could conquer. He’s asking for me to try to figure out the 4 steps. And the narrow bathroom. I think I owe it to the man to try to figure out those problems. This started the conversation with “I can’t.” My mom said that she knew this request by my dad would be like a carrot on a stick in front of a horse. At first I resented that comment because it almost seems like I want to be in this wheelchair or like I’m not trying. But, as my stubbornness left me, I was forced to realize she was right. (I HATE ADMITTING THAT!!) I had given myself solace in plateau when really I was hiding in good enough.

So this weekend, with the metaphorical dangling carrot in front of me, I pushed myself. I have 2 things I have to master: bathroom and stairs. I focused on bathroom this weekend. Because the doorway is 22 inches and my wheelchair is almost double that, I’m going to have to walk. So the hubs and I practiced. I strapped on my braces, wheeled to the doorway of the bathroom, got up on my walker and went for it. I walked the 7 or so feet to the toilet, turned around and managed to sit. When I toilet is only 16 inches off the ground, and you have pretty much no leg control, it’s hard to sit gracefully. Our biggest concern was to try to go easily enough to not shatter the porcelain. But I did it. Using as much control as I could muster, and relying a lot on my arms, I sat. It was the first time I sat on a toilet from a standing position in 9 and a half months. First time I sat without my wheelchair being directly next to me. That is a weird thing. But also a completely motivating thing! Inspiring even! But, before I could revel in that, I had to practice standing up. Standing from 16 inches with no leg control is even harder. The hubs held the walker and I tried to lift myself. Attempt 1. Fail. Attempt 2. Fail. Attempt 3. Fail. My arms just weren’t strong enough to get me up high enough to swing my legs under me. I was trying to contain my frustration. The hubs asked if I wanted my wheelchair. Every part of my brain was screaming “YES!!!” But, then, that damn dangling carrot of my dad’s party was there in front of my eyes. I had to do this. Attempt 4. Success! I was finally able to figure out how to maneuver myself so I could get halfway, muster some energy for a second push into all the way. And I did it! And then, just to push it, I walked all the way back out to the family room (about 50-60 feet). During the walk back, I didn’t even need to sit once. I took two little rest breaks, but was able to stand the whole time. Another first! I felt like Rocky at the top of those steps doing a victory dance!

So, I still have those pesky stairs to figure out. But, I figure worst case, I can always lower to the ground and scoot up the stairs on my bottom. Or I can be carried in my wheelchair like an empress being carried in a chariot. That’s the easier part to figure out. And that’s the task for next weekend. Because now I have realized that I can’t let good enough and plateau become the same thing. And I need to push as much as is humanly possible because the plateaus will come naturally. I can’t fabricate them out of laziness if I’m truly dedicated to getting back on my feet.  And I have to remember that the euphoric high that comes along with accomplishing new goals  is better than giving into (or fabricating) plateaus and good enough!

Swell-ing

Today’s positive thought.

Another unfortunate side effect of my current situation: swelling in my extremities.  (That’s not the positive thought, obviously)  Apparently when you don’t move, your body gets swollen.  Something to do with circulation and fluid.  All I know is that if I sit in my chair for a few hours, then my feet get super swollen.  They’re so bad that my shoes leave imprints on my feet.  They start hurting.  And for someone with numb feet, that’s saying something.  My physical therapists told me to lay down with my feet elevated every now and then.  That’s all find and dandy if I’m home alone or with the hubs or my folks.  But, I can’t really do that if we have company over.  (“You don’t mind if I lounge on the couch while you’re talking, right?  Oh, and please ignore me if I fall asleep as one is accustomed to doing when lounging on the couch.”)  And I especially can’t do that if I get stuck for a few hours in court.  (“Excuse me your honor, but do you have a sofa in your chambers?  My little piggies are swollen and I need to raise them for a bit.  You don’t mind if I take my shoes off, right?”)  It’s just not the easiest thing to deal with.  It’s not the worst either.  It’s one of those in-betweeners that is just annoyingly sucky.

What I didn’t realize right away was that it’s not just my feet that get swollen.  (No, it’s not my mid-section.  Though, I would love to blame weight gain on swelling.  “I’m not getting fat.  It’s just lack of circulation.  Now pass me the fries!”)  My hands have gotten swollen too!  I only know this because when I came home from the hospital, my rings fit.  After a couple days, I realized that my ring finger was turning purple.  My engagement ring almost didn’t come off.  And I hadn’t been able to wear it since.   Luckily my wedding band had been one size bigger so it fit.  So it sat waiting for me for months.  I tried moving my arms more, massaging my hands, drinking more water, anything to get the swelling down.  I would sit in my chair flailing my arms and air boxing.  Didn’t help.  I finally caved and went to my jeweler to have it re-sized.  I was putting that off as I’m hoping to be mobile in the relatively near future.  But I missed my ring too much to wait any longer.  Even though they charged a ridiculous amount of money, (here comes the positive thought) it was worth it to finally slip my beautiful ring back on my non-beautifully non-manicured finger.

Now, people may think that this isn’t a big deal.  To many people, it might not be a big deal.  To me, it’s huge.  So much of my life has been turned upside down by this surgery.  I haven’t been out on my own in public since the beginning of August.  I can’t take a shower unless someone is home.  A lot of my normal clothes don’t fit because it’s so hard to button your pants while sitting.  (Ok, that and the fries I suppose.)  Strangers have been driving my car while I can’t.  Going to meet friends somewhere?  That’s out.  Riding my bike?  That’s clearly not happening.  We had to take the doors off of the bathrooms for me to get in.  Life is not at all what it used to be.  And it’s definitely not what the hubs signed up for.  So, my being able to finally wear my ring is a sense of normalcy that I can restore.  And for the mind, that’s a huge deal.  It’s swell, if you will.

Plus, it’s really sparkly and sparkly things make me happy.  The end.