Friday, September 16, 2011

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oh yes. I am one of those who loves a good salty-sweet combo. I admit to breaking pretzels into ice cream. I like leftover frosting schmeared between Ritz crackers. I love Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby--which involves peanut-butter-filled pretzel mix in. It doesn't take much to gain my affection.

Recently I got started on Pinterest, an online bulletin board system of keeping pictures that catch one's fancy from around the internet(s). (By the way, internet/internets, which is correct and why? Anyone?)

Last night I was browsing other people's recently pinned items and came across an absolutely fabulous idea--chocolate chip cookies with crushed pretzels baked into them.

Today I just had to make them. I waited until the kids were down for their rest, so I could work without interruption, and do a neater job of it in the process. But somehow this managed to happen: WHAT?! Yes. That is a bag of bread.
Apparently this is what can happen if you knock over your mixer, the switch hits a burner knob and the laid-over beaters start spinning with no one at the controls. Seriously, I cannot understand myself.

I dutifully chilled the dough, hoping to prevent the dreaded cookie spread. I carefully measured out dough, slightly flattened each mound and sprinkled away with Kosher salt.

The end result? I had to pour myself a glass of milk to find out. Then I had to brew a fresh pot of coffee to really find out. If YOU want to find out, here's my chicken-scratch recipe. But I wouldn't trust it. I still can't remember if I used baking soda like I was supposed to, or if I grabbed the baking powder instead.
Here's the link to the real cookie genius.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

More Memories of Quinn

What followed Quinn's death was a blur. Family members were waiting for us back in our hospital room. The nurses brought our precious girl to us, all cleaned up and ready to be held, loved and admired. She wore a little white outfit printed with soft pink angels that had been Helen's. And then our kids came. We heard their excited voices in the hall.

How do you explain death to children?

We could do nothing but tell them the truth--that she was dead. There was something very wrong with Quinn's lungs, and she couldn't breathe on her own. Her body died, and her spirit went to live with Jesus in Heaven. Their hearts were broken. We gave them their gifts from Quinn; a Leapster case for Owen that his nosiness already knew he was getting, a cute doll for Helen that she named Nicholas, and a homemade hobby horse for Jack.

Auto-pilot kicked on and we smiled for family pictures. We passed Quinn around, savoring each moment, delaying the inevitable end.

Here we are, finally holding our baby!

Some sweet moments of Daddy and his little girl.

Gene helped out with positioning. I may have been having one of many wardrobe malfunctions.Our kids couldn't wait to hold her.
Our family for a moment in time.

We treasure our pictures. It's what we have. One of the kindest things our hospital did for us was to call a photographer, whom we happened to know! I can't imagine that it was easy for Abbie to take pictures, but we were so grateful she used her talents to give us such a priceless gift.

After all of my reminiscing, I would be absolutely lying to say I'm still overcome with grief. Of course some moments are still very hard, and not a day goes by that I don't think of my little girl. But slowly, surely, I've yielded my hurt to God, trusting Him with my heart. In spite of my stubbornness, He has done amazing things in my life.

I'm letting go of bitterness.
I'm learning to empathize with others in their pain--it doesn't scare me so bad anymore.
I'm reevaluating where I find satisfaction and what really matters.
I'm realizing that my children do not belong to me, but are merely entrusted to my care for a time.
I'm gripping hard to Truth--that Jesus, the Son of God, the Creator, has overcome Death and Hell, and His power is at work in me!

Stay tuned for pictures of Quinn's one-year birthday!

Friday, September 9, 2011

September 9, 2010

We were transferred to a mother-baby room, where we waited for news. Dr. Sims, the hospital’s pediatrician, came and talked to us, though I don’t remember much of what he had said. Jason had already called our parents and our pastor Gene, officially telling them the baby’s name—Quinn Ruthie—but that she was in trouble.

Soon Gene came. He waited with us. We told him what had happened. He prayed with us. I remember wishing he would leave, because I believed we were all done with him. I had no idea. Even though I expected the worst that could happen, I had no clue about the total emotional and physical incapacity we were about to experience. Since Sacred Heart Hospital has a high level NICU, and is well respected for treating babies and children, we had authorized a transfer. The transfer team came to us, although I don’t remember the names of the two women—they were dressed in purple jumpsuits. We had seen them as we were wheeled past the nursery, thinking we could go in and see our baby. We couldn’t peek at her after all, because they had just arrived and were evaluating her.

They told us straight-forwardly that our baby was very sick. Ordinarily, they would have brought her to our room before transfer, but they wanted us to see her in the nursery. I asked if we could hold her, and they had to tell me no.

We were breathless as we went down the hall. Gene came along. Jason and I stood beside Quinn, touched her, talked to her, leaned to kiss her. The nursery workers and transfer team gave us time and room. Jessica, a nursery nurse, took our camera from Gene, or he gave it to her, and started taking pictures of us. Quinn was so beautiful, but she looked awful hooked up to the ventilator. She had an umbilical IV and another IV in her hand. She had a pulse ox on her other hand. She seemed to be looking at us, but only one eye was partially open, her left eye, and she never blinked. I wiped the shiny ointment of her brows and eyelids. It was a joyful time, but such a scary and trembling one too. The atmosphere around her was still charged. We went back to our room to wait again. Soon the transfer team came back in, stating that she was getting worse. They were giving her 100% oxygen at the maximum pressure, and her oxygen saturation had sunk to the 30s or 40s. They wanted to know if we wanted to continue with the transfer. Sacred Heart had better ventilators, and her life might have been prolonged a few more hours. We looked at each other, and both said we just wanted to hold her. I felt my heart gasping. I couldn’t believe this was happening to us. I was wheeled back to the nursery once again. I sat in a rocking chair someone pulled up for me. Quinn was in my arms, at last. She felt so good. She smelled so good. We kissed her and stroked her. We laughed delightedly over her. We checked out her cute little folded up ears. We looked at her hands and feet. Her little arm was so small. She didn’t have enough strength to move. Her eyes were closed. Jessica checked her heart rate, taking her off the vent to be able to hear it. I felt panic about Quinn not getting oxygen for those extended seconds. Her heart rate was 20. Jason and I passed her back and forth, while Gene sat with us, took pictures and made phone calls for us. While I was holding her, something felt warm on my lap. I unfolded her blanket, and realized she was bleeding out her umbilical IV line because it had been pulled in all of our shuffling. Jessica helped me change her diaper, the one diaper I got to change on my baby. Someone else helped me change into another hospital gown. I sat back down with her, and realized she felt cold, but I didn’t want to say anything, to anybody.

I finally had to pee so bad, I couldn’t take it anymore. I hadn’t been able to go yet after her delivery, even though I had tried, and I still had a bunch of IV fluids in me. I asked a nurse for some help. I was wheeled back to yet a different room, yet another alarm as I realized it was on the “baby-less” hall, and all of our things had been moved for us. I peed and peed, all the while desperately wanting to get back to Quinn. When I returned to the nursery, Jason told me he thought she was gone. I was broken. We wept over her. Dr. Sims confirmed it, at 9:00 am. We gently surrendered her to the nurses, and walked back to the room, staring at the walls all the way. There were no dry eyes.

September 8, 2010, part II

Shannon rushed an IV bolus of fluids and my labwork to get my epidural quickly. One of the nurses’ first questions is always “Do you want an epidural?” I had replied that I would appreciate it. I was so ticklish getting the epidural. I couldn’t stop giggling, which made Shannon laugh too. She commented that my pain tolerance was amazing. She joked about her boyfriend, an ER nurse, getting pale when he once overheard a woman scream in labor pain.

After the epidural took effect and the initial monitoring was over, I was about 7-8 centimeters dilated. She switched out the lights, told me to recline my bed and get some rest. Jason stretched out on the chair/bed. I rested for what seemed like an hour. Shannon came in the room to tell me she had called Jenny Allen, the nurse-midwife on call for Dr. LaRose, who wasn’t able to perform deliveries due to rotator cuff surgery.

Soon Jenny showed up, introduced herself, checked me and told me it was time to push. Jason woke up. I had Nurse Allen and Shannon rescue my good running socks off my feet. I apologized for my non-pedicured feet. Nurse Allen broke my water, and I didn’t even realize it. She mentioned I would have to push a little, and then she would need to suction the baby because of the meconium. I couldn’t understand how she knew the baby had pooped already, and that’s when she told me she had broken my water, which by the way was green. This situation made me nervous, but there was nothing I could do about it. Shannon got the suctioning device ready, and I gave one good push. Nurse Allen commented I was a really good at pushing, and had me stop while she suctioned Quinn. Then I finished pushing, except I remember the baby just slipped out. She held Quinn up very briefly for us to see her, and then all of her attention was on the baby. She let Jason cut the cord quickly, and then she started suctioning Quinn with the blue snot sucker.

Quinn didn’t cry. She looked like she was gasping for breath, like someone emerging from a pool, and her arms were flailing. Panic rushed through my heart. Instead of the relief of a newborn cry, suddenly Quinn was on the cart, surrounded by eight to ten people. More and more people poured in by the minute. Shannon stood by my side, patting me, rubbing my shoulder as if to reassure me. That made me even more nervous, because I knew she knew more than I did. Nurse Allen reported, “Mom and Dad, Baby’s got some sort of a syndrome. I don’t know what it is.” She went on to describe clubbed feet and twisted hands, low-set ears. We heard the code team calculating how much epinephrine to give her, based on her weight. She was given two doses before her heart sped up enough to be satisfactory. An hour passed in that room, with a hushed, fervent frenzy in the corner around Quinn. The Life Flight team of guys came in, and I pictured her being flown out immediately, but they were just there to manage the code. I remember, before the code even started, wondering if she was going to die right there in front of our eyes. She was born at 3:02 am on September 9, 2010. We found out later she was 5 pounds, 7 ounces, our smallest baby yet, even at 41 weeks.

Shannon took over, asking me if I needed anything, after Quinn was finally taken to the nursery. I remember asking her if SHE was OK. I knew if I felt the horror and trauma of the event, she certainly did. She looked me straight in the eyes with her own bright, swollen and red-rimmed blue ones, and said, “My job is you. I’m here to take care of you.” I didn’t feel like I wanted or needed anything. I certainly wasn’t hungry, but she brought me graham crackers.

I had seen them bagging Quinn and doing two-fingered chest compressions on her little body. I had wanted to be in the middle of it, watching my baby, but knew I needed to stay back for her wellbeing.

Dr. LaRose was called in, even though it was still the middle of the night, so I could see a familiar face. He gave me a hug, and stuck around until it was all over.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 8, 2010, part I

As we near the one-year mark for Quinn’s birthday, on September 9, we can’t help but look back on our brief memories of her, so I’m publishing some of my early writing, with editing to make it more readable.

When I was pregnant with Quinn, Jason and I had our usual ongoing discussion about labor and delivery. With the other three children, I was medically induced into labor with IV Pitocin, always after my due date and with the approval of my doctor, but with this baby, I really, really wanted the experience of my body going into labor on its own. I half-joked that it was Jason’s paranoid belief that we would either schedule an induction, or have a baby by the side of the road on the way to the hospital. I was nervous about not being able to note my own labor, or calling a false alarm and mistaking normal pregnancy twinges for labor pains. Furthermore, I was distrustful of my body actually being able to put itself into labor, and wanted to prove a point to myself!

Is This the Real Thing?

On Wednesday afternoon around 3:00, I started having contractions that felt like more intense Braxton Hicks. I charted them to help me think more clearly. The kids really started to act up, and they were getting on my nerves! I knew Jason’s target time to be finished spraying in McCullough, about a 10-15-minute drive by car, and longer by tractor, so I waited to call him since I didn’t want to sound a false alarm and cause him precious time in the field. Ruth was forty-five minutes away in Brewton, too, and I didn’t want her to have to come home early from work for nothing. I wasn’t hungry, and felt too nervous and excited to eat, but the family needed to be fed. I made a very simple meal of rice and beans. By the time we sat down, around 5:00, I was able to eat a little—thinking if it was real labor, I didn’t know how long it could take and didn’t want to be starving in between contractions! Jason kept rechecking to my timed list on the wipe-off board, measuring the intervals between my contractions. He noted the continual, gradual increase in frequency. He was in GO mode and was nervous himself! He took a shower, we finished packing the kids’ stuff (he stuck their whole toothbrush holder in with their things), and then he took them down to his parents’ house for the night. I wasn’t feeling at all social, and he gave me the option of staying behind. I was so grateful. When he came back, I decided to escape reality in a book, and sank into the green chair for two hours. The contractions slowed.

I told Jason it was time to go for a walk! The first really big contraction hit as we were walking up the hill beside his parents’ house. The contractions upped in frequency, but not in pain. The first one that made me stop and bend over happened at the end of the lane, a mile away. They were coming exactly three minutes apart, but were very bearable. Since we live a little over an hour away from our delivery hospital, we decided it was time to go! We got our things ready. Ever careful with vehicles, Jason put a garbage bag and a towel over my seat in case my water broke on the way. We left, and called our parents. Of course, the contractions slowed to every eight minutes while he was driving, but we knew we could walk in Pensacola! We walked for an hour in the parking lot at Baptist, until it wasn’t fun anymore for me. My contractions were every two minutes, and my back was aching, whether from contractions or walking or both, I didn’t know.

We entered through the Emergency Department, since it was midnight and it was the only door open. I tried not to smile, so people would believe I was really in labor. I felt stupid being pushed in a wheelchair up to Labor and Delivery. Even when the L&D nurses looked up, not expecting me, I felt goofy, grinning and excited, but supposed to be in labor. I was wheeled into Room 2, and Shannon introduced herself to me as my nurse.

After I got changed into a gown and seated in the bed, she checked my cervix. I was between 5 and 6 centimeters dilated! She sang, “We’re gonna have a baby!” and said I wasn’t going to leave the hospital with the baby still inside. My body was doing it! I was in real labor, and had figured it out. I felt vindicated, relieved, celebratory. We were so excited to finally meet our baby, Quinn.