I am back from my first trip of the summer. Trudy and I spent 10 days in Seattle and Victoria, BC. It was a trip I'll never forget, that's for sure. Looking back on things now after being home for a couple of days, I can't help but feel a bit crazy for setting out on such a big journey by myself with Trudy.
My parents always taught me that when you're going to deliver bad but not fatal news, start with the phrase, "everyone's okay." This gives the news-receiver an indication off the bat that, regardless of what information follows, no one is dead. Important. So, let me start by saying, everyone's okay! There were two trips to Seattle Children's Hospital in two days... but, in the end... thankfully... everyone's okay.
This trip was to attend the CMS Summit in Seattle, where I was giving a poster featuring early results from my dissertation. We left May 14 and flew back on May 23. The conference was May 16-17 at the University of Washington. Prior to heading out on the trip, I was feeling most apprehensive about the long plane rides and was not at all worried about the conference! I found this a bit surprising since so much time had passed since my last academic venture and since this trip marked my first time trying to balance baby and brains in such a public setting.
May 14, 2014
We arrived in Seattle and were greeted by my parents who came down from Victoria to help out with Trudy while I was at the conference. We took my parents' car from the Seattle-Tacoma airport into Seattle; they had come down on the Anacortes ferry the day before. My parents had rented via VRBO an apartment for us right near the UW campus. We found the place quite easily, unpacked, and settled it. It was a gorgeous 2-bedroom apartment in a multi-apartment house about a ten-minute walk from campus right near all of UW's greek houses! It was shaping up to be a great trip.
May 15, 2014
The morning after we arrive: 4:30am PST, 7:30am EST. Trudy was up, ready to go from the morning. I rolled out of bed, still hazy, to feed her and get her ready for the day. I put her on the bed to change her diaper and turn away for one second. Out of nowhere, I heard a horrible sound.
It was the sound of my precious monkey hurling herself from the bed onto the unforgiving hardwood floors below.
She cried, immediately. I ran to her, in disbelief, and scooped her up in my arms. I tried to calm her with words and hugs and kisses and bounces. We were both in shock. I tried to nurse her to calm her down. Nothing helped. I panicked. She's dead! She's broken! She'll never be the same! I'm a horrible mother. What have I done?
Trudy's thump was enough to wake my parents in the next room. At that point, I was still in disbelief and was quickly being taken over with feelings of embarrassment, and helplessness: she's going to be okay, right? We decided to take her in to the ER to be checked out just to be sure. Thankfully, Seattle's Children's Hospital--one of the top ten pediatric hospitals in all of the US--was a mere 5-minute drive from our apartment.
I was on the verge of puking my guts out for the drive over. We were quickly seen by a doctor and Trudy was assessed. She's fine. She never lost consciousness. She had a bump on her right temple and a growing bruise, and a little cut on her ear where she must have caught something coming off of the bed. No vomiting. No lethargy. She cried immediately. These are all good things. The doctor comforted me and told me that "these things happen" and told not blame myself. While I appreciated the sentiment, it was my fault. If I hadn't put her up on that bed, this never would have happened.
I should have never said anything after the previous day's travel about Trudy being "a good flyer." She must have heard me. Very funny, Trudy. Very funny.
Oh, and did I mention that this day was my parent's 43rd wedding anniversary? Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad. Sorry it started at 4:30am in the ER of a children's hospital. Yeah. Nothing says "I love you" like a screaming baby in the wee hours of the morning. Sheesh.
The rest of our first full day in Seattle was spent worrying about Trudy. She was fussy for the remainder of the day but okay. We pushed forward with our trip as normal, hoping that this would be the only hiccup.
May 16, 2014
The weather was beautiful. The place we were staying had a wonderful side porch with a lovely view down into a valley. Trudy and I went out with my folks/Grandma and Grandpa for a walk and began "strategizing" how things would go the next day while I was away at the conference. Just as things seemed to be getting better, Trudy woke up from an afternoon nap with a fever of 102 F and seemed really lethargic. In light of a recent fall and potential undetected head injury, everything got really intense really fast. Were these things all related? Had the doctor missed something the day before? OH GOD, WHAT HAVE I DONE TO MY LITTLE ANGEL!???!???!
Back in the car.
Back to the hospital we go.
At least we know the way...
I was a bit more hysterical this time because Trudy seemed so lethargic, feverish, and, for lack of a better word, floppy. During the intake process at the hospital, an unexpected thing happened to take this whole experience to the next level. We somehow managed to send up red flags for MERS... yeah, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. (My parents had recently traveled down from Canada... A FOREIGN COUNTRY! And Trudy and I had traveled from Florida, where MERS cases have been confirmed.) We were all given masks and whisked into an ER room where they put a "HIGH-RISK RESPIRATORY DISEASE" sticker on our room's sliding glass door. While all of this was happening, I was desperately trying to keep myself together and keep Trudy awake, terrified that her lethargy was due to her brain bleeding. Not soon after we were in our room, we quickly started garnering attention like we were the newest attraction at the local zoo. Nurses and doctors peered in at us with curiosity. Everyone who came in and out of our room put on masks and gowns. Yeah. MERS. Ridiculous.
We were quickly seen by a resident who took Trudy's medical history. He soon realized that all the hoopla was for nothing. No MERS. Everyone calmed down. Another medical examination was done and Trudy's urine was collected. The doctor determined that what's going on with Trudy is, both fortunately and unfortunately, most likely a completely separate incident from Trudy's fall. Her brain is not bleeding: she's getting the flu. The fever was her body fighting off an infection. The lethargy was her dealing with everything and responding to the Tylenol we gave her to help things out. Everything's fine.
Poor little bum. We got her home and the rest of the day was spent nursing and sleeping. The fever came and went; we were able to manage things pretty well with Tylenol and a lot of mommy time.
I missed the first night of the conference.
May 17, 2014
The next day was the only full-day of the Summit. Trudy was not herself and was still very sick. I managed to run over to the University first thing in the morning to put up my poster. The posters were to be up for the entire day for informal viewing, and the actual hour-long poster session was at the end of the day.
Given Trudy's general health and well-being, I made a decision in consultation with my parents that I would, reluctantly, aim for bare minimum participation: put the poster up and be there for the session at the end of the day. I did manage to catch the first lecture of the day before heading back home to check on Trudy. The rest of the conference was a bust. My time was spent at home with a hot, sweaty, sick baby falling in and out of sleep, mostly lying on my chest. There was a lot of crying. Trudy was crying. I was crying. We were both exhausted. Trudy wasn't nursing at all because her poor little throat hurt so much. It was a fight to get her to take Tylenol but it was the only thing that would help her nurse. She wouldn't eat any solid food. She must have been starving on top of everything else. It was a rough day. My parents were wonderful helpers. They brought Trudy over to the poster session and she ended up coming in for a bit of it.
In the end, bare minimum participation requirements met. Trudy needed her mommy more than anyone at that Summit, and that's just the way it was.
May 18, 2014
The next day we were set to leave Seattle. Trudy seemed to be on the mend. We packed up everything and drove from Seattle to Port Angeles, WA to catch the ferry up to Victoria, BC. It was the most fun we'd had in a few days. The drive was scenic and went by quickly. Trudy kept herself entertained for most of it:
It was a beautiful day for a boat ride. We drove right onto the ferry and were in Victoria about 2.5 hours later. I did 13 laps of the outer deck with Trudy in the stroller. She fell asleep sometime after lap 3 but I kept going to give her a good nap and to give me a bit of exercise.
Such a beautiful and civilized way to travel, the ferry is!
We arrived in Victoria in the mid-afternoon. We stopped by to see my sister and her little ones before heading out to Sidney, BC to my parent's house. My friend Lee came over from Vancouver and spent the night with us. It was a great chance to catch-up and to have her meet little Trudy for the first time!
But, in the midst of all of this, I couldn't help but feel that something wasn't quite right with me... my throat was starting to hurt. And I was beginning to feel out of it. Just as Trudy was approaching 100% health, it appeared that things were going to get interesting yet again.
May 19, 2075?
Fever of 102. Chills. Aches. Extreme hot and extreme cold. Malaria. Blurry vision. Extreme tired.
Whatever Trudy had, I now had.
The good news? This was compelling evidence that Trudy's sickness was the flu and not related to her fall.
What year is it? Where am I? Most of this day was spent in bed. My Mom was able to take the lead with Trudy (THANK YOU) so I got the rest the body was demanding.
Oh yeah, happy anniversary to me and Bryn. So glad we are spending it thousands of miles apart. So glad my body is celebrating with the flu.
May 20, 2014
Feeling a bit better. No more fever but still aches and chills. Extermely sore throat. Unable to eat. (This blog post is getting really long. I'm no longer writing in complete sentences, it appears. Also, I don't remember a lot from these few days.)
Photographic evidence suggests that Greta and Henry and Lulu stopped by for a visit.
By this day, Trudy seemed like her old self again. Through all of the drama, I think she grew and changed. She looks to me now like more of a little lady and less of a baby. She's stretched out and now crawls like a champ. Oh, and there's lot of talking and hilarious tongue theatrics these days:
May 21, 2014
On my way back to feeling okay. My throat was still EXTREMELY sore and I wasn't eating much. We went to Victoria this day for a visit at the mall with Greta and ended the day with a walk to a local fish-n-chips joint in Sidney. I tried to ignore the razor blades in my throat and stuffed down some beer-battered fish and delicious chips since I hadn't eaten in several days AND GOSH DARN IT, I'M ON HOLIDAY AND THE FISH LOOKS DELICIOUS AND I WANT TO ENJOY MYSELF EVEN IF IT MEANS I HURT MYSELF. We stopped for some photos on the walk back from the restaurant. What a gorgeous place!
May 22, 2014
Still sick... but time to go! What the heck. Cruel world, why was I not able to fully enjoy much of this trip? Our journey home was spread over two days. This first travel day had us take the clipper from Victoria into Seattle. Trudy and I said our goodbyes to Grandma and Grandpa and made the three-hour journey to the Port of Seattle. Again, wonderful. The ferry is such a great way to travel. We took a cab from the Port to a Doubletree Hotel near the airport. It was a wonderful place to stay. We spent most of our time lying beside the outdoor pool, enjoying the weather. We found ourselves a 7-11 and I enjoyed a watermelon slurpee. It was the first thing I'd enjoyed eating in four days or so. Sugar waterrrrrrr.
May 23, 2014
We packed up, made our way to the airport, and left at 9am PST for Miami. Trudy got some good crawling in before we boarded our first flight and was, yet again, an all-star flyer for the entire trip home.
We passed through Dallas/Ft. Worth again on the way home and landed in Miami just after 8pm EST. Bryn came to pick us up and I'd never felt happier to be home.
I am a planner. It helps me feel in control of what happens in my world. This trip knocked me flat on my face with all of the unexpected... with so many things for which I could not plan. I forgive myself for Trudy falling off the bed. Yes, it was my fault. I put her in a precarious situation and, given a moment of inattention, she did what's in her nature... she hurled herself into the unknown. I hope those of you with small ones or those of you planning to have them never have to experience the sound of a baby hitting the floor. Thud. It sounded like a side of beef falling lifelessly from a meat hook onto the floor of a butcher's shop. I still shudder at the sound of it. Thank God she's okay. These babies are made of hearty stuff, they are. I just wish they came with some kind of warranty (and a user's manual, for that matter.)
This was a physically and emotionally draining trip like nothing else I'd ever experienced. Trudy was so sick. And sad. To help her, I relied on what I've learned in the last nine months of motherhood. My parenting philosophy is basically try everything else and, when nothing else works, stick a boob in the baby's mouth. I always think of breastfeeding as a superpower. This flu was the first time my super powers failed me. She wouldn't nurse. She was miserable. My mind started jumping to all kinds of horrible conclusions: Is she done nursing? Is she done with me? What now? Am I going to get sick if she just stops nursing? Trudy wasn't interested in solid food so I started worrying about her starving. And then suddenly she developed explosive diarrhea. And then nothing (out the back-end) for days. And then a heat rash. I learned that I don't have a breaking point, I have several. All of this together broke me... and then somehow broke me again... and then again... I was the emotionally-drained equivalent of that lifeless side of beef lying on the butcher's floor.
What do you do when everything you try falls... er, I mean, fails?
Babies don't give you a choice to stop. They don't stop until you help sort them out. I'd experienced this in small doses in Trudy's early days but never this many consecutive days, without Bryn for back-up, so far from home, with Trudy only wanting her mama, and coupled with getting sick myself. I cried so much on this trip. I cried, which only made Trudy cry more. They were some dark days but we made it through. Trudy has helped me learn perseverance and patience. Together, we grew in this experience. One thing I've learned about being a parent is that because babies are non-stop, you have a lot of chances to figure things out. Some days I feel like I'm trapped in a "Groundhog Day" type scenario. I get things wrong. A lot. But Trudy doesn't give me a chance to stop. It's all about embracing a very simplistic version of the scientific method. Observe. Experiment. No luck? Try again. Keep trying. And trying. Baby still crying? Try something else. The challenge is that the window of time to "get something right" changes as fast as the "right" response changes. This is made even more intense when you stick baby in a confined space (like an airplane.) I was scientific-methoding so hard for both of our travel days alone, I think I deserve some kind of Nobel Peace Prize. (I've now done 10 flights over several trips with Trudy, including 4 on my own. I'm going to do a separate blog posting with some reflections on my experiences flying with a tiny human.)
In the midst of all of the insanity, several important dates passed by. All of them received inadequate celebration. First, my parents' wedding anniversary.
I was so grateful to have had my Mom and Dad by my side for this trip. They were, as they always are, so unbelievably caring and generous. They both remained calm and cool through the worst of everything. They fed me and kept me going. They hugged and kissed Trudy as much as they could, and got in a few good days at the end once she was feeling better and we were in Victoria.
Trudy passed the 9 month-old mark while we were away!
And Bryn and I hit 7 years of marriage. SEVEN YEARS. That's a lot of years.
That's another thing this trip taught me. Everything is easier with Bryn. Everything is better with Bryn. Everything is funner with Bryn. I don't know how single parents do it. I hope every mommy out there has her very own "Bryn." Hug him. Keep him close. Don't travel without him.
I went into this trip nervous about the travel but excited to see my family and to revisit, if even for a few days, an adult world of thinking and talking. I was so excited to share my emerging dissertation research. I felt confident that I could, with the help of my dear parents, balance Trudy and everything else with ease. Looking back on all of it now, we survived. I appeared at the conference and made a few new connections. I learned. I grew. Trudy learned and grew. At the end of the day, all that matters is that everyone's okay!