Saturday, December 3, 2011

during and after the evacuation

I awaken suddenly at 4:30 am. I hear sirens and see flashing red lights through the window. There's another noise, as well, which I am unable to place. I go to the window. Lots of fire trucks, I stand there looking to see what's going on. Craig yells to me, "It's our fire alarm, get dressed." These are the thoughts that follow:

(1) So, that's what our fire alarm sounds like, almost like a police whistle. [They have tested the alarm system, but never when I have been home.] It certainly is annoying.
(2) I need to get dressed. Where are my clothes? [In Edmonton, in the winter, you can't just go outside in your robe; you must bundle up.] I need a long-sleeved shirt. Where the hell are my long-sleeved maternity shirts? Oh, shoot, this is a nursing shirt. Oh well... How the heck do you put these on?
(3) OH MY GOD!! What would I do if I had a baby right now?!?!? [Aside from the obvious, get the baby out of there, I start imagining different scenarios and thinking how I would handle each.] What would I grab? Bottles? Blankets?
(4) Oh crap, I need to pee. Nothing can stop the pregnant woman from peeing.
(5) It's hard to move quickly when seven months pregnant. Even with the adrenaline rush I am getting, I move slowly.
(6) I wish I didn't have to sit down to put on the snow boots.
(7) Oh, I need to get my wedding rings off the table.
(8) Crap, I already have boots on, and we're not supposed to walk on the new floors in our snow boots.
(9) Got rings on. Did Craig grab his?
(10) Oh, look. Craig got a book. I should get a book. [I go back and grab my book. I tell Craig to put his in my backpack.] Why did I get a book? Of all the things to grab, that seems silly.
(11) Frack, I can't get this coat zipped up. Where is my scarf? There's my hat.
(12) [Craig has stepped into the hallway and smelled smoke.] Oh, it's a real fire. Shit!
(13) Craig goes to fetch his computer. I should get mine, too. [I put my computer in my backpack.] My computer really isn't worth that much, financially or sentimentally. Why did I grab this? Should I grab something else? What about those Chinese silk embroidery pieces hanging there? No, no time. Too big.
(14) [Craig calls to me, "Let's go."] Oh, grab keys. And car keys. In case we need to go somewhere. Should I grab my work keys and pager? No.
(15) Do we lock the doors? Aren't we supposed to leave them unlocked in case the firefighters need to get in and they don't have to break down the door?
(16) Thank God we no longer love on the 19th floor. [As much as I sometimes miss the fabulous view of our old apartment, I am grateful that at seven months pregnant, I only have to walk down from the 7th.]
(17) Where is everyone? How come the stairwells aren't full? [I hear noises on the stairwell above me.] Oh, people are coming.
(18) One more floor. Oh, here's the lobby. Why are people standing here? Shouldn't we be outside? If people are staying here, I'd rather wait inside.
(19) Oh, look, there's a baby. Not phased at all by the alarms. [I go talk to the dad.]
(20) [Craig wants to go outside. He makes a comment about putting on his coat and thus not needing to stay inside. He also says he wants to get away from the horrendous sounds of the alarms. I zip up my coat and we go outside.] Oh, it's snowing.
(21) Here's where everyone is. But shouldn't there be more? This is a big building. And really, this is not that many people. Maybe 50?
(22) Wow! I bet that woman's cold. Where is her coat?
(23) [Craig asks if the alarm has stopped. I can't tell. I tell him to open the door and see. The alarm has stopped.] Wow, that was fast.
(24) [Now everyone crowds into the lobby. The firefighter says that the alarm was pulled on the 16th floor, but there is nothing there. People all talk about how they smelled smoke. The firefighters announce that have checked the floors around there, but no fire. People start to groan.] Wait, but we all smelled smoke, so it's not like somebody did this as a prank!
(25) [The woman who pulled the fire alarm starts to defend herself, saying she smelled smoke, called 911, and they told her to pull the alarm.] She did the right thing. Was she outside? Where is her coat? She must've been one of the first people out there. I bet she was cold.
(26) Oh, there's another baby. I had no idea there were so many babies in the building. This one's awake. [I flirt with the baby and chat with the parents.]
(27) I bet I have bad breath.
(28) [The first elevator takes the first load up. The second elevator is still in use by the firefighters.] There's the lady I always chat with. What's her name again? Oh, she has cats with her. I'll go chat with her. Shoot, what is her name?
(29) [The firefighters come to turn the elevator back to regular use. We find out that they had also been to an actual fire on our street. It seems as if the smoke from that fire came in through our air intake system and that is what we are smelling.] Okay, that makes sense.
(30) We should get onto this elevator last since we are on one of the lower floors.
(31) [We've been chatting while riding up the elevators.] It's kind of amazing the sense of community and solidarity that can form at 4:30 am when everyone has to evacuate the building.
(32) [We come into our apartment.] I won't be able to fall asleep again. Too much adrenaline. But I should go back to bed and try.
(33) I should read. Oh, my book is in my backpack by the front door.
(34) [I see my computer while retrieving my book] Hey, it's good I took my computer. On it is all of the photos we've taken since we first met. It's like grabbing the family photo albums. I should make sure I have copies uploaded online.
(35) [I lay down in bed.] Oh, the kid's awake. Man, he's really moving. Can he taste the adrenaline or fear in the amniotic fluid. Don't worry sweet boy, we'll always take care of you. [I start to cry. I feel a sense of panic, once again, revisiting the idea of what I would do if I had a baby.]
(36) What if it were -30 degrees? Would I have time to bundle the baby properly? I'd need to make sure to get the car seat? We should drive somewhere. Would it be okay to call Heather and Justin [our friends and neighbours a few blocks away] at 4:30 am and ask them if we can come over to get out of the cold? [I imagine going to their place with a wailing kid.] Hmm, that's interesting that in my vision, our kid is crying, but in reality, the two babies we saw were taking it all in stride. What does that say about me and my confidence as a parent?
(37) What if Heather and Justin aren't home? Maybe I should grab my work keys. It's only four blocks away. Wait, when I am on maternity leave, I won't have my keys. I need another plan.
(38) Should we always have a diaper bag of necessities ready to go?
(39) Craig and I should make a plan as to who does what when the alarm goes off. We should have fire drills. Wait, that is so not like us. We aren't those organized, over-planning people. But, oh God, what if we should be?
(40) Oh, and what if I'm home alone with the kid when the alarm goes off? What would I do then? Ack!
(41) I need to stop thinking about this stuff and worrying. We are fine. We made it out. And we'll do the same when we have a baby should the need arise. Calm down. Don't stress out yourself or the baby. Oh sweet boy, I am sorry. I promise we'll always take care of you and keep you safe.
(42) Wow! I've been trying to fall back asleep for over an hour. Will I ever fall asleep?
(43) I guess Craig is over his cold. No more coughing or snoring. He's just sleeping peacefully.
(44) I wish I could fall back asleep and sleep like that. Should I get up and go read in the living room?
(45) It was snowing out there, wasn't it? Good, we needed to cover up the brown muddy snow.
(46) I hope it's not too slick when I run errands tomorrow.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A word of advice

In the past month since I announced my pregnancy, I've learned that a growing belly is a sign that others read as "Please tell me what to do because I completely stupid and have no idea." Being pregnant means getting tons of unsolicited advice. I can handle this, to some extent. I mean, I was a single gal for a long, long, long time and dealt with all of the advice on how to snag a husband (I even wrote a satirical "how-to" paper on this as an undergrad, but that's another story). And as a young woman in ministry I learned to cope with the overabundance of advice from well-meaning older ministers (men) on how to handle life in the congregation (because women cannot figure this out on our own - ugh!). But the rate at which I am given unsolicited advice has picked up exponentially since I let word get out about my pregnancy. And there's only so much I can take.

Here I am. A woman in my late 30's. I have worked in health care for over five years of my career, two of those years in women's health, covering units for high-risk pregnancies and the neo-natal ICU. Terms such a subchorionic bleed, placenta previa, incompetent cervix, listeriosis, etc. are all part of my vocabulary. I am very well-educated, perhaps over-educated. I am a woman who has lost several pregnancies and gone through multiple fertility treatments. I had the very best fertility doctor in the province who has given me wonderful (professional) advice and referred me to his mentor as my obstetrician, who has also taken excellent care of me. And if he ever stopped taking good care of me, I have more than one obstetrician I would call as a back-up. And as a woman with a high-risk pregnancy, I have been well-monitored and taken care of. I work in health care, and I know of every hospital in the city, and I have known which hospital would be the best for me, my pregnancy, and my delivery long before I ever got pregnant. I know my shit. I have done my research. And I happen to be hooked up with a scientist, a professional researcher, and anything I haven't been able to find out, he picks up the slack and gets answers.

So, yes, I do know the old advice about abstaining from caffeine during pregnancy. And you know what? I also know that this is old advice. And yes, I do know that soft cheeses are to be avoided when with child. And I also know that this advice applies to unpasteurized cheeses, so not all brie is bad. Furthermore, I also know that it's the doctors in North America that are hyper-vigilant about this and that most European women wouldn't dare eat pasteurized cheeses, even when pregnant. And I know the risk of listeriosis is relatively small, even among those European women. And I know what they say about sushi. And I know what they say about smoked fish, undercooked eggs, alcohol, you name it. As I said before, I know my shit. I don't need you treating me like an idiot and assuming I don't. And if there is something I don't know, I'll freakin' ask!

When I get advice like this, I try to be gracious. I say, "Thank you." Or "I did know that, but I appreciate you telling me." I don't contradict them or tell them if I plan to do something other than follow their advice. But inevitably, online, this response invites other unsolicited advice along with attacks on the original advice giver. When I have tried to graciously receive the advice of one Facebook "friend", another jumps in, "Don't listen to that! It's just bad advice or the science has changed or your friend so-and-so is stupid and so are you if you listen to her." Yes, I know the advice given to me might be outdated. I have no intention of following it. But I also have no intention of alienating my friends. So, how can I win?

I've come to accept that I can't. I am just going to be inundated with advice. And to think I have five more months of pregnancy! And I can only imagine the advice gets worse with parenting. But at least there, I feel as if I might need a little more advice. I don't feel as educated on every issue that could arise with parenting.

I don't want this to sound like I don't appreciate hearing from people who have been through what I am going through. I truly love making connections around shared experiences. And it is such a joy to hear from somebody who understand what is happening to me, someone who's been there and done that. But instead of telling me what I should be doing, I wish more folks would be like a friend of mine who said, "Man, when I was pregnant, they told me not to eat sushi, and all I was craving was sushi, and it was so hard. Are they still advising pregnant women to stay away from sushi?" She didn't jump on my case when I told her what I was craving (it was chili con queso made with pure, processed Velveeta), telling me how the chemicals would be bad for my baby and how I shouldn't even expose my kid to the fumes of processed foods, etc. She just got that I was having a craving and shared her experience. She didn't tell me what I should do or shouldn't do. She didn't try to make me feel stupid or bad for even thinking what I was thinking. She just let me know that she was with me. And I appreciated that.

And then there was the friend who lifted her shirt and said, "If there is anything you can do to avoid stretchmarks, I hope you find it." And when I replied, "I'm hoping Craig rubbing cocoa butter on my belly each evening does the trick," she said, "I hope so, too." No advice, just comradery. Just somebody who has been on this journey and wants to walk it with me. If more people were like these friends, well, then I wouldn't be writing this rant, I guess.