April 15, 2012

My Heart Is Slowly Breaking

We had 27 incredible, blissful days.

Miss A is here, R was off of work for 3 weeks, and even after he went back last week, everything went well. For the first time in nearly a decade, it felt like we were a typical, normal family without the sadness of infertility constantly weighing us down.

Now, there is another weight making our hearts heavy and making the tears fall.

Out of the three dogs R and I have had during our 16 years of marriage, we only have one left. Our first dog (a black lab/golden retriever mix) died at 6 1/2 unexpectedly due to congestive heart failure, and we lost the third one (an Australian cattle dog) 13 months ago after he was diagnosed with a rare tumor and then developed an intestinal blockage at age 8.

Our second dog, also an Australian cattle dog, turned 14 a couple of weeks ago. We've had her since she was 7 months old. She's an incredible dog, a total sweetheart. She doesn't hear very well anymore, so she likes to stay within sight of me. (We taught our dogs hand signals along with verbal commands, so we can still communicate with her fairly easily.)

Overall, she's pretty healthy. However, she's developed arthritis in her joints. And we live in a 2-story house. Our bedroom is upstairs, and there's not really a good option for converting a downstairs room into a bedroom.

We've been managing the arthritis with injections for several months, and we also started acupuncture with her a few weeks before A was born. It all seemed to be helping, and she was doing pretty well going up and down the stairs.

Until yesterday (Saturday). R took her downstairs for her usual morning potty trip outside, and when they were coming back up the stairs, she couldn't muster enough strength in her back legs to push herself up the stairs. Instead, when she tried, she'd fall backwards a step. This, despite getting up the stairs pretty much without trouble as recently as Friday.

R helped her up the stairs, but she was limping badly on her back right leg. When she laid down, she struggled mightily to get back up. She could barely walk. My heart started to crack.

I called the vet and made an appointment to take her. By the time we got there, she was walking much closer to normal, but the vet said it was probably the adrenaline of coming to the vet's office. Apparently he was correct, because when we got her back home, she started to struggle again.

While we were there, he gave her another injection and prescribed an anti-pain/anti-inflammatory medication. I don't think the injection helped this time, but the medication seemed to help a bit after she received her first dose last night, although she didn't get totally back to normal. He also told us she shouldn't go up or down the stairs on her own any more, which means we are now carrying a 33-pound dog up and down the stairs.

This morning, she couldn't really stand on her own again. R took her downstairs, and after she received the second dose, things seemed to improve again. She was even able to jump up onto the couch before we could help her. (We're trying to discourage her from doing that anymore without assistance.)

The vet also called to check on her today, and he assured us there are other medications we can try if this one doesn't seem to help.

But I also know the reality - she's 14, and she's not walking well without medication, and at some point, even the medication will likely not be enough. And then we will have to make a very difficult, very painful decision.

I was selfishly hoping we would have at least a couple more years with her, but each time she struggles a little to get up or limps a little, I know it's more likely that our time will be measured in months (if we're lucky). And each time, my heart breaks a little bit more just thinking about it.

April 12, 2012

Our First Month With Miss A

Our little miss will be 4 weeks old on Saturday. Time has never flown so fast!

I wanted to write about our hospital stay and going home, but I haven't had a chance to do that yet. It's late, and I'm not thinking too clearly right now, so I'll keep this short. But I just want to do a quick post to say that we're doing great and everything is going very well.

Overall, she's a very easy, mellow baby. Today was not an easy, mellow day, but that's okay - I think she's going through a growth spurt. She's been wanting to eat every 90 minutes to 2 hours instead of 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Before having her, I didn't realize that with breastfeeding, you feed much more frequently than bottle feeding. She likes to spend 40-50 minutes nursing, and even then she still acts hungry afterward, so between feeding, burping (another 10-15 minutes), diaper changes, and taking her clothes off (so she'll stay awake while feeding)/putting them back on (so she won't cry about being mostly naked), there's barely time to go to the bathroom.

For someone who always has to be doing something, it's been an adjustment to spend that much time sitting when I know there is laundry to be done, baby stuff to be put away, thank you notes to be written, leave/insurance paperwork to deal with, etc. But I just focus on her and enjoy spending the time so close to her, because I know this stage won't last forever, and I want to enjoy it while I can.

R went back to work on Monday, and I've been doing better than I expected being alone with her. I wasn't very nervous about it at all. I'm sad that he doesn't get to spend as much time with her now, though. I knew he would be a great dad, but he's actually been so far beyond great that phenomenal is the word that keeps coming to mind when I see him with her.

He worked so hard at keeping himself emotionally detatched from the pregnancy that I figured it would take him a while to let himself become attached to her once she was here, but that didn't turn out to be the case at all. He said the first moment he saw her, he was instantly attached. It was hard for me to care for her in the hospital because of a mix up in the pain medication instructions, so he wound up taking care of both of us. The nurses taught him how to care for her, and then he taught me. He knows her cues better than I do!

It still seems surreal that she's ours. That she's here. That we have a baby. But it's amazing and wonderful, and I'm thankful for every moment, even the ones where she's crying and I can't figure out why because I haven't decoded her cries yet.