Losing Toby (Part 1)

On April 16, 2018, a litter of sweet yellow and black Labrador puppies was born near Smyrna, Georgia. Their cute little pudgy, fluffy bodies were crowded safe and snug under their mama Sunny’s belly. The tiniest squeaks ever pierced an otherwise normal day in the south. Daddy Gator was not allowed to meet his babies. Mama made that very clear.

But the little lumps of love tumbled over one another in search of a place to nurse. Blind at this age, the puppies quickly learned to trust Sunny to teach them how to be dogs in the outside world. Three blondes and the rest black, each one was given a different color collar to identify them so their weight and development could be tracked by their breeder. Yes, this particular Monday was a beautiful day in Georgia, with a mound of tiny paws and wiggly bitty bums bringing instant joy into the world.

It was also the day my Toby dog died.

This is the first time I’ve really written about it, because it’s frankly been just too painful to think about for too long. I still ache for him, sometimes calling his name or mistakenly calling our son Toby. I still look to the edge of the bed each morning and night where his dog bed was. The last soul I spoke to at night and the first one I met each morning was his. Now, I am dogless. It’s the first time in 13 years.

Toby had just turned 13 in March, and I proudly noted that we now had a teenager in the house. With Toby’s age, I wondered if it wouldn’t be too long before we had 2 in diapers in the Bays household (smile). I just knew that part of the reason he’d made it to the ripe old age of about 100 in dog years was because he was loved and cared for so much, by so many people. So when he passed just over a month later it took me by surprise.

No, it actually sent me into psychological shock. One I didn’t snap out of for a couple weeks.

About 10 days before this, Toby had been having a hard time walking, limping heavily on one of his back legs. We thought it was arthritis. He was also diabetic, and when we had him checked out by a new vet (our first vet visit in Norman), she was fairly sure his blood sugar was not regulated and was causing his weakness. He’d been whining a bit, which was unusual for him. She had us increase his food, did some blood work, gave him some pain meds in case he was suffering from diabetic neuropathy, and had us do a glucose curve on him later that week.

She was right, his curve was off, but with a boost of insulin and pain meds, it was still going high and low at the appropriate times. We were told to do another curve, and it was on April 16 that I started out the day checking his sugar. Mid-morning it was sky high … in the 500s … which is bad for a dog. 700 is near comatose. 750+ is so high it doesn’t even register on his canine glucometer. I called the vet and was told to keep checking him and bring him in the next morning. It wasn’t an immediate emergency.

But later on that evening, Brent noticed Toby was acting strange. Actually, we’d gone out and upon our return I found him in the baby’s room. It was strange for him not to greet us near the door. I brought him into the living room and let him outside. He plopped down on the rug in front of the TV for a while, and we all hung out. Our son woke from his nap, and had finished his lunch. My husband had me put Toby in our bedroom so he’d be “safe.” Austin had taken to rough housing with Toby too much and we wanted to make sure the dog wasn’t caused any discomfort. So I let Toby into our room and he looked back at me. I told him to go relax and lay in his bed and I’d see him soon.

If I’d had any idea that was going to be his last day, I would have spent the whole thing with him, talking about his life, feeding him steak and ice cream, watching Animal Planet, feeding him cheese, peanut butter and apples (his favorite human foods) and rubbing his belly. It wasn’t meant to be. In fact, he never took another bite of food again.


PCOS needs to go to hell

It was a hard day. I woke up feeling like I was under water and had been hit by a truck at the same time. Austin woke up an hour early, and I hadn’t slept more than 4 hours at that point. I wanted to barf. Of course, his sweet smiling face and heart-stopping squeaks when I picked him up out of his crib were more than enough to cure that feeling.

Still, I walked around like a zombie, trying to stay awake and also rid my stomach of the intense pain I often get when I don’t sleep long enough or late enough. A couple hours into our day, we were both ready for a nap. We hit the hay for 3 hours. I woke from that still feeling stoned (no drugs or alcohol involved here thank you! ;-)) so I texted my husband and asked him to come home early from work. I know Austin ate lunch but peanut butter and crackers was about as much as I had energy for.

Brent got home about 1:30 and I slept until 6:30 that evening. It was depressing sleep. My little man came in to say hi halfway through and I told Brent I was too tired to spend time with him. That might be close to being one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had. My constant prayer for Austin is that God will ensure that Austin never wonders if he is the most important thing in our lives. I used to wonder that as a kid.

But today, the insane fatigue from PCOS won, at least for a while. Things need to change.

So he’ll be safe

“Let this be our prayer
Let this be our prayer, just like every child
Needs to find a place, guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe.”

The Prayer, Celine Dion

This song touches my mother’s heart so deeply. Having a child is so much more than anything I could have ever imagined. I feel high, joyful and deeply in love every time I’m around him. I’ve started holding him so he can fall asleep in my arms and I wish every moment could be just like that.

Safe. Innocent. Pure. Blessed.

Lord, bless him and keep him. 

His little blonde baby head is fringed with the sweetest curls, a genetic nod to his Momma. He opens his tiny pink baby sweetheart lips like a baby bird when he wants to eat. He still does it, even though he’s now nearly a year old.

Lord, make Your face to shine down upon him.

I pray for him as we lay him in his crib at night, bless him in Jesus’ name and pray that he will sleep well. My prayer for him is that he will always know how much I love him and never wonder if he is the most important thing in our lives.

As I held him in the middle of the night last night, he looked at me with his precious little (big) blue baby eyes wide open, and I looked into those sea glass orbs and told him how wonderful he is and how great a man he is going to be.

And give him your peace. 

Finding my way through motherhood

So I was watching a rerun of the old 90s show “Party of Five” and in season 6, one of the characters (Bailey Salinger), finds himself unaware of his identity. The only thing he truly gets is that he lives to fix or solve everyone else’s problems. He tells his brother Charlie that the pinnacle of his life was when Charlie was diagnosed with cancer because Bailey had to take over running the family, their restaurant and home.

I’ve been thinking about my own role lately. I’m a housewife, homemaker, SAHM, etc …. whatever we want to call it. But most often I find myself clawing at the walls trying to cling to some semblance of my own personal identity as Sarah. This drives me to wake up early and take my husband to work so we can have the car here at home during the day. This week, we didn’t have it at all.

See, in my past life, (read: 2 years ago +), I was a journalist. I like people and get a thrill out of talking to them and digging around for information, then being the first one to get it published accurately. It’s a real charge, being a reporter. From drownings, to murders to elections to politics, the whole vocation is like one long adrenaline rush.

Take the night back in 2011. It was early January and my roommate and I had both just returned from visiting our families for the holidays. We were relaxing with a couple glasses of wine when I got a phone call from my editor. Did I hear about the murder across the street from me? No……. I threw on my tennis shoes since I knew I’d be running. I grabbed my camera, phone and a notebook and pen, keys and ID and flew out of the apartment. Down the elevator. Out into the darkness — it was warm that year for January — stuffing my belongings into my jeans pockets and stabbing a pen through the messy bun piled atop my head.

And yes, I ran. Out through the lobby, past the water fountain, across the street, twice, then down a few blocks and right into an urban “town center” made nearly entirely of concrete — a monolith wedged into a small DC suburb — by the same man who designed the massive Kennedy Center. Police cruisers swirled their lights up ahead. I had already called the PIO who I knew well and he was looking for me.

I found him and crouched down into his police car, turned on the inside light and had him give me a quick interview on camera. The questions flew out, like muscle memory on my piano. There had been a murder and the suspect(s) were on the loose. They were pretty sure he was shot over some new sneakers that had debuted that evening at the mall right next door. It was a male, teenager. No, the name was not yet being released.

So enough with my flashback. You get the point. One time, instead of a murder, it was “fireworks” on July 4th that were not fireworks at all. My roomie and I knew it right away — gunshots. Maybe a mile away? Into my car, down the nighttime-washed streets and found yet another homicide. Then there was the time I was out walking my dog at night near my residential home (different place than prev. mentioned above) and happened to see squad cars, lights blaring, filling the parking lot of a seemingly empty warehouse less than a mile from my house, on a main between Hyattsville and North Brentwood, Maryland. Toby (dog) and I trotted across the street and talked to a cop. Call the PIO, he said. And guess what? Purvis, the PIO, told me it was a standoff/raid. Police were trying to flush out some suspects in a shooting they were pretty sure involved drugs. All because my Lab needed to stretch his legs.

See?!?!?!? I can’t even stop vomiting up the stories. I’m starting to feel the rush again as I type this.

So being a homemaker is not quite the thrill ride of my youth. It’s often boring, dangerously routine and basically like waking up in the movie Groundhog Day every day. It’s tremendously lonely, and sometimes depressing. I don’t know my neighbors and have no family around.

But tonight, and this entire week, I’ve seen that the one defining element of being a SAHM is my son. My precious, soft, squeaky, giggly, bubbly, energetic (!), snuggly, lovey, hilarious, smart, amazing son. He’s 20 months, and even today I ached for the days when I used to hold him in my arms and sing “our song” along with the iPod — “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” He let me scoop him up a few times today, and once even hold him like a baby again.

Tonight, when I picked him up asleep and walked him to his bedroom, I walked a little slower, kissed his tiny, round, perfect nose a few times and sneaked in some smooches on his sweet little “cloud pillow” cheeks. Oh, and a couple whispers: “I love you buddy. I love you sooooo much.”

I didn’t get an adrenaline rush when I set him down into his crib and covered him up with his Minions fleece baby blanket. No, I was humming “Jesus Loves Me,” and as I laid my hand on his back and said a silent prayer for Jesus to watch over him, I’d found my new identity.

His mom.

Getting fit inside the home

Stay-at-home-moms, it can be a challenge to get in our exercise and fitness each day, right? I usually don’t have the time to take a nice long walk, watch/workout to a video, lift weights, etc. That’s frustrating because exercise is a big part of self-care.

Now I know chasing our kiddos around can make each day exhausting, but for me, at least right now, that doesn’t entail too much because we live in a small 3-bedroom ranch house. On sunny warm days, we can go outside, but for the rest of the time, I do a lot of sitting, or at least a lot more than I realized.

So, I’ve come up with some ways to get your “steps” in each day when you’re stuck inside the house:

  1. Vacuum. Duh, this might seem obvious. But today I tracked myself and ended up gaining about 400+ steps from pushing around the sweeper. Note: most step counters don’t include backward and sideways steps so you probably actually take about double what the meter reads at the end.
  2. Dance with your kids. Or without your kids 😉 Austin and I often put on the music channels upbeat tunes and just play around, or I’ll pick him up and pretend we’re dancing on a ballroom floor. Great exercise, plus it’s fun and tires you both out (right before nap time, optimally). And, it gets music piped into your kids’ ears.
  3. Mop / scrub floors. Yes, another obvious one, but similar to vacuuming, the steps really add up. If you’re scrubbing on hands and knees, steps might not be a factor but think of all the muscle building you’re doing in your arms. That, and the sweat equity you’re building!
  4. Laundry. Yup, gathering, piling, carrying, tossing, unloading, folding, carrying (again) and stowing all takes energy. More than you know. Think, for a moment, of all the muscles you use doing laundry. Back. Leg. Arms. Chest. Shoulders. Hands. Seems silly, I know, but why not have clean clothes AND get fit at the same time?
  5. OK, going along with the above, picking up toys (and clothes) can really, really burn some calories, especially if you have more than one kiddo. I also have a husband with 6-feet of height on him and long jeans and pants. And sneakers. And shirts, socks, etc. (What is it about some guys that they just don’t like to pick up their clothes from the floor? 😉 ). And if you have a fiery son like I do, lol, you’re sure to fold those clothes mentioned above, store them in drawers, then have him toss them all out and throw/drag them all around. And of course, toys. Bending, lifting and storing toys can definitely build up fitness levels.

Continue reading Getting fit inside the home

Missing Austin

13654182_10154354125949596_4528041502056532867_nLast night Brent and I had a night out in honor of our wedding anniversary which had come and gone quickly earlier this month. My dad is in town visiting and he took care of little Austin and our pets for the evening and overnight. It was so nice to have some time of our own, and since we’ve been sleeping on an air mattress while Dad is here, it was even nicer to have a bed to sleep on!

This was the first time I left my baby for that long — and overnight — since he was born on June 29. One month to the day of his birth, and I could hardly stand it.

Anyhow, it wasn’t long after we left that I started missing my little baby. In fact, we had to circle our apartment complex twice to get to our destination and my heart broke a little each time we passed by. I wanted to go back to him, to snuggle him and see his sweet little “old man” face. But we drove on…

Once we got settled into our room (which was at a hotel 10 minutes from home, just in case an emergency came up), I texted my dad to check in on Little Man. All was well, and we should enjoy ourselves, Dad replied. So we went out to eat and walked around the mall a bit. Our dinner conversation revolved around — guess who — our little champ, mostly due to my peppering Brent with questions like, “What thing does he do that you love the most?”

Back at our room, Brent and I scrolled through photos and videos on our phones … all of Austin, of  course. I texted Dad a bunch and even called to check in on all 4 of them. All was well, and we should try to sleep well, Dad said.

Still, I missed the little booger more than I realized I would. I thought the promise of a good night’s sleep and a little “mom and dad” time would hold me over until I once again saw his little baby face. I was wrong. I absolutely love spending time with my husband, but next time we’ll take Austie with us. It might be another year before I can bear to be away from him again. 😉

After a C-section: What to know

13592283_10154335268254596_2359390357578475755_nJust over two weeks ago I had my baby boy by c-section. It was planned, but wasn’t the first preference. My boy was breech and due to gestational diabetes, my doctors thought he was going to be far larger than he was. So, we opted for surgery, and for the most part, everything went well.

What I was surprised about is how unprepared I was for the week following the birth. I had stocked up on all the things I thought we’d need for a new baby, but somehow I felt so lost when I came home. I had my dear sister here (she had a c-section 16 years ago), and she was the glue that held us all together. So I’m super thankful for that. But here are a few ideas of things I wish I’d known ahead of time:

  1. There is going to be pain — It may not be the worst pain you’ve ever had, but it will come. My pain was a pulling, almost tearing pain, mostly at the edges of my incision. My nurses told me that’s common, but it was hard to lie down, stand up, twist, turn and walk. It’s a good idea to take the pain meds they give you as long as they don’t make you sick.
  2. Stock up — on maxi pads, both for bleeding and to use to help soak up any drainage from the incision.
  3. You might have something called a PICO line left inside your incision. It’s basically a drain to make sure your incision heals well. There is a thin tube on the outside of your body connected to a small battery pack. You can tuck it into your hospital wrap, but it is irritating, especially when the battery gets accidentally turned off and it makes a highly annoying sound until you fix it. The drain should come out very soon after you leave the hospital.
  4. Showering can be challenging also. The drain needs to be sealed off so you don’t get water into it. I used a Ziploc baggie and tied it off with a hair tie. Make sure your towel is right by the shower and that you have something dry to step out onto so you don’t slip.
  5. Have someone come help take care of the baby. If possible, have a friend or family member stay with you to help with late night feedings and to be a moral support. C-section surgery is a major surgery, and it comes with all the same warnings to heed as other surgeries.

Gestational diabetes

I’ve started taking glyburide, an oral medicine that helps keep my blood sugar levels down. So far it seems to be working, as my morning numbers are low and within range. That’s the most important thing right now for me to focus on.

I don’t do well with anti-diabetic drugs. Metformin caused me to crash so badly that I ended up with blurred vision, dizziness, nausea and a relentless need for sleep. Glyburide seems to be having the same effect on me, causing a lot of nausea. I’ve puked about 5 times in the past two days.

To help stave off the pukes, I’m again taking promethazine early in the morning. I do feel better stomach-wise, but I’m so exhausted I can’t see straight. That’s one of the effects of promethazine that I experienced before. After several days that seemed to subside, but so did the positive effects of the drug.

Diabetes in general is a terrible, terrible disease. Having it while pregnant, with all the hormone surges, stomach unrest, acid reflux and exhaustion is nearly unfair. I’m no good around the house, and going out anywhere is just plain stupid. I sleep more than my dog and I still have so much to do before Austin gets here.

All of this will so be worth it when he arrives!

Being a North Texas mom

The weather is picking up today and we’re under a tornado watch here in Dallas. I don’t like living in tornado alley, not a bit. Especially in spring. Now that I’m pregnant, it’s extra scary to me because I have another life to protect along with mine, my husband’s, our dog’s and cat’s lives. We have a small closet in the baby’s room, and that’s where I plan to hunker down if the sirens start to blow.

Days like this take all my energy and toss it to the wind, so to speak. I have had the Weather Channel on for the past couple hours and I’m probably thinking about it too much. The sky outside is filled with white, fluffy clouds and blue, but it’s 84 degrees and the humidity is high. Usually, when storms are about to hit, the sky here turns a strange color — a grayish green that is probably more frightening than any other part of the impending conditions.

Although tornadoes happen all year round here, the springtime and fall seem to be the nastiest seasons. Spring brings rain (sometimes), and wild thunderstorms. I’ve seen blue, yellow, pink and purple lightening, been directly below thunderclaps (which caused me to drive off the road) and seen hail the size of softballs. The next moment, it could all be gone. Sun gives way to storms, and vice versa. There is no way to predict for sure, and that scares me.

Last spring we awoke to our phones screaming at us about a tornado threat. I heard sirens … this Yankee knows her tornado sirens … and realized the outdoor siren up the street from us was blaring its warning. I headed for the closet; my husband headed for the TV (He’s from Texas so he doesn’t freak out) and put on the news. They said we had a tornado on the ground near us in Irving. I was freaking out and telling him to get into the closet with me and the pets. He was cool as a cucumber and even as we found out that it was about a mile from us, he was ready to head back to bed.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep a wink that night.

Up Close
Up Close

Little things — thankful

We are a little bit further down the road now, at 23 weeks tomorrow. That’s the official week that babies are viable outside of the womb. Whew, what a relief to have gotten this far! Thank you Lord, for keeping our precious Austin safe.

When you’re a high-risk pregnancy, you tend to take note of every little glory that comes along. HCG levels doubled? Exhale. First sonogram heartbeat? Perfect. Out of the precarious first trimester? Thank God. Every time we go to the doctor, I panic a little bit prior to the visit, worried that we won’t hear a heartbeat. I guess that’s the human part of me that worries over everything.

Richly, God has blessed us with a healthy heartbeat each time we see or hear our little love. He’s getting pretty busy now too, kicking and (I imagine) flipping inside my belly when I settle down to sleep. I love those moments — when I get to feel my son playing happily as he grows — and can’t wait ’til they come more often.

At this point, I’m ready for him to be here. Sometimes, it’s like I can feel him in my arms. I can’t wait to feed him, care for him, love him, snuggle him, sing to him, dance with him, take him everywhere to explore life and get to know his perfect little personality. He is truly already a great baby.

We go back to see the doctor in 1.5 weeks, when I will have my glucose test for gestational diabetes. The illness runs in my family, so it’s very important to me to make sure all is well in the sugar department. Though the sweet little one inside of me might be all I need to up my A1C 😉

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