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The Chaos Mini-Series

Welcome to my chaotic life of FIVE small children and a traveling husband! This blog is actually a "work in progress" and serves as a loose outline for a humorous non-fiction book I strive to publish by the end of this calendar year. Each entry builds upon the one just prior to it so it is best to begin with Part I. This story begins just four short years ago when a tsunami of unfortunate, tragic and hectic events brutally pounded us one right after another. As my family and I endured and eventually overcame each wave of misfortune, we kept our heads (barely) above water and held high, eyes wide open and hearts on "stand by" as we witnessed new opportunities and blessings emerge from the CHAOS...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Good-bye dogs, another chapter is over

So here we are, 3 weeks away from the birth of our fifth and FINAL child and we are moving again! Thanks to my colloquial Spanish, psychological insights, (and monetary enticements,) I was able to convince my domestic goddesses to stay and help us right on through the programmed move. Our daily routine consisted of spending a few hours every afternoon driving around town with realtors looking for the “perfect apartment” for a family that HATES apartment living. Sound difficult?

Because of the anticipated apartment situation, we had to put ads in the local newspaper announcing that we were looking for a good home for our “boys”- dogs. My husband was heart-broken each time he glanced in their direction knowing that at any moment they would cease to be part of our family. These dogs were his life and he was tormented by guilt feeling he was abandoning them. But there was no alternative. Two active 80-pound dogs that are used to running and chasing squirrels and iguanas all day, are not going to be too thrilled cooped up indoors laying around on a marble floor.

Nonetheless, the first parental prospect for our canine was this big-boobed free-agent model chick who came to the house to specifically “meet” one of the dogs, our gorgeous vivacious full bred white American Labrador Retriever named Izu. She fell in love with him immediately and because he´s easily won over by anyone with food, we knew that he wouldn´t suffer too much separation anxiety provided she had a stocked fridge.

The other dog, our beloved Moishe, the one we had originally rescued from a drug-addict infested condemned beach shack in Costa Rica, was already up there in years and would not be such an easy sell.

Moishe was not royalty. He did not have any papers nor an authenticity chip demonstrating his pedigree like Izu. He was a mutt. He also had a very unusual condition in that his testicles never descended and one knife-happy vet concluded that he was a hermaphrodite. We never bought into that theory for Moishe acted braver and nobler than the biggest-balled Pit Bull we ever knew.

And he was the most loyal, humble, appreciative and wise animal we ever knew. He carried himself like a full breed and was careful not to bite anyone´s fingers off when they slipped him some expensive cuts of steak under the table- unlike his expensive white “brother” who gulped anything and everything down like a ferocious savage.

Izu, the "fancy one," had a personality disorder. He could not get along with another dog. In fact, the mere sight of another dog, even in print enraged him so. As a result, we spent a great deal of money over the years paying neighbors´ veterinary bills thanks to Izu´s lack of social skills.

In hindsight, the dynamic between the two dogs probably gave way to Izu´s anxiety disorder. Moishe was a barker- he would bark endlessly at a mosquito if we allowed it. He was addicted to barking and we never understood why he never contracted laryngitis. Izu would react to Moishe´s barking instigations and go in for the kill. As a result, Moishe would come out "clean and innocent" while Izu would end up with every species of insect, rodent, amphibian and bird in his non-discriminating, taste-buds lacking orifice.

Moishe was able to tolerate and further manipulate him because Moishe was already with us when we acquired Izu as a 3-pound puppy. And due to Moishe´s innate street-smarts, survival skills and maturity beyond what is normal for a dog, he learned how to ignore much of Izu´s offenses and eventually re-direct them for his own personal advantage.

Apparently, we spent much time over the years musing about the interactions between the two. We laughed ceaselessly as we mimicked them with our "doggie-voices" as if we knew exactly what they were thinking. And we were usually right most of the time. We studied and analyzed them like two geeks in a psych lab and read their minds the way a parent instinctively knows her own flesh and blood child.

But now it was time to say goodbye.

This chapter was over and I feared for my husband´s fragile state of mind. He had become way too attached over the years and without much mental preparation, his (original) boys were soon to be taken from him...

To be continued…

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Drama Queens are ready to abandon me-Bracing again for change

Those nights following the break-in were eternal and not only were my husband and I unable to sleep, but the three live-in domestic employees also found themselves awake with fear at all hours of the night. These terrified adults were plagued with panic attacks that had them re-enacting those harrowing minutes of the armed break-in robbery over and over again when they were supposed to be asleep.

As a result of all the dysfunctional sleep patterns, the mood in the house changed and I smelled a total walkout. I just know "my people" and I know that when things get tough, they (the nannies) split. Each one could easily compete with Hollywood’s top box office actors for an Oscar. These performing artists will stare you squarely in the eye while swearing on their mother’s life that they will return from their day off, and the instant they step outside the door, they vanish into thin air never to be heard from again. It is a fascinating mystery.

Nevertheless, I indulged in these histrionic women´s senseless banter replete with circular arguments based upon hypothetical scenarios. The good thing is that by paying my dues listening to their theatrical monologues, I had convinced each one of my drama queens to stay until the next quincena, or pay period. I also alluded to a “bonus” for doing so, which in plain terms was no less than a flat out bribe designed to entice them into not abandoning me just yet.

I played along and allowed them to perform for me. (Knowing what I know now that I didn’t know then about American culture, in all my years in Panama, I could have produced a contest show entitled, “So You Want to Be a Soap Star.”) Upon telling them that I believed their sincerity, I´d spend most of my days secretly interviewing back-up nannies in my “office” down the street located in the bakery section of a local cafeteria.

As if this were not enough to deal with 26 days till delivery, we also began talking about moving again and finding alternate homes for our two dogs we had been raising for seven years. After eight years of fighting the conventional system which dictates that most of the level-headed people in society live in high rises, we were finally ready to give up our sprawling home spread out across almost an acre of land, and move into a “building.” Security was the new priority. We really had no other options at that time.

Once again, we were “on the move” and hustling to make “last minute” major life decisions…

To be continued…

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The System Fails Us...Part XXII

Yes, we were indeed still living in a backwards, corrupt, disorganized country run by under qualified self interested illiterates with a legal system as archaic and irrelevant as a horse and carriage on modern day I-95!

My girl was a smart and savvy cookie and despite her broken Spanish which consisted of a vocabulary of no more than fifty words, her impressive depth of knowledge of the laws protecting her rights as a minor would rival that of any lawyer. The lawmakers in all their infinite wisdom (and under-the-table bribe-taking) had decided in your typical communist, (overprotect the poor, mistreated, overburdened worker) fashion that not even a full confession could put a guilty under-aged felon in prison.

Despite her complete admission to the crime and subsequent submission of the accomplices´ names, phone numbers, addresses and details about the actual crime planning, the nanny swaggered out of the police station with a coke and a smile- a free bird.

She was just a few months shy of eighteen and was well aware that her government believed in "rehabilitation" for people like her. Shrewdly, she took advantage of the timing so that her age, domestic employment and imprisoned boyfriend all coincided perfectly to hence, create the "perfect crime."

I tried earnestly and in vain to challenge the system and even turned over all the evidence I had found in my own home including phone records of the calls this academic made from my personal home land line. At the very least, I wanted somebody held responsible for this fright that would wreak havoc in several people’s lives for months to come. The actual armed robbers were well into their twenties and they were the ones that broke in and put the fear of God into everybody, not to mention the PTSD that would ensue disturbing many nights of peaceful sleep.

Yet, once again, this brilliant system failed to protect me, "the aristocrat" (as if I were nobility worth millions,) but victim no less. The righteous judges that heard the case had resolved to dismiss all of the information she had confided during her voluntary confession because of her “tender” age.

You got it! The leads that she provided were thrown out and the entire matter died, right along with my sense of justice. I was enraged and wanted blood and vowed to hunt her down and take the law into my own hands. After all, it had failed us miserably. To add insult to injury, the so-called statute stipulated that even if she had been fired based upon the proof of theft or child abuse, for example, I still had to pay her severance and liquidation.

This was too much for me to swallow and when her mother called me to "collect" her daughter’s remaining paycheck, I just about sent her to h-ll. I told her that when her delinquent kid returns my jewelry, (that she had previously confessed to the investigators was being strutted around town in by her sister,) I would pay her last salary owed. Once again, the "apple falls right next to the tree" and her mother, totally disinterested and unapologetic unabashedly reiterated her working daughter’s "rights" to her remaining fifty dollars. Knowing that this simple gesture could get my residency revoked, get me arrested or hunted down by her other scholarly acquaintances, I chose to slam down the phone and take my chances.

To be continued...

Monday, March 29, 2010

The nannie was the mastermind behind it all...Part XXI

My hunches told me that this young kid had more street smarts than she cared to admit. She was very cool and composed, indeed, while the others were genuinely traumatized and panic-stricken. Apparently, she had slept through the entire night after the crime had been committed, unlike the others who were too terrified to relax into sleep.

When we got home we were interrogated by police officers and investigators to determine how the intruders entered if there were no signs of forced entry. Upon further collaboration and listening to all versions of how it all transpired, we were growing suspicious.

She stated that when the doorbell rang, (which curiously nobody else seemed to have heard,) she opened the door to personally tell the visitors that we were not home. What? How ridiculous of a story is that? Even any kindergartner knows not to open the door to tell an outsider that mommy and daddy aren´t home; one simply talks through a closed door. Besides, this theatrical artist apparently made a quick phone call from my house phone just before the thieves had arrived and immediately thereafter.

The next day all the housekeepers plus our dear friend were summoned down to the police headquarters to give a statement. One at a time, they left for about three hour intervals. As one arrived, the other would depart; it was a relay race of sorts minus any contact between parties while each was giving their formal account of the robbery. We sought to prevent anyone´s path from crossing for fear of a collaborated conspiracy. We trusted no one and we had good reason.

I chose to send this young apprentice the following day first thing in the morning. I wanted her to leave immediately without breakfast or coffee, fresh out of bed. Trying to think like an interrogator myself, I reasoned that by mid-morning, this famished teenager would be singing like a canary just to alleviate her starvation and succumb to her caffeine craving. I also knew she had not a dime on her, so purchasing a quick snack for herself was out of the question. Hunger would be a powerful motivator, I assumed, based on my empirical knowledge gained from observing her eat like a savage in my own home for three months!

As soon as she left to go downtown, I entered her room and scoured through her personal things. Trying not to vomit from the filth in which this conniving, heartless scavenger lived, I stumbled upon a small notepad filled with personal information, diary-type entries, and lists of phone numbers. I nervously ripped out page after page and snuck back into my bedroom to read through it all.

By 11am that morning, I got a phone call from the head detective, a woman who also smelled a rat from the minute she had arrived at my house and had spoken with all witnesses. She told me the girl, stomach rumbling and miserably uncomfortable, confessed. I told her I would be coming down to the station that afternoon to show her some interesting information that would be instrumental to her conviction. She was delighted.

Everything I found would have been enough evidence to accuse her of being an accomplice to first degree armed robbery. I was appalled that this monster had volunteered to put my four precious and innocent children in harm´s way...

They had trusted her. They cuddled up with her while watching movies at night. She made beautiful braids in their hair. My eldest daughter had even entrusted her to help care for her pet turtle Rainbow, who curiously was found dead the morning after this paid employee supposedly just changed the murky tank water.

Things were started to come together. The muffled cell phone calls she received incessantly and the "quick errands" she always had to run spontaneously. I especially always noticed her gazing and surveying everything in the house, as though she were taking notes.

It was an open and closed case, I was certain. Except for one thing, the law was on her side despite the overwhelming mounting evidence and confession....we were STILL living in a third world country, HER COUNTRY...

To be continued...

When can I have my nervous breakdown already?...Part XX

We were completely helpless. We could not get off this island until the first "canoe taxi" arrived to pick us up at 8am. We laid awake the entire night imagining the horrific scene over and over again and reenacting it to figure out how it all went down.

I assume that our friend did not want to tell us too much. She actually called my husband directly and prepped him on what to tell me word for word for fear that I go into labor. Didn´t matter much. I read it on his face from the minute he answered the phone call.

Right after she told me that the children were unharmed and had remained deeply asleep, she confessed that the thieves had kicked in our bedroom door after breaking the lock and had taken every single piece of jewelry that I owned. This was indeed my entire stock. I took nothing but my simple wedding band to our rustic getaway and left all else openly exhibited and “there for the taking” right on top of my dresser in an unlocked glass case. Serve yourselves guys. My entire collection was purchased for me by my husband because ironically, I was wiped out clean ten years before while vacationing in Key West and a robber entered into my hotel room. Aren´t I just a magnet for good fortune? What are the odds that something like that really happens?

So much for material possessions. Spiritually, I had sensed a very strange vibration to the likes of an out of body experience as soon as the words left my friend´s mouth. I felt a gigantic wave of air in the form of an exhale leave my body, like a giant release and afterward felt much much lighter. I had instantly let go of all attachment to those sentimental objects so willingly and with such gratitude for the safety of my children. After hearing that they were okay, nothing else really mattered and my spirit lightened as I detached. I had actually understood at a cellular level Deepak Chopra´s Law of Detachment.

What really did hurt the most upon later realizations though, were the captured family memories they stole by swiping our cameras, video cameras and laptops. This was painful beyond measure.

Needless to say that this was one of the longest most grueling sleepless nights of our lives and here I was again, very pregnant and not able to just throw myself onto the floor in reckless abandon. I wanted to have my nervous breakdown already and it was never the right time!

The next morning we were off at the crack of dawn waiting with heavy hearts for the native canoe captain to pick us up. Our faces said it all and actually evoked great sadness from those same people that saw us just one day before glowing with contentment. Without uttering a word, everyone knew that something devastating had occurred. And not one of the hotel employees dared to ask what it was.

We began our journey home and the irony was that we had to drive extra, extra slowly as the potholes had been converted into muddy puddles after a tropical rainstorm. Being eight months pregnant and already with contractions, we couldn´t risk me going into premature labor at this point. We had enough on our plate.

Once we arrived to the house, we were received by a terrified staff of domestic help, a friend who was clearly in shock and a bunch of law officers, insurance adjusters and various people. Miraculously, the nannies had managed to get all four kids dressed and out the door for school. They had distracted them to the point that not one child had noticed my beaten down bedroom door nor the muddy boot footprints and filthy hand prints all over the house. Kudos to these ladies who spent the entire night awake in sheer fright, experiencing physical pain from being thrown down, gagged, and with their hands tied tightly behind their backs. How they were able to feed the children breakfast and send them off to school was worthy of an Academy award.

After spending some time at home talking with everybody involved, something did not feel right. One of the housekeepers, a young girl of 16 years, who had just started with us two months before, seemed very calm and way too composed in comparison with the mental status of the others. These ladies were all ready to not only quit the job on the spot, but required serious PTSD therapy; they were traumatized. As we learned about how the robbers entered freely without a forced entry as the house alarm had not yet been activated by that time of night….it started to smell like an inside job. If this were the case, talk about “sleeping with the enemy" under your own roof, feeding and clothing them, and paying them to care for your most precious assets, your children. The thought of this made me sick to my stomach.

To be continued...

Celebrating Anniversary Number Eight- a romantic escape...Part XIX

Yes, my womb had a new tenant and this pregnancy, as all others before it, advanced just as “ordinary” as its forerunners; accompanied by the usual -nausea, wretched vomiting, dizziness and bipolar-like mood swings. I really didn´t remember what “normal” felt like anymore and had developed my own peculiar barometer for measuring discomfort.

During the first trimester, I sought to maintain my strict workout schedule, but it became more difficult as my body expanded in all directions. I tried to continue training my “client princesses,” but because they demanded so much attention which sometimes also included performing the actual exercises for them, I had to wind the business down as well.

My children were excited to have another baby to play with and my husband had just realized his dream of starting his own company. He had held onto his vision for many years. Just recently he had prepared the business plan and finally put together a team of investors and now his office was open. He was ecstatic. We were radiating happiness; finally, after so much heartache.

Through it all and despite the circumstances, we always tried to stay optimistic, at least for the sake of the children. There were no “pity parties” at my house. Our kids were generally unaware of our slew of misfortunes. Being so little and impressionable we tried to avoid as much as possible that they should absorb any of our burdens. In fact, to this day, they have no idea about most of the incidents that transpired. Why mention it now? I guess they will just have to wait for the book to come out to first learn about it all!

The months flew by and just five weeks prior to the baby´s delivery, we planned an overnight romantic escapade to a remote island off the Caribbean coast. We were celebrating our eight year anniversary which seemed so totally ridiculous considering that we had experienced so much together that it felt as though we were already married fifty years.

The logistics involved in the planning of one night away were astounding. We managed to cover it all; we had three nannies watching over the children, a gardener in charge of the dogs and overall security of the house and a very dear friend spending the night to oversee this small battalion. All doctors and veterinarians were notified of our departure (as if it were for a month,) and to receive any phone call from our loyal comrade, Madam Supervisor.

One morning as soon as we saw the children off to school, we were history. We arrived after a four hour car ride over dirt roads full of giant potholes and stones the size of baseballs. Once we got to the "ferry"- which was actually a small canoe, we were paddled across a gorgeous bay to a private island about thirty minutes from the mainland. On the island were only two hotels, ours and an old dilapidated abandoned edifice.

After we checked into our room, we rapidly changed into our adventure gear and did some hiking around the island. Upon returning to the property all sweaty and bruised up, we indulged in a refreshing swim and with the hunger of a pack of wolves, were now ready to feast. We were savouring our scrumptious tropical lunch accompanied by the proverbial piña colada and admiring the exotic birds flying freely about this boutique hotel property. The day was breathtaking and we absorbed the tranquillity of the ambiance right through to our veins. We wanted to capture this feeling forever and have it become part of our very being.

With such a positive outlook (minimally assisted by a few strong tropical beverages,)we conversed about gearing up for another round of parenthood; diapers, nighttime feedings, the whole deal. This time it would be virtually undetectable, we agreed, that an additional child was about to arrive. I mean, once you run out of hands and lap-space to hold them, it´s really all the same.

Once back inside the hotel room, we dozed on and off, tired from all the relaxing. We looked out our hotel room window and witnessed a magnificent sunset and toasted to our eight years of happy matrimony. We went through each anniversary one by one reminiscing about how we celebrated each year and remembering what we ate, what gifts we exchanged and how many children were born or about to be born at that given time.

I don´t remember at what time we fell asleep, but I do recall receiving the horrifying phone call at 11:37pm. Our closest friend, the sister of the woman who was house-sitting told us something unconscionable. There had been a break in robbery and all the adults in our house had been tied up and gagged at gunpoint. Without catching her breath, she immediately told us that by a miracle of God, the children were not touched and had in fact slept through the entire incident….

To be continued…

Me and my dear old friend, together again in the OR...Part XVIII

I get to the hospital and once admitted they perform an ultrasound to see what the heck is happening. Well, lo and behold, I was pregnant and now miscarrying. This was so odd because I was on birth control. I mean after giving birth to four children in five years, with the last one being born just three months after brain surgery, do you really think I was “trying to get pregnant?” Plus, I was strutting my new and improved Linda Hamilton physique- remember those arms in the Terminator? I wasn’t ready to give THAT up!

For me not to notice that I was pregnant is in itself an unheard of phenomenon. Usually I am so overcome with nausea and dizziness during the first trimester that I am completely inoperable and useless to others. In fact, during one of my pregnancies, I remember feeling so ill that even certain types of sounds provoked a full blown vomit attack. Unfortunately one of those noises was the sound of my own husband’s voice. I told him that he had to begin whispering during our constant bantering if he wanted to stay together in marriage. He obliged. Now that is true love!

Back to my story. When I saw my doctor, we began reflecting about my whereabouts, overall health and nutrition, contraceptive practices, (I have been known to forget a pill or two and then while panicking, double or triple up as soon as I remember.) We came to the realization that most probably while vacationing in Mexico on a post-surgery “romantic trip” where I ended up violently ill- from the one time I forgot about the ICE in my bottled water drink- the attending ER doctor had prescribed me heavy duty anti-parasite meds. I had been instructed to take them for about a month to basically destroy anything and everything inside my body.

Don´t start rolling your eyes upon reading the following as it is not just a worn out cliché, but I really do strive to see the positive in everything. This time I just reasoned that if I had screwed myself up so badly from this internal fumigation, it was better that this was happening NOW and not later. Nothing inside of me could have withstood such a brutal assault. And had something indeed survived this “cleansing,” it certainly would have emerged unhealthy.

Nevertheless, I came to terms with this rationale and accepted my ideologies about the current circumstance and once again, was escorted into the OR. I was relaxed and enjoying the laughing gas and sleep…. My doctor and his staff performed the standard procedure to detoxify my battered organs. When I awoke shortly thereafter in the recovery room, I began chatting with the nurses, trying to impress them by bragging about my past two surgeries. "This was nothing," I exclaimed arrogantly, "Thanks to a dear old friend, anesthesia."

During the week of the obligatory bed rest period- no pun intended- Father’s Day arrived. After a beautiful day full of homemade gifts, zany songs and quirky videotaping, my husband began to philosophize about how everything in life is a sign, a message in disguise... you’ve heard it all before. “I think that everything that just transpired was a message from God, Mi Amor, that we are not quite finished bearing children.” Being the good wife that I am, I bought into his hypothesis “hook, line and sinker” and two months later my womb had a new boarder, Baby Number 5.

My Client´s Exercise Routine was Interrupted...Part XVII

Most of the people that knew of me and my series of misfortunes were very supportive and upon seeing my uncommon reaction to such turmoil, just chalked it up to being a "crazy gringa," (American chick.) That was okay by me; I earned my reputation and was always pleased to be classified as a “non-conformist” anyway, even when it came to dealing with pandemonium.

One morning I was in my gym about to begin a training session with my most delicate client and to get through an hour with her, I had to be 150% focused on doing everything to prevent her from experiencing the most minimal physical discomfort. If I were to fail to make it completely painless, at the first opportunity, she would have an excuse to forfeit the entire exercise session. In order to motivate her as well as distract her throughout the hour, I had to perform carnival tricks like a magician and carry on nonstop conversation. So with this in mind, it makes sense that I did not realize what was happening at that very moment to my body.

I felt something “down below” and immediately thought, “Oh great, perfect time for my monthly visitor to come. Maybe if I sit down for a minute it will go away and come back after I finish with this client.” But no, that was not what destiny had in store for me. Nature was not only calling, but pounding on the door like an angry landlord ready to evict his tenants.

“Excuse me just a moment; I have to use the restroom. Be back in a sec.” I told her as I left her mid-set of bicep curls. I hadn’t given her any further instruction because I knew I would return immediately. I tried to rush as she was extremely dependent upon on my coaching and guidance. So here I was in my bathroom and within seconds I was hemorrhaging and thinking, “I better get this under control quickly before she finishes with both arms and gets back on her cell phone.” If I weren’t policing her, she would sneakily do anything to avoid exercise.

Well, I couldn’t quite manage the situation so easily so I proceeded to jump into the shower and suddenly I found myself ankle-deep and it was “flowing like the Nile.” At this point I started to get a little flustered and my very first thought was, “Oh no, I left her all alone, I hope she doesn’t injure herself, how do I tell her to stop?” My second thought was, “Of course, she will stop. She’ll probably just sit down and start making phone calls to chat with all her friends. Oh no, then her heart rate will go way down, she´ll lose her groove and then…” My third thought was, “So, what is going on; my intestines or some other internal organ is disintegrating and pouring out of me.”

Luckily, I caught my husband just in time as he was heading out the bedroom door on his way to work. “Mi Amor, could you please come here for a second and see this,” I asked him in a slightly nervous yet non-alarming tone. When he arrived to see me standing there, he started to lose his composure. We put our heads together and became total idiots and were not able to figure out how to turn off the shower faucet- essentially this would have been the first step in moving toward a solution to this problem. Once we reckoned how to do it, what seemed like minutes later, I finally pulled my largest maternity pants over my wobbly legs which by now were wrapped in the equivalent of 25 Depends, (Adult Diapers) and we headed toward the front door.

Casually and with a half grin, I waved to my client and excused myself. “I am so sorry but I gotta go, I am hemorrhaging and am going to the ER but will be back in a “few.” I tried to blow it off and apologized for not being able to finish our appointment- I hated not sticking to the schedule, what an annoying disruption! I continued to shout out orders as my husband and gardener carried me like a sack of potatoes into the car. They settled me down into a total reclining position. “Just stick around, finish the set, do another 15 repetitions of shoulder presses and then walk for 20 minutes on the treadmill at 3.5 mph. Don’t let this little ordeal interrupt your routine,” I insisted.

She looked at me as if I had two heads and was legally psychotic. Then she began firing the questions- “What is happening to you? Who should I call? What should I say? What can I do for you and the children? Do you need me to go with you? Oh my God, what is it now?” And then she said, “You little devil, you must be pregnant again!”

I had no idea. I was on the birth control pill so I certainly was not pregnant. I had recently been admitted to the hospital on our recent travels to Mexico City for parasites; maybe the critters were reproducing. It did seem unusually “heavy” for a menstruation, so what could it be? Whatever it was, I had already been trained to stay calm...

Becoming a Warrior and Basking in my PTSD...Part XVI

Enough with the deafness already. I assume I have already convinced everyone of its perks so let’s move onto another chapter of this drama.

After giving birth to the baby and waiting the mandated six weeks quarantine period, I gradually began swimming and walking. My balance was still that of a sloppy drunken sailor and I needed to help my brain with all the re-wiring. My face was still quite asymmetrical and my left eye would become so irritated that I would frequently need to patch it thus, resembling a pirate. Walking around, driving and trying to exercise with one eye completely covered was quite a challenging feat. I do not recommend it.

I had become a warrior and this time an angry one! Now that I was supposedly coming out of this delicate stage vis-à-vis my brain surgery and c-section, I was going to extremes to prove that I was the same bad-ass woman as before. I worked very hard to recover my equilibrium by way of yoga, stretching, swimming, strength training, cycling, walking and running. I was obsessed and would not listen to reason about when enough was enough. I ignored all sound advice about my target heart-rate and all practical wisdom any normal pragmatic human being would take into consideration after having been through 2 operations and a family tragedy within a time span of a few months. I chose to disregard it all.

It was so good to be freeing myself from my sickly and fragile body. I was so determined to regain control over those areas that were still within my control; namely my fitness, emotional well-being and intellectual pursuits. The recuperation of my facial symmetry and hearing were classified as “out of my control” so I made little effort to improve either and decided to just let time take its course.

I had become so focused on obtaining the most optimal level of health and fitness because I wanted to prove to my family and myself that I was strong and capable of running a household again. It was payback time for my husband who had so gracefully assumed more than his fair share of responsibilities for so many months without ever uttering a word of complaint. I wanted to take a little pressure off of him. I turned a room of my house into a gym and actually started a personal training business. Had I fallen off the deep end?

Soon enough, I had clients coming at different hours for private classes ranging from swimming, circuit training and strength training beginning at 6am! They affectionately nicknamed me, “My General” and I was all business. Admittedly, I loved ordering them around and pushing them to their limits.

Things were going well and I had an abundance of energy. Enough to light up an entire city. As I would venture out into the community, people would greet me for the first time with an expression of shock mainly because they had (privately) never expected me or the baby to survive the surgery, and secondly because hadn’t I also just lost my brother? Why wasn’t I all curled up in bed sobbing while watching soap operas and trashy talk shows and shoving anti-depressants down my throat? Was I wrong for forging ahead with my life? Was it wrong to neglect the negativity for a while?

In this small town in which we lived, gossip ran rampant and everyone knew everyone else’s business. I had spent years trying to “fit in” and be accepted by this exclusive private club of self-important people who had nothing more “important” about them than a large bank account. But quite frankly, I was now miraculously liberated. I had finally earned my right to not give a shit what anybody thought of me. I had been in death’s grip just a few months ago and I escaped. So if I wanted to walk around like a war veteran suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder,) it was my right. I was a survivor and I was proud of it!

A Glimpse Into One of My Survival Techniques...Part XV

Now that the cat is out of the bag, let me publicly express my most sincere gratitude to my husband who has learned “on the job” how to assist me. I adore you, Mi Amor and appreciate the way you take care of me. A good example of this occurs in social gatherings. He will pre-emptively notify everyone, (who wants to talk with me or not,) that they need to speak louder as he observes a familiar scenario; they speak and I do not respond. At this point, he will intervene on my behalf and proclaim (as if I were a 90 year old woman suffering from dementia in addition to the hearing loss,) “she didn’t hear what you just said; she’s deaf on that side!” Thanks so much, My Love, why don’t you just air it on the evening news?

Remember that I do read lips and most of the time for purposes of a “happy home” will allow him to intercede on my behalf and play the “protective husband.” But this “deficit” enables me to phase in and out of conversations at will. It is not a great habit, I admit, and some would consider it outright rude, but at times the amount of work involved with trying to follow several conversations amongst various speakers is simply overwhelming. I reason that I’ll just “get the scoop” later at home. It’ll make for great bedroom conversation and I’ll get the play by play with the live commentary.

So, yes, I have transformed into my dear grandmother, (may her soul rest in peace,) merely smiling adoringly, nodding and even winking. Or, depending on the tone and gesturing I observe, I will frown and shake my head from side to side accordingly, thus demonstrating empathy without having to pay attention to all the dreary details.

Disclaimer: This methodology does not apply to close family members or friends. If I couldn’t comprehend, all gracefulness aside, I would just say, “What the HECK are you talking about? Slow down…speak up… come here and let me read your lips and repeat yourself again!” Come to my home and you’ll hear me shout out into oblivion countless times a day, “I CANNOT HEAR! COME HERE AND JUST TALK TO ME!”

As you see, I have invited you into my inner world; a glimpse into one of the many survival tactics I employ to get by. It is the path of least resistance and sometimes not even this feisty soldier has the energy to stand up for herself.

The Truth Be Told- Along with One-Sided Deafness Comes a Few Perks...Part XIV

Any kind of social engagement that includes more than a “party of one” leaves my head spinning. The reason is because with one-sided deafness not only are you unable to localize sound, but sound lacks dimension as well. What this means is that the words spoken by a couple privately conversing at the next table are perceived to be just as loud as the person speaking right next to you. The competing noises actually drown out one another and if you were to close your eyes, it would be utterly impossible to detect which is the sound closest in proximity.

This could also be interpreted as a "gift" as well because I end up unwittingly eaves-dropping on other people’s conversations. It is not my intention and I would much rather focus on the person to whom I want to listen, but since it all sounds so up close and personal, I have no option! Perhaps I have a future career in detective work.

The best is when my children all talk to me at once. I end up gesturing to them like a New York City deli butcher on an early Friday afternoon trying to put some order to the lunchtime blitz. “You, first; one second, hey wait; no wait until you are called.” With my finger pointed, I proceed to direct, “Go ahead, you’re up, talk fast because he is waiting….quiet; wait your turn; no; you are already finished, next!” Its fun, kind of like being a traffic cop signalling everybody and attempting to run the entire show with a few basic hand motions.

Truth be told that when they do bombard me all at once, all sounds blend together and I understand nothing. I just have to tune out or I’ll bring a migraine upon myself straining so hard to decipher words from the jumbled onslaught of noise. Of course they don´t (want to) get it and continue hammering away as my eyes begin to glaze over.

There are some benefits to this “condition” however, and the first one being that I can sleep on my good ear and drown out all nighttime activity in my home. This could be dangerous when my husband is travelling as I can sleep right through a full blown nightmare crying episode. For the record, just in case you are a Department of Children and Families employee, when my spouse is away, I do sleep on the dead ear in an effort to be a "responsible mother who willingly surrenders all her peaceful slumber for the well-being of her children."

Another bonus is that when I am on the phone and because my hearing ear is completely covered physically, I could sit smack dab in the middle of my kitchen during the “witching hour” and continue to chat along unaware of all pestering background noises. Good for me, bad for the listener who is tormented by the obnoxious surrounding clatter. This aforementioned “asset” is also potentially dangerous as my burglar or smoke alarm could go off and there I sit, continuing to gossip away, oblivious to all external chaos.

Another advantage to one-sided deafness is that when I simply have no more desire to hear somebody, I shift my body to put them on my left side. When seated with other folk at large tables for family gatherings or other social engagements, whoever is on my left, will inevitably and inadvertently get ignored. If I really do want to talk with that person, I have to make a tremendous effort by turning my head 180 degrees thereby resembling a move out of the movie, The Exorcist.

I do admit for the first time ever, that at times I exploit this “benefit” and outright snub someone if I have no interest in what they are discussing. Afterward, if they appear perturbed, I automatically apologize and claim that I am unable to understand due to my “deficit,” and 10 times out of 10, they buy it and don’t take it personally! In fact, they end up feeling sorry for me. Could you imagine after all that I have confessed somebody feeling pity for my “situation?” Being handicapped sometimes has its perks...

Coping with the Hurdles of One-Sided Deafness...Part XIII

Miracle baby had arrived and although I wanted to name him for my late brother, my religion mandates that when even a good soul passes due to suicide, such as it was in my brother’s case, it takes a solid year for that soul to come to rest and ascend to heaven. Additionally, it is believed that it could be a dangerous proposition and bring bad fortune to a new life granted the same name. Made sense to my husband and I and we opted to go with this prevailing belief on this one.

The child was born completely healthy and normal despite the OB-GYN´s hypothesis that he may be born with withdrawal symptoms due to his long exposure to anesthesia. Ha! This kid could outrun a champion thoroughbred and is so keen that he is the first to notice something as small as a new mug I purchased that day at the store!

At this leg of the journey, acclimating to the one-sided deafness was my main focus. The hearing ear became so super-sensitive that I could pick up tones to which only a dog could respond. Essentially, this ear was working overtime to compensate for its partner’s loss. I detected sounds that were not meant for human ears. Species of animals that came alive at dusk echoed inside my own bedroom.

At times the good ear would create phantom sounds and I would spend the entire day and night for example, insisting that one of my children was somewhere crying. This sound would reverberate inside my head and although everyone was sound asleep or we were out at night and kid-free, I still heard them crying! It also happened with car alarms, cell phones ringing, and door bells. I just heard these noises randomly all day long, like some worn out recorder.

Another obstacle about one-sided deafness is that you lose your entire ability to localize sound. What this basically means is that you can hear almost everything, yet have no idea from which direction it comes. I will give you a few examples of what this actually means.

If you are walking along side the street and a car honks at you or a person on their bicycle sneaks up behind you, you are completely defenseless and unable to react in time. There have been countless times that I had people standing inches from me on my deaf side striking up a conversation, and I would be completely unaware of their presence until tapped on the shoulder. (At this point, I would jump out of fright because I never knew for how long they had been there.) It leaves you feeling very vulnerable.

The comical part about all of this is that from an outsider’s point of view, it is like watching a Mr. Magoo cartoon with me starring as the slightly blind buffoon running all around in the wrong direction. All day long I hear, “Mommy, come, mommy, help, mommy, s/he´s hitting/biting/punching/bothering/hurting/killing me!” Most of the time, out of experience, I just nonchalantly shout out orders from wherever I am refusing to move.

On the rare occasion that it is something of importance, I have developed the useless habit of running like a crazed maniac in the polar opposite direction of where I need to be each and every time. I train my family to always identify their location by speaking clearly and making eye contact if within range. (I oftentimes need to read their lips.) Come to my house and you will think you are witnessing a military recon mission or surveillance drill where everybody is constantly updating one another via two way radio on their geographical positions. “Mommy, I am by the door, the front door, standing near your bedroom on the northeast corner…”

The most hilarious scene that takes place inside my home begins once my cell phone rings. I am notorious for losing the phone several times a day or just forgetting where I last set it down. When this happens it may as well be in another city because the chances of me finding it ALONE are slim to none. This is where the inability to localize sound is where one could really take advantage of me. When I hear it ring, and it is within reach, even in my own pocket, if I cannot see, I will NEVER find it… Any solutions???

Seeing the Light, The Hidden Miracle Masked Behind a Brain Tumor...Part XII

I was able to hold it together during the dreaded week of despair and grieving in Miami. Seeing everyone and them seeing me having survived post-surgery, brought a lot of strange, mixed emotions to the fore. People were simultaneously giving me their condolences and congratulating me on basically keeping myself and my unborn son alive. It was all very surreal. I did not know which emotion to express or how to respond.

In my traditional bravado, I fought with my husband to support me in my desire to give a eulogy to honor my brother. I was his big sister and I felt it was the least I could do. I was unable to assuage his inner turmoil and because I had been residing in another country toward the end of his life, I felt somewhat responsible for not intervening. Nonetheless, a week later, the whirlwind was over and we were back home.

Now the mood was different and while mourning, I was making plans for the upcoming birth of our new baby. I felt indifferent and somewhat reluctant as I began decorating the room, reassembling the same crib since kid number one, and even visiting my OB-GYN. I was just going through the motions as my world had just shattered just a few weeks before. I was in no state of mind to go from tragedy to celebration so abruptly. (Here is where a little Lithium would have come in handy!)

Living in another country helped me to emotionally detach from the sorrow back "home" and enabled me to focus a little on my life. At night, though, thoughts of guilt and desperation would haunt me and sleeping soundly became an unachievable goal. I tried to stay as busy as possible without putting my still fragile health in jeopardy. I began swimming in an effort to regain some balance and equilibrium. I found the calm waters and silence of the pool soothing. It had been so long since I was able to do anything physical and with each stroke, I found solace.

I started working with a therapist to stimulate my awakening facial nerves and bring some symmetry back to my face. (Three and a half years later and my face is still quite evidently asymmetrical.) Getting used to the one-sided deafness was probably the biggest challenge of all and still is to this very day.

When you put all the pieces together and understand the circumstances from a big picture perspective, it is obvious that several miracles happened. Follow the logic; I had a mandatory Cesarean birth due to the soft tissue in my head as the neurosurgeon did not want me to strain myself at all with any intracranial pressure.

However, being the defiant contrarian that I am, had insisted with the doctor that being my fourth child, a c-section was not necessary. (I had previously had three quick and easy natural deliveries and was certain, I told him that this one was ¨going to drop out of me while standing in line at the supermarket.¨) He was strong in his conviction and told me that under no condition would he allow a vaginal birth. Finally 2 days before my programmed appointment, I backed off and stopped nagging him.

It is a good thing that this doctor was so strong with me because upon beginning the c-section, it was discovered that my son had a double knot in the umbilical cord. No, it was not wrapped around his neck which traditionally happens on occasion, but imagine a hose with two knots not allowing the water to flow through. What this meant was that had he been born vaginally, the cord would have stretched to its full length capacity and as the knots tightened, the airflow would have been restricted to such a point that he would have certainly asphyxiated. This condition had not been visible via ultrasound for if you can visualize a hose all coiled up, it is nearly impossible to detect such a thing.

Essentially my brain tumor saved my and my baby´s life. Having been pregnant exacerbated my symptoms which brought me to a proper diagnosis in time. I was forced to deliver via c-section which subsequently enabled my son to be born alive. So, you see, we both saved each other’s lives at various points of our relationship prior to his miraculous arrival into this world……What do you think about that?

Fight´s Not Over Yet Girl, Gotta Go Another Round...Part XI

My husband was at work and about an hour away from leaving to come home. I was alone with the children and starting to wind them down to get ready for bed. I was in total bliss to finally be at home in my own surroundings and was indifferent to the workload that caring for the house and children entailed. I was ecstatic to be a family again. Things were going to get better now. The tough times were behind us.

At that moment my romantic thoughts were interrupted. The phone rings and it is my cousin calling me from the US. I instantly greet him gregariously as I was feeling on top of the world for having survived the ¨worst of the worst.¨ He barely greets me and says in a shaky and strange voice that he is going to now pass me to my aunt. She gets on the phone and asks me if I am sitting down. I tell her no, but I will. At this point, I assume she is going to tell me the inevitable; that my grandmother, may she rest in peace, who was already in her early 90´s and declining rapidly, had passed away. But, that is not what she said.

Suddenly, the unthinkable was being told to me and I was too astonished to really comprehend the news. ¨Your little brother_____ , shot and killed himself today.¨ Instantly, my mind was blocked and I was unable to understand English and all I heard was jumbled noise on the other end of the line. The inner voice inside my head instantly rejected this information. I was in sheer disbelief and obviously this absurd news was a colossal mistake. They got the wrong guy. He never would have done such a heinous thing; he was not depressed or suicidal, (at least to my knowledge.)

She waited patiently as I slowly proceeded to regurgitate it all word by word. I asked her to please repeat herself, thus re-confirming it over and over again. Finally, by the fourth or fifth time, it penetrated through my thick skull. At a flash, I went ballistic and started hyperventilating. The children were very frightened to see me this way and my husband was called to rush home immediately.

He was in shock and tried to tell me not to get so frantic as I had a fresh wound in my head, an unborn baby who had already gone through enough trauma, and very young vulnerable children who were panicking upon witnessing their mother literally fall to the ground and fall apart. Again, my spirit was trapped inside this ridiculously fragile body with no outlet for strong emotions!

To make a very long and sad story short, the next day we were again, on the plane back to Miami and leaving our innocent questioning children behind. I was briefed by my OB-GYN to take small occasional doses of a calming medication (at my insistence) in order to get through the funeral proceedings and subsequent days of grief. I no longer had the fight inside of me to do it again unaided. My neurosurgeon emphatically reiterated the need to stay as calm and composed as possible considering the depth of this tragedy. (It was almost impossible for my intellect to convince my emotions that this was the doctor’s orders.)

From the instant we landed and the mourning family and friends started appearing one by one, I tried to emotionally disconnect from my physical body in a Buddhist-like meditational kind of way. The inner voice inside my brain kept telling me to be the strong one for my mother, for my other brothers, for my family, for everyone. I thought, ¨Why now, at this time after such a delicate surgery and in a state of pregnancy, must I be the stoic one? When will I have my chance to react to all the calamities and vent?¨ If I don´t find an outlet for my natural reactions, eventually it is going to surface and manifest within me as some bizarre tick or abnormal behavior one day. This was a frightening proposition for me as the caretaker of so many dependent naive children...

To Be Continued...

Returning Home to Face Reality...Part X

Out of the entire experience I got a wonderful new hat collection. I suppose most friends and family thought I would have my hair shaven off for surgery so in lieu of chocolates and flowers, I got hats. Curiously and to all of our surprise, only an insignificant amount of hair was removed just behind and above my left ear and it was barely noticeable. So, of all the physical imperfections, this was the least offensive.

As our time in the "burbs" winded down, I was almost ready to be discharged. My mother´s rotation was coming to an end and my husband was coming to fill in. We were going to spend one more week together in the city to enjoy a little bit of what it had to offer outside of its excellent medical resources.

We explored an entire new dimension of our marriage as he had to push me around in a wheelchair in certain venues such as museums and other places that required an excessive amount of walking. He also had to assist me with my hearing deficit. I must admit that it was most charming and heart-warming watching how he would constantly advise people to speak to me in my right ear as the left does not work. It was as though we had been married for fifty years and knew just how to manage each other’s deteriorating senses.

A week flew by and it was time to end this chapter. I was nervous to go home. How would the children respond to me? Would I have the strength to care for them? Would I be able to deal with the relentless and unabating heat? Where the heck did ¨they¨ put my panties? How would I navigate through my kitchen, I had no clue as to where anything had been stored?

When I arrived to the house, my youngest child who was 18 months at the time stared at me for a brief moment in disbelief as though he weren’t certain if this ¨new version¨ of mommy encapsulated the one he had always known. Within seconds he must have reasoned that ¨I¨ was a good enough replacement and ran to sit on my lap. My eldest and middle children were both very affectionate and kept stroking my face compassionately and asking why my mouth and nose were so ¨broken¨ and crooked. It was certainly a scene to capture on film, a true ¨Kodak Moment.¨

Being the obsessive control freak that I am, within one short week, I somehow managed to re-classify most every item in my house, rearrange the kitchen and get back on track with the children, their school and activities. I followed up with tons of people to thank them and express gratitude. I had visited with my OB-GYN and local neurosurgeon. I was exhausted, but determined to return to my life as if nothing had happened. It was really great to be home and back ¨in control¨ of my time and free to choose what tasks I was or was not yet capable of undertaking.

I was starting to organize the house, prepare for this new baby and be a mother once again to my children. I was still fragile, but fighting for normalcy and trying to recover my balance and facial movements. All was running rather smoothly until I received an alarming, gut-wrenching phone call that would forever change my life and once again, test my courage, try my nerves and challenge my faith...

To Be Continued…

Reality Settles in- The Road to Recovery...Part IX

Staying in the city to recover was getting to be quite costly so we decided to take up an offer made by family friends to come out to the ¨burbs¨ to wait out the rest of the mandatory recuperation period (sentence.) So off we were, mom and I, to Riverdale, a suburb of Manhattan to stay for the remaining two weeks.

It was all so lovely; lots of foliage, spacious green areas for walking, resting, meditating and perfect for healing. The house itself was a cozy country home with all the details that rendered it ideal for any kind of physical or spiritual revival. The hosts were as generous and gracious as can be and we couldn´t have asked for a better situation.

However, I needed to prepare myself for the marathons that awaited me and this was on my mind. I had three small children who desperately needed their mommy and were too young to understand what was transpiring and could not yet fully grasp the concept of time. Inherent in the duties of caring for the children were a lot of chores and tasks that required tremendous strength and stamina. Also, I was now a month and a half more pregnant than when we had left and getting larger and clumsier by the week. This, of course was notwithstanding the lack of (additional) grace that resulted from the brain surgery.

My new house back in Latin America was a disaster as we had fled so quickly like refugees and I was anxious to get back to make it our home. I needed to put some thought into where to store and place our family’s belongings as everything had been haphazardly put away by countless friends and strangers alike. There were many jobs left unfinished. The friends that were helping tend to our children, supervise the help and insure the overall security of the home were also ready to return to their normal lives as well. I had a lot on my mind, everything BUT my recovery.

I was beginning to get frustrated and agitated with myself for not being able to perform simple chores successfully and efficiently as I had anticipated. For some reason, I thought this one month hiatus was going to be a breeze and totally unwarranted. When I looked in the mirror, I was so disheartened to see this disfigured face staring back at me. I did not recognize myself and I felt trapped inside this warped and feeble body. I did not have patience with myself and was mercilessly unforgiving. I had become this pathetic remnant of the independent woman I had always been.

So, I guess it is not anything unusual that after about four nights into the stay, I began awaking abruptly at all hours of the night with a rapid heart rate, panting and fraught with anxiety. The left side of my nostril was 90% closed as a result of the facial paralysis and therefore I was unable to get air. This became a big issue at night and I felt as though I were asphyxiating. I would shoot Afrin into my nose like a strung-out junkie just trying frantically to take in air.

My poor mother who was there by my side had no idea what to do for me. Each time this happened, I felt an impulse to run out of my imprisoned mind and into the forest to hug a tree. Sound crazy? I was utterly distraught by the fact that I was detained in another part of the world and not permitted to fly home to my children. The worst part was that there was no medication I could safely take to help ease my physical pain or mental anguish. Hadn’t I already put my unborn baby through enough agony? I now had to toughen up and go through these panic attacks and massive head-throbbing aches drug-free!

There were literally no outlets available for me to discharge my stress. Physically, I could not push myself too hard and working up a sweat via exercise would have been dangerous at that point. I was not entitled to any alcoholic beverage because of both the baby and the delicate situation in my head. I was unable to strain myself in any form. The rules were: no screaming, no lifting, no pushing while evacuating, no sexual relations, no grimacing and no exaggerated expressive facial movements.

I was unable to express myself and my true fears in any natural way. My soul was held captive inside a faint shadow of the outer shell that I had once known and trusted so well….

To Be Continued…

Relearning the Basics...As the Brain Reclaims it's Territorial Rights, Part VIII

Well, I survived the fragile post-op 48 hour period without dying from an infection so that was a good thing. However, hoards of pestering residents were now tirelessly parading in and out of my tiny room day and night from all hospital units asking me to perform the same coordination, dexterity, vision, hearing and vocal exams over and over again.

I could barely open my eyes as they were so heavy and swollen. When I tried, the dimly-lit hospital lights flooded directly into my eyes and felt as though someone were shining high-powered stadium lights directly into my tortured pupils. Also, the eyes were so unfocused, that I was seeing double for about a week after surgery and could not achieve clarity. It was like a seven day severe hangover, the room was spinning out of control and it was total murder.

My mouth was also traumatized and twisted to boot so the proposition of opening it to take in water or food was absolutely ludicrous. My mother and aunt had to spoon-feed me crushed ice chips the first three days out to somehow hydrate me. And by now, the little guy inside my womb was coming out of his anesthesia-induced slumber and was beginning to stir about. Certainly he was wondering why he hadn’t gotten fed in four days.

Finally by Day 4 I was transforming back into a human being albeit a very deranged, dysfunctional and handicapped one. I had to get used to drinking and eating with a half-functional mouth. Approximately fifty percent of everything I attempted to ingest went in through the right side and subsequently slipped right out of the limp, lethargic, paralyzed left side so that I resembled a sloppy Saint Bernard each time I ate or drank. I could not completely close the mouth to chew so besides being totally embarrassed by bad manners, I ended up wearing all my meals and beverages on my shirt just like my toddler-aged children.

My eyes were now attempting to converge but the left one could not blink or close on its own. Thus, it remained exaggeratedly wide open and I looked like a harrowing Cyclops. I literally had to pull the lid closed like a manual window shade prior to sleeping each night. The tear duct didn’t work either, (and to this day it still does not,) so I constantly needed to lubricate it with drops or the regular circulating air would strike my eye and feel like an Egyptian desert sand storm blowing directly into it. It was extremely uncomfortable to say the very least.

I had not dared to walk because I did not trust my vision to keep me upright. The ENT surgeon who operated on me, (who by the way my mother had the biggest crush on,) along side the neurosurgeon, stopped by for a visit on Day 5 and insisted I attempt to take a few steps and that he would assist me like some sort of seeing eye dog should I need support. (He was not going to sign my hospital release anyway until I was walking on my own.) I obliged and for the first twenty minutes felt as though I were trying to balance inside some sort of funny house with one of those moving, slanted tunnels with all sorts of crazy mirrors and optical illusions.

The interesting thing about the six day hospital recovery (which also persisted for the following month,) was that all of the five physical senses most healthy normal individuals are blessed with, namely; vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste, were completely impaired and not operating properly. I had to re-learn how to use them all over again as they were all temporarily (permanently for some) out of service as a result of removing this gigantic mass from my brain. Additionally, my coordination, dexterity and gross motor skills were at the level of a one year old baby so I had to be assisted in all activities and was as dependent as a nursing infant upon my caretaker, my selfless mother.

She literally taught me how to walk, eat, drink, hear, see, speak, and bathe myself again. Thank you Mom. I don’t think I ever really expressed my deepest most sincere gratitude to you for allowing my husband the peace of mind to return to our three children knowing that you were there to nurse me back toward the road of independence. In a sense, she and I were thrown back into time, and reliving part of my formative years when as a new mother, she had taught me basic life skills.

We walked and walked and walked until I gained my strength back. I got a nifty patch for my cyclopstic eye so as not to frighten pedestrians and wreak havoc. Yes, things were indeed coming together nicely until we moved into the suburbs for the remainder of the recovery period and that is when the panic attacks began…

To Be Continued...

In Bed with Morphine: The Aftermath...Part VII

D-day finally arrived and I was ready. All my friends and family had called and sent their blessings and we had done all we could do on our end to make this operation a success. Honestly, I was not nervous or even scared for that matter. I knew I’d be flying to another galaxy on the anesthesia-super shuttle and oblivious to it all. I was worried about my husband and mother as they had to putter away ten hours before finding out my fate and that of the unborn baby.

I vividly remember being wheeled into the operating room and instantly placed upon a cold metal odd-shaped operating table that was about the size of a crib mattress. It was located in the dead center of a freezing vast open space and reminded me of a scene from a horror movie. I looked up and found myself in the middle of a giant room with tools and supplies packed up on shelves from floor to ceiling. I was thinking it looked more like a Home Depot warehouse or auto repair garage than a place to perform brain surgery. Then I exclaimed aloud to nobody in particular, (there were about twelve people in the room), ¨Does everyone feel well-rested and did you all drink enough coffee today? Let’s kick ass! ¨ At that moment I was treated to my mild sedative and off into slumber-land.

A minute later, (or so it felt) I touched my belly to feel if I was still pregnant. ¨Is my baby alive, ¨ I managed to whisper in a weak strained voice to some unknown pair of hands mummifying my head? Suddenly I drifted back into a heavily induced dream state. I don’t remember my family coming to see me in the recovery room nor how I got to my bed in the NICU. I do recall, however the pain.

Let me tell you about the pain. It was inexplicable. I could only say that it felt like some really pissed off mafia king grabbed me by the ears and banged my head as hard as possible against a concrete sidewalk. It was so powerful and totally overwhelming that all I could manage to do was lay there eyes sealed shut, mouth unable to open and with the tip of my forefinger signal to the nurses and my family ¨yea¨or ¨nay¨about any question they asked me. My hearing was so disoriented now that this huge mass had been removed that my remaining hearing ear defiantly reverberated all sounds captured through it with a pestering echo that chilled me to the bone and made my hair stand on end. To put it another way, every sound that I picked up with this single unfocused antennae of mine sounded like a witch’s nails screeching across a chalkboard. It was horrifying.

To boot, every soul that stepped foot into the room to visit received a series of cell phone calls and I thought I was going to die from the annoying glass-shattering ring. I was also nauseous beyond belief and had absolutely no intention of trying to pry my mouth open to receive even water. Oh, did I mention that the entire left side of my face had frozen with paralysis as a result of the facial nerves being tampered with? This was expected to recover, in time, but for now, it looked like a severe case of Bells Palsy and I had to learn to live with this asymmetry for many, many months ahead.

The only entertaining aspect of this unbearable pain was that my options for painkillers were extremely limited due to my pregnant state. So, my choices post-brain surgery were: 1. Tylenol or 2. Morphine. These were the two medications that I was told do not cross the placenta and therefore could not harm the fetus. I chose the morphine and to my delight found myself hallucinating so heavily that at one point I told my husband that I was having prophecies about (terrorist-hijacked) planes crash-landing all around New York City. It did not, however, do anything to mitigate my torturous throbbing malfunctioning head. It just helped me to disconnect from this menace in some sort of acid-trip kind of way. Yeah, I had some great epiphanies and discoveries upon my pharmaceutically-enhanced journey. In fact, at some point I thought I was the lens of a satellite peering in on my children back home in Latin America. But once it all wore off, I was consumed by such agony that all I could do was succumb to it by lying as still as a cadaver and breathe.

To Be Continued…

Send me into Orbit and Let´s Kick Ass! Part VI

Rise and shine everyone, its showtime! I wanted this dark invader out of my head already. I wanted my senses back. Wanted to walk and see and bend and eat and blink like a normal working body. I had become a robot made of flesh and bone. My transformation happened so gradually over a period of many months, that I hardly recognized all my deficits. Meanwhile, my body continuously struggled to cope by reorganizing, regrouping, and adapting as each sense began failing.

That morning we were off to an early start as we made our way across the city to the hospital. The crazy New York cabby was driving the Indianapolis 500 and I was ready to puke all over his fine vinyl seats. Not even upon telling him that I was pregnant and with a brain tumor, did he make an effort to slow down as he had us bouncing all around the back seat like toddlers in a jump house. So much for compassion.

Upon arriving to the hospital, we went straight for admissions to work out all the financial issues (kinks). As we finished with the heap of paperwork and having signed our lives away, we were escorted directly to the Neuro Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to our complete surprise. At that point I instantly lost all my freedom of mobility, albeit wobbly. I was ushered up to my room in a wheelchair and from minute one, was confined and bound by IVs, heart rate monitors, fetal monitors, and other in descript electrical apparatuses.

The head nurse of that unit explained to me that the neurosurgeon wanted me under close surveillance for four days prior to the operation. The attention I received prior to surgery was second to none. These people were so overly thorough that I was beginning to wonder if I really merited so much medical attention. Was I really so ill that all this was necessary?

Within four days of preparation, I had two ultrasounds performed on my abdomen, one on my legs, (for clotting tendencies I was told,) another MRI, every type of blood work and urine test imaginable, medical allergies tests, hearing tests, vision tests, throat swabs, metal cables stuck up my nose and down my throat to test my weakened vocal cords (this was my favorite, very pleasant feeling.) Additional tests were done regarding my tear duct performance (tears were shooting out of my left eye like a geyser), and measurements were taken to determine the amount of facial paralysis I had already endured. Oh, and I almost forgot the kidney and gastro crew; they had subjected me to an entire gamma of their own examinations.

Anyone who has ever gone through major surgery or has spent several nights in a hospital must know that it is the worst place to get any sleep. In my case, teams of doctors and hordes of residents were coming in by the half dozen with their nifty little clipboards asking me to perform the same God-forsaken dexterity, coordination and vision tests over and over again like some trained circus monkey. I just wanted to tell them to practice their new found knowledge on some other poor captive. I wanted a shred of privacy to have a conversation with a visitor, reflect upon my unknown fate, or urinate without the permission and witnessing of the entire staff unit.

Despite the sheer humiliation of having a team of medical personnel decide whether or not I could evacuate by myself, a few interesting and funny experiences did occur during those few memorable days pre-surgery. One of them really sticks out and to this day makes me hysterical just thinking about it.

Our unit was a lofty bunch, mostly women and mostly normal, very healthy, active and young-ish. Curiously, despite the fact that many of us never even caught a cold, we all had suddenly and inexplicably ¨come down with¨ these random unprecedented brain tumors. One post-op patient was especially friendly and she earned her bragging rights as she apparently got through her surgery like a champion. She was up and about the following day, walking around, chatting about her entire experience and trying to inspire all of us frightened lambs as we too awaited our turn under the knife.

She was really so gregarious and just before I met her I heard her yapping away to my neighbor in the bed next door. Suddenly, it’s my turn for a visit and in she walks with an entourage of family members. Upon seeing her for the first time after having listened to her voice for the past hour, I experienced severe cognitive dissonance. Her voice was a normal heavy New York accent and she sounded very educated and down to earth.

However, her face was another story. It was so tragically bruised and beaten that it looked something to the likes of Rocky Balboa at the end of the fight when he was defeated mercilessly by his Russian contender. She had her eyes so blackened that it was painful just to look at her. Her nose was pushed completely over to one side of her face; dried blood covered her scalp, ear and drip-dried mid-flight on her cheek. Her head was bandaged with so many layers of white gauze that her head was the size of Don King on an extra ¨big hair day¨.

Meanwhile there she stood, chatting away about how amazing she felt. Her husband, upon seeing all our squeamish reactions, casually mumbled under his breath that they had not allowed her to yet look in a mirror. You don’t say? Wonder what her reaction would be? The poor thing was as though running for mayor of the ward and prided herself as the new Poster Child for brain surgery and looked like a train wreck. How cruel of her family to let her out. She was scaring the living daylights out of all the patients by her beaten-up appearance.

To Be Continued...

Six Days til Departure...Part V

Within a matter of six days, we managed to accomplish the equivalent of climbing to Mr. Everest’s peak. After about thirty hours of reading and researching surgeons all around the world that had specialized in a procedure comparable to the removing of a tennis ball entangled in hundreds of sticky tentacles from a pregnant woman’s inner ear canal, we narrowed it down to two eminent masters both practicing in the same city. Many friends and relatives offered (and imposed) their personal opinions, preferences and prejudices about how, why, where, and when to operate. Some doctors claimed the baby would never survive the operation and had to be removed prior, which at twenty-four weeks gestation, had a small chance of survival (as a normal healthy baby) anyway. Others said to wait to operate on me, and then force a caesarean at thirty weeks, which would still not guarantee the baby’s survival and subsequent thriving. The neuro-crew all agreed that baby aside, the mother could not wait more than another week at best to remove this invasive mass as it was pushing up against my brainstem and at any minute I could suffer massive seizures as a result of hydrocephalus .

We had so many choices to make. The surgeon that finally performed the operation had literally asked us if we would be willing to sacrifice my hearing on the left side in order to probably save my facial nerves. Hmmmmm….what were my choices, facial paralysis or one-sided deafness? I chose one-sided deafness over a droopy, twisted asymmetrical face. We were dizzy with expert opinions about how to balance such a fragile surgery while simultaneously being able to be close enough to keep an eye on the children. We had to focus on this first, it was the priority.

There was no option, we had to operate in the US and leave our children behind in good hands in Latin America. Here is where our trust and faith had to kick into high gear. We arranged for a dear friend to come and stay at the house supervising the children and overseeing the nannies. We updated all the insurance policies and paid all deductions. My husband met with our agent to discuss how to best cope with the impending labyrinth of paperwork.

As far as everything at home, the pool company was arriving the next day to install a gate around the eight foot deep abyss in our backyard. We informed the children’s doctors of our absence in case a visit or medication was necessary. Phone lines, cable, water and internet were instantly connected. I visited with my OB-GYN and had copies made of all my pregnancy records as it would be imperative for the team of surgeons to learn as much as possible about my pregnancy and past pregnancies. We called all the children’s teachers and explained the situation so they would be able to provide extra support and affection during the upcoming six weeks of their parents´ absence. We left monies for food, bills, school, car access, etc. with our friend to play butler.

By the time we left our new house, just six days after moving in, many boxes still remained unopened. It was impossible to find anything and I had to just let it go and leave it all as is. I get overwhelmed now just thinking about it all!

This whirlwind of motion in which we lived so chaotically was the closest thing to an out-of-body experience I ever had. I knew what was happening intellectually, but emotionally was unavailable and stoic. I spoke about the situation as a detached newscaster indifferently reporting on tragedies in far away lands. I didn’t realize it was happening to me. What was all the fuss and tears about with all these people? This obstacle was just one of the many things I had to check off of my To-Do list.

Once we had arrived to our destination city, we had two chief neurosurgeons to decide between for the surgery. It was a very tough call because one was a guru and in charge of the neurology unit for over twenty-five years and operated with a Dream Team of surgeons. The neurosurgeon would need to operate along side of an ENT surgeon and a high risk OB-GYN surgeon who monitors the fetus. Additionally you have the anesthesiologist, his team and all the surgical nurses as well.

The competing doctor was full of energy, positive and was about fifteen years younger than the guru. The choice was made when the chief told me to take steroids and ¨hang out¨ for a few weeks waiting for him to return from his ski trip to the Himalayas. The other one, with whom we had instant chemistry, told me upon reviewing my MRI results, (in the most upbeat, relaxed and graceful way,) that I should be admitted that very second for fear of convulsions. Obviously, the one that puts more urgency upon the situation is the one to whom we are going to pay heed. We booked it as though making a hotel reservation. It was done, one less thing to worry about.

A funny coincidence actually occurred the very next day. You know the proverb of ¨be careful what you wish for.¨ Well, my husband was days away from celebrating a big number birthday and he had said to me on numerous occasions months before that he wanted to ¨eat Chinese food in New York City¨ for his birthday and anything else was gravy. Well, my friends that is exactly what we ended up doing just two days before my hospital admittance. This exquisite cuisine was not as delectable as he had anticipated as it had to first traverse through the lumps in our throats. You see, I believe that you will always get what you want, you just cannot predict nor control under what premise you will receive it!

Days before the actual surgery, the prayers were flooding in from friends and family all around the world. I think it actually dawned on me the night before being admitted that I may very well lose my life. (Thoughts my husband and family had been entertaining for days.) If not that, at the very least, I would end up deaf, with partial facial paralysis and my baby may not survive the anticipated ten hours of anaesthesia. I finally broke down in my husband’s arms and told him that I did not want to die.

To Be Continued...

The Day I Became a Soldier...Part IV

How could I describe the feelings that swiftly swept through me like clouds on a windy day blowing through the sky? Things happened so quickly that I never had the luxury of time to analyse my situation or ponder my fate. I would feel sad for a split second and then, for example, have one of the movers ask me a question and that would yank me out of my inner chaos. The ironic thing is that I was forced to hold it together from the very beginning because we were in the midst of moving houses and having children so young, we didn’t want to complicate matters and pass along any stress to them. We tried our best to be brave and stoic for them and demonstrate emotional strength. We had to also lead by example for the hysterical nannies for if we were to panic we'd risk losing these helping hands that we needed so very much at this time. Nobody, not even our own family really knew the extent of inner suffering we swallowed as we considered all the possible scenarios and outcomes to such a delicate situation.

Right away it was all about pure action and adrenalin, all at once, at lightning speed. The logistics alone that went into the arrangements for our kids´ care, schooling, emotional well-being and safety in preparation for many weeks away was daunting. How to choose the best surgeon for this monumental challenge of performing a ten hour long brain surgery on a five month pregnant woman while successfully modifying all procedures and medications to ensure the fetus´ survival became Mission Impossible according to most expert opinions. We had a big load to carry and Major League decisions to make.

Thus, from that day forward, June 15, 2006, my husband and I put on our blinders and went into work mode. I became a soldier with a clear mission; take care of the children, the house, police my husband’s mental state, and do whatever necessary to stay alive for them all. Nevertheless, there was no time to wallow. I had to suck it up and take it like a real woman. And believe me, after going through such a frightening experience, it became my personal rites of passage that made me the woman I am today.

Logistically, obtaining the information we needed to make our decisions was a disaster to say the least. We were in limbo, our entire house packed up in a truck and on it’s way to our new home. We had no phone line neither in the old house nor the new residence. Our internet service was scheduled to be installed three days later. We didn’t even have local television programming and therefore had little contact with the outside world. Our newspaper was not even scheduled to arrive until days later. (Welcome to the Third World!) Our cell phones, our only form of communication with the outside world, were ringing off the hooks from all four corners of the globe.

People in the community were coming in droves to our new home to see me and I realize now, to say their good-byes. Some friends never stopped by and seemed to just avoid the entire situation. Some offered immediately to help take care of our children, do our food shopping, make us meals, pay the nannies, recommend doctors, hospitals, fence in the giant pool that we had not yet properly secured prior to move-in. (We figured we’d have time to take care of it once moved in. This was a priority as the children were very young, only one knew how to swim, and the nannies that would be caring for them didn't know how to swim either!)

Some friends chose to loan us their own domestic worker for a day or two to help lift and unpack heavy boxes. It was like being on the inside of a large factory watching the unending movement, activity and interactions between so many people all working together. Workers came and went, visitors stopped by (to pay their respects), some people came to inspect, bring food, information, news, gifts, blessings, motivational books, etc. This went one for five perpetual days, all day and all night. I was a stoic robot (now not just walking like one, but absent of feeling and emotion toward my own destiny.) I was so consumed by my busy life that I was unintentionally coerced into a state of denial and didn’t even notice that I was in death’s relentless grip...

To Be Continued...

The Chaos Swallows us like a tidal wave! Pragmatism is key to Survival...Part III

The next day I get right into an appointment with the neurosurgeon. He subjects me to similar dexterity assessments as did the neurologist. He also inquires about my hearing abilities. Interestingly I tell him that I tend to favor my right ear. The ENT doctor who performed the auditory exam had previously concluded that too many loud concerts in my (other) youth growing up in the rockin´80s in South Florida were to blame for this loss. (If that were the case, why didn’t I measure the same percent deficit in the opposite ear?)

Living in a small town and having very good private health insurance gave us immediate access to the best specialists and procedures within days. The very next morning, my husband accompanied me to my MRI appointment referred by the neurologist I had seen just the day before. Blissfully unaware of the seriousness of the situation, I was more concerned with getting through the MRI without going into a full blown panic attack. The image I held in my mind of being physically strapped onto a cold examination table with my head in a brace for the better part of an hour had me asking around for all kinds of advice, meditation techniques, self-hypnosis and pharmaceutical assistance. I interviewed at least twenty people that day about all the aforementioned categories of the MRI experience. My Ob-GYN prescribed me a light relaxant to take to help me coast through it more gracefully. It worked.

As the final awkwardly loud clunky thump reverberated in my ears, I was arrogant and proud for having maintained sanity that I instantly felt entitled to whatever I wanted. ¨Let’s go grab a bagel and cappuccino, Mi Amor!¨ I demanded of my husband. As we were leaving the laboratory, he asked the technicians if we could take a quick peak at the screen and images of my brain. (He later told me that he saw them stopping the images and pointing something out during the exam.) They mumbled amongst themselves something about it not being allowed as they are not accountable for any diagnosis and explanation. But hey, we are living in a third world country and rules only apply randomly, it's kind of like a lottery.

Nevertheless, they acceded and upon glancing at the screen, my husband saw something that made him lose his breath while he mumbled something to the technicians. I was sure that whatever it was, it was just a big ball of fluid in my inner ear. (Someone had suggested that and I liked that hypothesis.) Being in complete Zen for having survived the MRI so peacefully, I did not pay any attention to the innuendos and quick glances exchanged between these two lab technicians and my husband. All I cared about was my well-deserved frothy cappuccino.

After eating breakfast, my husband dropped me off at our home to organize the ambitious and ready to please movers. During the course of the day I speak to my brothers, the doctor, my parents and in-laws and tell them the worst is over, the MRI was a breeze. All I want to talk about is how clumsy the movers are and how am I going to strategize with making all the beds with linens so that the three children could sleep well that night. I am consumed with the move and in making this stress-free for the children and therefore disconnect from all else.

That evening my husband returns with the MRI film with results in hand. He commences to tell me that the radiologist had discovered a mass the size of a tennis ball comfortably situated right inside my left inner ear canal This growth was feeding like a parasite off the abundance of hormones being produced by my pregnant body and putting continuous pressure on my brain stem which in turn was rendering me dizzy, nauseous, off-balanced, and hard of hearing as it was obstructing the canal.

He hugs me passionately and says he is so very grateful upon learning that what I have is probably not cancerous. What? I look at him incredulously. I have something? You mean this whole ordeal isn’t over yet? (I have a move to contend with, a baby on the way, no time for distractions.) ¨Yes, Mi Amor¨ he says, ¨but thank goodness, it is almost certain that the tumor is benign.¨ Benign? Tumor? I, Señora Drill Sergeant, super- healthy, fearless and full of energy has a brain t.t.t.t.t.t.tumor? Yes, indeed it was true and time was not on my side. It had to come out immediately.

To Be Continued…

Bring it on!...Part II

Each evening just after putting the children asleep, a peculiar routine was starting to develop.

I noticed that I was unable to lift my head once in a horizontal position. I was pregnant and used to getting up at least three times a night to relieve my bladder but now, I had to hold out until morning. In other words, I could not abruptly change my head position as it made me so dizzy that I ended up projectile vomiting (actually dry heaving because I had nothing left inside me) at any given hour of the night. I would just lay there as still as possible and nudge my husband when I heard tiny little footsteps rapidly approaching our bedroom.

My wonderful husband really did not understand what was happening to me and I am certain that there were times that he thought to himself that I was just downright lazy. Nevertheless, he diligently assumed all graveyard shift duties. There was a lot of night-time action in our bedroom; we had sleep-walkers, bed-wetters, nightmare sufferers and mommy barfing at any given wee hour of the night.

During the day, I became the personification of Mr. Magoo as I would stumble around the house like a klutz, colliding into everything from walls, to table corners and doorways. Whatever I was carrying would clumsily fall out of my hands and once it landed on the floor, it mind as well have fallen into the deepest abyss as I was utterly unable to bend down to pick it up. It was the most uncomfortable sensation I had ever experienced as even the slightest shift in head position would throw me into a full blown puking attack. The entire room was spinning out of control.

To function, the survival technique I most adopted was to hold my head in one position the entire day and certainly, I resembled an indigenous woman at the market carrying her family´s sustenance balanced perfectly on her head in a large woven basket. Our housekeepers, who were already overworked with caring for the children, (as I was unable to be hands on changing diapers, bathing, etc.,) would walk behind me calling out all the items as they hit the floor one by one, ¨keys,¨ ¨cell phone,¨ water bottle,¨ ¨medication¨, etc. I tried to explain that I needed them to retrieve everything for me as I could not. They probably thought that I was a ridiculously high maintenance woman who was above bending down to pick items off the floor! I mean, who had ever heard of such a bizarre symptom associated with pregnancy? Perhaps it were understandable if it were a blind person or someone wearing a neck brace due to a major spinal injury.

Again, my kids just went around saying that the baby in mommy’s belly was making her sick and assumed it was normal that their mother’s complete incapacitation was part of a normal pregnancy. Interestingly everybody else also assumed the same thing, including several medical doctors. I ask, how could so many intelligent and learned people from all professions and disciplines simultaneously buy into such a preposterous theory?

Everybody except for one friend of mine. She saw me out one night and I was relaying to her about my night-time activities of puking, sleeping like a cadaver inside a coffin due to my constant onslaught of dizzy spells. At that moment, she suggested that I see an Auditory Specialist and ENT doctor to check out my inner ears. That sounded reasonable enough to me so I went ahead and made the appointments the following day.

In a nutshell, both renowned specialists concluded in so many words that I was having a rough pregnancy or had some loose debris in my inner ear and one of these consummate medical geniuses attempted to ¨shake it loose¨ by performing a maneuver on me that resembled some wrestling techniques I’ve seen during my nightly UFC matches. Not only was this ineffective, but I would stagger out of the doctor’s office like an uncoordinated intoxicated sailor grabbing for my husband’s arm for stability. Normal pregnancy symptoms, right?

Fast forward about another week and now I find myself involuntarily winking with my left eye. I have now developed some sort of nervous twitch I assume. My husband finds this new ¨habit¨ (as if I am doing this to be seductive) charming and adorable and begins winking back at me during each meal we share together. He is actually making fun of me and by now, thinking I am a drama queen!

The following evening we are attending a couple’s class together and I mention to the same friend that the other specialists were buffoons having diagnosed me with either ¨rough pregnancy ¨or ¨sand in my ear¨ and curiously, now I cannot stop winking with my left eye which also gives way to random uncontrollable tearing. She grabs me by the shoulders and insists that I see (her) neurologist that next day and since she is so chummy with this doctor, (my friend has a reputation for being a certified hypochondriac by the entire community in which we live so it is hard to take her seriously at times,) she will personally call and make me the appointment.

The following morning we found ourselves in the presence of the eminent neurologist who continued to subject me to a series of coordination tests to the likes of a drunk driving finger test. Was this really so necessary that I had to leave the movers? (Oh, I forgot to mention a small detail that we were in the midst of moving homes and I had movers with boxes and all the associated supplies at my house waiting for my instructions.) Meanwhile, here I was performing coordination skills I had learned at the age of two!

Shockingly,to our surprise, I could not perform the simple movements correctly and I was somewhat embarrassed of my clumsiness. I told her I was stressed out with the move and had not been sleeping well since the pregnancy began four months ago. She rapidly summoned us into her consultation room, whipped out one of her fifty-pound med school books and showed us a map of the brain. The rest is truly a blur. I sort of remember her pointing to the part of the brain that controls coordination and her claiming that pregnancy hormones should have no influence whatsoever over the functioning or malfunctioning of such abilities.

She then proceeded to make a phone call on the spot to her colleague, a neurosurgeon, and scheduled an appointment for me to meet with him the very next day. In the meantime, she instructed us to make an MRI appointment right away. My husband seemed concerned. I was oblivious and frustrated that I was not home already tending to the movers. Being the control freak that I am, I had to supervise every move they made or my life would become total chaos. I had no idea at that moment what was yet in store for me.

To Be Continued...

Let the Chaos Really Begin...Part I

I am going to embark upon a mini-series here, so please bear with me as I attempt this for the very first time. This will be a short story and I will divide it up into about eight parts spread out over the next two weeks. A lot of unbelievable drama happened in my life almost four years ago and by sharing it with you, it also helps me to remember and document it.

I want to eventually impart some recent discoveries about my experiences with one-sided deafness and the many ways I’ve had to learn to adapt to this deficit. However, before arriving at that point, I first must recount how this condition came to pass which all began with the pregnancy of my fourth child. Early on in my second trimester, I received a terrifying diagnosis that eventually saved my life and that of my unborn child.

There will be parts of my story that are ironically hilarious and other times, painstakingly nerve-wracking. I will do my best to capture it all as concise as possible without omitting any vital information. So, let’s begin…

While pregnant with my four child and second son in 2006, I found myself praying to the ¨porcelain god¨ at least six times a day and a few more times throughout each night. Now, having already had three children, I was well aware that nausea and vomiting were part of my first trimester experiences, but this was utterly debilitating. I would no more than think about vomiting and two seconds later I’d be in the bathroom throwing my guts up. It got to a point where I would eat my meals and then just politely excuse myself to confront the inevitable. I would calmly and gracefully enter into the bathroom, greet the toilet, and almost as though through a magnetic attraction, I would dart toward it desperately only to make it ¨just in time.¨

Now, this is again interesting how one gets used to anything after repeated exposure as I demonstrated in my entry about the barbaric UFC matches. Children, I believe, are even more flexible. They have an innate ability to adapt to change especially when such change is presented in a very blasé, non-hysterical positive way. Well, this up-chucking ritual of mine was such a common scenario at my home that I would literally be laying on the tiled bathroom floor moaning with gut-wrenching convulsions and my kids would just walk by, see me, ask if I was almost finished, and then proceed with their requests (demands.)

I am not kidding! I would be face down on the floor, panting like an overheated canine, all broken out in a cold sweat and they would casually say, ¨Mommy, she took away my favorite Barbie and I want ice cream now, you promised! ¨ Or something like, ¨Mommy, I was running outside and scraped my knee, can you take a look at it? ¨ Incidentally, since I noticed that they weren’t so disturbed, I became nonchalant as well and would reply between stomach contractions, ¨Just gimme a sec, I am also done here, wait outside, it smells yucky.¨ In retrospect, that was insane that we were able to conduct ¨business as usual¨under such circumstances, but we did. So, what would you say was the primary developing trait here; insensitivity or adaptability?

Nonetheless, at about four and a half months of gestation, I knew that this unsettling pattern had to mitigate substantially by now and it had not. Everybody and their neighbor suggested that my hormones were super high and the baby was very healthy; so healthy that it was making me sick. In Spanish, all would say reassuringly, ¨´ta bien pegado, oye mi hijita!¨ (Translation: That baby is really clinging on to you, girl and thriving!) Desperate as I was, I bought into that theory for a while until something strange began to happen to me at night.

To Be Continued.....
Posted by Darah Zeledon: Warrior mom