We Had Joy, We Had Fun

Tonia gave birth to Kelsie in June. I wasn’t present. I didn’t go visit them in the hospital either. Joyce called to tell me Tonia was in labor. I thanked her and hung up. She called me back and said I should apologize so we could all be a family again. I told her I wasn’t apologizing; I hadn’t done anything wrong. I asked her if AJ was still biting. She didn’t answer. I asked her where AJ was. Well, with her of course. She said AJ would probably stay a few weeks until Tonia, Mike, and the baby got settled in. I told her that was wonderful; she hadn’t come to help when Monica was born. She told me to apologize to Tonia and hung up.

About three weeks later, Tonia called. I could hear the tears in her voice as she practically whispered, “I’m in the hospital. I’m scared. Please come.” I dropped everything and went. I found her in a hospital gown, sitting up in bed. She didn’t have any makeup on and her face was red from crying. I hugged her and she murmured: “your perfume smells like home.” I’d worn only Raffinee perfume since getting it as a Christmas gift in 7th grade. I laughed and turned around. Joyce was sitting in a chair at the foot of the bed, perched on the edge like she’d just arrived or was preparing to leave.

I just looked up Raffinee and I have to laugh–I have never had an excess of money. Raffinee used to be cheap. Now it’s about $100 for a 3.4 oz bottle.

I turned back to Tonia and asked, “Ok. What’s going on here?” 

Kelsie hadn’t been gaining weight well since her birth and she didn’t seem to want to nurse. Tonia was getting ready to take her for a wellbaby check when Kelsie projectile vomited what looked like all the milk she’d ever taken in. It smelled rotten. That’s how they discovered Kelsie had an immature esophageal sphincter. The lower esophageal sphincter is a ring of muscle at the bottom of a baby’s esophagus that opens to allow food into the stomach and closes to keep it there. Kelsie’s wasn’t closing all the way and it randomly opened up with changes in her position. When that happened, everything in the stomach flowed back up into the esophagus and out the mouth. 

Tonia hadn’t nursed AJ so she didn’t realize Kelsie shouldn’t be spitting up so much. The doctor said they’d keep an eye on it, and see if she outgrew it, but in the meantime, Tonia should try to feed her in a different position. But when she did that, Kelsie got even fussier about eating and Tonia got mastitis. Mastitis is an inflammation of breast tissue that can result in an infection. Both men and women can get mastitis, but it mostly affects breastfeeding women. It can be the result of a clogged milk duct or bacteria entering the breast tissue, which could have happened because of the reflux caused by the immature esophageal sphincter. Or it could’ve just been crappy luck.

Mastitis looks so painful. I can’t look at it straight on.

Whatever it was, Tonia had developed an infection, fever, pain, and an abscess. The abscess had to be surgically drained. Now Kelsie was home with Mike, being bottle fed and the doctors couldn’t decide when Tonia was going to get to go home to her newborn.  Tonia was sick, still recovering from labor, and missing her baby. I asked where her clothes were and started helping her get dressed. She asked what I was doing. I said, “I’m busting you out of here. Joyce can wait for the medications and meet us at home.”

St Joseph’s Hospital, Minot

Joyce said there was no way we were getting past the nurse’s station and I said that wasn’t a problem. I would knot sheets together and we’d climb out the window and down the wall. Tonia started laughing and that’s when the nurse came in and asked what I was doing. I told the nurse, “My sister wants to go home to her newborn baby. Is there a reason she can’t? If not, when can she leave?”

The nurse said we were just waiting on medication and Tonia said they’d been saying that for hours. I told the nurse to send the prescription to the pharmacy and Joyce would go down and pick it up. Good? Good. I put my arm around Tonia’s waist and we walked to the elevators and I took her home. I made Mike find their heating pad and we put Tonia and Kelsie to bed. Joyce dropped off the medication but left right away to get home to AJ. I leaned over and hugged Tonia goodbye. She told me, “Your perfume makes me think I’m with my mama. It makes me feel safe.” I told her to go to sleep and I’d come by tomorrow. 

Our rift was mended. Tonia was like a first time mother. She’d never been allowed to care for AJ; Joyce had always jumped in. Sometimes Tonia got overwhelmed, especially after she made Joyce bring AJ back home the day after the hospital breakout. She’d call me and say Kelsie wouldn’t stop crying and I’d go over there to see what was going on. I felt like Tonia was trying too hard, she was overstimulating Kelsie and then Kelsie couldn’t settle. So I swaddled the baby, picked her up, and hid her face in my shoulder. In about 5 minutes she was asleep. 

I am an expert swaddler.

Tonia said I was a baby whisperer. I told her no; Kelsie was just sensitive. I showed Tonia how to swaddle the baby and make everything quiet. Hide her eyes so she can’t see. It usually worked  and when it didn’t, I’d get a call from Tonia asking me to come whisper her baby, or telling me she was bringing Kelsie over to be whispered.

Mike and Tonia made sure AJ was done biting because of Kelsie and pretty soon me and my kids and Tonia and her kids were inseparable again. Then Rocky asked to have Nick and Monica for his visitation. He was going to take them for a month.

Dan told me not to let them go. I said I had to- the court had ordered visitation rights, and they were Rocky’s kids. When Rocky and the kids drove off, Dan got in his car and drove away. He stayed out very late and when he came back, it felt like everything had changed. It was like Dan wouldn’t or couldn’t forgive me for letting ‘his’ kids go visit their dad. He started going out with friends after work and going out on weekends without me. He said he deserved to have time on his own, rather than watching my kids while I was playing at acting. 

Dan bought a snowmobile and a truck to haul it with. He took up snow skiing and managed to separate his shoulder. He talked to Mike about racing at the Speedway, then he found a sponsor and started racing too.

I quit Mouse River Players. Dan was right; it did take a lot of my time. He started staying home more, but it was like we’d run out of things to say to each other. I suggested we find things to do together. I could learn to ride snowmobiles; maybe we could buy motorcycles? He suggested running together and I tried, but I’m just a terrible, awkward runner and it made me self-conscious and unhappy. I suggested swing dancing lessons and we did that, but he felt awkward going out and doing the moves in public. 

So there we were: me sewing at the kitchen table, and Dan outside working on his vehicles. 

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