Friday, October 29, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


A year ago last Wednesday, I left Richard in Dakar and was on an emergency flight home to Portland Maine.
Little did I know, I would be checking in to a hospital where I would lay flat for 3 months.

At just 22 weeks pregnant, my pregnancy was in serious danger as I was in pre-term labor and had almost no cervix left. 22 weeks is just over half the length of a pregnancy... and not even considered to be 'viable'. That meant for 2 weeks, I layed flat and was simply monitored without medical intervention; doctors were not able to put me on any medications until I hit the 24 week mark (viability).

Checking in to a hospital this early during a pregnancy was traumatizing as most on the floor were in the latter weeks of their pregnancy. I, however, was just starting to 'show' as I spent 18 weeks engulfed in severe morning sickness. The physical size comparison of our bellies made me realize how long of a journey I had to go. It was time to fight.

3 times during my 3 month stay, I was prepped to deliver the babies quite early. Once at 26 weeks, 28 weeks, and 32 weeks. Ultimately, Laird and Dylan hung on until 34 weeks (to the day). My water broke a few hours before the stroke of midnight...which officially marked week 34.

To be honest, I don't know how I survived the 3 months of stillness. Some friends and family suggested reading books, knitting, learning french, crosswords, etc... as it would make sense to catch up on these great hobbies that you never have time for in 'normal life'.

However, once you are confined to a hospital bed (a scary environment in itself) so early in a pregnancy, you are completely unable to do anything... but pray, and worry, and pray, and worry, and pray, and worry, and pray. Concentration on anything longer than 2 minutes is nonexistent as your mind will always find it's way back to worrying. Several times, I opened books to read...and after a sentence a two, no matter how gripping, my thoughts wandered back to my present situation. Thank goodness for mind-numbing television.

This certainly was the biggest test of my life. And how ironic it was to lay flat and still, but have a mind that was doing somersaults and racing 200 mph in complete fear.

My routine... Wake up at 6 am when doctors come in to examine me and cross off a day in red crayon off my calendar. Then, I would spend most of the morning staring at this calendar...looking at my x's...counting, adding.... wondering, and praying for hours. Absolute mental torture.

I cannot explain to you the connection I had with some of my nursing staff. They saw and heard it all... every mood, every tear, they were there for every good day and every bad one. They were my caretakers, they were my counselors, and they were my friends. They comforted me during the darkest of times...they listened patiently and treated me as if I were their only patient on the floor. They took care of my body, mind, and spirit. I had their schedules memorized and would even request my favorites days in advance. They gave me countless pep talks... but most of all...they gave me hope. My daily mantra 'I can do this' was written on my wall in giant letters.

My room was flooded with mail, incredible bouquets of flowers from loved ones, care packages cards and letters, and pictures... The support from friends and family was astonishing. Looking at the walls of my decorated room, made me realize how loved and supported I was. After just a few weeks time, my room looked as though I had been living at the hospital for years. During Christmas, I was lucky enough to have a tree and some twinkle lights too! (but don't tell hospital security that!)

Having your soul mate 1500 miles away during most of this time was extremely difficult. However I was blessed with such loving support from friends and family. Phone calls, emails, and visitors were my saving grace (besides for the mindless soap operas that kept my brain from thinking too hard). Friends that I had not heard from in years contacted me with loving emails and well wishes.

There were family members that made it in almost EVERY DAY. I don't know how you did it...but you did. I am forever grateful. Life gets busy, errands need to be run, appointments happen, work runs late, snowstorms and weather, sickness, etc... But there are some of you in my life that made it in to see me 'no matter what'. I know how difficult it was for you at times. Your visits kept me going; they kept me strong. Whether it was a 5 minute visit or a 3 hour visit, you helped me from falling apart. I couldn't have survived this journey without you. Thank you for all you did...for your meals you brought in, for the countless loads of laundry you washed, for your help with my Christmas shopping, for the errands I couldn't do from my hospital bed, for wiping down my room everyday with bacterial wipes so that I would not get sick... Thank you, thank you, thank you.

But most of all, thank you for simply being there. Thank you for listening to me on days when all I could do was cry. Thank you for listening to my worries over and over again... Thank you for helping me stay strong.

People always ask, 'How did you do it'?
All I can say, is 'I am blessed with amazing friends and family that were right there with me'.

I am sitting here with my perfect angels... listening to them laugh and giggle with one another. Dylan is holding on tight to Laird's right ear as he is trying to pull himself up, and Laird is giggling uncontrollably like it is the best thing in the world.

I am so blessed.


Liam's little brother...

Maxwell Hazen Nudd
Max was born at 10:47am
Friday, October 22nd
weighing 8lbs 13oz

Can't wait to meet you Max!! See you in 22 days!

The Big Man and Max

Friday, October 8, 2010

Lost at Sea

Goree Island Swimmers

I’m briefly seized by panic. I’m about two kilometers from the nearest point of land and I’ve already been swimming for about an hour. A sustained wind is pushing white caps over my head as I try to catch a breath. I look around to get my bearings. Freighters lie at anchor on the horizon, awaiting entry to the port of Dakar. I know Goree Island, my destination, is somewhere to the right of the big ships, but I can only see it when a swell scoops me up. A tuft of green atop hard angles tipping into the sea, details obscured by the distance. I drop back into a lonely trough, put my head down, and start swimming again.

This was roughly the experience of 500 people this weekend as they passed the midpoint of the Dakar-to-Goree swim race – a 5-kilometer traverse (slightly longer than the swimming stage of the iron man competition) from Dakar’s industrial zone to an island that earned its notoriety as Africa’s westernmost slaving station. This year’s race marked the event’s 50th anniversary, and amazingly, no one during any of the competitions to date has been reported lost at sea.

I say that because it is a bit of a free for all. Swimmers of all abilities gather on the beach the morning of the race and are let loose with little guidance at the stroke of noon. Veteran swimmers know to head in a direction about 90 degrees to the left of the island to counter the strong current, and novices like me tend to follow. I’ve been told drowning is a serious possibility for those who head straight at Goree. A few wooden boats cruise around to herd people who go too far off course, but it seemed to me an impossible task in the vast swath of ocean. During the first half hour or so, it is fairly easy to keep within sight of your fellow swimmers who act as guides. But as the minutes tick slowly by, the groups diffuse across the water and pretty soon, almost everyone is alone.

Luckily, I only had the one mild panic attack during my swim. It helped me to remember the young man on the starting beach who tied his wrists together with a rope, “to remember the slaves” he told a crowd of his fellow swimmers. I imagined him struggling bravely a half-hour ahead of me, tied up like a pretzel, and I toughened up.

After a monotonous stretch of swimming, the island grew larger. I got to the edge and began swimming along its coast to the beach and finish line. This was the fun part – not just because my lovely wife and a cold beer awaited me a few hundred meters away – but because I could now see the ocean floor with my mask as I crossed the reefs. I saw a giant puffer fish directly below me. I saw a school of minnows that looked like air bubbles moving sideways instead of rising to the surface. I saw piles of boulders, and stretches of peaceful white sand. Then I saw the edge of the rock pier and the slope of bottom rising toward the finish line. It was a welcome sight after hours of nothing but darkness below. I took a big breath and dove down to swim along the bottom for the last little stretch. When I came up, I was done, and the quiet of the sea was broken by music and cheering onlookers. Swimmers, who had all completed their solitary struggles, collided together at the finish and happily stumbled up the shore.

After the swim with a Gazelle on the table

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Some pics...

Rich and I on the way to ngor island

Dylan eating in his African chair

Fun in da crib yo!


Rainbow view from our house

When it rains, it pours.

Literally. The rainy season is incredible here. At times there are puddles far deeper than my waist.

But, metaphorically speaking this has certainly been one of the roughest weeks we have known here in Dakar. Visions of jumping on a plane back to the U.S. crossed my mind several times.

Temps are soaring above 100 degrees, and of course, everyday there are massive power outages. Last week, we went some 14, 16, and 18 hour intervals of no power. And as usual, our generator is on the fritz. Sleeping at night has been quite difficult not only for us, but for sweet little Laird and Dylan. We have had to throw out a lot of food, which is not only quite wasteful, but expensive in a country whose food is astronomically priced.

Our only car key is lost at sea. Yes, my dear husband went surfing with our only car key in his surf trunks. In the U.S. this would not be that big of a problem, but we are starting week two of trying to get a key made. No one really knows how long it will take, but we have already been quoted $500 to get the key.... We have been taking taxis to get to and fro... As you can imagine it is a struggle trying to communicate and negotiate in French.

We survived our first baby illness. Three nights ago, Laird woke up crying with a high temperature. He had no other symptoms...just crankiness and a high temp. Richard and I stayed calm as we awaited the 3 a.m. arrival of the emergency service at our home. Of course, we had no power when the doctor arrived. So, we all sat around Laird on the floor while he was examined wearing headlamps and flashlights, with sweat soaking our clothing. We then struggled through a five hour wait for malaria test results. Thank goodness it was negative...just a passing virus.

Our house leaks everytime it rains. Not just a drip or to, but puddles filling our family room and rivers flowing down our stairs. Unfortunately, we also noticed water filling our overhead lighting glass lamps... Yikes.

Dakar is also in the midst of a gas shortage. Luckily, we have no car that needs its tank to be filled and we fortunately refilled our cooking gas just before the shortage happened.

Due to the major power outages, there have been several protests in neighborhoods of Dakar. The last place I want to be is near a third world countries angry demonstrations. To be honest...I get it. I feel the anger everytime there is an outage. Why can't the government do something about this problem? It's infuriating...

Yes, it was one hell of a week. But good news...we survived.

Last night was our first night of sleep with power. Isn't it amazing what a good nights sleep can do? We had a battery inverter installed on the second floor that will run fans and internet during a power outage. Laird is feeling much much better and is now pulling himself to standing on whatever object is available. Dylan is not sick yet.

When it rains, it pours. Luckily the rainy season ends next month.