Dano, Melissa, Kennedy, Ethan, Erin, Abigail, and Emily

Dano, Melissa, Kennedy, Ethan, Erin, Abigail, and Emily

23 November 2010

A Dubai Holiday

With the Haj and the Eid, the kids had a little over a week off school. It happened to fall the same weekend our church was holding their semi-annual meetings. They hold these meetings in Dubai where there is more religious tolerance. We thought it would be a great opportunity for Dano and the older kids to go. Since Emily was just over two weeks old we did not yet have a passport for her…or an iqama or an exit visa, nothing that would allow us to take her out of the country. So Dano and the kids flew to Dubai on Wednesday afternoon. Upon arrival, they drove around downtown Dubai. The kids were surprised to find that their taxi driver was a woman. The rest of the trip they rode Dubai's wonderful, clean metro system.

Of course they had to see the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. As reported to me, they loved the lights. The building had strobes of lights that flashed in different sequences.They also visited the souqs. Their favorite one (surprise, surprise) was this fabulous candy souq. Apparently this picture does not capture even half of the candy bins. I don’t know if this would be a dentist’s worst nightmare or dream come true by way of job security (cha-ching!). Dano was certain that everyone who visited this souq had washed their hands before touching the open bins of unwrapped candy; at least he kept telling himself this.
The kids were beat tired and slept quite soundly. So soundly, in fact, that Erin didn't even realize her photo was being taken. They received these hilarious eye masks on the airplane. Believe it or not, two weeks later, they're still sleeping with them on.
On Thursday they did something we’d hoped they’d be able to do since we found out we were moving to Arabia…went skiing! One of the malls in Dubai has an indoor ski resort.It’s not the Rocky Mountains, but they all had a great time. For a reasonable admission, the resort rents ski clothes, skis, and provides a lift ticket.

Erin received the ‘most improved skier’ award. It was cold enough that they all thought they needed hot chocolate. Dano thought they all needed shirts that said “I froze in the desert.”

From there (much to Ethan’s delight!) they did a little shopping in the mall and then caught a movie. They were really excited about seeing a movie. The Lister family does not go to the movies very often, actually, hardly ever. In Saudi Arabia, though, there are no movie theaters at all. This is strictly so they can control what media is available within the kingdom. It’s one thing to choose not to go to the movies. It’s another thing to not even have the option. So, when the opportunity presented itself, they jumped on it. They saw Megamind which also happened to be in 3D movie…bonus!

Friday morning they attended their meeting which was conveniently at the Marriott hotel where they were staying…actually we planned it that way. They got ready and just hustled downstairs. There were about four hundred and fifty people at the meeting which surprised me. I think they really enjoyed meeting and gathering with others from our faith.

Saturday morning they got up early to meet a guide to take them on a desert safari. They rode out into the desert to the top of a sand dune, and let the air out of the tires of their Land Cruiser. Dano had to explain this one to me. Less air in the tires makes it easier to drive on the sand.
At the top of the dunes, the guide strapped a snow board on the kids and let each of them have a couple of turns sandboarding down the dunes. They found this to be terrific fun! Dano was even able to get in on the action. Hiking back up the dune for round two was the most difficult part. I think this was quite a workout for each of them, but the ride down was worth it.

They visited the Al Fahaidi Fort, the oldest building in Dubai built to protect the area from sea invaders. It also served as the office and residence of the ruler at the time.

There is a wonderful aquarium in Dubai. Kennedy loved the penguins, Erin loved the manta rays and Ethan loved the sharks, of course. But of all the pictures, I loved this tank created to be a reproduction of the Finding Nemo movie.
One of the highlights was the anticipation of coming home. Usually that’s not the case when you go on a trip…unless you’re Ethan Lister and you’ve been informed that your ride home will be on the Airbus A-380, the world’s largest airplane, the one you search the horizon for whenever you are out in the evening around 6:00. It’s the first two-story airplane the kids have flown on. Ethan’s comments, “It’s ginormous! It had stairs leading up to the lavatory. Every seat on the airplane had its own touch-screen television with lots of video games. It was so cool!”
Abigail, Emily, and I survived alone and had a quiet five days at home. These are two very sweet little girls. I enjoyed spending time with them, but we missed the rest of our family, especially Abby. She really missed those kids. We think Dubai looks and sounds like great fun and hope we will be able to visit it again with everyone.

03 November 2010

She’s Here!

Nearly sixteen years after being told we may not have children of our own, it is with joy that we were blessed with our fifth child, Emily Clare Lister, on Saturday, October 23rd, 2010 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She weighed in at 3.72 kg and stretched out to 52 cm. Yeah, that meant nothing to me, either. I just smiled at the nurse and looked at Dano waiting for a translation. It recalculates to 8 lbs 2 oz and 20.5 inches. She’s an average-size Lister baby. Ethan actually won our weight prediction poll to the ounce.

We had been back and forth on her name. When Abigail was born, Erin and I both liked the name Emily but were out-voted; I guess it just wasn’t her time. Clare is after my dad, Clarence who is a junior named after his father who was (I can only assume) named after his mother, Clara. After months of not being settled with a name, my dad sent us some names he had come across while working on some genealogy. They were grandmothers’ names nine generations back, but it made me start thinking and researching through both Dano’s genealogy and mine. Somehow, thankfully, I came across a couple of Emilys and, of course, Clara, and it all came together and I love it!

Emily was born at the International Medical Center, which is a partner with the Cleveland Clinic. It is, we think, the fanciest hospital any of our children have been born in.In June I switched hospitals and doctors after not being very pleased with the doctor I had. He would probably have been fine. I just felt like at every visit he had had three too many espressos and couldn’t focus or remember exactly what we had discussed the previous time. When we met with the new doctor he asked if we had switched because the hospital I had been going to was no longer seeing foreigners…they were becoming a strictly Saudi patient facility. Uh, no. No one had ever told us that. How could a hospital just drop their patients without informing them? Fortunately for us we had planned on leaving. Also fortunately for us we really liked this doctor. He is Saudi born and raised. He came to Canada and the U.S. for his education and training.

There were some different things about care in Saudi than in the States. Here doctors seem to make little or no physical contact with the patients if they don’t have to. Everything is left to technology, meaning you receive an ultrasound every visit. This is how they measure everything from growth to heartbeat. It was different at first, but who’s going to complain about getting to see their baby every visit? The nurses and ultrasound technicians are almost all Filipinos whose stories are nearly all the same: they’ve left their families (in many cases this includes their young children) back in the Philippines to work in KSA where they live on hospital/nurses’ compounds with strict curfews and rules and are bussed to and from work. Not surprisingly, many want to come work in the U.S., but after talking with one technician, the U.S. requires additional training and testing and it is harder to find a job there. Another difference is the doctors are not set up as groups/practices. There are consultants and specialists. The former are the more certified/educated. That’s what my doctor is. When you go into labor it is most likely that a specialist will deliver you. However, for a fee (paid at around the thirty-fifth week) you can ensure your doctor will deliver you. We found that kind of amusing…but paid it anyway! The doctors in the States could make a bundle on the side if they started doing this!

For the fifth time I tested positive for the group B strep virus so we knew I needed to have antibiotics. That coupled with the facts that I tend to have rather short labors and that my doctor teaches in Mecca a few times a week, we decided to schedule her delivery. In Jeddah when you are in labor you have to enter through the emergency room. There is a separate entrance for labor and delivery. Also, as part of their inefficiency, you cannot preregister. I had always done this weeks in advance in the States, as is recommended. Thank goodness we were going about things at a leisurely pace because Dano had to leave me upstairs and go back down and register me.

It was different having nurses I couldn’t communicate with well, i.e.…they could speak English alright but not well enough to have a sense of humor. I was the only person in the labor and delivery unit that day so Dano was permitted to walk the halls with me. If there had been other women there, Dano would have been required to stay in the room.

Throughout the day I had doctors and nurses from the Philippines, Egypt, Saudi, Sudan, Jordan, and Palestine, and those are only the ones we asked.

A couple of things I do remember from that day…the less-than-cheery anesthesiologist (aptly dubbed “Dr. Friendly”) somehow missed and only my left side was numbed. The second one who came in to try to remedy his colleague’s mishap was so empathetic he insisted on ripping off the body tape covering my back during the height of a contraction. Let me just say, I told Dano a man would not have survived that kind of back-waxing. Then as he attempted to adjust the needle during yet another contraction and saw I was in quite a bit of pain (ya think?) they tried to put a mask on my face, which I assumed would be oxygen. Dano was smart enough to ask. They responded that it was nitrous oxide…that’s right…laughing gas. It still makes me laugh to think that’s what they give women in labor to ease their pain…laughing gas!
(By the way, Dano graciously and emphatically declined on my behalf.)

As with many things in Saudi, celebrations are done on a grandiose scale (remember the birthday party back in February?). Births are no exceptions. Room decorations are a service provided by flower shops. The kids got a real kick out of our room. There were some quite extravagant decorations.
On Sunday morning Dr. Edris came around and told me I could go home that afternoon if I wanted to. Unfortunately I got a migraine shortly after he left so that kind of postponed my leaving. I thought that I’d make sure and initiate it that evening so I’d be set to leave first thing Monday morning. I let the evening nurse know I’d be checking out the next morning (makes it sound like a hotel, doesn’t it?). She just looked at me kindly, nodded and said, “En Shallah” which, if you recall from a previous post means “God willing.” When the cafeteria lady came in and asked me for my breakfast and lunch orders, I told her the same thing – that I would be going home in the morning. She smiled and said, “En Shallah. What would you like for breakfast?” I looked at her a little puzzled and told her I’d be eating at home. When the cleaning ladies came in early the next morning and asked if they could clean my room (they cleaned the room about four times a day!) I thanked them and told them I was checking out and they could just wait and clean it after I left. They too just smiled at me and said, “En Shallah.” At this point I wanted to say, “No really! I’m going home!”

It took forever for us to get out, four hours to be precise. Again, they have such great technology, such a beautiful facility, just no real capability in running it efficiently. If you have someone’s insurance information on file in the computer, why do they need to have every single transaction or test individually and manually entered and approved? Dano was required to make one more stop at the insurance desk to check us out and pay for anything the insurance didn’t cover. Then, just when we thought we were through, they decided at the last minute that Emily looked jaundiced and needed to run a test. We would need to wait.

While we waited the nurse made sure to collect all the hospital’s things and change Emily out of the hospital’s clothing. She gently dressed her in the going-home outfit we had brought. She asked about a blanket. We told her we had not brought one. I honestly had assumed that she’d be fine in the layered outfit considering it was 112 degrees outside. This was quite unsatisfactory with the nurse. She made a big deal about our not having a blanket to cover her up with. She finally gave a little humph and told us she’d allow us to take one of the hospital’s lesser baby blankets home with us because we didn’t have one. I was appreciative. Who doesn’t like a little blanket? However, we did chuckle at the fact that we were never queried regarding what carseat we’d be taking her home in. They’re more concerned about a blanket than a carseat! To us that was amusing…just different than what we’re used to.

After waiting an hour we asked about the progress of the test. They told us they were not going to send hers down for screening until they had gathered every baby’s test. It would probably only be an hour. Two hours later as we were asking for the results and were told it would probably only be another hour, we finally told them we were just going to leave (could we really do that?). They had our numbers; they could just call us with the results. As we were leaving, one of the nurses came in and told us the machine that processed the test was down and would not be able to run the test right now. Why not tell us two hours ago?! Anyhow, in the mean time she had arranged for a “trolley” to help carry down our door decorations, bags, and beautiful flower arrangements. It came accompanied by what looked like a hotel bellhop who was insistent on loading it all. Were we leaving the hospital or the Marriott? Oddly from there we just walked out…no nurses, no wheelchair…just took the baby and walked out. Very different.

As Abby and I stood in the grand lobby with our “bellhop” waiting for Dano to bring the car, we received many looks from passersby. Most just greeted us with warm smiles. Two women, however, stopped to offer their mashalas. As they looked at Emily it seemed they wanted to say something. I saw them staring at the carseat and thought they were probably wondering what it was. Finally, they could contain themselves no longer and told me in their best English how bad it was for my baby to be in a carseat. Shocked, I looked at them and said, “What?” They told me how it is so bad for her back. I asked them what they put their babies in. One of the women described something like a handbag, as she motioned to her purse. I asked if they buckled it into the car. “Yes. Put in the car.” They gave me a final warning of how damaging it will be for my baby’s back and that she knows, she has three children. I gave them a kind smile while thinking, “I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I think I’ll take my chances with the carseat.”

Sadly, the migraines have returned with a vengeance. In just over a week I’ve had four. After much thought and consideration I’ve resumed my medication. It was a very sad day but is probably for the overall well-being of everyone. Other than that, it’s been a great week and a half. Emily is such a wonderfully sweet baby and does just what babies do. She is alert and attentive when she is awake and loves to focus on faces. I know babies don’t smile at this age, but she most definitely does, just little smiles…and they aren’t just gas. We love having this new little one in our home and look forward to watching her grow, which is already happening too quickly.
In the words of Abby, “Her sooo cute!”