Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son


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Thoughts from the road

Greetings from somewhere in Pennsylvania. I can’t be more specific, as the Bean has commandeered the the GPS device, it’s too mountainous for our phones to be speaking to us, and I have allowed technology to get the better of my map skills. Oh, here: mile 253.2 of Interstate 80. Some peculiarly specific mile markers around these parts. Somebody’s brother-in-law has a sweet contract.

Jackalope is sitting in a giant pile of chocolate cookies. And yet fussing! Not my genes, I tell you what.

We are en route to Chicago, where Sugar has pictures in a group show, and then to the the Sugar Family Manse in midMichigan. (Chicago friends, how I wish we could visit you! We will be under house arrest at the Sugar Family Pied-a-Terre, which is to say her late grandmother’s house on the far, far, far South Side.) We are driving because, well, money. It’s good to have a car, though. This would be a real drag on foot with the granny cart.

Summer, man. It’s a pretty good season.

Item: You know those free tourism magazines at rest stops? They have weird depths.

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Item: We have continued the beach trips. The Bean is getting more comfortable with the water, in his incremental way. He likes me to carry him out into the water while Jackalope naps, and lately he will sometimes release his legs enough to kick wildly, as long as I grip his upper body to me. His friend S, who is a very strong and brave swimmer, dives into the waves around us while they both laugh. She has the sunniest nature, and they are an age when it does not seem to yet have occurred to them to let their differences in skills and constitution get in the way of their fun.

Item: It is now Saturday, and we are in Chicago. The opening was a real pleasure — in a fancy Mies Van de Rohe building and everything. Jackalope marched me directly to the cheese table, and the Bean got a Sprite after he and I examined all of the architecture students’ models. Most of the gallery guests were (like Sugar) alumni of the Institute of Design and true to type, brain-wise, to judge from their satisfied reactions to the Bean’s vigorous use of his name card to swipe them out of the gallery as they exited the porch. Systems people understand each other.

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Also pleasant was visiting with Sugar’s first cousin and his family, which includes two girls, 9 and 5. Isn’t it funny how babies born three months apart are radically different until age 15 months or so, at which point they are functionally the same age? Neighbors of ours have a daughter eight months younger than the Bean, who suddenly became his age when he was three and a half. Likewise, the five-year-old cousin, who was older than the Bean at Christmas, is now his age. The nine-year-old remains amazingly cool. The Bean sat on the sofa next to her, saying hi. Hi, she replied, and returned to her book. They talked dot-to-dots later. Jackalope was beside herself.

Item: Remind me not to let my kids play with the ostensibly nice neighbor here, who helps keep up the lawn and makes generally friendly offers of, for instance, letting the kids come swim in his pool, followed by announcing that the girls — who are FIVE and NINE — don’t have to wear bathing suits. Actually, no need to remind me. I think I’ll remember. Between this and Swamplandia!, which I just finished and recommend highly, I am nauseatingly reminded of the dangers of girlhood, in particular the way you are never quite sure which things are dangers and which are jokes and which might become dangers if you don’t treat them as jokes and the way you are certain it’s your fault for not getting it.

Item: Apparently, Chicago has ended the social promotion of street trees. I assume this is a Rahm Emmanuel thing.

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Item: On the topic of failure, I give the Ohio Turnpike website an F minus minus for their lyrical bullshit description of the history of Indian Meadows, the location of a service plaza in the eastern part of the state. It’s named for the redmen who lived there, you see, prior to the white men who, “unlike the red-skinned farmers, […] learned to conserve the soil.” European conquest was pretty much the least healthy thing to happen to the soil since glaciers, but in fairness, it is responsible for bringing to these lands the Gift of Sbarro.

Item: Guess how many hours we’d been with the Midwestern family before the first non-sequitur remark about the racist/awful South?  (Yes, the South is plenty racist.  It is not, however, uniquely racist, and the comfortable assumption on the part of white folks in the rest of the country that it is the home of all bad things perpetuates racism that doesn’t fly a confederate flag (which frankly, has far more power to harm than most of those flag-wavers) and gets on my last nerve.)

Item: My mental health still blows. A very brave friend with very significant head-demons recently noted that she can do all kinds of hard and scary things, yet have a panic attack at the idea of leaving her apartment. We made a list of panic attack triggers, the things our brains have evidently determined to be so dangerous that Attention Must Be Paid. My list included grapes, cinnamon, and bottled iced tea. Also guacamole and every medicine in pill form. Lo, how the mighty Better Living Through Chemistry have fallen! I can’t take an Advil without wondering if I am swallowing cyanide; I wish I were joking. The world seems so thin, so easily broken. I don’t know what’s become of me.

Item: I am, for the record, actively looking for a therapist. Criteria: does CBT, takes my insurance, is older than I am. I have some issues surrounding talking parental death stuff with chipper young people. Possibly unfair, but there you are.

Item: So far I haven’t even gotten anyone to call me back. This does not make me think good thoughts about the profession or humanity in general.

Item: The other things I think would help are sleeping more and creating things. I haven’t figured out how to manage either. Getting hungry makes everything radically worse. Looks like I will be dumpling-shaped for the foreseeable future, as eating my feelings seems far healthier than acting on them.

Uh, item: Not everything is misery. Jackalope is talking up a storm, which is my favorite, “LET’S HAVE ALL THE BABIES” aspect of child development. She calls her brother “Bam” or “The Bam” and our cat, Orson, “Ohrsine,” in a very French way. She can say “paleontologist,” but somehow not “yes.” “I see you, [person or item]” is a frequent announcement along with “wanna [x],” and “no biting,” usually right after biting me. She eats everything with gusto, followed by hurling it around the room with equal vigor.

She has in no way given up the idea that she should be allowed to nurse for any or all of a day’s 24 hours, despite my having officially stopped nursing on demand six months ago, and she’s come up with the most fiendishly clever way to ask: what’s the one thing a child of mine could request that I will always, but always, drop everything to help them with? That’s right: “wanna nap.”

Item: I have fallen for that a lot of times.

Item: The Bean is no less a marvel. He is tall and tan and proves to have a deep love of capoeira. Brooklyn being Brooklyn, we found a group that does lessons for four-year-olds and will give it a try in the fall. He is not a huge fan of the car, but has learned from our road trip with my Aunt Explorer the joys of chewing gum and washing the windows, which take the edge off.

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“GUM! No gum,” says Jackalope. No gum for babies.

He remarked the other day how funny it is that everyone in our family has the same color skin, an observation whose logical basis I credit to his magical pre-school of the past year. He’s off to public pre-K in the fall, and even though I think that is the right choice — it’s free and around the corner and full time — it’s hard for all of us not to feel wistful. (He could technically go to his old school for another year, at great expense even for a part-time schedule, but he is demonstrably ready for more class time.) The local school is good, certainly fine for pre-K, but I have to take deep breaths when I think of my baby in a building where police officers run the front entrance. Plus the uniform is ugly, no matter how egalitarian in principle. I had a dream the other night that it was the picture for an article about ugly things.

Update: while I was nattering on, we got ready to leave Chicago for the Sugar’s childhood home in rural Michigan. Then the phone rang with the news that her father’s little brother, who, like the rest of the siblings, lives in suburban Chicago, had had a stroke. So we weren’t going anymore. Then, in the morning, his sister the nurse said no more visitors, as he tries to pull his feeding tube out to talk every time he recognizes anyone. So suddenly we were going again, with Sugar’s parents planning to come back in a week. (It is about a four-hour drive.) Everyone is being very sensible and stoic and Midwestern.

Uncle Little Brother is the family clown, the one who cheerfully submits to being the butt of the joke while making you a Manhattan, who somehow knows the perfect presents for the kids at Christmas, who in the pictures of the (large) family as children is always the one mysteriously in a cowboy costume or dressed for a children’s theatre production of Guys And Dolls, in the deep woods of northern Wisconsin. They say he is likely to recover, and I hope they are right.

Item: We are now in Sugar’s tiny hometown, in the house she grew up in, which is somehow also the very cleanest artists’ studio you ever saw. I’ve gotten used to the place over the years and forgotten how cool it is. I’d take a better picture, but I am sitting with a not-sleeping Bean. Update: too dark. You’ll have to take my word for it. Paintings, prints, sculptures everywhere, yet somehow extremely clean. Lots of books. A large cat named Teddy.

Here is the living room:

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The air conditioning is broken, but after freezing my tail off at the Chicago house, my thin, Southern blood is finally coming in handy.

Update: a mighty thunderstorm. The green wet smell of summer camp insomnia.

Item: This is honest to God the sign at the edge of town. The town is too small for a stop light and recently removed its downtown flashing yellow, so you see how this kind of thing could get to emergency levels.

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Item: MIL and I went to the new butcher shop at the edge of town — this is big news, as Carl’s grocery closed some time ago, leaving the town with zero food stores that aren’t a gas station. The new place sells great steaks, fifteen kinds of bratwurst (blueberry???), a smattering of produce, and a surprising array of bulk spices. They will also butcher your deer. Savvy business move, which I attribute to the owner’s wife working at the bank. The staff uniform is a camo hunting cap, which matches the wallpaper near the coolers; transactions are observed by a small black bear, a caribou, assorted fish, a fox, several whitetail, and some others I have forgotten. I have taken an immediate liking to the place. Good steaks, too.

Item: It turns out matching pajamas are crazy-cute. “We’re twins!!” says the Bean.

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Item: I am supposed to go take a nap. Cheers for now.


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Fits and Starts (Take 2)

Did this pop up in your reader once already, when it was much, much shorter?  Thank the awkward interface of the WP ipad app!

Hey, look! I got as far as a title for that post I didn’t write on Tuesday! Fancy that!

I was sneezing my brains out, and the state of my pelvic floor is such that I was put in mind of the notion of…let’s say ideas escaping a bit at a time. Then my allergy meds kicked in and I was left with the cognitive skills of a not-so-bright houseplant. So you missed out on an extended pee metaphor, is what I’m saying.

I know. I’m sad for you, too.

Meanwhile, in no particular order:

Item: The mother of one of the Bean’s friends, who also has a six-month-old, says of taking care of the two of them, “it’s really fine. As long as you don’t want to do anything else.” That about sums it up so far. Jackalope, praise heaven, remains about as easy to care for as it is possible to imagine for a baby her age (7 weeks today yesterday). Sometimes I also do one other thing, like some laundry or most of the dishes. We do not always leave the apartment. I shower on the weekends.

Item: I have found this game invaluable for achieving a sanity-sparing trance state while nursing. I have even won, once. If you are troubled by excess productivity, give it a try.

Item: Yes, I play games while caring for my children. I also mess around on the Internet and, in the rare occasion that I have access to both my hands and a source of light, read books. (I have been known to talk on the phone, too, though not so much now that I have lost the one person I could call anytime, even when there wasn’t much of a story to tell, and just…talk.) On Friday I was chided in a faux-friendly way by a (childless) acquaintance for bantering on Facebook rather than giving my children my undivided attention.

Item: I do not give my children my undivided attention at every moment.

Item: I do not feel bad about that. They do not need my undivided attention, most of the time. There are moments when one or, merciful heavens, both need all or most of my attention, and in those moments, I do my best to give it to them.

Item: I am a fully-fledged adult human, with a big brain and wide-ranging interests. No one needs my undivided attention at all times.

Item: Speaking of gender essentialism (because I believe that’s what is in play above), it continues to amaze me how casually it crops up in my life as the mother of a boy child. (I expect the girl child parts will kick in soon.) The mother of the Bean’s friend mentioned above expresses genuine surprise that I am not teaching the Bean to pee standing up. As if the presence of a Y chromosome demands it. (Or maybe it’s the testicles? An issue of airflow?) For the record, the first person to inform him that such an option exists gets to teach him; such behavior will be for outside of the house only until he is able to be in charge of cleaning the bathroom. Meanwhile, another friend — and a butch lesbian, at that — expresses relief that she is expecting another girl, because she knows “what little boys are capable of.” I am baffled.

Item: Our particular little boy is capable of more and more things, lately, almost all of them good. Potty training, pee-edition, is suddenly going much better. (Let us not speak of poop.) He prefaces questions with, “I’m curious,” and tonight at the computer remarked, noticing the connection for the first time, “it’s funny that you guy call that a mouse.” He “imsisted” the other night that I stop doing the dishes and instead eat ice cream. I was helpless to comply.

Item: Jackalope is up to new tricks, too. Last night, age exactly seven weeks, she had her first absolute fit of smiles, cracking up over my singing along to the Mendelssohn and Mozart Sugar was playing. She’s a funny baby in general. For reasons only the gods of hand-me-downs know, we own in her size what amounts to a black unitard. I tried, later on last night, to get her to smile for a camera, but was treated instead of pose after pose of hamming. Method baby, I guess.

7 weeks eyebrows
Eyebrow work

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Nathan Lane Impression

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Hitchcock

7 weeks
Comedy

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Tragedy

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Fin

Item: We have all gone to our respective doctors again. The Bean had has three-year check up, passed with flying colors. Suddenly he is in the 40-somethingth percentile for height and, more surprisingly, for weight. This from a child who spent much of his first year clinging to the bottom five percentile points. He weighs in the neighborhood of 31 pounds and is roughly 38 inches tall. He is extremely glad to now be able to reach the green button that releases the lock on our building’s front door. City kid milestones.

Jackalope is huge. At that appointment, at which point she was five weeks and change, she weighed in at 9 pounds 12 ounces, somewhere in the 60s by percentile. Two pounds over her birthweight, three pounds over her lowest recorded weight in the post-birth drop. Imagine what she’d weigh if she didn’t spit up so much! She is deemed otherwise healthy, and now her acne is clearing up, too.

I took Jackalope with me to my six-week OB check-up. It was lovely, really. As different from the postpartum appointment of abuse and despair as can be imagined.  We were thoroughly fussed over by everyone from the receptionist to that very young OB I only met once at my first appointment. I stuck my head into the office of Dr. Joy, the OB who delivered Jackalope, and she was so completely charming in her neon pink lipstick and her exclamations that I wasn’t even annoyed that she had to ask my first name. She clearly remembered me. “Oh! Was it better for you?? You were so traumatized! I just really wanted it to go really well for you!!  And you did so well!” She danced around the room holding Jackalope and praising her and me for ages, even though I know she had a patient waiting. (Sorry, patient, but I did need that.) I just love her. I almost want to see her now for my annual exams, instead of the doctor I came to the practice for. But I also love her! Maybe I’ll let them each do one cervix.

For the actual appointment, I saw the younger of the two OB midwives, whom I didn’t meet before Jackalope was born but who gets a gold star in the birth story I will eventually write, for being the person answering the phone when Sugar called to say I was having contractions. Young Midwife could hear me in the background and, in marked contrast to the bitch of a nurse at Dr. Russian’s, who in similar circumstances told Sugar, “she needs to calm down,” said, calmly but firmly, that we needed to leave for the hospital, even if I’d only just started having contractions that made me sound like that. Thank you, Young Midwife, for your help in making sure our daughter was not born in a cab.

At this appointment, we mostly just chatted. My poor, tattered hooha had started behaving itself again, so no treatment for that. Isn’t it always slightly more frustrating than relieving when symptoms resolve prior to an appointment? My pelvic floor is nothing to write home about, but it does seem to be getting stronger; I kegel every time I think of peeing on myself, which is often enough that I occasionally overdo it and exhaust everything. YM told a story of being invited to the country house of a homebirth client and making an ill-advised decision to get on the trampoline with her kids. My own hopscotch misadventures pale in comparison. She asked about penetration and I said I’d let her know if the children were ever simultaneously asleep; she countered with a story of nursing while…multitasking. (Why is it that they tell you no penetration with anything prior to the six week appointment, and then, at the six week appointment, ask how it’s going? C’mon, people.)  I am cleared to do everything, including sit-ups, but I told YM I’d be much, much to busy attending to my precious children to do anything so selfish as that.  The Bean and I celebrated with a bubble bath.

Item: It’s taken almost a week to write this, and I can’t remember what else I meant to include. Time to wrap it up, perhaps. Good night, y’all.
Visiting monkey and Julia

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Bionic Family Newsletter

Hey, y’all, she remarked sheepishly. I am sorry it has been so long. I thought I remembered about this phase, how it means just nursing 27 or 28 hours a day, but I crucially forgot that nursing a newborn requires, at least for me, both hands. Also, by 28 hours a day I mean 40.

But anyway, here I am. Mostly because how many places am I free to talk about my nipples and hooha hurting? Y’all are a special group, internet. I don’t have real hope of managing a narrative post in the next two years, but I will indulge myself in some categorized items. (Spoiler: my nipples hurt. Also my hooha.)

[Several hours later….]

Where to begin?  Jackalope, I suppose, since she’s the most novel:

Jackalope

Item: She’s marvelous.  Disregard all the time I spend begging her to go the hell back to sleep at 3am.  She’s healthy and growing and sleeping more than the Bean did, even if I could frankly use a lot more hours.  She seems to be that proverbial easier baby that some people have.  Now I understand the magical beliefs that persist about babies — how they give explicable cues before screaming that they are hungry, for instance, and how they like things like swaddles and pacifiers and soothing.  I imagine some of this is our being more experienced parents, but mostly I think she’s just a wildly easier baby than the Bean.  (Knock wood, knock wood.)

Item: She’s huge!  She was almost two pounds heavier than the Bean at birth (7/13 to his 6/1), and she’s growing much faster.  She was over eight pounds at her last appointment, at age 2.5 weeks.

Item: She’s tough.  At five days old, she reached down during a clothing change, took hold of her umbilical cord stump, and tore it off.  No crying.

Item (related): She nurses well!  This, I believe, is both cause and consequence of being larger (and born two weeks later).  Consequence, because her mouth is larger, her stomach holds more, and she is just more coordinated and, well, finished than the Bean was.  She latched on and nursed better in the delivery room than he did for a month.

Item: I have SO much more milk than last time.  Funny, it’s almost like a person is healthier when she keeps most of her original complement of blood.  Someone should study that.

Item: Nursing a baby who is into it while yourself making adequate amounts of milk is SO MUCH EASIER than nursing a weak, tired, young baby while making not enough milk.  It still takes forever and wears me out and hurts my nipples and drives me a little crazy, but really, not at all in the same ballpark.  I did have a small nervous breakdown at her first out-of-hospital doctor’s visit, when she had lost still more weight and I imagined us spiraling into the same nightmare we had with the Bean.  I took home formula samples and cried and refused to use them, which confused poor Sugar badly.  I couldn’t decide whether it was more irrational to begin supplementing a baby I knew didn’t really need it yet, or to dig in my heels, the way I did last time, and allow us to go back down the road of failed exam after exam, needlessly starving baby, etc.  (Side-item: I really wish we’d been able to see our preferred pediatrician for that visit instead of her young partner.  I think she might have been able to calm me down.)  But then, like in the books, my milk came the rest of the way in, and at our next appointment, she’d regained her birth weight.  Just like they say happens!

Item: As much as I like the lactation consultant we ended up eventually seeing with the Bean (as opposed to the ones we saw before her, who were various flavors of useless), I like not having to see her even more.  And even more than THAT, I like having a baby who can just be fed when she’s hungry and gain weight, without my having to go through routines of timing and facial exercises and diaper changes to wake her back up and horrible teas and pumping and crying and guilt.  Funny.

Item: At the second weight check, when she’d regained her birth weight, I also had my first experience of really feeling like an experienced parent.  The NP we saw that time, who had repeatedly praised her weight gain, asked about her sleep.  At the time, she had been sleeping a 4-6 hour stretch at the beginning of the night, which, I’m sure you can imagine, was heavenly.  (I mean, the Bean doesn’t even always do that, and he’s THREE.)  Oh no, she said, you can’t let her go that long.  You need to be waking her up to eat.  And I thought, lady, you just said this baby is gaining weight and looking great; like hell I’m waking her up.  But what I said was, “We’ll see.”  Because I realized in that moment that not only did I not have to do that, I didn’t even need to tell her I wasn’t going to.

Item: We don’t always get that stretch anymore.  Or it isn’t always at night.  Sugar generally ends up in the Bean’s room, and I am alone with Jackalope, who likes to have a couple hours of being awake for no earthly reason sometime in the 1-5am stretch.  I am tired.

Item: On Monday, my first day home alone with both kids, she stayed awake from 5am until 10:30, napped for 40 minutes, was back up for a couple of hours of continued, constant nursing, took another cat nap, was up again, etc.  There was a period when all three of us were wailing.  It was precious.

Item: On Tuesday, Sugar came home from work early and I took Jackalope to a department meeting at adjunct-institution-community-college.  I had written to ask permission and not heard back, and I need brownie points over there.  No idea if I scored them with the right people.  I missed half the meeting, including the topic I’d come to hear about.  A woman next to me was snide at me while using FB on her phone.  It was one thousand degrees and packed; turns out my comfort level with public nursing does not extend to the front row of such a setting.  I had the unsettling experience of realizing that the woman I thought was the chair of the department isn’t.  But several people said kind things on their way out the door, and I reminded the person who hires adjuncts that I’d like work in the fall.

Item: Poor Jackalope is a second child when it comes to pictures, I’m afraid.  We remember to take them, sometimes, but then they are stuck on the camera.

The Bean

Item: The Bean is THREE.  How in cheese’s name did that happen? We got him a tea set.
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Item: He turned three the same day Jackalope turned three weeks old.  I tried to get a cute picture of them near each other.  Ha.
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Item: We had a tiny little party and a cake with trains on it.  My mom tried to send the trains for his last birthday, but they arrived too late. He liked it.

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Item: Still not eating many foods or sleeping through the night or reliably using the potty. But he can do a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle with almost no help. (Still figuring out how to work that “but” into his doctor’s appointment on Monday.)  I am an unabashed puzzle pusher, and am beyond thrilled that he likes them, too.

[There’s Jackalope waking up….]

[And then the rest of the afternoon and the evening and the night happened, and most of the next morning.  There was an interlude for an unexpectedly early first brother/sister bath, which damn near killed me with the cute.]

GandJbath

Item: The Bean is so much better with Jackalope than I thought reasonable to expect.  He likes to put his nose against her toes.  We failed utterly to move him to a big bed and decommission the crib/toddler bed in time that he wouldn’t associate the loss of his familiar spot with the arrival of the baby, but as soon as it was converted back to its baby configuration (he helped), I heard him stop mid-sentence, correcting himself to call it “Jackalope’s bed.”  She was fussing in there one afternoon, while I was stuck on the toilet.  I was a little concerned when he went in to her — he is a lot larger than she is and unaware of her comparative fragility — but he sat down on the floor with his legos and said, “don’t cry.  I am making you a tower to make you happy.”  Melt.

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[Whoops, there went the whole weekend.  My dad visited.  There’s a lot to say about that, almost all unbloggable.  He is charming with babies.]

Rotten Things

Item: Our older cat, Michaela, died.  She was diagnosed with kidney failure right before Jackalope was born.  Sugar learned to give her sub-cutaneous fluids every night.  There were supplements but no real hope of recovery.  She seemed okay for a while, and then suddenly wasn’t.  We all miss her, and of course this has started another round of questions and pronouncements from the Bean about his dead grandmother and great-grandmother, with lots of crying from me especially.  I know these questions are a typical part of being his age, but really, the last four months have been over the top for our family.  I am so sick and tired of death.

Item: Michaela came to us as a teeny kitten found in the woods, so dirty we didn’t know she was white.  (Really, she was a secret calico, with a smear of grey and buttery-tan on her head as a kitten.)  She lived with us in Massachusetts and Chicago and New York.  She nearly died of hepatic lipidosis in 2005 and after recovering, slept on our feet every night.  Despite being standoffish with strangers (“Michaela has boundaries,” said an approving friend, comparing her to our more dog-like Orson), she turned out to adore babies, both ours and others’.  We called her the Bean’s nanny.  Here she is with the Bean, in 2011, and with Jackalope:

A Boy and His (Very Patient) Cat

Great Minds Think Alike

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Item: Yesterday morning, Sugar’s paternal grandmother died.  (Her maternal grandmother died in December.)  It wasn’t a surprise, but it is awful.  I am so tired of death.

Item: Sugar is going to Chicago for the funeral for the first part of the week.  I’m not ready to be alone overnight with both Jackalope and the Bean, but, well, I guess I’m about to be ready.

My Addled Brain

Item: Despite everything, I don’t seem to be depressed.  At least, I don’t think so.  It’s almost weird.  I am sometimes sad and sometimes overwhelmed, but yeah, not depressed.  I do still cry about my mom a lot, but I have a hard time categorizing that as pathological; crying seems pretty rational to me, and naturally I think of her all the time, especially looking at this baby, whom she would so have wanted to know.  There’s not much I can do to make that not awful.

My Body, Upper

Item: Remember that Cold of Filth I was complaining about before Jackalope was born? (COF is trademarked to either May or Mrs. Hairy, not sure.) I had this fantasy that somehow the intensity of labor would drive it out like a demon.  Yeah, no.  Instead, I was sick for a solid month, coughing my brains out.  (Other things also coughed out, too, thanks to an enlarged uterus and a pelvic floor that went on strike altogether.)  The Bean and Sugar were sick, too, but luckily Jackalope was not, nor does the codeine cough syrup I was living on seem to have bothered her.  Still, I do not recommend the experience of being that sick immediately postpartum.

Item: Dateline: NIPPLES. The Reynaud’s is back.  For new readers, this means that my nipples are spasmotically seizing up in response to breastfeeding, and if that sounds horrifically painful, well, it is.  I got on the nifedipine in short order this time around, following some minor difficulties getting my OB to prescribe the extended release version in place of a “take as needed” regime of regular capsules.  (Let me tell you, you take one of those at the same time as a slug of cough syrup and WHOA, good luck standing up.)  Unfortunately, the nifedipine isn’t working quite as completely, though things are a great deal better than they were a few weeks ago, when many tears were shed.  Now I mostly have spasms at night, and they aren’t so terrible.

Item: I can’t try a higher dose of nifedipine, apparently.  I called the OB office a couple of weeks ago, when things were getting very bad, to ask about that and about some renewed locchia.  The nurse insisted I come in to see a midwife.  On the one hand, it was nice to feel they were concerned about my health, in marked contrast to Dr. Russian’s nurse.  On the other, schlepping into the city is not easy, nor was there a point.  As I had suspected, the bleeding was normal.  Meanwhile, they are afraid my blood pressure will bottom out on a higher dose.  I suspect that’s not right — my understanding is that, while nifedipine does lower BP in people with pathologically high pressure, it doesn’t have much effect in someone like me, whose body doesn’t have difficulty maintaining a steady BP.  Certainly my BP while I was taking it last time was at my usual level every time it was checked.  But, since my usual level is on the low side and I don’t want to pass out all over the place, I guess that’s how it is.

Item: I started taking some extra B6, on the advice of the internet.  Hard to say whether that helped, but  I already had it in the house.  At least I won’t get pellagra.

Item: The Reynaud’s has new tricks.  Several times a day, associated with let-down, I have what I think must be massive spasms in my milk ducts.  (This happened sometimes with the Bean, but not this early or this fiercely.)  The only reason I’m not weeping over this is that it doesn’t last that long, just a minute or two each time.  It is more of a sore feeling than a sharp one, but it is intense, like each duct suddenly has a fist inside it.  Not recommended.

Item: It was an act of purest optimism to have ordered that breastpump, wasn’t it?  Sigh.

My Body: Lower

Item: I know y’all mainly read this blog for hooha news.  It’s cool.  I mainly write it to talk about my hooha.

Item: Ouch.

Item: In so many, many ways, my recovery from Jackalope’s birth has been nothing at all like my recovery from the Bean’s.  Thank whatever it is you like to thank.  I am healthier and happier and in much, much better shape.

Item: My pelvic floor is shot, but recovering.  For a while there, advertising algorithms were chasing me across the internet with ads for protective undergarments.  Depressing.  Now I am mostly okay as long as I go to the bathroom a lot and, I discovered yesterday, don’t attempt any hopscotch games.  Bad idea.

Item: The hemorrhoids are likewise retreating, like big, ugly glaciers.  Butt glaciers.  Thank God for witch hazel.
(Gratuitous witch hazel shot because I also love the plant, mostly because it blooms so early.)

witch hazel

Item: Stitches still beasts.  The proverbial they say you don’t tear as much the second time, and I guess I didn’t, inasmuch as I’d already, erm, resected my vaginal septum and it’s hard to tear more than that.  Nevertheless, I was fairly shredded, inside and out.  My new vocabulary word is “sulchal.”  That all hurt in a predictable way at first, then got worse around week two, when everything got irritated and the lines of stitches felt like they might rip right out every time I coughed.  Or God forbid sat up.  Things improved again, with a delightful interlude of suture ends poking me in personal places.

Item: Except now I have these hard spots I suspect are scar tissue, and nothing is stretchy enough.  As in, it hurts to sit again, in sharp little ways, and then there is blood.  Not a whole lot of blood mostly, but I think I am tearing a little bit every day now, just from sitting.  I am so not into this, I can’t even tell you.  I have my postpartum appointment on Tuesday, and I sure hope there is something to do about this problem.  I’d like to, um, use that part of my body again someday, for one thing.  Ahem.

Miscellanea:

Item: Sara started blogging again!  Check that OUT.

Item: I have spent an absurd amount of time giggling at this, featuring drawings the Bean describes as “some funny folks!”


15 Comments

39w4d: Fingers and Legs Firmly Crossed

Sugar says I should tell you I am still pregnant. I am still pregnant. I am hoping to remain so for at least a few more days, until local conditions improve.

Monday, it snowed and snowed. Tuesday, my lungs started to feel strangely twitchy. I loathe using my inhalers, but I dug out the less serious one. Nothing like powerful uppers to soothe the anxious mind! By Wednesday, when the weather was doing this (and if anything, these pictures understate the severity of the grossness), Sugar and I both had full-blown Colds of Filth.

I, however, also had an OB appointment, so the Bean and I suited up and gamely headed out. And then I stared at the iceberg-strewn moat that was our street and wondered how we would even get to the subway station. We were in our rain boots, but the Bean’s leak (and cannot be replaced because they are beloved). Moreover, their tops were several inches closer to the ground than the surface of the water. Something has seen fit to begin driving an axe through the middle of my pubic bone; I really can’t carry him anymore. I had hoped the man out shoveling might be the sort who would volunteer to lift him over, but no luck.

Just as I was explaining, with more certainty than I felt, how he could carefully cross via a narrow, quasi-stable-looking ice bridge, mirabile dictu! A dea-ex-machina solution arrived in the form of Sugar, who had decided she was too sick to continue on her way to work, given that the trains to that part of town had all stopped running. And so it was that we all went to the OB office together. I will spare you further tales of the trip except to say that it is remarkable how poorly this town responds to water. Too many tunnels and underground streams.

The appointment itself was fine. BPP was unremarkable, despite my panic on Tuesday that I had killed Jackalope with my inhaler. (This is why I hate those things. Though I grudgingly admit that I like breathing.) BP fine, weight steady. We saw Dr. White again and mostly talked allowable cold medicines and the confusing nature of these contractions that keep starting and stopping. “I think you’ll know,” she said of the latter. Of the former, “push fluids.” Believe me, I am. I push them in, and then I cough or sneeze and push them right back out again, if you follow.

This morning, the Bean started throwing up.

So. Here I sit, pregnant and kegelling like my life depends on it.


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Items, Glorious Items

Were you in Oliver! ever? I was. Eight grade. I do not love that show. Sorry if this song is now in your head for the rest of the day, too. I don’t know what gets into me. We were instructed to wear our fathers’ old shirts for that scene, so while the rest of the orphans (whose fathers were bigger than mine, I gather) looked waif-ish, I looked like a blue, permanent-press sausage. At least I got to sing the pretty rose seller bit later, in a peasant blouse.

Sorry, as ever, for the silence. I’d say it has been difficult to find time, but the real issue is energy. I am just so beat these days. I feel fine in the morning, but by evening, forget it. Makes me rather nervous about what’s coming next.

Meanwhile! Pease porridge and items:

  • Thank you for your many thoughtful, um, thoughts, about the doula situation. I/we have not decided what to do, but your comments have been very helpful. After meeting with friend-doula, I feel about the same as I did before: I think she is a good personality match for me, but I am worried about the experience issue. On the other hand, it is very, very valuable to me to know her personality well enough to trust that she won’t be crazy at me during labor. The doctors I have met at my new OB place all seem very nice and swear they aren’t insane, yet I find I am having enormous difficulty believing that. Just having that concern out of the way about a doula might be valuable enough to make up for a lot. As for the “morning-after” problem, I never saw my last doula after delivery, and I think that on balance that hasn’t been so great for my mental health. I do plan to have some pretty clear guidelines for anyone in this role, namely: pay more attention to me than the baby; tell me what a great job I did more times than anyone could possibly need to hear. Especially if this isn’t the kind of birth people carry on about the beauty of.
  • Speaking of mental health, I did go see that therapist last week, and I have an appointment for next week. She seems good, I think. She said several good things, things many of you have said, but it is different to hear them from someone who doesn’t like me, you know? (Wait, maybe you don’t like me, either? Someone who I’m not trying to have a friend-style relationship with, anyway.) I chose her because she has training in CBT and EMDR; a cognitive approach to this situation feels much more to the point than still more mucking about in my feeeeelings. Of course, what did I do? I talked about my feelings for a fifty-minute hour, that’s what. But I am a narrative gal, and I did need to tell her the story.
  • I only cried once! Rather suddenly, at the point where I said the thing about how, when I imagine things going well this time, I imagine myself surrounded by warriors. That was surprising timing, to me. The therapist — she might need a bovine name, not because she herself seems at all cow-like, but because the waiting room of her otherwise very midtown office (converted apartment, doorman, and so on) is entirely decorated in strangely urbane cow art. Let’s call her Caroline, as long as we’re on a musical kick, for the new, blue, true, moo cow in Gypsy, the one who is willing to moooove to the city with Baby June. Anyway, Caroline stopped me and asked me to dwell on the feeling that brought up, and woman, I wanted to shout, all I DO is dwell! But anyway, I think that went about as well as expected.

how bovine is thy dwelling place
How…bovine is thy dwelling place

  • I paid another visit to the high-risk place with the fancy u/s machines, for part two of the anatomy scan. It was…a bit of an ordeal, frankly. (With the obvious caveat that I mean “ordeal” in the limited way the word can apply to a situation with a good outcome.) Sugar had an important work meeting, so it was just me; God bless my friend the Dane for taking the Bean in addition to her own kids for the afternoon.
  • First, there was the Great Cervix Search, the longest stretch (as it were) of dildo-camming I have as yet experienced. My cervices, you may recall, are of particular interest because having the two of ’em means I am at increased risk of cervical incompetence, number two on my list of most-despised obstetric terms. (Number one is “habitual aborter.”) On the MRI I had prior to ever being pregnant, the two of them are smack next to each other; before the Bean removed my septum with his head, they were fairly easy to find on physical exam, since each had its own little vagina. How cute. Post-Bean, one — the one he used — has been easy to find by hand, as it were, one much more difficult. When I was in labor, they only found one, so my hunch is that the other made itself scarce in late pregnancy, and many thanks I send it.
  • So, back in the stirrups: the tech spent a while poking around with the ultrasound wand, pursing her lips and printing pictures and, as they all do in these moments, interrogating me about how I knew there were two, anyway. (MRI, plus I used to bleed out of the un-tamponned side, plus the other tech found it a month ago.) This is a slightly annoying conversation to have while being dildo-graphed. After a while, she stopped but told me to stay put while she found a doctor to decide if her pictures were satisfactory. Enter doctor. “I’ve never done this before,” she says, and off to the races we go, complete with the same interrogation. Eventually, she gives up, too, and in comes the senior doc on duty, who is very luckily the southern one I like so much. “How does it feel to be a medical marvel?” He has a firmer hand with the whole business (GOD, I do not like being able to compare technique in this way, but there’s only so long I can stare at the ceiling and think of England.) After quite a hunt, at least punctuated with jovial asides and no dubious eyebrow twitches, he declares himself defeated by my marvelous anatomy, too, but willing to assume things are okay in the absence of symptoms, given the fine state of the less shy cervix and the full-term status of the Bean.
  • Now is the part where I insert a little prayer that Jackalope doesn’t get any funny ideas about using the untested one. Do you hear me, young…person?
  • Jackalope, who has been kicking up a storm through all this, has fallen asleep, and in a position not conducive to measuring anything relevant. Now we see what fun toys the fancy place has at its disposal, like the tilt-a-whirl electric bed I am soon sliding off of, head first. (Seriously, I braced myself only by putting a hand on the wall behind me.) I am basted with more and more gel and rotated like a rotisserie chicken. The paper under me tears into little, goopy pieces. Just…yuck. Eventually the creature shifts enough to show off everything except what the tech keeps calling “the gender.” I resist the urge to parrot a women’s studies lecture at her. Jackalope has her feet between his legs, or the other way around. As I am instructed to roll over again, I mention that they did, after all, get a look last time, but apparently they have to look again. Lord knows why — is it all that likely to have changed? I guess that would be noteworthy.
  • Eventually, the tech’s rolling and prodding and jiggling pay off. She releases me to attempt to squeegie some gel off of myself, though it is clear this is more a job for a pressure washer than a paper towel. Dr. Southern returns to say everything is fine, Jackalope is a good size, the cord, which they couldn’t see well last time, is inserted in the expected manner, and while the placenta is still marginally previa, it’s only by 2 mm, which even I can’t manage to fret over. And no cervix searches again until the third trimester, though I’m back for another growth scan in a month. Phew.
  • Because she is an angel, the Dane has not only kept the Bean all this time but has also made enough quiche that I can inhale half a pie-plate’s worth upon my return to Brooklyn.
  • I did at least get lots of pictures to show to Sugar and the Bean, who respectively described the Jackalope as “a barracuda” and “scawy.” So now you have to look at them.

USWeek20001

I think all that dust is on the scanner and not in my uterus, but who knows?

USWeek20003

USWeek20004

Clearly, my mind is going, because I even thought the creepy 3-D ones were cute.
USWeek20005

…But maybe I also see where the “barracuda” idea comes from. Still not half as scary as the dragon-lizard the Bean appeared to be at a similar age.

 

  • Speaking of the Bean, he is charming, obsessed with street sweepers and the alphabet, awfully tall all of a sudden (36″), and still not much of a sleeper, very much to my consternation, though it is Sugar who gets the brunt of the night work, since he refuses to let me be the one to come in when he wakes. He mostly still naps (and is a holy terror if he doesn’t), but he rarely falls asleep before 10 pm. This would be annoying enough if he could be allowed to just stay up, but he really cannot function that way. So we start bedtime at 8 or 8:30, read books, brush teeth, all that, and then one of us sits in the dark for an hour or so. Every night. Thank God for iPads. (If he does not nap, he falls asleep much more quickly, but you will have to take my word for it that his mood and behavior for the last several hours of the day in that case are such that, NO. Artificially shortening his nap does not speed up bedtime.)
  • I did not answer the cat-torture question because I kept hoping I would find an answer or at least discover that his current delight in pestering the household felines was a short-lived phase. Ha. I don’t know what brought this on, but I know I want it to stop, pronto. Also a thing that could stop any time: “knocking” (read: hitting) his mothers.
  • He’s down to refusing all food except smoothies for dinner. (At lunch he will usually eat a peanut butter sandwich.) I don’t know anymore. He loves to cook and talk about food, just not so much to eat it.
  • He is very sweet about the baby, though, hugging and kissing my stomach and whispering, I love you, baby, in that not-very-whispery two-year-old way. This is very clever, as it is impossible to remain annoyed with whatever shenanigans he has been pulling when he does that.
  • Potty training is under way, in the most lazy way possible. His little butt is extremely cute in underpants. It is extremely hilarious when nude, as it often is, especially when he starts practicing being an acrobat.
  • This post is even more scattered than usual. Winning!
  • Sugar did come with me to today’s OB appointment, with the original doctor I know in the practice, the one who dealt with my Return To Stirrups last summer and also with Sugar’s menacing ovarian cysts, back in the day. She is very nice. She says no one at that practice is going to yell at me in labor. I have some trouble believing she can really know that about her colleagues, but I at least think she would not, so that’s a start. She did say, however, that she favors having women hold their breath while pushing, which I found ridiculous and panic-inducing. But we will work on that next visit, I guess. Time for another lit-review….
  • In the meantime, I am to acquire a blood sugar monitor in preparation for testing four times a day for two weeks, starting around week 26. This strikes me as overkill, but still better than having my brains scrambled the way they were by the glucola last time.
  • I asked whether it was really okay to be taking unisom every night, because if I don’t the first time I get up to pee is the end of sleep for me. “It’s not a great idea to take anything every night,” she started, but when I asked what I should do instead about being up for the day at 2am, it turns out she didn’t think half a tab was such a big deal, after all.

THE END.

  • (Don’t you always stick around, just to see if something comes after the credits?)
  • I’m going to DC for the weekend, for a baby shower. This is emphatically not the kind of thing I usually travel for, but the gravid friend in question organized my shower from DC, so it seems the least I can do. I will be there Saturday and Sunday, basking in the glory of the closed museums and terminally borked transit system, and while this was supposed to be sort of a treat, it isn’t feeling like much of one. So let me know if you are around or have great ideas for something nice to do that doesn’t involve alcohol or the federal government.


14 Comments

The Bendectin Story

Hello, Gentle Readers. Greetings from thank-God-we-are-finally-pulling-out-of-St.-Louis, aboard Amtrak’s Texas Eagle. We are running late, which I would be more annoyed about except that Sugar flew home yesterday and was so much later in so much less pleasant a way. She spent most of the day in the Detroit airport, spent $100 on a cab home from Newark, ate a soggy tuna melt from an all-night diner at midnight in our kitchen, while discovering that the freezer door had been just slightly open for the last two weeks. In contrast, I was fed a steak dinner and gelato and lay on a reasonably comfortable bed and read A Bargain For Frances to The Bean during our delay. Advantage: Amtrak.

The other reason trains rule with toddlers: no seatbelts. “The cars and trucks are going to meet their friends,” he says. (This wholesome, wooden-toy moment brought to you by several hours of puzzles on the iPad.)

The cars and trucks are going to meet their friends

Thank you for your spotting reassurances. It hasn’t come back, and there was so very little that my working theory is self-inflicted crinone-applicator wound. Mad skills. I has them.

I should have written sooner to tell you, except that I’ve had my hands full managing my father at my in-laws and wrangling the Bean. I’ve also been quite drowsy, thanks to my new best pharmaceutical buddy, doxylamine succinate, AKA, Unisom.

I’m not taking it for insomnia, though I have been having trouble sleeping for several weeks. I’m taking it because remember how I was puking in trash cans? Well, it turns out this stuff is a whiz at sorting out nausea, and, get this, it is category A for pregnancy. Category fuckin’ A, y’all. Do you know how many things are A? Not bloody many, thanks to the difficulty of ethically arranging the kind of studies the FDA requires for that designation; it’s pretty much folic acid and this stuff.

So why didn’t anyone mention this to me (or maybe to you) before now? Doxylamine in combination with B6 used to be used by 40% of pregnant Americans, as a drug called Bendectin. There were at least 25 studies and two meta-analyses, which basically say: this does not cause birth defects. But if Bendectin wasn’t a teratogen, it was, says a friend of my father’s, a lit-ogen: that is, it caused law suits.

According to dad (whose business this is), about 3% of babies have a serious birth defect of some kind. No one likes that. A certain number of parents sued the makers of Bendectin. And even though the science is absolutely, uncommonly clear on this subject, law suits wear a company out. Eventually, the drug was taken off the market simply because its maker tired of defending it in court.

Meanwhile, some corners of the popular press believe that smoke always means fire, and jumped happily on the Blame-Bendectin Bandwagon (also the name of my new ska band). Bendectin is used in a third of pregnancies of children with birth defects! Well, if it was used in 40% of pregnancies, excuse me if I think that’s good news — if 40% of all pregnant women took it and it’s only present in 33% of cases of birth defects, that almost sounds protective, the was I figure it. Anyway, the magazines said, you can make something just as good at home: just combine half a tab of doxylamine with some B6…. *headdesk*

Folks, I gotta tell you, this stuff is great. I haven’t tried combining it with B6 yet, because I haven’t been able to find the B6 in small enough doses. But half a unisom a night, and I have almost no nausea, let alone reasons to defile public transit property. Twice now, most recently two days ago, I’ve decided to stop taking it, and both times my body has made me aware in no uncertain terms what a stupid decisions that was. Morning sickness definitely still in effect, when not masked.

I keep re-googling this, convinced that anything I’m getting this much benefit from must be terrible for babies, even if I did learn about it from my OB’s website. Eventually, I asked myself why I was so anxious about it, given that I take my nightly singulair without concern, and there’s hardly any data at all on that one. I think the answer comes down to thalidomide and the curse of Eve.

Did you see a lot of thalidomide documentaries as a kid? I did, or at any rate, the ones I saw made a big impression. And I think my psyche stored away somewhere the idea that what happened to those children was not just a horrible accident but a judgement of sorts on their mothers, for trying to escape a natural but unpleasant part of pregnancy. Chalk that up to one more subtle way ideas of the natural as applied to women’s experience are always ready to become a cudgel.

The unisom is kicking in now, and Little Rock comes early in the morning; I must to bed. But y’all: what we need more of is science.


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In Case You Were Wondering

I am depressed, resentful of the progesterone’s making me feel this way since I’m convinced I am not pregnant, the Bean refuses to nap and is about as independent as a tapeworm lately, I accidentally made the kind of lunch that was exclusively made up of foods I’m to avoid because of the whole acid reflux in my sinuses business, my acid reflux is behaving as you’d imagine, and the lunch didn’t even taste good.

I am going to drag myself and the child to the community garden now, to dump the compost and perhaps literally go eat worms.