Bionic Mamas

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


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Happy Hour Items

Greetings, internets, from a local trendy bar that turns out to be more than capable of turning out something “fun and non-alcoholic,” if requested. I thought this order might reassure the woman giving me side-eye as I, well, bellied up to the bar, but it turns out that is just how she holds her face.

Nevertheless, I am looking rather fecund at present, even in the tent-dresses that are all I can tolerate wearing at present. I haven’t had much of the stretching and cramping and so on I had in early Bean-pregnancy since the first couple of weeks, but lately anything putting even nominal pressure on my uterus makes me sore and dizzy and nauseated. An ultrasound probe, for instance. I tried a belt for twenty seconds this week and was off all afternoon, and even my maternity jeans, which felt fine at first, caused trouble after an hour. Sure hope this sorts itself out before the weather turns.

The nuchal scan went well, I’m into the lowest risk zone for miscarriage, and my body is rapidly outing itself, but Sugar is interviewing for a new position at work, so we are in the odd position of telling people in real life but not on Facebook, where Sugar’s colleagues will see it, lest the idea of her taking time off in, say, February, make another candidate look more appealing. (Her job does not give “paternity” leave — or indeed maternity leave beyond six weeks of disability (stay classy, academia) — but she took unpaid FMLA leave when the Bean was born. Besides giving them invaluable bonding time, the leave was frankly necessary for my health, as I was in no condition to be left alone with an infant, being among other things rather deficient in the hemoglobin department.)

The not-telling has me a little blue, it turns out. I don’t mind waiting a little longer, but I sure hope they hire somebody before February. That concern would not seem silly if you knew how long it’s taken them to schedule interviews. Meanwhile, why does a group email seem so much more intrusive than a social media announcement? Thank heavens for you all.

(Speaking of, have I mentioned how over the moon I am to be pregnant at the same time as our beloved May? I am in danger of leaving orbit.)

Meanwhile, the nuchal. It went well! Despite my anxiety-fueled delusions of intuition, risks of trisomy 13, 18, and 21 are as low as the statisticians are willing to concede. (I gather that in some circles it is poor form to admit happiness at this news, but I am not in those circles. I would not bear a grudge against anyone happy to find she didn’t have the diseases I have, for one thing. For another, my father’s line of work leaves me without certain protective illusions.) Because I was too deep in denial to schedule childcare and because the timing of the appointment interfered with prime toddler napping hours, the Bean joined us. He was not exactly an advertisement for bringing a toddler to such an event, but with Sugar there to wrangle his truck beads, he did okay. We have not, to answer gwinne’s long-ago question, told him the score, but he clearly suspects something, though I don’t know what. There have been several pointed questions lately along the lines of, “What’s in YOUR belly?” (I equivocate. “Lots of amazing things, just like in your belly.” “My belly!!!” Fin.)

We had the same super-nice doctor go over the results as last time. His southernness relaxes me. I find myself stifling the thought that if only I did have a high-risk pregnancy, I could see him. We talked for a while about my peculiar mix of normal and anomalous reproductive anatomy, and get this, he actually apologized at one point for asking too many personal questions! I told him that particular bar had been set rather low by the doctor who invited his receptionist in to see my vaginal septum, and he appreciated my stories about the look on the same doctor’s face when, after he told a fully-clothed me he was sure I didn’t have a septum, I replied, “I can put two fingers inside and they don’t touch.” (This diagnosis is not rocket science. Necessary equipment is two fingers and a functioning brain.)

ANYWAY, this doctor, who is not a condescending nitwit, delivered the happy news that not only were the ultrasound findings good, but this time, in contrast to last time, my blood count numbers were also all good. I find it cheering that my body or the placenta or whatever is in charge of whatever PAPP-A even is, is doing so much better this time (to the tune of about 85 percentiles higher than last time). Low PAPP-A is associated with a host of unpleasantries I was watched closely for last time, including pre-eclampsia and also IUGR, pre-term labor, and placental insufficiency, all of which also go along with mullerian anomalies.

I asked whether I should still be considered at increased risk for the MA complications, or whether my delivery of a normal-weight, full-term baby (albeit one at the low end of normal on both counts) meant my future risk was lower than MA baseline. I was pleased by the caution of his answer, which amounts to that it would mean that, if I had a more typical MA combination, but that my rara avis status means that there are no relevant statistics. (I found one case report of someone like me in the journals I searched, and the dominant theory of fetal development says I am impossible.). He is therefore recommending to my OB practice that I still have cervix-length checks and regular growth scans. I know some people find that sort of thing intrusive, but I find it very reassuring. Meanwhile, in a surprisingly decent move on my psyche’s part, I simultaneously feel much more confident than last time that things will work out, because they did once.

Yeah, I don’t know who I am anymore, either.

I am supposed to be using my time away from the house to work on another writing project, so I will have to tell you about the midwife at the OB office another time. Meanwhile, a picture, because pictures!

12 weeks 1 day

ETA: I just realized these aren’t even items. You must feel so cheated!


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Interim Items

Gosh, internets, thank you for all the love and enthusiasm. Warms the cockles, I tell you what.

I keep thinking I’ll pull together the mental wherewithal to organize a proper post, but I’ve been spending all my wherewithal talking to insurance companies and billing offices. Herewith, the Insurance Items:

Background Item: Since the Bean was born, I have been on Sugar’s health insurance (Aetna, lifetime health cover loading), first because I wasn’t working and then because I wasn’t working in the right place to have my own. However, that insurance doesn’t have the kind of gold-plated fertility coverage I require, so this spring I accepted two night classes with a wretched commute in order to return to my old insurance (Empire Plan) long enough for an FET or two. This coverage ends in late August, at which point I will be back on Sugar’s plan.

Item: I screwed my courage but good and called the office of the nice OB — you know, the one who said four hours of pushing didn’t mean I wasn’t trying and used the word “horrified” more than once as I quivered on her exam table, trying to explain why coming in for a Pap smear had me so anxious. I like her a good deal and trust her about as much as I’m currently able to trust any member of her profession (midwives included, I’m afraid), and even so, I was quite dizzy with nerves as I waited on hold. (This bodes well for the coming months, eh?) I finally made it out of the holding tank and then through the nine million questions necessary to schedule early pregnancy appointments (knock wood, practice belief, knock wood), at which I point I casually mentioned that my insurance had changed since my last visit.

Guess who doesn’t take my current insurance, only six or so plans with remarkably similar names?

Cue panic attack.

After a lot of phone calls and mental math, I decided that the cost of seeing the good practice for a couple of out-of-network visits before returning to their accepted Aetna plan (three, I’m guessing) is lower than the cost of patching my mental health back together if I have to find a new practice, even just for a couple of months. I have a few hundred dollars of deductible to cover, after which my insurance will pay 80% of “reasonable and customary” charges; someone from billing is supposed to call me back this week, but she sounded like she thought they would likely work with me to charge amounts my insurance finds acceptable. This will still end up costing us quite a bit more than seeing someone in network, but therapy ain’t free, either. Especially at a time when I can’t avail myself of the kind sold in fifths of a gallon.

And anyway, that deductible has nearly take care of itself already, because…

Item: I am suddenly outside the bounds of my coverage at the Baby Factory, despite not being released as a patient yet.

My insurance considers the Baby Factory in-network for fertility care only, not for pregnancy care. This seems like no big deal, since the Baby Factory doesn’t do OB, but it did cause me some stress three years ago, when I started bleeding after they had released me but before I’d found an OB. At that point, Empire Plan considered a heartbeat on ultrasound as the boundary between fertility and obstetrics; I had a first beta, a second one week later, saw a heartbeat two weeks after that, and was sent on my way. It all seemed perfectly reasonable. We know too well that a positive first beta does not mean a Real Live Baby, but the rate of miscarriage drops significantly after a heartbeat.

Imagine my surprise, then, when having been relieved of yet another vial of blood this Sunday, I was handed a bill for the second beta (and progesterone and estradiol just for fun, I guess), to the tune of $300 and change. We can send it out to a lab your insurance pays for, said the lady in billing, but you won’t get results quickly. My cheapness fought my anxiety; cheapness is strong, but anxiety has throwing stars. So even though I had a sinking suspicion I wasn’t pregnant anymore, I decided to bet on good fortune and pay the bill, hoping that money would count against the deductible I’d spend at the OB’s anyway, assuming I got there.

So far, so good. Which brings us to…

Item: Ultrasound.

My father’s family has been going to this particular place on the shore of Lake Superior for a bit more than hundred years; there’s a gathering of cousins there planned for the end of June. We go there rarely, and I so want the Bean to see it. It is so beautiful, I won’t even pretend to do it justice in a rushed blog post except to say that it is what I picture when I think about heaven. And I’m not really a cold weather girl. It is also quite remote. The only telephone is several miles from where the cabins are; the nearest hospital certainly over an hour. It is sublime, but it would be a hell of a place to have an ectopic rupture.

I asked Dr. BF back in March what he thought of our going the on the heels of a May cycle. As long as your betas are unambiguous, he said. If they look potentially ectopic, I might have to tell you to stay home. Fair enough, I agreed. Just because this place is like heaven doesn’t mean I want to die there.

All this time, I’ve been refusing to quite believe that this trip will happen as planned, but the plan is to leave on Friday. (We are going to a wedding in DC, then to Sugar’s parents’ in lower Michigan, then to the UP, then home (Sugar) and Arkansas (the Bean and me, to see my mother). It’s quite the odyssey, even by our standards.) So after the first beta, I called Dr. BF to remind him of our deal, and that this means we will not be in town for their preferred viability ultrasound at something like 10 days past the second beta.

“You’re leaving Friday? Just come in Thursday morning for a scan. We won’t be able to see much, but as long as we can see something in your uterus, you can go.”

The first problem with this plan is the “Thursday” part. Thursday is Dr. Paternalistic’s shift. I do not want to get bad news from his mouth. I’m not even sure he’s capable of giving me good news without being an ass. But all my scheming about whether I could convince a babysitter to wait in a playground with the Bean (and our luggage?) so that I could go on Friday instead, on our way to the train (pause to appreciate the crazy scheme), was displaced on Sunday by fretting over the cost of the ultrasound without insurance. (Both, of course, a form of distraction from the more obvious anxieties attending such a scan.)

Happily, many phone calls later, it transpires that the prices of everything except the progesterone test are within the bounds of “reasonable and customary.” I confess shock that the blood tests are, frankly, and suspect this has less to do with chemistry than lab monopolies, but whatever, not my (immediate, individual) problem.

Item: The plan. Scan Thursday, very early so that Sugar can come before work. Probably too early to see a heartbeat, so we’ll try not to think about that part. I will see if I can sweet talk a nurse into jiggering the schedule so that we get the fellow I like instead of Dr. Paternalistic. If not, I guess I’ll live. On the other hand, this might be my last chance to kick him from the stirrups….

Item: this post is absurdly long. Sorry.

Item: I think that today I entered the part of pregnancy when I can’t have coffee anymore without feeling really sick. This lasted for the duration last time, and boy, is caffeine a more important part of my life with an early-rising toddler than it was pre-Bean.

Item: This morning also marked the first convincing nausea of this process (doxycycline excepted). Not so bad, as these things go, but still not my favorite.

Item: I’m not sure if this quite rises to the level of a craving yet, but holy Moses, is beef all I want to eat in the whole world. I could have wept for joy at the sight of hamburgers grilling at Sunday’s pool party.

Item: this post is absurdly unstructured. Sorry.

Item: I will leave you with some Bean cultural anthropology, inspired by his asking after the whereabouts of our local ice cream truck at six or seven on Saturday morning:

ME: Many people do not consider ice cream a breakfast food.

BEAN (thoughtful, serious): Maybe some do.

(And then, in the spirit of self-fulfilling prophecy, he fell backwards off a picnic bench while we were out to brunch with a friend, smacked his head on the concrete patio, acquiring in the process a magnificent goose egg and a free gelato from a sympathetic waiter. How is it so many people survive being toddlers?)


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Post-Ovulatory Items

Sshhh, internets, the Bean is sleeping. Finally. I should be in the other room, using this time to finish my semester grading, but the Bean is also sick, and if I move, nap over. So how’s about some items, since I’m here for the foreseeable?

Item: for those following along at home, I was finally deemed worthy of triggering on Saturday. Transfer day is Friday. Cross your fingers, if you don’t mind, for an easy transfer and a conclusive beta to follow. Of course, I’d prefer a conclusively high beta, but what I’m most focused on at the moment is numbers that mean I get to go on our planned summer trip of friends and family and beautiful, quiet places in the north woods of Michigan. When I ran this idea past Dr. BF, he said it was all fine as long as they were satisfied nothing ectopic was happening. No one wants to risk a rupture that far from a hospital, not even me.

Item: There will be Valium at the transfer, and don’t think I haven’t made mention of that to every warm body I can find at the Baby Factory. (I know some clinics always use Valium — and I find their logic of reducing uterine contractions convincing — but mine doesn’t.) Look, I know things have changed in the down-there department, post-Bean, and it’s wholly reasonable to suspect at least one of those pesky cervices is a little easier to navigate now that six pounds of baby has gone through it, but I don’t care to test that theory for no good reason. A tiny part of me is holding out hope that Valium plus baby plus lack of septum (and therefore more space for the hand that rocks the speculum) might mean no tenaculum, even. A girl can dream.

Item: I mentioned this to the nurse who took my blood on Tuesday (progesterone check), and she asked if my inseminations had always been difficult. They were, I said, but less bad with the Valium. I think the first one, with no Valium, was traumatic for everyone, not just me, and for me it was downright ghastly. (To say nothing of the pressure I felt to think warm, welcoming thoughts for a baby, while I was getting stabbed and prodded to the point of tears.) Yes, she said, I think I was there.

And you know what, I feel downright comforted to know that she remembers. The Baby Factory is a big place, with a lot of patients, and this was some time ago. I just looked back at the post I wrote at the time, which in no way captures the horror — no doubt I was imagining some future baby reading about his beginnings and didn’t want to scare the mite (guess who hasn’t filled in the birth story page of her son’s baby book?). We don’t need to go back over such old wounds as that, but suffice it to say that directed coughing in no way distracts from the pain of having yet another cervix stabbed with pointed tongs yet another time, and that seeing the doctor break a sweat isn’t very calming. No one said anything much about it at the time — and what could they have said that would have done anything but worry me? — but I am relieved to know that my impression of the day wasn’t crazy.

Item: That the transfer is on Friday means a doctor I haven’t met before (I think. Unless she was at the aforementioned IUI of nightmares.) will be on duty. And thank heavens for that. Had it been Thursday, we could have had the same guy who did the Bean’s ET, which has a cute aspect to it and all, but also has the less winning quality of requiring me to spend more time pants-less with a paternalistic asshole.

Seriously, I don’t know what this guy’s deal is, but it certainly could use a slightly more robust idea of his patients’ bodily autonomy. I found myself in stirrups with him again last week. He looked at my chart and said, in a disbelieving tone, “natural FET cycle? Why would you do that?”

You know that thing when some guy asks you some supposedly neutral question, like what your name is or why you look a certain way (usually: not thrilled just to be near him), and you just know that no matter what you say, you’re about to get hit on/told you are misbehaving/both? (And okay, I’m sure there are instances of women doing this, but stick with me here.) And you seem, in that moment, to have a choice about how to respond — to take the question at face value or to address its obvious subtext by ignoring him/ rolling your eyes/ telling him off — but really, there is no choice, because either you are going to walk right into the condescension (by being nice), in which case you aren’t allowed to complain about it, or you are going to socially overreact, which means you get called a bitch? Anyway, Dr. Paternalistic (who shares a name with a city in California, if you are local and curious) is like that. There’s no right answer. Except instead of his being a stranger on the street, he is the only one in the room wearing pants, and he’s holding an ultrasonic baton.

Gamely, I said, “why not?” And really, why not? My actual doctor thinks my odds of success are the same this way as in a more medicated cycle. But he didn’t like that answer, because this kind of cycle means I have to come into the office a lot, which, by the way, I haven’t indicated any impatience with, because I don’t actually mind. So I said that I liked that this cycle meant I could avoid the progesterone shots (since my body will make its own, meaning the suppositories are sufficient insurance). This isn’t an insignificant reason, to my mind — a few extra office visits versus stabbing myself in the increasingly lumpy ass for three months? No contest — but he looked unconvinced. “Also,” I said, bracing myself, “I liked the idea of letting my body do its own thing, since there’s no indication of any problem with my hormones.”

“I GUESS,” he replied, with all the self-effacing deference I’d expect from a fourteen year old. And then he stuck a dildocam in my vagina. Because that’s how this game goes. At least there’s no septum for him to make me feel bad about anymore.

Item: I cried on the bus ride to school after that. I’m sure it’s frustrating, as a doctor, when patients don’t make the same decisions you would — hell, I’m frustrated by other people’s decisions all the time — but maybe make a distinction between decisions that actually have anything to do with health outcomes and those that don’t. And then maybe try not to be a jackass, also.

Item: On the other hand, the nurse who gave me my trigger shots (two, because they are subcutaneous now and therefore weaker) on Saturday is in my good books. She, too, noticed and commented on the NATURAL scrawled on my chart. They don’t do many cycles this way, and that note has a lot of highlighter on it. “Good for you! Making your own follicle!” And then she stabbed me in the stomach (because that’s how this game works) and we talked about people eating their placentas. Not our thing, we agreed, but no reason others can’t do it. Imagine that.

Item: For the medical record, the progesterone is different this time. Last time, it was little waxy bullets from a compounding pharmacy, but this time I was given a choice between Crinone twice a day or prometrium thrice. My decisions was entirely based on math: 2<3. So far, the crinone is fine, except for making me crampy and leaving an absolutely revolting substance behind for removal during shower-time spelunking. Still, I will take gross over painful any day of the week.

Item: For the further medical record, following an awful morning of intense nausea, I decided to be pushy and ask if I really needed the doxycycline I'm on, given that I've had no invasive egg retrieval this time, no one thought I needed prophylactic antibiotics for an IUI (which is not essentially different from an embryo transfer), and my stomach is still all ducks and drakes from this sinus adventure. Message relayed via nurse is that I can indeed stop it, and I think I shall. I shall carry on with the methylprednisolone (how much extra do you think my insurance paid for the pre-metabolized version of a cheap, old drug?), as I can see the medical point of that one.

Message goes on to say that I must also stop taking Prilosec and Pepcid post-transfer, which is less good news. (Sinus doctor wants me to stay on both for another month while things heal; they a not presently back to normal.). I remember from last go-round that Dr. BF didn't even want me taking lysine for cold sores while under his wing, so this is hardly surprising. Lysine is an amino acid, for crying out loud; it's in FOOD. Similarly, I was directed to take both Pepcid and Prilosec while pregnant with the Bean, though admittedly later in the process. I guess every drug is suspect except the fertility drugs, which we all know wouldn't hurt a fly. I am at heart a Good Girl, though, so I will try for a bit and cry to my new OB if things get hairy.

Item: I can't believe the Bean is still asleep, but I woke him up prematurely yesterday (following his passing out on the floor in the late afternoon, following heroic meltdown, following utter refusal to nap earlier) and he still didn't go to sleep in a timely manner last night.

Item: Acid reflux and moral purity be damned, Sugar and I are going out for what I hope is a last-gasp cocktail tonight. Which means the Bean will have a babysitter, and sleep, well, that's her problem.


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CD 1 Eve

Hi, internets. You awake? I am, and I’m blaming my new, thrilling PMS symptom of intractable insomnia on the day prior to my period’s arrival. I could be wrong: I’ve been thinking my period imminent for several days, what with cramping and spotting and weeping on the floor at the end of our final (I promise, Starrhillgirl) attempt at toddler yoga, about which more another time. (WTF, spotting? Granted, the volume in question is probably <1% of the pre-hysteroscopy volume, but I thought I was supposed to be done with this, Oh, uterus, you old tease.) This could be just the prednisone, I suppose.

Yes, prednisone again. I returned to the ENT this Thursday, having finished a fourteen-day course of augmentin (which began with six days of prednisone), feeling very, very much improved, expecting to be declared well and sent on my way. 'twas not to be, alas. One aerosolized cocktail of novocaine and decongestant and a scope up the nose later, the doctor declared himself pleased but not pleased enough. So. Ten more days of augmentin, four more of prednisone, come back in a week. I'm beginning to feel I'm getting to know that office too well, rather as one does with the baby factory. And I definitely prefer a dildocam to a nostrilscope.

Still, I am much, much better — practically human now! Thank you for your sympathy on my last post.

The prednisone means no drinking or NSAIDs, still. Clean living! You can imagine, I'm sure, how pleased I was to hear that, given the cyclical date and all. Part of why I am hoping tomorrow is indeed CD 1 is that it's the weekend, which means Sugar can watch the Bean if I need to take Percocet in the daytime as well as at night.

CD 1, those of you following along at home may remember, also means Return to Dildocam Island, aka Baby Factory: The Musical: The Sequel. About this I feel…strangely cold-blooded. Every new stage of TTC the first time around, from deciding to begin, to making appointments with new doctors, even upping the treatment ante, felt exciting (among other things). Just starting the process, let alone having the actual baby, felt like the realization of close to a lifetime's worth of dreaming about having a baby, dreaming that, what with the endometriosis and the relative poverty and the lesbianism, often felt very unlikely to come true. Trying again just doesn't feel like that.

For one thing, those lifelong dreams always included at least one child, but the number was sometimes only one. I spent an enormous amount of time imagining what it would feel like to hold a child of mine on my chest (and feeling the terrible lightness of that child's absence), but I don't have a similarly visceral sense of what holding two children of mine might feel like.

More to the point, I think, is the fact that I am straight-up terrified of going through infancy again. I am just so very much better at this toddler gig, and I don't think it's only a case of being a more experienced mother now, in which case the second iteration of the larval need-bag stage could be reasonably expected to go better than the last. I think it's more to do with coping very poorly with serious sleep deprivation, not being particularly well-treated by breastfeeding hormones (Do I have a mild case of Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex? Maybe.), and, well, being the kind of person who would even think of calling a gurgling bundle of sour-milk-scented joy a larva.

You, of course, know the other thing I’m afraid of: birth, and that whole nightmare roller coaster again. See: everything tagged Dr. Russian. It is entirely possible that much of my feeling distant about the whole TTC business is just protecting myself from thinking seriously about the prospect of facing all that beyond the safe confines of this space. That I started weeping while looking at positive reviews from women who had delivered with my new doctor suggests there could be something to that notion. Throw in a soupçon’s fear of TTC not working, and you have a fine recipe for an aloof Bionic.

It isn’t, I am almost certain, that I don’t want to have another child. I keep asking myself if that’s it, of course, because we are still at a stage where backing out is possible. But no, it’s not that. I do want a sibling for the Bean — and another one of these critters for my own, selfish reasons. I wish I could capture in writing the wry smile the Bean had tonight when Sugar asked if he’d like a fish stick and, champion re-director that he is, he laced his fingers together, leaned across the table like a talkshow host, and said, “ooooor, maybe chocolate?” And did I tell you about the “turtle” he “drew” this week? What’s the turtle’s name, I asked. The Bean uses a kind of movie-Italian speech pattern sometimes now. “It’s-a called Penis,” he said, “It’s a big one.” I think Penis is a weird name for a turtle (maybe it was a skinny baby?), but the point is, this is a pretty great gig.

Last time around, every move we made to get to the Bean was driven by passion, and it’s just different this time. It’s less like I need to have a baby NOW, and more like, I know what I’d like our lives to look like in several years, and this is the time it makes sense to start building that future. I gather more rational people have experiences like this a lot, you know, and plan their lives in an orderly fashion and so on. But it’s a disorienting sensation for an impulsive creature like me. So. Off I go to the clinic, faking it ’til I make it.


11 Comments

Not Dead, Mostly

One of the hardest things for me to learn in college, which was my first extended period away from a household headed by two doctors, was that when people say, I’d rather not talk about that at the dinner table, they may actually mean it. It took a few years (sorry, everyone), but eventually I learned, more by rote than by true understanding, that many people not raised by wolves scientists actually do feel physically bothered by descriptions of vomit, mucus, and thick, green eyeball-pus.

With that in mind, I’m at something of a loss to describe the past several weeks of life at Casa Biónica. I profoundly hope we are getting better. It remains to be seen.

By we, I mostly mean me. Sugar and the Bean are fine, following their own revolting but brief illnesses. I am on round two of antibiotics and now oral steroids for this sinus infection, which I just don’t know how to talk about without sounding like I am being over-dramatic even by my own standards. It’s just…I’ve been really, really sick, y’all. Like, sick enough that I am 95% sure my teaching evaluations will be bad this semester, because I can’t think and half the time I can breathe or consistently talk, either. Sick enough that Sugar has been sleeping with the Bean, and you know how she feels about cosleeping. Sick enough that I don’t even want to eat ice cream.

I have had a number of go-rounds with my ordinarily great internist, in which I tried to explain that things were Not Right and she worked to convince me that I was having allergies and asthma and would clear out the sinus stuff with just some steroid nasal spray and patience. I have also learned that it is possible to vomit just from nasal spray, if you are pushed hard enough. Also that sinus infections can come out of your tear ducts and give you proper conjunctivitis, and by the way, eye drops can make you puke, too.

Finally, she suggested I see an ENT, who took a horrified look (and some very unpleasant pokes) around the wreck of my head, started using words like “really dangerous” and “worried about you,” and gave me his cell phone number with repeated instructions to call him this weekend if I felt even a little worse despite prednisone and new antibiotics (augmentin…what to get for the woman who has everything, says a chemist friend). I am seeing him again on Tuesday, at which point I gather he may have some results on the cultures he skewered out of me and will adjust the meds if necessary.

Because of the prednisone, he gave me strict instructions to stop taking NSAIDs, which is bad news given the expectant-Zeus style headaches I’ve been having, and not to drink any alcohol, which has not done much for my mood. Also because of the prednisone, I am having the most horrific depression, alternating with fiery rages and the kind of anxiety that feels like your blood has been carbonated. I am tapering now and more hopeful that I will get through this without a homicide conviction, but I’d still recommend keeping your distance, especially if you are one of the people I’ve run into who seem to think all I need is to give up dairy and pour salt water up my nose. (For the record: the infection is now lodged in, among other places, my frontal sinuses, well beyond the reach of snot-potting, and plenty of bacteria are the kind of paleo enthusiasts that don’t miss milk one bit, given a nice, warm chalet snuggled up against a tender brain.)

I’m finally improving enough to write this, though, and I just thought I should let you know that the hysteroscopy didn’t kill me or anything. It was not great and not horrible — a bigger deal than i had imagined, but the whole alien-civilization-in-my-head business has dulled much of the memory of it. (Which would be handy if it hadn’t also wiped clean my short and long term memories, in general.) I have a follow-up with Dr. BF on Wednesday, which I hope will include being cleared for take-off for a May FET. Assuming, that is, I can rid myself of this scourge and the crippling existential angst that apparently accompanies infections for me (ah, my youthful dalliance with giardia!), waking me at five in the morning in a dead panic that I can’t possible handle being pregnant/giving birth/having another baby. Happy spring!


16 Comments

Back In The Saddle

…or the stirrups, anyway.

No, no, not in the TTC sort of way, not yet anyway. I won’t spring that on you without some high-octane angst first, promise.

But I did go to the OB/Gyn, for the first time since my postpartum appointment, which some of you may recall ended with me wandering the avenues of Midtown, weeping so hard people were forced to break the NYC taboo on talking to crying people and the one on stopping strangers in the street. (In case you’re wondering, it does take some doing, especially in the blocks around Grand Central.) I was, erm, a little nervous. Related: what is it about filling out those medical history forms that makes me afraid I’ve forgotten my own name, let alone whether I have kidney disease?

You will not be surprised to hear that I did not return to Dr. Russian, as punching her in the face would open me up to more court and jail time than fits my schedule. I stacked the deck a bit by going to Sugar’s doctor, whom I have met before. (In fact, I tried to go to her practice when I got knocked up, but they weren’t taking new OB patients.) Nevertheless, I was feeling pretty shaky as I sat there on the table waiting, gripping my notebook of questions. I fetched my journal out of my purse, for the sense of enhanced safety only another book can provide.

And…she was wonderful. She listened to my slightly quavery explanation of why I was switching practices and said it all sounded pretty traumatic. She said that lots of women push for four hours with a first baby and that it doesn’t mean they aren’t trying, and that they give nifedipine if they even suspect Reynaud’s in the nipples of a breastfeeding mother, because Reynaud’s is so awful and nifedipine is so safe. (See here and here for contrast.)

I haven’t written about this, but one part of labor that I have felt increasingly upset about in recent months is the part where I was bleeding heavily for days at home and Dr. Skinny said it was nothing and then was such a bitch about my calling back when it hadn’t stopped, twelve hours or more after my first call. I’ve talked to many, many women since then about their experiences of labor, and I have yet to hear anything that reassures me it was normal. I suppose it’s possible that it really was just a particularly determined (and large — this was a lot of blood) broken vessel in my cervix, but it’s also possible it was a placental abruption, and there is no way Dr. Skinny could have known it wasn’t via phone. I didn’t think it seemed normal at the time, and I shouldn’t have let her intimidate me out of that. Things turned out okay for me and the Bean, of course, but it’s not a comfortable feeling, thinking that I could have let my baby die — oh, and potentially died myself — because I was too chicken to argue with a doctor. I told the new doctor that, and she looked very serious. That does not sound normal, she said, and no one at this practice would have let you stay at home if you called bleeding that much. That will not happen to you here.

Ultimately, she said that while she couldn’t ethically say things about Dr. Russian to a patient, she was — I think the word was “horrified” — by what I had told her. Then she said so again.

So. Maybe it wasn’t just me.

If this doctor has a fault I am aware of, it is that I find her a little happy to cut, as surgeons tend to be. On the other hand, as much as I don’t want to have surgery for the endometriosis I’ve thus far fail to cure with denial or pregnancy, I’m not sure she’s wrong that I should have it. Things are getting worse, and most months I now spend three out of ever four or five weeks in some amount of pain. In particular, pain in the week before my period is getting out of hand, such that I’ve been dipping into my hoarded Percocet stash to sleep. Nothing else does a thing. The question in my mind is whether surgery is worth the pain of recovery, given that it doesn’t always help with endo. Somehow I didn’t get that question in, but I am being sent back to Dr. Demure, the man who did a transvaginal ultrasound without so much as seeing my legs, to see how my garden of ovarian cysts grows. Well, I imagine, from the way my back feels half the month. I’m also to see a rehab specialist about the way my hip joints fall to pieces and leave me so weak once a month, though she seems unconvinced that isn’t somehow also endo.

If I am going to try to get pregnant again in the spring or summer, I’m not keen to have surgery first. I’m hard-pressed to come up with a rational excuse for that — besides that I have no idea what I would do with the Bean for two weeks if my recovery were anything like Sugar’s — but she said it did not sound crazy. Should have asked her why not. In the meantime, I have a legitimate prescription for Percocet now, though she said several times that we couldn’t just carry on like this until menopause. Other than pain medication and surgery that might not help, there is no treatment. Birth control pills help some people, but are a bad idea for people like me, who get migraine with aura and don’t like the idea of having a stroke.

The pelvic exam itself was not much fun, though I think she was as gentle as possible while hunting around for cervix number two. Righty seems to have done the job at delivery, for those who were wondering. The worst part, though, was the groping around for uterus and ovaries and such like. I was doubled-over after and am still in a fair bit of pain, though some sangria left over from our party on Sunday did take the edge off last night. She may have a point about this situation not being tenable.

So! On balance, a win yesterday, I think. Let us hope for another one tomorrow, when I have a job interview at a college in Staten Island. I am hoping that my scanty publication record’s including a book about a forgotten corner of our most ignored borough will give me an edge.


44 Comments

Edibile Items

Hi, again.  Sorry for the outburst; things seem to have returned to normal, which means I’m back to being fairly sane as long as I don’t hear about any mythical “sleeping through the night” -type babies.  It’s like when Wile E. Coyote runs off a cliff or Peter walks on water: I’m okay as long as I don’t look down.

ANYWAY.  I thought it might be good (and service-y!) to write a post with some more detailed information about how we do food around here, since Bunny and others seem to have come away with the false notion that I have some idea what I’m doing.  The Bean knows we need to go buy Sugar an anniversary present, so naturally he’s napping like a doped cat — this is not typical, let me just point out — so rather than wait around for a good narrative and structure to come to mind, i’m going to make bullet points while the sun shines.  (…so it goes without saying that I’m continuing this hours later, right?  Right.  With no present purchased.)

Item: The Bean eats at the table three times a day; it was two until recently.  He eats a fair amount, and he definitely does not go down for naps without those meals.  He eats some combination of whatever we’re eating right then (he loves scrambled eggs with cheese and broccoli), whatever leftovers we have in the fridge, and usually something we’ve made just for him.  I try to make sure there’s some protein and some vegetable on offer.

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The Bean and I demonstrate the ice tea spoon technique.

I keep a supply of extra spoons on the table because he likes to take them, and the day I found myself snapping at a seven-month-old for dropping a spoon on the floor is not high on my list of Best Parenting Moments.

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I am going to drop this spoon, and I am going to look good doing it.

Some things the Bean likes to eat:

  • WAFFLES!  OMG, the waffle-love.  We (read: Sugar) make these yeast-risen ones once a week or so and freeze most of them.  A quarter waffle, toasted and cut into three narrow wedges, is a good distraction while we get other food ready.  (If you haven’t tried yeast-risen waffles, YOU HAVE NOT LIVED, waffle-wise.  Bittman drives me crazy for a whole host of reasons (COUGHpretentiousprivilege-blindgrill-obsessedsnobCOUGH), but I’ve got to hand it to him on the overnight waffle recipe.  Except use butter on the waffle iron.)
  • Banana pancakes, which also do pretty well frozen and toasted.  The way the kid puts those away makes me think he’s part locust; he’s one-tenth my weight, and he can eat more of them than I can.  I fear adolescence, I really do.
  • Mashed sweet potatoes.  Boiled, mashed, frozen in ice cube tray, microwaved and served with butter.  Yum.
  • Sweet potato fries.
  • BANANA.  At least one a day.  And here’s where Sugar is a genius: she figured out that instead of peeling the banana and putting it in a bowl, you can cut the banana in half crossways and USE THE PEEL AS A BOWL.  It fits right in your hand, and keeps the banana from drying out in between meals in the unlikely event the Bean doesn’t eat the whole half (?) in one sitting.  This is the kind of thing ninjas would do, if they spent less time jumping out of trees and more time thinking about ways to make housework efficient.

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  • Cheerios.  Cheerios and cheddar bunnies (read: hippie goldfish) are a fabulous stroller/subway bribe.  We also usually throw some on the table at mealtime to distract him from hollering in between bites of other food.  Spoons require transit time, kid.
  • Cheerios and banana combined into a thrilling little amuse-bouche, like so:

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FANCY.

  • Eggplant, particularly in pasta alla norma, but raw and fallen to the floor is also devoured.  Weird kid.
  • Apples.  He likes to scrape his teeth on a raw one, but mostly he eats ones I’ve cooked in water on the stove (or sometimes the oven).  Lately I’ve served them with ricotta cheese in an attempt to get more protein in him.
  • Bolognese sauce.  Big pieces of pasta are fun to pick up and try to eat; the fancy organic pastina with the baby farm laborers on the box is, like all grainy foods, abhorrent.
  • New Orleans-style red beans and rice (only not the rice so much, see above).  This fills my heart with gladness.  Also, anything else with beans.
  • Sardine pasta.  Yeah, I don’t know.
  • Pumpkin muffins.
  • Donuts.

Which brings us to:

Item: I have no problem giving him sugar.  None.  This could be a secret confession except that I really have no problem with it, so it doesn’t feel confess-y. In lieu of a real post, some sub-items on the topic:

  • He loves to drink water with and after food, so I’m not so worried about his teeth.  Neither Sugar nor I have problems with caries (one risk factor for his potentially having problems with cavities), and Sugar, who works on a pediatric dentistry project some of the time, is constantly looking at his teeth.  She brushes them, too.
  • I reject the societal freaking out about the “obesity epidemic.”  I just do.  Obesity exists, yes, but — and I could write a whole, whole lot about this — I don’t think being hyper-controlling is any help.  So help me God, if the Bean ever comes home with a report card that includes BMI, THERE WILL BE BLOOD.
  • I am vehemently, even rabidly, opposed to rules about food.  Habits, okay, but not rules.  In my world, rules about food have been tools for learning to stop listening to my body, which has been the path to lots of sadness and terribly unhealthy behavior.
  • I don’t really hold with the idea that exposure to sugar means you’ll helplessly crave it forever and eat nothing but bon-bons until you expand to fill all available space.  I’m hopelessly grounded in my own experience (as usual), but I grew up in a house with easy access to lots of sugar and yet I have less of a sweet tooth than most people I know.
  • I don’t think lack of exposure means you won’t crave sugar.  Human beings like sweet things.  That’s in our nature, and I don’t think exposure changes that much.  It’s kind of like original sin that way.

Whew!  For a really good time, ask me what I think of reduced fat products.

Item: Turia asked about adding water or breastmilk/formula to food.  Early on, we did that.  We would mill whatever we’d been eating and add enough water that it was easier for the Bean to swallow.  He’d let us know if there wasn’t enough.  These days, we don’t, nor have I used the mill in a few weeks.  We either break foods up a little with the spoon, as with red beans, or cut them up small, as with yesterday’s shrimp curry or this weekend’s pasta norma.

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Not the world’s greatest picture, but you get the idea.

Item: I’m not sure what I think of vitamins.  His doctor — whom we really do love — told us at four months to start giving him trivisol, so we duly brought some and let it sit on his shelf for months.  (THIS I do feel a little confess-y about.)  More recently (read: MUCH more recently), Sugar has been giving him some at bedtime.  I hate that, because he smells like blood when I nurse him and…gross.  Then I did a bunch of research into the history of vitamins, which left me feeling pretty cynical about the whole business of supplements for people who aren’t at real risk of beriberi or pellagra.  On the other hand, I also just read quite a bit of history about lead poisoning, and NO, THANK YOU.  (This matters because low iron can make it easier for your body to absorb lead.  Also because it scuttles my plans to make the Bean earn his keep in a paint factory.)  I think the Bean will get his lead levels checked soon-ish, and I’m glad that’s standard around here.  So expect either smugness or panic on the vitamin front some time after that, I guess.

Item: I just asked Sugar what else I should tell you, and besides reminding me about the Bean’s love/hate relationship with seltzer (drinking it = love; listening to the angry farting of the soda stream machine = hate) and how he has been eating the lemon wedges out of my water glass, she said, “I don’t know.  I don’t feel like we’re really DOING anything.”  And that’s just it: we aren’t.  Three times a day, we put the Bean in his chair and offer him three or four different foods, some of which he eats.  If he finishes them, we offer him more.  Between those meals, he nurses, eats cheerios, and scavenges among whatever waffles and sweet potato fries he’s dropped on the floor.  If I’m eating something and he’s interested, I share it; if I’m trying to put away groceries, I offer him bits of whatever leftovers are in the way.  It’s all pretty low-key.

Early on, I had a brief panic that we are now responsible for offering him a balanced diet, whatever that is.  Ack!  I’m going to break the baby, I just know it!  I’ll forget about taurine* or something and he will WITHER AND DIE.  …but then Sugar pointed out that in fact, we do eat a balanced diet.  Right.  So maybe, just maybe, he will survive.  Humans have been surviving, even without food pyramids and RDA percentages, for quite some time now.  Yes, I know none of that matters because foods are all frankenfoods now and we can’t eat well like our ancestors and all that, but frankly, it’s hard for me to imagine that any of my ancestors who lived prior to the 20th century ate as well as we do, in terms of sufficient calories, variety of fresh food, and access to nutrients.  They didn’t leave the old country because things were perfect over there, you know?  Nor were things so great over here, most of the time.  I keep thinking of this old cajun man in a Calvin Trillin piece about a crawfish-eating contest in Breaux Bridge.  I’m too lazy to find it, but the gist of the story is that this man, who had been the reigning champion for years, had been forced to retire because he’d been put on a limited diet by his doctor.  Trillin asks him if he is sad to sit out the contest, and he says no, that he’s had many years of eating well and that, “there been kings who didn’t eat as well as me.”

Sugar and I do a couple of basic things to ensure that we eat well: we cook almost all of our own food, we mostly buy organic or minimally processed ingredients (when available at a reasonable price, which is where the hippie coop comes in), and we vary what we eat.  It’s taken both of us many years to become confident in our bodies’ ability to balance themselves, but in general, I think we do pretty well.  I’m sure we’ll have periods of panic about what the future Bean is or isn’t eating at a particular moment**, but right up there on my list of top parenting wishes is that we can save him the years of struggle it took us to get here.

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*That’s a little cat-lady joke, for the lesbians in the house.  Where my cat ladies at?  Starhillgirl?

**Really, I’m just terrified that his teenage rebellion will take the form of tedious veganism.  (I did a (very) little of that in my day, but only to support an eating disorder, so it wasn’t the evangelical strain.)