Bionic Mamas

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


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Barely Legal

The deed is finally done!  We had our second-parent adoption court date yesterday, and BAM, we are now a legal family in all fifty states and the good ol’ D of C.  Feels mighty good, I tell you what.
Between Sugar having to run home from the subway station to fetch her ID, my brilliant decision to take a different train downtown (forgetting how infrequently it comes and not knowing the elevators were broken at the downtown station), said train’s passing us without stopping after we waited for one hundred years, torrential rain, and all the joys of going through security with a stroller, a toddler, and all the accoutrements both collect, we thought we would be so late that they’d tell us we were out of luck, but somehow we weren’t quite that late after all.  The elevators were confusing, but the nice man at the desk where we had to leave our camera gave us directions and congratulated us; when we got upstairs, there were toys in the waiting room and the court clerk went down and retrieved our camera.  Thanks to her, we have this winning picture of me with half-popped collar — I am tough, but sensitive — and blinking with our lawyer:

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The Bean is chewing on a wooden block from the adoption office, a block likely encrusted in the spit of hundreds of fellow Brooklyn babies. Ah, tradition.

The Bean was an amazing sport about the whole thing, especially considering it was very much nap time. A lot of cookies were involved. Special thanks to the guys working security, who stood next to huge signs prohibiting food or drink in the court house, x-rayed our huge bag of Bean food, and only asked if the steel water bottles had hot liquid.

Afterwards, the Bean napped in his stroller while we walked to and through this phenomenal new park; when he woke up, we visited a playground and had a magnificent feast at Superfine, thanks to a sweet friend (and stupendous non-bio mom) who is a chef there.  After a postprandial return to the waterfront, we climbed back into Brooklyn Heights (that name is no joke, y’all) and rode the subway home, exhausted and happy.

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A Very Good Mother

Hello, internets. Apparently my iPad got peckish and ate the post that was almost done. I’d say it was a pity except it wasn’t much good, so perhaps it is in fact a blessing. Anyway, hello.

My hand is still bandaged but much less terrifying, lest you feared I’d met a gangrenous, Game-of-Thrones-ish end.

The Bean is splendid and only driving me slightly insane on these hot, mostly house-bound days; he more than makes up for it with his new love of the alphabet. I’m not claiming he knows what a letter is or anything, but he is quite smitten with the list itself and now babbles bits of it. He has this sly, preening look he gets when he knows he’s about to do something clever; the other day at breakfast, he looked at my side-long under a raised eyebrow and remarked significantly, as if making a witty observation,

H I J.

In short, he can play me like a violin.

Meanwhile, here is your Friday Feel Good, thanks to Mombian:

This month is the 40th anniversary of PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, which is the kind of organization I can’t even really read about without getting a bit teary. I’m just going to quote two of their six strategies goals, while I collect myself:

Create a world in which our young people may grow up and be educated with freedom from fear of violence, bullying and other forms of discrimination, regardless of their real or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation or that of their families.

And

Create a society in which all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons may enjoy, in every aspect of their lives, full civil and legal equality and may participate fully in all the rights, privileges and obligations of full citizenship in this country

Until today, when Mombian posted about it, I’d never thought about how PFLAG’s founding; it was just there, helping people like me and my family, and maybe still more blessed, helping parents who maybe aren’t quite sure what to think when their children come out to them, giving them a place to be afraid and unsure what to think and still love their kids.

It turns out the whole thing started with one hell of a rockstar-mom, Jeanne Manford, who stood up for her gay son after she saw him on the TV news, injured at a protest while the police did nothing to help. She wrote a letter to the newspaper, saying something both perfectly natural and, in 1972, not quite three years after Stonewall, revolutionary:

I have a homosexual son and I love him.

She marched in that year’s NYC pride parade, carrying a sign reading, “Parents of Gays: Unite in support of our children.” And they did.

Thank you, Jeanne Manford. Thank you, all you parents of us LGBT folk who just keep on loving us. We know it’s not always easy. I hope that in those moments when loving the Bean requires courage, I can live up to your example.

(reading about Jeanne Manford today keeps making me think of the brave — both in her life and in her willingness to show her vulnerability when writing about it — author of the blog Transparenthood. Check her out.)


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Blog Carnival: Donor Sperm

This post is part of the Love Makes A Family Blog Carnival.  Check out this week’s other  posts, including the next in line, from, um, Next In Line.  (I did not do that on purpose.  That was my brain, making a funny.)

As I write this, riding the train home after teaching a night class, breasts sore clear up to the collar bone (pumps work better when you bring all the parts), the Bean’s sperm donor feels like a very remote concept, hardly a person at all, and certainly not part of daily life in any real way.  When we started TTC, I thought about him a lot, and when we got the fertilization reports, I felt glad my eggs liked his sperm so much, but now that the Bean is here, well, I admit wondering when he got his first teeth and whether he was an early walker (because The Bean is clearly not taking after my own, politely restrained model of first steps at 18 months), but he doesn’t have much to do with our immediate realities.  Nothing in his profile tells me whether the Bean is crying out of hunger or tiredness or whether he’s just pining for the cats; his interview doesn’t cover what to do with my mixed feelings as my milk ceases to be enough to feed the Bean.  In a theoretical way, I recognize that the Bean wouldn’t be the Bean if we’d chosen Mr. NMEBSI, but that doesn’t make the donor we did choose seem to me like a father.  For me and for Sugar, the donor is only a set of characteristics loosely associated with a product we paid for and have found satisfactory.  If he materialized in our living room, he wouldn’t know our son the way Sugar and I do, no matter how many genes they might share.

I realize, though, that someday he may seem very important, indeed, because the odds are good that the Bean isn’t going to believe he is the product of parthenogenesis.  (My pesky father will probably tell him about Y chromosomes, for one thing.)  We will tell the Bean that his donor is his donor, but ultimately, we don’t know who he will decide his donor is to him.  The biggest reason we chose a willing-to-be-known donor is that we wanted to be able to say to the Bean that even before he was a bean, we were thinking of him as his own person, whose thoughts and desires might well be different from our own.  We can’t know whether his donor will want to meet him (or whether the Bean will be interested in contact), whether he’ll actually not be the thoughtful man he seemed in his interview, whether he’ll even be alive.  We just wanted to be able to say that we did the best we could.

This all sounded very good to me, very well-reasoned and mature and considerate, until I was actually pregnant, when donor concerns suddenly seemed a little more real.  And then the Bean was born.  “He has your nose,” Dr. Russian announced, while Sugar cradled him.  “Really?” I said, craning to see across the room.  Later, I looked up the donor’s baby picture.  The Bean looks a lot like me, but he does not have my nose.  Nor my ears.  I looked at the picture and I looked at the Bean: it’s not just my genes in there.

I feel that we did do the best we could — for a variety of reasons, a known donor was not a good choice for us — and it’s possible that some of my concern is a product of internalized homophobia, a lingering belief that my gayness makes me an unfit parent.  (I reject such ideas with my conscious mind, but you know how minds can be.)  And yet, I can’t help worrying that the Bean won’t feel the same.

Donor Unknown, a documentary about the experiences of a group of donor-concieved teenagers who find each other on the Donor Sibling Registry and subsequently meet their (originally anonymous, from before the days of willing-to-be-known donors) donor after he reads about them in the New York Times, both fanned and allayed my fears.  It’s a wonderful film, and I highly recommend it.

(Okay, I’m home now and it’s late, so this part has to be quick.)

The donor in the movie is a fascinating character.  He is what you call a free spirit.  I was pleased to see what a kindhearted man he was, not at all someone who was only into donating for the money.  He seemed to feel a real spiritual connection to the idea of sperm donation, which had a beauty to it.  On the other hand…he’s weird.  He lives in a camper in a parking lot by the ocean.  But he’s so nice!  He recognized himself in the Times article and voluntarily reached out to these kids!   My reactions to this aspect of the film were a classic Aww!/ACK! conflict.  He loves animals.  Aww….  He rescues pigeons!  Ack!

Then I realized something important: the kids aren’t weird at all.  They are, you might say, all right.  They seem smart, kind, and sane.  With the exception of the one whose parents lied to her about being donor conceived, they seem happy and well-adjusted.  (If you ever needed a reason not to lie, imagine finding out that your daughter had talked to a NYT reporter about her donor siblings only when your voicemail filled up with friends calling about the article.  Heh.  Guess she got her own back, surprise-wise.)  Many of them talked about traits they imagined they might have inherited from their donor, but none of them seemed, upon meeting him, to find that his eccentricities challenged their sense of themselves.

The most important idea I took away from the movie is that the donor belongs to the kids, not the parents.  One of the moms of a boy in the movie talks about how she wants to go with him, to see him meet his donor, who she’s been curious about since before he was born.  The boy ably deflects her; he goes on his own and meets up with other donor sibs (and the camera crew) for the meeting.  Watching from the outside, it was so obvious that was the right choice, but I think I would have the same desires his mother did.  Besides pure curiosity, it’s hard to imagine relinquishing control over that moment.

Yet at the same time, the thought of relinquishing some control over that relationship is a relief.  It’s nice to think that Sugar and I aren’t messing everything up by not already being on the DSR, seeking out donor sibs and planning playdates.  We may yet join, but having watched this movie, I feel easier with the idea of letting that be his decision, donor siblings his discovery.  As long as we are honest with our children, then as with many parenting decisions, I think there is more than one right way to do this.


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Liveblogging the Storm of the Century of the Weekend

Hey, folks.  In the interests of neither going mad nor doing the necessary work of rejiggering my syllabi to account for classes starting late, I thought I’d use the excuse of the coming storm to natter on about our lives in even more detail than usual.  The likelihood is that we’ll lose power at some point, so you’ll be spared reading about the whole weekend.

A little background:  As you faithful readers know, Chez Bionique is in beautiful Brooklyn, in an apartment in a large building.  The building itself is tall, but we are only on the second floor, out of reach of water and not in danger of extra-strength winds, as higher floors either are or aren’t, depending on whether you read what the city’s Office of Emergency Stuff says about hurricanes in general or about this one in particular.  We are outside of all of the various evacuation zones for storms of various severities.

Sunday

7:30 pm

Sorry for the epic pause.  I spent the afternoon searching for this awesomely dorky picture of me and the aforementioned friend at the beach in NC, all too cool to smile for the camera, but I can’t find it anywhere.  A profound disappointment.

We haven’t had much rain since this morning, and though there’s still quite a lot of wind in the trees, just now some blue started to show overhead.  The clouds are going west-east again.

Parts of the city are flooded and without power, the trains won’t be back for a bit, and no promises on the airports, either, but it looks like we were on the whole very lucky.  Hope that any of you whom Irene visited were, too.

9:20

Okay, now THAT is some wind.  Goodness.

Also, either the health care place across the street lost the enormous sail banner formerly tacked to its wall…or they took it in ages ago and I failed to notice.

8:30

I can’t believe the dead tree across the parking lot from us is still standing.  It is just the height and size of a live tree directly in front of it, and as the live tree’s branches are tossed and bent, its remain rigid.  (Aaaand now I have Ani in my head.  Name that tune, for 15 lesbian points.)  Ordinarily, the dead one is barely visible from our window, but today it is like an eerie crack in the sky.

We’ve had several very, very bad storms in the past two years, and its possible we won’t lose too many trees because only the strongest are still standing.  The great Lebanon cedar in the botanic garden went down in a particularly nasty spring storm.

Red Tail + Lunch

You might be able to make out the squirrel hanging from the hawk’s talons in the big size.

But it is also possible that we will be hit hard once again.  Hurricanes are particularly dangerous for trees because they usually occur in summer, when the trees are heavy with leaves, and because they bring so, so, so much rain, which softens the ground until a wind the tree could have withstood at any other time can tug even a giant out by the roots.

Today I am concentrating my concern on my favorite tree in Prospect Park, an enormous and ancient beech beside Enfield Arch.  Half of its crown went down last fall, but even so diminished, it has a majesty.  I’ve tried again and again to capture it in a picture, and have never managed to get the sense of it into a frame.  This is the best I have, from three summers ago:

My Favorite Tree

8:00 am

Hi, there.  We’re still fine.  Have power, water, all that.  No big leaks around the air conditioners, even.  I have a bit of a headache, hardly surprising in a storm this big, but nothing awful.

I was up several times in the night (understatement), so I can report that things started to get wild between 1:15 and 2.  At 1:15, heavy rain, moderate wind.  At 2, big winds.  I saw a large street sign go flying across the street.  More of the same at 4 and 7, though it turns out the part where the attendant’s hut at the parking lot across the street ended up overturned in the road was, in fact, a dream.

Saturday

10:10

Thunder!  After not hearing any for a couple hours, a fair amount now.  Pouring rain, but not very windy yet. The cat who hates storms is starting to look nervous.  He did get some good cuddling in while we watched our new favorite distraction, Doc Martin.

Speaking of what the thunder said, a week after the first and only time I heard a “da” from Graham (his first very clear consonant), he has exploded in da’s and de’s and di’s today.  Proto speech!  His prolix Mama swoons, I’m sure you can imagine.

We are filling the tub and going to bed.  Guess I’d better do the dishes, as I don’t want to be stuck with dirty ones and no water because naturally we’d never go to bed with dirty dishes.  We’re not animals.

8:20

Yum, watermelon cocktails!

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to make:

Fill a large wide mouthed glass about half way with scoops of watermelon. Squeeze in the juice of one lime. Mash with wooden thing. Add 2 Tbsp of simple syrup, some vodka, some ice, and some seltzer. Stir.

7:20

Putting the baby to bed (no, he never did take that nap: an evil confluence of my failure to notice a dirty diaper and his tendency to get hyper when overtired), I can see low clouds scudding across the sky, from east to west, the opposite of the usual pattern and a sure sign of a counter-clockwise spiral storm.  On the weather map, the first green and yellow fingers are brushing against us.

When I stand up, I notice red flashes on the wet pavement.  There are three fire trucks outside.  Firemen carrying hoses are climbing up our front stairs.  Another one is cranking open the hydrant.  I trade my flannel pajama pants for the first substitute I can find that fits my current body, an old pair of velvet sweat pants.  NOW I don’t look like I’m sitting around in my pjs.  I start to unbutton my (unmatching) pajama shirt and then decide I’m being ridiculous.  I run down the stairs to find out whether I need to grab the baby and go out into the rain (please say no, please say no — and in a really convincing way).

The super is there.  I love our super.  Turns out someone got stuck in the elevator and hit the fire call button.  He’d already solved the elevator problem when the firemen arrived; by the time I get back upstairs, the last truck is pulling out.

The news has pictures of the parts of North Carolina where Irene made landfall, at the islands off Morehead City.  I went to the beach there every summer.  The pier where we fished for crabs, where I first saw a real shark (a hammerhead someone had caught by mistake) was destroyed.

…but perhaps sentiment is making me foolish.  There are a lot of hurricanes in North Carolina, and my pier may have collapsed years ago.

In 1991, I was there with my best friend’s family when Hurricane Bob swung this way while my parents stayed at another house a few miles away.  An evacuation was ordered.  Police drove up and down the island with megaphones; there were signs everywhere.  We left first thing in the morning.  Traffic crawled down the one main road, over the single bridge across the sound.  We were home by noon, and I sat in my friend’s living room for hours, alternating between terror and rage at my perpetually late parents, who blithely didn’t even leave the island (with the friend of my father’s sharing the house, whom I never could stand) for hours afterwards.  And of course, they were right.  There was plenty of time to get home before the storm.

Now they are the ones worrying, I think.  They live in Arkansas now, where tornadoes are frequent but sudden, without the days to worry that hurricane warnings provide.

I just heard thunder.  Sugar is scooping out watermelon for drinks.  We’re having meatballs, made from all the ground pork and beef we could find in the freezer.  If we lose power, we’d have lost the meat anyway.  If we lose gas, it will be nice to have some food that’s cooked already.  If we lose power and gas, we’ll just gorge on the meatballs quickly, right after the ice cream.

4:30

It’s pouring.

The Bean refuses to nap.  After lots of crying from the crib, I nursed him for a million years.  Now he’s in there chattering to himself.  Oh, well.  It’s kind of cute, and no rules on hurricane weekend!

Drinking water supplies now all set up.  Filled pitchers, pots, nalgenes, and the odd tupperware.  If Irene doesn’t take us out, the BPA may.

water for hurricane

Cracked open the first of the adorable little cans of coke I bought in yesterday’s supply run.  Don’t worry; there’s beer for later.  And if the power does go out, we’ll have to eat that ice cream up with a quickness.

Hung out yesterday with a friend who was here on 9/11.  She said that immediately after the attacks, she went to the store and bought lots of canned beans and also coffee, because she remembered something about coffee being a useful currency during World War II.  We contemplated buying cigarettes.

2:38

Holy shit.  The Bean crawled forward.  Not very effectively, as he was on a slippery blanket, but still.  This development will definitely wreck more havoc on the household than Irene could.

why can't i crawl yet?

Sugar is unpacking all the toys her parents sent and surrounding him.

a lot of toys just arrived

2:26 pm

Raining a bit, sometimes heavily.  Despite the fact that I laid up important stores yesterday (batteries, coca-cola, ice cream), we decided to head out to the nearby store, more for the experience than for much else.  Besides, if the power DOESN’T go out, we will need milk.  I splashed out on all kinds of new kinds of canned beans.  Also coffee, watermelon for cocktails, and chocolate chips.  Just in case.


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Insert Pickle Joke Here

Okay, I admit it: I haven’t been blogging because I just love the comments on that last post too damn much.  Can some WP guru tell me how to make it its own page?  This may be my one real contribution to maternal consciousness raising, the closest I ever get to the hallowed pages of Our Bodies, Ourselves, and I mustn’t fail now.  I can figure out how to move the post itself, but I’m stuck on the comments.  And they are obviously the best part.

We are battening down the hatches around here, filling BPA-riddled nalgenes with tap water, setting up stores of chocolate, that kind of thing.  The Bean and I are off soon to pick whatever green tomatoes may have survived the utter neglect we inflicted [can you inflict a lack? — Ed.] on our community garden bed this season — although thanks to the prevalence of purslane, we did manage to eat a good portion of our weeds — and see if the hordes have left any batteries at the grocery store.  (For the FLASHLIGHTS, people.  Obviously other battery sizes are stocked in the emergency kit already.  Priorities.)

While we prepare for the second apocalypse of the week and I continue to wallow in denial about going back to work next week (but not on Monday; thanks, Irene!), please enjoy this video of the Bean at Sugar’s parents’ house, with his first kosher garlic dill:

Oh, have two.  They’re small.


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August Is For Items

Hello, dearies.  Sorry for the radio silence.  In lieu of a real post — I had a migraine last night and now have a codeine hangover and anyway The Bean will be up from his nap soon — here are a few notes.

  • The Bean meets the ocean!  Sugar and I took the Bean to the beach.  I have just deleted a very boring paragraph about logistics, the gist of which was: it seemed like everything was likely to be a disaster, with 9 people in a two-bedroom house, no one who was willing to help me with the baby for the days Sugar couldn’t be there, and a potentially angry teenager thrown in for spice, but it was in fact completely lovely.  The Bean charmed the hell out of everybody, including the very sweet teenager, and Sugar and I got to leave him with family for our very first hour away from him.
  • Oh, look, he’s up already.  More items as the day progresses, I guess….

Hi, again.  Phew.  This napping after being up for 90 minutes to 2 hours business remains pretty successful.  I’ve been noticing that the awake windows need to be shorter in the mornings.  No idea if he’ll ever go to a schedule of fewer, longer naps, but at least he’s doing something.  A thousand blessings again to Jennifer at Autism Normal for suggesting it.  More items:

  • Night sleep is still just okay.  He sleeps pretty well, but still wakes up to eat several times a night.  This means I haven’t slept for more than 3 hours in a row (and rarely more than 2.5) since February.  This is not doing wonders for my mood.  Supposedly he’s big enough not to need to eat that often anymore, so we may try to deal with this in some way, but while I’m a heartless monster about crying to sleep during the day (which happens at nearly every nap), I have very low tolerance for being screamed at during the night.  We tried not nursing him back to sleep at one wake up on Saturday night (albeit not in a very well-thought-out manner), and boy did that suck worse than nursing.  The status quo suddenly didn’t look so terrible.
  • If he’d just stop believing the day begins at 5, I’d be happier.
  • But I have to admit it was pretty cute this morning when Sugar and I were trying to pretend he wasn’t awake and he was lying between us, singing.
  • Singing!  This kid kills me.
  • In exciting/terrifying news, we are seeing the beginnings of locomotion around here.  Right now we’re in the “I want that toy that’s in front of me OH NO WHY AM I GOING BACKWARDS???!???!!” stage, which would be funny if I were the kind of terrible mother who would laugh at her child’s agony.
  • I have also seen, several times in the past couple of days, full rising onto hands and knees.  The laughing shoe will be on the other agonized foot shortly, it would seem, as our apartment is about as baby-proofed as a china shop in a coal mine.
  • In the interests of finding novel methods of containment, we’ve set up the (inevitable) Stokke chair, and the Bean LOVES it.  I was going to put in a rant about how the stupid baby seat isn’t going together properly (so that he fits now but won’t for long) and customer service was being enraging, but it turns out I was in touch with global customer service by mistake.  While I was seething, a nice lady from American customer service called and is sending out a new version of the relevant bits.  Does this mean Americans expect more coddling than other people and are spoiled?  Maybe.
  • At his four-month appointment, the Bean’s doctor (who is wonderful and needs a good blog name but meanwhile please ask me if you’re looking for a pediatrician in Brooklyn) said we could start giving him food if we wanted.  We’re interested in baby-led weaning, but open to a little coercion, in the interests of more food and less formula when I go back to work.  (Pipe dream!  But never mind!)  We’ve been letting him taste things, which is pretty cute.  I don’t think he’s swallowed anything yet, but strawberries, cheese and crackers, mango lassis, and oatmeal cookies have all been aggressively grabbed for and shoved into mouth.
  • Yes, I am ruining the child forever by letting him taste things with sugar.  More on this another time, but the quickly: have you tasted breastmilk?  Mine, at any rate, is basically creme brulee.

Dalai Lama Goes To The PediatricianThe Bean at his four-month appointment, doing his best lama impersonation.

Breastmilk brings us nicely back to the proper subject of this blog, ME.  Sheesh, Bean, get your own blog.

  • My supply has not come all the way back, post-stupidfuckingbackalready period.  Whee.
  • Eating oatmeal helps a great deal, as long as I eat a whole lot of it.  I am getting royally sick of oatmeal.
  • I’m feeling somewhat embittered about this whole breastfeeding business, and right now, oatmeal is what I’m willing to do in terms taking things to increase supply.  I know there are teas and supplements and domiperidone in the world; I know.  Maybe  seems terribly ungrateful to those with bigger supply worries, but I’m just feeling burnt out on pills and such right now.  I hate herbal tea, and the hippy-but-not-dippy LC has warned me off fenugreek because of my problems with hypoglycemia.
  • Oatmeal experiments are constantly underway chez Bionique.  Oatmeal with a hard boiled egg and soy sauce smells like boiled ass but tastes pretty good (especially with a little butter); sriracha is okay once in a while.  Salsa verde is less successful.  Today I went with my mother’s (and great, great-grandfather’s) method of uncooked oats with cold milk.  Not bad.
  • Cookies come in handy, too.
  • ..which may explain why I’ve gained three pounds.  Though I think the carb-heavy breakfast and, more to the point, eating something because it is what I’m supposed to eat rather than what my body wants that day is as much if not more to blame.  Sigh.  I hope I get back to pre-pregnancy weight some day, as I miss my clothes very much.  I am beginning to doubt this will ever happen; I’ve been in the range of halfway there for a long time.  I am trying (with mixed success) to tell myself that feeding my child is more important than how I look.

Okay, I realize this post is not my greatest work, but I can feel the headache creeping back in steel-toed boots, so in the interest of ever getting anything up, I’m posting it now.  Next project will be getting the beach pictures on to flickr so I can show you how utterly the Bean rocked his sunglasses.


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On being the non-bio mom or a great big bundle of worry

Sugar here.  Bionic and I have been thinking that I should write a post or two about how it feels to be ‘the other mom.’  I will attempt to do this, although as I sit down to start writing I feel a massive wave of confusion threatening to overwhelm me.  So bear with me.

First, I have a confession to make.  Last year, and every year preceding last year, I was not that interested in having a kid.  Not just not interested in having one gestate inside my body, but not interested in being a parent.  I thought that it would be a lot of work, would take me away from things I really wanted to be doing, and would not have a lot of pay off.  I thought people thought I was unnatural for feeling this way, but since I had already delivered society the big fuck you of saying, hey, I’m a lesbian, the unnaturalness of being non-maternal paled in comparison.

I’d always known that Bionic liked kids and wanted some someday.  Early on in our relationship (say 10 or 12 years ago) I hoped she might grow out this unfathomable desire.  She didn’t.  I think she hoped I would change my mind too, and to a certain extent I did.  I went from I-hate-children-they-are-loud-and-annoying-and-turn-your-mind-into-a-pile-of-dribble to that-might-not-be-so-bad-if-I-manage-to-fulfill-my-career-goals-first.

Unfortunately, I went on not fulfilling my career goals for quite some time.   I could see that Bionic had a point when she said we were going to cross into the time in our lives where conceiving a child would be difficult just because we waited too long.  (This was before we knew about Bionic’s infertility issues.) I felt that I had a choice between insisting on a negation that would make Bionic feel empty and sad, possibly for the rest of her life, and jumping into THE GREAT UNKNOWN.

As the non-bio mom, I had another layer of fears about my fears.  I thought that none of what I was experiencing was supposed to be happening.  If I were a better person — more successful, more maternal, more normal in some way — I just wouldn’t be feeling any conflict and we would be dancing to the happy flower-filled wonderland of parenthood without a care. Or at the very least I would be having the conflict everyone seemed to expect me to have — i.e. conflict over being the one not having the baby.  In this way approaching the decision to be a non-biological mom is different from approaching the decision to be a father.  Obviously no one wonders why fathers aren’t the ones gestating the baby. But also, men are expected and allowed to feel and say the things I felt — ‘Really, kids?  Do I have to like them?  What about money, do we have enough?  Will I still have time for my career?’ They don’t have to be afraid that if people find out what they are thinking they will shout MONSTER!

As is obvious from all the other posts on this blog, we decided on the great unknown rather than the great negation. As we began to try to get Bionic pregnant, I still felt ambivalent, but since we had chosen a path a lot of people began to ask us a lot of questions. I felt that I needed to project the idea that I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I’M DOING AND EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE FINE (why do you ask?) My parents were not very pleased with the pregnancy concept, and I spent a lot of emotional energy deflecting their worries. My best friend also was not helpful. She is of the personality type that likes to evaluate and judge and plan every little thing in life with the goal of eliminating all ambivalence before going forward. When I told her we were trying to get Bionic pregnant, she said, “but how do you feel about that?” as though I hadn’t given my own desires any thought. I couldn’t say to her, “I don’t know.” So I said, “Wonderful! I feel great!”

I felt very alone.

As you all know, it took some doing to get Bionic pregnant. After what seemed an eternity of seeing Bionic feeling sad or ill, it did happen. I remember standing there looking at the single blinking pixel on the ultrasound screen thinking, well, this is it. For real. My God.

Then I started to have another whole category of fears. What if that tiny blinking bit of life doesn’t like me? I wondered. After all, I’m not actually related to it. What if, worse, I don’t like it? What if our life becomes a living hell? What if I lose my job and we have to move into Bionic’s parents’ basement? Etc. I sat with most of these questions for most of Bionic’s pregnancy, in a kind of you-made-your-bed-now-lie-in-it sort of way.

We rearranged the apartment, put together a crib, stored boxes of donated diapers and clothes. Bionic changed shape. None of this felt very much like it was leading anywhere I could imagine. I don’t think it started to seem totally real until the second day of Bionic’s torrential bleeding, the day before the bean was born. I was so upset about Bionic’s health that when I opened the freezer to get (what? I don’t remember) and a frozen burrito fell out on my foot I picked it up and hurled it across the room in a fit of pique. Then I thought, wow, I need to stop throwing frozen food. My wife is having a baby. Now.

As Bionic went into active labor I was totally freaked out by the amount of pain that she was in, (that might deserve its own post some time) but I did manage to stop hurling objects and help her get to the hospital. Once she was ensconced in the labor room, had gotten the epidural, and was calmer, I started to feel excited. It was happening! Now! Someone was going to hand me an infant! Soon! There was also so much numbness from having gotten not that much sleep and not that much food and having survived the cab ride that I stopped worrying for a while and was just happy that Bionic seemed comfortable.

Then there were hours of pushing, which for me felt like a sort of weird college exam all-nighter I was pulling. (I may write about this later too, but for now it’s too much.) Then finally, after Bionic’s doctor was a total horror and eleventy-billion people yelled at Bionic for not having contractions/not pushing/being in pain (again, a post on this later), the bean arrived.

And now this part is going to sound completely fake and sappy, and while it may in fact be sappy, I swear to you that it is not fake. All of my fears dissolved. I knew I loved this creature. I looked at the him and thought, I have to connect myself to you. “I want to give him my dad’s name. He has to have my dad’s name,” I called over to Bionic, who was getting stitched back up. She looked exhausted. “Ok,” she said, smiling, “but can we talk about it in the morning?”

kissing graham

To be continued in a series on non-bio-mom stuff. I hope I’m not boring the pants off of you.

Also, the above watercolor is from my other, arty, blog:  jess-a-sketch


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Birth Story Part Five

Back to our story, already in progress. (See parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.)

As you’ve probably gathered, Dr. Jerkwad did not paralyze me. Thank you, Hippocratic oath. Or self-interest — my mother pointed out later that any misstep after I’d called him an asshole would have looked very bad in court. Also: I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to have the patient sign the consent before the procedure, not after.

For anyone reading this while considering options for her own delivery: getting the epidural was not a big deal. It did not hurt or even feel especially strange, and while the thought of a needle in the spine is a bit creepy, at that moment, the finer distinctions of human experience were not exactly at the forefront of my mind. There was no “creepy,” only “good” (a highly theoretical construct, belonging to the world that existed before the cab ride) and “bad” (everything I am feeling right now and for as long as I can remember). I, who am nervous about practically everything, felt no anxiety, only impatience. In terms of physical sensation, it was as I was told it would be: cold skin from the alcohol, very slight stinging from the local anesthetic, then a spreading coolness in my back. It hurt less than the IV. If you don’t want one, don’t get one, but if you think you might, don’t let fear of the procedure itself scare you off.

What can I say about epidurals that hasn’t already been said in a thousand love songs? Whoever invented those things should get the Nobel Prize for Medicine and no, I am not joking. I said some time ago that post-delivery, my anger at people (like that patronizing dick, Dr. Sears) who would try to scare women out of having epidurals had hardened to a murderous rage, and I meant it. (And again, this is not at all to say that those of you who didn’t or don’t want them shouldn’t have the choice, even if you do make me feel like a bit of a wimp.) I’ve had occasion recently to reflect on the unusual level of privilege I enjoy when it comes to medicine. Not only do I have access to good health care (insurance, good local doctors, all that), but I have a unusually (another rant for another day) good science education for someone who didn’t get a science degree, access to library databases and knowledge of how to use them, and an appropriately massive sense of entitlement regarding my medical care. So while I may have my own psychological demons about wanting/needing pain relief, at least I am more able than average to sort through the immense amount of crap out there about the supposed medical reasons to avoid epidurals. It pisses me off to no end that a whole parade of well-meaning nitwits and genuine jackasses would lie to women with fewer resources rather than risk letting women decide for themselves what ideologies to sign up with and what medicine to accept.

Back in the prenatal day, when I was confessing my epidural neuroses, wise Sara said:

The thing that nobody tells you about giving birth with an epidural (or, in my case, being denied an epidural, so giving birth without one after begging for one), is that in addition to dulling the pain, the epidural also totally erases any weird psychological hangups that one might have about epidurals. They actually rock, as it turns out. It’s just a well-kept secret.

And she’s right. I have a lot of strange feelings about how birth went, but not about the epidural. It just rocked, full stop.

Epidurals work very, very fast, but it does take a few contractions. The first contraction after it went in is as painful as the ones before, but somewhat more emotionally difficult for me, since I had been looking forward to being saved, and now I am not saved after all. I feel a sickening fear that it won’t work, but then it starts to. The next two contractions are maybe 85% of what I’ve been feeling, and after that they become manageable. I can sit up and turn around on the bed; I can listen to the nurses again. Kips Bay Mega Hospital uses low-dose, patient-controlled epidurals, which is part of why I wanted to come here: light epidurals compare favorably to traditional ones in studies of practically everything you can think of. Someone shows me the button I can use to boost the dose if I need to. The world begins to reassemble itself.

Despite my stabbing at the button, the low-dose epi is ultimately not enough, so after 45 minutes, a different anesthesiologist — who manages not to be an asshole, imagine that — comes in and gives me a bigger dose. After that, I can still feel the contractions, but they aren’t so bad. (I am glad I got to try the low-dose, though, and I think more hospitals should have that option.)

Unfortunately, what can’t feel my contractions is the contraction monitor. It picks up maybe one in three or four. The nurse keeps moving the sensor around, asking me to tell her when they come, and feeling all over my belly with her hands, but she can’t find them, either. At this point, I don’t think much of that. Who cares? I am having contractions — I can feel them — and it doesn’t seem surprising in the least that some contraption doesn’t register them. Contraptions! Of course they are prone to failure! Yes, I am the girl who thought for nearly 20 years that tampons didn’t work for me because they just don’t work all that well.

What does need to be registering those contractions is at least one — ideally only one — cervix. (So far, there is no hint of my didelphic nature causing a problem: everyone who sticks a hand in my business agrees with Dr. Skinny that one has obviously taken over.) In the “natural” childbirth literature, there is a lot about how labor pain is not something women have justifiably dreaded for all of recorded history but is actually fantastic because unlike kinds of pain men experience every other kind of pain, labor pain is “productive.” Allow me to add that to the list of things Dr. Sears can shove up his urethra. Frankly, so what? Passing a kidney stone is a thing that happens, too; does that make that pain “productive”and therefore worth having?

However, when the resident comes in and asks to do a cervix check, I am a little excited. If I was four centimeters five hours ago and spent most of those hours having strong, frequent contractions, surely things must be getting close. And my water broke, too. Maybe I really was in transition in the cab. Maybe the resident will look shocked and say, “No wonder you felt bad! It’s almost time!”

Instead, she feels around for a minute and says, “Great, you’re at four centimeters.”

WHAT? All that for NOTHING? Are you kidding me? I am ready to hit the ceiling. She looks like she knows she’s said the wrong thing. “Um, maybe four and a half?”

Oh, and my water hasn’t broken after all, so, um, sorry I peed in your car, cabbie.

While all this is going on, Sugar goes back downstairs to reclaim our luggage, which the man at the information desk let her leave there when it became obvious that she couldn’t carry it and push my wheelchair at the same time, formally checks me in, and gets a health care proxy. At some point, she calls the doulas — we have two, since neither is a full-time doula. It turns out the one we liked can’t come tonight, but the other one shows up a little while later and sits with me while Sugar gets dinner somewhere I don’t have to watch her eat and brings me back some cranberry juice. My main concern with this doula has been that I will find her happy but frantic energy upsetting in labor, but I manage to find the spine to tell her that I don’t want to talk, and to her credit, she listens.

This part, from when Sugar gets back in the room until it’s time to push, I look back on fondly, all thanks to the epidural. Sugar dozes on the fold-out chair/bed in the corner, the doula reads, and I just rest. I am freezing cold, but the nurse brings piles of warmed blankets and bundles me up. The lights are turned down low, and the fetal heart monitor fills the room with the Bean’s steady, reassuring heartbeat. I love the thought that we spent those last hours together that way, he listening to my heartbeat all around him while I heard his all around me. I feel safe and calm.

I’ve read quite a few stories that include praise for being at home or at a birth center; let me throw in some praise for being at the hospital. Because of my father’s devotion to his job, I spent quite a lot of night time at the hospital as a child, waiting for him to visit just one more set of patients on the way home from a piano concert; perhaps my experience is unrepeatably idiosyncratic. I remember the quiet of the wards at night as my father walked from room to room, silently watching his patients, stepping into the hall to ask a resident for details. Of course I like the epidural and feel reassured by the knowledge that there are pediatricians and a NICU right here if the Bean needs them, but I also like feeling that my room is a quiet part of an active hive. By now it is dark out, and my window is filled with a grid of windows from the wing of the hospital across the courtyard, some lit, some dark, some in between. I think I might have felt alone and isolated at home; here I feel watched but not bothered. Like I am in the right place, safe.

At some point, Dr. Russian turns up, seeming cheerful. She checks my cervix now and again, and there’s another thing to love about the epidural: now I am dilating smoothly and rapidly. I can’t remember exactly when I heard each number, but I remember thinking at one point it was two centimeters per hour. The Bean’s head is dropping nicely, too. Everything is fine, except that I am supposedly not contracting enough. At eight centimeters, Dr. Russian wants to break my water to speed things up, which I don’t mind and don’t even really feel. It certainly doesn’t hurt.

Contrary to what you may have read about epidurals, mine in no way leaves me paralyzed or numb-feeling. I can and do move my legs, and when the nurse starts talking about catheters, it’s not because she won’t let me try walking to the bathroom. However, even though she says my bladder is very full, I do not feel any urge to pee, so after a few minutes of focusing on finding that sensation, I agree that the catheter is a good idea. I had really wanted to avoid that, but it isn’t a big deal. Getting cleaned for it hurts in a “clitoral exfoliation” kind of way, but the catheter itself doesn’t. She takes it out as soon as it’s done its job.

The only negative side-effect I have from the epidural is that my belly itches. A lot. And all that moving around the monitor in search of my contractions isn’t helping. Of all the things we threw in the hospital bag, the only one I really want is the washcloth we’ve forgotten. Sugar gets paper towels wet to distract me with cold. It only sort of works, but boy howdy, I will take itching like this any day of the week over the pain I was having.

The nurse who is mostly taking care of me is sweet and young. She thinks the baby will be a girl because it is being so good; Dr. Russian says that surely means boy. The nurse asks about names. We had wanted to give the baby a name from each family, and while the girl names were easy to choose (we have 3 names we like, in four possible combinations), finding a male name from Sugar’s family has not been not easy. There are plenty of men on her dad’s side, but not many names at all. My pick is Sugar’s father’s middle name, which lots of the men have, but she is having none of it.

No one ever says I’m completely dilated, but I gather that I must be at about 10 o’clock, when Dr. Russian tells me I have an hour to develop an urge to push before she wants to turn off the epidural. How about down rather than off, I ask, terrified. She agrees and leaves me with the nurse again.

So for an hour, I try to push. The nurse tries to find my contractions; Sugar and the doula try to help me. I can feel the muscles just fine. I know what to do and I feel a slightly constipated feeling, but never anything more. I roll over a few times, which I don’t like and doesn’t help. The nurse coaches me through pushing anyway, but the resident says I’m not doing it right. I convince the nurse to let me breathe out as through a straw while pushing, because holding my breath makes me feel terrible. I do three 10-count pushes per contraction.

After 45 minutes, Dr. Russian returns, and I agree that it’s time to turn down the epidural. I’m not too worried, since I figure the pain will just return to where it was before the extra dose. And they say epidurals do slow down pushing, so maybe this won’t even last long. Maybe I’ll have a February baby, just like BFF predicted back in October! The anesthesiologist (another one) comes in and lowers the dose; Dr. Russian says, “Don’t you DARE touch that button,” and leaves again.

And here, Gentle Internets, is where the horror movie starts. I can’t tell this part of the story neatly, because I wasn’t in my right mind for it. I often wish I didn’t remember it at all.

Without the epidural, the pain rapidly goes past what I can stand. Now my bones are being broken again, but only after being set on fire. There’s still nothing in my belly at all, just back and hips and especially my thighs. God, my thighs. I feel sick now just thinking about it. Between contractions, I can hear that I’m making those terrible dry sobbing sounds again. At some point, Dr. Russian speaks with scorn about my crying, but I’m not crying in any normal sense. My face is dry. This noise is coming from some dying animal part of me, utterly beyond my control.

I’m on my back still — I know, I KNOW; I “should” be in some other position. I didn’t even want to tell you all this now, because I am afraid someone will come tearing in to lecture me on Best Practices for Back Labor and tell me it’s all my fault. But I can’t stand the thought of any other position. I know I’ll fall apart if anyone tries to move me, and I mean fall apart physically.

At each contraction, Sugar and the doula hold my legs up while I push. At various points, I try holding the bar or my own legs; eventually I settle on holding a sheet-rope tied to the bar. I push for a count of ten, three times per contraction, while someone — usually the resident, sometimes Dr. Russian — tells me I’m not doing it right. I am doing exactly what they describe. A few times, I am told that I have finally done the right thing, that I should keep doing that. I am always doing exactly the same thing, every time. The scolding and praise come at arbitrary intervals, heavy with emotional freight. It’s very like a nightmare.

Dr. Russian is horrified that the nurse has let me hiss breath out during pushing, so it’s back to holding my breath. Which is stupid, by the way. And, as far as I can remember, not supported in the literature. Up until this point in our relationship, Dr. Russian has been so medically rational that I blithely ignored the advice to talk to my OB about her views on coached pushing, a grave mistake.

And now it is too late. For two hours, this goes on. I try to push, despite the fact that I am now in so much pain that some primitive part of my brain simply won’t let my legs spread enough, won’t let my back muscles let go at all. My body is trying to save itself, and I can’t override it. I can’t open more, I can’t relax, I can’t push harder; wanting to doesn’t enter into it, and neither does any conscious idea of fear. I am trying my best with every part of myself still under the control of my brain, but it’s not enough.

Complicating matters, no one can find my contractions on the monitor or by feeling my belly, so they often don’t believe I’m having contractions, just that I’m carrying on, I guess. I have to tell them when one is starting or stopping, which pleases no one. I have since learned (thanks, HFF) that this happens to bionic folks like us reasonably often; I didn’t make the connection until recently, but I was told early on that no matter the normal size and shape of my uterus, there would likely be differences in the muscle tissue at a microscopic level, which is why they wouldn’t have attempted an external version in case of breech presentation. I can only assume that no one at the hospital ever put those ideas together at all.

And then there was Dr. Russian. It’s Dr. Russian who has kept me from writing this down for all these months. It was two months before I could begin to be honest with myself that she was not, in fact, consciously using “tough love” in a misguided attempt to motivate me but is, in fact, the kind of smart, funny, emotionally unstable maniac that I Always Fucking Fall For. (That I have managed to marry someone smart, funny, and also compassionate and gentle is a miracle of the first order.) Four months out, I can confidently say that her behavior was assholic and frankly cruel, but it’s taken some time to get here.

Dr. Russian, as far as I can remember, spends the remainder of labor yelling at me for pushing wrong, for making noise, for holding my face wrong, for not wanting to push the baby out, for not trying.

That last one, that’s the one I can’t shut out, then or now. It cuts to the bone of my childhood insecurities. Recently, a friend whose pregnancy overlapped mine asked why I had liked being pregnant. From her perspective, pregnancy had been a somewhat uncomfortable, often inconvenient means to an end, not something she enjoyed for its own sake. But I did love it, and talking to her made me realize that a big part of why is that for the first time, after a lifetime of being told I was failing at gym and the like because I wasn’t trying (not, say, because I had untreated asthma), I felt physically competent at something important. I was doing it right, and until the last day, no one said otherwise.

Over the course of two hours, everyone in the room realizes that however typically helpful it is to turn down the epidural at this stage, in my case it is a rank disaster. When Dr. Russian leaves the room, the nurse starts asking if maybe, really I do want to push that button. I refuse. Things are bad enough; I am terrified of what Dr. Russian will say if I do that.

Dr. Russian comes and goes. At some point she threatens me with a c-section if I don’t start trying, which, despite the high rate of sections at this hospital, is curiously the only thing she says that doesn’t frighten me. I know I’ve dilated smoothly, I know The Bean is very far down, I know my water hasn’t been broken for long. The Bean’s heartbeat is steady and strong, no distress there. For the first time since I googled “double vagina,” I know I’m not having a c-section. I am sure of that, and the threat doesn’t touch me.

Eventually, the mood in the room changes enough that I can say, yes, I give up, I need the epidural back. Sugar tells me later that the resident and a collection of nurses bundled Dr. Russian off to the hallway to convince her it was not working. The anesthesiologist who had turned it down comes and turns it back up, without comment. I rest a little while. It starts to work, and while I’m never out of pain again, I stop sobbing.

Dr. Russian spends the rest of labor sulking. At some point, when I say how much better I think things are going with the epidural back on, she rolls her eyes at the ceiling.

Pushing continues. I’m exhausted and shaking all over. In between contractions, when my legs are released to the bed, I have to tell myself, out loud, over and over, that the bed will hold me up. Again and again, I’m told I’m not pushing hard enough or long enough or right. They say I’m not having enough contractions. I am. I’m tempted to lie sometimes, to not mention one is starting, just so I can get a break, but I don’t. They give me pitocin — or maybe that was before the epidural was turned down; I can’t remember now because I didn’t care at the time.

At some point, Dr. Russian asks whether the heart rate on the monitor is mine or the baby’s. “The baby’s, I think,” says the resident.

“No. About this I am very particular. Find out for sure.” I am grateful for Dr. Russian in that moment, glad she is watching out for The Bean.

There is a small flurry of activity as the resident and nurse try to figure out what to do, how to move the monitor, how to be sure, but then Nurse Ringer, an older Latina says calmly, “Why not take mom’s pulse and see if it matches?” They do and it doesn’t. Thanks, Nurse Ringer, for saving me from internal monitoring with the power of logic.

The Bean’s heart keeps steady on, steady on through all of this. At one point, I hear Dr. Russian remark to a nurse that he has an “enviable trace.” I glow with pride and silently thank the Bean for being so strong, for causing no worry.

Eventually, it is Nurse RInger who saves the contraction-monitoring day, too, as she finds a magic spot, very low on my belly, where she can feel them. Everyone is gathered around the bed at this point. The doula reminds me at every contraction to keep my face relaxed and my chin down; I am grateful that she can say that gently, since it saves me from being yelled at by Dr. Russian. They keep saying I’m pushing wrong. Someone gets a mirror, tells me I can see the head, but I never do, just my swollen lady bits and blood. (They had tried to clean the blood away before bringing the mirror, for fear of upsetting me, but I’m not bothered.) I carry on. Nurse Ringer is yelling that she wants to meet this baby; she reminds me of the baby-crazy secretary at Sugar’s office, and I don’t mind her yelling.

And here is what happens, after four hours of pushing three times per contraction, exactly the same way every time: I have another contraction, just like the others. I push twice, and am told I’m not doing it right. I push one more time — exactly the same way I’ve done it before, except maybe for two seconds longer — and out comes the Bean, all at once. Dr. Russian is across the room. The resident catches him, and “catch” is no metaphor here: he was flying.

* * *

And everything is happening at once again, only now it’s in a good way. Someone says he’s a boy. Someone puts him on my chest. The placenta comes out, and he’s passed back down so Sugar can cut the cord. Someone asks if we have a name. We have a first name…. Everyone else has to wear gloves to touch him, but we don’t, because we belong to each other.  We talk gently to him and are awed.

His initial Apgar is 9, with a point off for not crying much. (A very polite way to lose a point, in my opinion.) After a few minutes, Nurse Ringer takes him to the bassinet and warming station in the corner to suction him and clean him up a bit. Sugar goes with him, and I’m so glad she can. Holding him was one kind of amazing, but watching her with him is another kind altogether. I hope she’ll tell you about it herself.

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Meanwhile, I am getting stitched up. Dr. Russian is giddy now, and she and the resident are working together, stitching and pulling and filling me up with gauze and pulling it back out again. I ask to see the placenta, and the resident shows me, after asking if I want to go skin to skin with it.  It’s smaller than I had expected.  They can’t get the bleeding to stop. The epidural is turned up higher and they’re using lidocaine, but it hurts. This indicates to me that I had plenty of sensation in my vagina all along and that the woman who told me tearing wouldn’t really hurt in the moment was right, because I certainly didn’t notice it happening. Mr. Hyde Dr. Russian had said when the epidural was tuned back up that it wouldn’t stop me feeling pain as he came through my vagina and that I had to not “freak out,” but really, it was nothing compared to everything else.

The Bean was born at 3:06 am, after four and a half hours of pushing. I hear Dr. Russian declare to the resident that it was really only two hours, since I apparently wasn’t trying the rest of the time. She has very sharp things in my crotch.  I don’t kick her.

Meanwhile, Sugar is still with the Bean. Suddenly she looks up at me, teary-eyed, and cries out, “I want to give him my dad’s middle name!”  I agree, and he has a name.

Eventually, the stitching and gauze-stuffing stops, my legs are released to the bed, and Sugar brings The Bean back to nurse. And he does, or at least makes a good effort. The doula swoops in to give me confusing advice, but mostly we just lie there together.

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(What ever did happen to my vagina, anyway? Stay tuned for the Recovery Epilogue.)


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Tales from the Front

Hi, folks.

So much has been going on, and I haven’t managed to tell you any of it. Mea culpa. Today’s update post comes to you from the couch, where I am staring over the horizon of an empty ice cream container and into space (such as it is in an NYC apartment), worn out from a 12-hour weep-fest. (We’ll get to that, but please don’t worry — everyone is healthy if not happy.)

Here are some updates and stories for you, in this so helpful style I have shamelessly plagiarized from our* May:

Item: Christmas, New Years, and the Great Middle Western Odyssey in general went fairly well. We met the famous TA, as sweet as they say, and her happy mother. I threw caution to the wind and ate my annual bratwurst at the Christkindlmarket. We went swimming at Sugar’s mother’s health club; after looking forward for months to the experience of grace and support I keep hearing about in re: gravid paddling, my attempts to avoid further rib injury lead to a kind of aquatic lumbering down the lane with a kickboard, a foam noodle under my ribs, and a foundering midsection intermittently covered by an old exercise top with shot elastic. Sadly, the ribs got angry anyway, possibly because of the indignity of being seen with me.

Swimming, 28 weeks
All the Grace of a Foundering Tugboat

I steered clear of Sugar’s dumbest cousin on Christmas Day — though I still managed to hear her dumb husband (whose last name is a synonym for “detumesces,” which gives me great delight, even if detumesce isn’t a real word, which it probably isn’t) threaten to spank their child for…oh, I forget. Something dumb that all 10 (10!) kids in the house that day were doing, like being loud. So no stories for any of us there.

To celebrate arriving at my parents’ house, I got a rip-roaring cold. After a day of utterly failing to breathe, accidentally overdosing on my inhaler, and subsequently freaking out about killing/brain-injuring the Bean, I was saved by Sugar’s suggestion that codeine is a fine anti-tussive. My parents’ house could easily be mistaken for a well-stocked pharmacy, and codeine not only stopped the coughing but also made me stop wheezing/turning blue. Mama made Dada listen to my lungs with the chimney of an oil lamp, since he had left his stethoscope at the office. I tried to teach Mama to cut and paste, so she’ll stop sending me emails with instructions on how to google something she’s found (“put X in. now go to the 4th result. in the corner, there’s a drawing of a fish. under that, there are some words you can click on….”) and instead caused a fight over dinner. We (98% Sugar) made a play-quilt. I was given (not “gifted,” dammit) replacements for the water bottle and good gloves I’ve recently lost on my commute; I promptly lost my best wool shawl on the trip home.

Item: We returned home to a house empty of food and full of cats very pleased with the success of their efforts to drive away our vacationing guests (the Baking Dane’s in-laws) by pooping all over their and our belongings. I walk the mile to the grocery store (over mostly-cleared sidewalks), discovering on the way that all that lying around in the midwest while steadily increasing in size has left me woefully out of shape for our car-less life. When I arrive at the hippie coop, I have a stupid exchange with the pregnant idiot working the front desk (this is the kind of coop where you work a shift to secure your right to Waldorf-educated kohlrabi) over her refusal to ask those working with her to rearrange the heavy carts (used to walk home shoppers who live closer than I do) so that those of us who schlep our own organic flax milk can hang our granny carts on the appointed hooks. Another woman sweetly takes my cart from me and says she’ll fix it. While I am recovering myself (read: weeping in the corner by the signs about how evil Coca-cola is), Pregnant Idiot calls over to tell me it’s done. I say thank you and think humiliated thoughts. On the way home, I get stuck in a pile of slush in the middle of a busy street at rush hour, oncoming traffic surging at me. Good times.

Item: We begin birth classes with the lesbian CNM and her somewhat dippy co-teacher, who keeps saying “dilatition.” We are pleased at the first meeting to see that we know one of the 7 couples there: an extremely chipper lesbian and her partner, who has a very charming lack of filter between her brain and her facial expressions. I enjoy watching my own horror reflected on her gaping face all evening.

The class begins with introductions. We are all (partners/husbands/friends, too) to say our names, when the baby is due, etc., and tell a story about our birth knowledge/experience — a birth we’ve been to, the story of our own, what have you. When the talking beanbag (not kidding) comes to us, Sugar goes first.

SUGAR: “Hi, I’m Sugar and this is my wife, Bionic. Our baby is due in March and we’re delivering at Kips Bay Mega-Hospital. The story of my birth is that my mother gave birth in 45 minutes and is still mad that all she got for dinner was a ham sandwich.”

DIPPY: “Wow! That’s amazing! How lucky!”

SUGAR: “Yeah. Too bad I’m not related genetically to our child.”

DIPPY: “But you’re related to your mother!”

BIONIC: Yes, but not to our baby.

DIPPY: “But your hips! You’ll have her genes! This is great!”

BIONIC: “BUT SHE’S NOT PREGNANT.”

[Awkward pause, in which DIPPY flusters about how she couldn’t really see us where we were sitting. Lesbian Teacher looks long-suffering.]

BIONIC: “Hi, I’m Bionic. My mother did not give birth in 45 minutes.”

I then proceed to talk about my (not un-traumatic) birth, touching briefly on a few major anxieties. I do not cry, but I don’t look calm either. Before I have collected myself, The door opens and the late couple walks in. If you’ve already guessed that the late couple was Pregnant Idiot and her identical twit of a husband, full marks.

Watch this space for further reports on the Happy Couple, who remind one nauseatingly of high school. Highlight of the first night came during one of the activity portions, when we were all draped on one another practicing slow-dancing to loosen back, etc. Sugar is admirably taller than I am, so my face was nicely snuggled against her chest, my eyes closed. I hear a *SMACK* on the Happy ass next to me, followed by “THAT’S a BOOTY!” Gorge rises.

Item: I begin to worry more seriously about this whole birth thing. I spend much of birth class freaking out (internally — at least I think I didn’t look as horrified as the Other Pregnant Lesbian, since the Lesbian Teacher never stopped what she was saying to ask me, “Do you have a question? Or is that just the face?”). It’s all very well learning about what the cervix does, what the birth canal will do, and so on, but while I don’t really wish to share the idiosyncrasies of my lady bits with the class as a whole — Lesbian Teacher knows already — it’s frustrating that no one has a clue what my body might or might not decide to do when the moment arrives. I have found 3 anecdotal reports of cervices like mine: one reassuring, one cautionary, one horrifying. (There’s much more out there on UD, but officially, single utes with double-doors do not exist, as we contravene the prevailing theories of fetal genital development.) I’m increasingly despairing that a vaginal birth will even be possible, which makes this all seem like something for other people. I know there are good reasons for us to take the class anyway, but it’s still a bit hard to sit there and look like I believe this stuff will apply to me.

Item: Dr. Robot has quit the practice and returned to Canada, according to Dr. Sympathetic Noises (But No Answers To Your Questions), whom I saw last week. I was quite nauseated and asked Dr. Noises whether it could have to do with the Zantac I’ve been taking for reflux, given that it seemed to have coincided. No, she said sympathetically. Later, I asked Dr. Google, who reported nausea as the most common side effect. Back to pepcid, and it’s a more acidic but less queasy life for me. Nice work, Dr. Noises. Thanks also for refusing to answer my questions about your practice’s labor policies until week 36.

Item: We finally have our belated hospital tour, led by a horrible, scolding bitch. We chose this hospital largely because of how uncommonly NICE every staff member we’ve encountered, orderlies on up, have been over the course of several radiology jaunts, Sugar’s surgery, and my BFF’s terrifying 27-week bleeding incident while visiting us a few years ago. So we weren’t expecting one of those bitter, angry people who loudly pretends to be cheerful while referring to all non-pregnant parties as “Dad,” kvetching endlessly about why her department deserves more space than another, and generally yelling at anyone who asked a question. I also liked the part where — apropos of nothing except a quiet moan from one of the rooms — she snapped at us, “labor is PAINFUL!” Part of my reason for going on the tour at all was to see the space at a time when I wasn’t feeling actively upset. FAIL. I was calmer when in the company of my bleeding friend.

The actual L&D facilities are nice, though it’s a bit annoying that the much-vaunted TV/DVD/CD players are only allowed to be used with headphones — bit of a reach from the bed. Post-partum, like everywhere in the city, is another matter. The rooms are clean and tiny. There are four, un-reservable private rooms that cost a fortune; the semi-private rooms are exactly big enough for bed-chair-crib, bed-chair-crib. There’s no nursery anymore — theoretically great; actually somewhat terrifying — so they allow partners to sleep over…in the hard chairs, which do not recline. It’s not at all clear to me how I’ll get through this (especially with no nursery to give me a break) if I send Sugar home to sleep, but it’s plenty obvious that she won’t get any sleep in that wretched chair. Mostly, that horrid woman made me afraid the PP nurses will be like her. As far as I can tell, she’s a lactation consultant. So help me, if she comes near my nipples, I will not be responsible for my actions. And I do think it would be nice to wait until we’re home before beginning the Bean’s profanity lessons.

It all seems so trivial when I write it, but the aftermath of the tour has had me up weeping since 4:30 this morning. Okay, it’s possible hormones are playing a role here. The basic issues, as I see them: terrible fear of being left alone; much greater comfort taking care of people than being taken care of (read: vulnerable); fear that I won’t be able to take care of the Bean and Sugar and that no one will be taking care of me in that strange place.

Item: Sugar had to talk to the Stupid Cow at HR today, who deliberately refuses to understand that our relationship (our legally recognized, accorded benefits by the employer relationship) exists and tells Sugar she’s single all the time. But that is Sugar’s story to tell.

Item: I wish there were some useful guidelines on alcohol and pregnancy, short of ZOMG POISON. I know plenty of people drink in the third trimester; so far I haven’t, beyond pilfered sips of Sugar’s wine now and then. But boy, I could use a drink tonight.

*Brits: I have no idea if the “our ____” usage has some meaning that’s inappropriate to this situation; I just love how it sounds. I am a dumb ‘merican. Feel free to attempt to (gently) correct my heathen ways.


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our trip home: a radio play in 2 vignettes

INT. NORTHERN MIDWESTERN HOUSE – AFTERNOON

DISTANT VOICE, SUGAR’S MOM
So I just am going to get this soup on the stove and then I’ll be ready to show you what presents need to be wrapped and maybe you could go to the store and buy milk in the meantime get skim this time and mom can fill out these present labels it should be in her handwriting do you know where those scissors went I can never find anything I wish you wouldn’t move stuff we might leave presents here accidentally and I’ll never know which ones—

SFX: Extremely loud BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP from a fire alarm.

DISTANT MOM VOICE
AAIIEEEEEE!

DISTANT DAD VOICE
Just testing . . .

INT. ARKANSAS HOUSE – AFTERNOON

SFX: SUGAR’s sewing machine WHIRS. Baby’s mom’s FOOTSTEPS enter the room and walk to the closet. Closet door SQUEAKS.

BABY’S MOM
So you may have heard that Baby was conceived on a camping trip just outside of Yorktown, Virginia.


SFX: RUMMAGING SOUNDS.

SFX: FOOTSTEPS leaving the room again.