Bionic Mamas

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



Greetings from the snowy midwest, where we are visiting Sugar’s family. The snow is not too deep and very pretty, but I am nonetheless grateful that my mother’s giant grey marshmallow of a down coat still closes around me. It’s touch-and-go after a meal, I tell you what. Luckily, we’ll be out of the cold weather and down to my parents soon, so it only has to hold on for a few more days. Related gripe: why doesn’t anyone make a maternity coat that is actually warm?

Perhaps because pregnant women are supposed to be warm all the time, but let me tell you, this one ain’t. Obviously everything is going as it should in terms of the important aspects of gestation, but I do find it funny how many of the “typical” symptoms have not visited me. I am cold all the time. My skin has never been drier — shea butter on the face every morning or the skin just peels away. And that business about your hair not falling out and then all coming loose after birth? I have very thick hair to begin with, but if it finds a way to fall out more than it is already, I will certainly be bald by the time The Bean sees me. (And yes, I will trade all that happily for the mildness of my morning sickness.)

I will also take it in happy trade for the nurse’s call yesterday saying my glucose test results were normal, which saves me a fight with the doctors, since I had made my mind up firmly to refuse the three-hour test. It was just over 24 hours before I was recovered from the one-hour, by the way, with an additional 24 to get rid of the migraine it brought on. And meanwhile, I’ve been poking around the journal literature and have become increasingly convinced that nearly all of the GD paranoia is based on g-d horse shit. I won’t bore you to death, but just for starters: in a study of outcomes for gestational diabetes patients and babies, wouldn’t you suppose it a good idea to exclude women who had poorly-controlled diabetes BEFORE pregnancy? Of course not: that would exclude almost all of the scary outcomes, and then how will you get published?

Sugar is champing at the bit to do laundry, so I’d better get out of these very soft but somewhat whiffy pajamas. (Yes, Melody, they are pajamas. Garnet Hill German cotton flannel. Get yourself some; I promise you will not be sorry. This is my fifth set.) I will leave you with a picture of my rapidly expanding mid-section, circa 28 weeks, and a promise that I will be back to report on anything exciting that happens on Christmas day at Sugar’s paternal grandmother’s house, where we’re not at all sure anyone has been told about the pregnancy. Last time I was there, one of Sugar’s cousins refused to do anything but gape at me while I was talking to her (about such controversial topics as “your daughter is very cute”). This should be even more fun without alcohol.


P.S. Yes, I’m beyond pissed about the legal goings on of my home state. Guess it’s off the list of “states I will allow us to live in prior to being absolutely certain we’re done having/adopting children.” Nice feeling to have about a place my family has lived for 250 years.


While You Were BlogHer-ing…

…we went and got married again.

We Went And Got Married Again.
It was a perfect day, preceded by weeks of utter exhaustion and chaos. We have new respect for wedding planners who uses wedding favor candles for the best weddings: this was the most low-key party ever to be thrown outside of a parental backyard, and it nearly killed us. But it did not. The food was good (and the caterer’s partner, a dentist, fixed our bridesmaid’s broken tooth that morning), we didn’t run out of wine (even if the champagne was served not at all when we’d intended), and, after an Indian friend bustled me off to a corner to pin me in more appropriately, the sari ended up being the perfect choice for glamorously concealing my lost waist.
Today is our real first OB appointment (not to be confused with the “holy shit, I’m panicking” appointment two weeks ago). Exciting, but terrifying. I’m convinced, now that we’ve told a few close friends and the parents and the aunts and uncles who were in town for the wedding, that the universe will take it all back. Hubris is a particular fear of mine, you understand.
It’s also that the two weeks since the panic appointment are by far the longest I’ve gone without seeing a doctor in months. It is very difficult to believe that my body could know what to do without constant intervention, and knowing how little useful intervention exists at this stage of the game does not help.
(What also doesn’t help is the light brown spotting I’ve had most days in between these appointments. It has never become any of the things the nurse told me to call back about — heavy, red, very crampy — but it is hard to be sanguine about it.)
(My God, what a terrible pun. Apologies.)


Your Questions…ANSWERED

Hey, internet. How’s it?

Things are chugging along, chez Bionique. I’m astonished (and a little frightened) to report that I am already feeling occasional soreness in my ovaries. This is getting worse before it’s getting better, I know. Oh, well. This is the perfect time in my year to be incapacitated. I’m in between teaching gigs — I’ll start summer school in July — so I am more or less able to just lie down and whine. Which I plan to.

I’ve been devouring blogs about IVF lately (surprise), and I keep finding myself reading really old entries and then being annoyed that the author hasn’t talked about something or other I’d like to hear. But I’m just as bad, I’m sure — I’m lousy at keeping track of what I’ve said here and what I’ve only obsessed about quietly to myself (read: “yapped Sugar’s ear off in re:”).

So. Anything you’d like to know? I’ll start off with a couple questions that have come up in comments lately and update this post to address questions in the comments.

Kristen asked at some point what we were up to in early August, i.e., are we going to BlogHer. Happily/sadly no, we are not…because we’re getting hitched again! Or at any rate, we’re having a big party. We are extremely behind in planning same, but the room has been rented, so we’re doing it. When we got married in November, we only had our parents and two friends with us, because we thought we’d have a party 1) in decent weather and 2) when we had more time to plan it properly. (We almost didn’t even have our parents there, but our two friends — who have each known one of us our whole lives or close to it — pointed out that our parents would kill us.) So no BlogHer. I am a bit jealous of all y’all who will be there getting to meet each other and all that, but, well, my wife is pretty damn awesome.

Pomegranate asked what manner of IVF cycle this is — lupron, antagonist, etc. It’s a basic, stripped-down, no fancy-stuff antagonist cycle. We’ll do Gonal-F for a bit, then Gonal-F plus Ganirelix, which will keep my eggs from busting out before their time. Then HCG trigger, egg retrieval, progesterone, and transfer, hopefully on day 5.

I don’t know all that much about what determines the cycle type they try first, except that I’m thinking it’s partly to do with my endometriosis. I gather we endo gals can be not-so-great responders, so maybe that’s why no lupron? In case it quiets things down too much?

So far, I’m glad it’s this kind of cycle, because I have limited stores of patience, and this one is quick.

So. What else you wanna know?


Bullet-y Roundup

Hey gang. There’s been way too little about hoo-has on this blog lately, no? Sorry about that. We’re in a period of hoo-ha dormancy at the moment, ending soon. To whit:

  • We’ve been on TTC break, but IVF commences in round about 2 weeks. (This protocol begins on CD2, and all signs point to my ovulating about now.) I’m excited and totally freaked out. I am trying not to take my lunacy out on Sugar, but dreaming of needles every night is getting old (and tiring).
  • Speaking of needles, I have been going to acupuncture every week for some time now. I really like the practice, Brooklyn Acupuncture Project. It’s clean and nice and cheap. The practitioners are friendly and no one’s tried to talk me into changing my diet. (I have a history of disordered eating and know from experience that even small, reasonable changes lead me directly to the place of hypercontrol, which leads directly to the place of not eating. Which can’t be a good move, health-wise.) I’m not sure how much it’s helping with my chief complaint, anxiety (see dreams above). It does chill me out on the day of the appointment, and I suppose I am moderately less crazy than I was in April, so that’s something. What I don’t like about acupuncture is how it wears me out for the whole day. Do others of you have this?
  • Have any of you done IVF at NYU? Know any bloggers who have? Since it looks like Nicole will have to wait a few months, I’ve lost my cycle buddy — and I was selfishly hoping she’d go first and give me the lay of the land.
  • I’ve ordered the meds. Still need to sort out whether Dr. Baby Factory will stick to his statement that he’ll let me try the progesterone coochie bullets, since the shots freak me out.
  • We need to order more sperm. This week, yo.
  • We found a church hall to have our wedding party in! Now we just need to get some food and invite people….
  • A veritable bevy of my aunts is in town. My mother, too. This has led me to blurting out things about my vaginae, cervices, and so on many times in the past few days. Since living in New York means living in public, said blurting has occurred in inappropriate places: the check-out line at the food coop, a busy sidewalk on 35th street.
  • My mother and her sisters are all deaf to varying degrees, so said inappropriate blurting has also been very loud. And repeated. Continuing to do my bit to keep city life interesting.

I owe you a number of posts, internet. Posts about why I feel guilty moving on to IVF so soon, and about why it is a good idea anyway. Posts about why I’m not taking Dr. Baby Factory’s advice and letting him remove my vaginal septum, even though doing so is on balance the more logical decision. Posts about how I’ve become someone who screams about my vagina in midtown. I’m certain to feel more frantic in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

And I’ll get a new Come and Eat post up soon. Meanwhile, try playing this game. (Tip o’ the nib to Geek and Lawyer.)


Come And Eat: Beignets and Goat Tacos on Mothers’ Day

Hello, internets. Did you make it through Mothers’ Day? I hope so. I’ve read several thought-provoking posts on the subject in the last few days — check out this or this or this. I’ve also been feeling grateful that Mothers’ Day isn’t a big deal in my family — my mother had forgotten it was Mothers’ Day until I called — which I think makes it a less fraught day for me this year than it might be. (Or maybe it’s just that I’m hopeful that next year will be different, thanks to the approaching IVF. I feel lucky to have that hope.)

In reading others’ posts on the subject, though, I began to wonder if part of the reason Mothers’ and Fathers’ Days aren’t big in my family is because my parents are IFers, too. Maybe they, too, got sick and tired of the holidays in the years they were trying to conceive. Maybe they chose to withdraw from them to protect themselves. Maybe the whole experience made them too aware that there’s nothing fair about who does and doesn’t get to celebrate those days.

When I was a child and my mother would refer to how it took her a long time to get pregnant, I shrugged it off — obviously it didn’t work quickly because the perfect combination of sperm and egg to make Wondrous Me doesn’t just happen every day. I didn’t think about how the wait might have made them frustrated or sad, because obviously it all worked out, right? It’s only now, as I face some set-backs of my own (and so far for not nearly as long as my mother faced them, and with more medical help than she had available — though she took what she could get: Clomid baby right here), that I begin to understand my mother a little better.

Which is, after all, a good thing to do on Mothers’ Day.

Now. Please Come and Eat:

We started the morning with the kind of breakfast that you have to plan the night before: homemade beignets. We used this recipe, from a New Orleans cooking blog that hasn’t lead me astray yet, and this week we learned from the tough mistakes of last week (yes, we will be big as houses soon, but HAPPY houses) and went easy on the kneading. I mixed up the dough on Saturday night, Sugar kneaded it just enough, and it sat in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, Sugar rolled it out and cut the beignets, and after they rose again, I fried them in sunflower oil.




The blessed thing about beignets is that the recipe makes far more than we can eat ourselves. They allow us to enjoy the blessings of generosity. Last week and this, we packed up a bag of them for the Plant Whisperer, who spends this time of year raising operating funds for our community garden by luring everyone who walks within 6 blocks of the place in the gates and convincing them, in a mesmerizing display of virtuosity and salesmanship, to buy armloads of vegetable starts and blooming perennials and whatever else we’ve dug out of our beds for her to sell. The Plant Whisperer is no glutton, so it is especially gratifying to watch her devour food we’ve made.


We also carried a bag to the friend who lent us his car to look for a place to have our wedding party. We traded the newspaper-wrapped pile of powered sugar and dough for his keys, and drove out to the ocean at Fort Tilden, where we saw feral roses, a tiny crab, and the homey and welcoming Studio 7 of the Rockaway Artists’ Alliance. It was very cold and the wind was fierce and exhausting. We did not find picnic shelters or anything else convincing in the way of a party-venue (though Studio 7 would be a great spot), but we did find a beach we’d like to return to in summer. And so ended the planned part of our day and our eating.

Since the friend of Automotive Generosity assured us he didn’t need the car before midnight, we decided to bite the bullet and go buy the IKEA dining room chairs we’d been considering, despite the fact that the best color had been discontinued. Our current dining room chairs, found in Chicago alley several years ago, are vintage charmers, with turquoise vinyl upholstery and elegant chrome legs. Under the vinyl, the wooden seats are giving out, such that a slight shift in body weight can cause the legs to suddenly give way, tossing the erstwhile-seated guest floorward. The back legs extend too far back for our small apartment, and I’ve never felt the same about them since breaking my toe on one. We were hungry, but IKEA has cheap and acceptable food.

IKEA Brooklyn is in the remote neighborhood called Red Hook, known for its giant grocery store, its semi-decrepit shipping works, and for the best Central American food in the city, cooked by the vendors who come to the soccer fields there every summer weekend, selling elotes and pupusas and agua fresca to the Latin American families who come to play and watch the soccer games, and to people like us, who just like to eat well. We make the walk — except for the shuttle buses and water taxis IKEA now runs, public transit to the area is dismal — through the heat, over the stinking Gowanus canal, and under the rumbling Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in the summer time, but as it’s several unpleasant miles from our neighborhood, we don’t go as often as I’d be happy to eat the tacos and huaraches and ceviche sold there. I’m embarrassed to admit that we may not have gone at all last year, but I thought as I drove through the gnarls of traffic under the BQE that I’d have to do better this year, despite the sweaty, gritty walk, make a point of coming once the vendors arrived in June.

red hook
In the old days, before the city made them replace the tarps with trucks

at the huarache stand
At the huarache stand.

And then, like a dream, they were there: despite the cold and the wind, the vendors’ trucks were lined up at the park, dispensing quesadillas and horchata and my favorite of all: goat tacos.


And the goat was sweet and tender, Sugar’s tacos al pastor complex in their spices, and the watermelon agua fresca divine. A meal of grace: something you can’t possibly plan for or make happen or even deserve, that you get to have anyway.


So…what are you eating this week? Paste the address of your food-related post in here, and we’ll all come over to eat! (Please place a * after your name if your post is about pregnancy or children, for the sake of any in the ALI community who are presently in The Bad Place.)


Baby Dust

Still not feeling very enthusiastic about this cycle. Meaning: I’d like to get pregnant. I’d really, really like that. (And don’t get me started about the little voice in my head pointing out that this would be the cycle that would continue what my birthday-mate aunt calls the family tradition of first children born in late November/early December. Quite a number of us within only a few days, it’s true.) But I feel like it doesn’t matter if I’m hopeful or not — my endometriomas are just too fucking big.

And we’re out of stored sperm now, so we’ll have to scrape up money again. (Thanks, body, for slowing things down enough that we JUST crossed the line into having to pay for a second six month’s storage at the Baby Factory. Nice work.) And the sperm bank raised their prices. Yippee.

So, yeah. I’m not drinking or anything, but I wouldn’t say I feel terribly PUPO, as it were. Nonetheless, I made a nice little baby dust* blingee for a board friend last night, and I thought y’all might like it, too. The pink background — attentive readers will recognize the Sparkle Menace — makes the dust itself a bit hard to see, but yes, it is meant to be emanating from the…hindquarters.

unicorn baby dust

I’ve got a baby-dance one, too, but it still needs a little work. Something to look forward to.

*a phrase that makes me think of ashes. Nice, huh?


Thanks, Ma

“You’re always like this at the beginning of the semester,” Sugar remarked to me this morning, after another night of half-sleep. “You don’t sleep well, you worry, and you think crazy thoughts about death.”

“I don’t mean to interrupt you,” I replied, “but we should get up. The cat is crying at the door, and I’m pretty sure it’s because the other cat has had a heart attack in the living room.”

The beginning of the semester is always tough, especially when I’m teaching seniors, whose college degrees rest on my mandatory class, which they typically feel neither prepared for nor terribly interested in taking. Things even out by mid-semester, when they’ve gone through one draft of their final project and begin to sense that I’m not trying to ruin their lives, but the first day is Rough Sledding.

The class met for the first time last night, as the massive storm that has lashed us with wind and rain for the past two days finally blew out to sea. As often happens when the air pressure changes radically, I got a migraine — luckily a fairly mild one, but I was nonetheless exhausted by the time I’d fought the dread and resentment of my students and the malaise of the 2-hour ride home. As I sat down to eat the late dinner that Sugar had saved for me (Ain’t she grand?), I opened a letter from my mother, written on three index cards.

My mother’s letters to me usually begin “Dear [Bionic]” and then go on about what the cat has been up to, the etymology of a few surnames and maybe a fun double plural like “kine”, concluding with a recipe for some wheat-free item best used as a hockey puck substitute. This one opened:

[Bionic B. Mama] — Strong Family History of Breast Cancer.

…and went on from there, listing which relatives have had what cancers, calculating rates per generation and in total for the past three, breaking down rates according to numbers of cancers versus numbers of individuals with any cancer. Emphasis via underline abounded. DEATH was always written in all caps. At no point in the letter was I addressed directly or was anything other than cancer discussed. “Whichever way you view the #’s,” card 3 concludes, “THESE RATES (37.5%, 50%) ARE HIGH for U.S. women.

(Yes, they are high. Yes, the information is useful to have all in one place — my mother has had to jump through hoops to be eligible for certain screenings and so on, and those hoops would be statistically more difficult for me to just through because I don’t have as many siblings (and therefore not as many “first degree” relatives). But…still.)


She’s Learning

From time to time, I chide Sugar for not having much in the way of the gift of the gab. It’s unfair of me. After all, she’s Polish. Our ancestors may have had in common their unrelenting diet of cabbage and potatoes, but while my Irish forbears were spending their winters thinking of something suave to say to the girl next door (and starving), hers were busy staying out of the way of commuting armies (and starving).

But let it not be said that I withhold credit where it is due.

Last night, while I was performing my evening ablutions in the bathroom, Sugar made a remark from the other room to the effect that the wedding had been a stressful experience. (Stressful? Why, all of our parents were here to help! And we got to organize every little thing they did!)

“Excuse me,” I reminded her, “That was the HAPPIEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE.”

A pause.

“No,” she replied, and I waited to pounce. “Being married to you is so much better.”

My wife: I think I’ll keep her.

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Last Night

I dreamed last night I was in my garden, in back of a house I don’t own. I was quite covered in dirt when I noticed a long curve of something coming up from my left hip. I pulled it up and, as I was surprised to discover, out of my groin, which hurt but also felt satisfying. “Ah,” I thought, “an old vein. Must have gone bad. Forgot I’m supposed to be pulling those out.” But when I shook the dirt off and looked again, it was a tough runner of grass, which had evidently grown into me and rooted.

All of which is to say that I woke up with cramps.

I don’t mean to complain about that. For one thing, I wasn’t thinking I might be pregnant this time, since I ovulated on the weekend of our wedding, which was beautiful timing for poetry but lousy for a trip to the Baby Factory, with all the scheduling and defrosting and spiking of my cervix that entails. For another, the cramps aren’t that bad. In fact, the five periods since my horrible HSG have been the five least painful I can remember. I used to spend three days or so every month nearly incapacitated, popping Aleve until my stomach hurt, often swearing, sometimes writhing, rarely passing out. Now the pain almost goes away with Advil. My theory is that much of my pain was because my cervices — despite having, in principle, twice the potential to admit blood — were so circuitous and given to clenching that the blood couldn’t get out, leaving my uterus Very.Angry. Now one entrance has been, to quote the note on my chart that I read over a nurse’s shoulder, “perforated,” and it’s not so dramatic. (Unfortunately, even that side is still tough for the catheter to negotiate, which is why the new note in my chart says I’m to have Valium the next time we try to knock me up*.)

At the HSG, Dr. Baby Factory told me that my tubes were open, though the cysts on my ovaries still left him calling my endometriosis “significant.” I could have surgery for it, if it was bothering me, or just try to get knocked up and hope for the best, if it wasn’t so bad. I am, as previously noted, generally opposed to knives wielded at my person, so I politely declined. And then my cramps all but stopped!

Except. Now that I’m keeping better track of my cycles, I’m wondering if this insane GI awfulness I’ve been having occasionally for the past few years isn’t secretly some kind of endo. It doesn’t happen every month or usually during my period, but it has happened the past two months, both times a few days before my period started. Remember when I thought I might have super-early morning sickness but them decided it was the stomach flu? That. It happened again this month, on Thanksgiving (so I couldn’t eat anything)**. Basically, what seems to happen is that my colon stops advancing (uh, TMI, sorry, but you are reading this because of my hoo-has, so only kind of sorry), I fill up with gas, and I lie on the floor writhing and screaming for 12-24 hours until things move along again. I went to the GI doc some time ago, pooped in lots of cups, and got told that probably I had injured myself getting food poisoning, that things were out of whack, that I should take pro-biotics and hope it got better, which it sort of seemed to, but only sort of. Now I’m wondering if the real issue could be that I have endometrial nodules on or near my bowel that get inflamed and mess everything up. I have a call in to Dr. Baby Factory to see what he thinks of this theory, but I know that the answer is likely to be that there’s no way to tell without surgery.

Did I mention how I don’t like the cutting? Oh, and how I’d like to get one with this TTC business already and stop having to hurry up and wait?

Did I also mention that the weather has turned cold? How about that this is my last night of 30, and that when my mother was my age, she was about 3 days from going into labor with me, after two endo surgeries and several more years of TTC?

*Which — and believe me, baby-watchers, I am as impatient about this as you — won’t be until mid-January, at the earliest. Not only am I most likely to ovulate on the day we set off on our annual Middle-Western Odyssey, making timing a clinic visit stressful, but I would also, on balance, like to be drinking at New Years and also not weeping over getting my period while snowed-in at Sugar’s parents’.

**but still had a nice time, because my super-awesome cousin was visiting. She was the most compassionate 18-year-old EVER about how sick I was, sadly because she was been so very much sicker with endo herself for the past couple years.


I’m doing it right!

I just went to Minnesota to see an art exhibit and also to see some friends and family. One member of my family there is three years old. I hadn’t seen her since Christmas. Suddenly she’s not a cute, tiny, shy thing. Now she’s a cute, tiny drill sergeant.

She discovered early in the visit that I would do things that she told me to do. I found myself stretching out on my stomach on the floor and flailing my arms (Swim! Swim!) and then standing up and sitting down a lot of times. (Now you’re all dry! Stand up! Stand up!) She had small fleece blanket that was alternatively a sprinkler (or maybe a tsunami machine?) and a hair dryer. Sometimes I was supposed to hold the blanket, push invisible buttons, and then pretend the blanket was doing . . . . something.

While this was exhausting, I found it very reassuring. I remember games like this. I had an invisible mouse that lived in an invisible, knitted, spherical house. I was the maniacal director of endless games of ‘Harriet Tubman and the Spaceships’. (Um, all I can say about that one is that rapid travel through time and space would have made Harriet Tubman’s job a lot easier in my six year old opinion.)

Also reassuring was the fact that my tiny cousin didn’t stare at me in confusion or give up on me when I pushed the wrong invisible button or sprayed the fleece blanket instead of waving it or whatever. She just shouted no! no! over there! over there! As long as she had my attention, everything was A OK.

Apparently I can still play pretending games and not be lame. Cool.