Bionic Mamas

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


22 Comments

Fits and Starts (Take 2)

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

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

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

I know. I’m sad for you, too.

Meanwhile, in no particular order:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 weeks eyebrows
Eyebrow work

7 weeks Nathan Lane
Nathan Lane Impression

7 weeks
Hitchcock

7 weeks
Comedy

7 weeks
Tragedy

7 weeks
Fin

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

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

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

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

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

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

.


11 Comments

39w 1d: Reports of My Early Labor Greatly Exaggerated

Happy Monday, internets. The Bean and I are lolling around the apartment, while the fire alarm I can’t knock down even with a broom beeps intermittently, in its death throes but far beyond my reach. Heavy snow outside, the wet kind people carry umbrellas against. I’m in the leggings that always fall down, because the others need washing and I can’t stand pants anymore. The Bean is in monster underpants, which is more than he usually has on these days.

Jackalope remains fashionably clad in an amniotic sac and my uterus.

Sugar has gone to work today, for the first time since Thursday. I made her stay home on Friday, because I was so sure I was going into labor. Oops.

In my defense, I had a rough day Thursday and woke up several times on Thursday night with what were clearly labor-type contractions, not the long, strange ones I’ve been having for ages. These were relatively short (1-2 minutes? I didn’t time them), repeating, and felt like the books say they do, starting in my back and wrapping around to the front. (I never felt anything like that when the Bean was born, only back and later back/hip/leg pain. Possibly there was some abdominal action that I just couldn’t discern because the other parts hurt so much.) Meanwhile, Jackalope seems to have suddenly figured out that the way out is down. Lots more pressure and cervical stabbing, accompanied by some relief at the thought that s/he’s not going to try to actually crawl through the fundus, as previous behavior has suggested.

Childcare connections were alerted. I wrote to our doula and my father. I felt justified in having told the food coop that I needed to start my maternity leave early. We all waited for the contractions to ramp up and find a rhythm.

Ah, waiting. The through-line to the whole TTC experience, from Two Week Waits to this. Well, one of the through-lines, if you count obsessive monitoring of mucous. Or maybe that’s more of a goopy set of bookends.

We are still waiting. No contractions to speak of since Friday. Did more walking this weekend than I have in a while (though essentially none by my usual standard), which might count as a burst of energy or maybe just cabin fever finally overpowering me. Meanwhile, apparently 38.5 weeks was some kind of towel-throwing moment as far as my abdominal skin’s resisting stretch marks. Oh, well. Guess I won’t be able to hawk my Think Method alongside the more traditional snake oils advertised in the parenting magazines after all.

I gather this experience — thinking one is in labor only to be sheepishly still pregnant several days later — is a common one. It is, however, the opposite of my experience with the Bean, when I was in labor for at least 24 hours (maybe more like 36) before my denial broke. File under “each pregnancy is different,” I guess. I thought I was supposed to be more savvy now that I’m what Penny Simkin calls an “experienced mother.”

File under: “things I would only tell the internet” my adventures in, erm, self-exploration last night. Although I feel confident that refusing cervix checks at the OB office has been the right decision, given that there’s nothing to do with any result (since the follow up to any finding in that setting is, “normal, could mean anything”), I admit I am curious. So in the tub last night, I made a good attempt at finding my own cervix, something I can usually manage when not pregnant. (I use the singular here because the medical consensus is that the other has wriggled up somewhere out of the way as my uterus has stretched, for which I am grateful.) No luck; I blame short arms/big belly syndrome, though possibly it’s also that it hasn’t shifted forward yet. What I did feel, however, was a head. Sort of through the, as it were, roof of my vagina, as if it had acquired a hard-top. Like I’d grown a bone there, which I suppose, in a sense, I have.

So. That’s something.

I don’t mind still being pregnant, for the record. Yes, I am uncomfortable and can’t sleep for beans, even with unisom, my constant companion. But I am happy to have made it to ACOG’s revised version of full term. I’ve had a 38 week baby, and find the new “early term” definition (37w – 38w6d) a sensible distinction; yes, he was healthy and basically fine, but I am hopeful that a slightly more cooked baby may have an easier time nursing and just generally adjusting to the world. (But please still be small enough that I can get you out, okay, Jackalope?)


9 Comments

Items Gestational, For The Nonce

Dateline: 38 weeks, 4 days.

Item: I am still pregnant.

Item: I wonder if that will be true for much longer.

PicsArt.com
The view from now

Item: Had a nice visit at the OB’s yesterday. Sweetly enthusiastic u/s tech kept enthusing during my BPP, making me feel a bit jaded in comparison. (Partly, I’ve been spoiled by the image quality at the high-risk place I go for growth scans.). She really was adorable, taking care to point out specific bones, to enthuse over how Jackalope was practicing breathing, “which they don’t do all the time so we don’t always get to see it!” Apparently both placenta and fluid levels are fantastic, or words to that effect.

After a rather too-lengthy wait for the OB portion of the visit (not because anyone was late but because there are few slots for BPPs, and this was the best we could do), a punchy and overtired Bean accompanied me back to the exam rooms, where he roll on the floor. Blood pressure up a bit, which I suspected as I’ve been having these darling little panic attacks, but not enough to worry anyone; weight down a bit. “Undress from the waist down,” said the nurse, and I said no, I’d wait to talk to the doctor before setting myself up for cervix rummaging, thank you. I do not remember that fondly at all, and have decided I am not submitting myself to painful procedures without good reason.

This, it transpired, was perfectly fine with Dr. White*, who came in wearing yet another pair of hip glasses. (Between my previous visit with her, this one, and my doula’s report of meeting her at a delivery, no repeat frames yet.) She agreed that there wasn’t much to do with the information except satisfy general curiosity and encourage me to go to the hospital quickly when labor starts if it happens that I am secretly already fairly dilated. “But,” she said, “that is already what you are planning to do, so it doesn’t matter.”

* Who is, point of order, not white. But I am into using fairly obvious nicknames this time around (why have I been protecting Dr. Russian and pals?) and the other obvious ways to alter her name are not nice.

I really like her. She was so encouraging about everything, saying she really thought everything was going to go well and I would do great and my birth plan looks good, too. She talked to me for a long time, wanting to hear again a bunch of details from my labor with the Bean, and here, gentle reader, is where she really won me over. I was describing the Horrible Cab Ride, and how even though it was Horrible, I was apparently at 4 cm both before and afterwards (leading to my point about how much better and faster everything went after the epidural, not matter what the books say). “It sounds like you were in transition,” she said.

Internets, I was floored. YES, that is exactly what I thought at the time. Everything about how I was feeling and acting was exactly how transition is described, except supposedly I wasn’t because transition is said to happen from 8-10cm. (This led to some real shock at the hospital when the resident said, brightly, “you’re at 4 cm!” not realizing I had been told the same four hours of agony previously. “WHAT??” I said, or perhaps roared. “Um, maybe four and a half,” she said, in a frankly adorable attempt to mollify me.)

When I told my mother about the transition confusion, she said the same thing (minus the cab) had happened to her when I was born, and that moreover, when she was in med school, they were taught that transition was a kind of labor, not a particular point in dilation. (In other words, maybe many people experience transitional labor in the 8-10 cm range, but that doesn’t mean the two are synonymous). Until Dr. White’s comment, I have never heard anyone with more recent training agree with that concept, and I can’t tell you how relieving it was to hear that maybe I am not crazy, and that did happen. Redeeming, that’s the word.

Anyway, yay, Dr. White. On the basis of nothing except our chat (which included how I’d thought I was going into labor last Thursday and then not and then that being able to walk to a restaurant two blocks away for my date (!) with Sugar on Monday made me think I was having a pre-labor burst of energy and then how I could barely sleep that night from pain because in fact I was not up to that walk and how I’ve been having these panic attacks, sometimes without even consciously thinking about anything that worries me), anyway, on the basis of that long parenthetical, she mentioned cheerfully several times how if I happened to go into labor in the next couple days, she would be on call. “Go ahead and make an appointment for next week, just in case,” she said. She almost rolled her eyes when I asked about their induction date policy. (It’s 41 weeks. I never bothered to ask before because I never expected this pregnancy to last longer than the Bean’s. But here I am, still knocked up.)

And then I went home. And then I lay on the bed in various kinds of back pain and contraction exhaustion for several hours, while the Bean covered me with stuffed animals and trucks. And then I lost a great deal of sleep last night in the same way, unisom notwithstanding, and had a pretty rough morning, to boot. And I am starting to wonder if she might be onto something.

At least we have made it to the lunar new year. The Bean and Sugar are both rabbits, you see, and I have been secretly hoping for a little horse, like me.

Oh, and post-scriptural Item: Thank you for your many kind and encouraging comments on the birth plan. I do want to clarify that many of the things you thought it was horrible to have to request are, in fact, standard at this hospital. I know from being there all but plan-less with the Bean that they always hurl the newborn onto your chest and assume you will all room together. (In fact, the dumb tour guide we had last time said that was mandatory, which sounded intimidating. That was only one of many things she was wrong about. The LCs at that place…I don’t have much good to say about the two I encountered last time. I plan to skip the whole business this time and just see the good one I eventually found in Brooklyn if needed. And my insurance will pay! Thanks, Obama!) As far as I know, non-gestational parents can hang with the baby post-caesarean. Nor do I think anyone’s penis gets automatically docked in the absence of a specified desired to leave the thing alone.

The yelling and so on — well, I certainly hope none of my providers would do such a thing. It’s just that I’ve been so wrong on that count before, and felt so helpless to do anything about it (or even, for a long time, to admit it had happened). Really, putting all that in was mostly an exercise in showing myself I could be an advocate for myself, taking control and all that.

I really do like and trust the OBs in this practice, as much as my twice-shy self can trust anyone. Even Dr. Smarm I think is probably okay, despite not being my favorite: she gets very good reviews online, and Dr. Ready seemed genuine when she assured me that, weird appointment or no, she would not do the things I fear. I feel a bit defensive on this point, partly because of my own history, but also because I often feel sort of demographically pressured to believe I should see midwives instead of OBs. I like midwives, in the abstract, but sometimes the praise of them necessitates a villain in a way I find problematic. Point of order, I have good reason to have chosen OB care, both times. I really like this hospital, and no midwives deliver there. The local midwifery practice everyone loves delivers at a hospital I do not love. The hospital with the fancy birth center and therefore more midwives is farther from our house, and the present cab ride is sufficiently long. In particular during my last pregnancy, I was thought to be at increased risk of needing a c-section, and I thought on the whole I preferred to know the person performing it.

This is part of a longer rant on the problems of birth activism’s concerning itself with abandoning medical systems in favor of options (midwives, home births) that may be great for many people but require, among other things, “good” health. Midwifery has a problem, in my ever humble etc., if hospital-based practices risk out patients for things like gestational diabetes. More to my point, it is not ultimately appropriate to advocate that “healthy” people abandon hospital care en mass as a primary response to problems in that care, inasmuch as removing the most privileged (in health but also, statistically, in race, class, and education) from the system, leaving those less well positioned to advocate for themselves stuck in a system activists would do better to improve. (Mind you, I am talking about activist rhetoric here; a given individual’s decision to have a home birth I have no ideological argument against.)

But meanwhile, my back hurts. I am going to take a bath.


16 Comments

Items, Glorious Items

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

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

Meanwhile! Pease porridge and items:

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

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

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

USWeek20001

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

USWeek20003

USWeek20004

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

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

 

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

THE END.

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


24 Comments

Bloody Business

Before I begin, I want to just say, in a small voice, how crushed I feel by May’s latest news, by the utter un-rightness of it, by how badly the universe is flubbing its lines. This is not how the story is supposed to go, dammit. I know we talk a lot about how unfair all of this business is, but sometimes the unfairness is just so fucking unfair. It is not the only thing that has been Not Right lately; that doesn’t make it any less wrong.

I am wondering if any of you happens to know what counts as a normal postpartum drop in hemoglobin and what doesn’t. Imagine you have this patient who, after two days of fairly heavy vaginal bleeding, arrives at a hospital in labor. Her hemoglobin at that point is 13; her hematocrit is 37.8. Following a vaginal delivery, her numbers are 7.3 and 21.7, a drop in the neighborhood of 44%.

Question one: Is that normal? If not, how abnormal?

Question two: Are there causes of postpartum decreases in hemoglobin other than blood loss? Does the placenta itself (or the baby) in some way count towards the starting number?

Question three: Do you do anything about those numbers, beyond suggesting an iron supplement? Do you do anything if the patient calls three weeks later complaining of continued extreme fatigue, dizziness, breathlessness, etc.?

Question four: Supposing a patient with this history is pregnant again. One likely source of postpartum bleeding (vaginal septum) is gone, though possibly the vaginal wall where it attached has scar tissue. Is postpartum hemorrhage in such a case likely to recur? Do you do anything in particular to lessen the chances of her feeling terrible for months again? Is there anything you can say to her to help her feel less frightened?

Question five: Is this patient a good home birth candidate? Just kidding.

My hospital records — the short version only — from the Bean’s birth arrived this week. I’d put off ordering them for a couple of years, which I guess is good, considering that I find myself a little taken aback anyway. This is just the abstract — test results and some nonsense from the lactation consultant, an extremely silly person. There are errors: I am listed as having a didelphic uterus (nope, not that normal), and hemoglobin and hematocrit are reversed in one place. (I flatter myself that a hematocrit of seven might have been more worthy of note.)

Also this week, I finally tracked down a picture I didn’t know existed until recently, of Sugar cutting the Bean’s umbilical cord. That is to say, it’s a picture of my crotch, post delivery but prior to the arrival of the placenta. I thought it might feel sort of empowering to see that, since I was scared to look at that part of my body for weeks after birth, not wanting to see all the stitches. Maybe it would have been, but I found it hard to pay much attention to my flesh, finding the pool of blood I was apparently lying in rather visually distracting. When I say pool, understand, I mean pool. I don’t mean the bed was a mess. I mean liquid. I mean depth. I mean volume.

I thought I was done finding new things to feel angry and scared about, regarding the Bean’s birth, but I guess I was wrong.

I haven’t written in much detail about how sick I was after the Bean was born, partly because at the time, I was filled with confusing hormones, alternately elated and distraught, and, well, sick. I’d been pretty thoroughly conditioned to believe that only people with (unplanned) c-sections were allowed to feel sick or sad after birth, anyway; the websites said I should be exulting in my all-powerful womynhood and resuming my exercise routine while teaching the baby French. All that matters, as you know, is that the baby is healthy. The vessel has done its job.

So, here: I was pretty sick after the Bean was born. For the first week or so, I had an annoying tendency to black out every time I tried to nurse him. The nurse I asked about it told me that was “oxytocin, filling your body with feelings of well being.” Later I realized that was the only time I wasn’t lying flat. I couldn’t hold him during the lactation class and was grateful that lesbian privilege meant I alone among the women there had someone to help. (Men weren’t allowed.) We left early because I couldn’t sit up anymore.

For the endless rounds of pediatrician visits for weight checks in the first few weeks, I took cabs. One day Sugar had a work meeting, and I couldn’t carry the Bean in his carseat. I could barely carry the car seat. We tried to take the subway once. Sugar carried the baby while I shuffled behind her, hips still entirely disconnected, like a troll aunt of some kind. (Sugar got lots of congratulations for her new baby in those days. She deserved them, but my own invisibility beside this gorgeous, healthy, thin woman and her perfect baby was sometimes hard to take. “Don’t worry, honey,” one woman said, “you’re next!”) Sugar went to the store for a different kind of iron supplement for me while I took the dwindling Bean to a lactation group. I remember feeling such utter hatred for the other woman there, so pink and healthy with her fat, pink baby, who was younger than the Bean. While Sugar was gone, I started shaking convulsively. I was losing my vision, trying to figure out how I was going to get myself onto the floor without dropping the baby, who was so, so heavy. Sugar arrived just in time, and held him while I lay my head on the desk and shook. No one asked if I was okay. I took a cab home.

It’s hard to write this without feeling I am exaggerating things, but this happened. Other things happened, too, many of them good. I stayed conscious for the ride home from the hospital, even if I did have to go immediately to bed and so missed the cats greeting the Bean. Friends came over, and I sat and talked with them. But it was months before I could walk around the neighborhood normally. Going up the gentle incline of the train station left me breathless, my vision blotchy. I feel existentially queasy looking at pictures of me with the Bean in the early weeks, because I am so very grey.

I got better. The human body really does have amazing powers of restoration. But does the patient’s recovery mean the treatment regime was wisely chosen? The heroic medicine doctors, the bleeders and purgers and givers of mercury, thought their treatments worked because their patients often survived, when the truth is those patients recovered in spite of the medicine. Regardless of whether I should have had different treatment in objective terms — and I gather from google that sources differ on the guidelines for iron infusions and blood transfusions and so on — I feel sure the other aspects of treatment could have been better. Only one nurse, when I was already in the process of being discharged, mentioned my hematocrit drop and asked if I really felt okay. (Desperate to leave, I said yes.) The nurse practitioner at my OB office told me I should expect to feel tired when I described my trouble breathing while walking. At the infamous postpartum appointment, Dr. Russian didn’t know my hematocrit levels and dismissed my questions on the topic. None of that was helpful, even if it was the case that the best course of action was waiting for my body to rebuild itself. It’s a kind of gaslighting, I think, not to tell a patient that how she feels is not in her head or her weak moral constitution.

Besides angry, I feel a bit scared by these new documents, in particular the picture. My septum is gone and presumably won’t break and bleed again. I expect it caused some of the trouble, in addition to other tears. The midwife at my new clinic says that didelphic cervices can bleed a lot, and suggested they might try rectal cytotec in addition to pitocin if it seems necessary. (I haven’t talked numbers with her, just my experience of being anemic.) If the pre-labor bleeding was a placental abruption — and we’ll never know, since the head of the OB practice didn’t see fit to take it seriously — there’s a chance that won’t happen again, and a 100% chance I won’t let it be ignored this time. I have the reassurance that I did survive, however sick I got. But there is still that nauseating feeling of almost having been run down by a bus, not realizing it was even there until it passed.


17 Comments

Happy Hour Items

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 weeks 1 day

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


11 Comments

Embryo Aweigh

Hi, internets. Sorry for the wait. Valium remains my favorite drug, which is why I didn’t write yesterday.

So. The transfer was fine. After striking out with our usual sitters, thanks to the holiday weekend, I found a former student to stay with the Bean. I was beginning to think I would have to go to the clinic alone, which was a sad thought. Of course all my monitoring appointments have been just me, but a transfer feels more momentous (or at least potentially momentous), and a person likes to feel she isn’t acting unilaterally, you know? It was unexpectedly cold, so Sugar and I had a chilly walk to the clinic from the subway. It rained a little.

At the Baby Factory, we were directed upstairs, to the floor with the ORs. Dr. BFs office, the exam rooms, and the blood draw room are on the lower floor. The last time I was upstairs was the day of the Bean’s transfer, but I always think of the first time I climbed these stairs, when we paid our $450 gay tax in the form of that stupid “counseling” session. Luckily, Starrhillgirl distracted me with a picture of the blue mountain view where she was waiting, and I reciprocated with a picture of the lot beside the Baby Factory, which, despite what I can only imagine must be an astronomical value, has been vacant for at least four years. To give you an idea of the kind of money we’re talking, that tall building in the background is the UN.

Waiting room view

Soon enough, a very solicitous nurse with an English accent led me back to the changing room, buckled me into my hospital bracelet, and gave me that Valium I’d been pestering everyone about. I changed into a Baby Factory gown, but unexpectedly I got to keep my own socks and sweater. I might have chosen more special socks, had I realized, but I was very pleased that I’d worn my softest, most comforting sweater. And the socks were red and striped, so it could have been worse.

I sat in a backwater of the recovery room for a while, waiting to be reunited with Sugar and meet the doctor. A man in Hassidic dress — long, black, silk coat, white stockings, round, flat, black hat — hurried back to meet his wife behind a curtain. A tall, Russian nurse strode in and out in scrubs. I am almost certain her shoes, with blue, gauzy surgical covers wrapped and tucked around them, were either flip-flops or the cheap, mule-ish houseshoes people here wear in the summers. She had lovely ankles, but all that bare flesh still seems odd in an environment with so many sharps containers. Then again, I was walking around in socks.

Bunny slippers

Because of the shoe covers, I can’t say for certain that these are the ones she was wearing, but neither can I guarantee they aren’t.

By the time someone took me to the antechamber by the OR, the Valium was kicking in a little. A nurse took some blood from my left arm; I’m still letting the right recuperate following its refusal to yield anything last week. Sugar met me there, and Dr. Friday, an unknown quantity, arrived to talk about our embryo. It turns out I like Dr. Friday, though I admit that her almost cartoonish voice — it’s possible my mental fog exaggerated the pitch and speed — baffled me for a moment. Pre-transfer googling (what?) leads me to believe she, unlike most (all?) of the other Baby Factory doctors, also still does some OB/gyn work, and she certainly seemed more gyn-ish than the others, in that she seemed interested in hearing about how my septum had behaved in delivery (and, following some clipped statements from me to the effect that I had not been pleased with my medical care, who my OB had been). I know what you’re thinking, but her practice is in Connecticut.

She gave us some papers to sign and said some complimentary things about the embryo in question. The embryology lab, we are told, is put in a very good mood by embryos like this. Later, when I was looking at the creature itself on a screen in the OR, she said “it doesn’t even look like it’s been frozen!”

I’m glad she said all those things, because in truth, it doesn’t look to me quite as textbook-perfect as the Bean’s. I expect it isn’t, but I’m hoping that doesn’t matter, and I certainly know that less than perfect looking embryos have turned into actual people. (Who knows? Perhaps even my own embryonic beginnings were not so glorious.) It’s a 4BB, from what I saw on the chart — only maybe one of those Bs was lowercase — and something about it was “95%”. I don’t have much of a sense of what that means in the scheme of things. Regardless, it’s the one that’s inside me now, so alea iacta est, you know?

Off Dr. Friday and I went to the OR. Nurse Flip-Flop helped me into the most spread-eagled stirrups ever. The embryologists put the embryo up on the TV screen. It was fascinating to watch it change radically as they shifted the focus of the microscope; I wouldn’t have guessed it had enough height to make depth of field an issue, but it did. (Must be the donor; I am quite short.)

Dr. Friday cranked the speculum open to 11, and I must say, it was excruciating. The pain burned from two lines, top and bottom, running the length of my vagina; I suspect this is where my septum was. I have had occasion on my own to notice that what I assume are those areas do not stretch as well as the surrounding tissue. Indeed, Dr. Friday said she could see the septum’s remains, which was almost interesting enough to make up for the pain.

The transfer itself was perfectly smooth, like the way other people often describe IUIs. No wonder people don’t think this is a big deal! (I’ll still ask for Valium if there is a next time, though, if only for the sake of my nerves.) Unlike Dr. Paternalistic, who always hogs the ultrasound screen, she left it tilted enough that I could see it. She and the nurses pointed out the image of the catheter entering my uterus and then, after it retreated, the glowing, white ball of fluid enveloping the embryo it left behind.

Blast 2