Bionic Mamas

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


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In which the Bean stands up for himself

Hello. Sugar here. Things are lovely chez Bionique these days. Jackalope spends stretches of time sleeping at night! Bionic is not demonstrably depressed! I am home cooking food! I thought I would satisfy you all with some pictures of our recent doings before moving on to the story I really want to tell you.

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As you might imagine, the Bean is a bit bored, what with everyone being sick and the snow just dumping down day after day. I was finally feeling well enough to take him somewhere on Tuesday, and he chose the Botanic Garden. The two of us trekked up there through the snow only to discover that it was closed due to “ice conditions.” So, The Bean suddenly decided that we might as well stop in at the Brooklyn Museum. This we did.

When we were finished looking at the floor with all the historic houses and house models we came out to the elevator area and found a guard who addressed the Bean loudly. As in, “hello little guy!” at the top of his voice. He was one of those old white farts who pretends that he wants to have a conversation with a child, but actually just want to hear himself talk. He went off on a random monologue about the age of various houses on the floor, which went over the Bean’s head, segued into discussing his own house and how old it was, and wound all this up with “…just like your mommy and daddy.”

The whole time the man was talking the Bean was surreptitiously pulling on my hand, as in, oh god, can’t we just get on the elevator? But when the mommy and daddy statement happened he stopped. He looked at the floor, like he was reasoning something out, and then he looked up at the guard, gave him a hard stare, and said quite loudly, “actually, I have a mommy and a mama.” His tone said, duh, what rock have you been living under?

Mr. Guard said nothing, so I repeated what the Bean had said, verbatim, in case he hadn’t caught the Bean’s enunciation. Mr. Guard gave me a troubled smile but still said nothing. So we got on the elevator and left. Once the doors had shut I told Bean that he had done a terrific job, that not everybody knows about all the different kinds of families and that it is a fine idea to educate them.

In my heart, however, I feel conflicted about this incident. Part of me was very pleased, both to be validated by my kid and to hear him stand up for himself. But part of me feels sad and probably guilty that my “life choices” have put my son in the position of needing to stand up for himself and his family. It was stressful watching the Bean navigate this awkwardness at the age of not quite three. Of course it probably helped that he clearly thought the man was an idiot. I’m glad that it wasn’t a teacher or a friend or someone he had developed any respect for. But still.

So, two and a half cheers and an “enh” for reaching this milestone, I guess. Have a picture of the Bean painting his new firehouse, otherwise known as a cardboard box:

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(Bionic says this picture should be titled “objects in photo less darling than they appear”)


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Jackalope

My mother, the eldest of eight children, grew up in San Diego, where, by the time the youngest were born, the family lived in a house with a large garden. In that garden grew a pomegranate tree that had never borne fruit.

My mother was grown up and married when her youngest sister, Annie, decided she knew what the tree needed. Perhaps inspired by the nest eggs used to encourage the chickens to lay, Annie took a pomegranate ornament from the Christmas boxes and hung it from the tree. To show it what to do, she said. Her older sisters laughed indulgently, as I imagine it. Only Annie would think of something like that.

The next year, the tree bore fruit.

Perhaps I am a little like that tree myself: not 24 hours after Sugar gave me the necklace in the previous post, our daughter arrived.

Julia

Jackalope, born February 8, 2014, at 2:36 in the afternoon. Seven pounds, 13.6 ounces of healthy, beloved girl. Her first name is for my mother and her mother; her middle is for Sugar’s maternal grandmother.

I am tired and a bit beat up, but happy. I will tell you the whole story one of these days, but I feel I owe it to you not to leave you wondering about whether I’ll be in therapy for this one, too. And I won’t. Everyone was wonderful, everyone. There were times I was frightened or upset, but never because someone was frightening me or trying to upset me. College Friend was perfect. Dr. Joy, the OB I was most afraid of when coming to this practice, told me I was safe and held my feet in her lap while she stitched my tears.

And you all, you were wonderful, too. I mean it.


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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?)


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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.