Bionic Mamas

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


4 Comments

Geography Lessons

Or: Things I Learned By Getting A Car

1. Brooklyn is a beach town.

Queens, too.  Oh, and Staten Island. Brighton Beach/Coney Island and the Rockaways are accessible by public transit, yes, but by car they are ~45 minutes and I don’t have to schlep the stuff for three people plus, to one degree or another, those actual people using only my body.  And then we are at the beach.  The beach, I tell you!

Since moving to New York ten years ago, I’ve made a handful of day trips to the beach.  Fewer than ten, probably.  In the first six days after getting the fuel pump replaced (ahem), we went four times.  We’re planning to go tomorrow.

Brooklyn Beach

2. Children like the beach better than overcrowded apartments.

Again, who knew?  Jackalope and the Bean do pretty well together, but, well, siblings gonna sibling.  Turns out putting them in smaller cages doesn’t help.  At the beach, well, I have two buckets and there’s more than enough sand for everybody.

20317_10153558853856178_4873291055597272627_n

4. My apartment likes it better when we are at the beach.

We had to stay in last Tuesday morning.  There was marker all over the sofa before 9 am.

2015/07/img_0411.jpg

Not the culprit, for the record.

3. Mamas like the beach better, too.

Partly this is because of the relative tranquility and because, duh, who doesn’t love the beach?  Some of it is harder to pin down.  Why should sand and salt and an environment where I really do need to be sure no one is drowning at any given moment make me feel so much more substantial, more tied to the world of the living?  I can’t tell you why, but at the beach I’m not thinking about whether this shortened breath, that mild headache is the beginning of the end.  It makes a pleasant change.

4. There is no Facebook at the beach.

Or next to none, anyway, as my phone battery is trifling and see above about real environmental dangers.

5. It turns out I spend too much time on Facebook.

I knew that, on one level, that “pay attention to your children/wife” level. What I did not realize is how much the click and click and click was increasing my anxiety. UGH. Facebook is a silly place, yes, but it’s also how I keep in touch with the world of adults and friends and complete sentences and big ideas. I just started a group for discussing anti-racist parenting, for instance. Also cat videos.

The things people dislike about Facebook — the way it provokes envy, for instance, or a sense that one isn’t living correctly — aren’t the problem. The problem is the very act of watching those notification numbers light up red, feeling compelled to check them, again and again and now again. I love it, and apparently it’s terrible for me. UGH.

Luckily, there is the beach to take my mind off it.

Advertisements


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?)


14 Comments

The Bendectin Story

Hello, Gentle Readers. Greetings from thank-God-we-are-finally-pulling-out-of-St.-Louis, aboard Amtrak’s Texas Eagle. We are running late, which I would be more annoyed about except that Sugar flew home yesterday and was so much later in so much less pleasant a way. She spent most of the day in the Detroit airport, spent $100 on a cab home from Newark, ate a soggy tuna melt from an all-night diner at midnight in our kitchen, while discovering that the freezer door had been just slightly open for the last two weeks. In contrast, I was fed a steak dinner and gelato and lay on a reasonably comfortable bed and read A Bargain For Frances to The Bean during our delay. Advantage: Amtrak.

The other reason trains rule with toddlers: no seatbelts. “The cars and trucks are going to meet their friends,” he says. (This wholesome, wooden-toy moment brought to you by several hours of puzzles on the iPad.)

The cars and trucks are going to meet their friends

Thank you for your spotting reassurances. It hasn’t come back, and there was so very little that my working theory is self-inflicted crinone-applicator wound. Mad skills. I has them.

I should have written sooner to tell you, except that I’ve had my hands full managing my father at my in-laws and wrangling the Bean. I’ve also been quite drowsy, thanks to my new best pharmaceutical buddy, doxylamine succinate, AKA, Unisom.

I’m not taking it for insomnia, though I have been having trouble sleeping for several weeks. I’m taking it because remember how I was puking in trash cans? Well, it turns out this stuff is a whiz at sorting out nausea, and, get this, it is category A for pregnancy. Category fuckin’ A, y’all. Do you know how many things are A? Not bloody many, thanks to the difficulty of ethically arranging the kind of studies the FDA requires for that designation; it’s pretty much folic acid and this stuff.

So why didn’t anyone mention this to me (or maybe to you) before now? Doxylamine in combination with B6 used to be used by 40% of pregnant Americans, as a drug called Bendectin. There were at least 25 studies and two meta-analyses, which basically say: this does not cause birth defects. But if Bendectin wasn’t a teratogen, it was, says a friend of my father’s, a lit-ogen: that is, it caused law suits.

According to dad (whose business this is), about 3% of babies have a serious birth defect of some kind. No one likes that. A certain number of parents sued the makers of Bendectin. And even though the science is absolutely, uncommonly clear on this subject, law suits wear a company out. Eventually, the drug was taken off the market simply because its maker tired of defending it in court.

Meanwhile, some corners of the popular press believe that smoke always means fire, and jumped happily on the Blame-Bendectin Bandwagon (also the name of my new ska band). Bendectin is used in a third of pregnancies of children with birth defects! Well, if it was used in 40% of pregnancies, excuse me if I think that’s good news — if 40% of all pregnant women took it and it’s only present in 33% of cases of birth defects, that almost sounds protective, the was I figure it. Anyway, the magazines said, you can make something just as good at home: just combine half a tab of doxylamine with some B6…. *headdesk*

Folks, I gotta tell you, this stuff is great. I haven’t tried combining it with B6 yet, because I haven’t been able to find the B6 in small enough doses. But half a unisom a night, and I have almost no nausea, let alone reasons to defile public transit property. Twice now, most recently two days ago, I’ve decided to stop taking it, and both times my body has made me aware in no uncertain terms what a stupid decisions that was. Morning sickness definitely still in effect, when not masked.

I keep re-googling this, convinced that anything I’m getting this much benefit from must be terrible for babies, even if I did learn about it from my OB’s website. Eventually, I asked myself why I was so anxious about it, given that I take my nightly singulair without concern, and there’s hardly any data at all on that one. I think the answer comes down to thalidomide and the curse of Eve.

Did you see a lot of thalidomide documentaries as a kid? I did, or at any rate, the ones I saw made a big impression. And I think my psyche stored away somewhere the idea that what happened to those children was not just a horrible accident but a judgement of sorts on their mothers, for trying to escape a natural but unpleasant part of pregnancy. Chalk that up to one more subtle way ideas of the natural as applied to women’s experience are always ready to become a cudgel.

The unisom is kicking in now, and Little Rock comes early in the morning; I must to bed. But y’all: what we need more of is science.


10 Comments

The Smaller Roller Coaster

In retrospect, another fine title for this post would be Migraine Prodrome.

Hello from the couch, internets, where I am rubbing off the linty adhesive left behind on my arm by the paper tape that covered today’s bloodwork wound.

On the subway ride to the clinic this morning, I wrote in my journal a bit about how nice it is that, in contrast to last go-round, this cycle doesn’t feel so much like a roller coaster for my poor old emotions. For instance, I noted, most of my drugs are trapped in the hell that is our local post office and the mail-order pharmacy hasn’t even gotten the prescription for the trigger shot yet, but I’m not freaking out. I’ll go to the post office Monday, and the insurance people said I could get the trigger at a regular pharmacy.

Sure enough, when I got to the baby factory, the nurse was happy to write me a new prescription. The radio was playing “Unbreak My Heart,” but it was hard to feel maudlin when it was clear from the waiting room that today was Buddy Day — there were at least three pairs of friends there together, chatting and happy. The waiting room is a silent, serious place on the weekdays, but it lets its hair down a little on the weekends.

The anesthesiologist from my egg retrieval came by as i walked from the blood-draw room to an exam room, he who was so sweet to me when I was terrified and crying and so cheering when I was in my post-surgical haze of chatty confusion. I saw him last weekend, too, and called out to him. It was three years ago, I said, but I was so frightened, and you saved me. I remember that face! With the tears! he said, and bent to kiss my cheek.

Undress from the waist down, Lovely, said the prescription-writing nurse, and I felt all warm and fuzzy about that “Lovely.” My toes were wet from rain — it’s a bit of a walk from the subway — but I was wearing my favorite, quasi-matching knee socks, which cheer me up even though their elastic has worn out considerably since the days of our efforts to conceive the Bean, when these stirrups saw them frequently.

The fellow on duty today, who had a long ponytail and the kind of slight southern accent that makes me feel at home, seemed, unlike the fellow I saw on Tuesday, to have taken in what my chart said. (Dr. Tuesday greeted me by announcing I was doing a natural FET cycle (true) and that I had been taking estrace for four days (false, since there’s no estrace in a natural cycle). After the ultrasound, which, like a lot of things this month, was quite painful, she noticed me doubling over in pain and asked why. When I told her my endometriosis was bad this month, she looked blank.) Hmmm, there’s nothing going on in your ovaries, today’s fellow said, and even though she didn’t sound worried and it’s hardly surprisingly late, given my typical cycle length, my heart just sank. If I were doing a medicated cycle, this would be more or less taken care of, but because I chose not to, suddenly it matters how well my body behaves itself. And I don’t like being reminded that its behavior isn’t driven by my expectations or my will.

I left the clinic (radio: “Billie Jean Is Not My Lover”), and my blood sugar plummeted as I walked to the subway. I have inherited my father’s family’s way with hypoglycemia, and I made some bad breakfast choices today, in particular the choice to eat almost nothing. My back hurt from the ultrasound, and by the time I got to the station, it was clear that once I got back to Brooklyn and picked the Bean up from our friend’s house, it would be too late in the day for the outing I’d planned for us. (Sugar had a photo shoot this morning, and though I don’t believe in barring children from RE waiting rooms, I also don’t know how I’d keep him from rummaging through the sharps containers while I am in the stirrups.) I was tempted to sit down and cry or at least zone out, but I got on the train instead. Back in Brooklyn, the pharmacy said my insurance wouldn’t pay for the trigger shot.

It’s not true, it turns out, that there’s no roller coaster this time. It is, however, so far a smaller one. The highs are not so exhilarating, but the lows are not so all-encompassing, at least not so far. Three years ago, I would definitely have had a panic attack in the pharmacy, but today, I bought a snickers bar and went to pick up my kid. I called the insurance company while the Bean and I waited for our friends to meet us at the diner on our block — hardly the big adventure I’d hoped for — and when they said no one from the fertility department would be in before Monday, I hung up and enjoyed our lunch.

It’s not a mystery what’s changed, and I’m not just magically more mature. It’s the Bean. Partly his very presence takes some of the desperation out of my more pessimistic daydreams — one child is a profound difference from zero. But mostly I think it’s that being with him so much of the time just makes a certain kind of fixation impossible. I can’t properly focus on how down I feel while simultaneously keeping him from dumping the diner’s salt shaker onto a pile of their sugar packets, and really, how consistently blue can I manage to be while he’s so very pleased with his first temporary tattoo?

New ink

This isn’t to say motherhood has made a Pollyanna of me, as this blog will attest. I still feel sad tonight. I thought my mother, who has been too sick to travel since just after the Bean was born, was going to somehow make it to a family reunion in Michigan this summer, but I’d misunderstood. Seeing Sugar’s mom here with the Bean makes me sad that mine can’t visit him and afraid that he won’t love her as much as he loves the grandmother who can go with him to the garden and the playground. I tried to send my mom one of these lovely ecards, and when something about my iPad hiccuped and lost my two sentences, I melted down crying on the couch. It’s a bit more than the situation calls for.

It’s more that these blues haven’t dominated the evening, as they certainly would have a few years ago. I’ve felt down, but I’ve also had some surprise neck-hugs and gotten to watch the Bean dance and take pie lessons from Sugar. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and even if our plans don’t work out perfectly, it will be a better day than it was three years ago, guaranteed.

Pie lessons


29 Comments

Falling Lessons

I took the Bean to the playground for half an hour yesterday.  He came home with two bumps on his forehead, one of them scraped, a fair amount of grit on his face (I had already helped him clean out the stuff in his mouth), assorted tear-tracks on his cheeks, and a big smile.

In short, it was a successful trip.

I could have prevented all three big falls, and if I correctly understood the conversation the nannies on the bench were having about me, I should have.  (If they weren’t talking about me — and I am 90% sure they were — they were talking about someone doing the same things I had just done.)  They were particularly unimpressed with the idea of letting a young toddler climb the tallest piece of equipment alone only to watch him tumble from the highest platform to the middle one while I was on the ground, too far away to catch him.

If my goal at the playground were to eliminate falls and bumps (as it might well be if I had a parent employer to answer to), I’d agree, but in fact, I do not regret letting him climb up there, and I will do it again.  He is a toddler, and falling down is his job.

My job is to keep him safe.  When he was an infant, that meant making sure he was never going to fall and being there to catch him if he started to.  (Not that I always succeeded: his very first successful proto-crawling was straight off the bed.)  These days, as I see it, it means giving him the chance to make mistakes in a setting where mistakes aren’t fatal.

So I let him climb the tall equipment by himself.  I guard the high drop-offs and stand ready to catch him if he goes flying off the end of a big slide, but otherwise, I am working on keeping my distance in the playground, letting him decide what he wants to climb up or dangle from.  Most of the time, he moves in safe ways, and if I am surprised to find he is suddenly tall enough to lower himself down in a new place or strong enough to pull himself up when he changes his mind, that he can balance well enough to scale the steeper steps, he seems to know just what he can do.  From time to time, he gets a little hurt, and if he doesn’t get up and carry on by himself, I pick him up and talk to him until he is ready again.

I read about a study some time ago on this topic, which I had hoped to link to here but can’t find.  (And holy mother of pearl, did my attempts at finding it ever turn up nests of fear-mongering nonsense and ambulance-chasing slimeballs.)  The gist was that going too far in keeping young children from ever being able to hurt themselves actually increased the likelihood of serious injury later in life, perhaps because children who don’t get hurt are less likely to develop an appropriate sense of personal vulnerability.  A toddler with no such sense (or, as I like to put it, “a toddler”) may bump his head or even break a bone, but a teenager who hasn’t internalized the possibility of hurting himself has access to much more dangerous environments and might die.

Lest this post turn into “Tender Timebombs: How Taking Care Could…KILL YOUR CHILD,” let me say that I don’t advocate the kind of blindness to history that romanticizes the lives of two-year-olds who cook over open fires and so on (see: letters to the New Yorker editor in response to that spoiled children article making the rounds).  I am glad that the playgrounds here have rubber under the equipment, and I did notice the maximum height the Bean could fall from and the material he would hit (3 feet-ish; wood) before choosing not to climb with him yesterday.  At home, we are currently embroiled in another round of power struggles over his desire to climb into our windowsills: our windows are (per NYC law) barred, but not all windows are, and falling from that kind of height is not the kind of lesson you recover from.

Even outside, we aren’t always in playgrounds, of course, where physical risk tends to be mitigated (lest it be litigated, ya get me?); we also spend a fair amount of time in our community garden, which is beautiful and fun and not at all childproofed.  There is a special box of dirt for toddlers to dig in (God bless the woman who pushed that addition through; I didn’t object at the time, but I didn’t Get It, either), but there are also rusty tools, unstable piles of brick and rubble, and more than a few shards of broken glass.  Now that late summer is here and the plants are tall, I often can’t see exactly where the Bean is while simultaneously getting my own work done.  So I don’t.  He does his work of exploring and digging and climbing the uneven slate steps, and I do mine of watering and weeding and letting him go.  I keep him away from the gate (cars being one of those one-time lessons), shut the shed door (lawnmowers, ditto), and remind him to be safe when he is near the bricks.  I try not to worry, and sometimes I even succeed.

Can you find the toddler hidden in this picture?  Me neither.
P1060298

Trick Question!  He was already back at the stairs.

P1060295

The last time we were in the garden together, the woman with the bed next to mine was pruning her blackberry bush and consequently building a huge pile of prickly brush, which the Bean naturally found most alluring.  She was worried about the Bean and clearly biting her tongue a bit at my not moving him away from it, so I did make him watch me put my finger near it and mime getting hurt.  I expected that play to mollify her a little and have no effect on him whatsoever, but in fact he left the pile alone.  I almost wish he hadn’t, since I still don’t know whether he understood me or not, and if he had pricked his finger, he’d have seen cause and effect.  It’s not that I want my child to get hurt, you understand; it’s just that a pricked finger (or a bumped head or a scrape or two) is a very cheap way to learn a very valuable lesson.


14 Comments

Sorry About That, Sir

After an hour and a half or so of some snoozing, mostly screaming from the Bean on our drive home from reunion, we stopped at a McDonald’s to rest.  He cheered up rapidly upon leaving his new car seat, and it occurred to me to look up online whether the crotch strap really needed to be in its smallest setting, or whether the second one would do at his size.

The remainder of the trip was pretty calm, even though it was way past his bedtime.

Turns out that the part of the road trip experience he so strenuously objected to was the part where we were crushing his testicles.  Go figure.