Bionic Mamas

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


Tummy Time


One of those days when it feels like my chief accomplishment is, “almost dropped the baby BUT DIDN’T.” Not a bad day, you understand, but man, didn’t I used to do things?

But, then again, just before bed time, when we flipped Jackalope over and she began to squirm and grunt in protest, the Bean cried out, “we can do tummy time together!” So there’s that.



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.


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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After the Storm: Doing It Right 2

It’s frustrating, right now, feeling like there’s so much to be done and I’m so. I’ll-equipped to do it. Occupy Sandy and other groups are doing such good work, such grassroots-y, radically loving good stuff, but here I am at home with a baby, and I can’t very well take him to a work site. If I had money for a babysitter, I’d have money to donate outright; they’re done taking clothes, which is the only thing I have a household surplus of at the moment.

All of this is to say, I was so thrilled with the hippie food coop, whom I have been a little hard on in the past but whom I secretly love, apparently so much so that I afford it/them/us personal pronouns. During my shift today, I had a fascinating conversation with a German, pseudo-macrobiotic woman who always comes late and leaves on time, about how differently she and her husband see the issue of how much say her son should have in choosing his high school. Meanwhile, I took mental notes as a Washington-lobbyist-turned-preschool-teacher demonstrated a series of face-taps meant to treat headaches. And then I bought some of that fascinatingly fibonaccian green cauliflower, romanesco.

I also bought a couple rolls of paper towels I don’t need, some vinegar, and a box of crayons, out of the boxes by the check out, filled with supplies requested by Occupy Sandy, the recovery operation that has grown out of the OWS movement and is doing a huge amount of work to help the areas hit hardest my the hurricane. (NPR ran a great story on them tonight.) Right outside the coop, Occupy had a table set up to receive goods and money. They were cheerful and organized and very gracious in accepting even my meager offerings.

“Everyone wants to feel they are helping,” said the woman behind me in the checkout line, who has herself been going to the Rockaways. It’s true, we do.

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After the Storm: Sunday Best

Well, y’all, my WordPress app ate the post I was writing, I have to be up at five to teach tomorrow, and I have a pile of grading (I know, I KNOW) and a cold. Maybe the post will be even better tomorrow.

But in the spirit of this every day business, may I present to you the best people I’ve read about today, Runners In Support of Staten Island. These are marathon runners who, rather than wallow in their disappointment at the race’s cancellation — which is disappointing, however much it is also the right decision — rode out to Staten Island with backpacks of relief supplies and ran their way to find people to help.

Good work, y’all. You done real good.


Back In The Saddle

…or the stirrups, anyway.

No, no, not in the TTC sort of way, not yet anyway. I won’t spring that on you without some high-octane angst first, promise.

But I did go to the OB/Gyn, for the first time since my postpartum appointment, which some of you may recall ended with me wandering the avenues of Midtown, weeping so hard people were forced to break the NYC taboo on talking to crying people and the one on stopping strangers in the street. (In case you’re wondering, it does take some doing, especially in the blocks around Grand Central.) I was, erm, a little nervous. Related: what is it about filling out those medical history forms that makes me afraid I’ve forgotten my own name, let alone whether I have kidney disease?

You will not be surprised to hear that I did not return to Dr. Russian, as punching her in the face would open me up to more court and jail time than fits my schedule. I stacked the deck a bit by going to Sugar’s doctor, whom I have met before. (In fact, I tried to go to her practice when I got knocked up, but they weren’t taking new OB patients.) Nevertheless, I was feeling pretty shaky as I sat there on the table waiting, gripping my notebook of questions. I fetched my journal out of my purse, for the sense of enhanced safety only another book can provide.

And…she was wonderful. She listened to my slightly quavery explanation of why I was switching practices and said it all sounded pretty traumatic. She said that lots of women push for four hours with a first baby and that it doesn’t mean they aren’t trying, and that they give nifedipine if they even suspect Reynaud’s in the nipples of a breastfeeding mother, because Reynaud’s is so awful and nifedipine is so safe. (See here and here for contrast.)

I haven’t written about this, but one part of labor that I have felt increasingly upset about in recent months is the part where I was bleeding heavily for days at home and Dr. Skinny said it was nothing and then was such a bitch about my calling back when it hadn’t stopped, twelve hours or more after my first call. I’ve talked to many, many women since then about their experiences of labor, and I have yet to hear anything that reassures me it was normal. I suppose it’s possible that it really was just a particularly determined (and large — this was a lot of blood) broken vessel in my cervix, but it’s also possible it was a placental abruption, and there is no way Dr. Skinny could have known it wasn’t via phone. I didn’t think it seemed normal at the time, and I shouldn’t have let her intimidate me out of that. Things turned out okay for me and the Bean, of course, but it’s not a comfortable feeling, thinking that I could have let my baby die — oh, and potentially died myself — because I was too chicken to argue with a doctor. I told the new doctor that, and she looked very serious. That does not sound normal, she said, and no one at this practice would have let you stay at home if you called bleeding that much. That will not happen to you here.

Ultimately, she said that while she couldn’t ethically say things about Dr. Russian to a patient, she was — I think the word was “horrified” — by what I had told her. Then she said so again.

So. Maybe it wasn’t just me.

If this doctor has a fault I am aware of, it is that I find her a little happy to cut, as surgeons tend to be. On the other hand, as much as I don’t want to have surgery for the endometriosis I’ve thus far fail to cure with denial or pregnancy, I’m not sure she’s wrong that I should have it. Things are getting worse, and most months I now spend three out of ever four or five weeks in some amount of pain. In particular, pain in the week before my period is getting out of hand, such that I’ve been dipping into my hoarded Percocet stash to sleep. Nothing else does a thing. The question in my mind is whether surgery is worth the pain of recovery, given that it doesn’t always help with endo. Somehow I didn’t get that question in, but I am being sent back to Dr. Demure, the man who did a transvaginal ultrasound without so much as seeing my legs, to see how my garden of ovarian cysts grows. Well, I imagine, from the way my back feels half the month. I’m also to see a rehab specialist about the way my hip joints fall to pieces and leave me so weak once a month, though she seems unconvinced that isn’t somehow also endo.

If I am going to try to get pregnant again in the spring or summer, I’m not keen to have surgery first. I’m hard-pressed to come up with a rational excuse for that — besides that I have no idea what I would do with the Bean for two weeks if my recovery were anything like Sugar’s — but she said it did not sound crazy. Should have asked her why not. In the meantime, I have a legitimate prescription for Percocet now, though she said several times that we couldn’t just carry on like this until menopause. Other than pain medication and surgery that might not help, there is no treatment. Birth control pills help some people, but are a bad idea for people like me, who get migraine with aura and don’t like the idea of having a stroke.

The pelvic exam itself was not much fun, though I think she was as gentle as possible while hunting around for cervix number two. Righty seems to have done the job at delivery, for those who were wondering. The worst part, though, was the groping around for uterus and ovaries and such like. I was doubled-over after and am still in a fair bit of pain, though some sangria left over from our party on Sunday did take the edge off last night. She may have a point about this situation not being tenable.

So! On balance, a win yesterday, I think. Let us hope for another one tomorrow, when I have a job interview at a college in Staten Island. I am hoping that my scanty publication record’s including a book about a forgotten corner of our most ignored borough will give me an edge.


Barely Legal

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



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

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

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






Good Item, Bad Item

For reasons that will be clear by the end of this entry, my computer time is being used for much less fun things than blogging at the moment, so just a quick hello:

Good Item: the illustrious Starhillgirl visited us last week! Yes, I am bragging, because it was the GREATEST. The Bean lit up like a Seasonally-Appropriate Decorated Evergreen when he found her in our living room every morning, and I can’t blame him. The whole family was blue when she went home. Pictures to come, one of these days. Oh, look, in the meantime, I can just steal these from her other blog:

All that and she makes chiles rellenos.

The Bean dares to eat a peach.

Bad Item: on Monday I found out that, due to a very dumb snafu, I don’t have a job in the fall. I’m not going to go all Dooce on this one, much as I’m tempted, but I’ll just say that it doesn’t have anything to do with how long or well I’ve taught that course, which is rather and, if I do say so myself, quite. The situation involves an exquisitely balanced blend of things that are out of my hands and things that might have worked out had I been more proactive than I thought necessary, so that I feel both helpless and to blame.

This course is the best money I make all year, and losing it is…bad. My current mood, to borrow a little LJ speak, is: pretty fucking lousy. It’s lucky the Bean is here to keep me getting dressed, leaving the house, not drinking in the mornings.

ANYWAY! I am pulling together resumes and so forth and am very touched by the number of friends who have come through with advice and contacts. I am hopeful I will find something. The trick here is to find enough work that we can afford to live, but little enough time out of the house that we don’t end up paying (or paying much) for childcare, since that expense would eliminate the benefit of my working most jobs. Meanwhile, I am likely to be back at my usual gigs in the spring (different department), which means I can get back on the insurance that would allow us to do an FET.

(Did you see what I did there? Yeah. We are pretty definite about wanting a sibling for the Bean and about my uterus being the one again (I think). On Sunday I was feeling all warm and fuzzy and ready to Just Do This Thing soon, before I lose my nerve at the idea of having an infant in the house again, but really, that isn’t what you’d call a plan, and the spring would be plenty soon enough, assuming I can keep the aforementioned nerve that long.)

Meanwhile, if anyone happens to know someone in the NYC area in need of writing, editing, or related teaching work, resumes on request, dawg. Lots of experience with science-y writing, including intervention manuals, education pieces, and video scripts of all sorts.  Note that I am one of perhaps three people on earth who genuinely love teaching freshman comp. It’s strange to imagine not doing it.


A Very Good Mother

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

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

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

H I J.

In short, he can play me like a violin.

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

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

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


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

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

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

I have a homosexual son and I love him.

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

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

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


Imagination Library

Hello, internets. How the heck are you?

Things are good here. The Bean continues to not have molars but not Not have molars, either, which is something of a trial to him. Non-integer numbers of teeth are problematic. We are also, I think, in a non-integer nap phase, which is mostly a trial to me and Sugar. I’m all for his dropping a nap, since it has meant that the remaining nap is of a humane length, but these days, I haven’t got a clue when he does or doesn’t need a nap, which means lots of false starts, extra nursing, and frustration. I am beginning to be Over nursing him before naps, but I can’t figure out how to deal with phasing that out when I don’t even know when the dang things are supposed to be happening. So.

Then again, maybe the nap confusion is partly that thing that happens to sleep around developmental leaps, because, Ladies and Gentlemen, we have Walking. Not much of it, but at least a few hands-free steps, every day for the past week. Exciting stuff. Maybe the child can wear shorts outside this summer after all.

The Bean had his fifteen-month doctor visit, which I love because, as previously noted here, I adore the Bean’s doctor. I want her to be my doctor. And my neighbor. And maybe my best friend. Ahem. Boundaries! Anyway, she says the Bean is in working order and, while sort of tossing a screening questionnaire she clearly didn’t care if I ever filled out in my direction, “definitely not autistic.” He is still a tall drink of water, at 53rd percentile for height and a whopping 5th for weight. He got a slew more shots (yay, science! so much better than diphtheria!) and, as at his one-year visit, seemed bothered by them only at the time — so much nicer than the fever and wailing that characterized the days after vaccinations in his first year. Which was still So Much Better than diphtheria.

ANYWAY. I meant to be writing the rare (mostly) non-ranty post, mostly because I found these outdated but very cute pictures and wanted an excuse to force them on you. So.

Do you know how much I love Dolly Parton, internets? I just…a lot. I love her a lot. I was looking her up on Wikipedia just now to give you some reasons besides smile and sass and accent and wit and supporting gay marriage and playing the autoharp and found out she’s been married for 45 years to a shy fellow she met at the Wishy-Washy Laundromat, and damn if that doesn’t make me love her even more. He owns a paving company and writes poetry for her.

These days and maybe forever, though, my favorite thing about Dolly Parton is the Imagination Library, a program she started to give books to children in her home county in the Tennessee mountains. Any child, age 0-5, can get a free book in the mail every month. Any child. This isn’t a program for only poor children or only children in certain risk groups or whose parent are in some program or other, which is part of what I think is so wonderful about it. It is about reading and learning, not about pity or deserving.

In places outside of Sevier County, the Imagination Library will provide the infrastructure if local groups provide the funding. (There’s a great page on their site about how to get the program started in your area, if it isn’t there already.) NYC has it — although I have heard that some friends who try to sign up recently had trouble, so maybe there’s something changing — and the Bean has been getting books for a while now.

I felt a little strange at first, signing him up. We may not have much extra money around, what with living in an expensive place and my working part time for peanuts — I mean, for all the noble rewards of teaching, which, paired with two or three dollars, will buy you a cup of coffee — but we can afford a board book or two, we live near consignment stores and stoop sale sites and a heck of a library, and we have parents who are not likely to let the child go without the printed word, however dire things get otherwise. But the program is very clear on the idea that this isn’t meant to be only for kids who otherwise get no books nor is there some cap on the number of kids getting books, and I decided ultimately to take them on their word, figuring that we would give away any books we didn’t want or read anymore, and therefore our participation in the program would mean more books in some kid’s hands, not necessarily just ours.

I am so glad we did. For one thing, we have gotten some wonderful books out of the deal. Some, like Renata Liwska’s Red Wagon, I might have had the sense to want on my own, had I happened across them in a store. Others, like a Spot the dog flap book, I might have been too big a snob to like and in that way missed seeing how much the Bean loves them. I suppose he is allowed to have his own taste in his books, as long as he’s not attempting to defend Twilight.

There’s also just something magical about a surprise in the mail with your name on it, and the Bean already knows that. The books arrive wrapped in clear shrink wrap, and if there is one waiting by our basement mailbox, he insists on having it right away, before we even get upstairs.


He loves them, and with the exception of a couple of flaps in the Spot book that have required repair, they are treated with all the care a very young person can muster. I would swear he in some way knows that they are especially just his.

So thank you, Dolly Parton. Nine to five, that album with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, and all those marvelous tit jokes would have been enough, but for this, I will always love you:

New book!