Bionic Mamas

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


27 Comments

Birth Story Part Five

Back to our story, already in progress. (See parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.)

As you’ve probably gathered, Dr. Jerkwad did not paralyze me. Thank you, Hippocratic oath. Or self-interest — my mother pointed out later that any misstep after I’d called him an asshole would have looked very bad in court. Also: I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to have the patient sign the consent before the procedure, not after.

For anyone reading this while considering options for her own delivery: getting the epidural was not a big deal. It did not hurt or even feel especially strange, and while the thought of a needle in the spine is a bit creepy, at that moment, the finer distinctions of human experience were not exactly at the forefront of my mind. There was no “creepy,” only “good” (a highly theoretical construct, belonging to the world that existed before the cab ride) and “bad” (everything I am feeling right now and for as long as I can remember). I, who am nervous about practically everything, felt no anxiety, only impatience. In terms of physical sensation, it was as I was told it would be: cold skin from the alcohol, very slight stinging from the local anesthetic, then a spreading coolness in my back. It hurt less than the IV. If you don’t want one, don’t get one, but if you think you might, don’t let fear of the procedure itself scare you off.

What can I say about epidurals that hasn’t already been said in a thousand love songs? Whoever invented those things should get the Nobel Prize for Medicine and no, I am not joking. I said some time ago that post-delivery, my anger at people (like that patronizing dick, Dr. Sears) who would try to scare women out of having epidurals had hardened to a murderous rage, and I meant it. (And again, this is not at all to say that those of you who didn’t or don’t want them shouldn’t have the choice, even if you do make me feel like a bit of a wimp.) I’ve had occasion recently to reflect on the unusual level of privilege I enjoy when it comes to medicine. Not only do I have access to good health care (insurance, good local doctors, all that), but I have a unusually (another rant for another day) good science education for someone who didn’t get a science degree, access to library databases and knowledge of how to use them, and an appropriately massive sense of entitlement regarding my medical care. So while I may have my own psychological demons about wanting/needing pain relief, at least I am more able than average to sort through the immense amount of crap out there about the supposed medical reasons to avoid epidurals. It pisses me off to no end that a whole parade of well-meaning nitwits and genuine jackasses would lie to women with fewer resources rather than risk letting women decide for themselves what ideologies to sign up with and what medicine to accept.

Back in the prenatal day, when I was confessing my epidural neuroses, wise Sara said:

The thing that nobody tells you about giving birth with an epidural (or, in my case, being denied an epidural, so giving birth without one after begging for one), is that in addition to dulling the pain, the epidural also totally erases any weird psychological hangups that one might have about epidurals. They actually rock, as it turns out. It’s just a well-kept secret.

And she’s right. I have a lot of strange feelings about how birth went, but not about the epidural. It just rocked, full stop.

Epidurals work very, very fast, but it does take a few contractions. The first contraction after it went in is as painful as the ones before, but somewhat more emotionally difficult for me, since I had been looking forward to being saved, and now I am not saved after all. I feel a sickening fear that it won’t work, but then it starts to. The next two contractions are maybe 85% of what I’ve been feeling, and after that they become manageable. I can sit up and turn around on the bed; I can listen to the nurses again. Kips Bay Mega Hospital uses low-dose, patient-controlled epidurals, which is part of why I wanted to come here: light epidurals compare favorably to traditional ones in studies of practically everything you can think of. Someone shows me the button I can use to boost the dose if I need to. The world begins to reassemble itself.

Despite my stabbing at the button, the low-dose epi is ultimately not enough, so after 45 minutes, a different anesthesiologist — who manages not to be an asshole, imagine that — comes in and gives me a bigger dose. After that, I can still feel the contractions, but they aren’t so bad. (I am glad I got to try the low-dose, though, and I think more hospitals should have that option.)

Unfortunately, what can’t feel my contractions is the contraction monitor. It picks up maybe one in three or four. The nurse keeps moving the sensor around, asking me to tell her when they come, and feeling all over my belly with her hands, but she can’t find them, either. At this point, I don’t think much of that. Who cares? I am having contractions — I can feel them — and it doesn’t seem surprising in the least that some contraption doesn’t register them. Contraptions! Of course they are prone to failure! Yes, I am the girl who thought for nearly 20 years that tampons didn’t work for me because they just don’t work all that well.

What does need to be registering those contractions is at least one — ideally only one — cervix. (So far, there is no hint of my didelphic nature causing a problem: everyone who sticks a hand in my business agrees with Dr. Skinny that one has obviously taken over.) In the “natural” childbirth literature, there is a lot about how labor pain is not something women have justifiably dreaded for all of recorded history but is actually fantastic because unlike kinds of pain men experience every other kind of pain, labor pain is “productive.” Allow me to add that to the list of things Dr. Sears can shove up his urethra. Frankly, so what? Passing a kidney stone is a thing that happens, too; does that make that pain “productive”and therefore worth having?

However, when the resident comes in and asks to do a cervix check, I am a little excited. If I was four centimeters five hours ago and spent most of those hours having strong, frequent contractions, surely things must be getting close. And my water broke, too. Maybe I really was in transition in the cab. Maybe the resident will look shocked and say, “No wonder you felt bad! It’s almost time!”

Instead, she feels around for a minute and says, “Great, you’re at four centimeters.”

WHAT? All that for NOTHING? Are you kidding me? I am ready to hit the ceiling. She looks like she knows she’s said the wrong thing. “Um, maybe four and a half?”

Oh, and my water hasn’t broken after all, so, um, sorry I peed in your car, cabbie.

While all this is going on, Sugar goes back downstairs to reclaim our luggage, which the man at the information desk let her leave there when it became obvious that she couldn’t carry it and push my wheelchair at the same time, formally checks me in, and gets a health care proxy. At some point, she calls the doulas — we have two, since neither is a full-time doula. It turns out the one we liked can’t come tonight, but the other one shows up a little while later and sits with me while Sugar gets dinner somewhere I don’t have to watch her eat and brings me back some cranberry juice. My main concern with this doula has been that I will find her happy but frantic energy upsetting in labor, but I manage to find the spine to tell her that I don’t want to talk, and to her credit, she listens.

This part, from when Sugar gets back in the room until it’s time to push, I look back on fondly, all thanks to the epidural. Sugar dozes on the fold-out chair/bed in the corner, the doula reads, and I just rest. I am freezing cold, but the nurse brings piles of warmed blankets and bundles me up. The lights are turned down low, and the fetal heart monitor fills the room with the Bean’s steady, reassuring heartbeat. I love the thought that we spent those last hours together that way, he listening to my heartbeat all around him while I heard his all around me. I feel safe and calm.

I’ve read quite a few stories that include praise for being at home or at a birth center; let me throw in some praise for being at the hospital. Because of my father’s devotion to his job, I spent quite a lot of night time at the hospital as a child, waiting for him to visit just one more set of patients on the way home from a piano concert; perhaps my experience is unrepeatably idiosyncratic. I remember the quiet of the wards at night as my father walked from room to room, silently watching his patients, stepping into the hall to ask a resident for details. Of course I like the epidural and feel reassured by the knowledge that there are pediatricians and a NICU right here if the Bean needs them, but I also like feeling that my room is a quiet part of an active hive. By now it is dark out, and my window is filled with a grid of windows from the wing of the hospital across the courtyard, some lit, some dark, some in between. I think I might have felt alone and isolated at home; here I feel watched but not bothered. Like I am in the right place, safe.

At some point, Dr. Russian turns up, seeming cheerful. She checks my cervix now and again, and there’s another thing to love about the epidural: now I am dilating smoothly and rapidly. I can’t remember exactly when I heard each number, but I remember thinking at one point it was two centimeters per hour. The Bean’s head is dropping nicely, too. Everything is fine, except that I am supposedly not contracting enough. At eight centimeters, Dr. Russian wants to break my water to speed things up, which I don’t mind and don’t even really feel. It certainly doesn’t hurt.

Contrary to what you may have read about epidurals, mine in no way leaves me paralyzed or numb-feeling. I can and do move my legs, and when the nurse starts talking about catheters, it’s not because she won’t let me try walking to the bathroom. However, even though she says my bladder is very full, I do not feel any urge to pee, so after a few minutes of focusing on finding that sensation, I agree that the catheter is a good idea. I had really wanted to avoid that, but it isn’t a big deal. Getting cleaned for it hurts in a “clitoral exfoliation” kind of way, but the catheter itself doesn’t. She takes it out as soon as it’s done its job.

The only negative side-effect I have from the epidural is that my belly itches. A lot. And all that moving around the monitor in search of my contractions isn’t helping. Of all the things we threw in the hospital bag, the only one I really want is the washcloth we’ve forgotten. Sugar gets paper towels wet to distract me with cold. It only sort of works, but boy howdy, I will take itching like this any day of the week over the pain I was having.

The nurse who is mostly taking care of me is sweet and young. She thinks the baby will be a girl because it is being so good; Dr. Russian says that surely means boy. The nurse asks about names. We had wanted to give the baby a name from each family, and while the girl names were easy to choose (we have 3 names we like, in four possible combinations), finding a male name from Sugar’s family has not been not easy. There are plenty of men on her dad’s side, but not many names at all. My pick is Sugar’s father’s middle name, which lots of the men have, but she is having none of it.

No one ever says I’m completely dilated, but I gather that I must be at about 10 o’clock, when Dr. Russian tells me I have an hour to develop an urge to push before she wants to turn off the epidural. How about down rather than off, I ask, terrified. She agrees and leaves me with the nurse again.

So for an hour, I try to push. The nurse tries to find my contractions; Sugar and the doula try to help me. I can feel the muscles just fine. I know what to do and I feel a slightly constipated feeling, but never anything more. I roll over a few times, which I don’t like and doesn’t help. The nurse coaches me through pushing anyway, but the resident says I’m not doing it right. I convince the nurse to let me breathe out as through a straw while pushing, because holding my breath makes me feel terrible. I do three 10-count pushes per contraction.

After 45 minutes, Dr. Russian returns, and I agree that it’s time to turn down the epidural. I’m not too worried, since I figure the pain will just return to where it was before the extra dose. And they say epidurals do slow down pushing, so maybe this won’t even last long. Maybe I’ll have a February baby, just like BFF predicted back in October! The anesthesiologist (another one) comes in and lowers the dose; Dr. Russian says, “Don’t you DARE touch that button,” and leaves again.

And here, Gentle Internets, is where the horror movie starts. I can’t tell this part of the story neatly, because I wasn’t in my right mind for it. I often wish I didn’t remember it at all.

Without the epidural, the pain rapidly goes past what I can stand. Now my bones are being broken again, but only after being set on fire. There’s still nothing in my belly at all, just back and hips and especially my thighs. God, my thighs. I feel sick now just thinking about it. Between contractions, I can hear that I’m making those terrible dry sobbing sounds again. At some point, Dr. Russian speaks with scorn about my crying, but I’m not crying in any normal sense. My face is dry. This noise is coming from some dying animal part of me, utterly beyond my control.

I’m on my back still — I know, I KNOW; I “should” be in some other position. I didn’t even want to tell you all this now, because I am afraid someone will come tearing in to lecture me on Best Practices for Back Labor and tell me it’s all my fault. But I can’t stand the thought of any other position. I know I’ll fall apart if anyone tries to move me, and I mean fall apart physically.

At each contraction, Sugar and the doula hold my legs up while I push. At various points, I try holding the bar or my own legs; eventually I settle on holding a sheet-rope tied to the bar. I push for a count of ten, three times per contraction, while someone — usually the resident, sometimes Dr. Russian — tells me I’m not doing it right. I am doing exactly what they describe. A few times, I am told that I have finally done the right thing, that I should keep doing that. I am always doing exactly the same thing, every time. The scolding and praise come at arbitrary intervals, heavy with emotional freight. It’s very like a nightmare.

Dr. Russian is horrified that the nurse has let me hiss breath out during pushing, so it’s back to holding my breath. Which is stupid, by the way. And, as far as I can remember, not supported in the literature. Up until this point in our relationship, Dr. Russian has been so medically rational that I blithely ignored the advice to talk to my OB about her views on coached pushing, a grave mistake.

And now it is too late. For two hours, this goes on. I try to push, despite the fact that I am now in so much pain that some primitive part of my brain simply won’t let my legs spread enough, won’t let my back muscles let go at all. My body is trying to save itself, and I can’t override it. I can’t open more, I can’t relax, I can’t push harder; wanting to doesn’t enter into it, and neither does any conscious idea of fear. I am trying my best with every part of myself still under the control of my brain, but it’s not enough.

Complicating matters, no one can find my contractions on the monitor or by feeling my belly, so they often don’t believe I’m having contractions, just that I’m carrying on, I guess. I have to tell them when one is starting or stopping, which pleases no one. I have since learned (thanks, HFF) that this happens to bionic folks like us reasonably often; I didn’t make the connection until recently, but I was told early on that no matter the normal size and shape of my uterus, there would likely be differences in the muscle tissue at a microscopic level, which is why they wouldn’t have attempted an external version in case of breech presentation. I can only assume that no one at the hospital ever put those ideas together at all.

And then there was Dr. Russian. It’s Dr. Russian who has kept me from writing this down for all these months. It was two months before I could begin to be honest with myself that she was not, in fact, consciously using “tough love” in a misguided attempt to motivate me but is, in fact, the kind of smart, funny, emotionally unstable maniac that I Always Fucking Fall For. (That I have managed to marry someone smart, funny, and also compassionate and gentle is a miracle of the first order.) Four months out, I can confidently say that her behavior was assholic and frankly cruel, but it’s taken some time to get here.

Dr. Russian, as far as I can remember, spends the remainder of labor yelling at me for pushing wrong, for making noise, for holding my face wrong, for not wanting to push the baby out, for not trying.

That last one, that’s the one I can’t shut out, then or now. It cuts to the bone of my childhood insecurities. Recently, a friend whose pregnancy overlapped mine asked why I had liked being pregnant. From her perspective, pregnancy had been a somewhat uncomfortable, often inconvenient means to an end, not something she enjoyed for its own sake. But I did love it, and talking to her made me realize that a big part of why is that for the first time, after a lifetime of being told I was failing at gym and the like because I wasn’t trying (not, say, because I had untreated asthma), I felt physically competent at something important. I was doing it right, and until the last day, no one said otherwise.

Over the course of two hours, everyone in the room realizes that however typically helpful it is to turn down the epidural at this stage, in my case it is a rank disaster. When Dr. Russian leaves the room, the nurse starts asking if maybe, really I do want to push that button. I refuse. Things are bad enough; I am terrified of what Dr. Russian will say if I do that.

Dr. Russian comes and goes. At some point she threatens me with a c-section if I don’t start trying, which, despite the high rate of sections at this hospital, is curiously the only thing she says that doesn’t frighten me. I know I’ve dilated smoothly, I know The Bean is very far down, I know my water hasn’t been broken for long. The Bean’s heartbeat is steady and strong, no distress there. For the first time since I googled “double vagina,” I know I’m not having a c-section. I am sure of that, and the threat doesn’t touch me.

Eventually, the mood in the room changes enough that I can say, yes, I give up, I need the epidural back. Sugar tells me later that the resident and a collection of nurses bundled Dr. Russian off to the hallway to convince her it was not working. The anesthesiologist who had turned it down comes and turns it back up, without comment. I rest a little while. It starts to work, and while I’m never out of pain again, I stop sobbing.

Dr. Russian spends the rest of labor sulking. At some point, when I say how much better I think things are going with the epidural back on, she rolls her eyes at the ceiling.

Pushing continues. I’m exhausted and shaking all over. In between contractions, when my legs are released to the bed, I have to tell myself, out loud, over and over, that the bed will hold me up. Again and again, I’m told I’m not pushing hard enough or long enough or right. They say I’m not having enough contractions. I am. I’m tempted to lie sometimes, to not mention one is starting, just so I can get a break, but I don’t. They give me pitocin — or maybe that was before the epidural was turned down; I can’t remember now because I didn’t care at the time.

At some point, Dr. Russian asks whether the heart rate on the monitor is mine or the baby’s. “The baby’s, I think,” says the resident.

“No. About this I am very particular. Find out for sure.” I am grateful for Dr. Russian in that moment, glad she is watching out for The Bean.

There is a small flurry of activity as the resident and nurse try to figure out what to do, how to move the monitor, how to be sure, but then Nurse Ringer, an older Latina says calmly, “Why not take mom’s pulse and see if it matches?” They do and it doesn’t. Thanks, Nurse Ringer, for saving me from internal monitoring with the power of logic.

The Bean’s heart keeps steady on, steady on through all of this. At one point, I hear Dr. Russian remark to a nurse that he has an “enviable trace.” I glow with pride and silently thank the Bean for being so strong, for causing no worry.

Eventually, it is Nurse RInger who saves the contraction-monitoring day, too, as she finds a magic spot, very low on my belly, where she can feel them. Everyone is gathered around the bed at this point. The doula reminds me at every contraction to keep my face relaxed and my chin down; I am grateful that she can say that gently, since it saves me from being yelled at by Dr. Russian. They keep saying I’m pushing wrong. Someone gets a mirror, tells me I can see the head, but I never do, just my swollen lady bits and blood. (They had tried to clean the blood away before bringing the mirror, for fear of upsetting me, but I’m not bothered.) I carry on. Nurse Ringer is yelling that she wants to meet this baby; she reminds me of the baby-crazy secretary at Sugar’s office, and I don’t mind her yelling.

And here is what happens, after four hours of pushing three times per contraction, exactly the same way every time: I have another contraction, just like the others. I push twice, and am told I’m not doing it right. I push one more time — exactly the same way I’ve done it before, except maybe for two seconds longer — and out comes the Bean, all at once. Dr. Russian is across the room. The resident catches him, and “catch” is no metaphor here: he was flying.

* * *

And everything is happening at once again, only now it’s in a good way. Someone says he’s a boy. Someone puts him on my chest. The placenta comes out, and he’s passed back down so Sugar can cut the cord. Someone asks if we have a name. We have a first name…. Everyone else has to wear gloves to touch him, but we don’t, because we belong to each other.  We talk gently to him and are awed.

His initial Apgar is 9, with a point off for not crying much. (A very polite way to lose a point, in my opinion.) After a few minutes, Nurse Ringer takes him to the bassinet and warming station in the corner to suction him and clean him up a bit. Sugar goes with him, and I’m so glad she can. Holding him was one kind of amazing, but watching her with him is another kind altogether. I hope she’ll tell you about it herself.

P1000968

Meanwhile, I am getting stitched up. Dr. Russian is giddy now, and she and the resident are working together, stitching and pulling and filling me up with gauze and pulling it back out again. I ask to see the placenta, and the resident shows me, after asking if I want to go skin to skin with it.  It’s smaller than I had expected.  They can’t get the bleeding to stop. The epidural is turned up higher and they’re using lidocaine, but it hurts. This indicates to me that I had plenty of sensation in my vagina all along and that the woman who told me tearing wouldn’t really hurt in the moment was right, because I certainly didn’t notice it happening. Mr. Hyde Dr. Russian had said when the epidural was tuned back up that it wouldn’t stop me feeling pain as he came through my vagina and that I had to not “freak out,” but really, it was nothing compared to everything else.

The Bean was born at 3:06 am, after four and a half hours of pushing. I hear Dr. Russian declare to the resident that it was really only two hours, since I apparently wasn’t trying the rest of the time. She has very sharp things in my crotch.  I don’t kick her.

Meanwhile, Sugar is still with the Bean. Suddenly she looks up at me, teary-eyed, and cries out, “I want to give him my dad’s middle name!”  I agree, and he has a name.

Eventually, the stitching and gauze-stuffing stops, my legs are released to the bed, and Sugar brings The Bean back to nurse. And he does, or at least makes a good effort. The doula swoops in to give me confusing advice, but mostly we just lie there together.

P1000974

(What ever did happen to my vagina, anyway? Stay tuned for the Recovery Epilogue.)


15 Comments

Blogging for LGBT Families Day: A Thanksgiving

The Bean is three months old today. He is sweet and smiley and miraculous. There isn’t a way to say he’s the light of our lives that doesn’t make me gag a bit, and yet it’s true. He wiggles an eyebrow and I am transformed from the grumpy dragon of morning to a cooing fool; he makes Sugar smile even when she’s barely slept, which let me tell you, is right up there with lead into gold. I could go on, but some of you might need to keep your lunches down.


Dreaming of Carrots and World Domination

In honor of Blogging for LGBT Families Day, I want to thank all of you who do blog about your LGBT families and your steps towards building them. We are happier, more confident, and, dare I say, better parents because of you.

It didn’t take a lesbian mom to provide the key to solving our napping problems (though in fact, it was one who did so), and I don’t mean to slight the many non-LGBT folks whose blogs I read. But there is something irreplaceable and maybe even healing about seeing the queer part of our lives (and of the lives we aspire to) reflected onscreen. Queer parents don’t get talked about much in mainstream media, beyond an occasional “look at the talking goat” sort of piece at pains to point out how normal and non-threatening some pair is, never forgetting that part of being non-threatening is never showing any anger at the forces that threaten our families. (And lookie what happens if you run one of those on Mothers’ Day.)

So quickly, before the Bean wakes up, thank you to those blogs I found when I first hit up Professor Google to figure out how this whole lesbo-mom thing could work (especially Lesbian Dad, One of His Moms, First Time, Second Time); to those whose authors were saddling up in the stirrups and shooting up sperm when we were; to those who came later, who let me feel like I know things worth sharing. Thank you for making your lives visible, so that ours feels less invisible.

The Bean thanks you, too.

2011familyday120x90


13 Comments

ET Phone Home

Okay, I know that post title makes no sense; I just felt like it.

The fact that I am aware that it’s meaningless should indicate to you that I am off the percocet. After a fairly wretched Sunday and a somewhat rough Monday morning, my belly stopped aching and I didn’t need it anymore. Acupuncture probably helped, too. I’m still somewhat bloated — only up 2 lbs. from retrieval day but it’s all in my suddenly barrel-shaped tummy — and my back/hips/thighs hurt the way they have been ever since my ovaries got big, but nothing really excruciating. Walking sucks a bit because of the legs, but it’s also 90+ degrees, humid, and smelly out, so staying in isn’t such a problem. (Although I also think being sedentary is part of how my back got so bad….)

Saw Dr. BF today, who wanded and specul-ized both vaginae and declared me fit to fly without anesthesia. Yay! He thinks a tenaculum will be involved — UNyay — but it almost always is when my cervix needs crossing, so at least I’m pretty used to it. He didn’t come right out and say it had been silly (lazy?) to suggest I needed to be knocked out, but he did say, again, that they really only use that for patients who can’t stand a speculum at all. Here’s an idea: maybe they could have left that decision to someone who’s met me when conscious, not just gone by the word of Dr. Saturday. (And folks who can’t stand a speculum and do IVF anyway? HATS OFF to you. You are at least eleventy-million times braver than I.)

It turns out Sugar can’t be there anyway, because they just don’t allow that. Poo. She’ll come with me to the office, and I know the important part isn’t whether she’s physically with me for that particular 20 minutes but that she’s with me in the ways that count throughout all this. I’m gonna stop before I make y’all yack on your keyboards, but the point is: my wife pretty much rocks.

So! We’re on for a valium-inflected ET tomorrow. I asked how the ol’ emby gang is doing, and while I didn’t get numbers and letters (and frankly don’t really want them at this stage in the game), Dr. BF says they’re doing great, better than typical. Genuises, all, playing suzuki violin and writing plays, I’m sure. I really hope we’ll have some to freeze, so that it doesn’t feel like everything is hanging on this cycle.

Thanks for all your ET stories. I’ll think of you in my valium haze, while trying to ignore the spikes in my cervix.


17 Comments

Updates and Such

Hey there, internet. It’s been a rather rollercoaster-y day around these parts, so I’m not sure how peppy I can make this.

Let’s start with good things:

  • We now have two dozen fertilized eggs. Obviously 24 is too many to put back, but luckily vitrification and FET means we can have two, reasonable pregnancies of 12 each….
  • The red gatorade isn’t so bad if it’s really cold.
  • After no percocet overnight, I felt great this morning. Better than in a week, in fact.
…that’s all I can come up with.
Less good things:
  • Stopping the percocet was stupid, stupid, stupid. Midmorning, I was suddenly in so much abdominal pain that I freaked out. Luckily, I did the responsible thing and called the Baby Factory. The doc on call there said she wasn’t a bit surprised, given my age, battery-hen-style egg production, and extensive endometriosis. She told me to get back on the percocet and stay the heck in bed. Although it took several hours for the percocet to get back to its former level of effectiveness (because it always works better if you don’t let the pain get away from you), I am basically okay now. I am also still in pajamas, which now have gatorade stains. Classy.
  • Way too sick to go to acupuncture, even if I hadn’t been forbidden to leave the bed.
  • The nurse who called with the fert report announced that I would be having anesthesia for my ET, per the doctor who did the ER (Dr. Saturday, not Dr. Baby Factory), who never introduced himself in the OR and put my IV in badly so it hurt like hell the whole time.
Dr. Baby Factory and I had already talked about ET procedures, as he knows my ornery cervices better than anybody, and he did mention that anesthesia was a possibility. He mentioned it in a “in case you think *you’d* like this” kind of a way, just as information. We decided that valium was enough. Now some guy I don’t even know has just announced that my care is changing, because he feels like it. I feel out of control and angry.
I also feel really, really sad about the idea of not being conscious for the ET. So much of the IVF experience is so distant from what I want the conception of our child to be like. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to use IVF, grateful that it may save us from infertility. But the experience is not without loss, you know? I’ve read so many IVF blogs, and ET day seems for so many couples like the day it becomes personal again, as they watch the embryo on the screen, hold hands as it goes in. I want that.
Doctor On-Call wants me to come in tomorrow anyway, to get checked for OHSS and so on. Since Dr. Baby Factory is also Dr. Monday, I hope to talk to him about it. I just hope I can keep from crying. Because crying hurts my belly so much right now.
Oh, I forgot one other good thing: a big shout out to my wonderful acupuncturist, who wrote to check in on me and is just generally a blessing.


18 Comments

Eggy Update

Hey, y’all.

I’m back from retrieval, chillin’ in the bed with my good buddies percocet and gatorade. I will write the whole story at some point, but the important parts are:
  • I made it. I was definitely scared, but even though I won’t say it was all peaches and ice cream, it was nothing as bad as I’d feared.
  • THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for the messages of support and especially the stories. All the stories — even tbean’s scary one — were helpful in one way or another. I’m gonna get all weepy if I say more than that now, but the bottom line is you are all amazing. And that’s not just the drugs talking.
  • How many ounces are there in a quart*? That’s how many eggs there were up in my ovaries. No wonder my back’s been hurting.

*32. Thirty-fucking-two. Yes, I am on OHSS watch.


11 Comments

Memorial Day

Hello, internets. Welcome back — physically, mentally, whatever — from the holiday weekend.

Sugar and I took a last-minute trip to New Hampshire with Womb Buddy, stayed in the 200-year-old house she moved to after leaving our hometown when we were both little. I visited in the summers for a few years, sliding in the swimming hole under the covered bridge, getting locked in a horse stall full of kittens, and generally living the country life, oblivious to the fact that W.B.’s parents’ marriage was collapsing. (The packet of old photos I found at my parents’ house this Christmas suggests I was oblivious to everything except kittens. One picture of a person in the whole batch: a fuzzy me, holding a kitten.) Until last summer, I’d never been back, though I picture the house and its yard whenever I read Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle In Time books, remembering lying on the glacier-scraped granite outcropping to watch the sky as Meg lies on the stargazing rock.

The house is different in some ways, despite its familiar creaking floorboards and narrow stairs. Parts have been remodeled, and its denizens now include W.B.’s step-mother and step-siblings. But the town is old and small and slow to change. There is still no mail delivery to houses, no stop light, no noise or light at night. Its valley of green fields and shuttered houses is still watched over by blue mountains, the postcard-perfect New England town.

On Monday, we walked down the road to visit a woman we met last year, who with her son raises alpacas and shetland sheep for wool. Last year, her fluffy tom cat herded geese away from us as we walked the road towards the swimming hole, and she insisted on taking us out back to meet the animals. We loved it, of course. She’s a single mom, and she explained that this is an inexpensive way for her to keep her son close — the animals themselves were gifts from 4-H. We wondered, a year later, if they’d still be at it, if her son ever was as invested as she, if he might have grown older and started racing dirt bikes or chasing girls.

Thumper and the Bug
W.B. and Thumper, July 2009

We found the shepherdess at work in her front garden, spending her birthday putting in new perennials. She was happy to see us and happier still to usher us back to the barn and pastures, where her son showed off two-day-old lambs with evident pride. The alpacas were overdue for a visit from the shearer, who is behind in his work. Our favorite ram, Thumper, died of bloat over the winter, but nevertheless, the little farm carries on.


Mostly, he looked happier than this, but I chose this picture because OMG I AM HOLDING A LAMB!

We continued down the road, over the covered bridge, and into the old part of the cemetery, where flags marked graves of those who served in wars all the way back to the Revolutionary.

Mill Cemetery, Meriden, NH

The cemetery is beautiful, shaded by ancient maples, in sight of lupin-covered hillsides. It is not so hard to think of spending eternity on the high banks of the fast river there, visited by hikers on their way down from the mountain behind it. We hiked there this weekend, as most of those buried here must have at one point or other. The forest shifts from dark hemlock to brighter groves of beech and maple. Where sun creeps through, forget-me-nots cluster around the path. From the bald on top, you can survey the valley.

View from French's Ledges

Hiking in the eastern mountains this time of year always makes me think of a college housemate of mine, who hiked the Appalachian Trail the summer after she graduated. I remember how excited she was for the trip, and also the quiet confidence that ran under her talking about it, the knowledge that she had the skills for the trip but also the right mindset, that she knew well how to break big projects into steady, determined days.

That attitude was typical of Roselle. She was so steady in every way, like a sturdy tree you know will always be there to be counted on. She was pre-med, and it was clear that she excelled in school not by lucky flashes of brilliance punctuating long weeks of sloth but by day after day of orderly studying. She got her work done without panic, and yet never shook her head over those of us who were grasshoppers to her ant when it came to laying up stores against the coming winters of exams and final projects. Her professors noticed, too:

“Roselle was smarter and more capable than the rest of us, and she held an almost tender benevolence toward others. She did not ask anyone else to work to the high standards she herself was working to achieve. ”

Tender is the word exactly. She paid attention to you in such a quiet way that you could easily miss it, until you sat with her at dinner and discovered she remembered everything about that play you were in, that joke you told once. When I watered her plants while she flew to Texas for a med school interview, she brought me back a packet of bluebell seeds, having remembered a small picture of a blue-blooming field I’d had up on my wall.

If Roselle was a more diligent student than most of us, she seemed thrilled with the clownish ways we were different from her. If I close my eyes, I can hear her sudden, full-throated laugh, surprised at whatever we living room layabouts had invented to amuse ourselves while she studied in the dining room, somehow untroubled by the cacophony we regularly raised. And we all loved her. Of all the women I lived with those four years, Roselle is the only one I can think of no one’s complaints about (unless you count her old roommate’s assertion that she closed her dresser drawers too loudly in the early mornings). There simply wasn’t anything to complain about.

Roselle died in Iraq in 2007. She was an Army doctor, and had volunteered for overseas duty because others in her group had small children. She was by all accounts tender and devoted as ever.

The news of her death was a shock. When another housemate forwarded me the email she’d received, I thought the dead Smithie in the subject line must be Madeline L’Engle, who died close to the same time. I didn’t expect it to be someone I really knew — but why not? Exactly how naive am I, that I expected to go without losing a friend with our country at war for so long? Did I think that the pins I’d worn (paltry activism), the letters I’d written (never enough) would somehow protect me? Did I think this was all just an intellectual debate? (Answer: of course not. Knowing how our volunteer army works, I instead counted on my race and class to insulate me.)

Soon, nausea set in. The Army would not release the details of Roselle’s death, only that she’d died in Kirkuk not long after arriving there with her unit, that her death was not combat-related. Another soldier in her unit, a man, died the same day. I hate what I know of what women are too often subject to in our military. I hate that they are often raped, hurt, killed by their fellow soldiers, that the military doesn’t seem to care enough rid itself of its old habits of misogyny (that seems too weak a word). Rape is twice as common in the military as in civilian life, a statistic all the more disgusting because the Army purports to teach unit cohesion, to protect one another. I hate that the only big name who ever seems to talk about this publicly, to admit that it exists, that it’s not just isolated incident after isolated incident, is Garry Trudeau. Shouldn’t we be reading about this outside of the comics section?

I didn’t know that’s what happened to Roselle, of course. I knew it could have been anything. A munitions accident in a warehouse somewhere. A car crash. A fall down a flight of stairs. But knowing that it was far from outlandish to imagine her attacked by a comrade is unacceptable.

The Army has since released its report. They say that she was overwhelmed, unprepared. That a senior officer berated her, that she told a fellow officer that she couldn’t do it anymore. That she returned to her barracks and shot herself.

I can’t tell you how difficult I find it to square this story with the Roselle I knew, who seems just like the one described by medical school classmates and hospital colleagues who wrote messages of condolence after she died. Yes, I know that suicide is often an impulsive act, that there is no “type” of person who attempts it, that it can happen out of the blue. Maybe she was sent overseas without proper training, a less awful negligence on the Army’s behalf. Maybe she was that thrown by whatever was said to her, though that’s hard to imagine. I keep trying to build a version of Roselle in my head that allows me to believe this story, but it hasn’t worked yet.

Instead, I am left with doubt and with anger at an Army that promises to take care of its own. At an Army I can’t trust to tell the truth, when it has tried so hard to cover up or ignore other problems. At a war we had no business starting, made possible by jingoism and racism and calculated lies. It’s not politic, I realize, to say such things on Memorial Day. We are to wave the flag and believe sacrifice makes every cause noble. We are to “Support the Troops,” which means ignoring the kinds of support the troops may actually need, if the real circumstances of their service don’t lend themselves to blockbuster movies. But Roselle didn’t heroically give her life to keep us free and I refuse to forget her that way.

We college housemates, classmates, teammates, and friends of Roselle pooled money to have a tree planted on campus in her honor, a Cladrastis lutea “Rosea” — pink-flowered Yellowwood. Sugar and I saw the young tree this month, growing on the street where we all lived together. It takes several years to begin blooming, but when it does, it sends out surprising, wisteria-like clusters of pink. I hope it will stand watch on our street for many years, steady and lovely and sometimes laughing with flowers.


Thanks to Tom Gill for the picture of a blooming Yellowwood.

Pictures of Roselle’s tree are up here.


7 Comments

Choose Glory

Y’all, reunion was more than I could have dreamed. I feel loved and reinvigorated, and I wish I could give you all the gift of feeling the way I have felt for the past several days.

What I can do is urge you to find time to listen to this commencement speech, the best I have ever heard. At a time in my life when so many things aren’t going as I would like, when I often feel that I am not living up to the potential of my mind (or body) because I am not surrounded by the accolades and riches (and babies) I envy, this was just the reminder I needed that striving counts more than winning.

Even if you’re not a Rachel Maddow fan, even if your politics and mine are only distantly related, I believe this speech will make your heart glad.

Oh, stop reading my ramblings and listen: http://www.smith.edu/video/commencement2010.php

(A new Come and Eat post will go up tonight.)


8 Comments

Come And Eat

My mother’s favorite verse in the Bible is John 21:12. It’s after the resurrection, and the disciples are fishing. A man on the shore calls out to them, hears that they are not catching much, and gives them some advice — Try putting the nets on the other side of the boat. The nets fill up, the disciples realize the man is Jesus, and they begin to shout and carry on. Peter jumps into the water to swim to him. And Jesus says to them, “Come and eat breakfast.”

Don’t worry, my non-Bible-thumping ones. I’m not going to start sermonizing regularly. (For one thing, Sugar would have a fit. For another, I’m an Episcopalian, and we know our limits. Ours is not to preach but to polish old wood pews, to wring our hands over “tradition”, and to try not to spill our martinis on the needlepoint pillows….) Take comfort: the Bible-thumpers are clucking their tongues over my lowercase “him” above — I like Jesus better as a son of man than as a son of God, sometimes. I am an equal-opportunity offender.

Come to it, that verse might be my favorite, too. It gets to the heart of my beliefs about human connection: that the best way to show (and to build) our love for each other is to break bread. This idea is hardly unique to Christianity, I realize, nor to religion.

So, please: come and eat with me.

I’d like to invite you to last Sunday’s dinner. It was a quiet affair, at home in our cluttered apartment. I’d rather cook and drink wine and talk to you than wipe down the backsplash; I hope you don’t mind. I started cooking a little later than I meant to, so we’ll all have to sit around and talk while the food finishes. Sugar made a pie, whose crust she almost wouldn’t let me take pictures of, because the weather is damp and the dough was testy and she was afraid you’d disapprove. But I know you’ll see that pie as more perfect because of the fingerprints left from her mending the dough. (And I assure you, it tastes just fine.) The pie is made of rhubarb — which always makes me think of Sugar’s grandmother, who grows stalks taller than she is — and strawberries for the coming of summer and peaches from the freezer, a last-minute improvisation when the strawberries and rhubarb didn’t fill the shell.

imperfection

summer is coming

filled in with peaches

You’ll meet my most long-standing friend, who sat on my mother’s pregnant belly as a baby and started crying when I kicked her. She’s still threatening to get me back for that, but I say it was fairly dealt: she SAT on me, after all. Our mothers were close during their pregnancies and her mother watched us both as babies, so we are built of some of the same food. (These days, I take some comfort in the knowledge that none of that would have happened if my mother had been able to get pregnant when she’d first wanted to. No Bug in my life? Impossible.) I can’t believe that after being separated as young children, we’ve ended up living three blocks from each other, hundreds of miles from our various early homes. Womb Buddy’s talking about moving away, and we’re trying to talk her out of it but mostly trying to feed her well while she’s here, make sure the bonds of shared food stay strong.

RIMG0597
Israeli couscous with broccoli rabe — I don’t know how this is supposed to be cooked, but this is how I cook it.

And now, if you’d like, it’s your turn. I’ve read some beautiful posts about food and eating together on your blogs recently (to say nothing of my ongoing delight in starhillgirl’s requests to log my lunch) which inspired this attempted meme. Add your name and blog to the Mr. Linky list, and write a post about a meal this week. The ways food bonds us are multifarious, so your post can be pictures of a meal you made, a favorite or new recipe, a shared croissant with an old friend at a coffee shop. It can be wordy or just a picture.

I’ll write one of these every week and invite you to do the same, like an edible version of Mel’s (late, lamented) Show and Tell. Visit each other’s posts, please, and write comments to let folks know you’ve come to the table. If you’re writing about kids or babies — and I hope you will, because I believe feeding children is about much, much more than just making sure they don’t starve to death — put a * after your name, in case ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) folks aren’t in a good place for that. (Tip o’ the cursor to Calliope’s excellent suggestion at her Photo Friday project.)

(This is my first time using Mr. Linky, so maybe leave a comment, too, in case I didn’t do it right.)


7 Comments

Saturday

I woke intermittently this morning, beeped awake by my dying cellphone, but not awake enough to want to go put it out of its misery. (Confidential to Motorola: What is it with you and the insistent beepery? One death-beep would be enough of a courtesy announcement for my taste. And your insistence on beeping every minute for eternity after a missed call? Friend, it borders on the pathetically needy. This is the kind of behavior that pushes people away. I missed that call because I am busy, not because I don’t esteem you highly. I’ll check the message when I am next at liberty to pick up the phone, okay?) From this, you can tell that Sugar is not home, as she thinks clearly enough even in the morning to know the phone won’t stop on its own. She would have tracked it down, turned it off, and returned to bed after the first beep.

Alas, she rose even before the beeping began, graciously only half-waking me for a kiss, and rode off to a conference in a near-enough city that she’ll be home late tonight, her department sparing the cost of a hotel and sparing me the wakefulness of a night alone.

I would make a terrible single person. On Sugar’s longer trips (She is sent to Africa from time to time, which is very glamorous in principle and sometimes in fact.), I start out well enough. I decide that living alone is no reason not to live well. I keep the house clean. I assemble fresh food and make a first dinner worthy of serving to guests, just for me. This state lasts for one day, maybe two. After that, it’s Annie’s Mac and Cheese, late night cereal, books and computer strewn across the bed. I always sleep on her side to pretend she’s here and I’m gone.

A Saturday alone is not much better, it seems. Already I’ve burnt the toast and my fingers. I should be vigorously striding home from the farmers’ market or pottering about our community garden bed or at least beginning my Great American Novel, but instead I am in slippers, my braid still rough from sleep.

I love her, that’s all, and I’m not myself without her.

Under Cherry Trees


3 Comments

Quickies

I hate blog posts apologizing for not posting, so this won’t be one.

Nor do I have a proper post in me now.

But there are a couple of things I think you should know:

1. It’s CD1. Yeah.

Not sure what the next course of action will be, but at the very least we will probably switch donors, since we need to order more anyway. More on that later.

Also, I need to do my taxes so that we can see if we can even afford to order more.

2. Mrs. Spock made me cry. Practically everything’s been making me cry lately, so that’s not much of an accomplishment per se, but she made my cry in a good way. She sent me the …I’m looking for a word, and all I’m coming up with is “bestest”… BESTEST! sock-gram package! It arrived when I was really at the very bottom of feeling crappy about everything, and it was just the very thing. Pictures to come.

3. A toddler I hang out with has been read somewhere — I think in a Moomintroll book, but hers are in Danish, and I can only read the third-rate, adulterated Danish we call “English” — about creatures cheering one another up by kissing sad creatures on the nose. She has become a dutiful practitioner of this technique, which is predictably sloppy and surprisingly effective.