Bionic Mamas

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


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Bionic Family Newsletter

Hey, y’all, she remarked sheepishly. I am sorry it has been so long. I thought I remembered about this phase, how it means just nursing 27 or 28 hours a day, but I crucially forgot that nursing a newborn requires, at least for me, both hands. Also, by 28 hours a day I mean 40.

But anyway, here I am. Mostly because how many places am I free to talk about my nipples and hooha hurting? Y’all are a special group, internet. I don’t have real hope of managing a narrative post in the next two years, but I will indulge myself in some categorized items. (Spoiler: my nipples hurt. Also my hooha.)

[Several hours later….]

Where to begin?  Jackalope, I suppose, since she’s the most novel:

Jackalope

Item: She’s marvelous.  Disregard all the time I spend begging her to go the hell back to sleep at 3am.  She’s healthy and growing and sleeping more than the Bean did, even if I could frankly use a lot more hours.  She seems to be that proverbial easier baby that some people have.  Now I understand the magical beliefs that persist about babies — how they give explicable cues before screaming that they are hungry, for instance, and how they like things like swaddles and pacifiers and soothing.  I imagine some of this is our being more experienced parents, but mostly I think she’s just a wildly easier baby than the Bean.  (Knock wood, knock wood.)

Item: She’s huge!  She was almost two pounds heavier than the Bean at birth (7/13 to his 6/1), and she’s growing much faster.  She was over eight pounds at her last appointment, at age 2.5 weeks.

Item: She’s tough.  At five days old, she reached down during a clothing change, took hold of her umbilical cord stump, and tore it off.  No crying.

Item (related): She nurses well!  This, I believe, is both cause and consequence of being larger (and born two weeks later).  Consequence, because her mouth is larger, her stomach holds more, and she is just more coordinated and, well, finished than the Bean was.  She latched on and nursed better in the delivery room than he did for a month.

Item: I have SO much more milk than last time.  Funny, it’s almost like a person is healthier when she keeps most of her original complement of blood.  Someone should study that.

Item: Nursing a baby who is into it while yourself making adequate amounts of milk is SO MUCH EASIER than nursing a weak, tired, young baby while making not enough milk.  It still takes forever and wears me out and hurts my nipples and drives me a little crazy, but really, not at all in the same ballpark.  I did have a small nervous breakdown at her first out-of-hospital doctor’s visit, when she had lost still more weight and I imagined us spiraling into the same nightmare we had with the Bean.  I took home formula samples and cried and refused to use them, which confused poor Sugar badly.  I couldn’t decide whether it was more irrational to begin supplementing a baby I knew didn’t really need it yet, or to dig in my heels, the way I did last time, and allow us to go back down the road of failed exam after exam, needlessly starving baby, etc.  (Side-item: I really wish we’d been able to see our preferred pediatrician for that visit instead of her young partner.  I think she might have been able to calm me down.)  But then, like in the books, my milk came the rest of the way in, and at our next appointment, she’d regained her birth weight.  Just like they say happens!

Item: As much as I like the lactation consultant we ended up eventually seeing with the Bean (as opposed to the ones we saw before her, who were various flavors of useless), I like not having to see her even more.  And even more than THAT, I like having a baby who can just be fed when she’s hungry and gain weight, without my having to go through routines of timing and facial exercises and diaper changes to wake her back up and horrible teas and pumping and crying and guilt.  Funny.

Item: At the second weight check, when she’d regained her birth weight, I also had my first experience of really feeling like an experienced parent.  The NP we saw that time, who had repeatedly praised her weight gain, asked about her sleep.  At the time, she had been sleeping a 4-6 hour stretch at the beginning of the night, which, I’m sure you can imagine, was heavenly.  (I mean, the Bean doesn’t even always do that, and he’s THREE.)  Oh no, she said, you can’t let her go that long.  You need to be waking her up to eat.  And I thought, lady, you just said this baby is gaining weight and looking great; like hell I’m waking her up.  But what I said was, “We’ll see.”  Because I realized in that moment that not only did I not have to do that, I didn’t even need to tell her I wasn’t going to.

Item: We don’t always get that stretch anymore.  Or it isn’t always at night.  Sugar generally ends up in the Bean’s room, and I am alone with Jackalope, who likes to have a couple hours of being awake for no earthly reason sometime in the 1-5am stretch.  I am tired.

Item: On Monday, my first day home alone with both kids, she stayed awake from 5am until 10:30, napped for 40 minutes, was back up for a couple of hours of continued, constant nursing, took another cat nap, was up again, etc.  There was a period when all three of us were wailing.  It was precious.

Item: On Tuesday, Sugar came home from work early and I took Jackalope to a department meeting at adjunct-institution-community-college.  I had written to ask permission and not heard back, and I need brownie points over there.  No idea if I scored them with the right people.  I missed half the meeting, including the topic I’d come to hear about.  A woman next to me was snide at me while using FB on her phone.  It was one thousand degrees and packed; turns out my comfort level with public nursing does not extend to the front row of such a setting.  I had the unsettling experience of realizing that the woman I thought was the chair of the department isn’t.  But several people said kind things on their way out the door, and I reminded the person who hires adjuncts that I’d like work in the fall.

Item: Poor Jackalope is a second child when it comes to pictures, I’m afraid.  We remember to take them, sometimes, but then they are stuck on the camera.

The Bean

Item: The Bean is THREE.  How in cheese’s name did that happen? We got him a tea set.
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Item: He turned three the same day Jackalope turned three weeks old.  I tried to get a cute picture of them near each other.  Ha.
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Item: We had a tiny little party and a cake with trains on it.  My mom tried to send the trains for his last birthday, but they arrived too late. He liked it.

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Item: Still not eating many foods or sleeping through the night or reliably using the potty. But he can do a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle with almost no help. (Still figuring out how to work that “but” into his doctor’s appointment on Monday.)  I am an unabashed puzzle pusher, and am beyond thrilled that he likes them, too.

[There’s Jackalope waking up….]

[And then the rest of the afternoon and the evening and the night happened, and most of the next morning.  There was an interlude for an unexpectedly early first brother/sister bath, which damn near killed me with the cute.]

GandJbath

Item: The Bean is so much better with Jackalope than I thought reasonable to expect.  He likes to put his nose against her toes.  We failed utterly to move him to a big bed and decommission the crib/toddler bed in time that he wouldn’t associate the loss of his familiar spot with the arrival of the baby, but as soon as it was converted back to its baby configuration (he helped), I heard him stop mid-sentence, correcting himself to call it “Jackalope’s bed.”  She was fussing in there one afternoon, while I was stuck on the toilet.  I was a little concerned when he went in to her — he is a lot larger than she is and unaware of her comparative fragility — but he sat down on the floor with his legos and said, “don’t cry.  I am making you a tower to make you happy.”  Melt.

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[Whoops, there went the whole weekend.  My dad visited.  There’s a lot to say about that, almost all unbloggable.  He is charming with babies.]

Rotten Things

Item: Our older cat, Michaela, died.  She was diagnosed with kidney failure right before Jackalope was born.  Sugar learned to give her sub-cutaneous fluids every night.  There were supplements but no real hope of recovery.  She seemed okay for a while, and then suddenly wasn’t.  We all miss her, and of course this has started another round of questions and pronouncements from the Bean about his dead grandmother and great-grandmother, with lots of crying from me especially.  I know these questions are a typical part of being his age, but really, the last four months have been over the top for our family.  I am so sick and tired of death.

Item: Michaela came to us as a teeny kitten found in the woods, so dirty we didn’t know she was white.  (Really, she was a secret calico, with a smear of grey and buttery-tan on her head as a kitten.)  She lived with us in Massachusetts and Chicago and New York.  She nearly died of hepatic lipidosis in 2005 and after recovering, slept on our feet every night.  Despite being standoffish with strangers (“Michaela has boundaries,” said an approving friend, comparing her to our more dog-like Orson), she turned out to adore babies, both ours and others’.  We called her the Bean’s nanny.  Here she is with the Bean, in 2011, and with Jackalope:

A Boy and His (Very Patient) Cat

Great Minds Think Alike

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Item: Yesterday morning, Sugar’s paternal grandmother died.  (Her maternal grandmother died in December.)  It wasn’t a surprise, but it is awful.  I am so tired of death.

Item: Sugar is going to Chicago for the funeral for the first part of the week.  I’m not ready to be alone overnight with both Jackalope and the Bean, but, well, I guess I’m about to be ready.

My Addled Brain

Item: Despite everything, I don’t seem to be depressed.  At least, I don’t think so.  It’s almost weird.  I am sometimes sad and sometimes overwhelmed, but yeah, not depressed.  I do still cry about my mom a lot, but I have a hard time categorizing that as pathological; crying seems pretty rational to me, and naturally I think of her all the time, especially looking at this baby, whom she would so have wanted to know.  There’s not much I can do to make that not awful.

My Body, Upper

Item: Remember that Cold of Filth I was complaining about before Jackalope was born? (COF is trademarked to either May or Mrs. Hairy, not sure.) I had this fantasy that somehow the intensity of labor would drive it out like a demon.  Yeah, no.  Instead, I was sick for a solid month, coughing my brains out.  (Other things also coughed out, too, thanks to an enlarged uterus and a pelvic floor that went on strike altogether.)  The Bean and Sugar were sick, too, but luckily Jackalope was not, nor does the codeine cough syrup I was living on seem to have bothered her.  Still, I do not recommend the experience of being that sick immediately postpartum.

Item: Dateline: NIPPLES. The Reynaud’s is back.  For new readers, this means that my nipples are spasmotically seizing up in response to breastfeeding, and if that sounds horrifically painful, well, it is.  I got on the nifedipine in short order this time around, following some minor difficulties getting my OB to prescribe the extended release version in place of a “take as needed” regime of regular capsules.  (Let me tell you, you take one of those at the same time as a slug of cough syrup and WHOA, good luck standing up.)  Unfortunately, the nifedipine isn’t working quite as completely, though things are a great deal better than they were a few weeks ago, when many tears were shed.  Now I mostly have spasms at night, and they aren’t so terrible.

Item: I can’t try a higher dose of nifedipine, apparently.  I called the OB office a couple of weeks ago, when things were getting very bad, to ask about that and about some renewed locchia.  The nurse insisted I come in to see a midwife.  On the one hand, it was nice to feel they were concerned about my health, in marked contrast to Dr. Russian’s nurse.  On the other, schlepping into the city is not easy, nor was there a point.  As I had suspected, the bleeding was normal.  Meanwhile, they are afraid my blood pressure will bottom out on a higher dose.  I suspect that’s not right — my understanding is that, while nifedipine does lower BP in people with pathologically high pressure, it doesn’t have much effect in someone like me, whose body doesn’t have difficulty maintaining a steady BP.  Certainly my BP while I was taking it last time was at my usual level every time it was checked.  But, since my usual level is on the low side and I don’t want to pass out all over the place, I guess that’s how it is.

Item: I started taking some extra B6, on the advice of the internet.  Hard to say whether that helped, but  I already had it in the house.  At least I won’t get pellagra.

Item: The Reynaud’s has new tricks.  Several times a day, associated with let-down, I have what I think must be massive spasms in my milk ducts.  (This happened sometimes with the Bean, but not this early or this fiercely.)  The only reason I’m not weeping over this is that it doesn’t last that long, just a minute or two each time.  It is more of a sore feeling than a sharp one, but it is intense, like each duct suddenly has a fist inside it.  Not recommended.

Item: It was an act of purest optimism to have ordered that breastpump, wasn’t it?  Sigh.

My Body: Lower

Item: I know y’all mainly read this blog for hooha news.  It’s cool.  I mainly write it to talk about my hooha.

Item: Ouch.

Item: In so many, many ways, my recovery from Jackalope’s birth has been nothing at all like my recovery from the Bean’s.  Thank whatever it is you like to thank.  I am healthier and happier and in much, much better shape.

Item: My pelvic floor is shot, but recovering.  For a while there, advertising algorithms were chasing me across the internet with ads for protective undergarments.  Depressing.  Now I am mostly okay as long as I go to the bathroom a lot and, I discovered yesterday, don’t attempt any hopscotch games.  Bad idea.

Item: The hemorrhoids are likewise retreating, like big, ugly glaciers.  Butt glaciers.  Thank God for witch hazel.
(Gratuitous witch hazel shot because I also love the plant, mostly because it blooms so early.)

witch hazel

Item: Stitches still beasts.  The proverbial they say you don’t tear as much the second time, and I guess I didn’t, inasmuch as I’d already, erm, resected my vaginal septum and it’s hard to tear more than that.  Nevertheless, I was fairly shredded, inside and out.  My new vocabulary word is “sulchal.”  That all hurt in a predictable way at first, then got worse around week two, when everything got irritated and the lines of stitches felt like they might rip right out every time I coughed.  Or God forbid sat up.  Things improved again, with a delightful interlude of suture ends poking me in personal places.

Item: Except now I have these hard spots I suspect are scar tissue, and nothing is stretchy enough.  As in, it hurts to sit again, in sharp little ways, and then there is blood.  Not a whole lot of blood mostly, but I think I am tearing a little bit every day now, just from sitting.  I am so not into this, I can’t even tell you.  I have my postpartum appointment on Tuesday, and I sure hope there is something to do about this problem.  I’d like to, um, use that part of my body again someday, for one thing.  Ahem.

Miscellanea:

Item: Sara started blogging again!  Check that OUT.

Item: I have spent an absurd amount of time giggling at this, featuring drawings the Bean describes as “some funny folks!”

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Jackalope

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

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

The next year, the tree bore fruit.

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

Julia

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

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

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


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Items Gestational, For The Nonce

Dateline: 38 weeks, 4 days.

Item: I am still pregnant.

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

PicsArt.com
The view from now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Gravid Grief

The TLDR version: It sucks. Horribly. No, worse than that. Don’t do it.

Oh, internets. This is the worst dream I’ve ever had. I’m ready to wake up now.

PicsArt.com
Not pictured: more handkerchiefs

I keep trying to tell myself it could be worse. This might have happened when I was a child. It could have been violent. She might have suffered and suffered — and point of order, people telling me “suffering is over now,” but this is not the same situation as dying at the end of an increasingly painful bout of cancer or similar. Yes, she was sick, but she’d been sick for my whole life, and it’s a bit hard to tell me to think of all of that time as pure suffering. Yes, she’d had some particularly unpleasant migraine and tendon problems recently, but when I talked to her on Sunday afternoon, she said she was feeling much better. Nor did any of that have to do with her dying, though I’m sure plenty of people who don’t know the details basically think, “Bionic’s mom was sick for a long time,” as if that explains it in any meaningful way.

She had a pulmonary embolism. At home, alone. No warning. Given her propensity towards large bleeds under her skin and a fear of stroke, no one would have thought she should have been on a blood thinner (find more info about this type of medicines and troubles they can cause, including class actions – like in the case of Xarelto). Not much narrative satisfaction to be found there, sorry.

(May, please go give H an extra hug for me.)

So, yeah, no warning at all. And hey, there’s could-have-been-worse there, too. We might have been fighting. I think I forgot to say I love you on our last phone call, but at least I’d been saying it pretty often. It might have been the long, drawn out, cancerous sort of death more typical in my family. I’m not sure if that’s worse or not. It might well have been, given her auto-immune disease, some awful series of infections. Cascading, horrible medical interventions. Tubes and wires. Disagreement on the definition of “hopeless.” Soul-rending decisions.

It could have been worse.

The trouble, dear internets, is that it turns out that the Pain Olympics don’t make me feel any better, even when it’s me versus hypothetical me.

Given that focusing on the supposedly positive isn’t doing a damn thing for me (read: I am crying in public, bawling at (mostly) home, and have the emotional reserves and cognitive abilities of a newborn), all I can give you is a list, in no particular order, of things that make grieving while pregnant especially awful. You know, in case you were considering choosing this course.

  • You have to eat. At a time when renunciation of the flesh seems so right, too bad. You aren’t in charge of that anymore, and the very small person who is, is extremely determined. But Bionic, I hear you say, some of us like to eat our feelings. And being pregnant means you can eat as much as you want! To which I reply, hope you like wet sand, because that’s what everything tastes like now.
  • You can’t drink. Yes, I know, I know: plenty of people think a glass of wine doesn’t matter this late in the game. But I don’t want a glass of wine, and I’m pretty sure getting regularly blind drunk is still a no-no.
  • None of the good drugs, either. Sorry, they’re all category D. I checked.
  • You know that thing where you wake up and can’t remember what you were sad about, and then you do remember and it’s like being thrown off one of those 700-foot fjord cliffs all over again? Being pregnant means you get to do that four or five times a night, every time you need to pee or feed the tiny tyrant. See also: crying yourself to sleep.
  • Oh, were you happy about being pregnant? Maybe even enjoying it, despite the discomforts and indignities? Too bad about that. Now you’re not happy about anything. You do get to keep the discomforts as a parting gift.
  • Meanwhile, you’re supposed to “take care of yourself,” which means take care of the baby, even if you don’t feel like it. Vitamins, for instance. Trying not to get listeria. You’re supposed to keep going to your prenatal appointments, even if you’re pretty sure your mother died during your last one, right around the time you started shaking and crying in the waiting room for what seemed like no reason but is in retrospect exactly like what happened when your grandmother died.
  • Speaking of PTSD, guess how much cerebral CPU processing capability is now available for dealing with all that birth stuff you were trying to sort out? What, this isn’t what you meant when you said you wanted to stop obsessing over those fears? Your therapist, who is trying to break up with you*, says it’s appropriate that you aren’t thinking about all that, which makes you wonder if she owns a calendar and knows the basic theory of its use. Of course it’s appropriate, but it’s also a bit dangerous, no, given that this baby is likely to be born more or less on the original schedule? If there were any justice, you’d be allowed to hit pause on the whole gestation thing while you get your sea legs, but if there were any justice, you wouldn’t be in this position.

*Well, what she said was I could keep coming if I just wanted a place to cry and say whatever I feel like, but that doesn’t seem all that useful, really. I’m not working on the birth stuff at all, things being how they are, nor do I need therapizing about the grief in a way I can’t get from people I actually know and trust more. I’m not depressed, per se; I’m just really, really, really sad. Surely I could do something else with the money.

PicsArt.com
Are those clouds? Hills? Giant, fluffy carrots?

  • Speaking of that baby, whose arrival you were already scared about, how on earth are you supposed to take care of it while you’re like this? Let alone do a better job than you did last time, the way you had promised yourself you would? (You know, so your mother wouldn’t worry so much.) Do a little poking around the Internet on the topic, and find reports of a study showing babies born to grieving mothers have a higher rate of serious illness in their first four years of life, plus the news that you are basically guaranteed to get postpartum depression.
  • For the sake of your electronics’ integrity and not being yourself reclassified as an inland salt water sea, try really, really hard to avoid thinking about how this baby won’t know your mother (and your two-year-old probably won’t remember her). Don’t worry; you will fail in that attempt one thousand times a day.
  • In case you manage to steer clear of that thought for a minute, apparently a cavalcade of perfect strangers — work colleagues of your father, that sort of thing — now feels empowered to stand too close to you at the visitation, the last time you will see her body, and tell you how sorry they are WHILE RUBBING YOUR BELLY. This ranks among the most profoundly inappropriate experiences of your life, and it keeps happening again and again and again.


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Sunday Snapshots

Morning.

No coffee, or rather, no milk, which means no coffee for me, given present esophageal conditions. Sugar and the Bean get dressed, count down the minutes until the local grocery store opens, and return victorious, bless them.

~ ~ ~

Sugar and the Bean make pancakes. Banana for me and Sugar, chocolate chip for the Bean, because calories he will eat > calories he will not eat. (He didn’t eat much yesterday and was up repeatedly in the night, until applesauce and milk finally applied at 4:30 in the morning.) He eats a whole one, cut in squares! He asks for another, a dinosaur this time. I do my best with a paring knife.

Dinosaur pancake

He smiles. “No, I don’t want a dinosaur. I want a square instead.”

~ ~ ~

It’s my father’s birthday. He was going to come to the East Coast for a meeting next weekend and spend a day with us, but my mother is too sick to be left alone. It will be easier for us not to have him, as Sugar’s mother is coming that weekend, but I am still disappointed. And envious.

~ ~ ~

I unaccountably find myself crying over some dumb article about baby shower etiquette. Rude to plan one for yourself, they say. Unless someone offers, have everyone over for a cookout to meet the new baby, instead.

Point of order, I don’t want a shower, exactly. We don’t need much stuff. (Another chair. Maybe a few cute things that can belong just to this baby.) I don’t need to be treated like a princess or a well-maintained incubator or whatever. I wanted to be pregnant and I like being pregnant; I don’t think gestating makes me more special than those who aren’t. But it is work, especially while keeping the the Bean alive and my students more or less on track. And given how much of my work feels invisible at all times (see: daily parenting, adjunct professing), I admit a small desire to be noticed, just for a minute.

Sugar thinks we should just invite people over for champagne as a combination un-shower and early birthday party for her, since we are usually traveling for Christmas on her birthday. I seriously doubt any of our friends will actually care about the etiquette of such an event, especially if there is champagne.

I think the real reason the article got to me is that it presupposes a place in a social structure that doesn’t exist in our lives. We don’t have local family. (Well, one aunt I love and never see.) We don’t live near our hometowns or our high school and college friends. We don’t (and I’m not sorry) have a place in the cavalcade of heteronormativity these rules presupposes. I don’t regret the decisions that have led us here, but sometimes feeling different is too close to feeling wrong.

Moreover, I remain envious to an unflattering extent of people who are well enough to host parties two weeks postpartum.

~ ~ ~

The Bean naps today. Not for all that long, but it is sweet watching him fall asleep. For once.

~ ~ ~

In the afternoon, Sugar makes bread. The Bean is appalled.

“Punch down the bread?? That would be terrible!”

Yeah, Sugar. No hitting.

~ ~ ~

I vacuum the bedroom. It’s getting harder to do that sort of thing; I am not what you might call gainly. But it is worth it for the Bean’s praise upon inspection: “This looks beautiful to me!”


16 Comments

Items, Glorious Items

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

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

Meanwhile! Pease porridge and items:

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

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

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

USWeek20001

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

USWeek20003

USWeek20004

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

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

 

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

THE END.

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


14 Comments

Items From Our Catalog

Hi, Internets.  I wrote you such a post yesterday!  Well, we can all believe it was wonderful, because the WP iPad app ate it, and only the good die young, right?  In the interest of posting something, anything, here are some items:

Current Events

  • Sugar did not get the promotion/new job she has been waiting to hear about since, oh, February-ish.  (The actual interview was in August, but that’s around when she started the application process.)  Waiting to hear has been a stressful situation for our family, and this news is, of course, even more stressful.  The job would have meant more money and the kind of title and responsibilities that make it easier to move to another good job elsewhere, so that sucks.  Then there’s the part where she is a great employee who has been in this small department for eight years, doing the work of this better job for most of a year, and generally feels pretty damn shafted right now.  “We sure hope you won’t take this as a reflection on how much we value your [tireless, underpaid-even-for-this-department, grant-money-attracting] work in your current position,” says her boss, who can eat ALL THE BAGS OF DICKS, as far as I am concerned.
  • Her boss gave her this news following a big meeting about how there would be a lot of work for the department in February.  She stayed after to tell him that he might need to assign extra staff to those projects, since we are expecting a baby at that time.  Nothing like getting additional rejection immediately after saying things like “I might need to take time off if it’s like last time, because my wife almost died.”
  • No, I don’t think that influenced his decision.  He is not a quick decider, just an asshole.
  • She isn’t getting fired, but it feels a little like that, because if they aren’t willing to promote her to management after eight years, yeah, it’s time to move on.
  • There has literally never been a better time to convince us to come be your neighbors!  Seriously, if you have connections in educational technology and/or public health, be in touch, huh?  We are open to leaving the city.  Probably not — full disclosure — for Indiana.
  • Sugar left early this morning to visit her parents for the weekend, so we get to be apart while processing all this.  Whee.

Democracy In Action

  • We voted in the NYC primary this week.  Sugar tried to weasel out of it by saying she wasn’t registered to a political party (required for primaries in this state), but ha ha, turns out there’s a website to check that kind of thing.  The Bean was putting up a fuss about going, but the return of the old voting machines (with LEVERS!) and the advent of never-seen-here-before STICKERS may have won him over for life.
  • I kind of can’t believe that in a field that included a lesbian and black man, I checked the box by yet another straight white guy’s name.  But, hey, at least he’s married to a lesbian.  And I’m married to a lesbian, myself!

Obstetrics and Midwifery

  • My appointment last week went well.  I saw the midwife again, and I wish she were an OB.  This practice has two CNMs who work with OB patients, but only the OBs deliver.  I’m not sure why this is the system, but I wish I could see this MW more often.  If nothing else, it was a nice break from grilling everyone about whether they are competent/emotionally stable, since I’ve already told her my deal.
  • I had told her about the postpartum anemia last time I saw her, but I hadn’t known for sure it was because of hemorrhage (as opposed to general pregnancy anemia).  I told her the numbers from the hospital records, and she said they would definitely have offered a transfusion.  That is reassuring, vis-a-vis hoping to not be that sick again.
  • She noted in my chart that I had had a postpartum hemorrhage, but said she thinks it is unlikely to recur, since it was probably mostly the septum doing the bleeding.  If a septum includes an artery, she says, “those things can really pump.”  I guess that explains why the doctors used up all the gauze in the room and the supply closet both, stuffing my vagina full of it and pulling it out again.  (Which hurt a surprising amount.)
  • I made a supposedly off-hand comment about how maybe none of this will matter anyway, if the placenta doesn’t move, since I’d end up with an automatic c-section.  She waved her hand, as if dismissing a joke.  “Please.  It’s marginal at sixteen weeks.  It will move.”  I think she is likely to be right, but this was still a nice antidote to my mother’s gloom on the subject.  (My mother generally seems to think I don’t take bad news sufficiently seriously, and so takes pains to impress upon me that bad news is bad.  I’m not sure where she got the impression that I am an optimist.)
  • The most surprising aspect of the appointment is that we did not have a fight or even a lengthy discussion about my plan to refuse the glucose tolerance screening this time around.  I told her how sick I had gotten last time, confirmed that I had eaten beforehand and still was neurologically wrecked for three days, and mentioned my low risk factors for gestational diabetes.  (I restrained myself from opening with what BS I think most of the things written about GD are, at least when it comes to bad outcomes among patients without pre-existing insulin resistance.  And since when is an episiotomy in the same category of outcome as a c-section, anyway?)  I was all set to argue, with data and citations and everything (thanks to Dr. J. F. Scientist and my mother), but she said, “We had a patient like you really recently.  Are you willing to do some monitoring at home?” I am — what’s a few more self-inflicted stab wounds for a fertility clinic veteran, am I right?  “I’ll bring it up at the OB meeting this week, but I’m sure it’s fine.  You’ll have to get a meter.”  And then she got out the doppler and we listened to Jackalope’s galloping heart.
  • I feel surprised, relieved, and perversely thwarted.  I have data, damn it!  Don’t you want to even look at it?  Please?
  • In general, the visit was reassuring on the “have I once again chosen insane care providers” front.

Addled Brain, My

  • I am somewhat bemused to report that the one thing that would have irritated me about that appointment, in other times, namely the MW referring to the amount of weight I’ve gained as “not bad,” didn’t bother me at all, except in an impersonal, cultural-political kind of way.  Huh.  I realized that I never gave them the “please don’t bug me about eating/my weight” talk that led Dr. Russian’s practice to label me as an active anorexic (and therefore interrogate me about my diet at every opportunity, FAIL), partly because they have never told me anything dumb like some imaginary, ideal amount of weight to program my animatronic body to gain without exceeding.  Funny, how not setting a person up to think her weight in under surveilance is helpful in the not-feeling-under-surveillance department.
  • However.
  • I am not doing so very well in the “putting that birth behind me” category (the one comment from my last appointment with this MW that, while meant kindly, did in fact rub me the wrong way).
  • And so.
  • I have decided to look for a therapist.
  • I have very mixed feelings about that.
  • Bunny mentioned in a comment a few posts ago that she wasn’t sure of my feelings about therapy except that I had been utterly enraged by the Baby Factory’s requirement that we see their counselor.  For the sake of clarity, my feelings about Our Dumb Appointment are not my feelings about therapy in general, but are more to do with the screening-for-parental-fitness nature of that requirement.  Eugenics is so pre-war, darling.
  • That’s not to say I have no issues with the idea of going into therapy, many of which are conveniently wrapped up in my feelings about my mother, who is a psychiatrist.
  1. I prefer the convenience of boring and annoying my family, friends, and readership.
  2. My previous experience with therapy (in college) was deeply pointless.  I now realize that might have had more to do with my therapist being a 22-year-old intern from Alma Mater’s social work school than with therapy as a whole.
  3. A lot of therapists, however, are tremendous flakes.  I imagine it’s not a majority, but admit it: it’s a visible group.
  4. Therapy is the town pastime here, in a way that makes me feel ooky.  Woody Allen is much closer to a documentarian than I had realized when living elsewhere.  I am not interested in a lifetime commitment, let alone such an expensive one.
  5. While I think SSRIs and the like are very useful in some cases, I am unconvinced they are all they are cracked up to be for many people.  No, I don’t think you should stop taking yours, but I don’t want to start taking them, either.
  • However, I have to admit that while all the processing I’ve done here and elsewhere has been tremendously helpful (and you have been, you really, really have), I’m getting to a point where I could use some more help.  As much as it feels like heresy to claim this about a vaginal birth that brought me a healthy baby, I am beginning to think that the initials P, T, S, and D are not entirely inappropriate here.  I look at diagnostic checklists, and it’s increasingly difficult to deny that a lot of those boxes have x’s.
  • Thinking of this as PTSD and therefore a cognitive issue rather than only my special snowflake feeeelings makes me think that maybe I should talk to someone who has actually studied this stuff. Which brings me to more sub-bullets!  Criteria:
  1. No generalized wading into my feelings in a global sense.  I am not interested in analyzing my whole life and my relationship to food and my mother and the military-industrial complex.  I have a goal (not completely losing my shit as I approach my due date) and a deadline (my due date).  No quagmires.
  2. No support groups.  I have those, in a virtual sense (Hi!), and in-person ones I think will only feed my sense that what happened to me was not bad enough to feel bad about.
  3. No well-meaning idiots.  Or, as a friend put it, “you mean you don’t think talking to someone with no idea about how birth works and what you were going through will help you deal with feeling traumatized be being surrounded by people who seemed to have no idea how birth works and what was going on for you?”
  4. No “natural”-birth fanatics.  None of what happened was the fault of the epidural or modern obstetrics as a whole, and furthermore, I am planning to go back to the hospital, so I will thank you not to freak me out about that.
  5. Here’s the deal-breaker: takes my insurance.  This is hard enough without feeling I am spending money we don’t have on such a self-indulgent project.
  • So far, I’ve called one person, who has an opening at a difficult time for childcare.  Contrary to my desire, I did not spend the rest of the day hiding under the covers, but lordy, this is harder than I thought.  I can’t believe so many people do it.

And now it is past time to run off to the hippie food coop and cut the cheese for a few hours.  I’m going to publish this anyway.  Verisimilitude, all that.  Links later.