Bionic Mamas

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


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Thoughts from the road

Greetings from somewhere in Pennsylvania. I can’t be more specific, as the Bean has commandeered the GPS device (which actually is a GPS for motorcycle use), it’s too mountainous for our phones to be speaking to us, and I have allowed technology to get the better of my map skills. Oh, here: mile 253.2 of Interstate 80. Some peculiarly specific mile markers around these parts. Somebody’s brother-in-law has a sweet contract.

Jackalope is sitting in a giant pile of chocolate cookies. And yet fussing! Not my genes, I tell you what.

We are en route to Chicago, where Sugar has pictures in a group show, and then to the the Sugar Family Manse in midMichigan. (Chicago friends, how I wish we could visit you! We will be under house arrest at the Sugar Family Pied-a-Terre, which is to say her late grandmother’s house on the far, far, far South Side.) We are driving because, well, money. It’s good to have a car, though. This would be a real drag on foot with the granny cart.

Summer, man. It’s a pretty good season.

Item: You know those free tourism magazines at rest stops? They have weird depths.

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Item: We have continued the beach trips. The Bean is getting more comfortable with the water, in his incremental way. He likes me to carry him out into the water while Jackalope naps, and lately he will sometimes release his legs enough to kick wildly, as long as I grip his upper body to me. His friend S, who is a very strong and brave swimmer, dives into the waves around us while they both laugh. She has the sunniest nature, and they are an age when it does not seem to yet have occurred to them to let their differences in skills and constitution get in the way of their fun.

Item: It is now Saturday, and we are in Chicago. The opening was a real pleasure — in a fancy Mies Van de Rohe building and everything. Jackalope marched me directly to the cheese table, and the Bean got a Sprite after he and I examined all of the architecture students’ models. Most of the gallery guests were (like Sugar) alumni of the Institute of Design and true to type, brain-wise, to judge from their satisfied reactions to the Bean’s vigorous use of his name card to swipe them out of the gallery as they exited the porch. Systems people understand each other.

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Also pleasant was visiting with Sugar’s first cousin and his family, which includes two girls, 9 and 5. Isn’t it funny how babies born three months apart are radically different until age 15 months or so, at which point they are functionally the same age? Neighbors of ours have a daughter eight months younger than the Bean, who suddenly became his age when he was three and a half. Likewise, the five-year-old cousin, who was older than the Bean at Christmas, is now his age. The nine-year-old remains amazingly cool. The Bean sat on the sofa next to her, saying hi. Hi, she replied, and returned to her book. They talked dot-to-dots later. Jackalope was beside herself.

Item: Remind me not to let my kids play with the ostensibly nice neighbor here, who helps keep up the lawn and makes generally friendly offers of, for instance, letting the kids come swim in his pool, followed by announcing that the girls — who are FIVE and NINE — don’t have to wear bathing suits. Actually, no need to remind me. I think I’ll remember. Between this and Swamplandia!, which I just finished and recommend highly, I am nauseatingly reminded of the dangers of girlhood, in particular the way you are never quite sure which things are dangers and which are jokes and which might become dangers if you don’t treat them as jokes and the way you are certain it’s your fault for not getting it.

Item: Apparently, Chicago has ended the social promotion of street trees. I assume this is a Rahm Emmanuel thing.

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Item: On the topic of failure, I give the Ohio Turnpike website an F minus minus for their lyrical bullshit description of the history of Indian Meadows, the location of a service plaza in the eastern part of the state. It’s named for the redmen who lived there, you see, prior to the white men who, “unlike the red-skinned farmers, […] learned to conserve the soil.” European conquest was pretty much the least healthy thing to happen to the soil since glaciers, but in fairness, it is responsible for bringing to these lands the Gift of Sbarro.

Item: Guess how many hours we’d been with the Midwestern family before the first non-sequitur remark about the racist/awful South?  (Yes, the South is plenty racist.  It is not, however, uniquely racist, and the comfortable assumption on the part of white folks in the rest of the country that it is the home of all bad things perpetuates racism that doesn’t fly a confederate flag (which frankly, has far more power to harm than most of those flag-wavers) and gets on my last nerve.)

Item: My mental health still blows. A very brave friend with very significant head-demons recently noted that she can do all kinds of hard and scary things, yet have a panic attack at the idea of leaving her apartment. We made a list of panic attack triggers, the things our brains have evidently determined to be so dangerous that Attention Must Be Paid. My list included grapes, cinnamon, and bottled iced tea. Also guacamole and every medicine in pill form. Lo, how the mighty Better Living Through Chemistry have fallen! I can’t take an Advil without wondering if I am swallowing cyanide; I wish I were joking. The world seems so thin, so easily broken. I don’t know what’s become of me.

Item: I am, for the record, actively looking for a therapist. Criteria: does CBT, takes my insurance, is older than I am. I have some issues surrounding talking parental death stuff with chipper young people. Possibly unfair, but there you are.

Item: So far I haven’t even gotten anyone to call me back. This does not make me think good thoughts about the profession or humanity in general.

Item: The other things I think would help are sleeping more and creating things. I haven’t figured out how to manage either. Getting hungry makes everything radically worse. Looks like I will be dumpling-shaped for the foreseeable future, as eating my feelings seems far healthier than acting on them.

Uh, item: Not everything is misery. Jackalope is talking up a storm, which is my favorite, “LET’S HAVE ALL THE BABIES” aspect of child development. She calls her brother “Bam” or “The Bam” and our cat, Orson, “Ohrsine,” in a very French way. She can say “paleontologist,” but somehow not “yes.” “I see you, [person or item]” is a frequent announcement along with “wanna [x],” and “no biting,” usually right after biting me. She eats everything with gusto, followed by hurling it around the room with equal vigor.

She has in no way given up the idea that she should be allowed to nurse for any or all of a day’s 24 hours, despite my having officially stopped nursing on demand six months ago, and she’s come up with the most fiendishly clever way to ask: what’s the one thing a child of mine could request that I will always, but always, drop everything to help them with? That’s right: “wanna nap.”

Item: I have fallen for that a lot of times.

Item: The Bean is no less a marvel. He is tall and tan and proves to have a deep love of capoeira. Brooklyn being Brooklyn, we found a group that does lessons for four-year-olds and will give it a try in the fall. He is not a huge fan of the car, but has learned from our road trip with my Aunt Explorer the joys of chewing gum and washing the windows, which take the edge off.

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“GUM! No gum,” says Jackalope. No gum for babies.

He remarked the other day how funny it is that everyone in our family has the same color skin, an observation whose logical basis I credit to his magical pre-school of the past year. He’s off to public pre-K in the fall, and even though I think that is the right choice — it’s free and around the corner and full time — it’s hard for all of us not to feel wistful. (He could technically go to his old school for another year, at great expense even for a part-time schedule, but he is demonstrably ready for more class time.) The local school is good, certainly fine for pre-K, but I have to take deep breaths when I think of my baby in a building where police officers run the front entrance. Plus the uniform is ugly, no matter how egalitarian in principle. I had a dream the other night that it was the picture for an article about ugly things.

Update: while I was nattering on, we got ready to leave Chicago for the Sugar’s childhood home in rural Michigan. Then the phone rang with the news that her father’s little brother, who, like the rest of the siblings, lives in suburban Chicago, had had a stroke. So we weren’t going anymore. Then, in the morning, his sister the nurse said no more visitors, as he tries to pull his feeding tube out to talk every time he recognizes anyone. So suddenly we were going again, with Sugar’s parents planning to come back in a week. (It is about a four-hour drive.) Everyone is being very sensible and stoic and Midwestern.

Uncle Little Brother is the family clown, the one who cheerfully submits to being the butt of the joke while making you a Manhattan, who somehow knows the perfect presents for the kids at Christmas, who in the pictures of the (large) family as children is always the one mysteriously in a cowboy costume or dressed for a children’s theatre production of Guys And Dolls, in the deep woods of northern Wisconsin. They say he is likely to recover, and I hope they are right.

Item: We are now in Sugar’s tiny hometown, in the house she grew up in, which is somehow also the very cleanest artists’ studio you ever saw. I’ve gotten used to the place over the years and forgotten how cool it is. I’d take a better picture, but I am sitting with a not-sleeping Bean. Update: too dark. You’ll have to take my word for it. Paintings, prints, sculptures everywhere, yet somehow extremely clean. Lots of books. A large cat named Teddy.

Here is the living room:

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The air conditioning is broken, but after freezing my tail off at the Chicago house, my thin, Southern blood is finally coming in handy.

Update: a mighty thunderstorm. The green wet smell of summer camp insomnia.

Item: This is honest to God the sign at the edge of town. The town is too small for a stop light and recently removed its downtown flashing yellow, so you see how this kind of thing could get to emergency levels.

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Item: MIL and I went to the new butcher shop at the edge of town — this is big news, as Carl’s grocery closed some time ago, leaving the town with zero food stores that aren’t a gas station. The new place sells great steaks, fifteen kinds of bratwurst (blueberry???), a smattering of produce, and a surprising array of bulk spices. They will also butcher your deer. Savvy business move, which I attribute to the owner’s wife working at the bank. The staff uniform is a camo hunting cap, which matches the wallpaper near the coolers; transactions are observed by a small black bear, a caribou, assorted fish, a fox, several whitetail, and some others I have forgotten. I have taken an immediate liking to the place. Good steaks, too.

Item: It turns out matching pajamas are crazy-cute. “We’re twins!!” says the Bean.

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Item: I am supposed to go take a nap. Cheers for now.

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Dark night

Winter solstice. We are on a train pulling out of St. Louis, on our way to Arkansas and what I suppose is now just my father’s house. Last time we came this way, my face went rigid with crying: the bridge into the city meant my mother was now dead west of the Mississippi, too. Tonight, I wondered in a disconnected way whether the side supports of the bridge would catch us if our train began to roll over towards the water.

I still cry every day, but not all of the time anymore. (The Bean has gotten too good for his age at knowing that he needs to stop and come hug me when it starts.) I’m better when I’ve had enough sleep, when it is light out, when I have had a few days without a great deal of leaving the house and interacting with the world. There is magical thinking, sometimes of the if only I had/of only I can variety (if I am just the most perfect mother, the most gracious child), sometimes of the darker, if only I hadn’t sort (why didn’t I see what hubris it was,  thinking I could have another child and still keep my mother?).  The world feels too permeable.

Sugar’s grandmother (who lived with her parents, with whom we lived when were first, secretly together) died not quite two weeks ago. I think. Dates are one of the things I am bad at now.

You are all advised that the remainder of our friends and family are under a strict “no dying” order. The Bean asks me if his Mommy is going to die, too.

In other news, my body carries on being pregnant. Which beats the alternative, even I can see.

I am as big now at 32 – sorry, 33 – weeks as I was at 38 with the Bean.  No one at the ob’s has said boo about that, possibly because they are glad I’m eating.

I finally did the week of blood sugar monitoring (as a substitute for the glucola test that so wrecked me last time, and I am very grateful I didn’t agree to try again, as it would have been the day – THE day, if you follow me – and those phone calls were horrible enough without being in a state of total neurological collapse). It was fine, and so were the numbers. Good thing, since an electron microscope could not detect something as small as my interest in making “lifestyle changes” at this juncture. Just survival. That seems hard enough. (In truth, I don’t think my body is doing such a bang-up job of handling sugar at the moment, but I have already adjusted my diet by not eating things that make me feel bad.)

The u/s people day everything is fine with Jackalope, who is purported to be in the 85th percentile for weight. I sincerely hope this is one of those times when the famous margin of error of u/s estimates is in play; a small baby was hard enough for me to get out.

I remain in deep denial about this birth business. Sometimes I think it doesn’t matter, since I’ll probably die in the process. I know this sounds like pure depression, but it feels more like being too aware of that permeability I mentioned above.  Births feel like that; I certainly remember marveling at how thin the barrier seemed when The Bean was born, not because I was thinking about death but because it seemed so unfathomable that a new person had crossed the other way, into our world.

I did break up with the therapist. I’m sure that seems crazy, but the only time I saw her After, she managed to make me feel worse. I have no energy right now for excess exposure to the world. Even the extra subway ride those appointments entailed was draining. I did sign up for some kind of phone counseling program for depressed pregnant people my insurance company suggested. Also for the postpartum version.

I am very worried about the prospect of postpartum depression. I’m not sure whether I had it last time, because I had so many physical problems that contributed to feeling awful, plus that whole birth trauma thing. I was determined to fix all that this time, but it seems the universe has pulled the rug out from under my feet. I am trying to build a list of ideas beyond SSRIs and eating my placenta, neither of which appeals to me.

In better birth news, I am now very glad we decided to hire College Friend to be our doula, rather than someone unknown with more experience. Not having to meet a new person right now is priceless. (CF now has been to several births, also, so she has at least some experience.) I seem to have some kind of profound social exhaustion, to the point of not even managing responses to emails and so on from kind friends. I hope they understand.

It does seem increasingly likely that this baby really will be born. After a week of suddenly increased discomfort and difficulty walking, I remembered about how they drop into the pelvis towards the end. I think that’s happened. The u/s pictures have gotten that squashed quality they do at the end, when there isn’t space anymore for floating.

So here is one from last month, instead, of Jackalope apparently laughing at us, shortly after sticking out its tongue. I hope this is a jolly baby. For its sake as well as ours.

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30 Comments

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.

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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.

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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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17.5 Weeks/2.5 Years

Hi, again — I say again because the blasted device ate the version of this I started in the afternoon. For the record.

Thank you all for your kind, wise, compassionate comments on that bloody post of mine. I am sorry I have not responded to you; I need a moment more, it turns out. I said to Sugar around the time that I wrote that post that I did not know what to do with the apparent fact that my mind can’t begin to process this information, both the new information and the memories. She suggested that perhaps I should consider that I am processing it, and it just takes more time than I’ve given it. There is a bit of a deadline (see ticker) for some of that work, but still, I find her take on it more useful than mine. I hope she’s onto something.

Once and future birth/postpartum angst aside, the pregnancy business is going very well. I have my tired and sore days, true, and there is the slight inconvenience of a kind of emotional inertia such that if I do cry, I can’t stop for the rest of the day. But it is inertia, not depression, and objects in a good mood tend to remain in a good mood. So that’s nice. I sure wish I could get these particular hormones in pill form. They’d be nice all the time, but especially as an antidote to the breastfeeding ones, which are not so kind to my little brain.

Particularly surprising to me is the realization that I’m actually feeling quite happy about my body, to the point that I don’t find myself hating or otherwise disdaining even what it looks like. This is profoundly uncharacteristic; I can’t remember its ever happening before. I just feel so pleased with it for being pregnant, and whether I look as I “should” or not seems picayune. I’ve gained a moderate amount of weight, and so far, my determination to obsess less this round doesn’t even feel like determination. I’m sure it helps that, as is often the case with pregnancies after the first one, I have come to look far more pregnant far more quickly. (Awkward, decapitated belly-selfie here, for the curious.). Regardless, I hope this will help me keep my resolution to give a lot fewer fucks about losing weight on any particular schedule, postpartum.

We went last week for the first of two — times have changed already since the Bean’s gestation — anatomy scans. I’ll save you some skipping ahead: I did not peek during the Down There portion of the ultrasonic interview, and if Sugar did, she’s keeping her own counsel. (As with last time around, she would like to know and I would like to wait; more on that another time, maybe.) Everything is reported to be fine: the usual count of limbs, kidneys, heart chambers. We will have another one of these at the fancy place in a few weeks, and perhaps Critter/Axolotl/Jackalope (poor creature needs a better name) will let them see the cord insertion that time. The cervices are likewise behaving, much to everyone’s relief. The only potential problem is a marginal case of placenta previa. While this does nothing to alleviate my “am I going to bleed to death” concerns, I am trying to take the advice of the lovely southern doctor, who says it’s almost silly to diagnose such a thing at 16 weeks, since the placenta takes up a proportionally larger amount of uterine space at that point. Apparently the lower portion the uterus sort of unfolds later on, and a marginal previa may well be not at all close to the cervix/ces by delivery time. I’m glad he explained it that way; when I was told the Bean’s placenta was low-lying at a similar stage, they said it might move, which, given villi and all seemed unlikely and led me to envision the placenta as a kind of huge, blind slug.

Tomorrow is my first OB appointment in some time, as I was waiting to be on the better insurance. Or rather, it was supposed to be an OB appointment, but will actually be back with the nice midwife from last time, because of scheduling infelicities. I should be diving into meeting the people who might actually be at the delivery, but I’m glad enough for a respite from the “are you incompetent/emotionally unstable” interview questions I now feel compelled to ask them all. (I thought I didn’t need to ask those questions last time, and if you’re new here, click “Dr. Russian” to find out how well that went.) I do plan to make clear that the postpartum anemia I described when she took my history was definitely not a case of anemia in pregnancy (except maybe the last four hours). And I expect we will get to have a probably unpleasant chat about how I do not plan to do that awful glucose test this time, given an absence of significant risk factors and a skepticism about the existence of gestational diabetes — or rather, bad outcomes from same — in patients without previous insulin resistance. I am willing to monitor my own glucose at home for a week or two, which is a better source of data anyway, but I am not willing to make myself sick for three days again for such shoddy science. I have a small person to take care of, for one thing. I’m not looking forward to the monitoring, but what’s a few more stab wounds in pursuit of this baby, am I right?

So. I will report back.

Meanwhile! The Bean had his half-birthday last weekend. I made a tiny cake and everything. It was popular. Picture and recipe to follow; I am quite pleased with the results of my attempt to make a mini-loaf-pan chocolate cake. It’s a useful size for a small household.

Like most two-year-olds, at least in their mothers’ eyes, the Bean is an absolute delight except when he’s a holy terror. Sometimes he is both. Today, for instance, he contrived to discover Sugar’s oil paint box, complete with uncleaned palettes, in its hiding place under the chaise. He very independently figured out how to work the clasps and spread the contents all over his room. NB, for those unfamiliar with the medium, a good sized glop of oil paint, such as one might leave on a palette for later use, essentially never all the way dries. He was so pleased with himself. And surprisingly neat, considering.

Eating and sleeping are still…challenges. At least two of those lacrimae perpetuae days were set off by my frustrations with his diet and the sanctimonious attitudes of many parents on the topic, in particular in our area. Wait, three. There’s half a rant in my draft folder, and maybe I will finish it one of these days. Meanwhile, one of us is in his room until at least 10 every night, waiting for him to fall asleep. Unless he skips his nap, in which case…well, it’s not an acceptable trade-off. He does not often sleep through the night.

But. He does paint and ride his scooter and give the most wonderful hugs. He sings and cooks and wears underpants for increasing stretches of time, despite my refusal to engage in any form of potty training more vigorous than offering chocolate chip bribes. His trucks are grouped in two-mom families. He is obsessed with street sweepers and the alphabet. I know it sounds crazy, but he is desperately trying to learn to read. And who am I not to enable the heck out of that?

So here, to counteract the sleeping and eating complaints, is some unadulterated bragging. Shield your eyes.

I was at the big computer a week or so ago, trying to find some non-ugly maternity clothes, when the Bean came up behind me. “What’s e-da?” he asked. He likes to ask for definitions of nonsense words these days. (It’s fun when he hits on a real word by accident. “What’s a ne-ne?” “It’s a goose, the state bird of Hawaii, and a very useful scrabble word.” Hysterical laughter.) I assumed this was more of the same, and said I did not know. “What’s e-da? What’s e-da?” He kept asking, which is not the usual for nonsense. Finally he walked up to the computer and pointed at the corner of the screen. “What’s e-da?”

I looked. In the corner was the eBay logo, which is all lowercase, ebay.

“Is this what you’re asking about?” He said yes. “What letters do you see?”

“E D A Y. What’s e-da?”

So. He got the b/d thing wrong and missed the diphthong, but hell, I’m pretty damn proud, all the same.

My kid. I think I’ll keep him.

Underwear Model


24 Comments

Bloody Business

Before I begin, I want to just say, in a small voice, how crushed I feel by May’s latest news, by the utter un-rightness of it, by how badly the universe is flubbing its lines. This is not how the story is supposed to go, dammit. I know we talk a lot about how unfair all of this business is, but sometimes the unfairness is just so fucking unfair. It is not the only thing that has been Not Right lately; that doesn’t make it any less wrong.

I am wondering if any of you happens to know what counts as a normal postpartum drop in hemoglobin and what doesn’t. Imagine you have this patient who, after two days of fairly heavy vaginal bleeding, arrives at a hospital in labor. Her hemoglobin at that point is 13; her hematocrit is 37.8. Following a vaginal delivery, her numbers are 7.3 and 21.7, a drop in the neighborhood of 44%.

Question one: Is that normal? If not, how abnormal?

Question two: Are there causes of postpartum decreases in hemoglobin other than blood loss? Does the placenta itself (or the baby) in some way count towards the starting number?

Question three: Do you do anything about those numbers, beyond suggesting an iron supplement? Do you do anything if the patient calls three weeks later complaining of continued extreme fatigue, dizziness, breathlessness, etc.?

Question four: Supposing a patient with this history is pregnant again. One likely source of postpartum bleeding (vaginal septum) is gone, though possibly the vaginal wall where it attached has scar tissue. Is postpartum hemorrhage in such a case likely to recur? Do you do anything in particular to lessen the chances of her feeling terrible for months again? Is there anything you can say to her to help her feel less frightened?

Question five: Is this patient a good home birth candidate? Just kidding.

My hospital records — the short version only — from the Bean’s birth arrived this week. I’d put off ordering them for a couple of years, which I guess is good, considering that I find myself a little taken aback anyway. This is just the abstract — test results and some nonsense from the lactation consultant, an extremely silly person. There are errors: I am listed as having a didelphic uterus (nope, not that normal), and hemoglobin and hematocrit are reversed in one place. (I flatter myself that a hematocrit of seven might have been more worthy of note.)

Also this week, I finally tracked down a picture I didn’t know existed until recently, of Sugar cutting the Bean’s umbilical cord. That is to say, it’s a picture of my crotch, post delivery but prior to the arrival of the placenta. I thought it might feel sort of empowering to see that, since I was scared to look at that part of my body for weeks after birth, not wanting to see all the stitches. Maybe it would have been, but I found it hard to pay much attention to my flesh, finding the pool of blood I was apparently lying in rather visually distracting. When I say pool, understand, I mean pool. I don’t mean the bed was a mess. I mean liquid. I mean depth. I mean volume.

I thought I was done finding new things to feel angry and scared about, regarding the Bean’s birth, but I guess I was wrong.

I haven’t written in much detail about how sick I was after the Bean was born, partly because at the time, I was filled with confusing hormones, alternately elated and distraught, and, well, sick. I’d been pretty thoroughly conditioned to believe that only people with (unplanned) c-sections were allowed to feel sick or sad after birth, anyway; the websites said I should be exulting in my all-powerful womynhood and resuming my exercise routine while teaching the baby French. All that matters, as you know, is that the baby is healthy. The vessel has done its job.

So, here: I was pretty sick after the Bean was born. For the first week or so, I had an annoying tendency to black out every time I tried to nurse him. The nurse I asked about it told me that was “oxytocin, filling your body with feelings of well being.” Later I realized that was the only time I wasn’t lying flat. I couldn’t hold him during the lactation class and was grateful that lesbian privilege meant I alone among the women there had someone to help. (Men weren’t allowed.) We left early because I couldn’t sit up anymore.

For the endless rounds of pediatrician visits for weight checks in the first few weeks, I took cabs. One day Sugar had a work meeting, and I couldn’t carry the Bean in his carseat. I could barely carry the car seat. We tried to take the subway once. Sugar carried the baby while I shuffled behind her, hips still entirely disconnected, like a troll aunt of some kind. (Sugar got lots of congratulations for her new baby in those days. She deserved them, but my own invisibility beside this gorgeous, healthy, thin woman and her perfect baby was sometimes hard to take. “Don’t worry, honey,” one woman said, “you’re next!”) Sugar went to the store for a different kind of iron supplement for me while I took the dwindling Bean to a lactation group. I remember feeling such utter hatred for the other woman there, so pink and healthy with her fat, pink baby, who was younger than the Bean. While Sugar was gone, I started shaking convulsively. I was losing my vision, trying to figure out how I was going to get myself onto the floor without dropping the baby, who was so, so heavy. Sugar arrived just in time, and held him while I lay my head on the desk and shook. No one asked if I was okay. I took a cab home.

It’s hard to write this without feeling I am exaggerating things, but this happened. Other things happened, too, many of them good. I stayed conscious for the ride home from the hospital, even if I did have to go immediately to bed and so missed the cats greeting the Bean. Friends came over, and I sat and talked with them. But it was months before I could walk around the neighborhood normally. Going up the gentle incline of the train station left me breathless, my vision blotchy. I feel existentially queasy looking at pictures of me with the Bean in the early weeks, because I am so very grey.

I got better. The human body really does have amazing powers of restoration. But does the patient’s recovery mean the treatment regime was wisely chosen? The heroic medicine doctors, the bleeders and purgers and givers of mercury, thought their treatments worked because their patients often survived, when the truth is those patients recovered in spite of the medicine. Regardless of whether I should have had different treatment in objective terms — and I gather from google that sources differ on the guidelines for iron infusions and blood transfusions and so on — I feel sure the other aspects of treatment could have been better. Only one nurse, when I was already in the process of being discharged, mentioned my hematocrit drop and asked if I really felt okay. (Desperate to leave, I said yes.) The nurse practitioner at my OB office told me I should expect to feel tired when I described my trouble breathing while walking. At the infamous postpartum appointment, Dr. Russian didn’t know my hematocrit levels and dismissed my questions on the topic. None of that was helpful, even if it was the case that the best course of action was waiting for my body to rebuild itself. It’s a kind of gaslighting, I think, not to tell a patient that how she feels is not in her head or her weak moral constitution.

Besides angry, I feel a bit scared by these new documents, in particular the picture. My septum is gone and presumably won’t break and bleed again. I expect it caused some of the trouble, in addition to other tears. The midwife at my new clinic says that didelphic cervices can bleed a lot, and suggested they might try rectal cytotec in addition to pitocin if it seems necessary. (I haven’t talked numbers with her, just my experience of being anemic.) If the pre-labor bleeding was a placental abruption — and we’ll never know, since the head of the OB practice didn’t see fit to take it seriously — there’s a chance that won’t happen again, and a 100% chance I won’t let it be ignored this time. I have the reassurance that I did survive, however sick I got. But there is still that nauseating feeling of almost having been run down by a bus, not realizing it was even there until it passed.


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Oh, FFS

I have a lot of things to tell you, internets, about our week in the north woods and the wonders of unisom for nausea and so on, but it is late and I am tired.

And spotting. I’m also spotting.

And I know, it’s pale pink and almost nothing and I scraped myself a little with the crinone applicator this morning and I maybe shouldn’t have carried a backpack while climbing that (very small) mountain yesterday and that this is exactly (to the day; I just checked) when I started a month of spotting with the Bean and all that. And I really am going to try to sleep, despite the fact that just thinking about my uterus always makes me feel like maybe it’s cramping.

But this is not what I want to be lying awake thinking about at my in-laws’ house, hundreds of miles from my bed and my cats and my doctors (who I know couldn’t do a thing even if I were there, but still).


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a surreal morning

Sugar here.  Bionic and I are happy to report that we do not owe the $4,000 that an EOB we received in the mail last night said we owed.  Turns out the baby factory billed our insurance for someone else’s procedures.  Oops.

And the call I received at work yesterday about how we were getting evicted — also an error.  WTF was up with yesterday?

This morning continues strange.  A few sound bites from the Bean:

“Is there a ghost outside?”

(To the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb) “There is a boy named Frankenstein, Frankenstein, Frankenstein… Frankenstein…”

“I am not going to eat the cats.”

Okay.

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